How long should I bang my head on that wall? . . . Really?

Posted: November 2, 2007 in church, faith, life
Tags: , , , , ,

businessman-banging-his-head-against-the-wall-ispc026073.jpgWell, with the short layoff I had, why not indulge in some double-dipping goodness?  Two posts for the price of one!  Well, here we go.

This may seem like kind of a rabit trail, but I think it’s an important one to begin with before I move on.  I am not unbiased.  No one is unbiased.  I’m tired of “objective” opinions.  I’m sick of “no-spin zones”.  We are all biased, and that’s okay.  We can’t be expected to see the world through anyone’s eyes but our own.  The important thing is that we admit our biases up-front so that when people hear what we say or read what we write, they know through what lens the viewpoint is coming from.

All that being said, I come from the point of view that the whole “church growth movement” of the past couple decades is pretty flawed.  I don’t think God’s major concern is how many uncommitted people we can get to pray “the prayer” and then go on with their lives as though nothing changed.  This might sound a little cynical, and for that I appologize, but I think that our churches need to be at least as concerned, if not more concerned, with quality as quantity when it comes to believers.  I can’t claim this as some kind of truly original insight into the state of our church, but it is where I’m coming from.  But, and this is a BIG but in my mind lately, at what point does our concern with quality become too reactionary against the movement for pure quantity that we lose sight of the fact that the church is supposed to grow too?

I’ve been at our church for about a year and a half now.  I put a lot of time and effort into designing my “vision” for our youth and young-adults (I’ve become uneasy with that term lately but that’s another post for another time) ministries and threw myself into it completely.  Over the past year I have seen a lot of spiritual growth in a lot of the kids in the youth group.  I think that has been going pretty well.  We’ve even seen some growth in the youth group on friday nights (which is something in itself considering we only have 3 senior high kids from our church).  The wednesday night bible study/volunteer night hasn’t been doing anything though.  There were two kids attending when we started, and there are two kids now.  They have a good time and learn a lot from the study and volunteering in the community, but it’s still just two church kids every week.  How many times should I hit my head against this brick wall?  Is it good enough to just keep going on in this wednesday night path with the youth study/service night because it’s effective for those two kids, or do I need to move on to something different because it’s pretty obvious that it is not meeting the needs of the kids beyond just our two church kids?

Similarly, I tried to get a “young adults” ministry going here this past year because there had been little to nothing in that area in this church before.  We met for coffee and conversation – some spiritual and some not – every couple weeks for the past year, and after the initial get together when we had eight people or so we had the same two people come every sunday night.  How many times should I hit my head against this brick wall?  We had some great conversation and learning time with the two people that came, but it’s pretty obvious that it wasn’t having any kind of mass appeal or outreach because there was no growth.  It’s a difficult situation because I saw so much growth coming from the coffee and conversation get-togethers, but how do you balance that with the need to reach out to others who obviously aren’t interested in the way things have been going?

I have a few ideas banging around in my head about what I can do differently for either the youth or “young adults” but they are almost so different that I’m a little scared to make a drastic step.  It may well be that I just decide to take the plunge and try something crazy.  It’s pretty obvious that nothing that I’ve tried so far is having much traction, but does that necessarily mean that I need to give it up, or do I keep going on with what I’ve been doing because of the great spiritual growth that I’ve seen in the few that do come out regularly?  The tension between focusing on making solid disciples of Christ and focusing on growing the group so more people can be ministered to is a tough one for me right now.  Do I keep going the same direction because of the obvious good things God is doing in people’s lives and trust God will mystically grow the group, or do I change direction to reach out to more people and risk hurting the ministry that we have to the people who are growing so much through what we’re doing now?  I really think that the focus of the church, and these ministries in particular, needs to be focused on making disciples: learning to think and live like a Christian.  At the same time, I think it’s silly to think you’re being effective in ministry if there is never any growth at all and only current members of your church are being ministered to.  It’s a question I haven’t come to resolution on yet, but I’m wrestling with it and hope to make it tap out with my rear naked choke soon.

  1. Jim Wilbur says:

    I came across your blog and I just want to say that you are not alone. I have asked those questions and many more over the last couple of years. For the past three years I have been attempting to pastor a older church that is located right in the middle of the city. I have in the past been involved in youth ministry and also directed an internship program for college age students.
    I have enough books that house gimmicks and “relevant” approaches, but they just do not seem to “hit’ the real issues. As a matter of fact i was talking with my wife the other day and we were talking about the changes in ministry and said it appears that we are in a dying business. (the organizational church0.
    I am not alone many of my ministry friends are feeling the same way. The only thing that I know to do is go to the source. I may be frusterated in the stuff but I know that the Father is faithful and He will never fail us. Be encouraged and take some time just to listen to what the Father may be saying. Stay encouraged!


  2. Jared says:

    Good post, Ben. I know this isn’t a new struggle for you.
    Let me perculate on this for a day or two and I’ll post my comments.


  3. patrick says:

    I can really relate to your blog. I’ve been in similar situations over in London, England and it can get tough on the soul. A friend of mine told me once that if I poured my life and soul into the two wonderful people I had fellowship with, somehow it would work out to something greater.
    We were 16 at the time.
    There is an ancient belief among ancient Jewish Rabbi’s that said, according to Genesis, that a human soul equaled a whole universe. If you saved one life, you saved the world.
    I guess that’s why John didn’t find it strange to say that God gave up His Son to save the world. The huge and glorious essence of God was contained in one life and this life gave it all. One life made a difference.

    Now at 21, those two people have gone through two different paths, but one has really grabbed onto the LORD and has really done some amazing things. She was worth all those hard moments. The other is fighting his way through life, but with God on His side. Both have ministered to me, and I have used their lives to change and inspire others.

    In the end, it did lead to something greater – but we never planned it that way. Hope this encourages you.

    All the best mate. Blessings.


  4. RaiulBaztepo says:

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo


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