Strengths of Peas and Pumpkins

This post is a continuation of last week’s musing on the cultural DNA of people and congregations. Just to bring everyone up to speed, I’m defining “Pea” and “Pumpkin” as follows:

Definitions

Pea – a person or congregation that primarily values deep friendship; high levels of involvement and commitment; and structural freedom under the leadership of Holy Spirit.

Pumpkin – a person or congregation that primarily values technical excellence; cultural and/or institutional change; and meeting people where they are in order to shepherd them.

Implications

Because of the immense value placed on relational connectivity, Peas congregations tend to be small. This means that everyone needs to pull their own weight (financially, volunteering, pitching in) or else the congregation cannot sustain itself. Therefore, the people that gravitate to and remain in Pea congregations enjoy having a place where they can offer what they have. Peas also tend to have a very concentrated culture which the congregation loves, but that visitors/outsiders may or may not resonate with. Typically, if an outsider is going to “hook up” with the congregation, it means they are going to adjust themselves to the group, rather than the other way around.

On the other hand, Pumpkin congregations tend to be large because they do certain things very well. They are essentially the McDonalds of Christianity. (I mean that in the best way possible.) What I mean by that is this. No matter where you are in the world, if you step into a McDonalds, you know basically what to expect. It is going to be clean, friendly and the kids will have a place to play. The food will be just what you expect — nothing crazy. Pumpkins excel at franchising because a large percentage of the population expects certain things from the Church and Pumpkins deliver. This allows the Pumpkins to live out their primary desire — cultural/institutional change. Because they have such a large group of people gathered together around a central purpose, it is easy for Pumpkins to mobilize people for change.

Strengths

Implicit in the descriptions above are certain strengths and weaknesses. Because I am heavily biased towards being a Pea, it is easy for me to see the strengths of Peas and the weaknesses of Pumpkins. HOWEVER, I’ve come to realize that both are needed in order to advance the Good News of the Risen and Returning King Jesus. Just as the Navy SEALS and the Army are on the same team, so are we. We each hold down different positions, but the fact remains — we need each other.

I’m only going to cover the Strengths of each type of congregation today, mostly because I’d like us to focus on celebrating what is RIGHT about each design. We can focus on the weaknesses of each model a different time.

Peas – Peas excel at unpacking people’s potential. In a small group devoted to relational connection it is almost impossible to hide. Eventually, someone is going to ask what you are passionate about, what you have to offer. Then, in a healthy Pea community, someone is going to find you a place to display your gifts. Because the bonds of the community are love and relationship, it is OK if your passion doesn’t display a high level of excellence immediately. Because people see your heart and love you for who you are, Pea congregations allow people to develop their gifts. Peas are wonderful starting places.

Peas also specialize in mobilizing people around a specific mission. Being small, the overhead costs are low and a significant percentage of resources can be directed towards doing the thing God has called that group of people to do. There tends to be very little internal politicking and backbiting because each member of the pod (see what I did there?) has a high level of operating autonomy — they have the freedom AND responsibility AND authority they need to do what they think is best for their situation.

Boiling this down, Peas excel at loving and developing individuals and getting them to live out their God given design by providing opportunities to serve.

Pumpkins – Pumpkins inspire people in ways that Peas do not. There is something about gathering together with a huge group of people to worship God that moves the human heart. Because Pumpkins tend to rely on a small staff of highly skilled professionals, the general experience of the congregation is that of rest and refreshment. In a Pea, you will likely be serving in some capacity on Sunday morning. However, in a Pumpkin, you can rest. You can serve if you want, but typically there are loads of people already in place.

Because Pumpkins are large enough to have multiple people on staff, they also offer specialist positions. This means that the children will likely have a Pastor whose full-time  job is to nurture and develop them. It also means that other niche ministries will be available — Divorce Care, AA, Celebrate Recovery, Living Waters, etc. Each of these niches, overseen by a professional, will operate smoothly with a high degree of excellence.

Pumpkins excel at culturalizing new believers. If someone is new to following Jesus and goes to a Pumpkin church, it is very easy for them to establish a whole new rhythm of life. Church on Sunday, Bible Study on Tuesday, Youth Group on Wednesday, Men’s Group on Saturday… It is sort of like how AA requires people to go to 90 meetings in 90 days – they are trying to develop of new way of interacting with people and meeting needs.

To recap, Pumpkins do a great job of inspiring and mobilizing people. They provide a number of different ministries to meet different needs and each one is done well. Pumpkins provide a place to rest and receive and also to serve when the time is right.

That is all I have for now. Thanks for reading friends.

Ben

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