He is a friendly sort and a fine neighbor, but he loves yard care by chemicals. When we first moved in he had quite a nice yard – recently sodded, I believe. Then some weeds began popping up here and there. He would go out and spray the weeds with a herbicide not only killing the weed, but all the grass in a ring around it. And then because weeds tend to grow faster than grass, the weeds would take over the grapefruit sized patch of dirt before the grass did. Then he would spray the grapefruit sized patch of weeds, which now became a basketball sized area of dirt. . . soon taken over by weeds. Well, you can see where this is headed. After a couple of years of yard care by chemicals, his entire front yard was weeds. Why? Because he was more focused on killing weeds than on growing grass.
A lot of church meetings I have attended (and led) through the years suffered from the same syndrome, I’m afraid. We would build our agenda around the problems (or weeds) we were currently experiencing. Take for example an education committee meeting. The agenda may include a laundry list of current challenges:
- The junior high Sunday School class still has no regular teacher
- The fifth graders are too loud and seem to be walking over their teacher
- The kindergarten class teachers are leaving their room rearranged from how the preschool teachers left it Friday and this is causing friction
- The Trustees are upset because foot traffic around the pumpkin patch killed the grass in front of the sanctuary
- The chairperson of the VBS for the last several years unexpectedly moved because her husband was transferred out of state
Now each of these issues needs to be addressed, to be sure. But they are the weeds that can easily take over the whole meeting so that everyone forgets our mission of helping young persons come to know the love of Christ and to live life in ways that honor God and serve others. The missional grass we are growing is helping children become more like Jesus and join Jesus in mission to others. But all that can easily get lost as we get consumed in overcoming programmatic challenges.
So how can we stay focused on the mission, rather than consumed by the challenges? How can we stay focused on making more and better disciples who join Jesus in serving others? Here are three suggestions:
1. Start every meeting with a time of Scripture study and prayer that focuses on the aspect of Christ’s mission for which your group is responsible. Invite people to engage the Scripture by answering questions like: What is God doing in this passage? What is God saying in this passage? How does this apply to our ministry in this community today? The hope is constantly to discern and clarify what God is asking us to do to join him in ministry in our community. What is a win (a bull’s eye, a touchdown) from God’s perspective in our area of ministry?
2. Each gathering, invite someone to share at least one example of where they have seen God at work in your area of ministry. If it is the Trustees, it may be how the social hall being opened as a cold night shelter recently was a blessing to a particular homeless person. If it is the Finance Committee, it may be how 7 different families who participated in Financial Peace University increased their pledge significantly or how the percentage of the budget spent on those beyond the congregation increased in 2010. If it is the worship team, it may be how 3 new families have begun coming to worship this last month or how two persons who were at odds with one another reconciled following a recent service on forgiveness. If it is the children’s ministry, it may be that the number of children involved in their ministry has increase by 18% this year. If it is the youth council, it may be how one youth recently helped another through a personal crisis or how a youth that used to use drugs regularly has made a commitment not to do so because he wants to follow Jesus. If it is the small group ministry team, it may be how someone recently recognized how God was calling them to have a Kingdom influence in their work arena. Sharing where God is at work in your area of ministry every meeting helps people focus on growing the grass missionally – and not be consumed by killing weeds. What gets our attention gets nurtured. Focus on weeds, get more weeds; focus on grass, get more grass.
3. Tackle purposeful questions before logistical questions. Purposeful questions are God-questions. Is this what God would have us do? Is this fulfilling our mission to make disciples and to be a Kingdom blessing to others? Is this something that will honor God? What is the missional outcome that we are working toward here? Is this something that will extend God’s love to those outside our church family? Is this a missionally effective use of our limited resources?
Logistical questions are about the nuts and bolts of how and who and our ability to do something. Can we afford to do this? Who is going to do it? Have we ever done it this way before? Will our people like it? Where will we do it? What is the timeline?
When tackling logistical issues is first and foremost in people’s minds, purposeful questions about whether this is something our church should be doing as part of Christ’s mission can easily get overlooked. If we aren’t careful, we may find ourselves managing a grassless yard full of weeds.
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Dr. Jeff Stiggins
The Center for Congregational Excellence