“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Programs, Programs Everywhere!

I thought I would start this series on Small Church concerns with the issue of programs – i.e. how many, what type, etc. Now, I will be the first to say that each church could have a unique situation and not all ideas fit all churches, however the overarching concern of a small church is often – “How do we put together enough programs to reach the community?”

There used to be only one program – that was the proclamation of the Gospel while building a community of believers accountable to one another and to our Lord and Savior. However, nowadays small church pastors are inundated with junk mail, solicitation calls, and pressure from other ministries telling them that they need to have ‘Vigorous Youth ministry’, complete with special activities, fun-filled trips, and a host of other items – ‘Fun-Filled Children’s Ministry’ replete with scaled-down (or up!) versions of Disneyland/Six Flags – ‘Sensitive and Caring Senior Ministry’, where we can keep the elder portion of our church roped off – PLUS Marriage and Young Singles Ministries.

Many would have us believe that without these ministries we are not even a ‘real’ church!

What I have found in small church settings is that the important thing to do BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE is to ENSURE that your pulpit ministry is built solidly around the Word of God, (actually this is true in churches of any size).

Proclaim the Gospel FIRST AND FOREMOST! If you do that, you will build a core team of people who are at the church NOT for the programs, or the kiddie rides, or even the coffee bar; these people will begin to organically, with the leading of the Holy Spirit, build the ministries you need. And they will do it because they are led to do it as opposed to the method of hiring in ‘professionals’ to teach our children, youth and sundry other segmented groups. (that being said, I am not against hiring completely, but I think we often do too much of it, giving our congregants little opportunity to be engaged and involved.)

Truth be told – many programs are financial drains on a small church. If , for example, you do not have a lot of children, then don’t blow the entire church budget putting together a killer children’s ministry; focus on those that God has brought to your church. If a Children’s Ministry is in the works, people will be drawn who have a calling for that ministry – that has happened at our church where we may not have a lot of children, but have been blessed with incredibly talented children’s ministry folks!

Some would say that having a program makes us intentional in reaching certain people, but I would say that if you have 100-150 people, then you SHOULD be intentional in reaching your flock! You should not need a program to do that! Pastor is not simply a title, it is a role – Too many, even in small churches, want to run their church like a business and have a ‘staff’ that handles the ‘sheep’. I disagree – I am not saying that having a youth person, or children’s person is wrong, but if you think that a ‘program’ and ‘staff’ make up for a caring, concerned pastoral ministry, you are mistaken.

More thoughts to follow…


Even So... said...

Good stuff, and waiting for more...

Anonymous said...

I remember how is was when I was a child. We had Sunday School for all ages, but when children above nursery age, they were expected to sit in the Sunday morning service with their parents AND SIT STILL AND BE QUIET!! In Sunday School kids actually learned the Bible and sang the same hymns their parents sang in church. There was no "Children's Church." There was no "Youth Ministry" (other than Sunday School). Wow, children in the main service -- what a concept!" Some younger kids wouldn't get everything, but they'll got more than you'd expect. That's why I (and my friends) knew the Apostle's Creed, the Doxology, the Gloria Patri and much of the shorter catachism by the time we're were eight!

Kid's remained well behaved in church, because THEIR PARENTS MADE THEM! And kids learned a lot of the Bible FROM THEIR PARENTS AT HOME.

Of course, today you have a generation of kids who have grown up on rapid-cut television and have attention span of a fly.

Society and the media (yes, I said it) are responsible for this crisis and I'm afraid unless we can change what's going on in the home, not much is going to change outside it.


Ray said...

I agree - many parents have abdicated their role in the spiritual life of their children.

And we are in the (at least), second generation of this, so we cannot easily blame young parents -- most of them did not receive any spiritual training at home either!

This is the problem that the small church pastor can face -- being tasked with the raising of the children and youth in the church!

If he refuses he is then labeled as unfeeling, or uncaring, or people simply leave to find a church where they can drop their children off in the 'entertainment zone' and then go enjoy their 'free time' during the 'worship' services.