Here are ten observations from my church resourcing days that I think most church leaders would agree with about church programming—the number of programs, events, and activities a local church offers:
1. More activity does not mean more godliness. While preachers have long said “if the devil can’t get you to sin, he will just get you busy” applies to Christians, that sentiment has rarely been applied to churches.
2. Church calendars often reveal a menu approach to discipleship rather than a map approach to discipleship (an approach that places anything and everything on a menu instead of a plan to move people somewhere).
3. Many church leaders feel like they manage programs rather than make disciples.
4. The reason churches find it challenging to communicate everything is often because churches are doing too many things.
5. Because not all church programs and events are created equal, they should not all receive the same amount of energy, investment, and communication. Yet many church leaders feel immense pressure to communicate all they are doing with equal intentionality and volume.
6. Offering a program is a matter of stewardship—stewardship of the resources it takes to run a program, stewardship of people’s time, and stewardship of people’s gifts.
7. Ineffective programs or events take more energy from the effective ones than people realize. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe famously said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
8. Churches are notorious for adding programs, events, and activities and lacking the discipline to evaluate if they serve people well.
9. Many church leaders often can’t say, “Let’s go on this journey together,” because they can’t possibly do all they are asking people to do.
10. It is very challenging to do many things well, both in life and in church programming.
The problem is not the church program. Church programs can be incredible tools God uses. The problem is the perspective of church programs. Without the right perspective, a church program or event can become an end in itself instead of a tool within an overarching discipleship journey. Not all these problems will go away with one shift in perspective, but this one shift dramatically impacts how church leaders view programs. Here it is: programs must be for your people—not your people for programs.