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The overcommitted church

| by Thom Rainer

Many churches have become too busy for their own good. 

They have so many activities, programs, events, and services that they are wearing out their congregations. 

Here is the irony. Most of the activities in these churches began with a noble cause to make a difference in the congregation and the community. But the members became so busy they don’t have time to connect with people in a meaningful way. 

Ineffective congregations 

The overcommitted church has become the ineffective church. 

So, how did our churches get in this predicament? The causes are many, but here are seven of them: 

1. Our churches equate activity with value. Thus, busy churches are deemed to be churches of value. Not surprisingly, busy, exhausted, and frustrated church members are also deemed to be Christians of value. 

2. Programs and ministries became ends instead of means. I recently asked a pastor why he continued a ministry that had dwindled from 220 participants to 23. “Because,” he replied, “this program is a part of the history and heritage that defines our church.” Warning: If a program defines your church, your church is in trouble. 

3. Failure of churches to have a clear purpose. Even the best of churches can only do so many things well. Once a church has no clear and defining purpose, it has no reason to start or discontinue a program or ministry. That issue then leads to the next two reasons. 

4. Church leaders have failed to say “no.” Some church leaders can’t say “no” to new programs and ministries because they have no clear or defining purpose on what they should do. Other leaders simply lack courage to say “no.” 

5. Fear of eliminating. Once a program, ministry, or activity has begun, it can be exceedingly difficult to let it die. Sometimes leaders lack courage to kill programs. Sometimes they are blinded to the need to kill programs. Sometimes they hesitate to kill a program because they don’t know a better alternative. We need more churches in the program-killing business. 

6. Church is often defined as an address. As long as we think “church” means a physical location, we will try to load up that address with all kinds of busyness. Many churches are ineffective at reaching their communities because their members are so occupied doing things at the building they call the church. That’s both bad ecclesiology and bad missiology. 

7. Churches often try to compete with culture rather than reach culture. A church in the deep South had a dynamic basketball ministry, where they fielded community basketball teams comprised of church members and non-believers.  

However, once the church built its own gym and recreation center, church members started spending all their time playing at their new facility. In attempting to have a gym as good as those in the community, the church ironically became less effective in reaching those in the community. 

Busy churches. Activity-driven churches. Overcommitted churches. Ineffective churches. 

In my next article, I will share some ways churches are becoming less activity-driven and more effective. 

Photo source: istock

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of 25 books, including his latest release from B&H Publishing Group: Who Moved My Pulpit? Leading Change in the Church. His 2013 book, I Am a Church Member, has sold more than one million copies.

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