Dear Pastor, Please Put Us To Work. Love, Your Congregation

dear pastorSmall Church members don’t start out wanting to be passive, anonymous, consumer Christians. We (pastors) help to make them that way.

That’s the kick-in-the-butt takeaway I got from a comment that was written on this website last week in response to my post “What If We Made Disciples and Left Church Growth to God?

The comment was written by Brian Kern, and it’s the meat of today’s post. Brian was a long-time member of my congregation, until a few months ago, when he and a few others left to start a new church, with our church’s full blessing and support. He’s also a very bright, kind and insightful guy, as you’ll see from what he wrote.

By the way, his comment was initiated entirely by him – it was not suggested by me at all. I’ve re-posted it here with his permission.

Brian’s experience in my church and others, is that Small Church pastors, while we often complain about lack of involvement from church members, may be encouraging passivity by the way we do – or don’t do – ministry. At the very least, we often fail to take some very simple steps to implement strategies that would inspire, encourage and activate more disciples.

The missing ingredient? Mentoring.

Brian’s comment deserves a wide hearing among Small Church pastors, so I’m pulling it from the comment section so we can all take a good look at it – and ourselves.

My experience (I’m not a pastor) has been that a great many of us in the congregation spend far too much time getting fed (nourishment) and quite frankly, I think we allow ourselves to get way too fat before we begin giving back through discipleship.

I’m sure there’s a multitude of reasons why, my own being a quite misunderstood notion that I had to know every passage inside and out to be qualified to disciple/ minister to others. That “fear” stopped me in my tracks for a long time. Zeno’s Paradox of Motion is alive and working in so many of us in the pews.

To be brutally honest, I think we could use a little “biblical kick in the backside” (encouragement, if that makes you more comfortable) in the form of some one-on-one conversation from our pastors when we stay in a continual state of being fed.

It’s a curiosity to me that in most churches we don’t hear conversations on spiritual growth unless we ask for it. In the secular world, most of us sit down with our bosses once a year to plan, create goals, milestones, and discuss training that we need to achieve. At the end of the year, we go back and review our results.

Personally, I think there’s a problem when our secular bosses will engage us concerning our temporal growth and our non-secular clergy seemingly are only comfortable talking to us as a group about spiritual growth from the pulpit, or when we knock on their doors.

We (the congregation) want to do those things that help to grow the church. But, all too often we think we’re not ready (when we are), or are not ready (and no one’s working a plan to equip us to be ready).

Egads, 98% of us have never led another to a confession of faith in Christ. We’re pretty good at sharing our faith, leading non-believers right up to the front door of the church (a confession of faith), and then saying “see ya inside.”

My question is this, what would our churches look like next year if our pastors made it a point to reach out to one member a week in our congregations to ask us about their spiritual growth?

Disciples producing disciples and of course, bringing in the harvest.

– Brian Kern

 

Thanks, Brian. I needed to hear that.

 

So what do you think? What can you take from Brian’s comments to implement in your own ministry?

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7 thoughts on “Dear Pastor, Please Put Us To Work. Love, Your Congregation”

  1. VERY interesting.
    It would be WONDERFUL to do this. I was about to write how, on a practical level, I couldn’t see this happening with a truck load of other responsibilities. But I deleted what I wrote, because I thought, you wouldn’t have everyone at one time…you could spread it out…and in a small church it would be very do-able.
    The only thing I would worry about (and it may be a “moot” worry) is people’s willingness to be open and honest. My experience, thus far, has been that people put up strong walls to keep others out. Like a, “I’ll let you on the front porch, but don’t expect me to invite you in.”
    My question would be, how would you go about this without appearing judgmental? Like, would you start by asking how their prayer life is? Their Bible reading? Church attendance?
    That just made me think (now granted I’m not the pastor…just the pastor’s wife) but you know what my weakness is?
    I’m afraid.
    I’m afraid that if I start asking the “hard” questions of people that they’ll leave. And when you’re down to 25-30 people, and you grit your teeth to see if you can pay the mortgage this month…it’s scary. I HATE that. I hate feeling bound by the fears of “What if they leave?” If we had substantial amount of people I wouldn’t have that fear. But with so few…it’s CONSTANTLY there and I feel it’s restraint. (again, this is just me and to be honest, I’m not sure how my husband feels)
    Yet, I see the absolute necessity of what this brother is talking about.
    The issue we face is a strange one. I can only explain it by an example. Several weeks ago, I handed out a sign-up sheet for folks to volunteer for Children’s Church. I had a blank paper with numbers listed 1-10. Two people signed up. (We actually had more volunteer, because I had to personally go out asking) But here’s the “strange” part. Out of the two that signed up…one put their name at the #2 spot and the other at the #4 spot. (#1 and #3 were empty)
    So how do you get around the “skipping #1” mentality? This says something – but I’m unsure how to put it into words. Getting people to get to the point where they’re OK with being the first one on the list.
    Thanks for this post. I’ll be chewing and praying on it for a while.

