Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A New Paradigm

Most pastors and church leaders want their church to experience growth: increased attendance, increased devotion to Christ and increased mission support. This model pictures these “things” happening within the current facilities. Most of our church buildings are vacant for many hours during the week. New worship services can be added on Sunday morning, afternoon and evening, or even on Saturday night. I believe that this model was effective during the “denominational/Christian” era of the United States. People would seek out a church, even a denominational church. The expectation was that people would come to us, rather than us (poor wording?) going to them. This model is not as effective in our current context—at least not in my context.

Going to the People

We can no longer expect masses of people to drive to our current church buildings. There are lots of reasons why we need to change our expectations of the unchurched. First, they are UNCHURCHED! Leonard Sweet has said that our current generation of teens is the first generation that has been raised by a generation that had chosen to be apart from the church. They have no church to go back to! These young adults are raising their young kids without a thought of the Church. Second, many, if not most, families are over committed. Some teenage girls at our church play softball year round! Between softball games and practices they schedule in girl scouts, youth group, church, vacations and school work. They come to Saturday night worship on those weekends they have local tournaments. Our younger kids have soccer, football, dance, piano, baseball and basketball practices to attend. Competitive sports (in our area) begin in kindergarten! Families are so committed to various activities that church isn’t even on their radar screens. Third, traffic is a royal pain, even on Sunday mornings! The current paradigm of most churches envisions people coming to us. This model needs to change.

The Stryker Force

Fort Lewis is home to a Stryker Brigade. Its mission is to “fulfill an immediate requirement in the Army’s current transformation process to equip a strategically deployable (C-17/C-5) and operationally deployable (C-130) brigade capable of rapid movement anywhere on the globe in a combat ready configuration.” (Army Fact File) Our churches are like the US military in that it takes time to mobilize and deploy. When deployment occurs it takes a lot of infrastructure: time, money and effort. The Stryker force was designed to meet the changing deployment needs of the military. They can be deployed to any point on the globe in just a few days. They are highly mobile, skilled and equipped. The PCUSA needs to develop a “stryker” mentality for reaching the unchurched masses. We need to be able to mobilize and deploy rapidly.

“Church Deployment for the Spiritual Battle” or “A Church Without Walls”

It is time for the church to begin tearing down the walls. Evergreen Presbyterian Church (or your church for that matter) should not be defined or contained within the walls of a building. Church “outposts” can be one way of taking the church to the people. Think of this model as one church with many campuses. Coffee shops sit vacant in the evenings. Schools can be rented for less than $50/hour. Store fronts can be rented. The church my daughter attends meets in a building in a park. Gatherings can be held in homes. Hold a service in the community center of a 50+ community. Strategically target specific groups. Staff these outposts with trained lay people who are on fire for the Lord. Deploy. Take the church to the people. Some of these outpost ministries will not succeed; others will grow and flourish. It is alright if an effort doesn’t take root. Try again someplace else.

Tell me your thoughts…

9 Comments:

At 9:41 PM , Blogger person in the pew said...

I love these ideas, especially the last two...the stryker force and the church without walls!

I'm curious how you would see the stryker force "mobilize and deploy rapidly"? Could you give me a pratical example? Have you done any of this at your church?

I plan to bring this up at my church and see what happens.

By the way, I agree with the observation that families are overcommitted. Scheduling church events, especially for kids, becomes difficult when you try to avoid conflicts with swim team, baseball, soccer, and other committments.

 
At 10:19 AM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

I will try to flesh this out in the coming days. Has our church done it... good question!

 
At 3:03 PM , Blogger Christian Dominic said...

I resonate with you. Out of all the seminaries in the US, check out what Luther Smeinary in St Paul, MN is doing through their Congregational Mission and Leadership program. They are sinking a lot of time and energy into the missional church movement and how it is shaping the 21st century Church. They are the boot camp for the future stryker force leaders.

http://www.luthersem.edu/dmin/dmin_Cong_Miss_Ldrshp/?m=442

 
At 5:57 AM , Blogger Mark Smith said...

I've got a question.

Why not work on the "formerly churched"?

For the most part, these folks left the church by drifting away after high school rather than choosing to stop going. It's always been assumed that they'd be back after they had kids. Clearly, that's not happening.

This is a prime group for evangelism. They already have a grounding in the faith (most if not all are confirmed). They know the basics of the denominations' theology, though they might need a reminder. If their parents are still members they are probably reachable, though you might have to hook them up with another church in another city.

This ties in nicely with your "church without walls" in that these folks might want to try some of the alternatives. They certainly have the time pressures.

Sure, maybe you only get 5-10% to come back. That's gotta be a better rate than people who read your newspaper ad, or who see your message board sign.

 
At 11:04 AM , Blogger Pastor Lance said...

Mark,
I absolutely believe that we should be thinking about the "formerly churched." There are millions and millions of people who use to be involved in a church but now do not attend anywhere. People have "left" for lots of reasons. That is one of the reasons why I think it would be good to do "less" in our church buildings and "more" out in other venues.

 
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