Every church should be asking “What if we…?” But they ought to be asking that question in terms of our main objectives: discipleship, equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, evangelism. Put that question to the service of those objectives and we have something powerful. Put that question to the service of “butts in pews” and all we have is spectacle.
The family model of ministry as defined by Etchea Coaching focuses on developing one another for the ministry. It’s not pragmatic, but driven by preaching the Gospel and living the Gospel in community. We hope to always get churches to see discipleship as the purpose for coming together. What will work is a short-sighted question. In the end, the Christ wins–the Gospel wins. If we live in the community that we should, it will work.
This morning I went for a run. (Actually, I used to run. Now I trot and breathe really hard.) As I took off on this run, I set my running app for 2.62 miles. That may seem like a random distance, but it isn’t. It’s a goal that I’ve set for myself regularly- not to let exercise be my driving goal, as much as a way to maintain some health and enjoy some personal time.
2.62 is 1/10th of a marathon. These days you may often see cars with 26.2 or 13.1 stickers on their bumpers and trunks. Those signify that the driver has completed a half or full marathon. These mark noble goals, I’m sure. They signify that the person has achieved a high level of fitness–one that I have never reached. My only concern with this goal is that it is a sign of something that I think can begin to infect families and can become a barrier to good parenting.
Back when I was young, few people ran marathons. Now, judging the number of cars with stickers, and Facebook posts and Tweets from many of my connections, it has become a trendy activity to show this achievement and personal drive.
Drive is good in some ways, but it can get in the way of good parenting. When parents train for marathons, they run from 2 to 4 hours per day. On top of their running goals, many add other health goals, subsequently adding gym memberships that require more time and hundreds of dollars in fees.
If parent drive isn’t in health areas, many more parents are driven toward personal success. Their careers become more than ways to support their family, and can go beyond a normal source of fulfillment. Careers can become the parent’s identity. Most people have to put in overtime on occasions. When a career becomes an identity, these people will work 60 or more hours a week most of the time. Personal time is frequently interrupted to deal with work situations, or these people are lost in their work mentally, even when involved in non work activities.
Drive in itself isn’t a bad thing, but many families are lost in this drive when it becomes a way of life. Driven parents lose important opportunities to demonstrate love to their children. Driven parents can pass along a number one value of being driven. Other values like loving one another, caring for your community, faith, and moderation can be lost in a driven parent’s lifestyle.
Now that my kids are grown, I have time to dedicate to new personal activities. I guess I could make the time to prepare for a marathon, but I don’t need to. For now, I’m happy with the 2.62 concept. Exercising 30 minutes per day is enough.
One afternoon I had an opportunity to talk with a parent of one of the young men who had graduated from my ministry.
“I hear Billy (not his real name) wants to go into a ministry with disabled people.” I said with excitement.
Linda, Billy’s mom, responded, “Yeah, but we’re not going to let him change his major.”
“Why not?” I asked, having figured that the family, who was very involved in our church, would be thrilled that their now young adult child was finding a clear calling.
“We told Billy that if he wants us to pay for his college he will have to finish his career path. Ministry won’t pay him enough to live a comfortable lifestyle.”
Confused, I asked, “So you don’t think his ministry plan is valuable?”
“We do,” she responded. “But we think he should work as a professional for a few years until he’s financially set to live a comfortable life. We told him at that time he could follow his ministry call.”
As a parent, I understand the concern one might have over seeing a child struggle financially, but I am uneasy when parents put planning for a child’s financial future over their child’s calling.
Anyone can find their calling. That is the point at which they use their gifts and strengths for a greater good. It is in serving a calling that people begin to find fulfillment in their work. It is by fulfilling a calling that a person benefits society. It’s a person’s calling that leads them to a point of serving God in all walks of life.
The missional family works to help their children identify their calling.
A calling is different than a career path. To manage a career path, most people set goals (e.g., to be a managing engineer, to be a doctor, to be president of the United States, or CEO of a large corporation). A calling is an attitude of purpose and satisfaction (e.g., I care for people; I give people direction; I help people understand bigger things).
Career paths often demand that people compromise. The young executive may break a few rules to his path to becoming CEO. The doctor my give up her family to build a booming practice. An engineer may fudged some of my financial numbers to underbid the competition knowing that that it will demand additional charges later.
A person can find meaning in their calling even when their jobs are menial, low paying, threatened by economic crisis, or led by a lousy boss. The odd thing about this is that people who have a firm understanding of their calling are often better employees, so their bosses respond better to them. They will succeed because they stick with their job despite frustration when others might have quit and switch jobs prematurely.