    1. Cindy, my guess is that your fear is hindering you in more ways than you realize. When we’re afraid to ask people, the “ask” tends to come across as a negative burden, rather than the positive opportunity it really is.

      As Scott says in the comment below, I would start with people like Brian – those who may be looking to be asked on a more personal level. They aren’t easy to find. I would not have put Brian in that category myself. But who was it who said “You don’t have because you don’t ask?”

      Also, I wouldn’t start by asking people to perform a task, but by offering to sit with them and mentor them. Find those with even the smallest amount of potential, tell them you see that potential and would like to help them develop it. Let them know you’re willing to invest in them. I think too often we ask them to do jobs, but don’t give them any training or follow-up. If we’re mentoring them (not as scary as it sounds – it’s usually just conversation over coffee) they know they’ll be getting training and feedback, so they’ll be more comfortable with it.

      Also, I’ve found that a personal request goes a lot farther than a sign-up sheet. A sign-up sheet says “we need somebody – I guess you’ll do.” A personal request says “I need you. You matter.” And when that personal request comes within the context of personal mentoring, it has great power.

      It’s not easy to offer the one-on-one mentoring, or make the one-on-one request, especially if you’re an introvert – which I am, and I suspect you may be – but in some ways it’s really just doing our job. Especially in a Small Church.

      1. “When we’re afraid to ask people, the “ask” tends to come across as a negative burden, rather than the positive opportunity it really is.”
        That is SO TRUE! It breeds resentment.
        I think it’s because I feel people don’t want to help; and who likes asking people who you might feel are reluctant to help?
        I normally think of myself as outgoing – most people would probably say that of me. But Karl, you’re right. A big part of myself shrinks back from some “extrovert” characteristics.
        I hate asking people for things.
        I would make a TERRIBLE sales person. Say no once to me and I’m done asking. (I guess that’s because my no means ‘no.’)
        I take rejection personally sometimes (feeling like the ‘wounded’ in the Good Samaritan story…people see I need help, but just pass on by)
        I hate confronting people….about anything.
        I really need help in this area…I see it. (must be why I’m a “Hole filler”)

    2. Cindy,
      The issue you described concerning the children’s church sign-up sheet is not strange, it’s normal crowd mentality, but it wasn’t obvious to me either. I had a 20-something fresh out of college give me the wake-up. In a nutshell, creating a sign-up sheet using numbers is suggestive and can imply a willingness to lead (#1 position), or eagerness (strong =high on list, less strong = lower). What you really want is people to express interest so you can learn more. In fact, calling it a sign-up sheet itself is suggestive. Next time, try calling it an interest sheet so they don’t automatically feel they’ve made a committment. Tell people to write their name somewhere on the sheet and instruct them NOT to write names in a column. Have fun with it, put out different color pens, crayons. I used glitter pens once. For those that sign up, use it as the opportunity to ask open ended questions when you talk to them about what their looking for, why the ministry interests them, etc. Maybe it’s that moment to have the conversation and encourage.

      What Pastor Karl said about mentoring I cannot underscore enough. If I’m that guy volunteering, I want to know my church is not just throwing me into the deep end of the pool. I hear it over and over again, where people volunteer into a ministry only to find out no one has a plan, there’s no cohesive vision for what the ministry should be doing, they’re really just being asked to babysit, regardless of age, and no one is holding anyone accountable to anything. I read somewhere recently that a pastor should spend up to 40% of their time mentoring and training leaders in the church. It’s a valid question whether a ministry should even be allowed to exist if some degree of mentoring cannot be provided.

      Thoughts????

  2. Good points made by both Brian and Cindy.
    Thanks Karl for sharing this kick in the butt with us.

    I see it as a hard situation also, as Cindy did, however, we as leaders need to get over our own insecurities and lead. We need to be the ones who open up first. Be real with the people we are called to serve.

    I have one guy who just started coming back to church with his wife, he had no idea of my past, he thought I was just the “preacher man” and that’s all I’ve ever done. Boy, is he getting a new perspective, he even said that to me. Is it easy to lead in this way…NO!

    But how did Jesus handle things? Just like eating an elephant…one bite at a time!

