Lower attendance, higher building maintenance, relevance, lovely bus but no driver, paid staff wants to be paid more, Sunday School is empty school – the list of a church’s woes is long and it seems that its resources grow smaller all the time. What’s a frazzled pastor, building committee, administrative committee, <insert whatever your church uses to make these decisions here> to do?
Well, doing what we’ve always done – preaching more about tithing – only works so well. And the new advertising budget is a step forward – but every other church in the area is doing the same thing. The ‘invite a friend to church’ campaign worked great – but none of the visitors joined the church. So what’s a church to do?
Let’s look at this picture a little differently – first off, what’s the most obvious thing we’re doing wrong here? That’s right – we’re trying to do this ourselves. Who’s house is this? That’s right, God’s. And Who promised to provide for our needs? Right again, God. So, why aren’t we asking Him from the start?
Well, we prayed about it Sunday – great. Now, let’s keep praying about it – seriously, praying with the expectation that God will answer and will provide.
Hey, what’s that got to do with turning problems into opportunities? For the Christian – everything. If we believe what we say we believe, then God is not only able but willing to help us. Sure, He could just miraculously dump $50,000,000 on the front lawn – but He doesn’t for much the same reason your Dad didn’t take off the training wheels the day you got your bike – this becoming like Him thing has a learning curve and part of that curve is learning to trust Him. Trust is easy when Dad has a hold of the back of your bike – not so easy when you know he’s gonna let go. God knows when to hold up the bike – and when to let you pedal your little heart out. So ANY program in His Church begins with Him!
So, keeping in mind that the prayer portion does not stop, let’s get pedaling!
What problems can become opportunities? Almost any – absolutely any if God has anything to say about it!
Let’s go over our list, starting with that big empty building we’re maintaining. What can we do with it during the week? After school programs (fee?), community meeting places (with a small fee!), micro-business space (bigger fee!), coffee shop w/ free wifi (and $1 for a cup of coffee!) – the list is long and varied! Best of all, any activity can become an opportunity to glorify God – to talk about Him to those who might not otherwise enter a church building.
Relevance – anything you can do with a big empty building that helps the community makes your church and congregation more relevant to the modern world. God is already relevant – and you are now creating opportunities to show that to a hurting world.
Lovely bus but no driver? Offer to pay for up to three or four people to obtain their CDL’s in return for a year of driving service and help training the next crew. The first year is the most expensive if you don’t already have someone with a CDL that can help with the practical training. But thereafter the cost is minimal, the impact can be huge and you have someone to drive that danged bus!
Paid staff wishes to live above the poverty line – and they should! As your church starts using its resources to produce more resources, this problem begins to solve itself. Remember, the worker is worthy of his hire – a church that is paying below COL needs to take a very serious look at itself – and not merely its bottom line.
Sunday school is empty school – so, what are you offering? It’s probably past time to look hard at both your curricula and your goals. What resources do you have? What resources can you get? Where can you improve? And most important – what are you trying to teach, anyway?
And lower attendance – as your church starts using its resources both to help the community and itself, this should show the community something different about your church – something spiritually attractive (prayer, everyone!), something special. His name, if you’re doing this right, is Jesus – and attendance stops being too low and starts making you wonder if you need a bigger, not empty, building.