Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ministry Design

I've had some interesting conversations with ministry leaders and small group leaders at Calvary about how we do ministry and what we expect of our people. Do we strongly challenge people to become fully devoted followers of Christ? Do we have events with no agenda (or challenge) other than to hope people make a new friend? Do we have high expectations of our volunteer leaders and help them to be more effective in our mission? Do we accept people no matter where they are? The answer to all these is 'Yes!' How we can say yes when these seem to contradict each other is a practical challenge. To explain this I want to unpack a little bit about ministry philosophy and ministry design.

Ministry Philosophy - How we do and think about things

"You are loved. You are are accepted." - God loves everyone, withholding love from no one. And so must we.
"Encouraging the development of fully-devoted followers of Christ." - God accepts us where we are, but loves us enough not to leave us there. The Spirit lovingly and patiently ever calls us to deeper devotion and commitment to God. And so must we.
"Loving relationships" - community is not just a biblical value or a key purpose; Christ-centered relationships are essential to growth and ministry.
"Progressive sanctification." While conversion and justification happen at a point in time, sanctification is a process that takes a lifetime. Jesus' call to his disciples was also progressive. "Come and see", "Come and Follow Me", "Come and Be with Me", "Remain in Me."
"Next step" - we don't expect seekers to behave like believers, nor do we expect new believers to have everything figured out one month after coming to Christ. Our goal is simple - help each person discern and take the next step in (or towards) Christ which the Holy Spirit is leading them to take.
"Authentic Leadership" - we want our leaders to model, not just teach.

Ministry Design - Cultivating Environments for Growth

Because personal growth is an organic and relational process, we can't force things to happen. What we can do is to provide excellent environments which allow for such growth to occur naturally. Crafting such environments is not easy, but intentional thought about the design of ministry activities is important. The key to this is:

Know your Target - Know your Purpose - Know your Desired Outcome

Here is how we look at 'targets' at Calvary:
concentric circles of commitment.

Community - those outside the church
Crowd - those who attend Calvary
Congregation - have committed to membership
Committed - have committed to growth
Core - have committed to serve and share

It's important that ministry activities are friendly
and appropriate for your primary target.

The goal is for people to take further steps of commitment as they grow in Christ. Is it bad to be part of the crowd? No!! We're delighted to have people coming even occasional as they are exploring the claims of Christ. Is it ok to stay hidden in the crowd for 20 years? Not so much. We want the community to 'come and see' without other expectations. We want occasional attenders in the crowd to come to call Calvary their church family and commit to deeper fellowship. Our hope is that those who are close to Christ will join in His mission and start to build up the body and make disciples themselves. Here's the thing - an activity or environment that is well-designed for one target (or one transition) is likely ill-suited to people at other stages in their walk with Christ.

Let's look at some practical examples:
  • Community BBQ
The Community BBQ is what we call a bridge event. Its sole purpose to be a bridge to the community. It shows that Calvary cares about them, cares about being a good neighbor, and likes to have fun. If a person attends a bridge event and leaves thinking "Maybe not all churches are bad." and decides to come check it out sometime, that's a step forward, and a win.
  • Small Groups - Fellowship or Discipleship?
We have many small groups at Calvary. These are places where people can 'do life together', and encourage each other to grow closer to Christ. Some place a very high value on fellowship, doing things together, and trying to reach out to people on the fringe of the crowd. Others are fairly intense in the devotion to Bible Study. Is it ok for a small group to just be social - get together for lunch and shoot the breeze? No. But the "no" is not because it breaks a small group rule, it's because that doesn't help anyone take a next step in Christ. If the group spends most of the time chatting, but asks questions applying the sermon to their lives for 15 minutes, that might well be an appropriate next step for a group of guys in the "crowd", who have few friends who are strong followers of Christ, and who have never wanted to be in a small group before. A patient small group leader here will focus on "Come and See" and will have to be intentional to keep Christ as central in their time together (both inside and outside the group).
  • Men or Women's Ministries
The goal of a men's ministry or women's ministry is the same mission as the church - to encourage the development of fully-devoted followers of Christ.  But people are all over the map in terms of their current commitment to Christ and the life of the church. No one event or activity will adequate reach all people. No one event or activity will be 'the next step' for all the women, or all the men. How then do we apply principles of ministry design to pursue our mission and serve our people? By cultivating several environments, each designed to help a target audience to take a next step in Christ. For example:

- Bridge events (fishing trip, ornament exchange) to reach out relationally to friends in the community
- Fellowship-centric activities (casual breakfast, luncheon with a brief message) to allow people already part of the crowd to connect with each other, and develop an interest in joining a group or serving on a team
- Men's small groups or Women's small groups - where people are intentionally encouraged to great understanding of God's word commitment to spiritual growth
- Men's Fraternity or Beth Moore Bible study - more intense groups, though still relationally based, that challenge the committed to greater devotion and their next step
- Service Projects - both as a means to pull-in "hands-on" people to connect relationally with others, as well as to encourage those who love to study the Bible to get outside the church and let their deeds match their words.

That's a lot of activity. Trying to do all of these things is a recipe for burnout! Besides, chances are good that someone excited about in-depth Bible study might be frustrated by a meeting where spiritual growth is lightly referred to for five minutes. Team-based ministry is the answer here. Have a variety of people on your team, with a variety of interests, and work in those areas where you have both passion and skill. It is completely OK to start small, in an area you're excited about. Do the very best you can with that activity, but make sure that you are crystal clear in who you are trying to reach, designing your activity to best meet the needs of that audience, with a clear 'next step' that defines a win for those participating. If there's no one passionate about the activity or event, don't do it! But with everything you do choose to do... Cultivate an environment for growth for the people you seek to serve.

So, ministry leaders... does this make sense? What comments or questions do you have? Is there anything you want to push-back against?

No comments: