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Lecture 19: Pastoral Leadership and Enlisting the Congregation
Course: Pastoral Care and Leadership
Lecture 19: Pastoral Leadership and Enlisting the Congregation
We are looking at leadership in each one of these themes. There is care, for sure, but we are focusing on how a pastor leads through this here. I want to shift from conflict to talk about pastoral leadership and the congregation itself.
A. As a leader, how can you get people in the story?
I have discovered – I think this is true – that if you have a giving problem in your church, and lots of churches do, part of the reason for that goes back to the fact that people aren’t really in the story. Because if people are in the story, they tend to give to the story they are in. So, part of leadership is asking the question, How can I get people in the story? How can I get them involved? Peter ?_____
Drucker (01:03.3) was once asked, “What is the most effective organization you have every worked with?” They expected GE, Hewlett-Packard, Xerox. He replied, “The Girl Scouts.” He said that if you take dedicated volunteers with a professional staff trained to increase their impact, and a clear purpose, the ingredients for excellence are in place. That sounds a lot like the church because a lot of our work is working with volunteers.
B. How do you motivate volunteers?
I was talking to a student last night who is in ministry. I asked him, What are some of the huge questions you are dealing with right now? He said, “I don’t know how to get our people, our volunteers, to somehow give more of themselves. They take such a part-time approach to what we are trying to do here.” I could hear his frustration, that in our distracted culture today, it is hard to get people to give very much. So, we are back to leadership. How do we get people, without taking advantage of them in an abusive way, to become more fully engaged?
I’m going to look at several pieces here that might give some answers. I resonate with something Bill Hybels once said in a leadership summit. He said, “The most leadership intensive place on earth, the most leadership intensive place on earth is the church.” Again, maybe so because we have to deal with volunteers for the most part. How do we lead the congregation, get people in the story?
II. Create an Environment Dedicated to Equipping
I’m going to go back to a passage we have looked at a lot in these sessions and that is Ephesians 4. The first thing is to create an Ephesians 4:11-13 environment, helping people again see - and I think we have to remind people often of this – that our role is to equip them to do the ministry. Our job is not to do the ministry. Our role is to equip you to do the ministry. Greg Ogden speaks of a second reformation at work in the church. The first was the recovery of the Word. He believes the second reformation is the recovery of ministry to people. So, recovering the Word to the people, what we need to recover is the recovering of ministry to the people. This is what I told this student last night. It may be that you are not all on the same page with the mission and the vision. Out of those, if they are the right ones, should create a certain passion that says, “I have to be involved, we are in this together.” It can’t be about, “I’m serving you and what you want.” That does not motivate people to be in the
I talked to a woman once as we were talking about possibly moving the church. She said, “Well, we all know, Pastor, what you want for your church.” I realized, Oh, okay, we have a problem here. We are using personal pronouns in all the wrong ways. So, we have to create a sense of “our” here. Part of the “our” gets back to saying, Are we agreed on the mission? Are we together on this? Are we agreed on where we want to take this vision, that particularizes the mission? That takes it one step beyond the general to something we believe. We are called for this time, in this geographical location, for this purpose.
It is like people. We should all have a common mission. Our mission is to glorify God with everything we have and do. But if I ask you what is your vision for your life, it is going to look different. I have a different dream for where I want to see my life in five years, 10 years. You have a different dream for what you are dreaming about, what things are going to look like in your life. I think that is true for the church. A church has a common mission. The mission of let’s say, a Village Baptist, should be the same mission as the Sunset Presbyterian. Because our mission is not something we create, it is something that we are taught from Scripture.
The vision is different. The vision is more something that is created within. It is something we dream about. We ask one another, What do we want to look like in five years, 10 years? If we are going to get people in the story, there has to be a passion around those two things.
III. Have a Good Assimilation Process
The second one here in terms of leading the congregation and getting people in the story, is to have a really good assimilation process. A lot of people find it really hard to get assimilated. A lot of churches don’t know how to assimilate people. We sort of let people try to guess how to get from point A to point B. What if church were more intentional to say, “Okay, here is what it would look like.”
