Bridge or Destination?

One of the conversations our staff is having a bunch these days: Is this program a bridge or a destination?

Churches are notorious for creating programs to meet specific needs at specific times but with very little long-term clarity about how the program fits within the overall purpose of the church. That kind of lack of clarity leads to bloated budgets, overwhelmed staff, confusion of purpose, untouchable sacred cows, and programs that no longer accomplish what they were designed to accomplish.

From my perspective, programs need to be either bridges or destinations.

Bridges have the singular goal of helping a person span from one destination to another. You don't live on a bridge. They're utilitarian. As a result, you can tell whether or not a bridge is working by figuring out whether or not the people who get on the bridge exit the bridge in the place the bridge was designed to take them. If they get stuck on the bridge, fall off the bridge, or end up in the wrong place, you might want to examine your bridge.

Destinations are the places you land. You stick there and live for long periods of your life. You shouldn't need many destinations because destinations should sustain life fairly well. You can tell whether or not a destination is working by looking at how frequently someone has to hop on a bridge to get their legitimate needs met at another destination.

Would you build a house in a place where you had to drive long distances on a regular basis to get your basic needs met? Where you had to drive across one bridge to get groceries, cross another bridge to get to the doctor, cross two bridges to buy clothes, and another bridge to go to the restroom, and another two bridges to return to your home? Of course not - you would spend your whole life in the car.

Unfortunately, a lot of churches do this to people all the time. We create hundreds programs, each designed to provide a single basic discipleship need for people. We've got hundreds of bridges that go in hundreds of directions toward hundreds of destinations. Then we wonder why our churches aren't knocking the ball out of the park when it comes to disciple-making. People can't navigate our systems and don't want to live there anyway. So, they pick and choose the bridges and destinations that are closest and ignore the rest.

We've got to be more strategic at asking fundamental questions before we start a new program: If it's a bridge, is it the most strategic bridge to get people where they're going? If it's a destination, do we really want people to live here?