    We all have people like Brian in our church families, lets start with them, one at a time, and then it will grow as God intends it too. We need to get over the need to do it all, none of us are called to that.

    I am learning this lesson as I go, and I am far from getting it right or even close yet!

  3. Excellent suggestions Brian. 40% of a pastor’s time mentoring would be wonderful…although with a tri-vocational pastor it may not be possible. (My husband receives a ‘touch and go’ salary at the church, some months we get paid, some months we don’t…this is common in our area. One pastor friends we have only get paid if there’s enough left over after all the bills are paid.) So working two extra jobs is the way we’re able to survive.
    Why do we stay here when it’s so difficult? I can’t explain it. We love this place and we love the people. We wanted to plant ourselves somewhere and become woven into the fabric of a community. We have here, but it’s difficult sometimes, not that we feel that we’re ‘doing without’…but the pull of knowing you have to work to pay the bills and wishing you could spend 40% of your time personally mentoring people in your church. That’s what’s hard.
    I gave this scenario which is typical for churches under 50 regarding volunteerism. It’s not a reflection exactly of “our” church, but more or less an observation across the board that I’ve seen and experienced.
    Say you have a church of 40 people and you need volunteers for either children’s church or Sunday School.
    Of those 40, 10 are elderly (70+)…they are either not physically able to teach children anymore, or the desire is long past (altho they may be very able to help in other areas and ministries within the church)
    Now we have 30. Of those 30, 10 are children and youth. They’re the ones that need teachers.
    Now we have 20. Of those say you have 5 who are already carrying more than their fair share of the load with other ministries. Maybe you have people here who’ve been teaching for years and they’d like a break. So you don’t feel you can ask them.
    Now we have 15. Of those 5 are not in a position to be asked. Maybe they’re unfaithful, they attend one Sunday a month, they may have life issues that disqualify them from teaching or being in leadership…maybe they’re new in the faith, growing and are not yet mature enough to teach.
    Now we have 10. Of these 10 you’ve got folks who don’t want to do the type of work that you need filled. They’ll tell you, ‘I’ll clean, I’ll pray, I’ll cook…but I don’t want to work with kids.” Or maybe these are content to just come in and go out…they don’t want to commit to anything. Maybe in this group you’ve got some who don’t feel “called” or “gifted” for teaching or kid’s ministry. In this group you may have some that their attitude is, ‘I’ve done my time when my kids were small, I’m done with kids ministry.”
    That’s it.
    You’ve used up your 40 people, there’s no one left but you and your wife. And you’ve got kids, willing and wanting to come to church, but no one to teach them.

    1. Patsy Collins

      This is exactly where I am at as a small church pastor. The ones that are able to do ministry are already overloaded. Several up in age, not able. These overloaded saints, have jobs to go to everyday. They have family to see about, and I just do not have the heart to put any thing more on them. I think they would “BUCKLE” under any more of a load. The few we have are maturing, except for about 5 of them. I am 73 myself, with some health problems, we as a church are working together to stay strong in the Lord, even though we are but a few. We have had MANY to come and Go !!

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Dear Pastor, Please Put Us To Work. Love, Your Congregation

dear pastorSmall Church members don’t start out wanting to be passive, anonymous, consumer Christians. We (pastors) help to make them that way.

That’s the kick-in-the-butt takeaway I got from a comment that was written on this website last week in response to my post “What If We Made Disciples and Left Church Growth to God?

The comment was written by Brian Kern, and it’s the meat of today’s post. Brian was a long-time member of my congregation, until a few months ago, when he and a few others left to start a new church, with our church’s full blessing and support. He’s also a very bright, kind and insightful guy, as you’ll see from what he wrote.

By the way, his comment was initiated entirely by him – it was not suggested by me at all. I’ve re-posted it here with his permission.

Brian’s experience in my church and others, is that Small Church pastors, while we often complain about lack of involvement from church members, may be encouraging passivity by the way we do – or don’t do – ministry. At the very least, we often fail to take some very simple steps to implement strategies that would inspire, encourage and activate more disciples.

The missing ingredient? Mentoring.

Brian’s comment deserves a wide hearing among Small Church pastors, so I’m pulling it from the comment section so we can all take a good look at it – and ourselves.

