10 REASONS TO UNDER-PROGRAM YOUR CHURCH

An excellent post from Jared Wilson THE GOSPEL CENTERED CHURCH

10 Reasons to Under-program Your Church

I’m a big fan of the “simple church” concept, but I have experienced just how daunting a task it can be to under-program my church. We are inundated constantly with opportunities for activity from other churches (which we don’t want to turn down lest we appear uncooperative and standoffish), advertised “movements” local and national (which are good at getting people excited), and “good ideas” from our own community (which we are reluctant to deny lest we break someone’s heart). But what all this so often amounts to is a church that is merely busy, and busy does not always equal diligent or successful.Here, then, are 10 reasons to under-program a church:

1. You can do a lot of things in a mediocre (or poor) way, or you can do a few things extremely well. Craig Groeschel has some great things to say about this subject. Also check out Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger’s Simple Church.

2. Over-programming creates an illusion of fruitfulness that may just be busy-ness. A bustling crowd may not be spiritually changed or engaged in mission at all. And as our flesh cries out for works, many times filling our programs with eager, even servant-minded people is a way to appeal to self-righteousness.

3. Over-programming is a detriment to single-mindedness in a community. If we’re all busy engaging our interests in and pursuits of different things, we will have a harder time enjoying the “one accord” prescribed by the New Testament.

4. Over-programming runs the risk of turning a church into a host of extracurricular activities, mirroring the “Type-A family” mode of suburban achievers. The church can become a grocery store or more spiritual YMCA, then, perfect for people who want religious activities on their calendar.

5. Over-programming dilutes actual ministry effectiveness. Because it can overextend leaders, increase administration, tax the time of church members, and sap financial and material resources from churches.

6. Over-programming leads to segmentation among ages, life stages, and affinities, which can create divisions in a church body. Certainly there are legitimate reasons for gathering according to “likenesses,” but many times increasing the number of programs means increasing the ways and frequencies of these separations. Pervasive segmentation is not good for church unity or spiritual growth.

7. Over-programming creates satisfaction in an illusion of success; meanwhile mission suffers. If a church looks like it’s doing lots of things, we tend to think it’s doing great things for God. When really it may just be providing lots of religious goods and services. This is an unacceptable substitute for a community on mission, but it’s one we accept all the time. And the more we are engaged within the four walls of the church, whether those walls are literal or metaphorical, the less we are engaged in being salt and light. Over-programming reduces the access to and opportunities with my neighbors.

8. Over-programming reduces margin in the lives of church members. It’s a fast track to burnout for both volunteers and attendees, and it implicitly stifles sabbath.

9. Over-programming gets a church further away from the New Testament vision of the local church. Here’s a good test, I think: take a look at a typical over-programmed church’s calendar and see how many of the activities resemble things seen in the New Testament.

10. Over-programming is usually the result of un-self-reflective reflex reactions to perceived needs and and an inability to kill sacred cows that are actually already dead. Always ask “Should we?” before you ask “Can we?” Always ask “Will this please God?” before you ask “Will this please our people?” Always ask “Will this meet a need?” before you ask “Will this meet a demand?”

SOLVING UNSOLVEABLE PROBLEMS

Solving Unsolvable Problems 

Posted: 12 Dec 2010 02:30 PM PST

Some problems have staying power. And good leaders admit it when a solution to a problem will not come to fruition. Allow me to offer you two perspectives—one from the solution side and the other from the problem side. First, leaders can select the right problem to solve but craft a poor solution. Or they can attempt to solve the wrong problem.

Poor solution. Don’t be guilty of wanting to hang on to your ideals—the best solutions—that you know are right, because sometimes the right solution becomes the wrong answer for a problem. Perhaps the solution was poorly communicated. Perhaps the solution was before its time. Perhaps the leader just didn’t do a good job of selling it to the people. For whatever reason, the people being led just did accept it.

Wrong problem. Don’t be guilty of trying to solve the wrong problems. You may be right. Those needing to change may be wrong. But sometimes leaders just pick the wrong battle. Don’t be wrong for being right about the wrong problem.

As a pastor, I have been guilty of both—poor solutions to the right problems and good solutions to the wrong problems. I have fought needless battles. I have nitpicked problems. Clearly, sin problems in the church do not go unaddressed, and the Bible gives plain instructions on how to deal with sin. But some problems are not due to sin. They can be caused by poor planning, bad technology, odd traditions, and outside influences, among many others.

So what’s a leader to do in these cases of unsolvable problems? What if you cannot ignore the issue? What if you must address the problem? These cases are not easy for leaders. Below are a few guidelines to consider.

Concede. Have self-awareness that your solution is not working. Acknowledge that you need a new plan. You “best” solution may never work (and it may really be the best solution). Sometimes leaders have to concede and settle for plan B. Sometimes followers will never grasp the best solution. Remember, leaders serve the people, not their own ideals.

Consensus. Most think of consensus positively—the majority opinion wins out. But the majority does not always have the right solution, nor do they always pick the right problems to solve. When consensus gets ugly, no one gets what they want but most can live with the outcome. Consensus can turn solutions sour and cause problems to perpetuate.

