Definition: Maintenance Mode

Made for Mission by Tim Glemkowski

As I shared last time, I’m reading Made for Mission and am planning to share a little bit about it each week for the first quarter of the year.

This week I want to talk about what we mean when we say, “Move your Church from Maintenance Mode.” What is “Maintenance Mode”? I’ve heard many definitions and even created some of my own over the years that include things like the following:

  • Don’t focus on paying the bills.
  • Move from keeping the people in the pew to getting new people in the pew.
  • Stop talking about repairs needed to the buildings.

Tim provides a slightly altered version to the definition that has helped me understand more what “Maintenance Mode” really is.

Following the Second Vatican Council, with its radical call to go outward and re-Christify the world, too many parishes simply focused inward, enacting changes to the liturgy and governance, looking to parish membership and offertory as benchmarks of success. This emphasis is responsible for some of the decline we are seeing today. The maintenance model seemed to be all that was required of parishes when the secular culture largely supported religious practice. Yet this apparent vitality lulled us into a false sense of security. We mistook high levels of activity in our parishes for overall healthy cultures and never considered looking deeper to see if our parishes were really fulfilling their mission: to form disciples.

Made for Mission, pg 45

“Maintenance Mode” includes parishes that are purely focused on the literal maintenance of the physical plant, but also those that are focused on just keeping people in the pews. We should note that just because someone is in the pew that doesn’t mean they are disciples of Jesus Christ.

That’s a hard truth to realize, but it is the truth. A parish focused on mission is focused on discipleship: deepening it for those in the pew and bringing new people into the fold. It’s a both and mission.

Something to consider as we continue to dive into a new year, a new decade (although that seems to be up for debate on the internet). Is your parish focused on maintenance or mission? If you’re focused on maintenance, what’s one thing you can do to shift to mission?

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