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It was fall. I was a teenager. And the annual back-to-school ritual had begun. Mom hustled me off to the mall and dogged me from clothes rack to clothes rack as I painstakingly selected three shirts.
"What's wrong with this?" she demanded, holding a bright red-checked shirt to my chest. I hated checks.
"I don't like it," I moaned, my fragile teenage ego already dented by Mom's mere presence.
"You need enough shirts to get through the week," she declared with finality. "Now, this is a perfectly good shirt."
Needless to say, I went home with five shirts that afternoon and dutifully put them in my closet. The three shirts I picked, I wore. The others I didn't-not simply because I childishly balked at parental authority, but because I was also emerging into an adult, and I needed to make some decisions for myself.
Many times church leaders are frustrated with a congregation's lack of enthusiasm for a perfectly good church program. Perhaps it's because they have, not a rebellious child, but an emerging adult on their hands. A congregation not only grows physically, but also moves toward maturity. And that causes growing pains.
As an elder in a growing church, I worked with an adolescent congregation. Our church Session had successfully overhauled a stagnant, dying fellowship by introducing an innovative small-group ministry. "If you want to be a part of what's going on," we implied, "a small group is the place to be." Many of our people, especially our new arrivals, instantly felt they had a place to belong within the church.
Then, to improve pastoral oversight, the Session modified the system. Groups were clustered around elders who led them in monthly fellowship meetings. A few groups complained that this disrupted their routine. We suggested that the elders had their best in mind, and encouraged them to go along with the change.
The following year, we improved the program again, structuring it around ministry tasks. We felt that group members ought to be involved in organized ...