I remember feeling so overwhelmed. I was overseeing the Marketing Department at Christ Tabernacle and there was so much work to be done. My blood pressure was constantly at 140/120, it’s a miracle I didn’t have a heart attack. I would get home late almost every night. I was tired, irritable and my mind was always foggy. As much as I loved the ministry, I did not like what it made me, and started to see ministry as misery.
Then one day I walked into a Barnes & Noble, waiting for my mom who was at a doctor’s appointment. After about 5 minutes of browsing, my eyes locked on this book entitled “Getting Things Done”. The subtitle was what caused me to purchase it, it read, “The Art of Stress Free Productivity.” I just wanted to be Stress Free, so I bought the book, read it and started my journey on productivity. That was almost 5 years ago. Today, I still work hard but I’ve learned a lot of lessons about being productive and accomplishing more ministry in less time.
As a Pastor, I’ve had the privilege of speaking with and learning from so many Pastors. Many of them with a passion for the Ministry, daily they give their lives for the ministry. They are in love with Jesus, and in love with his people.
But they are also disappointed because they don’t see the growth they expect. They are tired, overwhelmed, and wondering if it’s worth sacrificing their family on the altar of ministry.
After observing and talking with many, I’ve observed 5 reasons why churches are just surviving and how some small tweaks can make them productive.
So Here’s Issue #1:
- The Pastor Does Everything: I remember speaking with one Pastor who’s churchwas stuck at about 25 visitors. He seemedto be extremely overwhelmed cause he was working a fulltime job, and after his job he made hospital visits, did funerals, and provided counseling. Somewhere between 10 & 11pm he found time to study and prepare for his upcoming sermon. His wife was not happy, his children felt that the ministry robbed them of their dad. So I asked him, why did he feel he needed to do everything? His answer was, “cause I’m the Shepherd.”As the Shepherd, if you are responsible for everything your church will only grow as far as your schedule, energy levels, and emotional capacity will allow. Simply because nothing gets done unless you are there. This means you are the bottleneck that is keeping your church from growing.
As the Shepherd, the quality of service your church provides is dependent on your ability to do the “right work”. In my opinion, the “right work” a Senior Pastor should be doing is A. Preaching, B. Raising Up Pastors / Under shepherds who can help serve the people, and C. Serving the people. I don’t think it’s healthy that the Senior Pastor disassociates himself from the needs of the sheep, but he cannot do everything.
So here’s the tip:
The Pastor must identify and spend time with 3 to 5 younger men who can help him accomplish his calling. He must spend time with them; teach them all that he has learned about ministry. His job is to share everything he knows, he must pour out his cup. Next, the young men must be given an opportunity to learn and apply what they have learned. After the service opportunity the young man, must be given an opportunity to debrief. What did he learn, what could he have done differently.
If done properly, the young men will arrive at a point that the people cannot tell the difference between the quality of service the Pastor provides and his apprentices provide. If you do this, you have just added another reliable person who can help you do the work of a Pastor.
- The Pastor is Handcuffed – I’ve got an amazing Pastor friend with great ideas, great leadership capacity and yet his churches’ growthis limited. After talking with him, I asked why is it hard to see growth and he said every change has to go through a Board of Directors. The Board of Directors make decisions on every detail of the church and their focus is protecting the traditions of the church and closely monitoring the finances.Now I’m all for traditions, until traditions become a barrier for others to join the church. A church is supposed to be inviting to the surrounding community but when we are tradition focused we isolate those who are not familiar with our traditions.
The other concern is that Boards are concerned with the finances, and I think finances are extremely important. Ministry costs money. But ministry should not be hindered by money, especially when we serve a God who desires to supply our needs. I think we need to know when to step out in faith with the premise that God will supply the resources we need to do his work.
Finally, Boards are supposed to be protectors of the Vision and Mission of the church. They are supposed to be guides and a support to the Pastor. They are not responsible for making decisions on the day-to-day strategic matters of the church. When they do, in my opinion, the Board is going overboard. Boards are an important part of 20th Century church governance, but till this day I believe Jesus has called Shepherds to lead his sheep, not boards.
- The Pastor Says Yes to Everything – I’ve experienced this first hand. Whether it was guilt, or adesire to not disappoint anyone, I’ve found myself saying yes to things that I should have said ‘No’ to. The result has been, we do a lot of things and get nowhere fast. We’ve got a ton of great programs that lacksynergy and purpose. So we do a lot activity, the people are busy but they are not growing spiritually. Tom Coughlin coach of the New York Giants said “Never mistake activity for achievement.”Due to the business, instead of growing, families are struggling. Being out so many times during the week has placed an unnecessary burden on families. Many spouses would complain that their homes were not in order, or children were not doing well in school. It’s possible that these families already had some issues, but the added pressure of serving in numerous events could not have helped the situation.
So I made some adjustments. In his book, “7 practices of an Effective Ministry” Andy Stanley says “think steps not programs”. Once I took his advice, our discipleship program started to bear great fruit. In conversation with other Pastors on staff, we decided that ‘less was more’. So we focused on Small Groups, Membership and Ministry. We gave people more time to be at home, more time for personal Bible study.
There are probably 20 more reasons why churches are just surviving. These are the 3 that I’ve found to be prevalent. But here is the Good News; they can all be fixed with some small adjustments.
I believe that God has called his church to be the hope of the world. But in order for the community around us to trust the church, they have to see it as a stable organization that will be here to meet there needs for many years. So I pray that we as Pastors would do the hard work of getting things right and establishing a strong foundation with the purpose of meeting the many needs of the people.