Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church

Handling Budget Headaches

Ministry Budgets

Our fiscal year is April 1 through March 31 each year. We are presently requesting deacons and ministry leaders to submit their new budgets for the new fiscal year.
This would include 38 ministries and the amounts are from $0 to $35,000.00. Missions and staff salaries are considered separately from ministry budgets.
You may asking, “But how do you get the leaders of these ministries to submit budgets every year?”   This question tells me that you are struggling to get the budget figures together for the church leadership so they can determine the new budget.   Here’s what I suggest:
You ask kindly. The folks that lead our church ministries are usually volunteers and are paid nothing for their time and efforts. They are busy working full-time jobs and raising children, travelling, doing personal lawn and house care, hobbies and spending time with family members both close and extended. They also get sick from time to time.   Their lives are full of preoccupations and distractions.
This does not mean that we enable them or allow them to be irresponsible. But it does mean that we treat them in a spirit of love and appreciation. The Golden Rule is a good rule of thumb to follow.
You ask firmly. This could include a kind reminder that ministries could suffer if not funded properly. However, some folks would take this as a threat. I have been a president of a United Way agency and if I didn’t ask for funding, I didn’t get funding. James also said, “you have not because you ask not.”
Start four to six weeks before the figures are due. Give brethren plenty of time to respond to your request and offer assistance in creating the new budget figures. You can experiment with incentives but these seldom do anything other than create a spirit of competition which is not healthy (in my estimation). A kind reminder weekly in the church bulletin, from a Power Point slide, an announcement or an email can help. Texting also is very effective.  Make it is as simple and easy as possible for folks to submit their budget amounts.   Also supply them with what they spent the previous year.
You ask again. Once again, I remind you that we work with volunteers; they are pre-occupied with dozens of important things. Sometimes, a phone call will work as a last resort. The best approach is always a personal face-to-face approach. This allows you to say “thank you for your involvement and leadership” before asking for a budget figure.    If you are co-dependent like me, you will probably do the paper work for them also.
Sometimes church leadership can suggest a figure and wait for a response. If worse comes to worse, the leadership can put in a figure and hope the ministry leader accepts.   Do this after you’ve educated the ministry leaders so they cannot come back and say you didn’t warn them.   It’s better if the church leadership makes this directive, not you.
We want to avoid a ‘control game’ approach. We want to emphasize both the importance of the ministry leader and the ministry he/she leads. If you are the only one asking for the budget amounts, you must display a Christ-like spirit in all circumstances. People always trump methods and approaches.

Travis Irwin, Athens, TN

Transition: A Third Choice

transition4Transition

There are basically two kinds of churches: (1) the growing kind, and (2) the dying kind. Both present challenges. One is more exciting than the other, and one is more depressing than the other. I’ve worked with both kinds and presently, I am working with a growing church.

The reason a dying church is a dying church is because its leadership and members want everything to remain the same. What is ironic about this mindset is that things don’t remain the same for such a church: they deteriorate. Slowly and surely, guests stop visiting, members grow older, new souls aren’t added, people die and before too long, the church has ceased to exist (or at best is barely hanging on).

However, growing churches are constantly changing, growing and going through necessary transitions. Such transitions take place when staff changes, when membership numbers grow, when needs grow, when facility needs change, when individual members grow spiritually, etc. Growing churches are constantly adjusting to new things and new people. This change can also be called ‘transition.’  Transitioning can take place on many levels. The most obvious are in staffing, ministries, attendance and membership expansion. While some of us may be uncomfortable with such things, we need to look at such things as the blessings of church growth and transitioning.

Consider some things about this thing called transition that may help us look at it as a blessing and not as a curse.

Transition Is Normal; We Experience & See It Everyday.   We  have a certain amount of control over the type of transition it is and the speed of the transition.

Transition Is Helpful (when handled properly).   You cannot be timid about transition and you must be wise as it occurs.

