Emily Post wrote “Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home” in 1922. This has been the Bible of Manners for generations of people. But, as many have discovered, some of the politeness policies no longer apply. For example it used to be considered impolite to congratulate a woman who had just gotten engaged. Instead, good etiquette recommended, “Best Wishes.” This, according to Anna Post, Emily’s great-great-granddaughter and full time worker at the Emily Post Institute is a “…rule [that] doesn’t really apply anymore” (SWA Spirit Magazine, Dec. 2008, p20).
This doesn’t mean politeness is no longer in vogue it’s the simple reality that times change.
“True etiquette is not really about rules. It’s about courtesy….(Ibid, p20). It’s about adaptation to any environment” (Ibid, p102).
The same could be said of churches. They need to learn to adapt to the environmental culture in which they choose to minister. The more fit a church the more agile she is in adapting.
Dissatisfaction often results in motivation. Once there is motivation than choices and change can occur. And change must happen as yesterday’s rules don’t, necessarily, continue to apply.
Following are some observations on choices and change.
Fitness is a daily choice not a one-time decision. A church decides to be fit then the leadership takes daily choices to ensure it continues on the correct path.
Fitness begins where you are. Tailor the fitness program to your current fitness level and unique life-situation. Often people who begin to exercise quit simply because they do too much too fast. The same with churches. They tend to want to be a 10K runner before they ever jog down the driveway. Quit looking at the other church, begin where you are!
Exercise is not always enjoyable; but results are. A person was asked. “What percentage of the time did they look forward to exercise?” Their response, “10% of the time, but I am glad I did it 100% of the time.” Know moving toward church fitness will be work. Focus on the results not the exercise.
Results will come in cycles, or seasons. A friend lost 60lbs over a three year span. When he began tracking his weight he actually gained a pound at the beginning, but he refused to quit. You are not looking for instant results, but consistent results. Be patient in the cycles when things don’t change as quickly as you would prefer.
Choose the key measurements of effectiveness. Know what you want to measure. In fitness it is not necessarily weight loss. It can be body toning or adding muscle. What you are after will determine the program you choose. Where do you want to see change? Evangelism? Discipleship? Maturity? Train accordingly.
Invest time in culture change. It is one thing to go on a diet and another to change eating habits. A diet may get results in the short haul, but eating habits will change everything. A program may help a church quickly, but changing the habits of the church is what you are after. Don’t short change the process.
Find what you can do when you are injure. There may be a preferred method of exercise, but what do you do when something (e.g. injury) precludes your participating? Well if you are determined to stay fit you find something else to help. A runner may swim, or a swimmer may use the elliptical. The idea is to get a workout. Churches too often forget the end result and focus on some program that has worked in the past. When that is no longer effective instead of finding another delivery system they stop doing anything.
This can be the year your church gets fit. Make right choices and see what changes God will bring.