The Goldilocks Zone: To Programme or DE-Programme the Church

Different people feel the Goldilocks zone lies in different places.

 I just wonder whether finding a Goldilocks zone is a luxury that only larger churches can afford? You may well find a middle ground in which you have some programmes (or, at least, only expect some people to do any one of them) and a free week the rest of the time, but small, struggling churches rarely have people to allow different teams to oversee different ministries. In small churches, you either have the same workers spread across different ministries or you don’t run the ministry at all.


I saw somebody paraphrasing Howard Hendricks recently. The context in which they were name-checking him was entirely different to this one but the point they were making was painfully relevant. It applies to an awful lot of church life and wider Evangelical views. Hendricks suggested that the church tends to veer from one extreme to another. He argued that the church very often finds a credible centre only for a brief moment whilst it is in the process of swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other. The argument holds in respect to the extent we should rely on programmes in the church.

It seem that frequent comment comes up about this question. Truth be told, I feel the force of the arguments in both directions. On the one hand, churches that load their week with programmes so frequently find their members exhausted and the emphasis falling on faithfulness measured by attendance. On the other, churches that intentionally under-programme their churches very often find themselves with people who simply content themselves to do nothing at all. Neither seems optimal.

The (seemingly) obvious answer, then, is to find a Goldilocks zone for programmes. The Goldilocks principle rests on what happened when she went to the three bears house. She tasted porridge that was too hot, then too cold, before landing on the one that was ‘just right.’ She did the same with a few others things too. Applied to the church, the answer to the question of programmes seems to be, we find just the right amount; neither too many that people struggle nor too few so that people wind up doing nothing at all.

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