May I suggest that accountability is essential for a healthy and functioning staff?
We find that many times congregational staff members operate in a bizzaro congregational world devoid of healthy accountability. Without a thoughtful, rational system in place, evaluation and accountability disintegrates into personal opinion and judgments made without benefit of facts. Expectations are fuzzy. Ministers find themselves pushed and pulled by individual tastes and priorities. Congregational bullies show up and exercise inappropriate influence. Motives begin to be assigned. Facts take a distant backseat to innuendo and gossip.
Other times, congregations are victimized by clergy who seem to operate without rules or fail to practice rudimentary work habits. Clergy too often operate in silos, content to patter around their ministry corner without concern for the church as a whole. Clergy who are not held accountable make mistakes that no one calls them on, and thus fail to learn valuable lessons. Boundary violations are inevitable, as most are reticent to “call foul” on a man or woman of God.
There must be a better way!
Accountability for clergy teams begins with healthy peer pressure. Patrick Lencioni (The Advantage) goes so far as to say that “peer-to-peer accountability is the primary and most effective source of accountability on the leadership team of a healthy organization.” Rather than looking to the pastor or Personnel Committee as the primary source of top-down accountability, healthy ministerial teams hold each other accountable to common goals without fearing backlash or defensiveness. Such a culture is essential if a staff is going to truly function as a team, rather than independent contractors.
Peer-to-peer accountability requires high trust and a leader who is willing to confront difficult situations and hold people accountable him or herself. Lencioni notes that no one will engage in peer-to-peer accountability if they sense that the team leader “balks when it is time to call someone on their behavior or performance.”
Such a truth raises an interesting irony. “The more comfortable a leader is in holding people on a team accountable, the less likely she/he is to be asked to do so.”
I once came as pastor to a congregational staff that had never been given permission to disagree or hold one another accountable. Predictably, staff meetings were dreadful. Body language and attitudes said: “I’d rather be anywhere but here”. Our times together were perfunctory and subdued, with little genuine engagement and almost no give and take. Frustrated, I went to a trusted colleague and begged him to openly disagree with me about a proposal, just so we could show that we could have a vehement conversation and emerge with a better product.
At our next staff meeting, after I rolled out my latest marvelous idea, he simply responded, “I have a problem with this”. You could have heard a pin drop, as the group braced for the inevitable sharp response. Instead, we engaged in honest and heated debate that produced several excellent upgrades to the original idea. Finally, we walked out laughing together and went to lunch. From that point forward, staff meetings and the staff culture gradually shifted toward more honest feedback and accountability. Staff meetings and retreats became times we anticipated as our opportunity to build deep fellowship and connect to our mission and vision.
At the heart of accountability is a deep motive that cares enough about someone to say the uncomfortable word. Lencioni says we only hold accountable the people we love. “To hold someone accountable is to care about them enough to risk having them blame you for pointing out the deficiencies.” While we may think the kind and gracious thing is to let unwanted behavior slide, failure to hold someone accountable is ultimately an act of selfishness.
Far too often, clergy are ambushed by a dismissal that comes with no warning and no sense of having ever been confronted about their performance. There is nothing kind or loving about that.
Another key component of ministerial accountability is distinguishing between metrics and behavior. It is easy to note rises and falls in attendance or participation. It is more complex and profoundly more important to address concerns about behavior. The reason? “Behavior issues almost always precede or cause downturns in performance or results.”
Healthy ministerial teams develop good practices around holding one another accountable. They spend time affirming all the ways each of them help make the team better. Such “deposits” into our emotional bank accounts with one another make the inevitable “withdrawals” tolerable and even appreciated.
If you wish to inject health into your staff relationships, practice appropriate accountability.
Six years ago I’ve switched from PC to Mac and then back again last year. The first jump came after a friend gave me a second generation MacBook Air. More recently, due to my disappointment with Apple’s latest update to their MacBook Pro line, I switched back to PC to get a fast seventh generation Intel Core processor and a touchscreen laptop. Apple offers neither as of early 2017.
The Mac v. PC debate gets people fired up, but I don’t think it should. Both platforms offer similar quality options in both hardware and the operating system. Smart users can run MacOS and Windows 10 safely and can install first-rate software for church and ministry. The reason to go with a Mac or a Windows PC has more to do with preference than quality. So let’s examine some important considerations and the availability of quality software commonly used in the ministry setting.
