Friday, October 14, 2005

An organic model for church growth!

Rev. Jeffrey Hawkins, a farmer and Lutheran conference dean, relies totally on nature to run his 99-acre farm in northern Indiana.

According to Hawkins, this way of farming offers a model for how churches should approach growth. In 2003, he began bringing pastors to work on his farm through his ministry, HOPE CSA, which stands for Hands-On Pastoral Education using Clergy-Sustaining Agriculture. Hawkins makes many parallels between factory farms and mega churches, and between sustainable farming - which doesn’t deplete natural resources or pollute the environment - and healthy churches.

I don’t want to demonize church growth and factory farms,” Hawkins said. “I want to help us be honest about the consequences of choosing those models.”

The most valuable lesson he has learned is that “things take time,” he said. Less focus on efficiency is essential to achieving “holy health,” which includes mental, emotional, vocational and physical aspects, Hawkins said.

Hawkins also emphasized that pastors should use all of their parishioners instead of the foreign fertilizer of outside programs to meet perceived needs. Setting up too many programs that rely on outside sources - such as conferences, CDs and videos - can make pastors too busy or distracted to really connect with their flocks, he said.

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