A. Have a clear entry point
Let’s have a clear entry point, an entry point that is attendant to those who first walk in. How are people feeling when they first walk in? I’ve been visiting churches as of late and here is what I have noticed. Most churches have greeters, which is good. It is not so good when there is no-one at least to welcome you. But I notice that almost in every situation, they are generally the older people who have been there a long time and they know everybody’s name. So, you walk in a new person and they say, “Hi, nice to have you here this morning. Hey, Jim, Jim, how’s the boat?” and it kind of goes something like that. You realize, right from the very beginning, I’ve stepped into a club, or I’ve stepped into something as a foreigner. Those are not good entry points. A good entry point needs you to somehow step in and feel immediately that a person identifies with you. That is why I think some of the best greeters are your newest members, people who have not actually been in the church very long. Because they k
now exactly, they can tell, they were there not that long ago. They know how you feel. “I’m not sure I recognize you, is this your first week here? Can we help in any way? Are there any questions right from the beginning we can answer?”
B. Skilled people trained in “first impressions”
We were at a church not very long ago. We had come two or three times until we kind of went to the next entry place, The Welcome Center. So we went to The Welcome Center and said, “We have a daughter in her early thirties, she still lives with us. We would love to see her get more connected. What do you have?” This was an older guy, probably one who would know the lay of the land and a lot of things. But he said, “Man, you know, young adult ministry. I don’t really know what we do here.” Not a good entry point.
Being attentive. Actually, stopping to just do a real, intensive review, let’s imagine it is our first Sunday. Let’s walk through from point to point and see what it must look like, feel like. That would be so helpful for churches to do that. I think churches get completely blind. They don’t remember what it was like.
C. Create obvious entry points
So, a clear entry point. Having skilled people trained in I like to call, first impressions. We actually created “first impressions training.” Because, how many first impressions do you get? You get only one. If we blow our first impression, we don’t get that over again. Somehow a first impression that doesn’t feel like you’re walking into a club or with a bunch of cliques. I’ve been in church enough to know how it works. I forgive a little bit because I get guilty of this. But we have been walking into churches. You get through the entry point and there is a buzz and there are these groups, this group, this group, this group. I have discovered most people are oblivious of somebody new who walks in because they are doing what people naturally love to do. They have gathered together and they are conversing and you are unnoticed.
Creating these entry points, having skilled people, first impressions, creating obvious entry points. One of the first entry points when you step in is the worship service itself. That is an entry point. I am amazed how many churches start their worship with almost a certain obliviousness to the possibility of new people. People start off with worship and then that first greeting is announcements. Hey, our Hispanics are going to be meeting this Saturday, going to be doing this, you are all invited. It goes on from there. Then the pastor gets up and enters into his message and you wonder, Has anybody noticed? It is like we have kind of broken into something here.
Some churches do it better than others, for sure. One of the entry points is an entry class that is designed to acquaint people. I think that is a really good thing. Again, this is what we tend to do. “We have an entry class, so we don’t have to work at it over here. If they want to be in the entry class, that will answer their questions.” There has to be a both/and, an attentiveness, a willingness. What I’m really referring to is where this happens a lot, in larger churches, where there are too many people to know everyone. People get really afraid to go up and introduce themselves because they are fearful someone is going to say,”No, I’ve been a member here for 25 years.” But I would try to say to people, Take the risk, first of all, and just say something like this, “Forgive me if we’ve met or it may be that you have been here a long time, but I don’t know if we’ve met.” Most people will be forgiving. My last church was large enough that I would meet someone and say, “I’m not sure if I know you.” I actu
ally have had some people say,”Pastor, you prayed over us two weeks ago.” But in a large church, people are forgiving. They understand. I’m okay with taking the risk. I would rather do that than just let them walk by.
The entry class. It is really great to have something like that, where you say to people, “This is not a membership class, you’re not making any commitments. We would just like to get to know you and we would like to answer a few of your initial questions.” People always have some initial questions. We did that. “We’ll tell you a little bit about our history, just really brief, just so you know why we’re here; a little bit of our mission. We will tell you a little bit about our staff, a little bit of our story. But we would really love to hear your story.” These are probably obvious things. I would like to say they are obvious, but we really don’t do them very well.
