In the podcast, I mentioned something about out-growing your church and I was asked to explain what I meant. Here was my response
“Let me first say that outgrowing a church does not mean that I have become more spiritual than others. I am speaking more to outgrowing the organization and maybe the culture of the organization. The way I know I have outgrown a church is when I have stopped doing what I have been called to do (and hired to do) and have become apathetic towards what is going on around me. This could mean that their are no more challenges or it could mean that I have stopped growing in my potential. I pay close attention to the vision of a church, if the vision of a church and it’s practices don’t match or are not growing closer together in time, my heart gets restless and I start to pray for God’s leading. I have never told a church “I have outgrown you”. I simply say “it’s time for new challenges.”
We can never outgrow The Church, but we can outgrow organizations called churches no matter the size or denomination.
I have experienced these moments and found myself looking for another grow moment. Here are my three out-grow moments maybe they could be yours too.
1. I Was Apathetic About The Churches Vision and Direction
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in a staff meeting and was basically ignored while the rest of the team played small ball. I wasn’t the only voice for change or the appointed martyr, but it was clear, I did not like the direction the church was going. I discovered it was o.k. to disagree, just not out loud. I knew I was dying in the vine professionally and in some ways spiritually because of who we, as a church, were becoming.
I love God’s church and it kills me when when we think so small and in turn drag God down to our size. The older I get the less I can stand it. Small dreams are like gnats, I have to swat them away before they impair my vision.
2. I Was Out-Learning My Leader(s) At An Exponential Rate
I am not saying I was smarter or wiser than the leaders I was under because I wasn’t, but I was an early adopter of ideas, resources, strategies, and technologies that I felt would move the spiritual needle of our church. I read the latest books in various disciplines and heard the latest speakers and when I tried to bring something to the table I was patronized or disregarded.
Some days this old dog fights to learn new tricks because the generation I serve needs me to stay fresh even if I can’t stay up on everything. I now know that new is not always best and the Pastors I served were doing the best they could. Growing in knowledge was not the only sign that is was time for me to go but it as the failure to try anything new that eventually caused my heart to slip away.
3. There Were No More Challenges (I Stopped Growing)
When we first arrive at a church everything is new and shiny, isn’t it? We learn whose in charge, who’s secretly in charge, who are the most political people in the church, who are the nut jobs and and we eventually learn how to work with them or work around them. Those are one set of challenges.
The other set of challenges deals with growing through personal challenges. Like any other organization, the church can become predictable. When the worship becomes dry, the sermons drift towards safety and the programs taste of stale bread I check out. This may be due to a touch of ADD or it may be God stirring something in me. I used to feel guilty because I wasn’t enjoying church (which is different than enjoying God) but now I start to dig deeper when those feelings start showing up. God may looking to move me on to where I can be most effective.
He’s the hard truth I’ve had to accept. Just because I am dissatisfied and believe all the above statements are true and God says stay, I stay. He knows best and knows why I need to be where He planted me.
The longest I have every been at a church is five years. Why? I think it has to do with a combination of making some poor choices with the churches I chose to align with and part of it was outgrowing those systems. This is not Yeah Me! and Boo Them!, this is a fine line I walk with any organization
Maybe my fear is that I will stay too long at a church, becoming ineffective or worse, become part of the problem that creates an ineffective church culture in the first place.
If you’re feeling like this (or not) I’d love to walk with you in your youth ministry journey. I have an ongoing coaching group called Ministry Minded you can join and be a part of a community that’s trying to navigate their callings, increase their skills and, occasionally, vent like a sailor. Join us.