June 28, 2008

New Thinking About Ministry

The new Briefing came in the mail yesterday. Often when I’m having dinner alone it’s tempting to put the TV on and watch it while I have dinner. Tonight, as I put my plate on the table I saw the unopened copy of the Briefing and decided to read it instead.
I’m so glad I did! There were a number of thought provoking articles and one in particular which caught my attention because it looked at something I have been thinking about a bit in regards to our church.

The article by Colin Marshall looked at shifting the way we view ministry and outreach from being event and program focused to being people focused.
He proposed 10 strategies to bring this change about (which are adapted form a book he is writing about training in ministry)
These are three I think would be helpful for our church.

1. Rather than look at the programs you have always run, look at the needs and the gifts of the people in your church and use them.
God gives each of us gifts, which are unique to us and specially suited to the types of ministries that God has planned for us to do. (It was he [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13)

Shouldn’t we be working on building up peoples God given talents and using them to minister to our church, instead of trying to push them into a role which they won’t be able to do as well just because it’s what we have always done?

2. Focus on training people and growing their walk with God.
As a kid growing up in youth group I knew it was expected that I would be serving the church in the future. While I think this is a good thing, and I wanted to serve our church – at times I felt (as did others) pressure to serve because it was what I was meant to do not because I had a love of God that I wanted to share with others, or as an outward expression of my faith.
People who have a strong faith should naturally want to do things to help their church and to tell others about Christ. So if we focus on building peoples love of Christ first, then willing, enthusiastic and capable volunteers should be the result (I know that doesn’t always happen, but its better than pushing someone into a ministry without really know what their spiritual life is like). This is where a church of mentors would be great. Where each member is getting alongside another younger Christian and seeing where they are at, becoming a part of their lives and encouraging them to serve as their gifts and maturity allows.

And we can’t forget about a persons spiritual growing when they start in a ministry. This is a vulnerable time – people become burned out and disillusioned easily with eternal consequences. When I went through a dark period while serving in a ministry at church I felt so alone and had no one to go to for help. When things in my life first started to go bad one of the things that was neglected was my ministry which meant that my problems weren’t just affecting me but the other people I was serving with and the people we were serving.

3. Not just filling the gaps.
I guess this is partly point one and two rolled in together. Just because there is a gap in a ministry and there is a random person passing by does not mean that they are suited to that ministry, nor should they do the ministry. When there is a gap in a ministry there should be many prayers and thoughtful consideration.
A quote I like from the article is this “We should start with the people God has given us, not our programmes. . . . So instead of thinking ‘who can fill this gap in our personnel?’, perhaps the question we need to consider is ‘what ministry could this member exercise?’
Of course I know that sometimes people need a bit of encouragement to serve, but if God wants a programme to continue, He will provide the people to serve in it.

There are many more points in the article which I found quite thought provoking. Of course just saying all this won’t change anything. And I know many people in our church would like this way of thinking, we’ve had numerous meetings about how things should be run. But maybe now as we are about to have a new minister, people might be more open to a bit of change in thinking. I’m going to keep praying about it, I would love to see God work powerfully in our church.

photo by § Mary §

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