by Kevin Freeman
This is the fifth in a six-part series that explores how God may be calling the church to shift her practices and focus as a result of the pandemic. What feels like a shift may be more of a realignment toward her calling. Previous topics have argued that God is using the pandemic to refine His church and is calling believers to embrace peculiarity as a people committed to authentic faith above all else. This also requires a realignment of church ministries toward making disciples.
Early in our marriage, my wife planted two morning glory vines in the front garden of our parsonage, which sat along a well-traveled street in our community. We watched as, in what seemed like no time, the slender tendrils climbed their way up the brick face of our front porch and wrapped around the columns and wrought iron railing as bud after bud appeared along the vine. Then every morning, true to their name, our vines displayed their blossoming glory. Oh, the beauty! The totality of the blooming plants, set against a quaint house wherein a young couple’s own love was blossoming, drew the attention of many people in the community. We found ourselves in conversation with many passersby who were also enjoying the daily display of glory.
A church that can successfully align its ministries toward the singular purpose of furthering its Great Commission–saturated mission is like our front porch, providing the structure that ministries need to both grow and blossom. We know that many see vines growing along the ground or unintentionally creeping up a structure as a nuisance, but let them grow up the back wall of Camden Yards or at an ivy league college and you have an attractive feature.
The previous article in this series addressed programmatic clutter, the unfortunate result that comes when improperly-tended ministry vines unintentionally obscure the church’s mission. The pandemic has provided an opportunity to reset ministries and align them toward God’s call on your church.
Here are five ways your church can effectively align its programming to accomplish its mission.
Talk about your church’s mission a LOT!
The more pastors and ministry leaders share the church’s mission, the more people will view it as a singular focus for your church. Mention it in sermons. Highlight members who do something to embody the mission. Add the mission to your publications, website, blogs, and your other communication channels. Remember the visuals, too. Put a banner in the foyer, develop graphics, and consider how to get the mission in front of the people. Your mission is the structure on which your ministries will grow, and the more people see it, the less likely they are to diverge from it.
If you do not have a mission statement, don’t worry. Jesus has already given you one: Make disciples. All good church mission statements are essentially restatements of this co-mission in their specific context. Until you develop your specific mission, you can talk about the call to make disciples.
Determine how each ministry program accomplishes your mission.
Begin working with the leadership of your ministries to determine how each one helps accomplish the church’s mission. You will have to gauge how best to approach that, depending on the leadership, structure, and past endeavors. This is most helpful if done before you bring ministries back online following the pandemic, although it is not necessary. Done right, this process will develop both identity and purpose within each ministry.
Your men’s basketball night leadership may wonder how they accomplish the mission. They are simply forming relationships with ballers or guys who want some exercise. Simple goals could help. Perhaps each committed believer could have the goal of connecting one player to a small group each semester.
Your Sunday school or small group ministry may believe they are already making disciples, but those who are maturing disciples in groups should themselves be progressively more committed in their faith. Developing growth and leadership or ministry involvement goals will help keep the ministry vibrant and on mission rather than stagnant and inward-focused.
Evaluate programs by the criteria you set.
To help your program leadership, set periodic reviews of each ministry, and discuss the results of the measurable goals you set. Keep it positive and celebrate the wins, while underscoring how the ministry is helping to fuel the church’s mission. Then, brainstorm what might be adjusted to better meet those mission goals for the next period and set some measurable goals to get there.
Communicate to program volunteers in terms of the mission.
You can find one bonus of this strategy in the recruitment process. Volunteers gravitate toward mission. I may not have an interest in bed babies’ nursery duty, but if you tell me that I can help desperate parents of newborns become strong disciples while I voice prayers over the lives of young ones, you have my attention. Connect the dots between the job and the mission in the minds of your volunteers and you will find recruitment and retention become easier.
Highlight and celebrate successes.
Look for ways to show that the mission is being accomplished. Call attention to the volunteers who have discovered the blessing of living for the mission. Declare the number of people in an outreach program who have joined a small group Bible study. This adds fuel to the fire of your mission. As you do these things, point to the work of God within your church and praise His name for the results. People need to see that God is truly at work in their midst. It will enhance their worship and reinforce their commitment to the mission.
These practices will help the vine-growth of church ministry wrap its tendrils along the structure of the church mission. The final article in this series will remind us of the spiritual arena in which we are engaged and that our power is found in Christ rather than in a process.