I think I may have another axiom for ministry. It might go something like this:
“Everyone is busy – deal with it.”
The reality behind this axiom: In general people live full lives, and young families especially spend much of their time negotiating the complexities, so you can’t be too upset when it seems they don’t have much time/energy left to give to the church. It’s not that people don’t care, or don’t want to, or are lazy slackers or anything. The hours of their day and the days of their week are so full of living life, what they need most is Sabbath rest, not more activities, no matter how holy they might be!
Our Director of Youth uncovered this axiom in trying to plan for a weekend he would be away. He happened to hit a weekend where four or five families had something else going on, and so he was not successful in finding a substitute to lead fellowship time. However, in a marvelous little good news/bad news twist, we only have four or five families involved with our youth ministry right now, so he actually didn’t need a substitute, because everyone is going to be busy! (Don’t you love that?)
People are busy in big churches, too. But the larger numbers of people mean that the overall ministries can absorb their individual busy-ness without feeling it too much. Four or five families might be busy, but there are a dozen more who will be there. In a smaller church like ours, though, having four or five families gone exhausts our youth group, as it would several other ministries here, as well.
However, the axiom is still true: Everyone is busy – Deal with it. We can’t chastise them for not giving of themselves to the church; at the end of their week, there is just not that much left to give. So maybe the church can offer Sabbath instead of more busy-ness. Maybe one way the church can “deal with it” is to allow people to slow down a bit rather than hurling ever more new and exciting activities their direction. Maybe we ought to go deep rather than go broad.
The term “balance” keeps coming to mind. If the church throws too many activities at the people, the balance will tip toward busy-ness. If the church doesn’t have anything going on, we get lethargic. The balance point is somewhere in between the extremes.