Carey Nieuwhof, a pastor who writes some great articles, posted this article recently.
In the article he mentions these five characteristics. It’s a pretty good and quick read. Here’s the summary version:
- Passion over polish – passion for the mission is more important than the way things look.
- Jesus over God – These churches talk about Jesus, who is more concrete, than some abstract version of God.
- Progress over Facilities – meaning that these churches are expanding, not in size, but in numbers and keep adding other sites, even if the facilities are less than desirable.
- Risk over Certainty – They don’t suffer from analysis paralysis.
- Mission over Money – When the mission is clear, the money will follow, as will the people and anything that that’s needed.
I agree with these characteristics. In a way they are similar to some of the findings I observed from my time in Finland – although not exactly the same. But when you get past the surface to a deeper level, these characteristics and my observations do relate. And the best part is that this is true, not just for attracting Millenials, but anyone really.
Here’s my observations:
- A thriving church isn’t focused on the material over the people. Relationships of the community of believers takes precedence. That doesn’t mean you let the building go into disrepair. That means that the building is a tool that serves a function to assist in building the relationship of the community and in spreading the Good News. Thriving churches use this tool, add to it, take things away as needed. They aren’t sitting around debating about whether something that is no longer useful should be kept just because it’s always been there.
- When you look at the list above, you essentially have the definition of what a thriving congregation is. A thriving congregation is outward focused, with Jesus at the center, willing to take a risk for the Gospel because they are on a mission and they have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. In contrast, I found that dying congregations are inward focused, focus on the numbers and the materials, create rules that exist to maintain the status quo, and feel as though they have everything to lose. They are risk averse.
The above definition is true not just for churches, but really any organization. Test it out for yourself. Look at your church and see what group it fits into. Go to your job and see. Really, it works for any organization. The mission will be different at each of these, but the important point is this – is the mission the focus or is it rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.