Joseph Yoo has spot on article at Ministry Matters about one of the biggest problems, that I see, that plagues many United Methodist Churches. Growing up in New Jersey I loved the diner scene. You can get Greek food or breakfast at 2am, no problem. The problem was though, that the food wasn’t especially remarkable. So you had folks who visited the diners because of need or convenience, not really because they were thirsting for anything that you offered.
There used to be an Asian restaurant in Santa Barbara with a menu consisting of Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean cuisine. That’s a lot of different styles of food for one restaurant to serve. Just because it’s “Asian” doesn’t mean it’s all the same. We’d only stop by when we were desperate for a certain Korean dish. And the food? It was average at best. Most of the time, we instantly regretted our decision to go there.
This restaurant eventually went out of business. And I always wondered, why not just pick one of the cultures? Why try to do so many different styles of food? Maybe they could’ve done Chinese food really well instead of teaching their cooks to prepare all sorts of different genres of Asian cuisine with average results at best.
But many churches operate like this.
I knew a church whose mission statement was so long that it filled up an entire brochure, and because of its length, no one really knew what the mission of the church was. So if you asked church members, “What is your church about?” or “What does your church do?” you’d get varying answers depending on who you asked — oftentimes contradicting answers.
Every time there was a change of leadership (and not just a pastoral change), the mission and purpose of the church would change to reflect the heart of the person/people in charge.
When this happens, a church begins to have multiple personalities, if you will. Rather than having the members of the church uniting under one vision and mission, the church is spread thin by trying to accommodate everyone’s passion and calling. So instead of doing a few ministries well, it does many ministries with average results (and often with average efforts).
It is hard, especially if you have a United Methodist Church that has been around for decades (or centuries), to trim out missions or programs that no longer feed into what gives life to your church. If you want to be a church that continues to serve good food, then you need to keep the menu to what you know give fuel to the community.
Pretty sure we can say similar things to the United Methodist Church global infrastructure as well. We will save that for another day though.