It has been a
while since I worked for a local church, and a lot has changed since
then. I can think of at least three developments that would greatly
change the way I would go about the work today.
If I were a Minister of Ed Today
New trends and technologies have me itching to
try some new things.
Database sophistication. We were just getting
into the use of computers when I was on church staff. The
sophistication of church databases to track attendance patterns is
amazing. If I were a Minister of Ed today, I would use this tool
toward one goal: Making sure we flag everyone when they miss four
times in a row. Make sure that everyone of them gets an invitation
to someone's home to do something fun, and they keep getting
invitations until they are back in the fold.
Research shows that if we can catch people when
they first become inactive, we have a good chance of getting them
back. If we wait till they have been inactive three months or more,
chances are slim that we will ever get them back.
The Internet. The Internet has changed
our world in a thousand different ways. I am thinking of one way I
would want to use it if I were a Minister of Education today: email.
I would use it to report the score to teachers every week. This was
always clumsy before, but email makes it easy. I would develop a
weekly report to each class that gave them a running score of how
their class was doing. It would include:
- Average attendance for the month and year
- Names of prospects
- Names of absentees
- Pictures of recent visitors to the
church--I would encourage them to learn the names. Wouldn't it
be cool if every time someone visited a church for the second
time, half a dozen people called them by name?
Franchising. People have come to expect
predictable quality. We like going to Hertz because it is.......
well, EXACTLY. We know what the Hampton Inn is going to look like
and we like that. I know what the salmon is like at Applebee's--any
Applebee's anywhere and I get that salmon often.
Expectation of Quality. Primarily
because of television, people have an expectation of quality in the
programming they watch. Billy Bob leading hymns with an out of tune
piano and someone who did not play it very well, followed by Bubba
giving some last minute thoughts about a well-worn passage in the
Bible is just not going to cut it any more.
Epidemic of loneliness. People are
lonely and looking for friends. They don't attend Sunday School
primarily to get smarter; they attend to connect with friends.
No loyalty. It used to be people would
attend church "just because." We could argue that they ought to be
more committed. We could bemoan the fact that they are not more
loyal than we are. We can complain about what a fickle crowd we
have. Or, we can step up to the plate and do something about it.
Ministry in today's world demands excellence because people are not
going to show up "just because."
Busyness. People are too busy to attend
training, too busy to teach a class, too busy to prepare adequately
Projector. I predicted some time back
that the projector would change the church world as much as
franchising has changed the business world. This seems to be on
target. I read where Thom Rainer said the other day that the biggest
change he has seen in all his years or researching churches is
current interest in multi-site churches. Warren Bird has a new book
on the topic that I had the opportunity to read recently. (The book
won't actually hit the shelves till next spring some time.) Do a
search on the web on multi-site church and see what you find. What
you will find is a lot being written, talked about and done on the
topic. The projector makes it all possible.
The Big Try
Based on all these trends, if I were a
Minister of Ed today, this is what I would want to try.
- I picture a large group-- 50-100 meeting
in a fellowship hall.
- I picture them seated around round
tables--about 8 at each table.
- Each table is more or less age graded--at
least common stage of life.
- There is energetic music playing as they
- Everyone who enters is greeted by some
bubbly, welcoming greeters.
- Refreshments are served. I mean, the good
stuff--Starbucks coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts. Healthy fresh
fruit as well.
- Promptly on time, a leader welcomes
everyone and makes a few preliminary comments
- Some sharp musicians lead in 2 or 3
- The leader introduces the day's topic.
- A DVD begins. A big, bright image is
projected on a high-quality screen. The sound is robust and
full. Andy Stanley begins to teach. (For Andy's sermons, see
- He teaches for about five minutes. Then
the leader asks that the DVD be paused and the group discusses a
point related to Andy's sermon.
- The teaching resumes, followed by another
discussion, followed by another teaching, followed by another
- Each teaching and discussion time is
about 3 minutes, but will vary according to content. There will
be about 20 minutes of video altogether, leaving plenty of time
to discuss. (This is about half of each sermon; you could just
condense the sermon; my preference would be to break it in
- At the end of the teaching, each group is
encouraged to take prayer requests and pray together.
- Each group has monthly fellowships and,
in many ways, operates like a class. Sometimes, they will have
fellowships with two or more groups together. Very occasionally,
the whole group will get together.
- Once a year, the groups are redistributed
to form the creation of new groups.
- I picture the whole thing done with a
touch of class, from decorations, to the way the refreshments
are set out, to the brightness of the projector to the starting
and ending on time. Attention to detail and just getting it done
Why I think this plan would work
First, let me be clear, I don't actually
know. It is just an idea. I believe you learn by doing, and if
anyone does experiment with the model, we will all learn a lot
- It insures high-quality teaching
every single week. I think we greatly over estimate the
quality of what goes for teaching in a lot of Sunday School
classes. I talked to a state Sunday School director
recently. He had been visiting different classes in
different churches in different cities all across his state.
I asked him, "What do you find, in terms of the basic level
of quality of the teaching in the classes you have
attended." "Pitiful" was his one word response.
- It insures interaction and
relationship development. Part of this has to do with
set up of the tables. Sitting around a table is a very
natural way to start up a conversation.
- It is do-able for busy lives.
The table leader is not required to prepare a lesson. His
job is to keep up with people, love people, have people in
his home, shepherd the group, pastor the group. Thus it is
easier to get workers.
- It creates a predictable
- The whole thing exudes class.
I read this verse in my quiet time
Keep on sowing your seed, for you
never know which will grow--perhaps it all will. Eccles.
I think this is a seed that just might
grow. If I were a Minister of Ed today. I would experiment
with it. By experiment, I mean just that. I mean I would get
some groups to test drive the concept for say, three months.
At the end of the three months we could decide whether to
continue or go back to the old way. Truth is, if we got two
weeks into in and hated it, we could go back to the old way.
If you think this is a cool idea, and
would like some help developing questions for the DVD, let
me know. This is something I could get fired up about. I
would need to get permission, and maybe there is someone out
there who could help me with that.
I love my job, but. But, the one thing
I don't love is the lack of a context in which to experiment
with new ideas. So, I pitch the idea to you, and invite you
to experiment. Let me know what you think. My email address