Posted 3 years 282 days ago ago by Doug Lawrence 0 Comments
The 7 Question Conversation is a way of facilitating important conversations among leaders and those they lead. The church isn't static, it is forever changing—therefore our questions have to focus on bringing new life to the institutions we serve even though our faith is in the One who never changes. He never sleeps, He never slumbers—neither can we—get busy!
Since this series has been running, we have had many responses from readers suggesting new series of questions that need to be asked in the modern church. This suggests two things. Number one: There is a hunger for discussion of topics that are sometimes considered taboo in institutional settings. And number two: Church leaders, workers, and parishioners are in need of permission to raise difficult subjects.
This month's questions address the issue of the so-called "cookie cutter" syndrome which has the potential to turn many churches into Xerox copies of one another. These questions are designed to stimulate conversations about how churches can individuate themselves in a time of renewal, outreach, and missional passion. Our discussion will talk about the general church, but include important worship considerations.
Instead of creating a long mission statement, what three words should we use to describe the strengths of our church and its ministry?
Comment: Often, when those of us who lead worship are asked to define what "worship" means, we revert to default definitions from others. These days, you can simply Google
the word worship and come up with thousands of suitable bullets about worship for inclusion in your own church's vocabulary. The same is true for definitions about the function of a church. In our digital world there is certainly no dearth of written statements (some of them exemplary) about what churches are supposed to be in our modern society. This path of least resistance style of research, however, can be dangerous because it inhibits our ability to think creatively about the people we serve. While answering the above question will certainly lead to similar answers across many congregations, there should be distinctives that each church claims as their own.
Is our church genuinely working to fortify and uphold our perceived mission?
Comment: Dallas Willard
once said, "Your reputation is killing you," meaning, the maintenance of one's reputation is often serviced at the cost of authenticity. Has your church's "slogan" become just that? Does it function as a kind of motto, slogan, or jingle, or does it have real meaning which can be verified by your actions? This is a very difficult question to answer honestly. How many times have you heard that such and such a church has a passion for young people but your further research shows that less than 10% of the church's budget is spent on supporting that value? This is often the case with worship ministries as well. We say that we have a vibrant worship experience when, in truth, we have put a financial stranglehold on that same ministry.
If, today, we decided to change any one or all of these three words, what new words would we use?
Comment: While having very mild disagreements with some of Thom Rainer
's The Simple Church
, I believe that Thom has challenged all of us to rethink the reasons why our churches exist. It may be that the words we used to describe our churches 40 years ago have little to do with the words we would or should be using currently. e.g. As worship professionals, we often believe that the top 10 "most sung" worship songs should dictate how we "do" our contemporary worship. Is this the right criteria? It's not that values we held in the past, or espouse today are good or bad. They just might not be very thoughtful and discerning.
(BTW, go to Roadmaps for Worship
YouTube videos and see what my friend Dr. Jim Altizer
has to say about selecting songs for worship.)
As our primary vision moves forward, how will we let other people know what we value most?
Comment: This is legitimate marketing. Strangers want to know what our churches stand for and have every right to be able to get that information. Many church websites do this seamlessly making it possible for strangers to capture the essence of what a church is about, while others make it almost impossible. Burying your primary values in a brochure will not help the average new attender to identify with what you think and believe. Let parishioners and guests, alike, discover in a large variety of ways to the primary goals your church's primary stuff!
How will we determine whether or not we're accomplishing our professed goals?
Comment: Most church leaders will say that they hate quantifying their ministries. In my coaching, I often encounter this as a rather insincere statement, because for most pastors it's all about the numbers. Most churches are consumed by a behind the scenes obsession around attendance and offerings numbers. It's not necessarily a bad thing to keep check on how things are going, but there are other measurements which are equally important. It's fine to utilize polling methods. There are some national polling instruments available to do this work and most of these have been put together by highly competent research organizations. There are, however, many ways (focus groups, informal church gatherings, and just plain talking to people) to gather important "How are we doing" information.
What training should we acquire from professionals in business and other consultation services?
Comment: I was asked by a pastor about changing her church's accounting practices. As a consultant at that church, I was somewhat embarrassed to admit that I could barely write a check without making mistakes. So, if you want to get best accounting practices information, ask an accountant. If you really want to know what might make your church attractive to people in your community, do your own research—ask people in the community. You might start with the president of your local chamber of commerce because there are people in your city that he/she may know that understand your potential constituents better than any Christian conference guru. BUT, use them both, the people and the gurus—do your own homework!
Because, in our church set-up, our leadership is often separated by style and location, what are the best ways we can get together on our primary areas of agreement?
Comment: Another major issue often discussed in my church coaching is a basic flaw in how leadership within a single church communicates with other leadership from the same church. Big surprise! If your church chooses to separate the various demographic and stylistic segments of your congregation, it is vitally important that the all your leaders be on the same page with regard to your church-held values. The system you put in place to do this work may well be the most important, well spent labor investment your church ever makes.
So, we might conclude that...
In an age where churches are starting to look a lot alike, consider making your church a unique entity within your community. Think for yourselves. Enjoy acquiring skills from outside your church, but temper that with old-fashioned research and hard work. When we say we want to do God's will, does that mean that we want others to tell us what His will is?—probably not! Encourage your leadership to ask these questions...
Doug Lawrence, internationally recognized speaker, author, and advisor, helps churches assess and improve their skillfulness in creating engaging worship experiences by utilizing his more than 35 years of "deep trench" worship leadership in prominent mainline churches. has been a consultant to church leaders for 35 years and is anxious to be helpful to you in leadership, musical, and staffing considerations. Or, if you wish, call 650.207.8240 for assessment information and scheduling.
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