Jump Start # 3323
Ecclesiastes 3:6 “A time to search and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away.”
Our verse today comes from the multiple couplets that we easily call the seasons of life. Opposites are presented side by side. We might even look at these as positives and negatives. Birth, finding things, embraces are all wonderful and precious moments in our lives. It’s those opposites that rip our hearts and create pain and struggles. Death, uprooting what is planted, weeping, shunning, throwing away, giving up as lost, tearing apart, and war—those are tough times in our lives. Solomon tells us that there is a time for those things.
One of hard things for congregations to grasp is when is it time to stop things. With much excitement and planning, we launch new ideas to reach people with the Gospel or to better encourage the congregation. Youth events. Ladies day classes. Lectures. Special studies for young couples. VBS. And, for several years, even decades, those events bring great enthusiasm, help and hope to people. Many have benefited from those special classes.
But now, the fanfare seems to be lacking. The attendance is slim. It’s hard to get people excited about these things and even harder to find the support needed to conduct these things. And, one of the tough decisions leaders have to face is knowing when it’s time to pull the plug on events and end them. Sometimes those in charge feel like they have failed if they must stop these things.
Here are a few thoughts:
First, our passage reminds us that there are different times. Times to find things and times to give up the search. Looking at the makeup of the congregation often leads to these decisions. A group that has very few children will likely not see the value of having a VBS. If there are very few young couples, having a marriage seminar likely wouldn’t be well attended.
Churches move in cycles. There will be times when there are so many children that the concern will be what classrooms to use. Then, the cycle shifts and the children have grown and moved away and now things look differently. Leaders must be flexible and be willing to make adjustments year by year.
Second, because things are always continued through the years does not mean the effort was wasn’t good or the project was a failure. For the time that it was offered, good was accomplished. That’s the point one must look at. Instead of trying to develop something that will last generations, focus upon today and what can be done for now. What is needed today may not be needed tomorrow. My little grandchildren are growing and what I see my kids doing is shifting away from baby beds, high chairs and little teething rings. They were needed at one time and very helpful. But now, they are stuffed away and not needed. They move on to other things. A congregation needs to think that way.
Third, because something is stopped for now does not mean down the road it can not be presented again. In a period of time, as that cycle changes, so does the needs of a congregation. It seems in a growing church, things will be shifting around from year to year. The diet, needs and concerns of a congregation shifts as it matures and faces different challenges. It’s valuable to recognize that, understand that and adapt to that.
As events, programs, meetings and classes change though the years, there ought always be a need for something. It may not be what was done last year, or ten years ago, but there are always a place for classes, devotions, studies and specialized lessons that will help people connect with the Lord and each other.
Years ago in one of the colleges I attended, the food was always the same. Every Monday it was the same thing. The Tuesday menu was always the same. The Wednesday food the same every Wednesday. Knowing what day of the week it was told us exactly what we were eating that evening. It was very tiring. Many skipped out and found something better to eat. What a congregation offers can seem that way to people. Find special ways to bring the Bible alive. Use videos. Have smaller classes. Focus upon certain age groups. Put some thought into what is being offered.
There is a time, the preacher said. Knowing that time is the key.