Impacting the Vitality and Vibrancy of Churches For Decades to Come
The ministry practices congregations establish during their first seven years of life, that must be re-envisioned and renewed every seven years thereafter, are institutionalized by the time congregations are 21 years old—almost a generation since birth.
This article covers practices three, four, and five. You may read part one here.
Third, is the realization that the mission God has for congregations never changes, but the specific vision God has for each congregation is ever-changing. The founding dream or vision for congregations often has the ability to last throughout the first generation of their journey involving 21 or more years.
However, by the end of the first generation that founding vision must be renewed through a process that is both spiritual and strategic. Thereafter it must be renewed every seven years.
Young congregations need to hardwire into their culture that they engage at least every seven years in a process of rethinking, renewing, and allowing God to reveal once again the divine direction for them. To fail to hardwire this into their culture is to fail to commit to continual vitality and vibrancy.
Young congregations must also have as a core practice to communicate with each subsequent wave of people connecting with the congregation the eternal mission and empowering vision present at that point in the journey.
Essential Practice Three: From the foundation of an initial mission and vision, to hardwire into the culture and leadership of the congregation that every seven years the congregation will redream the dream of where, how God is leading them. The journey is forward into the future, not back into the past nor stuck in the present.
Fourth, is clear identification of the context, target groups, or affinity groups the young congregation is best gifted, skilled, and has a preference to include in a Christ-centered, faith-based community known as congregations. Coupled with this must be a realization the context will continually transition and change.
Therefore congregations at the end of their first generation of life who are still trying to connect with the same target or affinity groups among whom their congregations began may be creating such a wide gap between who they are reaching and who is really in the context that causes the second and third generations to lose connection with their context. As a result they must go in search of new target or affinity groups.
Wise young congregations will continually evaluate who is in their context and regularly modulate their focus to stay connected with those whom God is placing in their path. Foolish congregations will always try to reach the same type of people they reached during their first seven years.
A great gift young congregations can give the next generations of their congregations—just like they must do with vision—is to every seven years totally rethink who they are reaching. This also should be hardwired into the culture of the congregations.
Essential Practice Four: To continually transition and change in the understanding of who congregations are reaching from an attractional, discipleship, and missional perspective so as to stay on the leading edge of ministry. Do not allow a gap to occur between who congregations are reaching and who is in their context.
Fifth, is to establish several principles about church staff and lay leaders. Staff and lay leaders need to be people who are clearly called of God to ministry service, and have gifts, skills, and preferences that add value to the mission and vision of the congregation. These persons have the privilege of service in the congregation for one or more stages of the journey.
Neither staff nor lay leaders should ever be allowed to develop a sense of entitlement to their job or ownership of their role. Transition and change in the life and ministry of the congregation regularly results in transition and change in staff and lay leadership. They serve at the pleasure of the congregation’s mission and vision, and not at the pleasure of their friends or personal support group.
All leaders, whether volunteer or paid, must be spiritually and emotionally mature, passionate about the mission and vision of the congregation, and committed to the whole congregation and not just their area of ministry.
Essential Practice Five: To establish a pattern of agility and flexibility in the roles of staff and lay leaders and the specific people in these roles at any given time during the journey. Staff and lay leaders function to serve the mission and vision of congregations. Congregations do not exist to primarily serve their desire to lead.