A fascinating article in today’s Telegraph on the rise of Christianity concludes:
‘Church attendances, in freefall for so long, have started to rise again, particularly in Britain’s capital city. Numbers on the electoral rolls are increasing by well over two per cent every year, while some churches have seen truly dramatic rises in numbers.’
(HT: Brian Law)
John Piper makes the case for reminding the people you are leading of your vision. There is a need for renewing, restating and rejoicing in your vision as a church.
‘It is the job of the leader to articulate the vision over and over again’ – Piper.
1. In regular patterns for church at large eg. a preaching series, business meetings, church weekends, vision nights
2. Every time leaders meet
3. When making changes such as multiplying a small group
4. Every time people are considering membership
5. Every time you (as leaders) introduce change
6. Every time you recruit volunteers
‘For the skilled leader, every day brings “insertion points” for vision. They might be when a church member talks to a neighbor — a vision casting moment. It might be a teaching, transitioning toward application — another vision casting moment. It might be the children’s director inviting someone to be on the team….’
Let me tell you why I work wherever possible through teams in church ministry.
The heart of it is this – through teams we learn to lead through others.
1. Teams recognise gifting. People are full of surprises and gifts are waiting to be nurtured. Inviting someone to be on a leadership team gives them limited opportunity and responsibility from which you can both assess gifting and aptitude in a relatively safe environment.
2. Teams facilitate a culture of ‘every member ministry’. At our church we want everyone to be exercising gifts and serving in some way. It helps integrate people into church and it helps model how the gospel works out in practice. A church with passengers [a very different category from visitors] is a dangerous place to be.
3. Teams help cement commitment from individuals in the church. It’s easy to opt in and out of church until responsibility compels you to commit. It’s really healthy for Christians to have to say ‘no’ to something else because a church commitment calls.
4. Teams develop leaders. When I form a team I’m looking for someone to take on that team and to lead it 6 months to 2 years down the line. Teams help identify leaders and provide a great way to train them.
5. Teams are a safe way to test character and ability. Is this person reliable, dependable, trustworthy, etc. Team-life reveals a lot.
6. Teams help you avoid burn out. Most ministers are doing too much. Some responsibilities can be delegated to teams saving you time and helping you focus your priorities.
7. Teams build community through stronger and more diverse relationships within the church. Teams bring people together to work on projects who perhaps don’t know each other well or wouldn’t naturally relate. Deliberately building diverse teams facilitates community too.
8. Teams create synergies. Allsorts of ideas, creative solutions and problem-solving comes from good teams working together, sparking off each other.
9. Teams model biblical practises. Jesus worked in a team. Enough said.
10. Teams foster accountability. They train people to learn to be disciplined and dependable.
11. Teams prevent a church from pursuing an ungodly professionalism. Church members are tempted to pay staff to do the work and staff are tempted to justify their place by doing the work.
12. Teams teach you to relate better to the church. Teams prevent you from making mistakes in the life of the church generated from one or two people deciding everything often without a wide enough understanding of the impact on church life.
RESULT? Through teams we build a church and through teams we model ministry as a church and through teams we achieve more for a church.
I’m proud of the fact that a number of the key leaders in our church’s children’s work are men. Our head of children’s work is a man and the head of our new Friday kids club is a man. Our 3-5 year olds work is also headed up by a man. I say all this at a time when the average age of children in the church is 5.
Please don’t misunderstand me, we have some very able female leaders in the team. I guess it’s just that churches expect that to be the case. But I’m proud of the fact that we are developing a culture in which men and women want to lead this work together.
Here’s a short post by Mark Driscoll encouraging men into this vital ministry.
‘If I was a young woman, and was thinking of being married, I would not marry a minister, because the position of minister’s wife is a very difficult one for anyone to fill. Churches do not give a married minister two salaries, one for the husband and the other for the wife; but, in many cases, they look for the services of the wife, whether they pay for them or not.
The minister’s wife is expected also to know everything about the church, and in another sense she is to know nothing of it; and she is equally blamed by some people whether she knows everything or nothing. Her duties consist in being always at home to attend to her husband and her family, and being always out, visiting other people, and doing all sorts of things for the whole church! Well, of course, that is impossible; she cannot be at everybody’s beck and call, and she cannot expect to please everybody. Her husband cannot do that, and I think he is a great fool if he tries to do it; and I am certain that, as the husband cannot please everybody, neither can the wife. There will be sure to be somebody or other who will be displeased, especially if that somebody had herself half hoped to be the minister’s wife. Difficulties arise continually in the best regulated churches; and, as I said before, the position of the minister’s wife is always a very trying one.
Still, I think that if I was a Christian young woman, I would marry a Christian minister if I could, because there is an opportunity of doing so much good in helping him in his service for Christ. It is a great help to the cause of God to keep the minister himself in good order for his work. It is his wife’s duty to see that he is not uncomfortable at home; for, if everything there is happy, and free from care, he can give all his thoughts to his preparation for the pulpit; and the godly woman who thus helps her husband to preach better, is herself a preacher though she never speaks in public, and she becomes to the highest degree useful to the church of Christ committed to her husband’s charge.’
So said C.H. Spurgeon at a wedding recorded in Sermons Preached on Unusual Occasions
Rick Warren on why Ministers can be biggest obstacle to change in a church:’You’ve decided we’re going to grow and you’ve set goals for growth but now;
The role of the pastor must change.
