The Difference Between Reforming & Eliminating (Yes, This Sounds Boring)

As I travel around Church World today I often hear these terms:

  • Cutting Costs
  • Trimming Overhead
  • Making the Organization More Nimble
  • Getting Rid of Waste
  • Tweaking the System

For various reasons – often connected to downsizing – we in Organized Religion find ourselves reorganizing.  In fact every organization from the United States Government to the local credit union is reorganizing all the time.  It’s part of 21st Century life.

This article – When Reform Means a Process of Elimination by Beverly Gage – caught my eye in terms of examining how we make those reorganizing decisions.  We in the Reformed Tradition claim to embrace ongoing reform theologically and ecclesiologically.

In the Gage article,  she notes that politicians politicize “reform.”  (Maybe we all do.) The majority in Congress, for example:

  • Calls cutting Obamacare “health care reform”
  • Calls cutting taxes for corporations “tax reform”
  • Calls cutting immigrants from a path to citizenship “immigration reform”

It’s also true that expanding healthcare beyond Obamacare, spending more taxes on mental health and infrastructure, and welcoming Dreamers into full citizens could be called health care reform, tax reform, and immigration reform, respectively.

Reform doesn’t always equal cutting back.  It could mean adding to.  It could mean shifting around.  It could mean re-thinking priorities.

I am foolish enough to believe that we have all we need to do ministry.  We simply need to be creative.

  • Instead of an Associate Pastor who serves the congregation alongside the Senior Pastor, maybe we need a Neighborhood Pastor who spends most of her time making connections in the community.  (This would give the congregation a better idea of authentic outreach needs in the neighborhood.)
  • Instead of a Children’s Minister (for 5-10 children) maybe we need a Christian Educator who focuses on the whole age range of congregants.  (This would nurture those children, the parents of those children, and everybody else, plus bolster relationships beyond generations.)
  • Instead of a secretary, maybe we could hire a high school student for two afternoons a week?  (This would give a fresh approach to media materials and the bulletin layout.)

Everybody is reforming the way we do church and the way we are Church.  Rather than making necessary changes through the lens of anxiety and pessimism, what if we made necessary changes through the lens of creativity and hope?

Messy cuts do a lot of damage.  Creative changes inspire!

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