This is the question raised by Pastor Bruce Miller in his book entitled, Your Church in Rhythm. Based on a study of the biblical words for time, “chronos” and “kairos,” as well as the principle of timeliness in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, the author argues that church leaders shouldn’t search for an approach to ministry that is always balanced (it’s impossible to sustain doing everything well at the same time), but for God’s Spirit-directed rhythm within the Body of Christ that can lead to church health and to Kingdom growth over the long haul. Ministry is always moving and changing; it’s like growing crops—there is a time to plant, to nurture, and to harvest. He asks, “Where is your church at, and what is God calling you to do, or not do now?” “How can your church make the best use of time?” (Ephesians 5:15-18).
Timing is a dimension of church leadership which has often been neglected. If you ignore the rhythms in God’s growth stages (chronos measured time) and special seasons (kairos opportune time) for your church, you can hurt your church by wasting resources on concerns that don’t fit this time in your church’s life. For example, in the early days a church plant should focus on gathering a core and sharing God’s vision for a new congregation—rather than developing policy manuals and having all of the stuff an older church has. In its growing years, members won’t know everyone in your church and everyone isn’t going to participate in every decision. In its mature days, an established church shouldn’t be focused on offering every church ministry possible, but only what God has called them to do at that time (being busy is not the same thing as being fruitful). When it faces declining years, a church shouldn’t be obsessed with returning to the good ol’ days, but should make decisions which prioritize how they can advance God’s Kingdom agenda in the days they have left. Regardless of their size (this book addresses churches of all sizes in its case studies), churches can only focus on one or two major steps at a time.
Bruce Miller advocates that church leaders should first spend extended time in prayer, reflection, and discussion to discern what God is saying to His church. Then they should deploy a rhythm solution process to experience less stress and more effective biblical results…
1. Accurately identify the issue or situation your church is facing now. The “right time” can’t be set on a clock; it must be discerned by God’s Spirit speaking to the heart through His Word.
A. Are the demographics of your community shifting? (you can request free demographic reports from SCBI at firstname.lastname@example.org).
B. Is your church going through a pastoral transition? (you can request free training and resources for your Pastor Search Committee at email@example.com)
C. Is your church experiencing a decline in attendance and/or giving? (churches of all sizes can request revitalization resources from John Horn at the above email address)
D. Is your church dealing with a crisis from a tragedy, a conflict, or a moral failure? God can bring something good from this time if you’ll slow down and embrace what He is trying to teach you now; He never wastes a season in your life or your church!
E. Is your church growing rapidly and you need to reorganize your leadership structure? Do you need to start another worship service, build or renovate facilities? Do you need to raise additional funds through a capital giving campaign?
F. Coming out of COVID, is your church needing to focus more on church health–or on community outreach? (you can request SCBI-NAMB Evangelism Funds now at https://scbi.org/evangelismgrant/)
2. Define what the real problem is that could threaten your church’s continued viability.
A. In your church plant or mature congregation, are people growing impatient with the slowness of implementing significant change?
B. Is church leadership implementing too much change too fast, and it threatens to fracture your church?
C. Are you rolling out a new vision that may unsettle your established congregation?
D. Does the resignation of a key staff person threaten your church growth?
3. Assess what time it is in your church’s life (organizational stage or ministry season).
A. Organizational chronos stages: church plant stage, church growth stage, mature/plateaued church stage, church decline stage, or end of church ministry stage? (if your church is in the plateaued, declining, or end of ministry stage, you can request assistance from your SCBI Church Health Team)
B. Kairos ministry seasons: Are you developing a new church vision, or a new church ministry? Are you starting to pay for a full-time pastor or additional staff? Is there a current crisis in the community? Is pastoral leadership nearing retirement or succession? Are you implementing a relocation or name change for the church? Is there a unique opportunity to partner for community evangelism, to plant a church, or to engage in global missions?
4. Apply kairos rhythm principles in your church.
A. Choose to release unrealistic ministry expectations for what your church is going through at this time. For example, everyone won’t be excited about a new change. If your church is going through pastoral transition or a capital campaign, don’t attempt other major changes in the church at the same. If your church is in decline, don’t expect the numbers the congregation had in its early growth years, and don’t expect church culture to change quickly. Don’t waste time longing for a stage or season that isn’t God’s best for you now. Have a “things to stop list” and give your leaders the freedom to say “no.”
B. Seize the unique opportunities you have in this moment to be a part of what God is doing. It’s good to have goals and plans, but don’t miss what you’ve been given this moment to advance His Kingdom. Could this season present a new opportunity to build greater unity or to reach your community for Christ?
C. Anticipate what’s coming next–because these seasons are usually brief. Prepare to embrace God’s new direction.
5. Apply chronos rhythm principles in your church.
A. Determine a ministry pace for your church that is sustainable. Some ministries will need to change as time passes, but all your ministries can’t withstand constant change. Spread your ministry events over time so that you don’t burn out your leaders. Beware of ministry creep in which you have too many activities involving the same people.
B. Maximize mission-enhancing routines that can sustain your church over the long haul. Churches need some traditions such as worship, Bible study, prayer, the ordinances, fellowships and celebrations, special mission offerings, outreach opportunities, and Christmas and Easter services to build unity and to translate your values into actions—they encourage God’s people to remain faithful in challenging times. However, don’t stick with a tradition if it’s no longer effective in enhancing your mission.
C. Oscillate between high-intensity times of ministry and times for renewal. Jesus practiced this, and His followers can accomplish more for Christ this way. Too many pastors and churches today aren’t taking time to rest—keeping the pedal to the metal all the time. Plan your church calendar allowing for some busy and refreshing times of ministry.
We hope that you’ll enjoy reading this insightful book. If you want to talk about what time it is for your church, SCBI is here to partner with you to discover and fulfill your next step!