In 1992, as Bill Clinton campaigned for the presidency, his focus statement was drilled into the staff members at every campaign office to ensure that everyone stayed on target; “It’s the economy, stupid.”
In ministry we would do well to hang a similar banner on the wall of every church office. Our biblical message should remind each of us that “it’s the people, stupid!” Unfortunately that message is often pushed out by long task lists, conflicts, endless meetings and the demands of facilities. More and more pastors are adopting a CEO model of leadership to accomplish their goals and meet their increasing responsibilities while people move in and out of their churches without making meaningful, discipling relationships.
I don’t like the terminology of leadership books that label people as “assets.” I get the point but it just seems like friends we love change into something else when we see them as assets that help us meet our goals. It’s impersonal.
Several years ago a local celebrity in our area came through the front doors of our church. On Monday morning every person in the outer office mentioned his presence to me before I reached my office. At staff meeting the senior pastor talked of what a great thing it would be for the church if we could get he and his family plugged in. The next night he was mentioned at the deacons’ meeting. He was a definite “asset” as a public figure. The other 6 visitors we had that same morning were never even mentioned. They got the standard welcome letter and information packet in the mail that week. Our TV celebrity stayed two or three weeks and then left as quickly as he came. We later found out that he went to every local church and attended a few weeks to connect with his audience. Our attenders were his assets.
Jesus paints a clear picture of interacting with people. We should value them, commit to them, model integrity and honesty and invite them to follow Jesus with us.
I love the people on my team. People never care how much I know unless they know how much I care. After they have gone through some leadership orientation sessions, completed the church-required paperwork and begin getting involved, I love developing relationships with each of them. It’s a challenge with 35 people. I only wish I could dedicate more of my time to being with them. But you know how it goes … there’s a meeting at 3:00 to choose the color of the new chairs and I’ve got to be there.
Who do you have on your “team?” Each of them, like you and me, love encouragement and praise. Little things like text messages asking how they are or telling them you prayed for them today go a long way. Sharing meals together, watching ballgames, having family game nights all help us truly connect.
A group of us just returned from our annual retreat where we do nothing but play and pray in a gorgeous Maine foliage setting. It is a weekend of rest, playing golf, breaking bread and building relationships. The spontaneous conversations we have are always much more on target than the planned sessions that consume our other meetings. We lean on each other, guide each other, speak truth and share what God is teaching us. It’s my favorite weekend of the year.
I don’t have “assets” but I am sharpened and refreshed by a group of partners in the gospel (Phil. 1). We know we can share our weaknesses as easily as our strengths. We value each other and are open to creative new ideas because we continuously reevaluate and put sacred cows to death. We support each other knowing we are safe and loved. We share in ministry together. We’re friends.
And the cool thing is, each of these friends of mine are taking what we do together and putting it into action with groups of their own. That’s multiplication.
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” – Jesus, John 15:15