I’m a shepherd. Not with sheep, but in the church. Preaching, teaching, and counseling (informally and formally) are what I do. Leadership meetings…not so much my thing. There are fifteen manifestations of the Holy Spirit listed as “spiritual gifts” in the New Testament. The gifts of teaching, wisdom, discernment, hospitality, these I love to experience. The gifts of administration, for example, are not so much my thing. All this said, we had a leadership meeting after service today and it was right around the budget report and attendance review that I started getting frustrated. What I had to realize, however, is that it is up to us to get the message across, and that it takes the spiritual gift of mercy to do that.
We were talking about our new education and discipleship effort. We have been putting it together most of this year, and I’m pretty excited about it. Member participation in the classes, however, is less than encouraging. We talked about the need to let people know about the various classes, and that’s where I started getting frustrated. We announce classes and events starting several weeks in advance, print them in the bulletin, post fliers in the lobby, include announcements in the video slide show before and after service, post these things on our website and through social media. Honestly, I’m not sure what else we can possibly do to let people know what’s going on. Then comes the comment, “Announcements don’t do any good,” and I lose it. Announcements do no good because people “don’t pay attention” … so I think to myself, “if they don’t care enough to pay attention, then why do we try so hard to let them know?” It’s true, at some point, the individual members have to care enough to be engaged and active in the life of their church, but that does not absolve us as leaders of making every effort to get the message across.
In regard to our new education program, the leadership team has been hammering out the details, discussing all the motives, putting together the vision and when we have the final product we completely understand what we’re doing and where we’re going with it and why. The membership does not. It is up to us to explain it to them. If we fail to that, then we can announce another class, and it’s just another class. It doesn’t grab the interest of a congregation that may be suffering from programmatic burnout. It is on the shoulders of the leadership to lead, which means, with much mercy, laying out the course so the membership can see what lies ahead, how to navigate it, and why it’s important. Just announcing another class or event does not do justice to our excitement and all the work that went into determining what investments will best serve our fellowship.
What we walked away with today was the need to hold in front of the fellowship what the plan is, in detail. We need to let them know what we are doing, how we are doing it, and why it is important to them. This is part of our membership/new to FCC class, but we need to reach beyond the few people in that class. We need to remind the entire congregation, regularly, about the expectations of membership in the church and of being a follower of Jesus. I had preached a sermon series on this as we were putting the finishing touches on our plan, but it need to be more consistent than a four-part sermon series. We need to recognize and honor, publicly, those who have made the effort and sacrifice to pursue growth and maturity by completing the various parts of the plan. We need to realize that it may take some time for the vision to gain traction and for people to begin seeing the benefit and value of making time to put themselves in a position to be discipled, taught, trained, and equipped.
We know–ad nauseam–that the church is not about the programs. The programs, however do serve the people; they are the vehicles through which we grow closer to God and become more like him. They are not nearly as important as the people, but we use them to serve the people and we’ve worked hard to find what we believe are the right ones for this fellowship in this season. It is important for the people to take advantage of them, which means it is important for the leadership to lead people to them, and it’s too important to get too easily frustrated by unmet expectations. The focus is on Christ, and the mission he has set before us. We need to do everything we can to get the message across, so we can get the message across, in order to partner with God in his process of transformation in the life of our fellowship. Jesus led twelve of the seemingly most stubborn, clueless men around for three years. I can feel his frustration in some of the words recorded for us in the gospels. Yet he continued to lead them, knowing that God would bring them around. So must we.