A few days ago I was talking with a friend who has a family ministry and reads my blog. He said he likes the concepts that I’ve been sharing on my blog but is struggling to understand how to apply them. Since we were talking about my post “How to recognize when your church is being consumed,” I’ll use that post as an example. I’m going to write two possible solutions for each question. The first solution is for those in top positions of leadership (senior pastors and elders/board members) and the second for staff members who are limited in the changes they can enact (this may include volunteers).
Before we go on I must also say that these are only the best solutions that come to mind for the situations I’m describing. Context will always dictate the best practices, so use these as a guide and contact us if you need help working out better solutions for your concerns.
Q: What do you do when your church staff is viewed solely as hired hands for managing programs to serve the will of the people?
For leaders: Rewrite job descriptions with the goal of decreasing the importance of numeric growth and program development. Clarify the roles so that each pastor and staff member is a lead disciple maker called to do the difficult work of helping people overcome sinful habits and to find rest in the work of the cross.
For church staff members: You will be judged by the job description you work under, so serve well in that role. With the programs you run, create environments where honest relationships can form. Disciple those in your care and show them how to do the same with others. Let the testimonies of those you work with be a sign to naysayers about the best use of ministry time and resources. Most of all, be patient. People will come on board little by little.
Q: What do you do when those in your ministry have the habit of referring to the church as something that happens at a certain time and in a specific location?
For leaders: Stop doing it yourself first. I don’t believe I’m out on a limb when I assume you refer to your building as the church- “See you at church on Sunday.” I will catch myself repeating that phrase and I’m working to change my vocabulary.
Instead, talk frequently in public environments about the church in the world. Give examples of folks from your church doing the church’s work off campus and on their own initiative. Some may complain that you, the hired gun, should be doing this work, but that’s alright. People will learn to accept this new direction over time.
Finally, appoint someone to be the calendar cop. The calendar cop will constantly review all that is going on in the facilities, and all the formal programs. This person responsible for speaking up whenever the calendar begins to work against the relational needs of people. The calendar cop should be a systems thinker who can understand the complexity of many programs and competing visions.
For church staff members: Deprogram when you can. For example, disband your formal small groups. Instead, train mentors to gather small groups of people they can guide. Train those mentors well and be an example.
Also, spend as much time as you can outside of the office, but this doesn’t mean at home. Do your work in coffee shops. Pick regular places so you grow to know the staff there. Serve your neighbors. Volunteer with community groups. Coach local sports teams. Tutor at your local schools.
Q: What do you do when attendance trends become more important than individuals?
For both leaders and staff: Review each member, or regular ministry participant, who has left your ministry, whether they completely left your church or have drifted from previous commitments. Call each of them but don’t ask them to come back; that would be disingenuous at this point. Instead, ask them these two questions: (1) Why did you leave? (2) Are you finding someone to disciple you in your new church or situation? Love them and care for them.
Likewise, when a new person joins your ministry, meet with them. Ask them about their journey. Ask them if they have someone who they can personally ask spiritual questions. Help them to meet some potential mentors and friends in the church.
Applying principles of the missional family always depends on your context and the people involved. If you would like help with your specific situation, contact Etchea Coaching. Check out our partnership, too.