In September, 2010, a core group joined Jason and Kelly Stockdale, Ruthe and me, to launch The Orchard Fellowship. We met for a year and one half at a rented Episcopal elementary school. St George’s served us well for those first 20 months. After investigating over 20 possible locations, we recently moved to Briarcrest, a Christian high school.
We began with worship services, serving teams, community groups, and ministry projects. This fall, we hope to add Equipping Groups. One of the dangers we want to avoid is overprogramming – and it is a challenging task. It means saying “no” in order that we might say “yes.” This is hard – due to my nature and personality. It is also difficult because we are inundated constantly with opportunities and good ideas. Everytime we say “no,” we probably offend someone. We possibly lose people.
So why do we limit the programming of our church?
1. You can do a lot of things in a mediocre (or poor) way, or you can do a few things extremely well. No church plant can do everything well. We have to walk before we run.
2. Over-programming creates an illusion of fruitfulness that may just be busy-ness.
3. Over-programming is a detriment to single-mindedness in a community. We are like a shotgun blast – loud, effective close-up, but unfocused.
4. Over-programming runs the risk of turning a church into a host of extracurricular activities, mirroring the “Type-A family” mode of suburban achievers. We want families to have the time to actually meet and love and influence their neighbors, devote to child-rearing and marriage-building, and strengthen relationships to other believers.
5. Over-programming dilutes actual ministry effectiveness. Let me explain. It can overextend leaders, increase administration, tax the time of church members, and sap financial and material resources from churches.
6. Over-programming leads to segmentation among ages, life stages, and affinities, which can create divisions in a church body. Pervasive segmentation is not good for church unity or spiritual growth.
7. Over-programming creates satisfaction in an illusion of success; meanwhile mission suffers. If a church looks like it’s doing lots of things, we tend to think it’s doing great things for God. In reality, it may simply be providing lots of religious goods and services. The more we are engaged within the four walls of the church, whether those walls are literal or metaphorical, the less we are engaged in being salt and light. Over-programming reduces the access to and opportunities with my neighbors.
8. Over-programming reduces margin in the lives of church members. It’s a fast track to burnout for both volunteers and attendees.
9. Over-programming gets a church further away from the New Testament vision of the local church. Here’s a good test, I think: take a look at a typical over-programmed church’s calendar and see how many of the activities resemble things seen in the New Testament.
10. Over-programming is usually the result of un-self-reflective reflex reactions to perceived needs and and an inability to kill sacred cows that are actually already dead. Always ask “Should we?” before you ask “Can we?” Always ask “Will this please God?” before you ask “Will this please our people?” Always ask “Will this meet a need?” before you ask “Will this meet a demand?”
Based on an article by Jared Wilson