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Switch to Forum Live View Worship-Focused Versus Program-Focused Churches
7 years ago  ::  Jun 10, 2011 - 6:12PM #1
Posts: 4,367

Our congregation is a worship-focused, versus program-focused, faith community. Our people aren't joiners; church is not the focus of their social lives; when we ask them what sort of programming they want at church they consistently indicate that they're not interested in joining groups; when groups are formed "from above," they quickly die a-borning...single events like church picnics and concerts and such are fairly popular, but there's no great clamor for more of them. On the other hand, our congregation is almost ferociously attached to and supportive of our worship services, we generally get a good turnout even for seasonal midweek worship, and members consistently identify worship as the primary focus of their relationship to us.

Some questions for the rest of you:

Is your congregation more worship- or programming-focused?

Is it okay, in your opinion, to not emphasize programming? Or to not keep trying to throw new ideas for small groups/activities at the congregation in hopes that something takes?

What are your popular groups/activities, if you have some? Do they attract participation beyond your "regulars"?

What do you see as the future of program-heavy congregations?

If you're a church-shopping lurker here: In evaluating churches do you care more about the worship service or about the programs that a church offers?

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7 years ago  ::  Jun 11, 2011 - 3:09PM #2
Posts: 1,795

I look primarly at the worship service to determine if the congregation has a thriving ministry that I can grow with.  Active study groups are also a good sign that there is life at a Church.  A congregation that is only active on Sunday would concern me, unless there is something unique about the community that the congregation resides in that makes meeting during the week difficult.

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7 years ago  ::  Jun 11, 2011 - 4:10PM #3
Posts: 352


Generally speaking congregations need a critical mass in order to become a program congregation.  That is around 250 members.  Anything smaller than that is usually considered a Pastor congregation.  A pastor congregation is focused more on worship, basic education, and simple fellowship.  To be sure, some groups form, usually to get a specific project done, but they are usually short term (unless you have something like a quilting group which is focused on the ongoing mission of LWR).

Between 150 to 250 members (regular sunday attenders) the congregation goes through a transition zone that is at times froth with a lot of anxiety, conflict, and uncertainty.  But these congregations find even though they have space to grow they plateau until they get to the point they want to step up their mission and move into a program congregation.

Alice Mann of the Alban Institute has a very good book on this dynamic:  Raising the Roof.  You might want to look at it.

During transition there are those who like to keep to the old ways.  They are comfortable.  They are even predictable.  There are those who see a more excellent adventure with the new ways.  New programs.  New ways of reaching out into the community.  New ways of serving existing members.  This tension is real.  It can be sweet.  It can be bitter.  More often bitter sweet.

I don't think program should ever take the place of worship, but it can supplement it and complimend it.

My son has always been in a pastoral congregation.  This summer he is interning in a program congregation.  He is finding the differences between the two are like night and day.  Just last week he attended a session on marketing the congregation.  Blew him away.  He is wrestling with the numbers game versus the inner growth mentality.  How do you present the congregation in various media without losing the proclaimation of the Gospel?

That said, I am still in a pastoral congregation--where worship, basic education, and fellowship reigns.  I would like to see more offered myself.  We are a transitional congregation.  We will be calling a new pastor this summer and this will be one of the main questions I will be asking the selected nominee when s/he will be presented to the congregation.


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