Most churches offer weekly programs. A “program” is a regularly planned time to meet. These include Sunday morning worship services, Wednesday night Bible studies, small groups, etc. Programs are the primary way most churches minister to their people.
There is a tendency in the church world to bash programs, though. Some say ministry is “about people not programs.” Churches are criticized for putting so much time, energy, and money into maintaining weekly programs. They are told it would be better to invest their resources into providing pastoral care.
Yet programs are valuable to ministry. In fact, ministry can’t happen on a large scale without them! If we keep them in proper perspective, programs can bolster the life and ministry of any church. Here’s why you should stop knocking programs:
Programs Build Relationships
It’s true that ministry is about people not programs. But ministry to people happens in the context of relationships. And relationships with people are built primarily in the context of programs.
Programs are a weekly opportunity for you and your people to get to know each other. By spending time with them, teaching them, and encouraging them in their faith, you earn their trust and the right to minister to them personally.
This has been true in my student ministry. I work hard to offer quality weekly programs. These programs include time to hang out, games, and lessons. By getting to know my students, goofing off with them, and teaching them, I earn the right to challenge them and hold them accountable on a personal level.
Programs Promote Spiritual Growth
Spiritual disciplines are the key to spiritual growth. These include habits such as Bible reading, prayer, worship, confession, and service. As you develop and practice these habits, the Holy Spirit changes you to be more like Jesus.
Spiritual disciplines are the key to a church’s spiritual growth as well. Programs are the spiritual disciplines of the church. They give a church opportunities to worship and pray (Sunday morning), study the Bible (Wednesday night), have fellowship (small groups), and serve (service projects) on a regular basis.
Through programs, churches set an example of spiritual growth for their people to follow. Programs should be done in a way that equips people to develop that habit personally. We should encourage our people to reproduce the life of the church in the context of their individual Christian lives.
Programs: A Proper Perspective
While programs are valuable, we need to keep them in proper perspective. It’s true that ministry is about people not programs. So we must never value maintaining our programs above meeting the needs of our people. We must always be willing to adapt our programs and redirect our ministry efforts.
It’s also important not to be wasteful. Each church should decide how much it can reasonably spend on programs in light of its resources, the needs of its members, and the needs of its community. Jesus is not pleased with high-quality programs if we neglect the needy to fund them.
Finally, we should remember that programs don’t change lives; the Holy Spirit changes lives. Nobody is converted or edified by the program itself. Rather, spiritual fruit is produced as the Holy Spirit imbues our ministry efforts with His power and blessing.
How do programs add value to the life of your church? Share your thoughts with a comment below!
(Feel free to share this post with a friend! Or follow my blog to receive new posts!)