Losers All Around: Churches, Competing With Yourself is Dumb

I once sat in a meeting where a children’s pastor and men’s ministry pastor discovered they had both planned father/son camping trips on different weekends of the same month. Then the stared at each other, each hoping the other would blink about which weekend and which ministry would proceed with the event. How could either ministry have even gotten to the point of setting a date without some communication with the other? A better approach would be for both to have collaborated from the beginning on one event, pooling resources.

Too many times churches and ministries compete with each other. It may not be as extreme as the weekend trip above, but individual ministries get so focused on their own plans that they neglect to fit their events into the big picture. (Now, I could get spiritual, and say that if every ministry leader was hearing from God in their planning there would be a lot less conflicts, and that many times ministry leaders plan events because they think they have to be busy rather than for any spiritual need, but I won’t. That’s a whole other topic)

How do churches compete with themselves?

They forget that people have a limited amount of time they can/will devote to church activities and schedule too many “good” events.

There was a time when local churches could schedule an event every night and twice on Sunday, and the good people of the congregation would dutifully attend. Those days are over. People are just stupid busy.

If you schedule a special event that is at the same time as other events, do not be surprised when people don’t attend both (They wouldn’t even if attending didn’t break the space time continuum). When you schedule events in addition to the normal schedule every week do not be surprised when people choose which ones to come to, but do not choose to come to all of them. I once saw an event scheduled right after church on Mother’s Day. And when it was poorly attended they still didn’t understand that the reason was because people want to spend time with family on Mother’s Day.

When thinking about adding anything to the calendar, look at how many times people have been asked to do something, and how long they will have been at the church. If you have asked them to do 3 things already (Sunday services, Wednesday Night, small groups?), be very intentional about adding a 4th.

Individuals ministries operate as an island rather than part of the whole.

A staff member that is on his own island may check his own calendar, and even make sure that the room he wants is available, but he does not look at what else is going on. It’s OK with him if some classes keep meeting, because he is not over that class and does not have the decision making power to shut him down. So he ignores the other events and goes ahead with his own. His events are the ones that matter most, at least to him.

But the people who are the church do not compartmentalize ministries that way. They are involved across the gamut. A median adult couple may be involved in children, youth, adult, men and women, prayer, baptistry, media, parking, greeter, food services, missions and any number of other ministries. If you schedule a worship event over the top of a student event, you will force these couples to choose between them.

That’s not to say that either event is bad, or less important. But work together as a team to look at the whole of the church’s ministry, rather than just one small part of it. Respect the time of the people that actually are the church. Develop a cohesive disciple making strategy, not individual elements of ministry.

Ministries that work together just make more sense.