Old Shorts & Ministry
I finally took the plunge yesterday.
I threw out a pair of gym shorts from 1998. Even though they didn't fit right, the waistband was fried, and they were as faded/ratty as you'd expect, they survived every purge. Until I noticed I looked like Steve Urkel with them hiked up.
A lot of churches still have a pair of old shorts. It might be a ministry or program that's been around so long but no one knows what purpose it has anymore. Or it's an aging facility with more water in the bucket than the roof when it rains. Maybe it's a staffing model that's been around since the 80s. Chances are your church has some old shorts, and it's time to throw them out.
One passage that's been swirling around has been Philippians 3:13-14.
I absolutely love what Paul does with this, he puts the past in its rightful place and keeps his eyes forward on where God wants him to go, be, and do. There's a goal forward for Paul, for us as Christians, and for the churches we serve. The past deserves to be honored, recognized, and applauded. None of us have arrived where we are apart from the sacrifice, labor, and love of many who came before us.
But we can't hang on to the old gym shorts anymore. There's too much Gospel urgency.
We have to be adaptable. Things don't work like they used to. No longer can we build a service and attract a crowd. Our primary communication is through social media, not mass mailouts. We're bridging up to 5 generations in our worship gatherings. Old gym shorts hang on to how things were done before. And we can't do that. There's too much Gospel urgency.
We have to be sacrificial. It's hard throwing away old gym shorts. They're comfy, they're known, they're connected to good memories (when I got mine I was in great shape with abs, now I have a spare tire). Throwing out the old gym shorts means that we're willing to give up what's comfortable and safe for what's risky and costly. We can't fund ministries the way we always have, we can't afford to maintain oversized facilities. We may have to ask about downsizing, about merging, about multiplying by going multi-site or multi-service or multi-ethnic. There's too much Gospel urgency.
We have to prioritize. It's really easy to keep stuffing old gym shorts in the drawer. It means we don't have to change. But when we throw them out, we're willing to make a priority of what's most important. For many of our churches, we need to recognize the priority of investing in families. That means we may need to throw out some gym shorts that keep us from making families a priority. Are you using children's areas for storage or are they filled with old, dirty resources? Does the way you set up your worship services, church calendar, and activities take family availability into consideration? There's too much Gospel urgency.
We need to declutter. We're too busy. Our schedules are too full. We need an interpreter to make sense of our church's calendars. Families are pulled in different directions by competing ministries. In the effort to be "all things to all people" we try to do everything. We're cluttered. Just like the drawer full of old gym shorts. What is most necessary to accomplish God's vision for your church? Focus on those. Devote your time, energy, resources, and funding those ways. One of my pastoral mentors shared his greatest regret was "I wish I'd done less so I could have accomplished more." There's too much Gospel urgency.
How have you seen your church throw out old gym shorts and be more effective in ministry?
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Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.