Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Church Revitalization and Criticism

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year. I took a break from blogging to spend time with family. I am very blessed to have such godly influences in my family. The holiday season always seems to lift me up and encourage me as I spend time with my family who are all struggling to engage the world with ministry. My father is a music minister, my brother is a worship leader, and my youngest brother and I are attempting to start a new business Florida Fowl Waters as a platform for waterfowl hunting and leading people to Jesus. I am so richly blessed.

Another thing that comes from a family that all struggle with ministry to some extent is understanding each other's struggles when it comes to criticism. Criticism is part of the job description when you work with people. My dad has been in vocational ministry working at churches for about 30 years. He has received his fair share of criticism throughout the years. My middle brother leads worship at a church plant. He receives little criticism about how he leads worship. He predominantly reaches college students and young families at his church, and they all love his style of music.

As I was preparing to write this blog it struck me that this is probably the greatest point of tension for ministers in church revitalization. This blog is a series based on an article from Thom Rainer 9 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Leading a Church Revitalization. Thom Rainer has lately been championing church revitalization, even as recent as 3 days ago with his most recent article. Church revitalization is by nature to work with established churches to rebuild and reconstruct to be healthy once more. Church plants are by nature fresh beginnings. When a person attends a church plant, they understand that everyone is on the learning curve, and change happens almost on a weekly basis.
I personally, feel this is why so many young ministers are interested in church planting and not revitalization. However, I feel called to church revitalization. I feel like it is the business of God to raise the dead, heal the sick, and give joy to the downtrodden. I get to be part of this when I join in a church revitalization project, but I certainly have to deal with the criticisms that come with territory.

Here is a list of criticisms I have faced, and how I find myself handling them.
  1. Tradition: This is perhaps the most obvious of the problems and criticisms I receive. It's the preverbal "We've never done it that way before." I receive this when I tell students we are changing a program or going to a new summer camp. This is hard because people are often emotionally attached, but I know that if I am diligent to do my homework and make a case for why we are changing, I often do not receive as much push back. The people deserve to know the "why's" behind our ministry and decisions.
  2. Too Much Preaching/Teaching: This one is funny to me, because people will actually tell me that I am too focused on Scripture in my ministry....like that is possible! I believe that a healthy church starts at the grassroots level by teaching the Scriptures to teens. An armed and trained Christian is a dangerous Christian. However, there must be moderation in your ministry between discipleship, service projects, and fun events. You may be criticized towards the other end of the spectrum from me.
  3. Lack of Trust From People: I get this the most from either young or impatient youth ministers. This remains a hard lesson for me still. Patience is the name of the game in church revitalization. Sometimes true revitalization in a church can take an entire generation. Trust is slowly gained, so be willing to work with the people over a long amount of time.
  4. Too Much Change: I remember Jerry Vines saying years ago that the bigger the ship, the slower it turns. Similarly, if a youth minister tries to turn the ship to quickly it can capsize. I am a big proponent of strategic phases. Work towards your goals.
  5. Lack of Resources: Sometimes in youth ministry you feel like you are scraping for funding. Foremost, I believe that the best fundraiser for a youth ministry is to get your quality students active in the church. Let the product sell itself. However, sometimes churches have this mentality of poverty, and will shrink away from doing what God has called them because of the test of faith. My solution is get creative. Do not get angry, but use what God gives you. The finances will come with time.
  6. Lack of Vision: The pastor lays out the primary vision for the church, so make sure you are working in that vision. Second, you must also have a vision for the youth group. If the youth minister doesn't have this vision, he will struggle to garner followers and supporters.

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