PC or Mac: 3 Considerations
The transition from PC to Mac for someone like me who never used a Mac regularly took some time and came with some frustration.
Consider a few issues when making the switch:
- You will need to replace your software with Mac compatible version, which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on what you’re using.
- Everything you know about how to do certain tasks will change when making the switch. Little things like formatting a disk, finding files, or adding hardware peripherals work differently.
- Generally, a Mac with similar power and features costs more money than a PC with the same specs, especially with the latest generation of MacBook Pros with the Touch Bar. Apple increased the base price for this new feature that a lot of reviewers don’t find that compelling. IBM disagrees. The organization that used to make the original PC, now uses Macs and claims that this switch saves them a lot of money.
Going the other direction, from the Mac to the PC, also means replacing software and learning new tricks. However, most of the time going to the PC from Mac will save money. To illustrate, right after the current generation MacBook Pro came out, I bought a Lenovo Yoga 910 laptop. It has the latest generation Intel Core i7 Kaby Lake processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. It doesn’t come with dedicated graphics processor like the MacBook Pros, but the MacBook Pros use the previous generation processor. The price difference was over $1,000 less for my system compared to the Mac of similar speed and capability. The Lenovo also adds a great touchscreen display and convertible design, something Apple doesn’t. I’m pleased with my choice to go PC again.
PC or Mac: Church and Bible Software
Churches use different kinds of software in different roles. Here’s a list of the categories that most churches or ministers use regularly.
- Bible study software for sermon and Bible study preparation and staff development
- Creative solutions for editing videos for worship, photos for worship and digital/print publications, and desktop publishing for fliers, newsletters and more
- Worship presentation software
- Church management solutions for keeping track of attendance, membership, and giving
- Office suites for writing, creating presentations, number crunching and more
In each category, users can find and use great solutions on both Windows and Mac. It used to be hard to find good Bible study tools for a Mac or good creative apps for Windows. Now, you can have both. Most people can run office suites, church management solutions, or Bible software on either Mac or Windows without a problem. You won’t need to relearn everything to switch.
Here’s a list of solutions that run on both platforms with few differences:
- Microsoft Office works great on both platforms and you can install on each especially if you subscribe to Office 365 Home for about $100/month. That lets users install on up to 5 computers and for up to 5 users all for this same price.
- A few free or open source solutions for office suites include G Suite (AKA Google Drive or Google Docs), OpenOffice or LibreOffice all run equally well on Mac and Windows.
- A lot of the best church management solutions run online through your browser, but you’ll need to check yours before making the switch or check our recent post about the Most User-Friendly Church Management Software solutions.
- Most Bible software companies now offer a Mac and Windows version, although a few use emulation software to run a Windows version on a Mac (marked with * below). See the following:
*I’m not sure if the Mac version of PC Study Bible runs directly on macOS or uses emulation. Biblesoft’s not been willing to cooperate with my requests to review their software.
PC or Mac: Creative & Worship Presentation Software
Like Bible software, the worship presentation software companies make great Mac and Windows software. Here’s a list of the top options that run on both platforms equally well except for EasyWorship, which only comes on Windows:
- OpenLP (free open source option)
- EasyWorship (only Windows version)
Check out our Worship software guide.
The Mac used to rule the realm of creative software, but not anymore. Adobe changed the creative software market with their Creative Suite subscription service. For $10 to $50 a month, churches and ministers can use the best software available and it runs on both Mac and PC with little differences between them.
Some creative types prefer Apple’s Final Cut Pro X for video editing or Logic Pro X or audio editing. Very few still use Aperture, which Apple quit developing recently. Apple doesn’t seem as committed to creative professionals. They limited the amount of RAM available in their laptops and haven’t updated the Mac Pro in four years. But the Adobe solutions work great on any of Apple’s computers and most Windows computers except the lowest price options.
Mac or PC: Which One to Buy
So after all of this, should you get a Mac or PC? It’s plain that neither platform dominates. It’s a matter of personal preference. If you want a Mac and can pay a little more, then go for it. If you prefer Windows, then you’ll enjoy any of the above software.
