The authors of DiscipleShift argue that as we align our programs with our core focus (discipleship) we need to evaluate our programs and, at times, say ‘no’ to ideas for new ones. In chapter 9 (“Rethinking Our Practices”) they write:

…alignment is one of the hardest things churches grapple with. To say yes to your calling, you must necessarily say no to a lot of good things, and when you say no to a lot of good things, you say no to a lot of good people who don’t understand why you’re saying no. You’re saying no to something they are emotionally invested in.

The authors definitely exhort us to “avoid sweeping change in a church,” but they also say as church leaders regular evaluation of our programs in light of our core focus (discipleship) is mandatory. We need to explain why we are going to do something “…and then do one piece at a time.”

Where are we evaluating our church programs on a regular basis at FPCE? I know we have our annual reports to the congregation, but I don’t think these reflect the kind of program evaluation in terms of the core mission of discipleship that the book’s authors are talking about. This kind of evaluation can and should take place in our committee meetings, but we have a disconnect in many committees between the staff and the elected officers. I’m wondering why we don’t find monthly times for at least some of the elected officers of our church (deacons and elders) to meet with different staff members? I think it’s easy for us to remain in our traditional meeting/committee silos, and we need to find ways to encourage new conversations and communication about different programs and ministries in light of this “core focus” on discipleship.

It also occurs to me that we need to be finding ways to discuss these ideas on Sunday mornings, and at other times we gather for worship. Even a short two minute share time, when one of our elders gets up and talks a little about our study on DiscipleShift and what these ideas can mean for the specific committee that elder serves on would be welcome and beneficial. We ought to list this website in our bulletin as a place where church members can see the conversations and thoughts that our elders are having about DiscipleShift, and encourage them to participate as well. Have we invited our deacons to join in these conversations? We need to do this. We need to find more ways to engage each other in conversations about these ideas outside our “regular” committee meetings, Sunday services, and Wednesday night classes. We need to talk about these ideas within our existing small groups. We need to find ways to amplify the small group opportunities which are available in our church, and regularly talk to people about the importance of connecting within a small group.

Last of all, I’m wondering when we say “no” to a new idea or program of the church because it doesn’t involve the “five key components of discipleship” identified in chapter 9 of DiscipleShift? Can we point to a program or ministry proposal in the last six months that we’ve turned down and not followed because it didn’t align with this purpose? A lot of focus and attention has been given to the current change from one to two services. We need to encourage conversations about discipleship and small group, relational ministries. We also need to talk about and decide how we can intentionally build in “program evaluation” in light of our discipleship focus into our work on staff, on session, and in other church capacities. Otherwise, as the authors note in chapter 9:

…we will end up with a mismatched, disconnected community of people pursuing their own goals and programs that take on a life of their own.

I’d love to hear what others think about these ideas and how we can move forward to reflect the core focus on discipleship that the DiscipleShift authors exhort us to embrace. (The “Jesus model” of discipleship.)