Monday, July 30, 2012

Facebook and Social Media Addiction

Several months ago I was with a group of seven people in a restaurant where we had gathered to have lunch.  I was looking forward to visiting with them and enjoying their company.

After we were all seated at the table waiting for the food to arrive, someone pulled out their cell phone.  Then another.  Then another.  It continued until six of the seven at the table had their phones out.  Please understand, no one had received a call, but they all pulled their phones out.  Why? To check Facebook, twitter, or send text messages.

As I sat there looking at this unfold, it dawned on me that I heard no conversations taking place at the table.  No laughing.  No visiting.  Every single person at the table was looking down at their cell phone screen!  Doing what, I have no idea. 

What stood out to me the most was that everyone was not talking to the person right in front of them, but instead were engaged in something else, that, for some reason seemed to be more important.  Nobody was in the moment.  They were all somewhere else.  Here we were, a group of friends who should have been laughing, talking, and enjoying each other’s company.  Yet, the table was silent because everyone was online, someplace else, instead of engaged with the people right in front of them.

Social media can become obsessive and consuming,  if not addictive.  There’s even a term for it now, Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) and is defined as spending too many hours online or the inability to distance oneself from Facebook.  Whether you agree with this psycho-babble or not, I read that there are 350 million people who have these symptoms.  And more than 30% of Facebook users use their Smart Phone to check Facebook even before they get out of bed!

Forget the fancy name, and look at the facts.  Many of us spend too much time looking at friends through a computer screen rather than over coffee.  When a person’s online life becomes as important as their real one, something very important has been lost in a relationship.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Mind Dump - July 29, 2012

What a good day at PCC!  The energy in the room was high.  People seemed to be in a good mood and were full of enthusiasm.  It made the music, singing, and teaching a breeze.  I was pleased to see how long people hung around after service was over.  Gotta love the relational connections taking place.

Mike C. was amazing on guitar,  Philip P. was exceptional on the keyboard, and our guest singer Glenn S. added a very nice male tenor part to the vocals.  As usual, everyone  in the band/worship team was on top of their game.

Given the content of today’s message I was a little concerned, but the skids were well-greased by the time I stepped up to speak.  Either way, it’s God’s Word and if it’s in the Bible it’s something He wants His people to know.

We had a lot of visitors too.  One commented to me about the friendliness of our church.  I got the same response last week from another visitor.  As a pastor I love getting this kind of feedback.  It makes me very proud of our church family.

My two favorite parts of the message today were (1) assuming responsibility for your life and to stop playing the blame-game, and, (2) God does everything He can to get us to turn our hearts back to Him.

My favorite quote:  And you were the one who wanted that stupid cat.”

The new bulletin board in the atrium looked good.  Right now we have a lot of pictures posted there of all the happy faces in the PCC family.  If a picture is worth a thousand words then these pictures capture the essence of PCC – we are very happy to be serving God and we are happy with our church. 

I think Christ. C. took most/all of those pictures and her photography skills show.  She has the ability to even make me look good. 

This bulletin board is going to be used as an “information board” very soon to let people know about upcoming events and activities.  We are very excited about the plans we have slated for fall.

To give you an idea of what’s just around the corner:  August 19th is our second “Night of Worship.”  A new ministry called “The Commandment Projects” is about to launch (which is a local missions and outreach imitative).  Youth Camp is two weeks away.  In September we’re re-launching our Seminar system (Seminars 101 and 201) for all newcomers to take advantage of.  A few small groups are scheduled to start up again.  The PCC Riders Motorcycle Group is reactivating and will be involved in a Veterans event soon.  Another ministry called MOPS (Mothers of Pre-School Children) will be launch too.  All this and more.  Be sure to stop by the bulletin board to see what’s up.

A special shout-out to Paul W. (and others) for trimming ALL the hedges in the parking lot this weekend.  It looked very good and really appreciate this extra effort.  It did not go unnoticed.

And I really appreciate ALL the people who sacrificially serve the way they do at PCC.  Makes my job a joy.