Colorado State recently held a webinar offered to alumni on the topic of calling. Psychology professor Dr. Bryan Dik presented a great picture of calling. Parents can help their children find their calling by following the four suggestions that Dik makes.
Link activity to outcomes that matter.
Focus on the greater good.
Actively craft work—Its tasks, relationship climate, and purpose.
Parents have the opportunity to set a goal for their children. It’s my experience most children learn to hit the goal that their parents set. If parents teach kids to make money, they’ll make money. If their goal is to have a successful career path, their kids will have a priority of developing a career path. If it is to do something greater with their lives, then parents need to focus on teaching their kids to find their calling.
Don’t trip children as they seek their calling. Focus on teaching a attitude of doing God’s work whether the job is big or small.
Guiding your children can be difficult. Complete the form below to schedule a coaching session. The first 30-minute phone session is free.
Seth Godin has an interesting post about money today. I find it interesting because I wonder some times how well I taught my children about money. It’s a difficult subject. I’d implore you to read the full article, but here are a few excerpts that I find important for teaching children.
4. …getting out of debt as fast as you possibly can is the smartest thing you can do with your money.
6. If money is an emotional issue for you, you’ve just put your finger on a big part of the problem. No one who is good at building houses has an emotional problem with hammers. Place your emotional problems where they belong, and focus on seeing money as a tool.
11. The way you feel about giving money to good causes has a lot to do with the way you feel about money.
12. Don’t get caught confusing money with security. There are lots of ways to build a life that’s more secure, starting with the stories you tell yourself, the people you surround yourself with, and the cost of living you embrace.
15. Within very wide bands, more money doesn’t make people happier. Learning how to think about money, though, usually does.
16.In the long run, doing work that’s important leads to more happiness than doing work that’s merely profitable.
Many, many parents miss the last point and, in doing so, make their children feel less important when they do important work. Especially in the faith world, important work doesn’t usually pay well. Important careers can come in many forms. A doctor can be important or unimportant. The career of being an attorney can be the same thing. Many people poo-poo the very low paying career of being a parent who raises children (Can I say housemaker?), but if you look at Godin’s #5, There’s no difference (in terms of the money you have) between spending money and not earning money, having a full time parent may create more real money for a family than having two incomes.
Teaching children about money is important. I think Godin teaches good balance on the matter.
A few days ago I was talking with a friend who has a family ministry and reads my blog. He said he likes the concepts that I’ve been sharing on my blog but is struggling to understand how to apply them. Since we were talking about my post “How to recognize when your church is being consumed,” I’ll use that post as an example. I’m going to write two possible solutions for each question. The first solution is for those in top positions of leadership (senior pastors and elders/board members) and the second for staff members who are limited in the changes they can enact (this may include volunteers).
Before we go on I must also say that these are only the best solutions that come to mind for the situations I’m describing. Context will always dictate the best practices, so use these as a guide and contact us if you need help working out better solutions for your concerns.
Q: What do you do when your church staff is viewed solely as hired hands for managing programs to serve the will of the people?
For leaders: Rewrite job descriptions with the goal of decreasing the importance of numeric growth and program development. Clarify the roles so that each pastor and staff member is a lead disciple maker called to do the difficult work of helping people overcome sinful habits and to find rest in the work of the cross.
For church staff members: You will be judged by the job description you work under, so serve well in that role. With the programs you run, create environments where honest relationships can form. Disciple those in your care and show them how to do the same with others. Let the testimonies of those you work with be a sign to naysayers about the best use of ministry time and resources. Most of all, be patient. People will come on board little by little.
Q: What do you do when those in your ministry have the habit of referring to the church as something that happens at a certain time and in a specific location?
For leaders: Stop doing it yourself first. I don’t believe I’m out on a limb when I assume you refer to your building as the church- “See you at church on Sunday.” I will catch myself repeating that phrase and I’m working to change my vocabulary.
Instead, talk frequently in public environments about the church in the world. Give examples of folks from your church doing the church’s work off campus and on their own initiative. Some may complain that you, the hired gun, should be doing this work, but that’s alright. People will learn to accept this new direction over time.
Finally, appoint someone to be the calendar cop. The calendar cop will constantly review all that is going on in the facilities, and all the formal programs. This person responsible for speaking up whenever the calendar begins to work against the relational needs of people. The calendar cop should be a systems thinker who can understand the complexity of many programs and competing visions.
For church staff members: Deprogram when you can. For example, disband your formal small groups. Instead, train mentors to gather small groups of people they can guide. Train those mentors well and be an example.
