I’ve listened to teachers that I thought were delivering material that was no longer relevant. I’ve used operating systems and apps in my laptop that are equally outdated and irrelevant. The global economy and social media has made some methods of business irrelevant.
Can that happen to a church?
Who decides if a church is relevant? The pastor? The congregation? The community the church is located in? It’s a holistic answer that involves several practical thoughts. Here are a few:
To be relevant, simply means that it matters.
Relevance means what you do matters. Relevance means that your ministry makes a difference and people’s lives are changed. True relevance would suggest that the surrounding community notices your presence and appreciates your ministry.
Don’t confuse relevance with style.
Relevance is not about your choice of worship or how casual you may or may not be; that is about style and preference. Relevance isn’t about a sport coat vs skinny jeans, or whether your shirt is tucked or un-tucked.
Relevance is more about quality and effectiveness. Pastors will ask me if I think choirs are still relevant in today’s culture. If the choir is really good, it is absolutely relevant. Bad choirs are irrelevant. Just ask the question… does it work? If it works, it’s relevant. But you have to be honest about the answer to that question.
Don’t answer questions that no one is asking.
Have you ever played Trivial Pursuit? It’s a fun game, but beyond that, who really cares about those questions? If you weren’t trying to win the game, no one would care about the answers. If we aren’t careful, we can answer questions as part of local church ministry that no one is asking. That is irrelevant.
As a leader, I first learned this principle with my own children. When they were young they asked hundreds of questions. By their teen years the questions slowed to a near stop. I had to find where they were at, be patient, learn what their questions were, and parent from that perspective. Then I could use their questions to lead to timeless truth.
You don’t have to dumb down your theology to be relevant, but you do need to understand what people are really asking to be a relevant leader, teacher and pastor.
Embrace innovation and change.
You don’t have to do what any other church does, but you can’t do what you’ve always done.
The message remains the same, but our methods must change. Technology alone insists that we change our approach to ministry. Technology changed who we hire on staff, how we broadcast and share messages, and how we communicate with volunteers.
People used to carry their bibles to church, now bibles are in their smart phones. When I started in ministry, no church had a website. Today, if your website is outdated, not user friendly, or untended to, your church appears irrelevant.
Relevance matters. What are you doing really well? What might you need to change?