Yesterday I went mullet fishing with Robert H., Donnie S., and Lou C. - otherwise known as the three desperados.  We had a good time on the water.  Caught a bunch of fish too – 25 mullet and two Red Drum.  One of the red fish was not within the slot limit, so we threw it back in.

Below are a few pictures I took.

I love living in this area. 

There’s no such thing as a bad day on the water.

Being around safe people and going to safe places is very good for me.  No questions.  Not critiques.  No probing for information. I was very glad that I could just hang out, do some recreation, and be a regular Joe for a day. 

I’m going to the mountains in October. 

I’m planning a message series on the books of 1st and 2nd Timothy.  This series will cover church government, elders, the role of women, the qualifications of pastors, and a variety of other misunderstood topics.  It’s sure to be an eye-opener.

I plan to build a teaching team after this series to assist me with Sunday mornings.  While I am the main speaker, I don’t have to be the only speaker.  My goal is to eventually give away 30%  - or about 17 Sundays per year.  With three former pastors and a handful of gifted teachers in the PCC family, this should be doable. 

About four weeks ago I resumed a strict workout routine.  It involves four days of weight training and one day of vigorous cardio each week.  For cardio I am riding my bike for an hour at my fastest speed possible.  I have discontinued running because of hip pain (bursitis).  My motivation level has remained high and I’m still committed – probably because I’m seeing rapid results.  My strength has increased quickly, I feel a lot better, and I’m sleeping better.  Although I have pain in most of my joints, the workouts seem to diminish the pain.  Go figure.  Most surprising is that my appetite has actually been curbed.  Funny how that works.

I have a brand new trailer that I carry my tractor on.  My dogs (that is, my five Jack Russell Terriers) got underneath it a few days ago and chewed all the electrical wiring.  Had to get it rewired.  Not a happy camper right now.

Renae and I talked to a Realtor yesterday.  We are considering our options as we make plans to build a new home.  Can’t wait.

Mullet Fishing - July 2012

Poetry in Motion
The faces have been removed to procted the names of the innocent.

Friday, July 27, 2012

No One Respects a Safe Leader

Please stand for something.

Show some passion, some anger, a little edge.

The Bible says the common people followed Jesus and heard Him gladly, because He spoke -not like the Pharisees - but as one who had authority.

I wish our two presidential candidates had fire in their eyes. Instead, they are too polished and sound like typical politicians. Their statements and speeches are too guarded. Who wants to follow that? Both are afraid of going out on a limb and doing something or saying something outside of the box. Just once I would like to hear a presidential candidate tell somebody off and speak his mind!

I think a lot of pastors follow this example.  They are consummate politicians who play it safe, afraid of going out on a limb, afraid to show some passion, or speak with an edge and tell it like it is. They play both ends from the middle. Who wants to rally behind a person like that?

Life it too short to follow someone to a place called nowhere.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Quilting Group

Here’s what I’m guessing has happened:

1.  The primary mission (Great Commission) has faded.
2.  Someone in leadership was afraid to say no.
3.  The church is in decline.
4.  They don't know what else to do.
5.  Men have taken up quilting :-)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Five Reason Church Calendars Get Out of Control and What To Do About It

When churches gets too busy it really does become like a hamster wheel, where everyone needs to pitch in to keep the wheel turning.  There are programs that need to be staffed, departments to be funded, teaching times to coordinate, building-usage schedules, activities to attend, and meetings to conduct.  Some churches have something going on virtually every day of the week and most week nights.

At some point it becomes exhausting and people accept activity in the place of relationship because it seems to be expected of them.

So why do churches fill up the schedule and work people to the point of exhaustion?  We add programs, activities, and ministries because we think we must.  Consequently, we fall into the trap of busyness.

Here are five reasons why churches fall into this trap:

1.  The expectations of people coming from other churches.  People from other churches have certain expectations of what it means to “do church.”  They evaluate a new church based on whether or not it offers their favorite ministry.  If enough people express this expectation, then the leadership feels the pressure to provide that ministry.

2.  The program fad.  Church strategists tell us that this or that program will draw in un-churched people and promote growth.  The experts sometimes promote a program that is intended to attract a different demographic than currently attends.  Remember the fad of adding a “contemporary” worship service to attract younger people?

