Turning church consumers into ministry servants

Church shopping listGenerally speaking, there are two types of people in our churches: consumers and servants.

The consumers say:
• I want a church that ___________.
• I want a place where I can _________.
• The church is supposed to do ________ for me.

Servants ask:
• How can I help this church be _________?
• How can I make this a place where people can ________?
• How can I give _________ to others?

We all want to help move the consumers toward servanthood, but when we give in to the pressure to provide more services, do more events, and raise the quality of existing programs to unrealistic levels, we are enabling the people to stay exactly where they are in their discontentment and consumerism. They think pastors are the ones who are supposed to serve them instead of them seeing the body of Christ for what it’s supposed to be: a community of believers that serve each other and the world around them with pastors who are there to lead and guide the process.

Instead, we must give consumers what they need instead of what they want. What they need are people who will push them to serve instead of allowing them to tell the pastors to do certain things for them. For example, when a high school parent tells me that they want a time where their kid can hang out in the gym every week with other high schoolers, I say, “Sure, stop by the church office to schedule a time. They’ll be happy to give you a key so you can make it happen.” The blank stares I get are thinking, “No, I want you to do it for us.” The smile I return is thinking, “I know you won’t do it because you think it’s my job to do provide social times and events for your kid. If it’s really that important to you, you’ll make it happen.”

Most of the time the consumers will either get upset and talk to other people about what they don’t like about the youth ministry, or the gracious ones will just walk away. However, in those rare moments when someone voices an issue of discontentment and they actually respond to your challenge of servanthood, that’s when real spiritual growth and Christlikeness can start to take place in that person’s life.

Philippians 2:4-7 (NIV)
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant…”

As a postscript, remember that it’s better to do a few things will than many things mediocre. As one of my youth group’s seniors said so well, keeping kids busy with youth events does not necessarily equate to spiritual growth — it just means you’re keeping kids busy. Of course, saying no to certain programs and events is a lot easier when you have a clear vision and direction for your ministry.

And remember that the way we run our youth ministries now will influence a teenager’s perspective and view of church into their adulthood. Are you pushing students to be servants in the church and their community or are you primarily providing a service for teens and families to consume? Do your adults leaders serve mostly to help you in what they perceive as your ministry or because they feel ownership that it’s their ministry?

Creating church consumers will easily happen very unintentionally, but creating ministry servants takes a lot of intentionality and often resistance.

Posted on April 14, 2010

New eBookGo
Focused Youth Ministry ebook

85% off!

Focused Youth Ministry

This practical "how to" ebook will walk you through a 30-step process to discovering God's vision for your unique ministry context. The process also shows you how to implement that vision and put metrics in place to evaluate what is moving the vision forward and what isn't.

Price: $12.95 Limited time: $1.99