Also, spend as much time as you can outside of the office, but this doesn’t mean at home. Do your work in coffee shops. Pick regular places so you grow to know the staff there. Serve your neighbors. Volunteer with community groups. Coach local sports teams. Tutor at your local schools.
Q: What do you do when attendance trends become more important than individuals?
For both leaders and staff: Review each member, or regular ministry participant, who has left your ministry, whether they completely left your church or have drifted from previous commitments. Call each of them but don’t ask them to come back; that would be disingenuous at this point. Instead, ask them these two questions: (1) Why did you leave? (2) Are you finding someone to disciple you in your new church or situation? Love them and care for them.
Likewise, when a new person joins your ministry, meet with them. Ask them about their journey. Ask them if they have someone who they can personally ask spiritual questions. Help them to meet some potential mentors and friends in the church.
Applying principles of the missional family always depends on your context and the people involved. If you would like help with your specific situation, contact Etchea Coaching. Check out our partnership, too.
Carey Nieuwhof has a great post called Why We Need a Different Kind of ‘Maturity’ in the Church. In this post he points to the issue of people church hopping because they don’t think their current church is helping them to mature. The problem is that people will never mature when they are seeking what is best for them. Christian maturity is self sacrifice (Rom. 1). Christians grow when they have a family that helps them work through their issues so that they can give to others.
Of course, if the family refuses to help their people grow in this Kingdom way, some may find a different church more helpful. Sadly, I’ve found few people who church hop because they want a family who is going to get into their issues more.
Nieuwhof lists these five marks as better measures of maturity:
A passion for application.
A servant’s heart.
A love for unchurched people.
A deep investment in the Kingdom of God.
Growing to maturity is a long, vulnerable process. People need a community of grace to help them mature. People need a family that cares for them. A communities need to grow together.
The church is being consumed. I first came to understand that when I picked up a used book by Bruce and Marshall Shelley (father and son authors). The book, The Consumer Church (InterVarsity Press, 1992), builds a case that the American church is in danger of falling into American capitalism as its main operations model. They have built the case that the fight between style and tradition is forcing the church to the extremes, and leaves behind the true work of the church which is the work of the gospel.
Now, 20 years later, we see a church where traditionalism is more or less dead in the church, and style, usually called relevance, is the guide for most church practices. While it is important that we connect the gospel we are entrusted with to the culture where we live, without a connection to or the traditions of the church, the church is left with forms that are almost exclusively driven by the desires and wants of consumers. Thus the church is being consumed.
Here are 3 ways to test your church to see if it is being consumed.
1. You might be a consumed church when the pastor and church staff are only hired hands, responsible to listen to the will of the people and run programs that the people want.
Paying pastors and staff is not the problem, but it becomes a problem when payment is used to ensure that the staff is serving the will of the people. Church leaders should serve the will of God and provide wise, and sometimes hard, leadership to address the needs of the people, not to provide for the wants of the people. Church leaders are not managers of programs for the people, but elder brothers and sisters who are given responsibility over the care of church family.
2. You might be a consumed church when your church happens at a certain time and in a certain place.
The Church exists universally, around the whole world. Local churches (called congregations) exist in a geographic region as a specific manifestation of the universal church. The church, both universally and locally, exists 24/7 wherever the people of the church act as bearers of the good news of Jesus.
The ideas and language many use to indicate that the church meets on Sunday, or some other time, in a particular location are false. They leave the church body consumed by the image that the church is a program or a building, not a family. Jesus left the church in the world, not in a building or 501c3, nonprofit organization.
3. Numbers and trends mean more than each person in the care of the church.
When a church is consumed, each person loses value. They are only as valuable as numbers to demonstrate the desirability of the church. Upward trends in attendance and giving are good. Downward trends are bad. However, the consumed church cannot be bothered by the loss of a person here or a person there. In fact, often the consumed church welcomes church family members to leave when they don’t want the same things that everyone else wants.
The antidote to being a consumed church is to renew relationship. The church needs to renew the church as family. Brothers and sisters exist because they are in relationship to one another. They care for one another, and they work hard to stay together. Losing a family member is always a reason for grieving.
The Divine Commodity by Leadership Journal editor Skye Jethani (Zondervan: 2009) is a green vegetable book, not a dessert book. It doesn’t taste good, but it is good for you. You won’t be happy that you read it, but you’ll be better off. Skye Jethani will challenge your comfortable way of doing church. He will push you to consider your faith more than your religious out workings. He destroyed any chance I had of enjoying Christmas like in the feel-good way it has always been. Jethani does all this using a wonderful comparison of the church and van Gogh paintings. It’s a creative, well-written book, and as such a easy book to read. It’s not an easy book to consume.