3.  The desire to be spiritual.  If I am doing church work, then it means I’m a spiritual person, right?  We can fool ourselves into believing that we are important and indispensable to God by working ourselves to death by trying to accomplish in the flesh what God can simply speak into existence.

4.  The need to be needed.  We can fall into the trap of needing to be needed which results in us being available 24/7 to do anything that needs to be done, regardless of gifting or calling.

5.  Lack of a clear vision to God’s calling.  Without a clear vision of what God is calling me to do, I am subject to being pulled in many directions, and so is our church.  Many of these directions are places that God never intended me (or PCC) to go.

Let’s face the fact that it is easy to be drawn into a trap of busyness.  Expectations, traditions, and a false sense of importance each have a strong pull.  It does not require any real thought to do what is “expected” of you because you don’t have to resist – you just comply.  I can easily do “church activities” because “that’s how it is done.”  And this same thoughtlessness can happen in a group like a local church.

Strong leaders need to resist these pulls to busyness.  We need to ask the question of “why” we are doing these things.  We need to seek God to determine if He thinks these things are really necessary.

How to Fix It and Make Disciples...

Jesus told us the mission of the church is to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20).  The apostle Paul repeatedly promoted the idea of imitation by following the example of another as the means of raising up disciples (see I Thess. 1:6, 2:14; 2 Thess. 3:7-9; I Cor. 4:16; I Cor. 11:1; Eph. 5:1; Phil. 3:17). This imitation implies repeated contact in a discipling relationship. We are called to be in fellowship and body life so that this imitation can take place.

So if people in the church are experiencing burn-out; if some leave the church because they did not feel connected; if it is becoming increasingly hard to staff and fund church ministries, then it means we have a bad case of busyness caused by replacing relationships with activity.

The fix for busyness (and to begin making disciples thorough mentoring relationships) is to step off the hamster wheel and begin asking ourselves why we have each activity and asking God to show the real result.

We also need to have the discipline (courage) to drop any activities that are not producing healthy disciples.  We need to do a gut check and be honest how relational our church is and whether or not we are laying a foundation of love and fellowship on which discipleship is based.

We must be people oriented and not program oriented. 

Why Do We Make Church so Complicated?

It is enough for a disciple to be like his teacher, and a servant like his master  (Matthew 10:25a KJV)

When I first became a believer I was very excited about my new-found faith.  Since I attended a large church which offered a full menu of programs and activities, and not knowing how to grow spiritually, I enthusiastically signed up for everything the church had to offer.  I was literally at the church six days a week.  It was perfect for me since I was single – I had nothing else to do.   After I got married and started a family, I kept up the pace.  And this was also how I learned to do ministry – by replicating what I had been exposed to.

Over the years, however, I came to realize that such a ministry model has a serious downside:  (1) Keeping people too busy with church-realted activities is actually detrimental to family life and puts a strain on marriage.  (2) Secondly, you don’t need to be at the church all the time in order to grow spiritually.  (3) It usually the same handful of workers who are burdend with running the program activies.  (4)  It is usually the same handful of peopel who participate in the programs, and before the current one ends are asking "what's next?  It's very hard to keep these widow shoppers happy for very long.  (5) And as a minister, I have also come to understand the futility of keeping myself that busy by launching and maintaining new programs all the time. 

As I have mentioned before I am a devotee of the simple church concept (see here).  I don’t think churches should be complicated, over-programmed, or keep people too busy.  But it is a daunting task to actually convince people of the benefits of keeping a church simple.

Churches typically have such a full menu of programs and activities that would make the average cruise ship activities director envious.  There are men’s groups, women’s groups, singles groups, college groups, newly married groups,  coffee shops, concerts, parents ministry, senior citizens ministry, counseling ministry, recovery ministry, midweek services, Sunday night services, classes, field trips, small groups, softball teams, outreach events, and the list goes on.

The question for me is:  do we even know why we are doing them?  Do they serve a real purpose – say, towards making disciples – or are we doing them because someone somewhere decided that’s how church is supposed to be done?

