Part of the United States culture is excess. If bigger is better than more is best. We are people of extremes. We think moderation is synonymous with the status-quo. What we gain in initiative we lose in balance.
“Go big or go home.”
“If you’re not first your last.”
“If you’re going to be a bear be a grizzly bear.”
“If it’s too loud you’re too old.”
Our tendency towards extremes, at times, hinders our ability to communicate and discuss controversial topics.
Questioning the rationale of same-sex marriage legislation makes you homophobic.
Disagreeing with President Obama makes you a racist.
Agreeing with President Obama makes you a socialist.
Wondering if gun control is a good idea means you are against the Constitution.
Believing in a literal 7 day creation week means you are unintelligent.
Believing in any form of theistic evolution makes you a heretic who rejects the Bible.
Knowing our tendency to immediately rush to extremes should have made me aware that questioning children’s programming in the church would automatically mean I am against all programs. I guess we are programmed for programs. I brought up the error of being program driven in a blog about the crisis of millennials leaving the church. My point was that I think a major reason for millennials leaving the church is because they have never really been to church in the first place. From birth, all the way through high school, they bounce from one church program to the next; and too often the programs are designed to entertain them and please the parents instead of disciplining them into the body of Christ. I completely understand that programs are a necessity in the church (my church has programs, though we keep them to a minimum) just like organization is a necessity (my church is organized though we keep it to a minimum). My problem is when programs run the church instead of the church running the programs. Within the church, programs are a means to an end not an end in themselves. I think most programs begin as an attempt to meet a specific need. When the need is met the program is deemed successful and continues. Eventually the program becomes an animal that constantly needs to be fed. Finally the goal of the program is no longer to meet a need but to keep the program alive. Far too often the program becomes the end and keeping the program alive becomes the primary goal. That is my gripe about being program driven.
Balance is the key and we are terrible at balance.
- You have to constantly beg (I mean recruit) volunteers to staff the program. (Often, guilt is the primary recruitment tool.)
- Getting rid of the program would cause serious division in the church.
- No one remembers (or even knows) the reason the program was started in the first place.
- The programs receive more attention than corporate worship.
- The program does nothing to further the unique vision and mission of the church, yet it continues.
- People attend, participate, and volunteer for the program out of a sense of duty instead of mission.
What warning signs would you add to this list?
Programs are tools and are not sacred. All over the world churches are growing and thriving without top notch facilities and programs and specialized ministries. The gospel is about proclaiming that in Jesus the kingdom of God becomes a present reality. The gospel is not a program, and that is good news because the effectiveness of the gospel has nothing to do with the size of your church or your facilities or you budget. Anyone and everyone can spread the gospel. Even your church and you don’t need programs to do it.