I was 25 when Bonnie and I made the decision to sell our house, step down from my job, and go back to school full time. When you are 25 with a wife and a 1 year old, going to school “full time” means taking a full load of classes while you also work full time. I did some internships at churches and the South Carolina Baptist Convention, but for the most part I made the decision to work “non-church” jobs while in seminary. My goal was to get experience that would help me better relate to people who aren’t pastors. Funny thing about churches, most are made up of people who aren’t pastors and haven’t been to seminary. I figured if all my experience was working at a church and studying theology I wasn’t doing much that would help me relate to the people I would be ministering to. Crazy thought I know.
So when I was in college and seminary I worked at Barnes and Noble. I loved it. I loved being around books and people who wanted to talk about them. I loved the flexible schedule and the big discount on coffee. One of the unexpected benefits I experienced while working there was great organizational training. The store was divided into departments, and each department had a director, or manager. The department managers had meetings where we discussed how to accomplish our goals and we tracked the numbers to see how we were doing. We had store wide meetings where all the booksellers came to be trained and equipped to produce bigger numbers. We learned industry standards or “best practices” that helped us serve people better. “Put the book in the customer’s hand.” There was a Store Manager who delivered motivational speeches and made sure the department directors were managing their responsibilities. Not a bad business model. Does any of this sound familiar?
Sounds a lot like a lot of churches to me.
The “scorecard”, or measuring stick for department stores is clear. Higher sales, better merchandising, better workload planning, loss prevention, and effective customer service from your employees. Excel at these things and your business will be successful.
But the church should have a different scorecard. Our measuring sticks are different from the world’s. It’s true, the church is a delicate mix of organization and organism. We are God’s living and breathing Kingdom. And we organize ourselves to accomplish His work most effectively.
But if we are not careful we begin to track the success of our organization the way we track the success of our jobs in the “real world”. (That’s a good place to have a little chuckle.)
We set goals, pursue objectives to accomplish those goals, and measure our effectiveness. Sure. But what really matters? What are the real marks by which we should check ourselves?
Are we producing disciples? That’s it. Are more and more people becoming sold out to Jesus because of our church? That’s what matters most. Trust Him with the rest.
Are we producing disciples?
Consider the following process to evaluate this question:
Our discipleship process involves three elements.
Element 1. Engaged in Worship.
Element 2. Connected to the church family. (Sunday School small groups)
Element 3. Involved in ministry and missions.
How many of our people are committed on all three elements? This is the measure that matters.
We express it in our purpose phrase, “Worshiping God, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives.” It is the thing that should drive us forward.
Think about the people in your small group. Are more and more getting connected on all three elements, and are they leading others into the process?
We are God’s living and breathing church, the body of Christ, not a department store that sells Jesus.
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