I was in a committee meeting for a social cause I’m starting, and oen of the members started talking about her church.  She’s part of one of the ministries that’s trying to do more than the church is comfortable doing.  I think she’s honoring the Gospel with the activity, but it’s at cross purposes with the overall strategy of the pastoral staff.  It’s fine to do so long as it doesn’t interfere or take attention away from what the they have planned to do.

So why doesn’t she get on their agenda and show the value?  Seems that church is run by paid staff and self-elected deacon board.  The only whole-church meetings are tightly scripted without option for questions in the open forum.  Votes are taking in the middle of the sermon, where peer pressure gains the assent from the majority comfortable to “sit and soak”.

The frustration for that one activity is poisoning her response to the rest of the church’s activities.  She’s not coming to church as often.  She’s more likely to miss the Sunday small group Bible study.  I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet she’s diverting at least some of her tithe to the outside ministry directly.

What can you do to first prevent this and second restore the one drifting away?

Start by having a culture of listening.  In my church, one of the largest in the area, the pastor makes an effort to circulate in the lobby after serices, and is one of the last to leave on Sunday.   He acts like the pastor of a church of 150 (rather than 3000).It doesn’t make the church less large, but makes it more personable.

Second, I feel that the job of a deacon includes listening to the congregation and hearing the grumblings, to deal with them before they get out of hand.  In one church, we had two strains of discontent circulating just under the surface.  Few knew of both, but they fed off the negative attitudes of the other.  When I discovered the first, adn then the second, I took action to hear the frustrations, and was able to diffuse the one, and then the second, and although the root problem (lack of a pastor) didn’t immediately go away, the congregational attitude shifted.

In most cases, it’s a misunderstanding, or someone didn’t get the word in time.  If you have active listening systems in place, those will be taken care of early before they discontent takes root and poisons the congregational atmosphere.

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Thom Rainer, currently President of Lifeway, the Baptist resource publishing house, took time this week to reflect on how to be a better pastor.  He’s pastored 4 churches, and is a student of what makes a healthy church.

In the post titled If I Were a Pastor Again, Rainer lists five thing he would do differently:

  1. Pray more
  2. More time reading the Bible
  3. More time loving the critics than worrrying about what they said
  4. More time “hanging out” with church members
  5. More time getting to know the unchurched

These look like no-brainers, but we need to remind ourselves of the basics our the job from time to time.  We forget that “prayer is the work” instead of a prelude to the job.  We get so pressured to prepare the sermons and do the rest of the job that we forget to take time to read the Bible for our own benefit.

The other 3 points deal with our relationships with others.  We are to be shepherd of the church, not just the hired help to speak and administrate.  We are to have our ears open to the hurt behind the accusations (think of the kids who “act out” jsut to get attention).  And we need to know people to witness to, and lead our people by example.

This is not an all-inclusive list, of course, but it’s a good start.  As I’ve said before, you start where you are and move forward, no matter where that starting place happens to be.

(See the article here.)