Transition Is not an Enemy; Satan is the Enemy.    We’ve all heard the statement, “we shouldn’t change just for change sake.”   I think most of us would agree.   However, any change (and those advocating it) is considered evil by some.   The intent and the basis (is it biblical or not?) of change can be from the Lord or from the devil himself.    Remember that advocates of change are not necessarily the enemy; Satan is the enemy and he is behind any change that is evil.

Transition is neither good nor evil in itself. What got us to the transition state and how it got us there is a moral issue. We cannot, we must not, we should not and we will not compromise the Word of God for any reason. Our numerical and spiritual growth should always be based upon God’s will—and God’s Will makes it plain that we should always be growing.

As we transition we need to do so gracefully and in a Christ like manner.

Trav

Recommended reading:  Transitions Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges (subtitled: Strategies for Coping with the Difficult, Painful and Confusing Times in Your Life).

 

Why Volunteers Quit & How to Prevent It

Why Volunteers Quit & How to Prevent It

Discover why volunteers quit–and what to do about it.

John just filled the last Sunday school teacher slot. He heaves a sigh of relief. Now he can sit back and relax. But not for long. The next week, one of the volunteers calls. She says she can’t teach the first- and second-graders anymore. “Here we go again,” John thinks.

Do you share John’s frustration? Just when you have all your volunteer slots filled, some volunteers quit. Why does this happen?

WHY VOLUNTEERS QUIT Quitters aren’t lazy or uncommitted; they often have valid reasons for quitting.

  1. Volunteers aren’t challenged. Volunteers need to feel they’re getting something in return for their work. For example, if you ask school teachers to teach the same grade at church as they do in school, they’re doing something they’ve always done. And they aren’t challenged by anything new.”If you try to make [volunteering]too easy, you just cut the legs out of it,” says Dr. Cynthia Thero, former president of The Source International, an educational development firm. Marlene Wilson, who conducts workshops and conferences on volunteerism and is the author of How to Mobilize Church Volunteers (Augsburg), agrees, “Sometimes we recruit people and we don’t give them anything really significant to do. So it’s a waste of their time. With dual-career marriages and single parenting, people want whatever time they give to make a difference.”
  2. Volunteers don’t have a job description. “People don’t dare say yes to something they don’t know what they’re committing to,” says Wilson. Even the secular sector considers job descriptions important to get volunteer support. A Maryland school puts a detailed list of “volunteer opportunities”-including tasks and dates for special events-right on the student information form that parents receive when enrolling their children.
  3. Volunteers aren’t sure of their performance. Volunteers want to know they make a difference. They want to know how the program is better or different because of their volunteering. “[Volunteers] leave the program because no one evaluates their impact,” says Thero.
  4. Volunteers aren’t trained. “Volunteers quit because they say yes to something and assume that somebody is going to train and support them,” says Wilson. “But they find they are thrown out there on their own.”Thero affirms, “How good the program is depends on the training.”

HOW TO KEEP VOLUNTEERS Even though volunteers often check out for good reasons, there’s good news. You can ensure long-term, satisfied volunteers in your ministry.

  1. Know what your volunteers want. Develop an interview process. Ask volunteers: What expertise do you bring to the program? What do you need out of this experience? What are your goals in working with children? “Help volunteers understand that they need the experience,” says Thero.
  2. Understand current trends. “Two-thirds of volunteers work outside the home,” says Wilson. “A lot are part of the sandwich generation and inheriting additional family responsibilities [from elderly parents].” Consider shared leadership or shorter time slots to lighten volunteers’ loads.
  3. Develop a clear job description. Give detailed descriptions of specific tasks, such as leading children’s singing for one-half hour each Sunday morning. State how much time the position requires, including training time. Specify a finite term of service.
  4. Train. Volunteers want good training to succeed in their job. But how do you know when you’ve had a good training session? Ask yourself: Do people give all kinds of excuses not to come? Do volunteers drop out? Ask volunteers: What do you wish you knew? What do you need to know to be effective in your job?
  5. Devote Time to Your Volunteers Pour into the hearts of your volunteers. Thank them for their faithful service, and inspire those who are just jumping into volunteering. By reaffirming their personal calling of investing in children, you’ll spark a renewed passion for what you are doing in your children’s ministry. It’s so easy with Children’s Ministry Local Training. When you train your volunteers, they experience greater satisfaction in their service. They’re happier. And a happy volunteer is a volunteer who stays around for years and years.
  6. What Is Children’s Ministry Local Training?

