Categories
Church Leadership

What does restoration look like?

Here is our old youth pastor, Adam. Photo by Ann Larie Valentine via Flickr (Creative Commons)

My heart breaks for those hurt by the church. Specifically, for people called to full-time ministry, but gravely injured by the people they were called to serve.

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t interact with a youth pastor or former youth pastor who was deeply wounded by their church.

The church treated them like a couch. One day they are the centerpiece of the metaphorical living room and the next day they were moved to the curb and left for the garbage truck to pick them up.

When you are called to a church you are applauded publicly. People pray for you. You are brought up front to acknowledge that the leadership feels you have been called to be a central figure in the church. But when they no longer need you? They basically kick you out of community, shame you, and write a small check for your private pain, and pretend you never existed.

While I recognize that there is always another side to their story– it nonetheless paints a vivid picture of what that church really believes.

  • You have to behave a certain way or perform to a certain expectation level or we will kick you out.
  • When we wrong someone, we cover it up with hush money, and we never ask for forgiveness, even when we are clearly wrong.
  • When we wrong someone, we never restore either them or the relationship privately or publicly.

It just leaves me to wonder about the state of the church. We reach less than 10% of the population on a weekly basis. And we don’t think our private institutional sins impact that at all!

It leaves me with three questions to ponder as I begin my work week:

  • What does it look like for the institution to seek forgiveness?
  • What would it look like if we restored people?
  • What do I need to do to seek forgiveness and restoration of both relationship and position in my life?

May we become a church who loves its staff as fellow men and women on the journey.

Categories
Christian Living

5 Ways to Encourage Your Church Staff

One thing I learned when I was on church staff rarely does a person really want what they are presenting what they want.

In other words, when a parent wants to come in and talk with you about some ideas for the summer youth group schedule, that’s only the presenting issue. I know that with enough time and a couple “How are things going?” and “How can I pray for you?” type of questions you can usually get to the real reason they drove 20 minutes to come to my office.

I’m finding the same is true with church staff.

Satan has a very active and special ministry with church staff.

We have an enemy. Not a metaphorical one. Not one who wears a red cape and pulls some cameos around Halloween. No, Satan is real and he is active and he is effective.

And he knows when, who, and where to tempt your church staff. He is sneaky and he thrives on discouraging them. Satan loves a sucker punch so he gets them when they are really, really high and really, really low.

As a youth pastor, I hated the end of our youth group time on Wednesday nights because I knew what was coming. I called the hours between the end of youth group and when I finally fell asleep, “The dark night of the soul.” I went home and questioned everything. I relived every moment. I wondered why I was a youth pastor since I clearly sucked at it. My heart criticized everything I said. I’d often stay up late and re-write everything.

Logically, I knew that Jesus wasn’t the author of that. But emotionally, I just couldn’t flee it.

And I’m not alone. The staff of your church likely experience the same things.

5 constant temptations for all church staff

  • Evaluate the wrong things.
  • Make brash decisions and abuse power.
  • Do it your their way with their own talents.
  • Comparing to other ministries.
  • Leading more and serving less.

5 ways to encourage your church staff

  • Translate evaluation questions into affirmation of calling. They are asking, “Am I doing the right things?” And you need to tell them, “You are the person God is calling. You are in the right spot.
  • Communicate to your staff that you love them by praying for them.If you won’t pray for the staff and their families find a new church.” A long time ago I went to a membership class lead by Ray Pritchard. He said that and it kind of shocked me. I thought he was being arrogant. But its true. If you don’t love the staff God has placed in your church enough to pray for them than you better take that up with Jesus. He’s way smarter than you are. Get over yourself.
  • Only say nice things on Sunday’s. I know that sounds fake. (Maybe you need to be more fake and less mean?) But your staff has laid their hearts on the altar in ways you will never see. Right after they have finished their ministry time they are most open to Satan’s attacks. They will pick up on the slightest slight and amplify the words you say. Just save it. Sleep on it. Put it in your pocket. Instead, look your staff in the eye and tell them thank you, that you are praying for them, and you think they are doing a great job.
  • Act as a shepherd and guardian for their family. Not the cute, cuddly shepherd who leads sheep to still waters. No, the defensive one with the rod. Smack people in the forehead when they attack your church team. In case you didn’t know, your church staff isn’t paid all that well. Help them take care of their relationship with their spouse by offering free childcare so they can go on dates! Grab a gift card at the grocery store “just because.” When you hear people pick at or about the pastors spouse or kids, get angry and defend them. When you hear a staff member squirm with embarrassment at their kids behavior, grab their arm and say, “Stop it. They are kids. It’s OK for them to be kids.
  • Think about their schedule and send notes at the right times. Find out when your pastor is preparing the sermon. Or when the worship band practices. Or when the youth pastor writes the talk. Or when the kids worker is photocopying curriculum. That’s when you want to drop them a text, Facebook message, or email. That’s when you want to leave a voicemail just to let them know that you are praying for them, that you love how they are ministering to them, and that you are thankful to God for bringing them to your church. 8:00 AM on Sunday morning, that’s not the right time. Friday afternoon or Saturday morning… bam.
Categories
Church Leadership

Churches don’t reach people…

Time For Plan B Photo by Bjørn Giesenbauer via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Churches don’t reach people… People do.

Maybe that’s a statement of the obvious for you. But if you read enough church blogs or look at enough books or listen to a bunch of pep talks you may begin to believe the lie that churches, their leaders, and their programs reach a lot of people.

They don’t.

Less than 5% of our culture is actively involved in church. That’s a lot of smoke and not much fire.

Neighbors loving neighbors reaches people. Which involves talking and getting to know people who live next door to you. Which involves you being home and not hiding in your house.

Here’s a little secret I learned from working on church staff.

It feels good to keep people busy.

It makes you think you’re being productive. It makes you think that they are keeping your ministry a priority. You look really good with lots of things going on and people running around like busy little bees.

Having a lot of people involved in your programs is a powerful temptation as a church staff member. The bottom line is that you feel like its your job to grow a program. Heck, there’s a good chance it IS your job to grow a program.

But if you step back for a minute and think about it– For every moment you are keeping a person at the church “doing ministry” you are actually preventing them from doing the one thing we know works. And the one thing every believer, including your pastor, is called to do universally.

Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39

A lot of church involvement is actually counter intuitive to your church actually reaching a community.

It might feel good to keep people busy. But in the end it is killing your ability to grow the church.

Reality Check

For Kristen and I it took stepping out of a busy bee church and into a situation where we could simply say no to everything but church attendance to have this truth awakened in us.

Believing in the “churches reach people” paradigm is really just an excuse for me to not reach out in love to those in my neighborhood. I might feel pretty good about keeping busy in the church. But my life ends up with a lot of smoke and not much fire.

We try to do the bear minimum and I still feel like we are over involved. We have church on Sunday. Community group on Monday night. And youth group on Tuesday night. (I’d skip church and youth group over community group, by the way. Community group is our lifeline.)

And it still feels like too much.

Wondering

What if community service became the program of the church? What if you had a simple service on Sunday morning and then sent the people of the church out to apply what they’ve learned in their life?

What if the role of the staff is to go out with the people of your congregation and work alongside? Not as a program overlord, but as an encourager and equipper.

Wouldn’t that be a biblical expression of church?

Or have we bought so firmly into the current paradigm that we don’t think simple expressions of faith in action will work anymore?

Categories
Church Leadership

Realistic Expectations for Church Staff

realistic-expectation

Most of my adult life I have been on church staff. But the last 13 months I have not worked at a church and it has provided me with a wealth of insights into what I thought people expected out of me versus what I expected out of myself. I think people working at churches have unrealistic expectations for their churches just like the people in the pews have unrealistic expectations for what their church staff should be doing.

With that in mind, here are some of my realistic expectations of my church staff: (Please note I lump all staff together as equals.)

– Remind me of the churches vision. Let’s face it, it’s hard out there raising a family and earning a living. That makes it very easy to forget what the church is all about. My default vision for the church is always going to be “meet MY needs.” If the churches vision isn’t about my default, I depend and expect the staff to remind me what it is. In our church’s case I need to hear and see tangible manifestations of the church’s vision… bridging cultures, bridging hearts.

– Teach me from where you are in your walk with Jesus. We live in an age where Christians have access to the very best communicators of biblical truth on the planet with a single click of the mouse. Consequently, I think church staff feel compared to these other ministries all the time. But I don’t expect my church staff to be John Piper, Andy Stanley, Francis Chan, or any of the others. Those are all great leaders and I am thankful for them… but I expect my church staff to lead me locally right from the pages of what God is doing in their lives. Jesus didn’t select those people to be here in my neighborhood! But He did select this staff for this time– and I know Jesus is smart enough to place the right people in the right places.

– Be professional. I know church staff feel an all encompassing, mind-swirling, burdening pressure to be all things to all people. The dumbest thing you can do as church staff is to buy into that lie. It’ll cost you joy and sanity! I don’t expect church staff to meet my every whim. I don’t even expect the staff to “be my friend.” Their role in my life is to be a spiritual leader– if the friendship thing happens that is fine– but it’s not an expectation I have. And I never expect their families to be at an event, or even Sunday morning worship. I do expect the staff to be prepared, to lead their ministries effectively, to be on time, to be courteous, and to represent the church to the community.

– Set the pace. I am always leery when I see church staff buy into the now, NOW, NOW!!! mode. I just don’t think that is a sustainable pace. Very few churches in this world can sustain exponential growth. Moreover, I expect that each church has a “right size” when we should stop thinking about growing and start thinking about planting. I mourn the satellite movement. It’s as if they got the idea they should plant but don’t have the nerve to cut the strings from the communicator… as if the lead communicator is the reason 4,000 people show up to church!

– Lead movements, not programs. It’s easy to focus on a tanglible program as a church staff. “This week I am leading VBS” or “This week I am taking students on a short-term ministry project.” While those are great, I don’t give a rip if they happen or not. If my church staff told me they were killing children’s Sunday School because it wasn’t helping them bridge cultures and hearts with City Heights… I’d be cool with that. The reason is that I have an expectation that the church will focus on a Gospel-driven movement in my community. Programs can be the enemy of people movements.

– Remain biblically qualified. When I look at 1 Timothy 3 I don’t see anything unrealistic. I expect those things to be boundaries. Don’t whore around. Don’t be a sloppy drunk. Don’t blow money. Don’t cause trouble. Don’t be a hot head. Be a decent teacher. Be respectable and have an open heart.

With all of that said, I think it becomes clear what our role is as the body. My job is to keep my expectations reasonable. And when my expectations aren’t met, my job is to go back and check my expectations against what is reasonable. As I look over this list I kept saying to myself, “This list needs someone to be the gatekeeper!” Each church needs a person who knows the staff intimately enough to help them establish boundaries. The church needs that same person to be an advocate for the staff to the church at-large, as well. It’s almost as if Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, knew what he was talking about.

What are expectations you have for church staff that are different from my list? If you are on church staff, is my list helpful or harmful to you?