If you want a touchscreen that works like a laptop or a tablet, then you have to go with a Windows PC. Apple has a touch screen computer available. It’s called an iPad Pro. However, if you want a Mac with a touchscreen, you’re out of luck because it doesn’t exist.
How about for your ministry? What does your church use? I’d love to hear your feedback if you’ve switched from PC to Mac or back to help others along this journey. There’s certainly more than a few readers contemplating the same switch.
Originally posted here
Being a mentor is critical kingdom building
Initially, the idea of training your own replacement sounds like an excellent way to work yourself out of a job. However, if we’re honest with ourselves, we all know we’re not irreplaceable. It just feels that way with all the demands for your time and expertise throughout the week.
Despite those concerns, there are practical reasons why training someone else to perform your tasks benefits you and your church. Here are three reasons why it’s wise to train your replacement:
Reason 1: Enables you to see processes from a new perspective
How many years have you been in your current role? If the answer is two or more, you’ve likely developed ways of doing things that make sense to you. Those practices may or may not be the most effective or efficient.
When you take the time to train someone else to perform those functions, he/she may ask questions that force you to reconsider why you do things they way you do. That doesn’t mean you have to make drastic changes right away. However, it’s wise to listen and consider if there’s a better way or to explain why this method is best at this time.
Reason 2: Provides a backup for when you take time off
If you want to take a vacation and be able to unplug from work, you’ll need a backup. Someone has to pay the church’s bills, deposit the tithe, handle insurance questions and more. Those tasks can’t wait a week or so for you to get back.
Having a backup comes in handy in these moments.
Reason 3: Opens up possibilities
Maybe your church is going to launch satellite campuses soon and will need someone to take on a senior leadership role to make that successful. If you’ve already trained someone to handle your current job, you could step into that senior role without much transition time.
As much as we like to plan, sometimes God opens up new opportunities we didn’t expect. Training your replacement now gives you the flexibility to be ready in case He leads you to a different role.
Training your replacement sounds scary at first. However, the benefits of having a reliable backup are well worth overcoming that fear and investing the time into training.
Originally posted Here
A recent cover story in the Harvard Business Review was titled, “What Really Keeps CEOs Awake at Night.” The article explored such things as brand building, executive pay and managing millennials.
It made me wonder about a similar question for my field: “What really keeps pastors awake at night?”
I travel a fair amount speaking at various pastors’ gatherings and, as a result, hear from a large cross section of pastors from across the country. I also am a pastor and have been for nearly 30 years.
So what does keep the majority of us up at night? At least five things, and I will offer them in ascending order.
No. 5: Money
As in lack of, raising of and stewarding of. I believe it was R.C. Sproul who once posed the question, “How much ministry can you do for $1?” The answer was, “One dollars’ worth.”
That may have been a bit crass, but you get his point.
But even crasser would be, “How much of an electric bill can you pay with $1?” Answer: “One dollar’s worth.”
And most pastors are the ones getting the bill and having the responsibility to make sure it’s paid.
But it’s not just money in regard to the church. It’s also money in regard to their personal lives. Most pastors are underpaid. They do not have adequate benefit packages. They do not have a provided retirement plan. And—forgive me for stating the obvious—they don’t have end-of-the-year stock options or sales bonuses.
So many pastors I know feel the stress of personal finances and corporate finances.
No. 4: Staff
I know that many churches are singularly staffed, but a lot of churches have at least a few. That makes hiring and firing, training and managing, big deals.
But what keeps us up at night the most revolves around staff conflict. Not every church staff is healthy. Not every relationship is a good one. Anyone in the marketplace knows how stressful a bad working relationship with another employee can be. Imagine what it’s like in the confines of a church’s mission and ministry.
No. 3: Departing Members/Attenders
Here’s a little secret you may not know: Every pastor takes every member departure personally.
We can’t help it.
Every pastor worth his or her salt treats and leads their church like a family. And they are the parent of that family. When someone leaves, it’s a knife in their relational hearts. It feels like disloyalty, abandonment and relational treason.
It doesn’t to the person departing. All too often (sadly) it’s a consumer decision, like switching from Costco to Sam’s Club. But not to the person who has invested his or her life in building that Costco.
No. 2: The Needs of Members
Most pastors genuinely care about the people they serve. They care about the marriages in crisis, the children who rebel, the cancer being treated and the grief over the loss of a loved one.