Children’s Ministry Local Training is a four-hour, power-packed local training event that’s hosted at different churches throughout America. You and your team will grow closer together while you draw nearer to the heart of Jesus and take in what it really means to give hope to our next generation. This isn’t a sit-and-listen kind of training. This experience is fun, interactive, and practical. It’s perfect to apply right away in your children’s ministry. You and your team will leave refreshed, inspired, and motivated.

Children’s Ministry Magazine is the most read magazine for people who minister to children from birth through sixth grade. We’re partnering with you to make Jesus irresistible to kids.

 

 

2nd Annual CIC Now History

Getting Your Members Involved in Ministry
The second annual Church Involvement Conference took place on January 19 and 20, 2018 in Athens, TN at Athens church of Christ. Its sole purposes were to train involvement ministers and to assist congregations in getting all their members involved in ministry. Christians came from seven different states.
Because of prior engagements and lots of illness, the numbers were down this year but not the enthusiasm. The theme was “Making Members into Disciples” and keynoters were Dr. Tim Gunnells who spoke on the “Greatest Command” and Athens pulpit minister, Mark Littleton speaking on the “Second Command.”
Classes with breakouts took place Friday evening and Saturday morning. Of special interest were minister Matthew Thomas (Pickerington, OH) speaking on the topic “Are Gifts for Today?” and a panel addressing the interests of millennials with two Athens members Bradi Sewell and Caleb Rogers on the panel with Bert Paddock of Maryville, TN and Jeremy Hinote of Augusta, GA. Both work with youth and millennials. The goal of the panel was to create understanding of those born in the 1980s and the 1990s.
Travis Irwin, the involvement minister of Athens church of Christ and director of CIC, spent all day Friday training and leading several men in a study of involvement ministry. He also taught classes on involvement Friday night and Saturday.
Three meals were furnished, displays of a past Athens Ministry Fair were set up and a display of “Love Athens” was also shown. The Church Involvement Conference believes that Christians are God’s workmanship created for good works and that every Christian should be zealous unto good works. They also believe that when we are serving we are most like Christ and that serving is a mark of true discipleship.
The CDs for this year’s CIC are available by contacting the church office at 423 745 0554. The cost including shipping is $10.00 a set.

Travis Irwin, involvement minister of Athens Church of Christ, Athens, TN
www.churchinvolvement.com
travisirwin@att.net
423 745 0554

