From Consumers to Co-Laborers: The Kairos Moment for Churches
Written By: Dave Travis
Strategic Counsel to Pastors & Church Boards
My clients tend to be larger, evangelical churches. Many have been successful in the past two decades of gathering crowds, ministering to real needs, and organizing their ministry to serve large numbers of people.
The core of these ministries are groups of strong, passionate believers and disciples that serve Jesus with pure motives and deep devotion.
However, there is a second layer, often larger beyond the core that are still act more like consumers of faith with sporadic attendance, less effort into their own spiritual growth, and tend to want their needs met spiritually with programs for their family members with perhaps an occasional act of service beyond the church.
Part of this is based on the tradeoffs leaders make by wanting to reach the largest number of people. By emphasizing larger, gathered groups we give the feeling of momentum and growth. And we know that many have grown spiritually through these forms. But our churches have unintentionally believed that this large crowd was a sign of success.
But the COVID-19 crisis of 2020 may be a great opportunity for churches to totally reset this situation. We have an opportunity to deepen those in both layers to disciple them to fullness in Christ. This is a Kairos moment more than a chronos moment. It is a hard-reset moment for churches.
Why? Because with shelter in place directives some will discover what they truly value in their life. They will dig deep to discover who they really are or in some cases, they aren’t.
This is our opportunity to reset our ministries in a more sustainable way. This is true for individuals and the leaders in your church. Some will see they are not operating from their strength personally and choose to exit their current employer or role to find a new place that fits their own sense of who they are and what they value. My sense is that many will realize that more material goods is not a help to happiness and will desire a simpler life and are willing to make the sacrifice to get there.
Some churches will have severe financial reversals with giving dropping significantly. This will force leaders to re-evaluate their church’s ministry face and plan. Just as individuals reevaluate, the church as an organization has a great opportunity NOT to return to the plan that was in place before the crisis. In this Kairos moment it can reorient itself and its ministries. The opportunity is to move people from consumers to co-laborers.
Here is what we are talking about:
Success Redefinition – Both Personally and Corporately.
Each person who lives through the crisis will reevaluate what is most meaningful in their life. With the forced isolation, probably loss of income or livelihood for many, each of us will begin to get down to ground of what place Christ has in our lives and where our trust rests. As we move into May in the crisis, this is what we should be preaching and teaching in our online gatherings and communicating in various ways.
Corporately we will learn over the next few months how little the crowd means to nominal believers. The trials and tests will reveal the flaws in our past ways. It will lead churches to count those committed to deep discipleship and service and value that number more than the total crowd numbers. Churches will devise unique ways they measure that new number, hopefully not in just a check the box way but through ongoing conversations and tracking with individuals about their own sense of growth in Christ.
As we redefine success to not a gathered crowd but as an equipping and training organization for deployed disciples who serve their own circles of influence at their homes, work and networks we should be training how we deploy our resources to serve that end.
In 30 days, it will be a great time for your and your governing board to get serious about redefining success for your church as we are in and will begin the coming out process for the organization as it looks ahead. You can attempt to “return to normal” and many things need to do so. But the opportunity we have been given to rethink and restrategize in a big way may not come again soon.
Many of our churches have staff that minister primarily through weekend gatherings or in support of those activities. Some churches also have extensive menus of other programs with many layers of activity that must be supported by directors, pastors and administrative staff.
In many of our churches we are still supporting and maintaining programs that lost 80% of their effectiveness in prior seasons of our church’s life. It may be time to seize the opportunity to coalesce a new vision for our people facing processes around some simpler pathways.
During this next season we are going to get very simple very fast as to what matters to serve those entrusted to us. Many churches will find some very simple tools and groupings that actually make a difference in the lives of people versus those that are nice extras and supplemental. Now could be the time to begin that reflection and thinking.
For those churches that have not been through this exercise in the last 3 years, this could mean some fundamental restructuring of our program.
The use of this term is not just to describe home meeting group or even a Bible class but rather a band of people that organize and function to encourage each other and live out the “one anotherness” of the New Testament.
