How are traditions anchoring your ministry?
Traditions 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?