Leaders can use consensus, however, by building it. Don’t start with a large bundle of ideas and allow the people to whittle down the options. Start with one or two new solutions and let the people build them up by making them their own.

Conversations. I’ve discovered something about leading the church—rumors work better if you start them. If you’re shifting plans and proposing a new approach to an old problem, get feedback from the people through the rumor mill. Have low key conversations with key people and assume they will “talk.” Then listen. Track the pulse of the body. Check the excitement (or dissatisfaction) level and continue crafting your solution.

Creativity. Conceding your ideal solution is not the same as admitting defeat. But it does require more creativity in building another solution. If the problem is unsolvable, then extra creativity is needed to find resolution. The problem may always be there. For instance, a landlocked, growing church in a downtown may not have the luxury of buying more land or building taller. Be creative in addressing the problem. If the problem is obvious, leaders can earn much respect by figuring out the next best solution.

What are some ways you approach unsolvable problems? Do you have any success stories?
This post comes from Sam Rainer’s blog CHURCH FORWARD.

EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE THE LAWYERS GET IT RIGHT

Churches often have a love/hate relationship with the legal system. Lawyers are often devising or advising things that we think get in the way of effective and Spirit-led ministry. Blake Coffee in his blog Church Whisperer has some good advice for churches seeking to be immeasurably more for God. – Steve

…But Sometimes the Lawyers Get it Right

7 12 2010

Tuesday Re-mix –

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16

Once again, the mediator in me comes out.  I ranted against bad lawyer decisions in a previous post and the negative effect they can have on a church’s (or Christian institution’s) testimony.  Now, feeling guilty for the slur against my brethren (and sistren) in the law, I want to say something good about church lawyers: sometimes they/we get it right.

So, here’s a big fist bump to all the lawyers out there who have given solid Christian counsel to a church or other Christian organization, to help them show Godly wisdom in a legally-complicated world.  Join me in a round of applause for each of the following good and wise legal recommendations lawyers smarter than I have given their Christian institutional clients (and you might want to pass this post along to your pastor or church administrator,  just to make sure your church is doing these things):

FBI Background checks for all workers (both payed and volunteer) who have any interface at all with children or youth. I know, I know, it is a pretty big deal to implement this for the first time, especially with your long-tenured workers and volunteers.  But nothing says “We love you and care about your children” more clearly to parents than a comprehensive background-check policy for their children’s workers, teachers and care-givers.  There are plenty of services all around your community now who can coordinate this for you.

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A comprehensive child safety awareness policy. I am lumping a lot of little things together here, like windows in all the doors, a policy of at least two workers in every room, a comprehensive and coherent fire escape plan, an up-to-date security system for dropping off and picking up children, etc.  No ministry in church life has changed as much and as rapidly as children’s ministries over the last few years.  Make sure your church is current.  Hire a consultant if you have to.  It is the loving thing to do.

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Commercial Driver’s License certification for anyone transporting people in vehicles on behalf of the church. Again, a real pain in the neck to implement when you begin thinking about all the people in your church who do this voluntarily (deacons driving widows or elderly to church, youth trips, taking people for their chemo treatment, etc.), but it is just a good policy.  The extra safety training these drivers receive is a great way to communicate to your membership that you care about them.  Besides, your insurance company will love you for it as well.

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Get liability insurance. What, are you kidding me?  Tell me I don’t have to explain this one.  After enjoying many decades of protection by a society who considered it morally reprehensible to ever sue a church, churches can kiss those days goodbye.  In the first place, the church has behaved particularly badly in recent decades and probably needs to have been sued more.  In the second place, good litigators all over the world have learned that there is a lot of money in the church in general, and they are specifically targeting churches now more than ever.  Put it in the budget, spend the money on premiums, get insured.  And make sure your coverage includes sexual harassment coverage (see the next point).

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A sexual harassment policy.  This seems to be the area of greatest exposure to churches today, for a multitude of reasons we won’t try to explore for now.  Suffice it to say, there is probably some amount of inappropriate sexual overtones already going on under your church’s ministry umbrella…an off-color joke told by a parent on a youth trip, an extra-long hug from a well-intentioned minister, an “over-the-line” counseling session by a not-so-well-intentioned minister, etc.  You get the picture.  Your church should have a plan already in place for how any complaint (either by an employee or by a church member or even by a visitor) will be handled, investigated and resolved.  Put the plan in place now, because when the first complaint arises, emotions will be running way too high to try to piece-meal it together then.

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Have a CPA do some level of audit at least every other year or so. I really hate finances and all the issues and questions that come up, especially in the midst of conflict when trust levels go through the floor.  Audits are expensive, but they will uncover a whole host of little mole hills that will become mountains just a soon as there is any level of conflict at all.  And there will be some level of conflict at some time.  That is a given, if there are people in your church.  I’m just saying…

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O.K., this post has already gotten too long.  I really could go on and on with examples of ways lawyers (especially Christian lawyers) have gotten it right.  But you get the picture.  As Christians we are called to be Godly influences in this broken world, little pictures of Christ.  But there is nothing about that calling which says we are to be mindless doormats.  Being “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” is a high calling, don’t you think?

© Blake Coffee

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com