It could be a home meeting group. It could be a weekly Bible class. This could be a service group, a deep discipleship group, a group as small as 3-4 that are committed to one another deeply. These are people that are committed to one another and to helping one another live out a deeper commitment to Christ. These will be the primary units that churches use for growth, ministry, service and mission. They will not focus on the leader or teacher but rather on each other and building each other up.
Some of this will well up within the hearts of people that have been cut off from many of their daytime coworkers. They will miss the camaraderie and casual ties they have developed. For many that live alone, Twenty-eight (28) percent of American households, this has been one of the primary touch point places that beat back loneliness. Their needs for some relational contact will grow over this season.
There are ways to build on this momentum in the isolation season and coming out of that season if we will jump on it. Some of this will include new groups that are based around family groupings without age segregation. Some will be in smaller discipleship, life on life groups. The opportunities are ripe for rethinking and redefinition.
Sustaining Family Life
For households with children at home, about 40% of American households, family life is about to get a fundamental shift. During isolation weeks we are going to be together a lot. The key will be creating new rhythms and practices when we are used to going a half dozen directions every day.
This will create stress on top of the existing anxiety. For some marriages, it will reveal cracks and fissures long covered over by busyness.
Some preventative care can come through suggesting and guiding new patterns through our broadcast communication by providing resources and activities for families during this season.
But others will need some more intensive coaching and care through more intensive couple care. Consider assigning some staff and key volunteers to mentor and coach during this season via electronic means. Use the communication channels you have to say: “We know there can be trying seasons in your marriage now, we have this help available. Feel free to make a confidential call to…..”
This will be the key indicator during this crisis. Many will feel the calling not only to care for their fellow small group members but dedicate some of their time to serving others. I think people are wanting to find ways to serve others and be useful during this time more than the fear of being exposed.
It is where the church as a people will step up to be of meaningful in their expressions of care to those outside the faith in very practical ways. Some will be done through the small groups as they unite to serve others. Some will be done in other channels through partnerships with schools, other non-profits and even governmental projects.
Smart leaders will learn to commission and bless these servants not oppose or try to control them. With a little encouragement, these groups and individuals will create ways to bless and serve beyond the leader’s imagination.
Begin now to seed creative thinking among your people and ask them to sign up for special training, brainstorm and thinking sessions where they can create, own, fund and amplify their personal ministry.
Leaders may want to consider conversations with some restaurants which will suffer greatly, to provide some bulk purchases of meals to distribute to those who will be suffering in the coming days. These can be picked up and delivered with proper caution and guidelines.
One cannot short cut discipleship but we can streamline some development of others. As people begin to reevaluate their own lives and callings either vocationally or in their lifestyle, this is the time to step into that conversation with them.
Try in your communication channels: Some of you are considering what God is calling you to do in the future. Some of that is vocation and some of that is in your own walk with God. If you would like to join a group of three or four people also working through these issues, pastor x will be working online with several small groups in this way. Please email or text him at (number and email.)
This would be time well spent through investing in these lives.
Additionally, we must rethink our disciple development at all levels to equip people to meaningfully minister to other people through what God has gifted to them and not try to make them all the same. To do this we must help them evaluate their own gifts, strengths and callings and help them strengthen those that are already in them by giving them just-in-time skills in areas where they feel ill equipped.
My next report in this special series will focus on some administrative guidance for Executive Pastors and Board in conducting some scenario planning for the next season.
For access to the private report, contact email me:
firstname.lastname@example.org | 770.315.6304
We are here to serve in this special season and all of my Generis colleagues stand with you!
Here are other great articles to help you and your ministry during this time:
COVID19 - A Response Through The Lens of Generosity
Getting The Online Offering Moment Right
11 Ideas for your Church to Consider in Response to COVID 19
The Church is Open — The Building is Closed
Free Training and Checklists to Prepare Your Church for the Coronavirus
Love in the Time of Coronavirus: A Guide For Christian Leaders
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