D. Provide clear subsequent steps
Something else in this assimilation process is, provide clear subsequent steps. So if a person has gone to that entry class, if you will, or that entry group, what is the next logical step in the process? I like to think of it this way: How do we get somebody walking in for the first time, to an absolute passionate, committed member of the church? I think this is a really good thing to do with the staff, the board, is to say, Here is person A. We eventually want to get them, this person A, over here from this point, entry, to this point, in the story, committed, giving of themselves, their resources. Some people figure it out, particularly if they are just moving into another church. A lot of people don’t know the steps; and there are a number of steps here, that maybe starts with an entry class, that then moves maybe, hopefully to maybe membership. Okay, I think I want to buy into this, I want to be part of this church. That has to then move to something like this: Help me know who I am and how I can be p
art of this in a meaningful way with my gifts; to then unleashing them into ministry.
E. Find mentors to serve at key handoff points
Even if you establish these, that is all well and good. But I think of it this way: There have to be core people at these junctures who know how to hand people off. So someone who is leading a lot of this ministry: How do I help this person get here and how do I help this person get here, and how do I help this person get here, so that eventually they are here? In my ideal church, every church would have a Pastor of Assimilation, it would be largely what they do. They would give their best attention to, How do I get this person to here? There are people I know that at times walk in just almost begging inside to say, “I’m available. I want to be part of this.” But they have to work at it. Yes, there has to be some work at it, but they work too hard at it, because we make them work at it. Provide these clear, subsequent steps.
F. Small group involvement
I should mention that maybe this next logical step also could be a small group. I’ve discovered that the sooner we could get people, new people, into a small group, they suddenly begin to know at least that it doesn’t feel so foreign when they walk in. At least they can say, “I know this person and this person.”
Let me see if I have left anything out. Mid groups, small groups and maybe I have. Maybe before small group, it might be a mid group. It might be a class that might say, We would like to have you come to this class. Jim is teaching this wonderful class on deadly sins, or whatever it is. Because they still can feel safe in a mid-size class. They might still be a little hesitant. A lot of people are private, they are not ready to jump into a small group, but they want to shift eventually, hopefully if they get really involved here. A mid-size group is like a Sunday school class. We stopped using that nomenclature because it is so archaic. We actually shifted and began to develop what we call “Village University.”
IV. Unleash People into Ministry
A. Extend a personal invitation
Also to say, we are intentional to really train people. So, it might be something like this: You have been here now three or four weeks. That’s great. We have what we call “Village University.” We have a number of classes. Here is a list and maybe there is one that you are interested in. Then it’s training the teachers of these classes to always be on the lookout for new people; again, because they are going to be the next handoff. So if you’ve trained the people leading this, to hand off to the mid group; and they are trained to hand off to the small group, let’s say you have a family that now is getting plugged into a small group, in which maybe the leader of that small group over time says, “Is this your church home now? I’m kind of guessing, it looks like you guys are becoming part of us. It would be great if you would join the church because again, there are great benefits that go both ways.” This is where a lot of churches, when they get to this point, stop; and people are not really assimilated in
B. Offer training
They are assimilated when it moves from, How would you like to serve in the body, get in the story? We’re not just looking for Sunday School teachers. We are looking for ways you can use your giftedness. What are you passionate to do? I love outreach. I’m really passionate to see people come to Jesus. Okay, here are the ministries we are doing here. A lot of people might say, “I would like to do this, I just don’t know how to do it.” Churches in an assimilation process should be much better at equipping. It’s back to equipping. You love leadership, but you are not quite sure what all of that involves. We have a leadership ethos in our church, we have leadership courses and we would love for you to be part of this.
Even if we can get people there, so they have gotten all the way over to, who I am, I’m a leader, I want to be trained more as a leader, there needs to be a handoff here of this process, these leaders bringing people here, who then say, Okay, time to unleash you into ministry.
