I Hate Programs

I hate programs. I don’t know why but I can’t think of too many church programs that I like. When I share this with people they often give me a weird look so I was thinking about this today and thought I would try to share with you my disdain towards these awful things.

1. The program becomes more important than the purpose.

Programs are usually started to meet a felt need. They are contemplated and refined and the developed and do a great job meeting the need. But at some point they often become dated and no longer serve their purpose, or they get off track, or the program may become a substitution for personal responsibility, or people refuse to tweak them to help them work.

Some years back I was talking with a group of leaders who all agreed a program was broke. It wasn’t meeting the purpose and what was great 30 years earlier wasn’t helping people accomplish it’s goal. Many suggestions were offered to help but all shot down. Some of the leaders were married to this program and refused to tweak it. They felt the program was untouchable and the real problem was people.

This is all to common. We fall in love with these beast and when it is time to change, revive, or kill it no one is willing to go through with it.

2. Programs encourage managers not leaders.

Leaders want to lead, personalize, tweak, and dream. They want to cast a vision of what can be done. Most churches want people to come in and manage the program. Leaders don’t want to manage they want to be bold and fresh not maintaining the status quo.

3. Programs stifle creativity.

Programs limit our ability to dream and think out of the box. Think about any program. Lets take the Bible Class program. 200 years ago innovators came up with this concept and over the years it was redesigned to meet needs. Then one day the innovation stopped and most bible classes look the same today as they did 60 years ago. Many things have changed but not the program. New ideas are shot down. Out of box thinking is denied over and over.

Imagine you started a new church and you could do anything. Would you do bible class differently? Most of us would. But this program is here to stay and new ideas are never asked for much less encouraged.

4. Programs Multiply

Many of us attend churches that have 20 programs and many of them try to accomplish the same goals. I believe the reason for this is because when leaders realize they can only manage a program they decide to launch a new one and it may be do accomplish what the old program is no longer accomplishing.

So you may wonder what I think we need instead of programs. Well I don’t know. Programs are necessary evils to accomplish goals many times. I have suggestions on how to make programs work and I will talk about that next week. Any thoughts on programs or on how to accomplish things without them or in spite of them?


One response to “I Hate Programs”

  1. Robbie Mackenzie says :

    Good thoughts. Another thing that removes from programs is the fact that programs encourage “para”church ministry which removes, as you said, the personal responsibility. So instead of being with the poor we set up a program that attends to the biblical need of helping the poor. Instead of housing the homeless we set up programs to buy them a hotel room. All of this removes the personal aspect of ministry. Jesus wants us to be, as Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove said in his book “New Monasticism”, pro-church. To address the needs of the power means so much more than giving…it means empowering. Youth ministry does have the dangers of this very same thing as it is seen as a program or “aspect” of a greater vehicle of progress.

    It all seems like a marketing farce when we invite people to our church of “programs” as it appears that we have a Shopping Mall outlook on church! Why not come to the family to be a part of the community that will help you, nourish you and will hold you accountable as you in turn hold us accountable?

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