Programs are Programs

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Programs are just programs. They’re a way to organize people and help them go where God has already called them to go and [do] what God has already called them to do.

I love this statement from Allison Vesterfelt’s post on the StoryLine blog.

I think when we look at our church (the one we are regularly attending) in North America, we tend to see its ministry in terms of the programs that it runs.  We have a view on ministry that says ministry = programs and programs = ministry.  That is, with more words, if some kind of ministry is important, we create a program to do it, and by default any ministry that doesn’t have a program wrapped around it isn’t that important.

As members of a church, we look at programs to assess whether there is a place for us to express or use our spiritual gifts and God-given talents.  When we find a program where we can use our gifts and talents, we want to get involved.  When we are “denied” access to that program – we are wounded, and when that program folds up, we wonder whether we were valued by God in the first place.  When there is not a program, we are essentially “on our own”.

As someone seeking a new church home, we look at programs to signal what the church values.  Do they value children? Do they value outreach?  Do they value the poor?  Do they value teaching?  Do they value prayer?  Do they value worship?  Do they value discipleship?   We compare that against our values, and our spiritual needs and assess whether we will fit in, whether our family will benefit from the inreach programs, whether we will be able to use our gifts.

I think churches and pastors often feel so resource poor, that they feel the need to make their ministry programs efficient – to be good stewards of the resources that can run those programs.  I think that we especially tend to burn leaders out trying to run too many things – and yet, there are still many gifted members who don’t plug in.

Sometimes I think churches design programs to be cost efficient, or resource efficient, without thinking about how they will get everyone who wants to to be plugged in to be ministering to others.  In my experience, people are closest to God, when they have found a real way to participate in God’s redemptive ministry to mankind.  If you want disciples who grow spiritually, you will find ways to involve them in ministry.

We spend so much money on facilities that are designed to make our programs (including Sunday morning worship) better, easier, attractive, appealing, etc.  I think that is somewhat of a disease of the North American church.  How can we optimize the number of people who are involved in ministries, and the breadth of the gifts and talents that our ministry can find creative ways to use and to value.

So I leave you with this question:

How can a church organize programs so that it can make all the members gifts feel valued and important?

Let that be the driver of the next revolution in the North American Church.

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