Wednesday, October 14, 2009
In some circles, the term "church programs" has become an epithet for all that is wrong with the institutional church. For a generation hungry for authenticity and community, "programs" feel staged, impersonal, and cold. For a generation increasingly skeptical of government, big business, and corporate machinery in general, "programs" reek of institutionalism, bureaucracy, and insensitivity to human need. Programs may not be the problem, but they are certainly a symptom. They give us something to throw stones at.Brandon O'Brien offers some ideas that can make programs more acceptable:
- It begins with a community need that is theologically justifiable.
- It is overseen by qualified folks.
- It leads to the expansion of the Kingdom.
I am not in love with his word choice here, and were it me, I would have stopped after the first two, but I want to expand rather than quibble here.
"Theologically justifiable" means, we don't want to stress a point too much. Let's face it - some good things are not really the point of a church program. A fitness class is a good thing, undeniably, but should it be a church program? I don't think so. One has to go through any number of contortions about bodies as temples and fellowship to make a case that such is a church function.
That doesn't mean, by the way, that a church facility is not a legitimate place to conduct such a class, I just mean it should not be taking church resources. If a private individual wanted to rent church facilities for that purpose during the week, that is a different matter altogether, given a couple of caveats.
Caveat one - the person chose to locate in the church facility as a means of providing income from which they can pay the rent for the benefit of the church. In other words, I don;t think one should chose to locate such a class in the church because the rent is cheaper than a private building - it's too self-serving. Rather, their goal should be to aid the church coffers because they can supply rent in abundance.
Caveat Two - the person seeks to serve the individuals in the class, not show off how in shape they are. Which leads me to the second point.
"Qualified folks" is about being a mature Christians. The bottom line is this. I think any person in whom Christianity has taken sufficient root will seek to serve their students and the church naturally. Too often programs are started becasue "It's my ministry, it's what I am good at." Or thy simply want the attention of being up front. Too often a church allows such people to have ministry becasue they are more concerned about keeping people in the fold than they are about making mature Christians.
It seems to me, it always has, that the problem is that the program becomes an end unto itself. A program should be put on or taken off more easily than a suit of clothing. It is not about the program. It is about making mature Christians. We meet people where they are and we help them become mature - whatever form it takes.