Maintenance Done Well

Doing Maintenance Well

We all know the importance of maintenance. If we don’t maintain a house by cleaning it, painting it, and repairing it, it will self-destruct. If we don’t maintain an automobile properly by changing its fluids and driving it, it will also fall apart.
If we don’t maintain our physical bodies by healthy living, eating properly, exercising and good rest, our bodies will deteriorate and we will have poor health and die prematurely.
When it comes to the Lord’s church with her accompanying/accommodating needs, the same could be said. If elders don’t keep up with the sheep (a maintenance issue), the sheep will scatter. If we don’t keep up with members who need encouragement, they will fall away. If we don’t keep the church building clean, prepare the Lord’s Supper, provide childcare, pay the bills, greet people, have good Bible classes and provide a proper atmosphere for learning and growth, the church will die a slow certain death. “Maintenance” issues have been downplayed for far too long in the church; it is time to recognize the importance of maintenance well done.
Yes, we need to move beyond such things and be ‘missional’ churches: in other words, if all we do is basic maintenance and we don’t evangelize, the church will cease to exist and its doors will close. However, I’m addressing the issue of doing maintenance well. Why should it be done well?
Jesus did all things well; we emulate Him by doing the same. I was always taught to do and be my best. Jesus did. When it comes to maintenance in the church, it should be done first class because our efforts represent the Lord who deserves and commands the best and it is a reflection upon Jesus. Anything worth doing is worth doing well—and this is true of maintenance.
Without good maintenance you cannot fulfill the mission of the church. Let’s assume that winning souls (evangelism) is not maintenance. Without good maintenance, there is an absence of a good (conducive or pleasant) atmosphere for numerical (and spiritual) growth in the church. Improper maintenance can create an awkward and uncomfortable atmosphere that impedes or discourages growth. Those who have been members of a local church take for granted the parking and the interior (in some cases, interiors are dirty and dated) of a building. Guests do not. They want good parking, clean rest rooms and attractive surroundings for themselves and their family members. Our guests should expect certain things. You cannot grow a church where there is lack of preparation and confusion. I know the gospel is the most important thing. However, maintenance well done contributes to the growth and welfare of the local church.
God has placed gifted people in maintenance roles and it should not be considered as trivial. Most of our ministries are maintenance and they are designed to accommodate members. The folks that run those ministries are spiritual people who are using their God-given spiritual gifts, life experiences and skills and passions to serve. Maintenance thus provides many good opportunities to use God’s gifts. This is important in God’s sight.
What am I saying? Don’t down play ‘maintenance’ in your congregation. You cannot function and grow without it. Yes, you need to do more than just ‘maintain’ what you have. However, you may not grow spiritually and numerically without maintenance well done.
Travis Irwin, Athens, TN

Fire Volunteers?

May Volunteers Be Fired?

The term “fired” is a pretty strong one.   It reminds one of Donald Trump’s show “Apprentice” wherein he fired folks every week until only one candidate for a job was left.

When it comes to volunteers, the idea of ‘firing’ is frightful and it seems to be extreme and unloving—especially in a church context.

I would suppose a better term may be “replacing.”   What I mean by that is that if a volunteer isn’t performing well, he/she should be replaced after an explanation of why the change needs to take place.   Also, a volunteer who is being replaced could be placed in another ministry more fitting for him/her.

John Williams gives some times when it is wise to replace a volunteer:

“Generally, a volunteer who doesn’t do the job well is 1) well-meaning but incompetent (in over his or her head), 2) well-meaning but has not counted the cost in time and effort (has too many other irons in the fire), 3) well-meaning but providentially hindered by some unexpected illness, family responsibility, or other personal problems, 4) well-meaning but who, over time, has lost enthusiasm for the job and maybe is ashamed to admit that by quitting.”

I think there may be other times when a volunteer needs to be replaced; these times would be extreme and do not necessarily need to be discussed herein.

I would suggest that when John’s examples occur, the volunteer should be approached lovingly and kindly.  A blog or text will not do.  It must be in person or at least a phone call.

Going back to our examples, if she/he is incompetent, you may suggest a ministry for which he/she is better qualified.   If time is an issue with the volunteer, you may ask him/her if they are struggling with the demands of the ministry and ask them if they wish to be relieved.   If they are providentially hindered from serving as the ministry demands, you can excuse them from serving.   And, if you see someone who has lost his/her passion for a ministry, you will have to take control, telling him/her what you have seen and heard about their lack of passion and offer him/her a break until the passion returns.   Most volunteers will response positively to your suggestions.

Trav

IMs Network in the Churches of Christ

Involvement Ministers Network

Between April 24 and August 27 of 2017, I took it upon myself to go searching for other folks that do what I do as an involvement minister.  My goal was to create an IM Network.  As of this moment, I do not have permission to share names and email addresses.  But hopefully soon, I will be able to share it.   Following is what I learned from 242 calls to 242 churches of Christ.

First of all, I learned quickly (what I kind of already knew) that Involvement Ministers (IMs) go by different titles: Involvement Ministers, Family Life Ministers, Connections Ministers, Associate Ministers, Community Life Ministers, Discipleship Ministers, Equipping Ministers, etc.

I also found that many ministers wear many different hats and do many things other than involvement.   One brother was attempting to do youth ministry and involvement ministry at the same time; I could tell he was frustrated.   Many of these have transitioned to IM from youth, pulpit, missions or other ministries.   I’ve also talked with some people that have transitioned from being a member or a deacon and they are now in charge of involvement (among other things) in their congregations.

