Content by Rev. Mike Hunter, CCA
In my coaching and consulting work with clergy and congregations this sentence comes up all too often.
Usually its context is tied to some potential barrier: cost or money (or the lack thereof), congregational size, time constraints, lack of volunteers, negative history to something similar… the list seems endless.
This response is flawed, for many reasons. Yes, I know all too well financial realities, I know congregations often are smaller or even in a declining trend of membership and every church has a few horror stories of things tried and failed. But focusing on these is simply the wrong emphasis.
This emphasis is on the how: How will we pay for it? How will we staff it? How will we overcome the negative history? How? How? How?
A laser focus on the appropriate “what” is much better. What are we called to do as XYZ church? What is needed in our community or in neighborhood? What will bring spiritual development to our flock? What is God calling us to do now?
Identify the “what” and then allow yourself creative license in the how. Even now, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Southwest is considering new “hows” in how to be staffed and structured. Several of our areas are exploring new ways to be areas. Some find success still in traditional staffing models: recently one area has gone to multiple part-time staff, and three others are collaborating together with two shared staff between us.
We should not let how get in the way of what. When we do we are focusing on the wrong thing. If you only ask how questions, you will never get to the what. Without “what” you most likely will die.
What does this ministry from the what like at the congregational level?
- One congregation began a new outreach program by sending two members once a month to the local elementary school to read to classes. It has exploded to more and several folks from the school now visit and worship in that church.
- Another allowed the school next door to start a garden on church property. The church is seeing fruit from this relationship.
- Several have been successful in telling their unique story via social media. People moving into communities Google and search Facebook before phone books and site visits to congregations.
- Another adopted a physically handicapped child and provided them a special tricycle. An entire program for such children now meets at that church.
- A ladies group of less than five started making blankets for newborns at the local hospital. Area media picked up the story and the church saw a marked uptick in visitor traffic in worship.
These are but a few of the places that focus on what over how. They were low/no cost, mission (what) driven, and their effects are contagious!
How about you? How about your church? Please share your “what” stories with me. I think a lot of churches would love to know. It just might inspire others.