They come home at the end of a day prayerfully carrying the weight of many people’s lives, and it’s not easy to disengage. To be sure, being at the side of someone who just lost a son or daughter is nothing compared to what that mother or father is going through. But when you are at the side of grieving parents week in and week out, the toll is real.
And you lie awake at night overwhelmed at the depth of grief you’ve experienced.
No. 1: Feelings of Inadequacy
Yep, you read that right. Most pastors would tell you that they do not feel up to their task. They are only too aware of their sin and shortcomings. They are overwhelmed at a job that never ends, never has a 5 p.m. cut off, never has a finish line.
And then there’s that little thing called a “message.” Every week, weekends come along with amazing regularity. And pastors are expected to have something helpful, something fresh, something arresting and something encouraging. And too many times, they feel it’s all they can do to keep themselves afloat.
Let’s be clear … almost every pastor I know would say it’s a privilege, an honor and the greatest joy of his or her life to serve in this role. I would add my name to that list. This isn’t about enabling collective whining or even engendering sympathy.
It’s just to say to other pastors, “You’re not alone in how you feel.”
And to say to the many attenders of the churches they serve, the next time you feel led to pray for your pastor, perhaps now you can pray for him or her a bit more specifically.
Originally posted here
Challenges are part of any ministry, yet some clergy thrive despite the inevitable setbacks. New research shows that their keys to success can be boiled down to a few simple strategies available to anyone.
Some clergy seem to rise above the fray.
They face the same sorts of challenges that are present in any church: critical congregants, hectic schedules, pressure to devote more time to others and thus minimal time to caring for themselves. They don’t always get it right; in fact, they’ll say they are far from having it all figured out. Yet they’re flourishing in ministry.
What sets them apart?
In a recent study, researchers at the Clergy Health Initiative at Duke Divinity School (link is external) interviewed 52 church-appointed pastors about their daily lives and how they approach challenges, and invited them to complete a series of surveys and maintain a daily activity log for one week.
The participants were selected based on their responses to an earlier study of the predictors of positive and negative mental health in clergy, through which they had answered questions about components of positive mental health. Among the participants were clergy who had been identified as flourishing, with positive mental health scores at the highest levels, and those identified as languishing, with scores in the bottom third of the continuum.
When the researchers compared the new data from these two sets of pastors, they noticed important differences in how the two groups take care of themselves and orient their work. One factor stood out above the rest, however: flourishers attend to their well-being (link is external). In fact, the researchers found that 94 percent of clergy with flourishing mental health are intentional about spending time on personal care such as exercise, prayer, family relationships and hobbies.
The good news: the strategies they employ to achieve this balance are available to everyone, clergy and laity alike. These strategies can form a playbook of sorts for how to attain positive mental health.
“Some people, including some clergy, still feel that the very nature of clergy work sets pastors apart — that above all else, pastors are called to serve, so the human need to attend to oneself shouldn’t apply,” said Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, the research director for the Clergy Health Initiative. “But this just doesn’t hold up. The flourishing pastors’ beliefs and actions show that applying intentionality and nurturing relationships with friends and family actually make all the difference.”
Flourishing clergy focus on working in alignment with God.
Strategy 1: Remember who it is that you serve.
Rather than looking for praise from the pews, aim to derive your sense of success from knowing you’re doing your all to enact the work God has called you to. Also, keep in mind that you are participating in a process — you are working with God, and God alone sees the full picture.
Strategy 2: Discern, discern, discern.
Create time for spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study to understand the work God is calling you to do.
Flourishing clergy are proactive and flexible in taking care of their physical and mental health.
Strategy 3: Prioritize healthy behaviors.
There is tremendous pressure to eat what is offered to you at church gatherings. Remind yourself that your congregants don’t want to make you unhealthy. Take smaller portions, and don’t feel awkward about it. Go to the doctor regularly; get annual checkups. Get outside. Ride bikes, play golf, or go for a walk every day and set a goal for the number of steps you want to log. Make healthy activities a priority, but also be flexible about how you incorporate those health behaviors into your daily routine. Pastors’ lives are too unpredictable to keep to the same habits all the time, but that doesn’t mean you have to dismiss your health goals.
Strategy 4: Invest in spiritual care.
