Which ministry-related programs are available at your church? Generally, whether reformed or not, many churches have Sunday school, a men's and women's group, perhaps a mid-week Bible study or small group, VBS during the summer, nursery, youth group, music ministry, and a homeless outreach. If you are a larger church, and depending on your location, you may have a ministry to military personnel, counseling center, outreach to high school students, AWANA, young mothers ministry, and/or short term missions. Each of those programs can require a significant amount of time and energy.
While I am not writing to advocate for or against certain ministry-related church programs, it has been my experience that churches with a variety of programs often shuffle the same people throughout those ministries to ensure the programs remain available and are running somewhat smoothly. It is the old 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the work is accomplished by twenty percent of the people.
When this occurs--and I have seen and heard numerous stories like this--it has the potential to produce a tired church. In other words, the saints, along with their children, as a recognized visible institution, are worn out. They are weary, but since they are intent on keeping all the programs afloat for consumers, they stay in a state of fatigue, especially considering help from the majority of the congregation does not exist.
At this point, ministry leaders begin to triage all church-based programs. The important ones remain while those that seemingly do not produce much fruit or never really got off the ground cease. Unfortunately, if the church is a highly programmed entity, the ministries that were cut will only be replaced by other ministries. The new ministries will be staffed by the same people thereby repeating the cycle of creating a tired church.
There are times, however, when the church is not tired, but Christians are. Perhaps one's church adequately staffs the various ministries it maintains and has overthrown the 80/20 rule, yet the people still seem a bit lethargic? Why is this occurring? While some Christians may not be in a program-based church, a church that has many ministries, or a church that is experiencing the 80/20 rule, their lives are often program-led. I have observed this primarily with families with several children.
Although this does not have to be the case, it seems that many families are consumed in the extracurricular activities of their children. On Mondays, they have soccer practice. On Tuesdays, one child has piano lessons while another child has to be dropped off at swim class. On Thursdays, the oldest son has martial arts training. On Fridays and Saturdays, depending on the age of the children, many of them spend time with their friends. This is not often downtime for parent(s). They have to catch up on things they did not accomplish throughout much of the week because they were chauffeurs for their children. Or what normally happens, depending on the financial predicament of the family, the mother is the chauffeur because the father/husband is working all day. She, therefore, is exhausted by the time the week comes to a close.
Then, there is church. What can tired Christians give to the church? They are exhausted when they walk in the front door and perhaps they are more tired when they leave. Yet, their day is not complete because Sunday is assigned for grocery shopping. Life continues and church is simply another thing added to the list of to-do's for the tired Christian.
There are tired churches and there are tired Christians. While some seasons in the church and/or in our lives may be busier than others, producing a sense of fatigue, I hope that the sense of weariness, in God's good providence, comes to an end, and you begin to develop a vibrancy to serve both in your home and in your church. That may take a bit of re-prioritizing at church and in the home, but it is possible to avoid being a tired church or a tired Christian.