The criteria for my calls along with some findings are as follows:

  1.  Congregations of 300+ members in Tennessee and connecting States were called by phone.   (I assumed that most congregations could not afford two ministers unless there are at least 300 members). Several larger congregations had as many as four ministers (some even more) but none was an IM.
  2.    I found the ‘gate keepers’ very professional, friendly and helpful.   I am proud of the ladies who answered their congregation’s office phones.   In several cases, larger congregations did not have anyone to answer the phone and/or they didn’t have an answering machine.   I was a bit shocked.   To be honest, my first thought was: how do members get in contact with the church and how did these churches ever grow to their present size??
  3. In many cases, secretaries did not know what an involvement minister was and a good majority of them did not know who was ‘in charge’ of getting members involved in the ministries of their congregation.   However, in at least one case, the church secretary was in charge of getting members involved.   I thought of this as an opportunity to educate these ladies about what so many of us as IMs.
  4.    Some of the larger congregations had phone systems that even their secretaries could not operate. Some phone systems would not allow me to talk to a living human.   Some of them would not allow me to leave something as simple as a general voice mail.   I’ll give the brethren the benefit of doubt:  the problem was probably me.
  5. I did not call Non-institutional or One Cupper congregations primarily because few if any of them have over 300 members.
  6. Many IMs were not in the office when I called.   I usually called in the afternoon (avoiding lunch hour) and in several cases left voice mails asking the IM to call me back. I would say about 50% did call back.   Those who were out of the office, were out doing the Lord’s work. One was becoming a grandfather for the third time when I called.
  7. The general reception by those who did the involvement work was good and some were very excited to be talking to another IM. When I told them about the “Church Involvement Conference” and www.churchinvolvement.com they were really appreciative.
  8.  I found 5 female IMs, one eldership of eight did the involvement work, and 1 married couple did it.   Several IMs were former pulpit or youth ministers and had been with their ‘present’ congregation for many years (one brother had been with his congregation 27 years).
  9. The majority of our brotherhood congregations in these states (with a membership of over 300) appear not to have any intentional means of getting members involved in any sort of ministry.  This is a personal observation and it may not be accurate especially if the ‘gate keepers’ do not represent the leadership of the church.
  10.    Many of the congregations had deacons who got members involved. Several congregations use their small groups to involve members.

I found 55 full time church staffers whose purpose is to get members involved in ministry; Tennessee has 22 of these.  I found none in SC, NC, and VA.   Kentucky and Mississippi both had one each.  AL and AR had 7 each and GA had 4.  The balance of 24 were deacons, church secretaries, elders or a member who had a ministry of IM.  These are volunteers and not paid full time staff.  All 55 do IM a little diferent.  Five of these IMs are female.

What I find interesting is that these stats mean that out of 242 churches of Christ, we can say that there are 55 full time IMs which is about 22% or 1 out of 5 of these 242 congregations. If you add the volunteers to this list, then you would have close to 1 out of 4 churches do involvement in some form.  Very impressive. I find this amazing and I am pleasantly surprised.

If you are an IM or you know of someone who is and/or if you have not talked with me, please let me know at travisirwin@att.net

Travis Irwin

Athens, TN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Efficacy of Ministry Manuals

Efficacy of Church Ministry Manuals

Most churches do not have ministry manuals.   Some churches have ‘involvement forms’ that are used to determine what members are willing to do (e.g. wait on the Lord’s Table, teach a class, greet, visit, prepare communion, lead singing, etc.).  Members are requested to ‘check off’ the things they are willing to do and these are put in a database and members are called upon as they are needed in these areas of service.

Involvement forms are popular because they are usually very simple and only include one page.   The downside of these forms is that they are not comprehensive and do not optimize the gifts, passions and life skills and experiences of the members within the church.    Churches that only use involvement forms may be churches that do not have numerical growth in mind.   Some may be maintaining the status quo and going through the ‘motions’ of ‘doing’ church.