Start each day by reading the Bible. If you’re traveling and can’t read along the way, listen to a devotion on an MP3 player or mobile device. Set aside time for prayer and one-on-one communion with God. Keep a regular Sabbath.
Strategy 5: Make time for personal interests.
In addition to pursuing the activities you care about, look for opportunities to incorporate them into your ministry.
Flourishing clergy are intentional about setting boundaries around their work and personal lives.
Strategy 6: Pick the time that works for you.
Schedule activities in functional blocks. Pick one night of the week when you will attend nighttime church meetings, and urge others to use this as a basis for scheduling. Set “office hours” for when you will be available at the church each week.
Strategy 7: Use space creatively.
One pastor described taking regular “office hours” in a local McDonald’s. This allows him to have space outside the church to connect with church members, as well as the broader community. To create distance from their work on an afternoon off, some pastors recommend going out of town — even if it’s only as far as the next town.
Strategy 8: Communicate clearly and regularly.
If you keep a Sabbath, include that information in the signature of your emails. If you have to say no to a request on your day off, offer an alternate time to help. Ask your congregants, staff and other key people about their top priorities for you, and share your own. Then discuss where your expectations diverge. Being honest about your gifts and limitations as a leader is important.
Strategy 9: Manage your technology.
Some pastors set a stop time every evening, after which they do not pick up incoming calls. These clergy say they check their voicemail and will respond if there’s an emergency, but by waiting for a message, they can determine whether a request needs to be addressed during off hours. Work with another pastor or spiritual leader who can be “on call” when you are off or away. Include that person’s contact information in your automatic email reply and your outgoing voicemail message.
Flourishing clergy nourish friendships and mutual relationships.
Strategy 10: Find support from other clergy.
Identify another pastor who can serve as a mentor. Form or join a peer or covenant group. Find at least one person in whom you can confide and from whom you can draw support in the face of ministerial and personal challenges.
Strategy 11: Seek out emotional support from family and friends.
Meet a friend for lunch, especially if you feel yourself getting down or low on energy. Create an annual ritual, such as a retreat with friends, to maintain important connections. Make yourself accountable to a close friend or spouse who knows the day-to-day stresses you’re facing; help each other maintain boundaries and healthy practices.
Those who set priorities and adjust their plans to attend to those priorities on a near-daily basis aren’t undone when difficult circumstances arise; they find their way through. They embrace challenges. They avoid symptoms of depression, anxiety and burnout. They flourish.
“If you’re wondering whether these basic strategies make a difference, they do,” Proeschold-Bell said. “Even though they sound like good common sense, they are hard to enact — but worth it. They are what differentiated flourishing pastors.”
Originally posted Here
“There is no other person I would rather work for.”
“I enjoy my work and ministry so much, and the biggest reason is I serve under an incredible pastor.”
“My pastor rocks.”
Those are some of the laudatory comments we heard from church staff persons who serve under excellent pastors. In my previous post, I shared the top ten ways pastors can be bad bosses. In this article, I look at the positive perspective.
Here are the most frequent comments we heard from church staff. These are ten ways pastors can be great bosses.
- Cast a clear vision and path. “You have no doubt where he is leading our church and us. He is clear, articulate, and his vision is compelling.”
- Support other ministries. “As a children’s minister, I have served in churches where the pastor never says anything about our area. My pastor, though, is always lifting up my ministry and other ministries.”
- Create a fun atmosphere. “Those who serve on staff in local churches face many serious and challenging issues. I love the way our pastor encourages us to have fun and enjoy our work. I love the way he jokes around with us.”
- Provide a good role model and example. “Whether it’s work ethic or character issues, my pastor serves as an excellent role model. Even when I disagree with him, I never question his integrity or commitment.”
- Be decisive. “This pastor is the first I ever served under who does not hesitate to make a decision, even if it’s a tough decision. We are never left wondering if or when something will happen.”
- Include other staff as part of the team. “We have different responsibilities and ministries among our staff, but our pastor makes certain we see the big picture. He really helps us to feel like we are part of the team.”
- Have the back of your staff. “I knew what kind of boss I had the first time a cantankerous church member read him the riot act about me. My pastor let the church member know he supported me and respected me. I will never forget that.”
- Listen well. “He is really a rare leader. You know when you go to talk to him about something you have his full attention. He not only listens, he responds very well.”
