This article first appeared at Wesleyan Kids on September 17, 2013
I’m noticing various approaches in ministry lately.
- Traditional, contemporary or blended worship services.
- Seeker sensitive, holy huddles, and house churches.
- Chronological Bible storytelling, series-based, or topically-based.
- Large-group/small-group, rotation stations, video-based, or classroom format.
- Purpose-driven, Gospel-centered, etc.
- Family equipping, family church, family-suppored, or family educational.
There are a lot of various approaches… and the proponents of each do a significant amount of marketing and education to convince you and me that their particular approach is the best (or worse, that their way is biblical, the only right way).
Approaches to ministry and communicating the Gospel is not “The Gospel” itself.
Rather, a particular approach is a vehicle that carries the message of “The Gospel.” In different cultures and at different times a particular approach may be successful in communicating and producing disciples. And just like our modern vehicles do, they eventually break down, need to be fixed and tweaked, and at some point, replaced. There are, however, classic vehicles that do stand the test of time and last a while. Other vehicles don’t last a while. It served a particular purpose, in a particular time.
I have allegiance to a particular set of approaches that I believe best communicates and produces disciples in Hayward, WI among its children and youth, and its unique socio-economic, small, rural culture. Then, over time, test, retest and set the particular approaches that best communicate and produce disciples.
I can never stagnate and settle too long, or be married to an approach… after all… it’s just an approach. The only thing I am married to (other than my wife) is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I discern new needs, I need to adopt new approaches and discard old ones. It requires constant change, constant tweaking, constant messing with the approach.
Understanding approaches in ministry helps a faith community deal with change.
Change is happening all around students anyway and they are used to the current of culture changing constantly. Change is not seen as negative, it is actually seen as a sign of progress and growth. It’s okay to take a risk and change something. It doesn’t have to be a big change, it could be small. But because change is a part of life as people and organizations grow and develop, NOT changing can have very serious consequences if things stagnate too long.
Understanding approaches in ministry helps a faith community deal with relevance.
If we really believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is real and works in real life, then we need to be aware of the questions our current culture is asking then seek to address and answer those questions. The Gospel is always relevant. Our approaches help keep the Gospel answering the correct questions culture is asking, not stuck on questions it was asked 10, 20, 40, or 60 years ago. It’s just a different world.
Understanding approaches in ministry helps a faith community pick curriculum, engage and multiply disciples.
Curriculum is not Scripture. The Bible is Scripture. We shouldn’t argue about which curriculum is best, rather, which curriculum best communicates God’s message to this world at this time in this particular place. The Bible should be our core curriculum with an approach layered on top that helps with delivery. The approach engages the student and helps multiply disciples because it answers the questions our culture is asking.
- an approach or method of doing ministry is not the Gospel itself, but is a vehicle to communicate and produce disciples
- you shouldn’t be married to an approach
- approaches are helpful in regard to change, relevance, and practical ministry decisions.