There are a lot of blogs, books, seminars, and conferences about planning successful church programs. I have read many of these books and posts, and have attended several of these seminars and conferences. Below are three things I have never heard anywhere, but which would significantly help church programs become more relational and missional.
If you are a house church, you may not think you have programs, and so this post doesn’t apply to you. But while you may not call it a “program” if there is any activity that your gathering does together for other people in the community–whether you call it community service, outreach, evangelism, mission, etc.,–this post might also help you be more focused an intentional in what you do and why.
First, all programs should include something beyond just training. I’ve written about this previously. It does not appear that Jesus or the early church ever did training just for training. Most of the training was while they were on the way to do something. It was on the job training.
If Jesus taught evangelism training today, it would go like this. He would announce the training in church, in the bulletin, and on the website. Then, on the night of the training, when everyone arrives, He would say, “Ok. We’re all here? Good. There’s a van out back. Let’s all pile in. We’re going to go downtown and hang out with drug addicts. I’ll tell you what you need to know on the way.”
I don’t care what program you start, if it does not include actually doing what you are being trained to do, don’t do it.
Second, all programs should be designed to help, serve, or love other people. I love to study the Bible, but the absolute last thing the church needs right now is more Bible studies. And while I’m on the subject, the same goes for prayer meetings. We don’t need more prayer meetings. I will write more about both of these subjects in later posts.
But for now, if you are planning a program, don’t make it a Bible study or prayer meeting. We know more than we need to know about the Bible to obey it, and we need to start being answers to our own prayers before we pray about it more. If you want to study Scripture and pray about what you are going to do, fit it in as something you do while you are on the way to love or serve somebody.
Finally, design the programs to meet small, achievable needs. For some reason, churches design programs for crowds. Yes, Billy Graham, Jesus, and some pastors are successful at this. But even Jesus spent most of his time with just a few people. Our church programs can be designed to touch a few lives in a significant way, rather than make a tiny scratch in the vast, insurmountable needs of a few million.
In this way, you don’t need big budgets or huge crowds of volunteers to accomplish your programs. All you need is a few people to see and meet a need that they are aware of and which is right in front of them. They don’t need to go to budget committee meetings and petition for money. They don’t need to twist the arms of unwilling recruits. They just see a specific need, and then set out to meet that need. This approach liberates the people to create and conclude their own personal programs.