Comparing Ministry Models

Sorry for not posting much lately. I’ve been working on a couple of writing projects and just haven’t had the time. I’m posting some simple thoughts today on ministry models. It is just some recent thoughts, and decided to write them down to help me to process them.

I’ve been thinking about discipleship and ministry within the context of programatic churches, attractional churches, and missional churches. Having been in programatic churches and attractional churches, and having worked to transition our church into a missional model, I’ve come to some conclusions about discipleship and ministry in these different types of ministry models. In this post, I want to express what I believe are the discipleship and ministry models of each of these in general practice, noting that exceptions exist for each.

Programatic Churches. This is the church I grew up in. The idea was to come, listen, absorb, and do. Come to church; it is the way to keep yourself from being involved in the ways of the world. In high school, I was at church most of the day on Sunday, Monday night for visitation, and Wednesday night for mid-week service. Everything happened at the campus of the church. The discipleship model was to come and listen and absorb. We would get teaching during Sunday School, then during the sermon, then discipleship training (the p.m. equivalent to Sunday School), the Sunday night sermon, and then the Wednesday night Bible Study. The idea was to immerse the Christian in the scriptures so that they would assimilate the information through sheer exposure and hopefully live it out.

Attractional Churches. This is the church we hear about most. The idea is to come and be entertained and encouraged. This is the highly practical church, focused more on helping people get introduced to Christ and how to live their lives daily in a practical manner. There isn’t a lot of verse by verse preaching and preaching on theological concepts. The focus is on the show or production each week. The basis for discipleship is to find a small group and grow in that. Some churches have various ministries to help the community, such as car repair for single mothers, etc, However, because so much emphasis is put on the weekend, the week days are intentionally quiet.

Missional Churches. This is my emphasis. The model here is to become and go together. The discipleship model is based on being or becoming. Matthew 10:24-25 talks about the student becoming like his teacher, referring to discipleship with Jesus as the teacher and us as the students. There are times of mentorship where the teacher invests his life (who he is) into the lives of those whom he disciples. He is not passing on information but his character, wisdom and experience. John Maxwell said once in a conference that “we teach what we know; we reproduce what we are”. This is the result of mentoring. Mentoring occurs in the context of living life together. Therefore, this is a highly relational model. In this model, the doing is going and doing together. At times there is intentionality in the going and doing. But often it is Spirit-led, in the moment doing. It is a “come upon” kind of ministry, where we do ministry when we come upon the opportunities.

It is easier to do attractional ministry, and probably more culturally desired. It is low-commitment and low-relational and offers the anonymity many want. Missional churches are more difficult because of the amount of time required in relationship. But what is offers is what people seem to want but not engage in: transforming community. I am not around more programatic churches anymore, but what I remember about them was a lot of busyness. In a world of busyness, it is getting harder to ask people for more time.

What challenges do each of these models face? What other generalities did I leave out? What kind of church would be more effective to plant?

David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.

He has also pastored 3 churches and loves to think about, write about and podcast about scripture, theology, and leadership.

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  • David…

    …and chance of gaining your permission to use this post…which is excellent…with some of the leadership mentoring I’m doing with developing/emerging leaders?

    …let me know what I have to do o get that

    …extra glad I’ve found your blog

    …it is most welcome!!!


    Wes Roberts
    Leadership Design Group

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