Myths in Ministry
For the past year we have had a team looking at how as a church we might better share the gospel and do ministry in our community. This team consisted of 6 members of the congregation and the Pastor. In looking at data, meeting with our consultant, and talking with other members of the congregation and in the community, it quickly became clear to our team that a major challenge in doing ministry today is the realization that some things about our culture are different than they used to be.
So in what ways has culture changed? Below and on the next page are 5 myths about doing ministry that many of us may wish were true but are actually less true today than ever.
Myth #1 “If they just put prayer back into school then we wouldn’t have all the problems we have today”
This myth goes with some other “if only” myths… “if only Sunday Sabbath Blue Laws returned,” “if only kid’s sports stopped happening on Sunday,” “if only the war on Christmas was stopped,” or “if only college and professional football wasn’t played on Sunday.”
The myth falsely claims that changes in our society that we don’t like could be easily corrected with a quick fix. But the main reason our culture is becoming less “churched” is that the percentage of our country that has a vibrant ongoing relationship with Christ is shrinking. A general apathy of faith is part of what is changing our culture. One great example of this can be seen with kid’s sports that take place on Sunday. If lots of parents were not willing to have their children participate in Sunday sports there would not be kids Sunday sports.
Like the church of the New Testament, our goal should not be to sit around and complain about what in the culture doesn’t fit with our beliefs. Our goal as the church should be to share with others what a vibrant ongoing relationship with Christ could look like!
Myth #2 “Union is just a small country church in a rural blue collar community.”
At Union we may still imagine ourselves as a small rural church, but Union Church is no longer in a rural blue collar community. Demographic data suggests that the immediate area surrounding Union Church is 66% white collar vs. 34% blue collar, with the vast majority of non-retired families being college educated, with two working spouses, commuting up to 45 minutes away.
Myth #3 “People in our community live in these parts forever.”
There was a time when this was very true; when families in our region might live in the same house their whole lives. However, demographic data suggests that in the immediate area surrounding Union Church the majority of people now live in this area for short periods of time due to their job. They will likely move out and be replaced with new short time home owners within 3-5 years as their jobs change.
Myth #4 “We are in the Bible Belt, there is no one to evangelize here.”
Demographic data suggests that 35% of the people in our region would say that they are evangelical Christians. Compared to some other regions of the United States this number is pretty high. However, that same data suggests that only 16% believe that going to church is important and only 13% believe that their faith is important. Further, more in this region (41% of people) would call themselves “spiritual” than “Christian” (which can mean all sorts of things).
With Union’s long time mission connection with Malawi, there are a number of people at our church who love the tongue-in-cheek song, “Please don’t send me to Africa,” a song that humorously has someone complaining to God that they would serve him in any number of new ways as long as God didn’t call them to be a missionary. But oddly enough, there is currently a higher percentage of Christians regularly going to church in Malawi than there is in our community here. There is a mission field right outside our door.
Myth #5 “If we build it they will come.”
If people are more busy, less connected to this community (spending half their lives in Charlotte), less interested in going to church regularly, and have a greater apathy toward church in general, the shocking truth is that big church programs don’t necessarily equate to larger church attendance. If a church puts together a big amazing program, the most likely result would be to have a large number of people come to it… and it alone. Amazing church programs no longer directly equate to increased worship attendance.