On the other hand, there are “Ministry Manuals.”   The word “manual” sounds intimidating and cold.   It sounds like something you need to read to make something work.   But it is NOT an instruction manual.    I use the term here to refer to a booklet with several pages listing opportunities to serve including opportunities that promote both spiritual and numerical growth.  Our present Ministry Manual holds information about 40 ministries and over 400 opportunities to service in the local church.

Following is a list of its contents; possibly some of these may trigger some ideas for you as you plan to create your own:

  1.  A listing of every ministry with a check box next to each one.
  2.  A mission statement for every ministry (under the ministry name). A vision statement can also be valuable; basically the vision statement informs others on ‘how’ the mission (statement) of the ministry will be carried out through the opportunities of service within that ministry.
  3.  The name(s) of those directing the ministry with contact information.
  4.  A listing of opportunities to serve within that ministry.   There can be too few or too many listings.   However, all the ‘needs’ in the ministry should be listed.
  5.  A color-coded system according to giftedness; our first ministry manual had each opportunity of service color-coded according to a person’s giftedness.   A good example of this would be the “Education Ministry,” and the opportunity to actually teach a class.   Those with the gifts of exhortation and teaching would definitely be considered as teachers. Such a coding not only helps the education director; it also helps those looking for something to do.   They may desire to teach and yet not be gifted in that area.   They should look for an opportunity to serve that is color-coded according their giftedness.   There are kind-hearted members who are willing to do anything and yet may not be gifted in certain areas.   Using members who are not gifted in a certain area could adversely affect the quality of that ministry and its service to the local church.   To those who minimize giftedness, I would say that ‘passion’ is the closest thing that could ever come close to replacing giftedness.   I would prefer both giftedness for teaching and a passion for teaching (and children or adults) for a person to be in a teaching position.

Following is an example without proper form:

Name of Ministry:   Education

Mission of Ministry:   To teach the Word of God in order to make disciples Christ and transform lives into the likeness of Christ

Vision:   the means we will use will be Bible classes on Sunday morning and Wednesday evenings, VBS, Summer Reading Club, Youth Ministry, SPROUT ministry and other events designed with this goal in mind

Director of this Ministry:   David Smith    Contact:   423 000 0000

Opportunities to Serve:

___Teaching children                    ____Teaching high school

___Assisting teachers                     ____Teaching adults

___Research                                     ____Do crafts

What about the efficacy of ministry manuals?   Let’s return to the original question: how effective is a ministry manual?

The simple answer is “it is as effective as your design it to be and as you use it.”   It is my personal opinion that every member needs to have a comprehensive list of all the opportunities of service in the local church…

  1.  Because they need to know what is needed in their church: they are!
  2.  Because they need to know their place in the church (in my opinion according to their giftedness, passion and life experience.
  3.  Because they need to know God has placed them in that church to serve
  4.  Because most church members don’t have a clue what is happening in their local church—and coming to know it brings courage and serious contemplation to commit to serve.
  5. Leaders need to treat involvement as a matter of discipleship and must educate every member to use his gifts and other blessings to make the church strong numerically and spiritually.   Leaders should also have a database of all those enrolled to serve along with their passions, gifts and any other related information so the deacons and ministry leaders can find new talent for their ministries.

Trav

 

Why Do I Promote So Much?

Why Do You Promote Things So Much?

There are several ways to promote events and activities of the local church: word of mouth, personal telephone calls, email, phone tree, church bulletin, power point, Facebook (and other social media), snail mail, church announcements from the pulpit and in the classroom, and newspapers.

I try to use all of these and some folks probably wonder why.   Please allow me to share why I use so many avenues of promoting church events and activities.

Because church events and activities are important.   Any event or activity that is important is worthy of proper promotion.   Budweiser promotes the drinking of their beer and spends billions every year.   They think it is important.   I also think anything to do with the Kingdom of Heaven and the King is eternally and of utmost importance.