I know the expectations of church shoppers are quite high and the competition is stiff.  If the church down the street has a gymnasium, we’d better think about a building program to keep up.  We don’t want to lose families who have athletic kids.  The pressure is incredible – we have to keep doing more, producing more, and constantly thinking up fresh ideas to retain our visitors or they might not return.

My point is that many of the expectations people have (of churches) are not even based on the Bible.  Church leaders, in response to these expectations, get on a treadmill of busyness in an attempt to meet the perceived needs of people.  Combined, it becomes an endless cycle of unbiblical duties.

The goal of the church is to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) – nothing else.  There is no Plan B.  And for those who are successfully discipled…. “it is enough” for them to simply be like Jesus (see Matthew 10:25a above).  They are perfectly content to be like their Lord.  They don’t need a full list of activities on the church menu, smoke bombs, light shows, cutting edge technology, or a church baseball team to keep them in church.  The pursuit of Jesus is enough for them.

Maybe the church should emphasize “being like Christ” – since “it is enough” – instead spending inordinate amounts of creative energy trying to think of a hot new program to launch or spending gobs of money to prop up that program.  We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  It’s already been decided for us exactly what we are supposed to be doing – make disciples.  All that is needed to make disciples is (1) The Spirit of God, (2) The Word of God, and (3) The People of God.  The book of Acts is the explosive example of what happens when all three work in combination.

I’m convinced that most church activities fail at the higher mission of making disciples.  Sure it keeps people busy, active, and connected for a while, but it doesn’t translate into actually making disciples.  A hamster on a wheel is active, but he’s not going anywhere.  Salmon swimming upstream to spawn are making progress.  The difference is glaring.

I’ve observed that churches talk about fellowship, yet, too often people are so busy getting their kids checked-in and themselves off to their ministry stations that very little fellowship takes place.  And church staff are so busy plugging ministry holes left by vacationing volunteers that it’s difficult to say much more than a hello.

Can we slow down?  Can we slow down long enough to actually say hello to someone this Sunday morning and have a meaningful conversation with them?  Can we take the time to notice the person who is barely holding it together?  Can we create an environment where it’s okay to not be okay?

Maybe we should do less church stuff so that we are free to pursue Christ.  After all, "it is enough" for the person who truly longs for Him.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Green Room

The Green Room.  This is a room usually to the side of the stage in some churches where pastors, staff, and worship-team members gather to eat doughnuts, drink coffee, and have snacks before they walk out ‘on stage’ for their part in the service.  It’s cool to do that.  Makes 'em feel like a rock star. 

Even worse, some musicians and singers will retreat to the Green Room after their time on stage has concluded, completely missing the preached Word of God.  Some pastors will sit in the Green Room during the entire music set – waiting for it to conclude – before they walk out on stage to do their thing.  Or deacons will hang out in the board room during the service.

None of this is healthy. 

Although some churches don’t have an actual Green Room, many people engage themselves in the same practice by hanging out in the hallways, atrium, their offices, the kitchen, the patio, or the parking lot.

PCC does not have a Green Room and we never will.  Yes, I realize that some Sunday morning duties take people out of the adult service - and this is necessary because we couldn't operate otherwise.  But no one should be out of service habitually under any circumstance.  That's why we have rotating schedules for workers. 

Having said that,  here’s why missing church is a bad practice:

1) Pastors:  Since they are men of the “Word” they sometimes feel like they can skip out on the musical & singing side of worship because their sermon is so important.  But all pastors need to learn a vital truth:  You never graduate past your need to worship God corporately with fellow believers.  Sure, pastors have been called to preach, and they have to teach God's Word even if no one in the church could strike a tuning fork in the key of A - but beyond that, pastors were created to worship just like everyone else.  There isn’t an advanced level of Christianity where you no longer have to engage God in corporate worship with the saints.  So don’t let your mind become so preoccupied with what you’re called to do – preach – that you lose sight of what you have been created to do – worship.

