The Missouri Conference has launched a pretty snazzy new website that is centered on the 5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations. I hope that everyone checks it out, and that it becomes a place where congregation leaders visit frequently about churchy stuff. Bish Schnay-Z is going to keep a blog there, some links to other places, and a section with some good potential to generate some buzz called “Ideas that Work.”
I think there should be another section there, too, titled “Ideas that Pretty Much Sucked,” but that may be why I’m not put in charge of these kinds of things! But I think there is real value in learning from trying things that just simply don’t work, and I have plenty of examples to share. Remember the quote attributed to Edison? Something like, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just learned 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Here in Northtown, as we revamp things around the 5 Practices, we have uncovered a potential pitfall that I’ll call “over-compartmentalization.” It arose in conversations about budget and staffing for next year. We discovered that we were tending to make very sharp contrasts among the 5 practices, to the point of trying to assign staff members to particular practices exclusively. However, we don't really have the staff needed to organize like that, and I really wonder if it ever is a wise thing regardless of staff numbers. Rather, we have a part-time staff member who works with adults on all 5 practices, another part-timer who works with youth in all 5, and another (a volunteer) who works with children in all 5 areas.
So then we were trying to figure out “what goes where” in the budget of ministries. Is Sunday night Youth Fellowship a “Faith Formation” thing? Yes. But it also involves inviting new youth to join (Hospitality), worshiping together, mission trips, and giving to the church (the youth generously tithe their fundraisers to the general fund of the church). When the conversation drifts into such hair-splitting, we are guilty of over-compartmentalizing.
The intent is not to create five departments – a “Hospitality Department,” “Worship Department,” “Mission Department,” “Faith Formation Department,” and “Generosity Department” – like the congregation is just another business like any. It is tempting to do so, to be sure, and maybe it would have worked a few decades ago to organize a congregation like that. But we are living in the post-everything generation, where everything is “post-this” and “post-that” and “post-theotherthing” and this time (karios moment?) resists that kind of rigid separation into categories.
Instead, 5 Practices calls us to look at the local congregation as a whole and see how the entire community is engaged in ministry. To be sure, the ministry will rotate around a core group of people whose responsibility it is to facilitate the congregation’s ministry in a particular area, but we’ve got to tightrope that walk so that we don’t fall into the over-compartmentalization trap. It is tricky, but doable.
Also posted here.