Creating Church: The Main Thing

photo credit: Valerie Everett via photopin cc

photo credit: Valerie Everett via photopin cc

When you’re a creative person like I am, it’s easy to start thinking about all the places where you can tweak things to make them better. Maybe the recovery ministry needs a better program. Maybe your kids’ ministry is in need of more engaging activities. It doesn’t matter what “it” is. What matters is that you have the power to make it better.

Here’s the problem. You can’t fix everything. Jesus can, but you are limited. There’s only so much that you can do, so you’ve got to choose.

Now, don’t try and tell me that you can fix everything that needs fixing. Perhaps your church isn’t like most. Maybe you don’t have programs and ministries as numerous as the grains of sand, but your church would be unusual if that were true.

Most churches don’t know when to kill programs. Some do, but most don’t. Make a list of all of them. Unless the list is only two or three ministries long, you probably don’t have time to help them all, so how do you decide?

There are a couple of things you can do to decide what to do since you can’t do everything.

First, listen to where God is calling you to serve. If He’s calling your church to be a creative church, He has a plan. Don’t just decide willy-nilly where you want to make things better. The answer might not be clear or obvious. It might lead to a plan you hadn’t imagined. Sometimes it won’t make sense. If that’s the case, follow anyway. God’s smarter than you are. His plans lead to love and life; you can trust them.

There are other possibilities, too. When you’re seeking out God’s will, it’s occasionally unclear. When this is the case, you might have to look at other things.

What is the main thing? Maybe you don’t know what your church’s main thing is. If not, try and figure it out. Some churches are called more to the sick and poor. Others help the people stuck in addictions. Still others are great with children. I’m not saying that any church should negglect any of these areas, but that each finds its own emphasis.

My church is particularly good at evangelism. Everything we do flows from this calling.

For us, the main thing is the weekend service. We have a children’s ministry. We have a youth ministry. We have a recovery ministry, but when there’s a conflict, the weekend service wins.

This isn’t to be hard-hearted, but we realize that sometimes people can’t be in two places at once. Sometimes a dollar can’t be spent by two ministries at the same time. It’s better to decide in advance than to have different areas fighting over scarce resources.

So what’s your main thing? That should determine where you put your effort.

I think of this as the triage approach. In a hospital, if a bunch of people are injured at the same time, doctors have to decide who to treat first. There are two criteria. Who is in the most danger and who can be helped. If someone is about to die and can’t be helped, doctors might be forced to ignore that person to work on someone who is in less danger, but who’s worse off than someone with a minor injury.

This approach balances the urgent with what you can do. Keep in mind that God can change the priority at anytime, but if you don’t get that push, don’t make heroic efforts to save a languishing ministry at the cost of one that’s your main thing.

There is a solution to the problem of not being able to do everything. I used to joke that the Bible tells us to “be imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1), but that I didn’t have omnipresence down yet. The truth behind that joke is that God provides a way for us to be all places at once–community.

I can’t be all places, helping all ministries, but I can train others who can. While the children’s might not be my main thing, it is someone’s. If I share creative ideas with the children’s ministry, they can implement them. If I help them learn how to be creative themselves, I don’t have to help anymore.

It’s no coincidence that Jesus trained and led twelve people. The people He trained could train others. This is how the message spread. The Apostle Paul wasn’t one of the original twelve, but he did more to spread the Good News than many of the others did, including writing most of the New Testament.

What if you get leaders from other ministries in your church together and have a class on doing more creative things? You can have something like a book club discussing each of the chapters or a weekly class where you give ideas out.

I once worked at a church where I was called in to talk to the “decorating committee” about Easter. By the time I was done, we’d planned a CSI Easter service with a tomb on-stage and a drama written specifically for the weekend.

I like to think that their services were impacted by that one session. I left that church the next month, but the people I worked with remained there influencing others for years to come.

Never be the only person who knows something. You don’t know when you won’t be able to be there for some reason or another. It doesn’t have to be something serious. You might have a birth in the family or need a vacation. Either way, educate as many people around you as you can.

I once heard that creative people tend to be great owners. We can really grab ahold of the vision and run with it. The problem is that because we own and run with the vision, we can fail to call others in. Don’t make that mistake. Whether you’ve always been creative or you’re just learning it, bring people in with you. Someone is dying to do what you do. Replicate what you can do and the church will be better for it.

Don’t be greedy with your service. This is what you get to do. Share it with others. If you do, eventually all the “main things” will be covered by the gift of creativity. It matters. You can do this, I know you can.

Paul

Paul Alan Clifford, M.Div.

Paul Alan Clifford, M.Div. has been a tech volunteer with Quest Community Church in Lexington, KY since 2000 and is the founder of TrinityDigitalMedia.com, llc. He became part of the technology in ministry team when his church’s attendance was around 200 in one Sunday service and has witnessed it’s growth to 5,200 average weekly attendance in one Saturday service, four Sunday services in one online and two physical campuses. He literally wrote the book on podcasting in churches, twitter in churches, & servant-hearted volunteering, as well as writing various articles for publications like “Church Production” and “Technologies for Worship” magazines.