- Support the staff member’s family. “I don’t know how he found out about our financial struggles. But my husband and I cried openly when he quietly gave us a check from funds he had collected from church members. I suspect he contributed a lot himself.”
- Communicate frequently and clearly. “Most leaders, pastors included, never communicate enough. That is not the case with my boss. We are always in the know. He actually worries about over-communication. I love it!”
Bad pastor bosses. Good pastors bosses. Those who serve under them have spoken clearly. May we who lead take their words to heart.
Originally posted Here
Is ministry a place to drink?
A question has come up quite a bit lately. People want to know if there is a standard for pastoral leadership within the church that would include abstinence from alcohol. It is not my intention to look at the first miracle of Jesus turning water into wine or to build a case for the water-to-wine ratio or any such thing. I am not attempting to dissect every angle of this matter but simply want to take a practical look at the subject and share a perspective. I am not saying every person must agree with my perspective; however, I am hopeful that a fresh view may encourage someone in pastoral ministry to think about their decisions and how such choices could potentially affect others. All that said, let’s consider what the Word of God says on the matter.
Drunkenness: There is absolutely no doubt that the Bible forbids drunkenness. Read the following passages to name a few: Isa.5:11, Prov.23:20, Rom.13:13, Gal.5:19, Eph.5:18. My question is how do you know if you’re actually inebriated and have crossed the line? I love what I heard Pastor Greg Laurie say on this: “You’ll never have to be concerned about falling into the sin of drunkenness if you never have a drink.” So, why take the chance?
In the Old Testament we find those who would take a Nazarite vow. According to Numbers 6, during the time of this vow people would refrain from wine. In Leviticus 10:9, we find priests refraining from wine when ministering in the tabernacle as the Lord did not want their judgment to be clouded in any way. In fact, the prophet Amos rebuked the nation when he said, “I raised up some of your sons as prophets, and some of your young men as Nazarites. Is it not so ‘O you children of Israel, says the Lord? But you gave the Nazarites wine to drink, and commanded the prophets saying, ‘Do not prophesy,’” Amos 2:11-12. How tragic that these young men had a calling upon their lives, yet were encouraged to drink wine, ultimately hindering their calling to prophecy.
In the New Testament some of the debate over pastoral liberties comes from the meaning of Apostle Paul’s reference in 1 Timothy 3 where he lists the qualifications for a Bishop (overseer, elder, pastor). Paul writes that a man should be blameless or above reproach in the way he lives his life. Paul states in 1 Timothy 3:3: A bishop is not to be given to wine. Upon close examination of the original Greek word paroinos, we find various scholars and commentators on the subject splitting grammatical hairs of what the word actually means and does not mean. But the question is then raised, Was Paul saying we should abstain completely or was he saying a pastor has liberty as long as he is not given over to it? Again, I am not one to debate the finer points of the Greek language, but rather share why I believe it could be a danger and hindrance to a pastor’s ministry. Thus, the reason I personally choose to refrain from the consumption of alcohol.
The Old Life: When I think of alcohol, whether that means one drink or many, the idea represents the old life before I knew Jesus. But when I came to Jesus I put away drinking because to me it was representative of the old man I once was. Why would I want to go back? I wouldn’t and I don’t.
The Observation of Devastation: In all the years I have pastored I can tell you I have never once seen anything good come from alcohol. Rather, I have seen violence, divorce, loss, devastation, drug abuse, abortions, unwed mothers, tragic accidents and death, all a result of intoxication. A recent survey I read stated that one of seven people who drink become alcoholics. Their spiral may have started with one drink, which led to the next and so forth. Most people I have counseled who are given over to alcohol never thought about a downward spiral. They never expected that first drink would lead to a divorce, child support, rehab, DUIs and more.
Let me pose a question: “Would you keep a dog in your house that severely bit one of seven people who came into your house?” Did you know that 1,700 college students die every year from alcohol poisoning? I am certain most thought they could handle it. To put this into perspective, 1,700 college students is equivalent to four jumbo jets full of people.
