“Consider the circumstances of the average family in a local church. Families have those same four resources—time, energy, gifts and resources—but the deck is dealt very differently. A family with young children; with one or two people working; with school and associated commitments; with life-administration; who also want to have meaningful relationships within their community… People in this stage of life have extremely limited time resources, and very limited energy. Their gifts have by now emerged and been developed, and there is often now a stable income with a base for sustainable giving. But time is very precious, and every draw on that resource is a zero-sum game. It’s the same with energy. A late-night, poorly-chaired elders meeting can take literally two or three nights to recover from in terms of the sleep-debt. The weekend lie-in is a long way off. At certain stages of family life, it does not exist. Time and energy are finite resources.”
Rory Shiner [Read here]
The church’s biggest challenge isn’t maintaining buildings, meeting budgets, or communicating its existence to its community. No.
The church’s biggest challenge is scheduling.
It’s the easiest thing in the world for a church, especially a large one, to have something every night of the week.
It’s easy to have a dozen or so major ministry events spread through the year.
Roy Shiner bring up an interesting point in the blog post I linked to above:
“There is a concept in medicine called iatrogenesis. Iatrogenesis refers to the harm done by the healer. For example, before we knew we were supposed to wash our hands, unintended harm happened all the time. Think about that: an encounter with someone genuinely wanting to heal you often left you worse off.” [Read here]
Shiner’s question is: can the way we schedule our life as a church unintentionally harm people and hurt our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ? I think the answer has to be: yes, possibly.
He writes, “The idea that a good church member is someone who’s there every Sunday, at small group every Wednesday, and active in another area of service, is an assumption at which we need to pause. For some people, that’s a very reasonable or even light expectation. For others (let’s say, the single mother), simply to make it to three out of four Sundays is positively heroic.”
I’ve wondered this myself. Each time I lead a new member class I realize that we present to those desiring to join our church the opportunity to commit to more things than they could healthily sustain.
Because of this, we limit our explicit expectations to: (1) attending worship, (2) being part of a group, and (3) finding a way to serve inside or outside the walls of the church.
It’s not perfect, but its better than making people feel like Jesus will only be happy with them when they come to the church building every day.
I even take it a little further sometimes. I’ll often say to new members that I hope they will take one step of obedience to Christ as they join the church. That may be joining a group. It might be some other type of service. I try to start small, and then encourage growth from that point on.