One of the things we love about homeschooling is that Spring Break happens whenever we want it to happen. So we took a couple days last week and carted the family to Disney. There's a lot of joy in the flexibility that we know is unique and not something everyone can enjoy.
It's Spring Break season, and for all of you from the north coming to Florida to soak up the sun and the surf, sorry the water is cooler than you'd hoped. But hopefully it's not so bad sitting under palm trees and enjoying wearing flip flops!
Spring Break is an excellent time for churches and for ministry leaders. Here are some ways we can make sure that we don't waste our Spring Break:
1. Take some time off - It doesn't have to be all week, but take a couple days and invest in and enjoy your family. The kids don't have school, so there's no homework or daytime obligations. Take a day trip or an overnight and hang out together. You don't have to do a cruise or Disney to enjoy family time.
2. Consider giving volunteers time off - If your church has a large number of younger families, Spring Break is a ghost town. People are traveling, they're enjoying the week off, and the mid-week crowd is much smaller than normal. One thing we did this year was cancel our children's programming to give our children's staff and workers some time off. Breaks are good for the body, mind, and soul.
3. Do some long-range planning - The break in a church's regular rhythm can provide a chance to do something a lot of leaders struggle to find time for: long range planning. Map out your sermon series for the summer, look at goals for the rest of the year, get on a white board and start brainstorming outreach or fellowship ideas, or get into a couple good books to help you shape and find God's direction for your church or ministry.
4. Step up your visitation - If you're not going out of town, take advantage of the decrease in road traffic and make some home/hospital/nursing home visits. Many of our shut-ins have little contact with their church or their family. Without having to dodge school busses and moms & dads running late for the tardy bell, you've got a little extra freedom to invest in people many have forgotten.
5. Prayer walk your community's schools - Without anyone on campus, our community's schools become a place you can prayer walk. Some of the things you can pray for are: Safety for students & teachers, opportunities to minister to the school, Christian teachers and administrators to work as salt & light, the church that meets in the school gym on Sunday, and for the Christian groups on campus working with students.
How are you making the most of your Spring Break?
Thom Rainer shared an incredibly helpful article about the warnings of memorials and plaques in churches. If you're in any form of church leadership, this is incredibly valuable. Chances are, your church has some memorials or plaques hanging somewhere. It could be on the backs of pews, on a Norman Rockwell-type painting, or even over a parlor door. And in (almost) every case, it's a bad idea.
I think there are times and places to honor a legacy of faithful service. I think it's entirely appropriate to recognize volunteers, staff members, and pastors during a worship service. I think it's good to celebrate a church's history and its impact in the community. I've even seen churches with a prominent history have a heritage room. Those can be a blessing and reminder of God's care, provision, and work through a local church.
Normally when we think of memorials and plaques we're thinking of those that come attached to a financial gift or to memorialize a person or family. I don't think those are wise for a church, and I'd encourage any pastor or church to determine how they will navigate those issues and decline these requests/demands.
1. They can turn a church into a museum to the past - Museums are wonderful places to visit, they're filled with artifacts and memories and you can get up close to things you've only read about (hint: go to the Smithsonian sometime, it's mind blowing). But museums have one hard and fast rule: no touching. The things in a museum are to be looked at, not used. Churches fall into that with memorials because they become artifacts to look at rather than a facility or space to be used. More so, it communicates an unspoken message about the "old days."
2. They can handcuff a church's ability to use space or resources - Whenever something is done as a memorial, it automatically becomes a fixed piece. You can't move it. You can't get rid of it. You have to keep the memorial where it was placed. It could be a painting, a piano, a pew, or an outdoor fixture. It's there. Churches have to be flexible in their facility usages, most of us don't have 100,000 square feet to use. We have to repurpose space. It's a matter of good stewardship. Memorials handcuff a church from using space or resources for multiple purposes (think a church parlor).
