I must admit. I’ve never had a one night stand. But, I have offered them in a way over the years to the church.
Here’s what I’m getting at — church events are often one night stands, so to speak. These are conferences and seminars, retreats and even worship services. You get people all pumped up. You move people to a decision or commitment. People leave filled with hope only to run directly into real life. Decision is the first step to making a change, but change requires further steps to actually happen.
A classic example is the Promise Keepers movement in the 1990’s. The dynamic of bringing tens of thousands of men together in a stadium was truly inspiring. Every man pledged to be a better husband, father, brother, and son…and they really wanted to. I really wanted to. Before long, Promise Keepers inevitably became promise breakers. There were some exceptions. The issue centered around the lack of a plan. There was no next step for the men to take in order to keep those promises. This isn’t just my observation. This is the conclusion Randy Phillips, the former president of Promise Keepers, reached.
Should churches stop doing events?
Events are powerful. Women’s conferences, Men’s retreats, Marriage conferences, worship services — all of these things can be powerful catalysts for life change — but events alone do not produce transformation. Every dieter and debtor can attest to this.
Imagine the wife who has been longing for her marriage to improve. Her husband decides they should attend the church’s marriage conference. They have a great weekend. He aspires to be the godly husband she needs. She pledges to be the godly wife. The conference ends and things are different for a little while. Eventually, old patterns and routines begin to emerge. While they aspired for more, they are programmed for less. The marriage conference didn’t produce lasting change. In fact, it produced a great deal of frustration for both husband and wife.
To answer the question — if churches offer only standalone events with no next steps, then they should stop doing events. Decisions without deliberate steps lead to defeat.
Turn Wishful Thinking into Willful Action
For every event a church plans, you must ask the question: What’s the next step? Decisions without steps and support lead to discouragement and failure. This is why so many people in your church are faking it — they don’t want anyone to know that they aren’t as together as they appear. They know what they’re supposed to be. They’re just not that good. None of us are, really.
You may not have any influence over what events are offered at your church, but you are not helpless. Look at every event, every retreat, every conference, and every service as an opportunity to offer a next step. What is your church promoting right now?
A financial series — offer Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.
A marriage conference — Does the speaker have a book or a study to start groups?
A parenting seminar — Start groups with parents at various stages.
A weekend service — Create a sermon discussion guide (maybe with a short video).
You get the picture.
If you are responsible for these events, then you can insist on a next step. If you’re not, then you could certainly recommend one, and even offer to run it.
Is your church offering spiritual one night stands? If you are not capitalizing on the decisions and momentum of an event to create groups for lasting change, then you are squandering a great opportunity (and frustrating your people). Aren’t you ready to see lasting change?