people vs program-oriented views of ministry (pt 2)
There was a lot of response to the previous post (HERE) about a people-oriented view of ministry vs. a program-oriented view of ministry, so here are some more thoughts. Identifying and cultivating this mind-shift in The Bridge has been a long and still ongoing process influenced by many books, churches, and conversations with elders who see a need for change in the predominant church structure in the Bible Belt – especially John Howard.
For a definition of the terminology, see the previous post here.
Pros & Cons of a program-oriented view of ministry
- Churches can grow quickly by launching more and more programs, which attract more and more people.
- More Biblical information is usually transmitted .
- Leadership has more control over what happens, which protects the church from bad doctrine being seeded.
- It’s easier. Fostering a culture of interpersonal ministry is much harder work than just starting new programs. Think, the difference between the long, ongoing, tedious work of cultivating fertile soil vs. the work of building a machine.
- People love it, expect it, and don’t complain if you have it… especially in the Bible Belt.
- It’s cleaner. Programs are like machines – they’re organized and not messy. People are messy and have deep problems to be dealt with.
- It tends to foster consumerism in church members. People end up thinking the job of the church is to launch programs that “meet my needs” since the church has communicated that it is a spiritual shopping mall by its program structure. If the store I need isn’t there, the mall isn’t doing its job.
- It prolongs spiritual infancy – the stage in which you’re a baby that has to have someone feed you in order to be spiritually healthy. The phrase “I’m just not being fed” is common in these churches even among people who’ve been in the church for decades because the ministry structure is a plethora of programs that feed. The culture doesn’t teach a person to feed themselves or the mark of true Christian maturity – ability to feed others.
- Personal discipleship is a lost art.
- It tends to keep personal sin problems off the radar. You don’t confess a porn-addiction in Sunday night discipleship class. You can when you’re meeting regularly for coffee with guys from your small group.
- While it is good at attracting people, it also tends to lose them after a few years.
- People get overused and burned out easily. As more programs are launched, more volunteer staff are required and more nights of the week are taken up.
- Here’s the biggest con: People are often used to accomplish ministry instead of ministry being used to “accomplish” people.
Admittedly, this post is reductionistic. Not all churches with program-oriented views of ministry bear these marks. In fact, not all churches that have lots of programs have a program-oriented view of ministry in their culture. But in my experience these things are generally true and this is why our elders are so excited about what we’re seeing taking shape in The Bridge right now.
Next post: “Evaluation of a people-oriented view of ministry” coming soon.