2.  Musicians & singers:  Some musicians and singers feel like their role in the service is the most important thing, so after they have performed, will slip out of the service and hang out in the hallways sipping coffee.  Even worse, some leave church altogether… and it is simply wrong.  Church is not a gig, and you are not a rock star.  You need the Word just like everyone else.  And you need accountability too, just like everyone else

3.  Staff Members, Ministry Leaders, & Church Workers:  If you are skipping church, you are skipping church.  It’s as simple as that.  Being somewhere in the building is not the same as being in church.

Ultimately this is an honor issue. Yes, honoring your pastor is part of it. He’s been preparing all week long for the Sunday message and one of the best ways you can support him is by actively responding to the Word.  But really this is about honoring God Himself.  Here’s why:  There isn’t an advanced level of Christianity where you are exempt from hearing the Word no matter what your Sunday morning duties are.  Besides, there is no such thing as true worship that is divorced from God’s Word.  Without the Word there would be no basis for Christianity at all - that's how important the Bible really is - and you need a steady diet of it just like everyone else.

So whether you’re preaching or playing music this weekend, or leading volunteers, or working on the schedule, you should choose to fully engage yourself in worship. Pastors, put your notes down, and worship the God you’ve been studying about all week. Worship musicians, catch your breath for a minute, and then pick up your Bible, a pen, listen and learn from the sermon, and press in to the God who is the source of your creativity and talent.  Staff members and church workers, push away from the ‘business’ of Sunday morning and get engaged with God again.

Myself, I’ve made the commitment to be in church on Sunday mornings.  I’m not going to be hanging out in my office for extended periods of time, strolling the hallways, loitering in the atrium, or skipping the preaching.  Sunday morning is the “LORD’S DAY” and He deserves my attention.

That's why every Sunday you see me on the first or second row (in seating section one) near the acoustic piano.  It’s important for me to be in service – even during the time when I’m not "on stage" – and here’s why:

1.  I need to worship.  Spending time in corporate worship really helps to prepare my heart,  getting me vertically focused just before I open the Word and speak.  Besides, I am believer and God has called me to worship Him.

2.  I am a worship leader.  My actual position at PCC is Senior Pastor.  PCC's worship team does a great job of providing quality music and God-honoring worship each Sunday.  As such, they are leading worship at that point in the service.  However, there are some people in the congregation who are going to take their worship “cues” from the people around them – including me.  So when people see me on the front row raising my hands, head bowed in silent prayer, clapping, shouting, or playing ‘air guitar’ (no, not really), they will take their cues from me.  Why?  Because I am modeling worship.  As a pastor I should be.  And so should our staff and all other key people.

3.  I want to support our team.  Our worship leader, band members, and tech team work HARD during the week to bring the heat every Sunday for the cause of Christ. I always want them to know that what they do is an important part of the vision of PCC. We are a team. I never want them to think that hanging out in the my office (or some Green Room) drinking coffee is more important than what they are doing to reach people far from God with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

4. Accountability!!! I never want our people to ever wonder if I have quality time with God. They can’t follow me into my prayer closet. They can’t hang out with me while I’m having my quiet time. They can, however see me worship…and know that I’m connecting with God every Sunday.

5. God wants me to worship Him. I would never presume to know or the mind of God in all things. But I tend to think He likes to see and hear His people praise His name. That includes a very imperfect person like me.

Finally, every believer should be involved in corporate worship on a regular basis.  Only a person who has grown cold and distant in their heart would argue otherwise.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Mind Dump - July 22, 2012

Today was a good day at PCC.  Attendance was back up to normal – up by 100 people. 

The ebbs and flows of summer are what they are.  No need to compete with it, or stress out.  Just go with the flow.

The dinner after service was another big hit.  Four weeks straight… and four weeks of exceptional fellowship.

It was perfect plan for the middle of summer:  With so many people traveling for vacation there was no need to launch a new ministry or initiative.  Instead, we opted to have “dinner on the grounds” for four Sundays in a row.

Here’s why it worked so well:  (1) Everyone is already on-campus on Sunday mornings, so it makes sense to offer an event while they are already there, meaning there was no need to come back for an evening meeting during the week, (2)  Everyone brings their own covered dish which makes the event “cost neutral” for the church, (3)  Friendships are strengthened, (4)  It was simply enjoyable!

