18 Church Trends (and More!): Trend 3

Continuing my highly derivative series on church trends, the next 10 are from an article by church growth consultant and author Thom Rainer:

Trend 3: Renewed emphasis on practical ministries.

Many of our churches have gone through a period of theological recovery for which I am very grateful. Now the leaders want to know the “how” along with the “what.” They are looking for practical solutions built on biblical truths.

Again: Praise God! The challenge any church leader faces is how to turn theory into action. There is no end to the works of theology being published, and many are immensely helpful. And most end with a chapter or two giving practical examples. And yet … few actually explain how a leadership team brings any of this about.

Here’s the answer I learned as an elder: they don’t. It’s not your job. Your job as a leader is to (a) teach the truth — including the profound truth that we are to serve people through the church as a faith community in the name of Jesus, (b) equip the membership to serve (by example most especially), and (c) empower the membership to develop ministries of their own.

Now, in most churches, empowerment is so contrary to tradition that the membership will simply refuse to try anything. Here’s what you do:

  1. Give them a very, very, very simple process to get their idea approved. Tell them whom to call or email, what to ask for, and be prepared to say “yes” to the first few ideas, even if you aren’t too excited about them. Two or three early “no”s will tell the church that they don’t really have permission. Find a way to say “yes.”
    1. Repeatedly mention your desire for new ministries from the pulpit.
    2. Be clear that you don’t lack for ideas. What you are looking for is someone willing to lead or participate in such a ministry.
    3. Use the website and make it easy for others to volunteer to help.
    4. Praise those who start new ministries from the pulpit.
    5. Announce that you aren’t afraid to experiment and expect some efforts to fail. That’s just part of the learning process. Failure is an option.
    6. If the program fails, be gracious and don’t hesitate to let the same people try again. No one gets it right every time. Few get it right on the first try. But spend some time doing a post-mortem to analyze why the first effort failed. Make sure the member with the courage to take some initiative learns from his or her mistakes.
  2. Set up a brain storming committee of people involved in your town’s social safety net to look for areas where the church can effectively serve. Social workers, divorce attorneys and judges, police officers — people who deal with the ills of society first hand. They’ll know which programs are worthwhile and which are pointless wastes of money.
    1. My church did this a decade or so ago. Most of the social agencies did not welcome us because most churches would appear, sing some hymns, get bored, and abandon the program. We had to make sure that the small groups that took on a ministry would truly commit.
    2. And the committee did a great job. Several small groups felt led to volunteer in a particular ministry, and most remained true to their commitment for years.
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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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One Response to 18 Church Trends (and More!): Trend 3

  1. Mark says:

    Let some social justice ministry occur. I know that is widely regarded in conservative circles as just liberal politics. However, I believe Isaiah sanctioned it when he wrote “Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widow” in 1:17.

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