It is one of my favorite issues of the year! Every year The Atlantic publishes its “annual compendium of prescriptions, provocations, and modest proposals for making the world a better place.” It is always a fascinating read—something that gives the reader a lot to ponder.
In the past they have tried to identify the “Big Idea” of the year, things that are already shaping the way we live, think and act.
This year, however, they did something a little different. They have proposed ideas that perhaps we should consider. Here are just a few:
- Hold lotteries for college admission. Every applicant who is good enough gets his or her name put in a hat and then “winners” are chosen at random.
- Charge coaches for losing.
- Sell birth control pills over the counter
- Don’t treat the sick who don’t have insurance. Many say the government cannot and should not require people to buy health insurance. The trouble is the government can and does require hospitals to treat people who don’t have health insurance and who can’t pay.
- Have boot camp for teachers.
- Boot the extra point. The PAT is a vestigial part of the game leftover from the days when kickers weren’t anywhere near as efficient. It makes no sense. Why do you get to score more after you have already scored?
See! I told you they were provocative! You can read the whole list here!
As I read through the list I found myself asking, “What are the big ideas in church, both those that are already floating around, but even more, those that we should be considering?
So I decided to put together a list of my own. Here is the Don Flowers list of Big Ideas for Churches.
- It is time to drop the “agricultural” schedule for church. The sacred time of 11:00 on Sunday has more to do with the milking feeding schedule than anything sacred. The church needs to a time that fits with our modern schedule—perhaps a late evening time, after work, before supper/homework time for worship. Maybe even an early Friday evening time prior to football games. Perhaps different churches will choose different times, reflecting the schedule of their congregation. It may be a shock to the Sunday restaurant rush, but they will adapt as well!
- Admit that faith does not come one-size fit all—and that is OK! There are many wonderful churches that do “introductory faith” very well, but what happens when you go beyond? What happens when a person begins asking difficult faith questions? Is there a place for them? To use an educational model, there are some churches that do “college church” very well, but fail to give the introductory classes, to teach the stories, to invite people into the journey. What if we could team together? What if ministers were able to bless and send members out to another church where they could continue to grow in faith? Or are we more concerned with keeping people right where we are? (Don’t answer that question!)
- Allow churches to die, merge, and unite. On any Sunday morning you will find church parking lots with plenty of real estate. There are enormous sanctuaries where the pastor could throw a hand grenade into the congregation without fear of harming anyone. If churches were a business, these congregations would have been merged, consolidated, closed years ago. Yet, because of a devotion to the church where Granny used to worship, these congregations continue to struggle to stay open, using funds more for survival than ministry. What if we were willing to admit that the life span of our church has reached its end? What if we were willing to talk with another congregation to see if there are ways that we could combine resources, ministries, and buildings in order to reach our world? The reduction in overhead might enable an afternoon program, a mission endeavor that hasn’t even been imagined, a sanctuary with people sitting around. It will be a struggle, but the journey of faith isn’t supposed to be a luxury cruise.
- It is time to move from a socialist church to a more capitalistic one. This means we must move to a fee-for-service budget. On any morning as I read the obituaries, I see that the memorial service will be held in the funeral home chapel. In Charleston I would dare say that most weddings are not held in a church. So if people aren’t coming to church to be “married or buried,” why do they come? It is time to recognize that people are willing to pay for what they want/need. The church can move to that schedule—wedding are this price, funerals this price, hospital visits, pastoral care calls, marriage counseling, theological inquiry… Of course we will build in administrative cost to the budget, just like any other “business.” But at least we won’t be subsidizing those who aren’t contributing—unless it comes out of the ministry budget that is a part of the administrative costs.
- Be entrepreneurial in our missions. We have individuals in our congregations who have experience beginning and running businesses. Why not use that to assist others? We could even run them out of our empty churches until they get up and running. How about the “Bread of Anxious Toil Bakery” (Psalm 127:2). This model is already being used by organizations such as Kiva and Acumen Fund.
- Move to yearly church membership. Ask members each year to re-commit to renew their membership. This would force churches to be clear why membership has its privileges, as well as its responsibilities. Why should someone “join” your church?
- Team with other congregations to reduce our footprint while expanding our ministry. If we are willing to move beyond 11 a.m. on Sunday as the only sacred time, could several congregations worship in the same facility? What about the Friday night church, or the Thursday morning church? Different congregations, even different staff—but one building. Shared overhead and more ministry—and isn’t that what we are about? (Again, maybe we shouldn’t answer that.)
Just a few “ideas,” and granted, some of them may be wacky, but then it is just a start. What ideas might you have? Add them to the comment section. It might just be the one that someone somewhere needs.
Besides, it really can’t be anymore crazy than getting rid of the PAT!