Yesterday I sat with a fellow church planter in a restaurant in Southern California discussing the best ways to lead the various people that come in and out of our new churches. My colleague’s frustration with the state of people’s pursuits in church was obvious and while I know him to be a VERY good pastor I couldn’t help but pick up on his torment. That deep rooted hand wringing with the people who come into his church and are not making the connections he feels would move them along best in their spiritual journeys.
But in his case it seemed the biggest issue was not that some want more preaching and others want louder music. Further, I did not get the feeling that his “miss” had anything to do with the wrong people coming in and out of his church. His problem, to me, seemed to be more about not understanding WHO these various characters were and what they are chasing.
We are all chasing SOMETHING. Now of course, as pastors, the seminary answer is “Jesus” when asked, “What are you trying to get your people to chase?” True, I guess nobody would disagree. But the reality is VERY few people chase “end games.” Think of it like a football game: Games are certainly decided by touchdowns, but they are won and lost with first downs and 5-yard gains. Only the quarterback is expected to be able to see the end zone clearly from 50 yard line. As leaders and pastors it is OUR job to guide people’s chase and to put things in their path that would cause them to go deeper with God and community.
My friend has been talking vision, vision, vision to everyone. The unfortunate reality is that, VISION is not a one-size-fits-all motivator for people in our churches. That’s when I, sort of off the cuff, said “Leaders chase vision, but followers chase leaders and consumers chase programs…”
Leaders chase vision. But followers chase leaders, and consumers chase programs.
The reality is, most of the people in your church don’t give a rip about your vision. Largely because whether we admit it publicly or not the overarching vision is still Jesus. So here are a few things I am trying to do better at to be sure I keep my people on-course even if I cannot always immediately change WHAT they chase…
1. LISTEN FOR INDICATORS
I am getting better at listening closely in new people’s conversations and questions to identify if they are a leader, follower or consumer. The guy that asked me on his first Sunday, “What are you guys all about?” and went on to ask, “What sets you apart from the other churches in Folsom?” –This guy is a leader. I don’t even know what he does for a living, but I’ll bet the house that he’s a leader. Conversely, the other guy whose first question for me was, “Do you have an active Men’s Ministry?” he went on to say, “…because my last church had a great Men’s Retreat where we got to shoot guns and ride motorcycles…” –This guy is likely a consumer, looking for how we’re going to entertain him.
2. GUIDE THEIR CHASE NOT THEIR AGENDA
I used to punch back at the guy who wanted the Men’s Retreat and give him some arrogant, ‘we’ll teach you how to die to self’ answer, and never see him again. Who was more immature? –Well, of course, me. So, now when he asks me about the retreat, I say, “No Men’s Retreat, but this Saturday we are going to our local food bank to serve the hungry and build a garden and a bunch of our guys will be there, you should come and get to know us…” Hopefully this way he is still getting a program and a gathering that he is looking for, but I am now guiding him away from consumption and towards service. Everyone wins.
3. CREATE GROWING OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL THREE
Of course we’d love to have more leaders. Leaders build other leaders and leaders have followers and followers mean…well a lot. But at the end of the day, all three matter deeply to God and all three are in the mix at your church and mine. So ask yourself a few questions and then make steps to create the things you’re missing:
- Is our leadership training and development process clear and functional?
- Do the followers in my church have ample opportunity to rub shoulders with their potential leaders? i.e. small groups, gatherings, platform time…
- How are the programs in my church that are designed to “feed” sheep also building in opportunities for sheep to become shepherds?
To read more of Stu’s Leading Thoughts click here