Friday, April 30, 2010

Programs, projects, people

There are different ways of approaching the activities we pursue. This is true in the individual sense, and also true in the larger, corporate sense.

Churches and corporations (and even individuals) can engage in programs. Major, full-on, organized activities focused on a particular demographic (seniors, men, single moms, homeless teens), or goals (expansion/growth).
Programs tend to set goals and priorities based on tangible, observable statistics. “We now have three new locations, we raised a $million for the new building, 20 new moms are now part of our parenting class.” It's the numbers that count—the 3 B's of bucks, butts or buildings. Success is based on an adequate increase in the numbers. Churches may use the word 'ministries' instead of 'programs', but the idea is still the same.
So, how does it feel to be nothing more than a number? One of many others who have made some organization feel successful, even if no one knows who you are. What tends to be missing in the program paradigm is the personal aspect.
Instead of statistics or size, we begin to realize that we need to focus on people.

But often this turns into making someone our project. We focus on 'fixing' someone. They have a problem, and we decide to take them on like a contractor might take on a reno job.
Now success is gauged on just that that—success. It has been a successful project if the desired end has been reached. The individual has stopped using drugs, been re-united with their spouse, or found a job. Once the project is completed, the focus changes to someone new.
It is even worse if the project is deemed a failure (the individual is still using, finalizes the divorce, or never gets a job). Sooner or later the project is dropped like the proverbial hot potato.
So, how does it feel to be a project? It is still dehumanizing. You are only important until the particular 'job' is done. No lasting relationship has been formed. Note: 'conversions' usually fall into this category. Once the person has 'said the prayer' they are funneled into a program for new Christians.

That moves us to the third alternative—people. Meeting someone and making a friend. Not to fit them into your church's ________ program, not to make them your project, but just to get to know them. To find out things they like to do and have fun together. To affirm their existence. To hang out. To listen.
--even if they never come to your church.
Ever.
--even if they don't stop any of their bad habits.
Ever.
To be friends.
Period.
And that is how success is rated in this paradigm.

If the shoe was on the other foot, which would mean the most to you?
--being a statistic in a successful program somewhere?
--being taken on as someone's project?
--or being a friend?
I thought so.

And What Would Jesus Do?

4 comments:

ron cole said...

Thanks Al, there is really something profound in the simplicity of friendship.

"No longer do I call you servants( a project, a program ) ... but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).

chris said...

I personally desire friendship over statistics. In fact, the older I get the less tolerance I have for anything else! Great post, thanks!

Al said...

Me too, Chris. In fact, (as Ron already knows) I really like coffee. Coffee with someone.

Mark (under construction) said...

The last one indeed ... in His footsteps this would be I suggest.
Shalom.

 

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