Yesterday, I laid out a new paradigm for coaching a professional football organization, and I asked you to bear with me because I promised a theological/ministry application for it. Well, here's the hard truth:
Most churches are suffering under the same misguided coaching style as most football teams. And it's killing us.
Here's the way that most churches work: they have a pastor, a circle of elders (or a board - don't get me started), perhaps a few deacons - these are the guys who have the "church minds." These are the ones who have all the plans and know how the church ought to be, and they're the ones drawing up the playbook.
They're the ones deciding what this particular church should be about, what it's style is. They're the ones making decisions about what kinds of programs this church offers. Do we have a children's ministry? What kind? What about community outreach? What are we doing there? They're drawing up the X's and O's to be the kind of church that they want to be, moving all of their big-name priorities to the top of the list.
And then, when new members come into the congregation, these coaches are trying to match them up in the predefined schemas. You're a banker? We've got a spot on our finance committee. You're a mom? Great! We need someone to work with the kids. You're a handyman? There's an opening on our maintenance team. And we're shoving our members into these maps we've already drawn up depending on what position we think they'd be good at, where we think they'd work.
I can't tell you how many times I've been approached and asked (and expected to agree) to teach a children's class. Because I attend this church and I've been there for a long time. And because some of the kids kind of like me. Neither of which is a particularly good reason for me to be teaching a children's class, and I can actually give you plenty more good reasons why I shouldn't.
But that's the plan we've drawn up and, darn it, that's what we're plugging our members into. (Please don't mishear me on this. This is not a tirade against children's ministry. It's just not my gift...or my bag.)
That's the way most churches work, how they're being coached, but there's a better way. Ready for it? Talk to your members. They're the experts on the gifts and the passions that God has put in their hearts. They know where they're going to thrive, and they know what it's going to take from the rest of the community to enable them to do it.
That means we have to make room in our churches for some ideas that may be outside of our comfort zones - by a little or by a lot. It means we have to consider ideas that never would have occurred to us before. It means that when someone comes and says they'd like to start a drama ministry, we give them five minutes of our Sunday service to utilize it. It means when they say they want to work with the homeless, we start fixing up the church van to make it to the city. It means when they want to plan meals for the bereaved, we let them put the feelers out. It means if they want to host a local troop of the kid scouts (boy or girl), if they want to start a children's soccer league, if they want to start an adult volleyball league, if they want to host a recovery group or start a night out for moms, we give them the marker and let them start drawing up the plays. We ask them what their X's and O's are and then we take those skills that we've honed over the years shoving our members into our schemes, and we start recruiting them for their community's, each and every one perfectly fit not only to contribute, but to thrive.
And hey, this isn't my plan. This isn't some wild, hair-brained scheme that I've come up with because I think it's awesome. (I do think it's awesome.) It's the way God's always done it. From using an adopted son of Pharaoh to deliver His message to the ruler to making a quiet little shepherd boy into the shepherd of His flock to calling out to fishermen that He would make them fishers of men. He shaped His schemes around who His players were, not the other way around.
Look how strong those stories are still going thousands of years later.
That's how we make our mark as churches. That's how we move from having merely church members and start having a real community. That's how we maximize the glory of God in all of our little places.
By letting our members draw the playbook, then giving them everything they need to live...and love...by it.