Working Harder for Less Return

1. Working harder than ever for lesser return
2. Frustrations rise
3. Crises ensues
4. Paradigm shift
5. Engaging the invigorating challenge
6. Working smarter for different return
7. Joining the Christian Movement

As we engage with clergy and congregations of many stripes and sizes, one observation stands out here in 2017 - clergy, church staff, and laity in congregations are working and serving harder than ever. There are so many congregations filled with dedicated, loving, committed, hard-working disciples; applying themselves vigorously to the task at hand (being church). This level of commitment is so encouraging. Yet right along with it we observe high degrees of frustration. This frustration plays out in statement/questions like this, “Our people are committed, serving in so many ways through this church. Why aren’t we seeing better results, given how hard we are working and serving?” This statement/question is spoken with great feeling and sincerity; rightly so. Clergy and laity are putting more effort than ever into their ministries, experiencing less return on their efforts that expected. Frustration inevitably results.

The problem is not them. The problem is their church paradigm. They are working very hard at being the kind of church which resonated with people in their communities between 1950 to 1990. Those were the good old days of Christendom in the USA. Since then, American culture grew less infatuated with Christianity, dethroning it from golden child status to one-among-many (religions) status. When clergy, church staff, and congregations finally realize this dynamic, they often encounter crisis. “We know how to be church in way we have been church.” Typically this faith crisis includes a lot of bargaining and even arguing about whether the church can return to the glory days (meaning, the way we remember church being in a previous era).

This is when SHIFT happens. Many congregations are leaving their grief, consternation, disillusionment, and hopelessness behind; discovering a new land. They are detangling themselves from church culture and waking up with new dreams. They are seeing the adaptive challenges before them, finding the adventure and exhilaration in sailing new seas.
Still these congregations work and serve hard. They call on their dedication and commitment, yet with a different approach. Now they are committed to discovering how to be church in THIS world; in 2017 and beyond. These churches grow more interested in the first century church, recognizing the gospel was a movement before it was a religion. They find themselves caught up in this beautiful way of life called the Way of Jesus. Adaptive change happens and the church is relevant and resonant as it engages a world hungry for God.

May we give ourselves permission to move through numbers 1 – 7 above. May we let go of our enshrined internal images of church, laying them at Christ’s feet. May we join the Holy Spirit in creative discovery, in holy experimenting, living into God’s unfolding kingdom as expressed through God’s church.

Mark Tidsworth
Pinnacle Leadership Associates