My experience (I’m not a pastor) has been that a great many of us in the congregation spend far too much time getting fed (nourishment) and quite frankly, I think we allow ourselves to get way too fat before we begin giving back through discipleship.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

7 thoughts on “Dear Pastor, Please Put Us To Work. Love, Your Congregation”

  1. VERY interesting.
    It would be WONDERFUL to do this. I was about to write how, on a practical level, I couldn’t see this happening with a truck load of other responsibilities. But I deleted what I wrote, because I thought, you wouldn’t have everyone at one time…you could spread it out…and in a small church it would be very do-able.
    The only thing I would worry about (and it may be a “moot” worry) is people’s willingness to be open and honest. My experience, thus far, has been that people put up strong walls to keep others out. Like a, “I’ll let you on the front porch, but don’t expect me to invite you in.”
    My question would be, how would you go about this without appearing judgmental? Like, would you start by asking how their prayer life is? Their Bible reading? Church attendance?
    That just made me think (now granted I’m not the pastor…just the pastor’s wife) but you know what my weakness is?
    I’m afraid.
    I’m afraid that if I start asking the “hard” questions of people that they’ll leave. And when you’re down to 25-30 people, and you grit your teeth to see if you can pay the mortgage this month…it’s scary. I HATE that. I hate feeling bound by the fears of “What if they leave?” If we had substantial amount of people I wouldn’t have that fear. But with so few…it’s CONSTANTLY there and I feel it’s restraint. (again, this is just me and to be honest, I’m not sure how my husband feels)
    Yet, I see the absolute necessity of what this brother is talking about.
    The issue we face is a strange one. I can only explain it by an example. Several weeks ago, I handed out a sign-up sheet for folks to volunteer for Children’s Church. I had a blank paper with numbers listed 1-10. Two people signed up. (We actually had more volunteer, because I had to personally go out asking) But here’s the “strange” part. Out of the two that signed up…one put their name at the #2 spot and the other at the #4 spot. (#1 and #3 were empty)
    So how do you get around the “skipping #1” mentality? This says something – but I’m unsure how to put it into words. Getting people to get to the point where they’re OK with being the first one on the list.
    Thanks for this post. I’ll be chewing and praying on it for a while.

    1. Cindy, my guess is that your fear is hindering you in more ways than you realize. When we’re afraid to ask people, the “ask” tends to come across as a negative burden, rather than the positive opportunity it really is.

      As Scott says in the comment below, I would start with people like Brian – those who may be looking to be asked on a more personal level. They aren’t easy to find. I would not have put Brian in that category myself. But who was it who said “You don’t have because you don’t ask?”

      Also, I wouldn’t start by asking people to perform a task, but by offering to sit with them and mentor them. Find those with even the smallest amount of potential, tell them you see that potential and would like to help them develop it. Let them know you’re willing to invest in them. I think too often we ask them to do jobs, but don’t give them any training or follow-up. If we’re mentoring them (not as scary as it sounds – it’s usually just conversation over coffee) they know they’ll be getting training and feedback, so they’ll be more comfortable with it.

      Also, I’ve found that a personal request goes a lot farther than a sign-up sheet. A sign-up sheet says “we need somebody – I guess you’ll do.” A personal request says “I need you. You matter.” And when that personal request comes within the context of personal mentoring, it has great power.

      It’s not easy to offer the one-on-one mentoring, or make the one-on-one request, especially if you’re an introvert – which I am, and I suspect you may be – but in some ways it’s really just doing our job. Especially in a Small Church.

      1. “When we’re afraid to ask people, the “ask” tends to come across as a negative burden, rather than the positive opportunity it really is.”
        That is SO TRUE! It breeds resentment.
        I think it’s because I feel people don’t want to help; and who likes asking people who you might feel are reluctant to help?
        I normally think of myself as outgoing – most people would probably say that of me. But Karl, you’re right. A big part of myself shrinks back from some “extrovert” characteristics.
        I hate asking people for things.
        I would make a TERRIBLE sales person. Say no once to me and I’m done asking. (I guess that’s because my no means ‘no.’)
        I take rejection personally sometimes (feeling like the ‘wounded’ in the Good Samaritan story…people see I need help, but just pass on by)
        I hate confronting people….about anything.
        I really need help in this area…I see it. (must be why I’m a “Hole filler”)

    2. Cindy,
      The issue you described concerning the children’s church sign-up sheet is not strange, it’s normal crowd mentality, but it wasn’t obvious to me either. I had a 20-something fresh out of college give me the wake-up. In a nutshell, creating a sign-up sheet using numbers is suggestive and can imply a willingness to lead (#1 position), or eagerness (strong =high on list, less strong = lower). What you really want is people to express interest so you can learn more. In fact, calling it a sign-up sheet itself is suggestive. Next time, try calling it an interest sheet so they don’t automatically feel they’ve made a committment. Tell people to write their name somewhere on the sheet and instruct them NOT to write names in a column. Have fun with it, put out different color pens, crayons. I used glitter pens once. For those that sign up, use it as the opportunity to ask open ended questions when you talk to them about what their looking for, why the ministry interests them, etc. Maybe it’s that moment to have the conversation and encourage.

