Inefficient ministry

Archie Poulos

Inefficiency has to be part of our church life existence!

Part of surviving in a busy world is to eliminate inefficiency. The more efficient we become the more we can get done. This makes so much sense.

And so we streamline our meetings, our relationships, our times together so that we can make the most of time. After all we mustn’t squander our precious times together.

Families and friends

The problem with eliminating inefficiency is that inefficiency enables relationships to develop in deep ways. Friends just ‘hang’ together – spending time in the same space with each other with no particular agenda. And this permits the relationships to chart their own course and give experiences that build for the future.

In families, it is possible to eat meals ‘on the run’ and so feed the body the energy required to keep going, sitting down together creates family memories, allows us to engage in each other’s lives and it enables us to enjoy each other’s company.

What happens is that scheduled time gets tasks done efficiently, unscheduled or inefficient time allows relationships to be lubricated.

A story

Some years ago I recall having a weekly Christian meeting that we were all expected to be present at 3:00pm, but the meeting never formally began until 3:40. It did not take long for the participants to realize this and so they began arriving at 3:40. A couple of weeks later, the group convener read the riot act to us all for our tardiness. When we complained that we did not do anything until 3:40 he replied that the first 40 minutes was the time where we related to each other as brothers in the faith. If that was lost we would unravel as a ministry.

Reflecting back, these events taught me a number of things.

  1. Relationships are a web of complex interactions and so unstructured time is the best way to develop relationships
  2. Unstructured time is not a waste of time
  3. People need to know and perceive the value of unstructured time and why it is provided. (Not beginning till 3:40 was not tardiness or poor organization, but a deliberate blessing.)
  4. Despite the benefits of unstructured time. structured time must be used efficiently in order not to waste people’s time when they are being given to a task.

For churches

I want to say two seemingly conflicting things as we think about our gatherings as believers.

  1. Be organised and disciplined when we meet for formal purposes so that people know they are achieving what they set out to achieve, whether in our church meetings, small groups, parish councils or Sunday Schools
  2. Also create a space for unstructured, inefficient time in every gathering so that people can just be humans in company with one another and ensure we help each other to know that such a thing is a great blessing. For example morning ta is not just for quenching thirst, it is an opportunity to build deeper relationships.