Friday, July 20, 2012

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.

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