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Posted by on Feb 14, 2011 in strategy | 4 comments

What if churches had “seasons” not “series”?

What if churches had “seasons” not “series”?

I want this blog to focus on helping church leaders execute with excellence. I try to focus on practical ideas, tips and tools to make the life of church leadership easier. This week I’m diverting from my normal approach and talking about three ideas that I don’t think any church is doing . . . yet.


Do you remember what Sunday services were like before the advent of “series preaching”? I still remember listening to a tape sometime in the early 90s from Bill Hybels called “Preaching to Seekers” in which he explained the concepts of teaching in a series of messages with a common theme to encourage people to come the following week and also helped them people retain and apply the information better.

Brilliant. What a great idea!

It was a simple and elegant way to attempt to “break the cycle of non attendance” and present the content in a way that made it easier for people to digest it.

But what if Sunday morning content for churches was based on the paradigm of “seasons” and not “series”. Similar to the way that television shows are on for a “season” and then off for a time period developing new episodes.

Instead of meeting on Sunday mornings for 52 weeks a year . . . what if we just met for three 10-12 week long seasons? Some quick thoughts on why we’d do this . . .

  • We tell our people that the life of Christian is about impacting the community and culture but then persist at filling up every moment of our people’s time so they can’t. This would give them 20 weekends a year to be out in the world being the church rather than attending church. I think we’d still have small groups and mission related activities happening when our weekends weren’t up and running.
  • Lots of churches consider a “regular attender” someone who comes twice a month . . .
  • We could take the “down weeks” to work on developing great content and experiences for our people and their friends. The weekly grind of producing services means that very few churches produce their best stuff every week. (Plus . . . absence makes the heart grow fonder . . . right?)
  • It would provide natural “on ramps” to service and community . . . “join the team for the next season to help with children’s ministry” . . . “during our break we are going to meeting in small groups across the region” . . .

The good people at North Point have done a similar thing as they’ve launched their Strategic Partners across North America. They have encouraged their new starts to not start meeting weekly right away in order to focus the resources on providing fewer experiences of higher quality. I love the heart behind this approach to do our best for our friends and family who don’t normally attend church! I’m wondering if they are onto something here . . . but we need to make it more of a systemic approach?

A number of churches already work in a manner similar to this but attempt to mask it. Bill Hybels has been taking the summer off for years to rest and recharge. Many churches have secondary teaching strategies that “fill in” when the lead teaching dude isn’t around.

Of course this is a crazy idea . . . but I’d love your thoughts on it. It would change our approach to finances, discipleship, leadership development and deployment . . . it would disrupt so much about the way tradition church works. I guess that’s why the ideal appeals to me . . . because if I read the stats right the church is shrinking in relevance and influence but we have the greatest message in the world and need to find new ways to get the message out!

So . . . what do you say? What if weekend programming at churches was more like a season and less like a series? [Comment now!]


Come back on Wednesday . . . if you don’t think I’m a total nut case after today’s post . . . and we’ll ask a question about what we can learn from farmers, the mafia and mouse traps when it comes to the way we help people grow in their faith.

4 Comments

  1. Continuing in the context of TV – they actually have ‘Seasons’ of a ‘Series’… implying that a Series would actually become even longer; technically spanning years of Seasonal message bursts.
    Perhaps, in this model, the future is much like the current expansion of OnDemand TV.

    Why not have multiple Series running at once within a Church?
    Right now I can pick what show to watch out of its relevancy to me and where I am emotionally, physically etc. Maybe we should be providing Church series in a similar way – to maximise the impact on my person, and meet me where I am at right now… where I need it most.
    Logistically, it would still require time off since Churches are then developing multiple Sunday’s! But it’s achievable.

    Or perhaps that is all too self-indulgent for the Church. Too much – ‘what’s in it for me’, not ‘what can I contribute’… it would be treading a fine line.

    Sim

  2. Jesus was crazy too, Rich…I think we follow him & these kinds of ideas might become a normal pattern of craziness! Good post.
    l

  3. “We tell our people that the life of Christian is about impacting the community and culture but then persist at filling up every moment of our people’s time so they can’t. This would give them 20 weekends a year to be out in the world being the church rather than attending church. I think we’d still have small groups and mission related activities happening when our weekends weren’t up and running.”

    Is it possible there’s a third way to respond to this dilemma? What if we were so intentional on teaching people that the Church exists in two senses—gathered and scattered—that they would begin to understand what it looks like to be the Church outside of Sundays?

    Instead of asking attendees to “invite friends to church,” what if we asked them to invade their respective places of work, rest, and play, and live the gospel out in those environments?

    What if Sunday weren’t the primary focus of the Church? What if Sunday were merely an opportunity to gather and celebrate what God has done through the Church Monday through Saturday rather than the primary avenue through which the Church presents the gospel?

    Liquid presents a unique opportunity to act this concept out. While churches with buildings have a physical representation of their existences outside Sunday services, Liquid doesn’t and can then be represented by people Monday through Saturday rather than just a building.

    Liquid is blessed to have a distinct opportunity to teach people that the Church isn’t something you go to; rather, it’s something you become a part of.

  4. I love this idea. Imagine the revolution in the church if all the regular attenders, for 20 weekends out of the year, instead of going to church, actually went out into the community…. it’s so crazy, it just might work. 😉

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