Leading ministry in the next decade

In an interview for Church Executive Magazine, church consultant Kent Hunter (commonly known as The Church Doctor) was asked, “What common issues do churches most seem to have that you encounter in your consultations?”

Hunter response, in which he puts forward five key issues he sees many churches facing, is insightful…

  1. Identifying methods and strategies to deliver the Gospel effectively in the 21st century mission field that America has become.
  2. Communicating to postmodern young adults, eager for spirituality, but turned off to the institutional church.
  3. How to activate members for ministry in the backdrop of soaring costs for staff.
  4. The best practices that provide a model for staffing today.
  5. How to change direction from getting people to church to getting the church to people.

You can read the whole article here, but I’d like to briefly interact with each of these points.

Identifying methods and strategies to deliver the Gospel effectively in the 21st century mission field that America has become.

In many ways, this is the umbrella concept that lays on top of all the others. David Wells has written, “It is the task of theology, then, to discover what God has said in and through Scripture and to clothe that in a conceptuality which is native to our own age.” We, Christian leaders, need to rethink how we are going to effectively communicate the unchanging truths of the gospel in a changing culture. For example, missions has become and “everywhere to everywhere” reality. Not only is the United States a large sender of missionaries, but other countries are now sending missionaries here! Our own backyard might be our biggest mission field.

Communicating to postmodern young adults, eager for spirituality, but turned off to the institutional church.

This idea has been explored in depth in books such as unChristian by David Kinnaman and Lost and Found by Ed Stetzer. People want to be spiritual, but not religious. They want conversations, not one-way monologues. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6). Learning how to engage conversations with this type of radical grace is the first start to communicating to spiritual, but not religious, people.

How to activate members for ministry in the backdrop of soaring costs for staff.

LeadNet, in their biennial report on  the economic outlook of churches, reports that in 2006, of the churches that participated in the study, the average staffing ratio was 1:59. That is, for every 59 people who attended the church, there was one F.T.E. position. By 2008, that ratio had changed to 1:45. Churches are becoming more staff heavy, depending upon staff, rather than lay servants volunteering their time, to accomplish the work of the church. How can the church more efficiently and effectively mobilize the whole body to serve? When this happens, we will see the power of the priesthood of all believers.

The best practices that provide a model for staffing today.

As part of a seemingly fundamental shift, I am seeing in churches today a great thing – real staffing plans. Instead of hiring when the money is available or when the need is obvious, many churches are proactively looking at their ministry plan and then aligning existing staff with the ministry plan. When gaps are found, those become the positions that the church will look to fill with either paid or volunteer workers. I am excited about this trend.

How to change direction from getting people to church to getting the church to people.

This is where that “seemingly fundamental shift” I mentioned above comes into play. Being a missional church is all the rage in the conversation, but it is a lot harder of a paradigm shift than most people recognize. Instead of telling the world, “come to us,” we are telling believers to “go into the world.” This shift requires rethinking everything a church does from its facility use to its staffing to its programs. We can tell people to be missional, but does the church’s budget reflect this priority, or is money primarily spent on maintenance of facilities and keeping insiders happy? Do the programs support this priority or are people so busy with church, that they don’t even have time to have their neighbors over for a cookout? Missional is a great concept, but changing directions here is tough.

Interact: This is a good list Hunter provides. Which one provides the greatest opportunity for your church? How will you pursue making that priority a reality?

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