C. Unleash people to ministries that follow their gifts, passions and desires
I think there is a fundamental breakdown in assimilation because we have not identified the steps. But I think the second thing we have not identified are the people who hand off. If I was starting ministry today, one of the very first things I would look for is an assimilation process that I would lay out and make sure everybody understands it and then aim to help people move through this and again, find these key mentors to serve at key handoff points.
With this assimilation process, unleash people into ministry, which again begins with building relationship; and letting people serve where they really want to serve. Let them work in their sweet spots. Here is a lot of times what we do, right? We say to someone: We really need Sunday School teachers, could you teach this class? So we put people there that have no business being there and they are terrible at it. Now they feel like they are in purgatory forever. It is hard to get out of it. We abuse volunteers that way. We need to train them. Don’t kill them off by giving them tasks they are unprepared for. Don’t put them into positions they are not ready to do. This is all part of equipping.
I was in youth ministry. I was on campus ministry with Campus Life. It was a wonderful place to start my ministry. But I remember, I was put in front of a group and asked to teach way before I was prepared to do it. There were 250 kids in the class, I should say in the living room, that night and when I finished, there were 20 people. I can’t tell you how demoralizing that was. I’m actually somewhat surprised I survived it. Someone put me up in front way before I was ready to be put up in front. I had not been trained at all. I was sort of a warm body. Churches do that with people and then wonder, Why can’t we get more volunteers? You can’t get more volunteers because we haven’t trained them. Or maybe we have trained them, but we have not trained them in what they really can do really well. So we try to force fit people to accommodate to what the church needs, rather than to what the people need.
D. Encourage people in their ministries
So helping them find their passion, their gifts. Then once they are there, once they get here, really encourage them from time to time. Because there is willingness in well doing and there is a critical environment. We need to let people know they are valued. It seems like churches should do a better job of investing some of their resources, part of their budgeting process to let various ministries somehow at the end of the year, have a party, a time to say, “You have given so much to us, we’re providing a wonderful dinner for you.”
V. Involve People in the Decision Process
Involving people, leading the church, the congregation, getting people in the story. Part of it is, involve people in the decision process. Invite people, having periodic meetings to do more than inform, for updates; but invite people to be part of the decision making process of where the church is going. Remind people, it is our church, not your church.
Questions on leading the church, assimilating people, managing the process.
A. Ask volunteers to serve for a certain period of time so you and them can reevaluate.
Question: It seems like one thing that is helpful sometimes is when you are asking someone to volunteer, to give them a time frame, to say, Would you volunteer for this quarter, or for this year? or something like that because it does a couple of things. It helps them to have something in mind that they know that there is a beginning and an end date. Then it allows them the freedom to say, Oh, this is something I would like to continue doing. Or, for whatever reason, at the end maybe they were not as good as they thought, or maybe some other situation came up. But then it is easier to say, Well, okay, so I’ve done the time that we agreed on. So it is easier than having an open-ended thing where the conversation becomes really difficult.
Dr. Johnson: You alluded to this, but it also gives the church, on the other side, the freedom then to say,” It would really be in the best interest of the church that this person not continue because they really do not do very well at this.” You have a clear, Let’s make a commitment for this period of time, then let’s step back and re-assess. Let’s see how you are feeling, if you believe that this is the right thing for you. But then as the church, we need to make the decision if this is the best thing for the church. It is not about what is best for that person. As I’ve said, it has to be what is the best for the church. You bring up a really good point. It is important to have terminus points, or at least stop points to re-evaluate.
B. What is the purpose of midlevel groups, especially for small churches?
Question: When we first moved here, we started attending a church that was pretty large. We enjoyed the church. We were not even remotely interested in the small group, that was just too much, given our experiences. I went to the pastor and said, “I need a midlevel entry point.” The answer was, “We are committed to small groups, so there is no Sunday School.” I said, “I’m not going to go to a small group, but I need to get a smaller tribe to deal with.” They created a Sunday School class so I would have something to do. But I have been thinking, especially with smaller churches where you don’t have as many people, you may not have someone who is willing to do a Sunday School class. In a smaller situation, what is that midlevel, that mid-size group? Let’s say a church of 200 people. What would you do to get them assimilated if there is no Sunday School program or a Village U.?
