Friday, December 21, 2007

Great Versus Good Programs

Is there such a thing as a “great” program?

The possibility of great programs exists but the general rule in church systems is to settle for "good" programs.

Great programs will consistently have these three criteria: clear goals, clear time frames and clear exit strategies, as measurements to evaluate themselves.

How do good programs measure up using these 3 criteria as a guide?

Clear goal. – Willow Creek Church championed the seeker sensitive model that has a goal of making “fully devoted followers” of Jesus Christ. 30 years later, with hundreds, perhaps thousands of churches adapting their methodologies, they now say they have failed.

Essentially their goal was unclear (allbeit it was cute and looked full of promise) and there was nothing built into it that made it accountable. A bible verse that comes to mind is “always learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.” 2Tim 3:7

Church services are the kings of not having clear goals unless one considers hooking people into coming back next week as a clear goal.

I’ve heard leaders of denominations state that they were not happy with what they were doing but what else could they do until Jesus returns.

Clear time frame. – Religious programs especially Sunday services like to exist for the sake of existing.

Alpha is probably the best example of a good church program that has a clear time frame. 10 -15 weeks and one has completed a general survey of Christianity. The longevity of Alpha (first conceptualized in 1980 and fine tuned by Nicky Gumbel in 1990) being able to repeat itself over and over says that there really isn’t much more necessary for Christians to grasp.

A question that often comes after a good course like Alpha is, “What’s next?” The general answer is to become a leader in Alpha and repeat it with a new crop of people.

One of the fall outs of even good programs is that people think it was being in the program that was beneficial instead of understanding that it was being with people that was important.

Jame 1:22 (NIV) Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Clear exit strategy. – This is the biggest point of failure of religious programs. They don’t seem to have one unless you consider getting people signed up into the next program an exit strategy.

In the secular world, everyone understands that university programs exist to free people to live successful, productive lives. When that doesn’t happen we criticize the weaknesses of that educational program. We also don’t send our kids to ones without great exit strategies for getting our children into good jobs.

Jesus had a clear exit strategy and even though none of His disciples wanted it, He knew that they needed to step up to the plate and into the full measure of what God had for them.

John 16:7 (NIV) But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

I'm so glad He didn't send us a program.

GREAT versus Good programs.

Good programs seem to accomplish a consistent outcome. They get people looking for the next good program.

Great programs accomplish what they set out to do and free people to not need them anymore.

Great programs lead to transformed lives that have the maturity and freedom to intersect anywhere and anytime.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I think you nailed it.

There seems to be an irony that is often missed by the church programatic approach. As you've rightly pointed out, a good program will equip and release. Most church programs just point to the next "program". However, in our walk of faith in the journey with Christ the "program" (actually it isn't a program but a deepening relationship) doesn't release us to be independent, but rather the positive outcome is ever deepening dependence. To "walk by faith" does not mean clear sighted independence, but rather an actively dependent trust in the reality of present uncertainty.