When we hear of something that is working at another church it seems our instinct is to try to copy the model and try to bring that event to our church. The thought is that it worked for them, it will work for us as well. However, we should always consider, a copy almost never is as good as the original whether it is a photocopy of a magazine article, an art print, a clay sculpture, or any other work. The same is true with events or ministries at churches. Churches copying models is often detrimental to the health and life of a church, draining energy and resources, sending declining churches further into their downward spiral.
Instead of copying models leaders should focus their attention on the principles behind the success of another ministry organization. Most often it is the discipline to stay focused on biblical principles that drives the success of any venture. A church in Hawaii whose pastor wears flip flops and floral print shirts in January may experience growth. However, for a pastor in New York city to try this in January would be closer to insanity. It is not the model but adherence to the principles that grows churches. Yet, each year many churches want to copy a model they’ve read about or heard of another church having success with.
At one church where I served on staff we implemented a ministry we called Discovery Dinner. The Discovery Dinners were designed to introduce newcomers to the church (people) and the ministry of the gospel being carried out by the church (people). Our first Discovery Dinner had 14 unchurched guests in attendance along with about 20 church members and staff(we kept the invited number of participants small intentionally). From that one dinner our church recognized at least 28 new members. That is a phenomenal 200% response. What other evangelistic event have you seen or heard of with a 200% positive response rate?
I do not have room here to write the details of the event, There was a lot more to it than putting on a dinner and calling it a Discovery Dinner. Here is my reason for writing about the Discovery Dinner. Following about two years of successful Discovery Dinners (4 per year), I sensed it was time to shut them down, at least for a time. People, including other staff, thought I was crazy. But soon they realized the time was right.
I have served on staff at two other churches and continue to work with churches as transitional pastor and coach/consultant. While the Discovery Dinners were a very successful ministry at this one church, I never attempted to implement them in another church. I have, however, used the same principles in other ministry efforts – efforts that suited the membership of the church and the community we were reaching. Discovery Dinners were very successful at this one church because it matched the gifts and talents of the members while meeting a need in the community. The principles have continued to work in other churches using other ministry efforts.
Principles are timeless and cross over through culture, ethnic, and geographic environments. Think of gravity as a principle. No matter where you are on the earth, the principle of gravity is in force. You cannot sidestep it. Focusing on and adhering to biblical principles are the driving force behind success in the church. Focus your energy on determining the biblical principles of successful ministries. Then bring those (principles not models) into the context of your particular ministry setting.