As many of you may already know, Marshall and Payne’s The Trellis and the Vine is a helpful dialogue partner when wrestling with the question of ministry in the local church (making disciples, teaching, encouraging, rebuking, helping, etc.). One part that really made me think was the first big ministry mind-shifts they listed: “From running programs to building people:”
“When planning ministry for the year ahead, there are two broad approaches we could adopt. One is to consider existing church programs (such as Sunday meetings, youth work, children’s ministry and Bible study groups) and then work out how such programs can be maintained and improved. The other approach is to start with the people in your church, having no particular structures or programs in mind, and then consider who are these people God has given you, how can you help them grow in Christian maturity, and what form their gifts and opportunities might take.”
“This is a revolutionary mind-shift: when we think about our people, it moves our focus to putting them first and building ministries around them. In the course of doing so, it may become apparent that some programs no longer serve any worthwhile purpose. It may also become apparent that a program is no longer viable because the people who once made it work are no longer available. So the program can be done away with. This might be painful for those attached to them (it takes guts to shoot a dead horse!), but new ministries will begin to arise as you train members of your congregation to use their various gifts and opportunities.”
Although it might be debatable that there is such a sharp dichotomy between those two approaches, the insight is more than a little valuable. When thinking of church ministry, we shouldn’t first think about running the programs, but building up God’s people. Note to self!