We had an interesting discussion in our deacon board meeting the other night. Our Wednesday night supper is declining in attendance. Some have opted out of the meal because the meal tends to have what I will call "low nutritional value". Others have dietary concern. There are a few folks who don't like getting out to come to a church meal every week. For others, as the numbers have dwindled, it "just isn't there scene" anymore.
Related to this concern, there is a shortage of people willing to cook. Some folks are not capable of doing all the legwork that is required to prepare the meal. Others were, but are not longer capable of cooking a meal for a large group of people. People want to eat early, which means that working folks have to take vacation time to cook, which they are less willing to do. So, we beg and plead to get people to cover the meal, and it just limps along.
One of our deacons suggested a birthday dinner for folks might draw in more participants. Her idea is not a bad one. I think it may increase attendance slightly once a month, but it is not a long term solution to making a dying traditional program suddenly more relevant.
I commented that in this situation we need to examen the meal ministry, evaluate if the program is meeting the needs it was designed to meet, and then either modify the program, or realize its at the end of its life cycle and discontinue the program.
Some people disagreed. Other agreed with what I said. A few misunderstood what I said and labeled me as "against" the Wednesday Night Supper.
This is what I know about church programs and church development. Holding on for dear life to dying programs, events and traditions only hastens the death of both the program, and sometimes the institution.
In our fast changing world, adaptation in ministry is not a one time process, it is a continual process. We cannot rest on the change we just made in ministry we must have an ongoing process of adaptation and change in nearly all of our ministry nearly all of the time if we are going to be vibrant, growing churches.
I learned this lesson through failure.
In the last church I served I helped to reorganize the youth ministry and move it forward for a bit. For a season, this adaptation worked. We combined two smaller groups into a meaningful program. Kids were connecting with the church, the Lord, and one another. Because most of the ministry was with unchurched kids, it was a challenge for some of our church folks, but they did well. At the end of the first year we had some set backs.
In addition to this, my wife was diagnosed with cancer as I started my second year trying to help it develop. This forced us to adapt again, combining the church youth ministry and the contemporary service. For a season both grew and thrived.
The next year, we started a children's outreach at the same time. That had a good start as well. The kids outreach was going well. The youth ministry, without continuing to adapt and adjust, was struggling a little more, but still working well.
The following year, without being able to adapt and adjust, was beginning to struggle. Before wrong it shrank to nothing. The kids ministry followed suit. Then the contemporary service lost its key leadership due to a move, and everything slowly crumbled.
Here is the lesson I learned from that (among many), if you don't continue to change and adapt you begin to die.
Holding on for dear life may hasten your death.
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