Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Church and Longevity--do Congregational Ministries Jump The Shark?

God's love endures. But why must the Annual Women's Ministry Pig Roast endure?

God's grace endures. But why must the 10am Thursday Bible Study endure?

God's wisdom endures. But why must the monthly trip to the soup kitchen endure?

Endurance is overrated in congregations. Maybe because belief in a God with enduring qualities creates a desire for people in a congregation believe that their ministry should endure forever.

I'm not saying that fellowship, Bible study, and serving neighbor are not important, but that endurance in congregational life is often lifted above everything else. Ministry needs to be evaluated, and people need to be given permission to let go, or at least give away leadership.

I'm a little melancholy that two of my favorite television shows are going off the air this season. I find great story telling, writing and acting on Big Love and Friday Night Lights. These shows have lasted about five seasons, and they will not jump the shark. The shows will end with me wanting more and being energized about new opportunities to learn from new stories in the future, instead of being disillusioned with what used to be and where it is now.

Do congregational ministries often jump the shark because of the attachment to endurance? Would ministry be better served putting a particular program to rest, then re-start, re-focus and re-energize working toward a shared value, such as education, fellowship, or serving the neighbor? Do some of your endurance ministries end in disillusionment because of over attachment to endurance itself? I often return to a favorite proverb: be clear about the ends, and flexible about the means. Ministries are usually formed because passionate people responded to a calling to meet a need, use their gifts, act upon values. That passion serves people, and many lives are affected in a positive way. Rather than lament that endurance failed, give thanks for the lives that were impacted.


  1. Great insights! On a light note, I am saddened to hear about the cancellation of Friday Night Lights. It's one of my favorite shows and I suspected as such since I've seen the actors from that show popping up elsewhere. But as far as the church goes, I think there is a sense of failure when a ministry has to be discontinued. Maybe it no longer serves its purpose. Maybe the intended audience/focus group has changed. We have a tutoring ministry we started 3 years ago for our neighborhood kids. Many of those kids have moved out of the neighborhood and the ministry limps along with only 2 kids coming regualarly any more. I think if we discontinue, many will feel like we are not engaging our neighborhood. Great thoughts!

  2. Good piece. The Gospel is as much about endings as it is about new beginnings.

  3. Jason--

    Thanks for your comments. The disillusionment factor is tough to overcome. Congregations have are challenged by what they perceive as "failure." This is probably why my interim ministry has moved toward trying a bunch of new things as opposed to 12-18 months of mere reflecting and waiting for the next pastor to arrive.

    Forgot to mention that I think Friday Night Lights has the best opening music of any television show in my memory. Thanks for the memories, FNL.

  4. Tracy--

    I think you have a Lenten sermon there.