We are in our first year as Austin City Life. We are City Group driven but have a Sunday service. City Groups and services are intergenerational. Now that we have the Sunday service, people are beginning to look for “ministries,” ministries to singles, ministries to couples, ministries to women, and so on. People are understandably concerned that “they get ministered to” according to their stage of life needs. I am resisting this impulse for several reasons:

1. Ecclesiology Proper: It is our conviction that in order for the church to be the church, to one another and to the world, generations must intentionally cultivate community and practice mission together. We must deprogram the church from ministry shopping and “program” the church to be intergenerational, communal, and missional. How does the Body function properly if the hand says to the foot, “I don’t need you; I just need my generation” (1 Cor 12)?” How does the Temple bring the Cornerstone glory as living stones if the stones don’t live together (1 Pet 2)? The church should not live on generations alone.

2. Functional Ecclesiology: We have pushed our ecclesiology proper into a functional ecclesiology that largely relies on City Groups. City Groups are local, urban missional communities that meet weekly to share life and truth and to redemptively engage peoples and cultures. They are comprised of 6-12 people who commit to living out Four Practices based on Four Principles. They share everything from tacos to tears. City Groups are our foundational ecclesial structure; therefore, they have been programmed as geographical, intergenerational, redemptive communities that hold gospel and mission in common.

  1. Programming versus Program-driven: Just because we are an organic church, doesn’t mean that we avoid programming. All organisms are biologically programmed with DNA. As that DNA replicates and produces a maturing organism, it naturally takes on a clearly defined structure. Likewise, Austin City Life accepts programming as a natural part of healthy church growth; however our DNA includes an element of anti-program. In order to avoid becoming program-driven, we are striving to keep church simple. We are programming for less programs and more relational connections. Thus, we are against organizing the church around various generational ministries, divvying up the church into life-stage specific ministries, and we are for the generations to sharing life, truth and mission for more than an hour or so on a Sunday.

3. Realistic Expectations: As a church that is less than a year old, we have to guard against doing to many things, against being all things to all people. Why? We don’t have the volunteer power to service every need or want. Instead of spreading ourselves thin across numerous ministries, we have decided to focus on a few things and attempt to do them well in order to be the church. These things have largely been determined by our congregational profile. For instance, although we are a city church, we are not largely a singles or young couples community. In fact, we currently have more families than singles. Therefore, in order to responsibly shepherd the flock we have, we have developed a Children’s Ministry not a Singles ministry. However, if we were largely singles we would not have a Singles ministry; we would be pursuing ways for singles to share community and mission with non-singles, while addressing singles issues from the pulpit, discipleship, and City Groups.