The role must change from minister to leader. Mentally you must (if the church is going to grow) be willing to pay the price for growth. You must be willing to have people that you are not the pastor of,that you don’t personally minister to. That’s a big decision. If you have to personally minister to everyperson in your church then the church cannot grow beyond your own energy level. That is a barrier. You become a bottle neck. The church must outgrow your personal ministry.This is called the ‘Shepherd Rancher Conflict’. As the pastor of a little church you know everybody, doall the praying, all the baptizing, all the teaching, know every family, every kid, every dog and cat and you shepherd everybody personally. But there’s a limit to how many people you can personally shepherd.As the church grows you must change roles from Shepherd to Rancher. The Rancher helps oversee under Shepherds. Everybody on my staff practically, does more weddings than I do and counseling andthings like this. You must be willing to let other people share the ministry. You don’t give it all up ifyou’ve got a pastor’s heart; you’ve got a pastor’s heart! But you’ve got to give up most of it becauseotherwise the church cannot outgrow you. You’re the bottle neck. The Shepherd must become theRancher. Ask yourself, Would I be happy being a Rancher? If you wouldn’t be I suggest you take on a goal that your church will sponsor new churches. Most of us God made with a Shepherd’s heart. God loves people with a Shepherd’s heart because most of the pastors in America have a Shepherd’s heart.
Can a Shepherd become a Rancher?
Yes, he can. If you’re willing to do three things:
1. Stay put and outlast the critics. You will have criticism in growth.
2. Give up part of the ministry and let other people minister and not have to be able to do it all yourself.
3. Learn additional skills.
The conflict that’s going to occur is the fact that if you go into an existing church realize this up front: They’re not hiring you to be the leader; they’re hiring you to be the minister. Actually they don’t want a leader, they want a chaplain. They want a chaplain who will marry and bury and preach and serve the Lord’s supper and do all of the holy things and let the people just handle the church. They’ll make the decisions and administrate. You just be the chaplain. When all of a sudden you start saying, “I don’t want to just be the chaplain, I want to lead this church to growth,” they say, “Wait!” They’re not saying itconsciously but inside they’re saying, “Wait a minute!” Most churches think that the congregation is the leader and the pastor is the hired chaplain. He does all the holy things and yet for the church to grow itneeds to be the exact opposite. The ministry needs to be in the hands of lay people. The pastor must be willing to let the people be the ministers and the people must be willing to let the pastor be the leader for there to be growth to take place.’
The latest IX marks e-jounal focuses on the why and how of church revitalization. At a time when church-planting is all the rage here is a reason to stop and think about the place and opportunity of renewing a church.
Including an interesting article by Mike McKinley on the relative merits of church-planting vs. church-revitalization. The article could have been even more interesting if he had discussed the third option of church-replant. What is replanting and how is it different from church-revitalization?
The City to City Europe conference is getting off to a great start here in Berlin.
500 delegates from 26 countries representing over 100 nations all concerned to see churches planted across Europe has to be reason to rejoice and a reason for hope.
We’ve heard of God richly blessing planting initiatives and we’ve heard of God richly blessing faithful church-planters who’s work is hard because there is little fruit.
One planter of a church in Paris described ‘the privilege of ploughing where the ground is hard’, another in Frankfurt described the challenge of being a bi-vocational Pastor with a weekly congregation of 15 of so. Both stories are reminders of why we need to pray for our countries in Europe.
Tim Keller gave the first keynote address on the gospel-centred church and here’s one gem of an answer to a thoughtful question that came out of his talk.
How can we know whether our church is either too accommodating to the culture of our city or not accommodating enough?
Keller’s answer: A church that is not accommodating, culturally, will be seeing no conversions because no-one will ever come through the door. A church that is too accommodating, culturally, will be seeing lots of new people attending but no changed lives because the church is only mirroring the culture rather than critiquing the culture.
So a gospel church in a city should be willing and able to flex on the negotiables making it’s meetings accessible to non-believers but not flexing on gospel-living as the church challenges the culture by being an attractive and distinctive gospel-community.
Deciding when and how to celebrate the culture of a city and when and how to critique the culture of a city is the art of being a church-planter.
We have a 5 year old son who attends our church twice on a Sunday. In the mornings we spend the first 15 minutes together in the service before he heads next door for Kidz Sunday School but he also attends each evening service where he sits through the full 80-90 minutes. He’s not the only child there and as a church we are slowly developing a culture in which our children feel welcome and included in the evening service so that families can worship together.
Here are a couple of quite excellent posts by Jen Wilkin on why worship together as families and then how to make it work.
She writes of the excellent children’s work at her church;
We see it as a rich and relevant worship environment for a child, as a vibrant supplement for “big church”. But not as a substitute for it.
She also recognises that things are far from simple when you bring your kids to big church;
Together hasn’t always been easy. I recall long worship services with four elementary-aged children scribbling with crayons, begging for gum, and contorting themselves like miniature yogis in the pew. Just remembering it makes my eye twitch. But over time, with clear participation expectations, creative activities and the right cocktail of punishments and rewards our kids have grown to see “big church” not as a place they tolerate but as a place they belong.
But she is full of practical wisdom too on how to help your child sit through the service and participate in the service. Her tips on debriefing after the service are terrific too;
After attending Big Church together, remember to talk to your child about how it went and what could go differently next week.
In our service on Sunday evening I preached on Exodus chapter 4-5 and we wrestled with the issue of who was responsible for the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. I asked the congregation mid-way through the service ’so who was it; Pharaoh or God?’ A five year old shouted out ‘God’ loud enough for the whole church to hear as she continued to colour her picture next to her father. That was quite possibly the highlight of our evening.
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