There’s been much discussion lately in my family, church, and school about how to make things “better.” It’s not an uncommon goal–we’re programmed to strive to succeed, whether you call it anything from survival of the fittest to gumption–but its been stuck in my head because of how few answers we’ve discerned.
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on the idea of church. My school is amazing and trying new things all the time, and some of them even succeed. Each family is different and “success” is defined differently, so to tell you how to run/pastor/discipline/mature/whatever your family is ignorant at best and insulting at worst. In all honesty, its the church aspect thats been bothering me the most anyways, so it works out.
My pastor relayed a story to me about a church he helped plant in Pennsylvania. For the first couple of years, they had 15 members. After a time, they sat down and devoted themselves to building relationships, both within the group and in their community. Two years later, they were up to 137 members. This is over a 900% boom in two years, a ridiculous percentage. He then said “I’ve never seen anything like it since then, in different states, with different congregations. What happened?”
This question has been posed to me, in some form or fashion, half a dozen times this school year. My in-laws are going to a church out in the middle of nowhere (no offense meant to East Texas, Wills Point, Canton, or the middle of nowhere) with four services. The other churches in the area aren’t exactly booming. Our church has a small group program, and the church down the road has a thriving, involved, small group program. So with all of these churches, some succeeding and some not so much, some growing and some failing…what happened?
I keep getting stuck on those original 15 members. Instead of looking at the 137–which, percentage-wise, is the gaudy number–what did the 15 do? They had singularity of purpose. They cared about one thing, and one thing only: growing relationships. Shockingly, it worked! I looked at a church membership application yesterday–in order to partner with them, you had to be a part of either a service team (volunteering at the church) or a small group, but preferably both. Unsurprisingly, the volunteer base is strong and the small groups are prospering. When you commit to something, you do it with everything you have or its going to fail. I can’t be a father part of the time; Declan needs me every second of every day. I can’t be a husband part of the time; I committed to Abby for the long haul. Even in teaching, every single teacher I know worth his or her salt will say that the hours in the classroom are just the beginning. Logos codifies this as “part-time job, full-time heart.”
When churches try to do everything–we’re going to have the best youth group/worship/missions/outreach/giving/evangelism/small groups of any church in the area/state/nation, they inevitably fail at everything. Churches must embrace who they are with abandon, and not try to be something they aren’t. Completely dumbed down, the solution is “You do you.”
So the ball is in your court Church. Embrace the singularity and do what you do. I think you’ll be pleased by what happens.