Monday, October 23, 2006

Maintenance or Mission?

I’ve received a good deal of response to my email last week about measuring effectiveness in ministry. Reagin Brown sent me this excerpt, which he found at the Crossmarks website. It’s from an article by Harold Percy, "Good News People." I very much liked its contrast between "maintenance" and "mission" as well as its stress on “effectiveness” being a mutually shared matter between pastor and congregation. The only thing I would add is that “effectiveness” is not only a matter of the faithfulness of pastor and congregation but also of God’s Holy Spirit working through us and our shared ministries!


1. In measuring the effectiveness, the maintenance congregation asks, "How many pastoral visits are being made? The mission congregation asks, "How many disciples are being made?"

2. When contemplating some form of change, the maintenance congregation says, "If this proves upsetting to any of our members, we won't do it." The mission congregation says, "If this will help us reach someone on the outside, we will take the risk and do it."

3. When thinking about change, the majority of members in a maintenance congregation ask, "How will this affect me?" The majority of members in the mission congregation ask, "Will this increase our ability to reach those outside?"

4. When thinking of its vision for ministry, the maintenance congregation says, "We have to be faithful to our past." The mission congregation says, "We have to be faithful to our future."

5. The pastor in the maintenance congregation says to the newcomer, "I'd like to introduce you to some of our members." In the mission congregation the members say, "We'd like to introduce you to our pastor."

6. When confronted with a legitimate pastoral concern, the pastor in the maintenance congregation asks, "How can I meet this need?" The pastor in the mission congregation asks, "How can this need be met?"

7. The maintenance congregation seeks to avoid conflict at any cost (but rarely succeeds). The mission congregation understands that conflict is the price of progress, and is willing to pay the price. It understands that it cannot take everyone with it. This causes some grief, but it does not keep it from doing what needs to be done.

8. The leadership style in the maintenance congregation is primarily managerial, where leaders try to keep everything in order and running smoothly. The leadership style in a mission congregation is primarily transformational, casting a vision of what can be, and marching off the map in order to bring the vision into reality.

9. The maintenance congregation is concerned with their congregation, its organizations and structure, its constitutions and committees. The mission congregation is concerned with the culture, with understanding how secular people think and what makes them tick. It tries to determine their needs and their points of accessibility to the Gospel.

10. When thinking about growth, the maintenance congregations asks, "How many Lutherans live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?" The mission congregation asks, "How many unchurched people live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?"

11. The maintenance congregation looks at the community and asks, "How can we get these people to support our congregation?" The mission congregation asks, "How can the Church support these people?"

12. The maintenance congregation thinks about how to save their congregation. The mission congregation thinks about how to reach the world.


Milton Stanley said...

Glad to see you've begun blogging. I've benefited from your preaching and writing for a number of years, and it's good to find your contributions in this format as well. Peace.

Danny Mercer said...

We often think that because we do missions we are a missional church. Being missional goes to our core dna. Do we see ourselves as the "gathered" or as the "sent"? The "gathered" do missions, the "sent" are the mission.

Kevin J Bowman said...

I am not a pastor but I love your post.... My question would be how does a group of 8-10 missional members affect the leadership of the church to move from maintenance to missional?

John Meunier said...

I'm trying to understand the dynamic at the heart of point 5.

What does the pastor do with newcomers that other members do not. I have some vague sense what might be at issue here, but I don't understand it.

dan said...

This is a fantastic post. And I am also glad to see you blogging. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I too am confused about Percy's number five. Any thoughts?

Danny Mercer said...

I was caught off guard by #5 as well. But, I think what is being said is that in the maintenance church the pastor is the primary first contact for outsiders, whereas in the missional church the members are the primary first contact with outsiders because they are bringing them.

Jacob said...

There are certainly some good things to be taken from this post; however, I don’t like the implication that “mission” must exist to the exclusion of “maintenance” (or vice versa). Both are fundamental concerns and - like most issues in the kingdom - must be balanced. Did anyone else get this either/or vibe, or am I misreading it?

paul m. said...

I wonder, since this is a blog dedicated to dialogue of the movement of Methodists in North Alabama, if you ask the question posed by #10 verbatim. If so, it would be another indicator of maintenance congregations who ask: how many church-goers are available in our area and how can we appeal to them? "Maintenance" congregations welcome the influx of folk who become disgruntled with their current affiliations, and join us as 'new' members of the body of Christ.

I come from the Lutheran tradition and can certify that this mentality exists in areas. Some communities of Christ, of which I have been privileged to be a part of, think that mission is raising the Lutheran flag as a beacon to let the faithful come near. Growth is measured by transfer growth.

Matt said...

Those are very great points and two ends of a continuum. I like what one preacher said when interviewing at a church. The elders asked him how he intended to feed the flock. He told them his job was to make them hunger.

What many churches make their mission is holding to their traditions rather than to their biblical mandates as a congregation. That is a naturally human thing to do. It seems when we fall into default mode we enjoy looking at our past laurels rather than wondering what opportunities God still has waiting around the next corner if we would just take a moment to get up, walk around the corner and see.

#5 - I don't think it is who is bringing them because in both instances it is a member taking that person to someone (either another member or a minister).

I am really glad I ran into your blog. Your writing has really challenged me over the last several years.

Bob Longman said...

That statement about the congregation thinking "How many Lutherans are there..." hit home.

The history of that was that many congregations were created to serve a certain group of immigrants (for Lutherans, it was Germans, Swedes, Finns, etc.) They still have that mentality, even though that need hasn't been there since the end of WWII (even WWI for some groups).

In my area on Long Island, the congregations have no members from some neighborhoods, and few (though slowly increasing) from certain ethnic groups. We acknowledge this, but act as if it will eventually correct itself, without a special effort. It won't. It takes a lot more than hanging something on a door handle on nearby blocks (not bad, and more than most others are doing, but still not 'getting it').

I'm really groping for something here, feeling around the 'Net for some handle to grab on to for helping to make that change.

Bob Longman