Due to a variety of reasons – mostly too many freaking people were come to church – about six months ago MBCC decided to intentionally transition from being a “Pastoral Church” to being a “Program Church.”  You can see the definitions and characteristic’s of each congregational size in the article, How to Minister Effectively in Family, Pastoral, Program and Corporate Sized Chruch by Roy M. Oswald, Senior Consultant, The Alban Institute.

Good stuff if you are into congregational system theory.

To recap, Oswald basically says that that as churches go through stages of growth or decline they require different leadership models and conversely different leadership models can help determine whether or not a church grows or declines.  He does not argue that any one model is optimal, simply points out the obvious, leadership must understand the system if they are to minister well within that system.  I would go so far as to say that it is sinful to ignore the system within which we work as we can unintentionally do harm to a community’s health.  But that’s just me 😉

Basics of a PASTORAL CHURCH

  • 50-150 active participants
  • primary relationship with with the pastor
  • most things go through the pastor
  • everyone pretty much knows each other
  • leadership is interpersonally focused
  • most churches thrive at this level

Basics of a PROGRAM CHURCH

  • there are pockets of activity, fewer “all-church” activities
  • everything does not flow through the pastor, but other leadership take on pastoral functions
  • leadership is planning and development focused
  • not everyone knows everyone else

MBCC decided to do this once we realized that our growing population really did want to connect, but pretty much everything flowed through me.  And while I was pretty good about not controlling relationships, it became clear that we were growing, we would continue to grow and we needed to make sure that my bandwidth did not hold us back.  This meant a shift in everything from how we stored our data (From my computer to StaffTool) to how we organized small groups (From me instigating and leading to open formation and organizing).

I must admit, I was a tad bit apprehensive.  In an abstract “God-can-do-all-things” kind of way, I knew it could happen, but our track record had not been all that strong.  Still we have boldly moved into this phase and over the past six months have worked through the difficulties of this kind of transition.  There have certainly been some places where things have gone very well and others not so much.  But overall, good God stuff is happening.

From a pastor’s view, however, there are certainly some reactions that we have to fight if this transition is going to happen well AND we do not intentionally or unintentionally sabotage the transitions.  Oh, it would be so easy to do, especially if one does not REALLY want to change systems.  If we are not secure in our role as pastor or genuinely do not want to shift in our role, DO NOT try this.  It will suck for everyone.

Getting back to the title of this post, if you do think this is in your future here are some of the doubts that “one” might have with the transition process and then how FaceBook can be a “happy place” for our own insecurities.

The insecurities, apprehensions and doubts.

  • People surely can’t REALLY connect to the church through anyone but me.
  • Folks will not step up and organize, lead and/or follow-through on anything.
  • Nothing is happening . . . I should step in save the day.
  • I need to have a deep connection with everyone to feed may own needs of pastoral worth.
  • Damn, now I will need to really focus on nurturing leadership and big-picture vision.  What excuse will I have now?

How Facebook eases the transition

The brilliance of FB is the public networking and connecting that happens.   All of the insecurities that I may have about leaving the role of  “pastor” of a pastoral church are addressed by the very nature of FB.  My need to be “in the loop” is addressed because as more and more folks from MBCC comment on each others pictures, post on walls and generally interact without I am in still the loop, but not the conduit of the interaction.  The same goes for events, groups and any other planning.  I see that folks are engaging, stepping up, and following through, I have no need to jump in.  Now of course not everything in the life of MBCC happens vie FB, but just enough does to alleviate my overarching fears.

This has all been surprisingly wonderful for me.  We are still figuring out the intracacies of MBCC’s version of the Program Church, but from all indications, my fears have not been met with reality and we are slowly but surely making the shift.

Thanks be to FB, God and the church!

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