Why Some Church Programs Don't Work
I’ve got two traits that often work against each other when it comes to pastoral ministry. First, I’m highly creative. I love being creative. This is a good quality. But, I’ve also got a bad habit of being all about and needing instant gratification.
So, when you combine those two things, what you get is a leader who is always coming up with ideas and trying to implement that as quickly as possible. This isn’t necessarily the best thing ever.
My co-pastor Gary has done a great job of encouraging me still be creative while doing so more effectively and and slowing down a bit. The truth is, almost no program or idea is so important that it can’t wait to be implemented or said before being deeply prayed over and discussed.
Ken Callahan, a guy who I’ll keep on trying to convince you has a LOT to say to us (especially those of us who are working in younger emerging/missional church settings), has some helpful thoughts on programs – which, by the way, he approaches in a very missional way in the rest of the chapter.
He writes in his book 12 Keys to an Effective Church (i know its a terrible title, but it was written a long time ago!),
“It often happens that the congregation chooses a given program to become one of its major program offerings but makes the mistake of rushing hurriedly to put it into place. They use a crisis orientation in the development of its foundations. Thy make hurried decisions one leadership, time and money. They make the disastrous assumption that the more committed they are to developing it, the more likely it is to be a successful program [or ministry]. A year or two later [or a few months in our case sometimes] they wonder why it hasn’t happened. In about the second or third year they pull back their leadership, their time, and their money and they watch the program fail.
The program fails to become successful because of quick closure. That is, the leaders of the congregation are looking for a quick way to achieve a major program in a given area of the life of the church. They want immediate achievement…”
Consider me guilty of wanting immediate achievement.
Lately I’ve been working on holding back ideas and dreams I have for our community to give them room to cultivate, grow, gain perspective from others, be cemented as Gods dreams and not just mine, and have more prayer behind them.
When you start programs and have them die too quickly, I think the community becomes a bit jaded and loses trust in your leadership despite your best intentions.
Churches like The Well have a lot to learn about organizational principles and good leadership in general. Passion alone does not create change. I fear that all too often we are so full of passion that we’re like bulls in chinashops. We’ve got ideas and we’ll run over anyone who stands in our way in order to carry them out. Even if those we run over are people in our faith communities.
Reading Ken Callahan (and Joe Myers as well) has given me a better understanding of how people respond to and hear the ways we lead and the language we use to lead with. Its priceless stuff really. He’s got priceless stuff on giving and stewardship that has transformed our approach to this topic at The Well. I’ll have some thoughts on that sometime…
Any thoughts to add? Comments, criticism, bad jokes?