“People over programs” is a cliché most will give lip-service to, but this idea is much harder to actually imprint into the DNA of a ministry among immigrants. Why?
- Programs are good for optics, provide a feeling of accomplishment for leaders, and are vastly easier than relationship facilitation.
- Programs can be planned, relationships cannot be.
- Programs have a clear beginning and ending. Relationships usually have no expiration date (and if they do, there are often deeper issues that should be addressed).
- Programs are straightforward, relationships are messy.
But the fundamental truth remains: people are eternal, while programs are not.
Certainly, programs have their place. Simply cancelling all regularly scheduled events and meetings of the church would be counterproductive.
But programs should not be precious—whereas people should be.
Our immigrant ministry programs and events should be periodically reevaluated to ask whether they exist as an end unto themselves or as a springboard to deeper relationships.
And in the culture of extreme busyness in America—which often leaves people (particularly immigrants) feeling alone and adrift amidst constant activities—ministry leaders should not be afraid to prune programs which are not pulling their weight, since this intentional pruning creates margin.
And margin is the almost extinct and incredibly valuable soil in which true crosscultural friendships can grow.
For more encouragement and practical tips for welcoming ministry, check out Loving the Stranger: Welcoming Immigrants in the Name of Jesus (affiliate).