Dr. Johnson: I don’t know what else there would be except for the occasional events where maybe the church is going to have a dinner. Maybe you just have to be more intentional to say, “We are going to set up a calendar where we periodically come together to do different things as a church” knowing the whole church is not all going to come out, so maybe it is more of a mid-group.
In our very busy culture today, what I am observing is that the churches are trying to decide what should be our expectation? Should we expect people to be in a mid-size group and a small group, and then church itself? So you have large group, mid-size group, small group. We sometimes say, If you are really committed to the ministry, you are going to be in all three. You are going to come to the large fellowship; you are going to be in our classes that we offer; and you are going to be part of a small group. I find people making a lot of choices today, say “I can do one or the other, but I can’t do both.”
That being said, here is the problem. I think the church needs the mid-size group, not just for the sake of new people; but I think we need a more teaching oriented mid-size group, that the small group is not going to do; and we should not be putting it all on the worship service to do.
We call it a worship service, but I am more inclined to be a teacher than a preacher, though I would like to believe I am both/and. I like to believe that in a worship service you want more than a teacher, you need a preacher. Just like, you don’t want just purely a preacher, you want a teacher. There were many times I would say, “Okay, I can take people to let’s say the Gospel of Mark. I will try to be faithful and take them week after week and talk about what the text is teaching and how we grow.” But it’s a losing battle if I think that that alone is going to be enough to equip our people to engage in culture and be strong. They need something else more substantive. My main mission in a worship service is not to teach the Word so much, as to in part of the worship context, bring people into worship. Do you understand what I’m saying? I believe in the worship context. A pastor cannot be a pure teacher. He has to be one that in a sense is also the worship leader with the other worship leaders. It has to b
e primarily about worship, bringing people to the place where they have heard the revelation and now they respond. Ideally, what you want to be able to say to people here is where we largely work at getting the heart right and getting people into a relationship with God.
We have these classes that are a little more engaged for this. We want to get you really prepared to know how to engage in the culture, enter into the dialogue. I like to say to people: “You know, we have the best arguments.” We do. We have the best arguments. But most people don’t know how to engage culture and argue. But whether we are defining marriage, to pro-life issues, to whatever it is, we have great arguments. People just don’t know how to use them because they are not trained. We are relying on maybe the worship or the small group. But small group is going to be largely about relationships. This is where people are praying for one another, sharing needs, eating together. There may be a spin-off, which we often did, of the sermon in the small group. But it was much more application than orientation. So the question is, where is the substantive teaching? You can’t rely on a 30-minute sermon to do that. Now we have the dilemma. In a very busy age, people saying, “You can’t expect me to do all three.
I think in a way, we have to say, “Yes, we do because it is the mission of the church.” If we say the mission is worship, maturity, loving one another, reaching the lost; then at least when we gather, we should be pursuing truth, growing in our knowledge, and that has to be something like I’m speaking here. It can’t be in the worship service. I think most people say, “Our pastor is a really good teacher and I’m growing.” I think that is great; but I would say, it is not going to make the difference in the age we live in.
Question: I hear there is this great organization called BiblicalTraining.org. They produce all this material. You can learn on your own. When you get together in a mid-size group you can actually talk about stuff. It is a great organization.
Dr. Johnson: I think we should be working to have the very best classes we can possibly have and utilizing resources. I think a lot of churches are not inclined to go there because they don’t have the resources within to do it. Especially more and more with technology, what we should be building in churches are smart classes that use just the very best. We want to talk about, where should we be putting our resources, at least internally, that is what we should be doing. But we don’t. We wonder why we are not making an impact. It is not too hard to figure out.
This is where leadership comes in. Leadership says, What if we set a goal that we are known as “the teaching church on the west side of Portland” or something like that. I don’t think people are going say, I don’t want to be that. I think people would say, That sounds great, but this is the cost.
Question: I find that I’m always thinking about young adult ministry, and what is kind of the culture, and I like to be informed of what people are thinking. I like the teaching emphasized because I feel like it is really hard to get young people together consistently because things are changing for them. They are going off to college, there are so many different things. To some extent, we have to accept that people’s schedules are crazy.