      What Pastor Karl said about mentoring I cannot underscore enough. If I’m that guy volunteering, I want to know my church is not just throwing me into the deep end of the pool. I hear it over and over again, where people volunteer into a ministry only to find out no one has a plan, there’s no cohesive vision for what the ministry should be doing, they’re really just being asked to babysit, regardless of age, and no one is holding anyone accountable to anything. I read somewhere recently that a pastor should spend up to 40% of their time mentoring and training leaders in the church. It’s a valid question whether a ministry should even be allowed to exist if some degree of mentoring cannot be provided.

      Thoughts????

  2. Good points made by both Brian and Cindy.
    Thanks Karl for sharing this kick in the butt with us.

    I see it as a hard situation also, as Cindy did, however, we as leaders need to get over our own insecurities and lead. We need to be the ones who open up first. Be real with the people we are called to serve.

    I have one guy who just started coming back to church with his wife, he had no idea of my past, he thought I was just the “preacher man” and that’s all I’ve ever done. Boy, is he getting a new perspective, he even said that to me. Is it easy to lead in this way…NO!

    But how did Jesus handle things? Just like eating an elephant…one bite at a time!

    We all have people like Brian in our church families, lets start with them, one at a time, and then it will grow as God intends it too. We need to get over the need to do it all, none of us are called to that.

    I am learning this lesson as I go, and I am far from getting it right or even close yet!

  3. Excellent suggestions Brian. 40% of a pastor’s time mentoring would be wonderful…although with a tri-vocational pastor it may not be possible. (My husband receives a ‘touch and go’ salary at the church, some months we get paid, some months we don’t…this is common in our area. One pastor friends we have only get paid if there’s enough left over after all the bills are paid.) So working two extra jobs is the way we’re able to survive.
    Why do we stay here when it’s so difficult? I can’t explain it. We love this place and we love the people. We wanted to plant ourselves somewhere and become woven into the fabric of a community. We have here, but it’s difficult sometimes, not that we feel that we’re ‘doing without’…but the pull of knowing you have to work to pay the bills and wishing you could spend 40% of your time personally mentoring people in your church. That’s what’s hard.
    I gave this scenario which is typical for churches under 50 regarding volunteerism. It’s not a reflection exactly of “our” church, but more or less an observation across the board that I’ve seen and experienced.
    Say you have a church of 40 people and you need volunteers for either children’s church or Sunday School.
    Of those 40, 10 are elderly (70+)…they are either not physically able to teach children anymore, or the desire is long past (altho they may be very able to help in other areas and ministries within the church)
    Now we have 30. Of those 30, 10 are children and youth. They’re the ones that need teachers.
    Now we have 20. Of those say you have 5 who are already carrying more than their fair share of the load with other ministries. Maybe you have people here who’ve been teaching for years and they’d like a break. So you don’t feel you can ask them.
    Now we have 15. Of those 5 are not in a position to be asked. Maybe they’re unfaithful, they attend one Sunday a month, they may have life issues that disqualify them from teaching or being in leadership…maybe they’re new in the faith, growing and are not yet mature enough to teach.
    Now we have 10. Of these 10 you’ve got folks who don’t want to do the type of work that you need filled. They’ll tell you, ‘I’ll clean, I’ll pray, I’ll cook…but I don’t want to work with kids.” Or maybe these are content to just come in and go out…they don’t want to commit to anything. Maybe in this group you’ve got some who don’t feel “called” or “gifted” for teaching or kid’s ministry. In this group you may have some that their attitude is, ‘I’ve done my time when my kids were small, I’m done with kids ministry.”
    That’s it.
    You’ve used up your 40 people, there’s no one left but you and your wife. And you’ve got kids, willing and wanting to come to church, but no one to teach them.

    1. Patsy Collins

      This is exactly where I am at as a small church pastor. The ones that are able to do ministry are already overloaded. Several up in age, not able. These overloaded saints, have jobs to go to everyday. They have family to see about, and I just do not have the heart to put any thing more on them. I think they would “BUCKLE” under any more of a load. The few we have are maturing, except for about 5 of them. I am 73 myself, with some health problems, we as a church are working together to stay strong in the Lord, even though we are but a few. We have had MANY to come and Go !!

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