We will probably do this again in the month of November – which is when the Holiday season is upon us – and will probably have a Thanksgiving theme for the month.

The sermon series on Elijah has been going very well.  It’s new territory for most people.

Next week we’ll get to the meat of the matter – the showdown on Mt. Carmel.

On a personal note…..

I feel my strength returning.  It’s been a long journey for me, hellish at times, to get my head above water.  But I see light at the end of the tunnel.  If my current upward trend continues, I anticipate being fully recovered in the near future – certainly by fall – and when that happens I will be providing some very strong leadership at PCC.

About three weeks ago I resumed a rigorous workout routine.  It’s been good for me.  My energy level has spiked, I feel better, my appetite has been curbed, and I’m consuming less calories each day.  Practicing this level self-discipline has been good for my mental state too.  Feel like I’m on top of things again.

Ready to take the bull by the horns.

We are contacting a Realtor this week to explore putting our house up for sale.  A sign may be going up in my front yard soon.  Very excited.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath.

This Sunday’s message is about Elijah’s stay with the widow of Zarephath.  After the miraculous provision of God – the flour and oil never ran out – tragedy strikes.  The widow’s beloved son dies.
It’s a heartbreaking story.  It’s filled with human interest on a level that all of us can relate to.  In it we will learn:  (1) How to respond to people who are in grief, and (2) the kind of prayer that moves the heart of God.

This is a story with a happy ending.  I’m certain that you’ll be encouraged.

PS - Don't foreget, we're having a fellowship dinner with section 4 after service.  

The Tyranny of Always Striving for the Next Level

PCC got off to a good start on our very first Sunday in 1998.  After that, it took a couple of years to really start growing.  Before long we were breaking attendance barriers, seeing people come to Christ, baptizing scores of new believers, and discipling them.  At one point we were consistently running 500 hundred in attendance, which made us larger than 95% of the churches in America.  We actually had a peak attendance of 1,200 one Easter Sunday a few years ago.  In a town of 20,000.

And it never felt like enough for me.

Why?  Because there was always another growth barrier to break through.  Or a new ministry we needed to start.  Or a new semester of groups we needed to launch.  Or another staff member to add.  Or another outreach event to conduct.  Or another special service to conduct.  Add infitim.

No matter how much we accomplished, it was never enough.  This thing of “finally getting there” was too elusive.  I particularly remember when we crossed the 200-threshold – it didn’t feel anything like I thought it would.  It was dry and disappointing for me.  I quickly realized that it meant more people to take care of, more to do, and not enough resources to cover the bases.  So I pushed myself to break the next threshold thinking it would be better when we got there.  It wasn’t.

When you go to another level you have to face another set of devils.  You still have all the same issues to contend with, but now there are more zeros behind the number.

There’s nothing wrong with growth.  In fact, NT churches should grow.  But they should also grow in a healthy manner.  For me, focusing too much on the next level was harmful.

Next-level thinking kept me from appreciating where we were because I was constantly focusing on what was next.  Trying to get to the 700-800 level kept me from rejoicing over the 450-500 people God had already sent us.  Even the church bulletin or Sunday announcements was always about what’s next and what’s coming, rather than taking time to celebrate where we were - as if we had to give the impression that "things are always happnin at PCC." 

Even worse, next-level thinking kept me from focusing on my own health – both spiritually and physically.  My soul dried up more times than it should have.  I almost burned out.  There was some church conflict that messed me up for a while too.  And throwing in the added dynamic of personal and family challenges that are common to us all, it was almost too much to bear.  I was lost in the middle of too much clutter.

So I embarked on a journey of fixing things by first fixing myself.  Somehow I found my bearings again and started to get healthy.  I reconnected with God and myself.  But I quickly found out that not everyone in our church was on-board with me to simplify.  After all, I had been leading this way for years and now I was trying to un-ring the bell.

