I gathered with 12 pastoral leaders for a day of open sharing. I know. This means there were thirteen. I’m not superstitious, so that thought didn’t bother me. I did, however, look to see who might represent Jesus, who might be the inner circle, and who might be the enemy. Mostly what I discovered, however, was a LOT of wisdom. Here are some of the highlights of that day, in random order:
- The Builder Generation did not want to let go. They questioned whether Boomers would ever be mature enough or committed enough. They wondered if Boomers would pony up and pay the bills. The Boomers are now in leadership, and they are doing the same thing with the Buster Generation (Gen X). A church’s leaders must intentionally mentor the younger generations. Church leaders must include them in ministry AND decision-making. It’s called . . . DISCIPLESHIP. Otherwise, there is no future for that church.
- Many churches have not taken a realistic look at themselves in a long time. This is especially true for churches which have plateaued or are in decline. An honest look can be dangerous for the sitting pastor (thus, the interim time is the easiest time to do this), but leaders must help the whole church take a hard look at what is happening. Look at numbers, i.e., statistics: giving, attendance, participation in various ministries, etc. Then, create a plan to address: “What are we going to do about it?”
- “After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place . . . , strengthening all the disciples.” Acts 18:23 (NIV) Don’t lose sight of your calling as pastors—not to build your own kingdoms or monuments to yourselves, but to help Christians grow in Christ and do the work of the Church.
- There is a dreadfully small pool of pastors today, and many in the pool are unqualified due to fake degrees, disregard for churches’ faith and practices, and/or the lack of a divine call from God. Still, even those who seem “qualified” would do well to make use of a coach, a mentor, or a peer group. Don’t fly solo!
- Many, if not most, pastors show up at a church ready to change all that is wrong. However, you cannot lead a church to transition—even if it’s desperately needed—unless you love the people first. And, you cannot convince the church that you love them if you haven’t spent time with them. “It’s all about relationships, dummy!” Ultimately, transitioning a church takes a united desire to do so and a vision that is created by the group.
- Speaking of relationships, recognize that many church members follow the edict of: “Relationships trump facts!” In fact, relationships can even trump biblical theology. “I don’t care what the Bible says . . .” may sound awful (and it is), but it really means, “I am not going to risk the relationship I have with ______, no matter what!”
- To reach the lost, a church should try to “remove the barriers.” Part of this might mean that you become willing to partner with people and churches who have the same goals but who look very different.
- And on a very practical level, one pastor shared, “Check your insurance. We thought we were prepared for a hurricane, but our flood insurance didn’t even cover drying out our building.” Better yet, he went on to talk about how the disaster ministries from his denomination (Texas Baptists) literally saved his church and kept it in existence. There’s an example of “added value” in being part of a denomination. However, maybe even better than that, his testimony prompted an earlier voice, whose church was deeply involved in disaster ministries after the same hurricane. That pastor reflected on his church’s disaster ministry and noted, “There was more ‘church’ going on then than we had experienced in a LONG time.”
I profited from listening to godly pastors reflect on their experiences. It helped make me better than I am by myself. What about you? Do you see anything you can use?