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How are traditions anchoring your ministry?

How are traditions anchoring your ministry?

blogslide_howaretraditionsanchoringyourministryTraditions are powerful and often serve as anchors, helping congregations avoid mission drift by reminding people of what’s important and reminding people of what God has done and continues to do in and through God’s people. Traditions can become anchors that keep congregations stuck in the past and prevent congregations from moving forward. Traditions usually start out being as a pilot project or someone’s personal preference. When they get traction and prove to be helpful, they seem to morph traditions – many of which become a sacred cow.  The challenge is that most congregations fail to regularly evaluate their purpose, priorities, programs and practices, and therefore, are unaware that a tradition has lasted beyond its usefulness.

Think of the traditions that your congregation lifts up and celebrates. Do they serve as springboards toward new ways of thinking about and doing ministry?  Or do they hinder innovation and keep the congregation stuck in the past.  If a tradition gets in the way of loving people or reaching out to new people, then it’s a clear sign that the tradition has to change or go. I see many churches that are failing and dying is because they’re holding onto denominational or local traditions at the expense of connecting culturally with their communities and building lifelong disciples.  The traditions we hold on to are often connected to a congregation’s identify.  For some faith communities, people identify more with the congregation’s building, location or a key program than they do with the church’s mission of making disciples.

We live in a time when change is constant and communication is real-time. At what point can a tradition offer itself on the altar and die to facilitate needed innovation?

Some Toughts (3)

  1. Cindy Mueller
    added on 25 Jul, 2014

    This is so true. I am coming to believe that the building (maintaining it in particular) has become the “mission” for many of our smaller churches and they wonder why their numbers are dwindling and more and more of their budget is going into maintaining the structure. This reality has led many of our churches to become landlords in order to pay the bills (even if the rent doesn’t cover the cost of maintaining the building). The amount of time spent dealing with tenants and their issues detracts from real ministry being accomplished for fewer and fewer people. A vicious circle that is FAR from life-giving.

  2. added on 26 Jul, 2014

    I wonder if helping people see that some things are cyclical would make a difference? When we remove a “tradition” from the calendar, it doesn’t mean it’s gone forever, just for a time. Other traditions will never be removed so the challenge is two-fold: for the church to keep them alive by changing styles etc to keep them new and fresh; for individuals to see the tradition as a springboard to incorporate change in their lives. How often is any curriculum updated? How can I prioritize asking the tough questions about personal spiritual growth?

  3. added on 29 Jul, 2014

    My thought is that traditions can come and go. In the past, I’ve had people explain that certain traditions were so meaningful, but the discussion about these traditions seemed to be more of an obligation than having any meaningful purpose. I agree with klasley that just because a tradition is removed from the calendar doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder when the tradition is valued for the meaning and not just to fill the calendar.

    It is very true that my congregation and many others give so much focus to dealing with tangible things within the walls of the church. For those involved within the church building, they can easily focus on what is in front of them that needs to be dealt with. For example, one discussion with my congregation is funding a new projector and/or a new screen for the sanctuary. Although this is a need of the church building, it is doing very little to make disciples for Christ. However, many people have expressed interest in being part of the task force to research new projectors, etc… Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that these people are willing to help out with something! My concern is that we are lacking in ways to enable people to go out and proclaim the name of Christ to others.

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