The good news is that we’ve been able to neutralize this tyrannical striving for the next level.  I taught, led, pleaded, fought, argued, and hammered it out until people began to see the wisdom of slowing down.  Yes, it has resulted in the departure of a few people who have found other places to attend.  But for PCC it has been a good thing.  Our church is at a manageable size right now – we are “right sized” – in proportion to our facilities, resources, staff, and ability to shepherd our congregation.

And we are much healthier.

God is not against church growth.  Neither am I.  In fact, I look forward to the day when we regain that kind of momentum again.  But if or when that happens, we grow to the next level by the breath of God.  It will occur naturally as a sovereign move of God's Spirit and it will not be forced by me or anyone else.

In the meantime, we will simply make disciples, shepherd our flock, and worship God.

Ten Reasons to Not Over-program Your Church

I’m a devotee of the simple church concept.  I’ve written about this more than twenty-five times (see the left sidebar “Keep it Simple” and “Organic” and “Burnout” for additional reading).  But I have come to realize how daunting a task it can be to actually convince people of the benefits of keeping a church simple.

For instance, we are inundated with opportunities from outside organizations to participate in their activities (which we are afraid to turn down lest we appear uncooperative or standoffish).  We hear about other churches with sizzling programs and feel the need to incorporate them into our own church.  Or someone steps forward with a new idea and we are reluctant to say no lest we hurt their feelings.  A newcomer visits our church and immediately wants to see the program menu, and if they leave because of a “lack of activities”, we are left feeling like we have done something wrong.  Worst of all is the bloated church calendar.

Here are 10 reasons to not over-program a church:

1.  Over-programming often results in doing a lot of things in mediocrity rather than doing a few things extremely well.

2.  Over-programming creates an illusion of having a fruitful ministry when it may just be busyness.

3.  Over-programming can hurt organic community.

4.  Over-programming keeps us at the church too much.  That’s why we don’t know our neighbors and fail to reach them.

5.  Over-programming dilutes ministry effectiveness because it overextends leaders, requires increased administration, more time from volunteers, and additional financial resources that are limited to begin with.

6.  Over-programming leads to segregation among ages, life stages, and affinities, which can even lead to division within a church body.

7.  Over-programming creates satisfaction in the “illusion” of success.  For instance, if a church looks like it is doing a lot of things, we tend to think it is doing great things for God, when it may really be doing nothing more than offering religious activities.

8.  Over-programming leaves no room for margin (time) in the lives of church members.  It’s a fast track to burnout for families.

9.  Over-programming gets a church further away from the New Testament mandate of simply making disciples.  Here’s a good test:  take a look at the typical over-programmed church and see how many of the activities actually resemble things seen in the New Testament or are actually making disciples.

10.  Over-programming is usually the result of not knowing how to do ministry any other way, and an unwillingness to change.

Call it What It Is and Keep the Language Simple

I remember seeing a job posting and it read this way:  Remuneration commensurate with experience.”  I thought; why not simply say “pay based upon experience.”  That would have been too easy.  People like to say things that sound profound, professional, or creative, even if they don’t make much sense to the reader.

When we were making signage for our children’s ministry, I resisted the idea of using cute, but obscure names.  The problem is that nobody knows what “Wamba-Land” is, or “Megaville” or “Jam City” or “Power House.”  We just call ours PCC Kids because everybody knows what that means, even a first time guest.

You can call your website an “interactive web experience”, but most people are still going to call it a website.  You can call an oil change something creative like an “engine performance maintenance”, but the rest of us will still call it an oil change.

You can call it “soteriology” but almost nobody knows what that means because it doesn’t appear in English translations of the Bible.  Instead, just say “salvation” or “study of the doctrine of salvation.” People get that.  I don’t use the word “eschatology” either because it’s unfamiliar to most.  The term “end time events” is what people understand.

The point here is that simple or familiar is usually better.  You can spend time agonizing over cute phrases, neat sounding words, or complex sentences with lengthy schemes of logic, but if you’d just call it what it is more people will understand and be drawn in.

That’s why I’m in favor calling Sunday worship “church services” because that’s a term that most people know.  When we call them “gatherings” or “experiences” or “holy convocations” on the front end, we have to take time to explain what that means and it costs us clarity.

Do we want to impress people or influence them?