Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

“What If”?

By Published On: August 6, 20160 Comments on “What If”?

Church Wellness
Let’s start with a “what if”: what if you were starting a church today, what would you do?

(I know you aren’t starting a church, but bear with me.)

If you were starting a church today, here’s some of what you would probably do:

You wouldn’t call it a church, but a “faith community,” a “fellowship,” or as a friend did, a “sacred tapestry.” Why? “Church” carries too much baggage as a term.

You wouldn’t apply a denominational label. Even if you were launched or blessed in launching by a denomination, you wouldn’t buy into the negative overhead of denomination.

You wouldn’t put up a building or buy a building. You would meet in homes, then rent space as needed. Owning a bricks-and-mortar church might never be your plan. You would avoid the negative overhead, potentially millions of dollars, going into space used only occasionally.

You would rely on an entrepreneurial pastor to be your launching pad. Not a group of laity from an existing church who want to fix something wrong with that church or provide something familiar that is closer to their homes. You would want your pastor to be as creative and strong as he or she could possibly be. No games and sniping intended to keep the clergy small and under control.

You would turn your attention radically outward. Get to know your neighbors, become a known player in the larger community, develop a compelling voice (usually the pastor’s voice), bring faith to bear on actual human problems, collaborate with others trying to do good.

You probably wouldn’t have a large worship event on Sunday morning. Maybe other times, maybe not large worship events at all. Your organizing principle would be small groups.

Your pastor’s first hire would be a communications director, not a music minister or worship leader. You’ve got to reach people, not wait for them to cross the threshold. Your second hire would be a small-groups coordinator. Groups are where people will develop loyalties, community, spiritual strength, and a drive to go deeper.

Finally, you wouldn’t create a structure grounded in committees and an all-powerful lay council. Small groups would chart their own courses, under the pastor’s guidance. Money wouldn’t be an issue. People would give to mission, not to an organizational budget.

Now, I know this might seem fanciful to you. But think about it. Our churches don’t behave like this because they are held captive by overhead and by decisions made decades, even centuries ago, that no one has the heart to question. As a result, congregations tend to fall short of what they could be doing – and what virtually everyone in the church wishes they could be doing. Sure, some people thrive on three-hour committee meetings and on leadership conflict. Most people, however, want community, friendship, closeness with God, hope, and a sense of purpose.

* How do you get out of your own way? Maybe you don’t have the option of starting over. But you can make some important shifts.
* Stop relying on Sunday morning worship to do your work.
* Look outward, rather than inward.
* Cultivate small groups and grant them reasonable autonomy.
* Allow your clergy – expect your clergy – to be entrepreneurial and strong. Dial down the conflict culture you have allowed to emerge.
* Give up the old org chart and look at what truly needs to be done now and tomorrow.
* Live within your means, and stop caving in to anti-change, anti-modernity forces who threaten to withhold funds.

You can do this. It’s like the state motto of New Hampshire: “Live free, or die.” You can live free of negative overhead, dysfunctional practices, and old expectations. You can make fresh decisions – “choose life,” said Moses. Or you can die.

About the Author

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the publisher of Fresh Day online magazine, author of On a Journey and two national newspaper columns. His website is Church Wellness – Morning Walk Media

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Leave A Comment

Thank You to Our Generous Donors!