One of the most annoying things heard in ministry is: “this is what we have done in the past.” There is something to be said about history and how things have been done. There is also something to be said about thinking about how things ought to be done over how things have always been done. Rather than simply taking the template from the prior year and just changing the date, what if ministry was about not only thinking outside of the box, but rather throwing away the box entirely?
When I was first starting in ministry I asked these questions often. At the time all I heard was “we like the way it has always been.” I know that change is hard for people, but what happened to dreaming? What happened to thinking about how we can better do what God has called us to do? Here are a few questions I am asking this year as we look at our church’s ministries after our building burned down. I encourage you to consider the same for whatever you are involved in- ministry or just life in general.
Why do we do this?
This seems simple and straightforward. In my expeirence, this question gets easily overlooked in the deisre to simply replicate what has always been done. It is the same concept I have found with some people who have a desire to go into youth ministry. They have had a good experience in youth group and now want to continue that. The problem is that the desire only lasts until the first angry parent calls. This question brings out purpose. What is the purpose and is it the right purpose?
Where have we gotten lazy?
Somewhere along the way people may have gotten a little too comfortable in the program. It becomes easy just to let the curriculum writers do all the work or to throw together some mediocre activity that you have loved to do. This works great if the goal is simply to fill time. But what if it is life change we are after? That probably needs more thought and prayer than just taking an old lesson and changing the date. It involves reading the Bible and praying for your students. It involves considering how to get the people engaged in the lesson so that the lesson sticks. This is somewhat of a gut check and is essential to throwing away the box.
Are we using resources properly?
Large programs might be fun, but they sure do take a lot of resources to pull off. I am not saying I am against programs. What I am saying is that we do not need to spin our wheels to keep something going that isn’t working or maybe is too vague in its focus. We can throw a lot of time and money into anything and make it happen. Throwing away the box asks us to consider how things are being used and wondering what the actual results are.
What is God calling us to do, as difficult as it might seem?
I know that changes are hard and new ideas come with a lot of anxiety. God might be calling you do do something completely different in your community. What if it seemed difficult because it was really difficult? Does that eliminate it from the possibilities? If something is difficult that does not necessarily make it the wrong idea. It does make us go to our knees in prayer, which is something we should be doing anyway.
What do we need to let go of?
Even the most sacred of programs likely need to end at some point. These programs fulfilled the purposes of God for a specific time. This is something to be celebrated It is possible that something just needs to be let go of because it is just not where God has you right now. I know that I cannot do everything. Instead I realize that I need to do what I am called to do and nothing more. It might mean that things are dropped. But the benefit of that is that we are able to focus more energy on that area we are supposed to be focused on and we become more effective as a result.
It might be time to forget about the box and just dream a little. God is bigger than your box anyway.