Every so often I field about questions like, “How many kids do you have in your children’s ministries or youth group?” Sometimes the answer will determine whether that person will or will not choose your church. That’s why they ask. And of course, sometimes folks are simply curious and want to know what’s there.
In addition to the “how many you got” question, I’ll also get “What ministries do you have?” Sometimes that will determine if the person will or will not come to your church (and I’m not saying that this is inherently wrong by the way!). Sometimes folks want to be aware of what’s there.
A dear friend created a scenario of someone hit by a car and going to heaven. This was the first thing they said, “Well, Lord, at least as I looking for a church with a good youth program!”
Often times a consumer mentality overtakes us like a Jamaican sprinter-I refuse to give any more glory to the glory hound-and yet we don’t necessarily recognize it at first.
First of all, I do want to say that these questions do have an element of goodness to them. You should care that your children have fellowship, good teaching, Christian friends. And so it’s good to ask how the covenant community can assist you in raising up disciples. Some Christian parents don’t care, feel like dragging them to church each Sunday completes their promise to look to Jesus for their and their child’s salvation, raising him/her within the covenant family (alluding here to Presbyterians). So these questions are in and of themselves necessarily bad questions. They can be healthy.
However, not all of our inclinations toward ministries are necessarily good. In fact they can be quite, well, bad-to stay consistent with the title of this section. Behind our questions (even my own) is often a deeper question: what can you do for me? This can manifest itself when our main choice of churches is simply what can you do for me, before, what do you believe, what is your mission, how do plan to accomplish that mission?
Another question behind the question (the one that is stated) is how can this ministry replace and lessen my involvement in the child’s growth in the grace or coming to faith? What ministries do you have that can now let me off the hook in regards to MY teaching, discipleship? What can you do for me so that I can now be concerned about my child’s social life, sports, grades, etc…..?
So these questions, if unexamined, can leave us in our natural state of consumer.
I would like to pose some other questions that people can ask when looking for a new church, or staying at a current church. These aren’t from Mt. Sinai, as Steve Brown always says. Just my thoughts which might be helpful to battle against our consumer mentality and put us more in a participatory mode.
1.) How many kids do you have in your youth ministry? If I come to, or join, or stay at this church, will I attempt to invite kids to the children’s/youth ministry? Instead of focusing on the current numbers, might God use me to grow the current ministry? And if I go to a big church, will I and my child still be likely to invite un-churched kids to come? Or will it make it easier to invite? In other words, how can I participate in Christ’s mission in either setting? Practically speaking if each person leaves or doesn’t come because of there are low numbers, it can’t grow.
2.) What ministries do you have? Again nothing inherently wrong with the question, but I would encourage asking more questions. If it fits in with the vision of the church, could I help start such and such ministry? Or how can I use my gifts to plug into existing ministries, or informal things like having parties at my house? I think some of the greatest ministry happens informally. Regardless, Church ministries usually have to start somewhere. The best ones seem to come from members who see a need, refuse to leave, but instead stay and meet that need.
Caveat: The longer I pastor the less black and white I get regarding a “good” (obviously meaning my opinion) time to leave a church or what things must be in place for one to connect and serve. I realize that sometimes the Holy Spirit “leaves the building” and Jesus removes the lampstand. At that point it is hopeless. If that is your conviction, then it might actually be better to head on down the road. My request is that you don’t necessarily ignore these questions, but instead spend some time examining and adding deeper follow up questions. The church today desperately needs participators more than it needs consumers. Remember that pastors and members are naturally wired towards consumerism but the Holy Spirit supernaturally enables us to become participators in the gospel. What a privilege.