Why it didn’t work (or at least, my current thoughts)
So why didn’t this church “work” like it is supposed to? You know, the model of gather, get land, build a building, grow, build more buildings, etc?
I think the answer would really depend on whom you asked. I am not the church planter or even the second pastor but the third. I came into the picture when the church was on the land and one building had been built. I came because I thought there was 240 people in worship and so even though I knew the debt was large I thought it was do-able. I was wrong.
With 88 active families (based on who in the directory I was given and who attended the summer I came), the debt wasn’t serviceable. And, forget about Apportionment, our giving for the larger church’s ministry. But why wasn’t it serviceable? This is an affluent community , couldn’t we have found the money with what eventually grew to 150 families? Maybe. Certainly we would have if the preschool wasn’t so hit by the economy and other issues. But there was another reality….what I found when I visited folks, was lots of young adults living in condos and rentals. Yes, there were those doctor/lawyers/chief types living in beautiful homes and giving little but that was a small group.
After looking at this over and over again after a period of five years my best read is not that the previous pastors, current or past congregations, District or Conference personnel or cosmic forces did us wrong. Rather I think we needed a new model for what successful ministry could be for this congregation in this place, time and economic climate.
What would need to be part of this model? The biggest need would be for an economic model which would enable the focus to be on ministry not on money.
Here is what I learned, when you have a church that cannot pay its bills it leads to lots of other things such as:
+bad self (church) esteem (folks feeling bad about their church and its lack of funds),
+erratic church attendance (as folks have their own money issues and don’t want to hear about the church’s),
+controlling types of people using their money as a way to gain power
+time and energy of the best leaders spent on and worrying about the money instead of the mission.
+burn out and turn over of leaders due to the stress of not having enough money to pay bills.
There are other things too, but this list should give you an idea.
So after three years of really working on this, we decided we needed a new model for this church’s ministry and that is the current direction we are moving…