Because brethren are bombarded with all sorts of promotions.   Let’s face it: we are constantly barraged with information especially that of the promotional kind. We’ve got to work our way into the arena of promotions; if we do not, few if any will know much less care.   In reality, we are in competition with the devil himself.   We must be wise.

Because brethren forget.   We are so busy with so many things that we tend to forget—even the most important things.   Even the Bible recognizes reminding folk (2 Pet.1:12-13).

Because brethren are over committed.   Christians need to put the most important things on their personal schedules and yet many times they do not.   They are overcommitted with sports, TV, playing electronic games, extracurricular activities, travel, entertainment, etc.   Most of these things are harmless at face value but when we get too many things going on, the Lord’s things are usually the first to go.   We’ve got to promote the most important first and best.   Christians are to be committed to Jesus fully and first.

Because brethren don’t know.   I remember years ago, in my naïve youth, that members of the church said they needed weeks to prepare for an upcoming church event and “we” didn’t give them enough time to make ‘time preparation’ on their calendars.   Well, most of these folks won’t come to church events if you told them a year in advance, but then some are sincere and need a great deal of ‘notice.’     I’m not going to allow that excuse if I can help it.     Trav

Creativity and Ministry

Creative Thinking and Ministry

A few weeks ago my wife, our two best friends and I were in New England. On the way back home we stayed in Lancaster, PA.   We stayed in a new motel by the Hilton group called “TRU Hilton.”   It is intentionally designed to cater to the “millennial” age group.    Attached is a picture of the lobby.   The walls are multi-colored, the free breakfast is very ‘healthy’, there is a huge 55 inch TV in each room, there is no wood furniture, long tubes of shampoo and soap were attached to the bathroom wall (versus free small bottles) and wood floors (versus carpeted floors).   To an old geezer like me, it was shocking and to be honest, it was a bit uncomfortable.  My wife said it felt cold and industrial.   I must give the folks at Hilton some credit:  they are creative in their attempts to reach a younger generation of consumers.

I mention this experience for several reasons one of which is that the church is no longer creative.   We have lost our creativity and we mark anyone who exerts any creativity as progressive or a trouble-maker.   We are not creative in reaching the younger generations for example.    We are competing with the world which spends billions in being creative in promoting their products and philosophies.   We’ve got to rethink how we do things.   Doing the average or just getting by will not get it done.

One of the most helpful books that I’ve read in recent days is Howard Hendricks’ Color Outside the Lines.   Most of us know him as a conservative commentator, but he is also a genius on the topic of creativity.

In the closing chapter of his book, he lists the three stages of discipleship:  (1)Learning, (2) following and (3) sharing.   Many Christians I know are stuck in the first step and have been there since the day they were baptized into Christ.   Few have moved to actually emulating the Christ and sharing Him with lost friends and family.

Why is this?   I think the answer is simple: we have not been creative in showing how we are to emulate Christ and share Him.   We have equated Biblical learning (alone) with soundness.   However, if you closely study the lives of such folks as Jesus, Peter and Paul, you will see their creativity.   They were sound, but also creative in maturing Christians.

Our ministries should be creative in recruiting and training participants. We need ministries that have been created and based upon real needs.   We should encourage creative thinking among ministry leaders and members.   It is rather obvious that those who promote the use of

alcohol and other products (harmful or otherwise) are very creative.   It is past time for God’s children to be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves, and we can be as learn to be creative.   Our Lord can do beyond what we ask or think; He is the ultimate in creativity.   Look at His stories, parables, miracles, questions, the visuals that He uses (e.g. the Lord’s Supper is one of the most visual things He uses for our good), the very creation of everything, the variety is creation and the list goes on.

I strongly recommend, that each church and ministry leader read Howard Hendricks’ book and start to promote forward/creative thinking.   The payoff, in my estimation, will be continued spiritual and numerical growth.  I am not advocating changing the gospel.   However, I AM advocating changing much of our methodology in teaching the gospel and actually promoting following Christ (as disciples) and showing our brethren how to share the gospel with the lost.   It starts with elders and deacons who must learn to “color outside the lines” by being creative in their thinking.    Travis Irwin, Athens, TN

 

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