Archive for May, 2014

HirschI was recently with Alan Hirsch–a South African-born missiologist, author, and a leader in the missional church movement–talking about the future of the church when he made this provocative comment:  

Eighty percent of the youth in our churches go to college, or leave home, and drop out of the church within their first year.  Why?  Because we, the church, created an “aquarium” environment during their growing up years–sanitized places, free from risks and danger.  He pointed out that the movie, “Finding Nemo,” captures this beautifully.

Hirsch explained that we in the American culture, especially the middle and upper classes, have almost a fixation on safety and security, comfort and convenience, which is different from those living in most other cultures.  The church reflects this, which is ironic given the fact that most transformative experiences in the Bible occurred in those moments of instability, danger, and risk.  After all, God created out of chaos.

So, rather than disciple within an aquarium environment, how might we in the church foster discipleship, especially of our young people, out on the edges, out where the real action tends to be?  Perhaps one reason young people gravitate to short-term mission trips, which take them “outside the aquarium,” is because they innately long for such experiences.  Isn’t that what Jesus constantly did with his disciples?  He took them out of their comfortable, familiar positions–fishing, tax collecting, etc.–to those places on the edges–sending them two-by-two without their gear, traveling among Samaritans, occasionally even breaking the rules of the day.  Why?  Because he knew disciples are more likely made outside the “aquarium” than within it.

Think about it!  — Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development



AfterHours“If we simplify our church structure and reduce the number serving on our church council from around 20 people to around 10 people, won’t that put too much power into too few hands?”  This was a question I was asked by a church pastor this week.

At the root of this question, of course, is a question of trust.   Will our laity trust our leaders’ decisions more if there are ten more people at the table?  There’s also, however, the question of effectiveness that needs to be considered.  Does a team function better if it’s smaller or larger?

For most teams, smaller appears to function better!  A recent article not only makes this point, but it explains the science behind why it’s true.  It explains why a larger group results in poorer attendance and less participation.  The article is entitled, “The Science Behind Why Small Teams Work More Productively:  Jeff Bezo’s 2 Pizza Rule.”

This idea that “smaller is better” is in line with a recent discovery a Fort Wayne church plant has made.  Kristo’s Hands and Feet, a non-attractional church plant of St. Joseph United Methodist Church, has discovered that the lower-income folk the ministry is reaching respond better to a discipling relationship that is either one-to-one, one-to-two, or one-to-three persons at a time, rather than to the traditional small group that has about ten or so people meeting together at a specific place and time.   Discipling happens more effectively the way Jesus did it than the programmatic approach our churches tend to use–at least for those living in the neighborhoods Kristo’s is reaching.  Of course, in other settings this might not be the case or it could include both approaches.

What about for you and your church?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development