In a recent Pastor to Pastor I encouraged you to survey your church family to determine their likes, dislikes and hopes and dreams for their church. A couple of pastors decided to try that, and this has prompted me to write a follow-up. One pastor said, “I’m not sure I like what I found, but I recognize it is reality.” Another said, “What do I do now?”
PERCEPTION IS REALITY
Sometimes people say things that are not necessarily true, yet they perceive them to be true. It is hard not to attack the statement, but one must think through this question, “Why do they perceive this to be truth?” On the other hand, maybe my perception is off a bit. At any rate, the response is what it is. It is a starting point to work from.
Getting facts is the first step. Determining where to go with the facts is the second.
- First mistake is taking the “likes or dislikes” personally. DO NOT DO THIS.
- Second mistake leaders make is trying to fix everything people “don’t like about the church.”
- If only a very few people say something they don’t like, remember to weigh that properly. You cannot make everyone happy. IT SHOULD NEVER BE THE GOAL TO MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY. The goal is always to do the right thing and in the right manner and right time. The good of the whole is more important than the good of one part. A mentor of mine, Dr. Russell Camp, said many times, “If you have to decide between a man (even the pastor) and the church, always chose the church.” He said this because the church is more important than any one person.
- Determine what might be a glaring issue or issues, something that sticks out or is repeated. This is a better measurement.
- As pastor, don’t go to the leadership with fixes. This is a mistake. In your own mind, have solutions in your back pocket, but wait to lay out your ideas. If you go directly with your solutions, the leadership or church will clam up and say very little, or there will be a contrarian that will challenge everything you say.
- After you have determined the membership’s view of things, categorize to the departments affected, such as music/CE/hospitality/ushers/etc.
- Before you go public with the information, you may want to have a deacons’ retreat (wives could come along) and do an overall assessment. Keep out of the “nitty gritty” of things and keep to the overall view of the church. This may be a time to look long-term for the church.
- If you have committees or smaller administrative groups, you will need to meet with them regarding ONLY their specific areas. KEEP PEOPLE ON TRACK TO THEIR SPECIFIC RESPONSIBILITY. NOW, here’s the key:
- Make sure they understand that perception is reality.
- Help them not to “react but act.” Show them they can improve their serve.
- Make sure they find ways to improve the service to the church family.
- Committees often come back with, “This won’t work,” or “We’ve tried this before…” etc.
- Remind them that they are the solution to the problem. Leaders are not only problem-identifiers but problem-solvers.
- Try to keep the “big picture” foremost. The details will come.
SOME THINGS CANNOT CHANGE
- The Doctrinal Statement and Constitution of the church are not up for change. Note: the Original Documents are critical and should not be violated or changed without serious consideration and prayer. Don’t compromise to please.
- The Culture of the Church (which should be determined) is important. People choose to join a church not only on doctrinal agreement but the culture. Culture is “how we do things.” It is the fabric of the church. Culture can change, but it will change slowly. Here’s an illustration: some churches are prone to good fellowship and interaction. The church I served in Watkins Glen, NY, was very warm and enjoyed lots of interaction among the families. I moved to serve the church at New Woodstock, NY, and the culture was very different. They were good people, but their interaction among each other was dramatically less. Neither was right or wrong. Culture can change, but it should not be violated or forced.
FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
I did the survey I’m encouraging you to do many times with different churches. I will share this observation from the church I served in Hornell, NY. We did the survey, and one thing that jumped off the page was how busy everyone said they were on Sunday’s. They often said, “It isn’t a day of rest.” Why? Well, if you teach Sunday school, you arrived at 9:15-9:30. You left after 12:15-12:30. You were back in choir at 4:30 and left after service at 7:15-7:30. Here’s what we did to solve that:
- We had only morning worship in the a.m.- 10:00-11:30
- We moved Sunday school to the p.m. (actually increased attendance). 6:00-7:30
- Choir practice was moved to WED night after prayer meeting, which we ended promptly.
- No meetings were allowed on Sunday so that it could be a day of rest, family and worship.
This move wasn’t easy, but the people loved the relaxed day after the change. Did we cut hours? No, we were still together for three hours. The Sunday night first half hour the church was together, a blend of a Sunday night service and Sunday school opening. It didn’t change the belief of the church nor did it violate the culture. This is an illustration of determining a need, finding a solution, and leading the church to a new experience.
If you would like to ask a question, feel free to write.