3. They often become untouchable sacred cows - When a memorial becomes a sacred cow, it becomes something that can never be touched, moved, removed, adjusted, or anything. It becomes something untouchable in discussions. Any sacred cow in the church is dangerous, because sacred cows by their existence create a subset of worship and devotion. Normally when we think of sacred cows, we think about programs or ministries that do nothing but can't be deleted, or about spaces that are unspoken claimed (my Sunday school room).
4. They foster a culture where leverage = influence - In a lot of circles, the guy who writes a big check gets the big pull. My college's football stadium was named for a pizza company because the founder wrote a big check to build the stadium, NASCAR's championship has changed so many times because of the big check written by the corporate sponsor, and in college football it seems like every other year a booster writing a big check gets a coach fired. Churches should not be governed or influenced this way. When it happens, it creates an unhealthy culture. The same thing happens when people use their giving as an unspoken vote. It's divisive, it's ugly, and it's ungodly.
5. They cripple a church's ability to move forward - Decisions always have to be filtered through the memorial's donors and family. The memorial becomes something that keeps a church hinged to its past rather than free to look forward to a better future.
How have you handled memorials in your church?
Chances are if you attend a conference at a church it's going to be at a sprawling megachurch campus. They have the ability to host that number of people in their facilities, and they have the staffing & volunteers necessary to help hundreds of attendees navigate their campus.
I was struck by this tweet from Mark Clifton about the scale of our churches, and how it's an exception rather than a rule for churches to be bigger. But in the SBC, the median church size is 70, and the average worship attendance is 145. For the overwhelming majority of pastors, their experience won't be in the big sprawling suburban megachurch. They'll be in single-staff churches, smaller churches where they can still name people and where they sit.
I'm a fan of big churches. I like big churches. Big churches get to be big churches because they did little things right along the way. They have faithful staff. They're led (overwhelmingly) by pastors who love Jesus and have pursued faithful excellence for decades. They reach into their communities and serve in hundreds of ministries that smaller churches can't. And in my experience, I've found them to be incredibly gracious and generous with their time, resources, and knowledge to assist churches.
So what can those of us in the baseball stadium learn from those on the jet? I think there are 5:
1. Be faithful to your DNA - God has wired every local church uniquely with a particular set of qualities and characteristics. That's the DNA of a church, it's who they are. And it works for them. And they're comfortable in their DNA. They're not trying to be something else other than who God has called and wired them to be. How do you get there? Fervent, faithful, persistent prayer, coupled with wise leadership.
2. Focus on your one - We forget that churches don't grow because of building projects or advertising, they grow because people in the pews identify and share the Gospel with their one. Personal connections lead to spiritual conversations lead to Gospel opportunities lead to new Christians plugging into a local church. You don't need to have 100 acres to do that. Even a church of 20 can commit to sharing with 20 people over the next year and see what God does.
3. Stay committed - Beyond the logistical and operational issues in a large church, the top reason I think large churches do well is that they have remained faithfully committed to the Gospel. They haven't deviated or strayed into moralism or compromise. Sure you can find exceptions, but churches don't have to be big to get off their commitment to Christ and the Word. But the lesson we can learn from larger churches is that we have been given a Great Commandment (Love God & Love Neighbor) and a Great Commission.
4. Most things scale down - Normally when we talk about things scaling, we're thinking of how they can scale bigger. But scale works the other way as well. Most of the things that a larger church does can be easily scaled down to fit a smaller church's resources (and budget). You can't afford fingerprint scanners for your children's area? You can still keep check-in tags. You don't need 30 screens around campus broadcasting announcements? It works just the same with 2. So often we come up with excuses when we can simply take what's being done and scale it back.
5. Share fellowship - Even in a big church, relationships are still vital, and fellowship is still important. It won't look the same as your church, but you cannot overlook or underemphasize the importance of building community and fellowship. Don't forget how important it is to get your people together in the same room and around their common identity in Christ.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.