The Potential to Stumble Others: As a pastor, I realize my calling has a great amount of influence within the lives of people. That responsibility is something I take very seriously and seek to walk in the fear of the Lord in how I live my life before my God and people. For example, if I was a social drinker and say seven people decided to follow my example with one of seven becoming an alcoholic ending their life in total destruction, is that a risk I am willing to take? NO WAY! I find it troubling today that the oft-used phrase, “in the privacy of your own home,” is used to justify drinking, even for pastors It’s all good as long as it’s in the “privacy of your own home.” But how far is that reasoning carried? What else could potentially fall under that category? To shed light on this subject, first of all, it’s not my home; it’s Jesus’ home. Furthermore, as a father I have always considered my children within our home. Forget for the moment that I am a pastor; I am also a husband and father. I don’t want to go down the road of justifying what I do at home versus what I do when I’m outside the home. I know me; I could easily fall into that trap.
Not Legalism but Wisdom: Undoubtedly, there are people on the other side of this discussion who may even go so far as to call me the “weaker brother or legalist.” That is something I am willing to live with. As I personally weigh the consequences of a decision on this subject “for me” it is clear; I don’t want alcohol and a lot of other things to be part of my life and ministry. Furthermore, as pastor of Calvary Chapel SJC I encourage all our young men in leadership who have a desire to become pastors to take the same stance. Also, I encourage our congregation in the same way. Although the flock may have the liberty, I urge them to be careful that the liberty does not become a cloak for sin. A little leaven can potentially spoil the whole lump. Or worse, that we would stumble someone with our liberty, whether in the privacy of our own home or in the public eye.
Galatians 5:13: For you brethren have been called to liberty, only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
The Statistics actually Say “No”!
There are millions of people in smaller congregations across the country who live with a feeling that they are failures because their church isn’t as big as the megaplex congregation down the street. This is sad and should not be the case.
A global survey conducted by Christian Schwartz found that smaller churches consistently scored higher than large churches in seven out of eight qualitative characteristics of a healthy church. A more recent study of churches in America, conducted by Ed Stetzer and Life Way Ministries, revealed that churches of two hundred or less are four times more likely to plant a daughter church than churches of one thousand or more. The research seems to even indicate that the pattern continues—the smaller the size of the church the more fertile they are in planting churches.
It pains me that so many churches and leaders suffer from an inferiority complex when in fact they could very well be more healthy and fruitful than the big-box church down the street.
I am not suggesting that the mega church is something we need to end, I am simply saying that we need other kinds of churches to truly transform our world. I also do not want people in huge churches to think that just because they have more people and more money that they are more blessed by God. The stats tell us that ten smaller churches of 100 people will accomplish much more than one church of 1000.
Christian Schwarz says:
“The growth rate of churches decreased with increasing size. This fact in and of itself came as no great surprise, because in large churches the percentages represent many more people. But when we converted the percentages into raw numbers, we were dumbfounded. Churches in the smallest size category (under 100 in attendance) had won an average of 32 new people over the past five years; churches with 100-200 in worship also won 32; churches between 200-300 average 39 new individuals; churches between 300-400 won 25. So a ‘small’ church wins just as many people for Christ as a ‘large’ one, and what’s more, two churches with 200 in worship on Sunday will win twice as many new people as one church with 400 in attendance.”
Schwarz found that the average growth rate in smaller churches was 13% (over five years), whereas in larger churches it was a mere 3%. A small church in the NCD sample with an average attendance of fifty-one typically converted thirty-two persons in five years; megachurches in the NCD sample averaged 2,856 in attendance but converted only 112 new persons in five years. The same number of persons participating in fifty-six small churches averaging fifty-one in attendance would have produced 1,792 converts in five years.
I know such extrapolations in some ways mean little. I also know that conversions is not the whole picture. My point is that we need to stop seeing smaller churches as less successful. The trend currently is seeing the closing down of smaller churches as larger ones increase in size and number and I think this could be an alarming trend given the actual facts when we measure true influence.
When I mention statistics like these I am often criticized as being a mega church hater, and that is not fair. I am not a hater. I am not a bride-basher because I love the groom too much.
It is hard for me to feel sorry for the mega churches when this information confronts them given that they are so often lifted up as the height of success–often at the expense of the smaller church around the corner. My advice: Get over it. I am not thrashing the mega church here, I am simply saying that smaller churches are necessary, needed, and often more fruitful than we have been led to believe. And they often feel less significant in the shadows of their much larger sister around the corner. Lets look at the truth and accept it for what it is and strive to do whatever it takes to make a difference in this world.