This series of posts is based on the metaphor of a drought, which was introduced previously. I think churches are facing a prolonged drought because of changes in beliefs and values of Generation X, the Millennials and Generation Z. Just as agricultural operations adapt to survive in droughts, I’m convinced churches can do the same.
When facing a drought, farmers focus on their core business, putting aside speculative ventures. Churches would do well to also focus on what is most important.
When grain and cattle prices are high, there is room for farmers and ranchers to explore additional opportunities for business. I’ve seen…
Cattle ranches raise alpacas and ostriches. Corn farmers experiment with raising ginseng or hops. Farms with laying chickens add exotic ducks for a variety of eggs.
Traditional farms dedicating acreage for organic crops.
Sometimes these new ventures are profitable; sometimes they lose money. Most are at least a solid learning experience, while a few are unmitigated failures. During a drought, it doesn’t matter. There are no resources available for speculative ventures.
- Farmers plant the most drought resistant crops.
- Ranchers raise the hardiest cattle.
- Both utilize the most trusted irrigation systems.
During the times of plenty in previous generations, churches could afford to speculate.
- Mission boards could write checks for international missions, even though most members had no idea which missions were being supported.
- Members could volunteer for the church in community ministries that were totally disconnected from the church’s mission.
- Churches could construct facilities based on projections that the community might use the buildings.
Now, drought has descended on churches. Like farmers, congregations have to focus on their core ministry. The heart of every church is relationships. God bringing people into a right relationship with himself, then guiding followers in their relationships with one another. Every ministry in some way needs to engage members in relationships.
If you prefer, view the core ministry of churches through the lens of discipleship. Each program or ministry must either engage people in meeting Jesus or connecting people to church members, whose who are already Christ-followers. There are insufficient resources for ministries that do not focus on or lead to discipleship.
This changes the criteria for evaluating programs and ministries.
Previously, criteria included the number of people involved in a ministry. Now, the criteria is the quality of relationships formed in the ministry. The relationships are vital because they provide the opportunities for sharing Christ and the faith.
Before, just offering a ministry like Vacation Bible School was defined as a success. Now, the number of times children from the community are connected to the church throughout the year is more important. Again, this provides opportunities for relationships to form.
This doesn’t necessarily mean churches stop supporting national missions. It may mean sending members to participate as short term missionaries instead of simply cutting a check.
It doesn’t automatically mean the church should stop supporting a community food pantry. It could mean members should work diligently to invite unchurched friends and neighbors to join them in the food pantry ministry. The friends and neighbors will learn about Christ through volunteering with Christians.
Which of your church’s programs are most effective for forming relationships? Share them in the comments or shoot me an email.
Addition posts in this series include: