Maintenance to Missional

Did you ever have a “Deacon Clipboard” in your church? I did. Every Sunday, we would walk through the sanctuary’s doors, and there would be Deacon Clipboard standing to the side with his clipboard of names for who was going to do a prayer, who was leading songs, who was doing communion, and so on. Whenever the assigned person walked through the door, Deacon Clipboard would put a checkmark beside that person’s name. As long as everything was checked off, all was good. But the panic set in if someone didn’t show up to do their part!

I still see this in many churches today. Sometimes they have a Deacon Clipboard. Sometimes it’s a list of people serving in their bulletin. Sometimes it’s a bulletin board posted in the foyer. What these actions say is that this church is in maintenance mode. They do the same thing every week, only the names and faces change.

You might feel the conclusion that the church is in maintenance mode is a bit harsh. Every worship service needs organization and structure—right? Organization and structure are not what identify a maintenance-oriented church. So in what way can you tell if your church is in maintenance mode or missional mode? Here are three signs.


Sign #1 – Few in the church can say their mission. People know why their church exists in missional churches—and they can tell you! They know their church exists to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ (Willowcreek), to provide a place where the low, the sad, and hopeless can come and find help (Saddleback), or to inspire people to follow Jesus be engaging them in the life and Mission of North Point Community Church.

Keeping the doors open or providing me with a place where I feel comfortable are not mission statements. But too often, they are the de facto mission of many congregations. When church leaders make decisions based on who those decisions will make happy or angry, that is a maintenance mode church.

Sign #2 – Few new people stick. It’s a simple fact; if a church wants to grow, it has to bring in new people. There isn’t any other way. Maintenance mode churches are not designed for new people; they’re designed for their people. Maintenance mode churches used to depend upon people from their church brand to move in and look them up. Those people are few and far from nowadays. When they come, they don’t find reasons to come back again.

Missional mode churches are exciting places. They look for new faces and seek them out to find their names and stories. Missional mode churches have a thoughtful way of connecting with new people over an extended time. Missional mode churches help new people find their place in their church where they can gain friends, grow as disciples, and serve on a mission.

Sign #3 – The church is walking into the future backward. This is kind of a funny sign, but it is true. In maintenance mode, churches look to their past when looking for ideas. They look for what used to work and what they did when things were good. Maintenance mode churches find it hard to make changes because the “tried and true” hollers too loudly in their ears.

Missional mode churches have their eyes firmly set on the future. Like inquisitive three-year-olds, they are always asking questions. What are the people of our community needing? What are they looking for? Why do they or don’t they come to our church? Are our people growing as Jesus followers? How can we do better? Change is typically a constant, ongoing activity in missional churches because they want to make a difference.

Let’s be on a mission, friends!

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