Dr. Johnson: Then they go off to college and lose their faith.
Question: I think that is largely because they are not reading their Bibles. A lot of people grow up in the church and they just don’t because they are being taught from the pulpit. I really want to talk about things in the Bible and understand them. As young people, I think we need to argue about things and think through things; but I can’t even do that because people aren’t even reading it. So they don’t even know what to argue about. I don’t even know if I have a question, but just kind of trying to understand young adults because that is going to lead them into other ministries. At this age, we are figuring out our faith and figuring out what the Bible says and who we are. But, how to get people engaged in the Word of God.
C. How should the church impact culture?
Dr. Johnson: Here is the model that sometimes I use that has helped me a lot. Every now and then I remind the church of this. It goes back to what you were just talking about. You think of culture. How is the church going to impact culture? I think that is the question we should be asking today, a lot and sitting down when we do gather people and talk about that.
There are four models historically.
The Church and the world. The first model is, think of it as the Church and the world. In this particular model, engaging a culture means that we separate from the world and work at our purity, protect our purity, so we can be the Church. We will be the light of the world and hopefully attract the world to us.
The Church in the world. The second model, which is obviously very different, is the Church in the world. By that, a church that says, We need to be really relevant. We need to speak the language. We want people to come and realize that they can identify. They hear music just like the music they like, topics that they address. We may even build buildings that are much more comfortable, that don’t look like churches. We could go on and on. With the Church in the world, it is all about relevancy.
The Church over the world. The third model looks something like this. We are seeing this unfortunately too much today. That is the church over the world. That means that the way we are going to win the world is to get into political engagements, build the Christian right or build the Christian left, and try to take over the structures. If we can just win enough people politically, we can bring our nation back to what it used to be, something like that.
By the way, I’m not setting this up as straw men. I think that you can build some arguments for all three of these models. Actually, there have been a lot of wonderful people who have embraced, taught, preached these models.
The Church engaging the world. But I really think they have missed the model that I see more clearly in the Gospels, particularly with the Church and the world and Christ calling us to engage without becoming the world, but not separating from the world, so being the salt and the light and working this area for everything it is worth. So we are engaging in, without trying to take over. We’re stepping out of our environment. We are not trying to be just like the world. Oz Guinness said, ”We can become so relevant, we become irrelevant.” I think a lot of churches are irrelevant in their quest to be relevant.
Even to simply put it something like this and say, “Church, where do you want to be in this?” Maybe some would say, “I kind of like this: I think we should talk more about political action groups and fly the flag.” That is where you could say, “Let’s just look at historically how that has worked.” If anyone really struggles with it, well, I lived in Europe seven years. Let’s just see how successful Christendom has been in a continent that largely has no interest in God. I’m not sure how well this is working out, frankly. I know that this has not done very well in reaching the world.
This is the model we have, so it is the long answer to say, “If we can get people to embrace this model, we might say, ‘What is going to be involved to do this?’” It is going to take a commitment to prepare ourselves so that we can step in. This is meaningful. We can have great conversations. I discover when I talk to people, unbelievers, about some of our core convictions, and you do it in a rational way with sensitivity, most people go, “I never thought of that.” Of course they hadn’t thought of it because we have not articulated it.
So, you like redefining marriage? But it seems like we have opened the door to redefining it in all kinds of ways. Well, we could not really? Why not? I mean, if we have already, based on whose authority? If we have removed the authority issue out of the equation, then you could do anything. There has to be some sort of common authority.
Maybe you take a pro-life issue. If I’m driving down the street, there is a man abusing his 18-month-old daughter, do we just go, “You know, that is his choice”? No, we would say, “You can’t do that.” But nobody seems to be speaking for the life in the womb.
I know these are a bit simplistic, but I think sometimes we don’t even know how to articulate like that. That is part of helping to get our people engaged; but I think it means getting them into church and assimilating them. I think I would go back to say, mid-size groups are great for people who might be more socially introverted and may not be ready to step into a small group; but it’s a bigger need than that. It has to be about where we find the core training.