In my interviews with Churches, not only did they have the chance to ask me questions but I had the chance to ask them questions. This is always an enlightening experience to a pastor. It can reveal to me several vital pieces of information about a Church. I often ask about leadership, former staff, expectations and their struggles. Inevitably there will be a discussion about the events that a Church holds each year. Each Church seems to have a series of traditional events that they do every year. Some Churches do a summer Vacation Bible School (VBS), some Churches have special holiday gatherings and still other Churches have special youth or children’s programs. The list of possibilities is long.
I am often curious about why each Church holds these particular events. Usually no one can really answer that question. When the people feel unsure about their own reasons they begin to tell me about some past successes. “Our VBS used to bring in all the kids in town.” “Our youth Sundays used to be the highlight of the Christmas season.” “People used to come from all around for our 5th Sunday Singspiration.”
The follow-up question for me is, “And what is happening now?” The excuses flow. The blame often falls on busy schedules, poor parenting or some lack of commitment.
Let me share the truth with you. Once upon a time the Church held an event and it was wildly successful. It fit a need. It helped people. The Church was excited by this success so it said, “Let’s do this again next year.” And they did. It might have had even more success than the first time. People were excited and volunteers were up. The success of the first year catapulted the event into unbelievable success. New families came, people accepted Jesus as their Savior and lives were changed. The chant went out, “Let’s do this every year.”
So the Church began holding the same event every year. The same program was recycled year after year. It became a standing tradition in the Church. It is an event that we hold every year.
Something sad happened along the way. The membership of the congregation changed. The make up of the community changed. Schedules of families changed. Needs of the people changed. All the while the program stayed the same. Now it is not successful, but we keep right on doing it and hoping that one day it will be successful again.
All traditions are built on past success. I appreciate those victories. I applaud those visionaries servants.
The hard question to ask is if it is still successful. If not, who has the courage to kill it and start something new. But know, one day we will have to kill that program too.