I just read a book called, Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. The premise of the book is that growing, vital churches are those who keep things simple. Do either of the following illustrations apply to your church?

We live in a fast-food world with super-size me expectations. Here’s one quote from the book:

“There is an epidemic of fast-food spirituality among believers today. We like big spiritual menus with lots of options. And we want those options served fast.

Many churches have become like fast-food establishments. A new idea emerges, and the menu is expanded. Someone wants a special event served in a particular way, and the menu is expanded. People assume that the more that can be squeezed into the menu, the better. So the brochure, the week, the calendar, the schedule, and the process gets expanded. Cluttered.” (p.199)

I’ve seen churches add more and more programs to the “menu” of their activities. Its very difficult to stop doing something when something new is added. We find it hard to lay things to rest, and so we just add more to the calendar. This creates a huge problem for smaller and mid-size congregations. We all have a finite amount of time and energy. If the church continually asks for more, something is going to suffer! (For some help in laying to rest a ministry, go to “Closing Down a Ministry”. Here you can listen to an 80 second presentation by Leith Anderson.)

Here’s another thought: churches, like people, can be thought of as pack rats. When I first arrived at my last congregation as pastor, I was amazed by the amount of stuff (mostly ancient records) that cluttered the church office. There was no space to put away anything new.

Programs and activities can be another source of clutter. Here’s another quote from page 204: “Many churches are littered with clutter. Floundering programs and ministries are stored and piled on top of one another. It is hard for people to make their way through the process of spiritual transformation because of the distracting clutter. . . it is interpersonally and historically challenging (to eliminate programs). People and history are involved.”

The solution can be summarized in four words: Clarity — Movement — Alignment — Focus.

Clarity: How clear is the mission or God’s calling upon your church?

Movement: How well are you moving your people through the process of connecting with God, growing in discipleship and getting engaged in ministry?

Alignment: How does everything your congregation does align with its mission and process for developing disciples?

Focus: How well are you able to keep the church focused on the above and free from distracting clutter of other (new) programs, activities or special events?

This book is an easy read, though you have to wait to the final chapter to really understand how to develop a “Simple Church”. Obviously, it would be a lot easier to create a simple church in a church plant vs. those of you in congregations that are decades old.

Have any of you read this book and tried to apply its principles? If so, has it helped? I’d love to hear from you!