Tag Archives: church growth

Keeping Office Hours

I saw a post that someone sent out asking how we would be spending Easter Monday. I wondered to myself if Easter Monday was really a thing. Should I be relaxing, enjoying my knitting or reading a junky novel? Because my plan was to go into the church office at one of the two churches I’m serving, and put in my usual Monday four hours. Sitting. Working on the bulletin or visit list. Waiting for someone to come in. Waiting for the Office Administrator to stop being busy and start a conversation. Waiting for a phone call. Sitting in an office, from my point of view, is not a very good use of a pastor’s time unless someone comes in looking for pastoral care or even just wanting to talk. But that happens pretty infrequently. Making an appointment to talk happens more often. Going out to people works best.

Instead of sitting in an office, I could be sitting in a cafe working on Sunday’s bulletin but really people watching and engaging customers in conversation. When I do this I manage to bring the conversation around to church pretty easily as I answer the question, “So, what do you do?” And by the end of these conversations, I often make a point of offering an invitation to church or to some church event.

Establishing new relationships is really important to being the church. Too often in churches a pastor has no time to get out, be seen, do walk arounds in the neighborhood, to pray or catch people doing what they like to do. Just ‘seeing’ the neighborhood is important. But it seems the people inside our churches feel the only thing a pastor should be doing is ministering to “the flock”. (Does it occur to anyone else that sheep are aimless and not very smart so I’m not sure we should really admit to ‘caring for our flock’ in our churches. Might be better to refer to “ministering along side our ‘band'” or “equipping our ‘flange'”. Gorillas and chimps just seem to be more on the ball and have a lot more energy than sheep- not that I have anything against sheep. All God’s children have a place in the choir.)

Some of the habits we have developed and now perpetuate in our churches are problematic. Many members of congregations have been raised in churches where the church is about the building, about finances and members’ happiness. “I paid for this church”. Consumerism consumes us. As a Baby Boomer I was raised on this, so I know. And that attitude seeps into the places that should be spiritual sanctuaries; the place where we should be going to sit with God; where we would be better served if we met to discuss the needs of the community. And then went out and did stuff.

Often times the real concern is money. “We need to get more people in so we can pay these bills”. “It would be helpful to reduce the pastor’s salary, so we’ll have more money to have the floor in the social hall professionally stripped and waxed once a year”. If the major concern is money and not actually putting our faith in God, listening to God, and “doing” the ministry God calls us to do we might as well put a for sale sign on the front lawn today.

It’s a trust thing. “In God We Trust”. We’re proud to have put that on our money though it was only added during the Cold War in 1957 and we sure don’t mind telling other people they need to trust in God. But, actually trusting in God ourselves; listening for God to tell us what WE need to do to live a Christian life, is easier said than done.

Jesus didn’t have a church so he surely didn’t sit in an office either. It seems he rented an Upper Room once in awhile when the ‘band’ needed to be together for something important like a last supper.
They made do.


It’s a Consolidation—– Not a Merger!

If you had asked me a year ago how to merge three churches I would have looked at you with confusion and a big shrug. I have been certain however, that in order to get three long-lived churches to become one new church the churches must first really WANT to change. In fact, over the past several months I’ve become, I’d say, somewhat of an expert on the subject of church mergers. It is not an easy process.

To reach this goal it is necessary first of all to assist the churches in discovering that God has a new mission and new ministries for the churches. If a church has gotten very small and isn’t attracting worshippers then clearly the vision, core values and mission of the church need work.

One of the three churches in this consolidation did not have a very close connection to the Spirit of God. An ethnic congregation, the members had settled into routines that mostly involved watching the pastor in the pulpit on Sundays, singing the same old hymns they’d sung for years, violently protesting even subtle changes, and preparing ethnic foods to sell to create income to help the church survive. The entire mission was to support the church so it could continue to do more fundraisers to support the church so it could do more fundraisers to support the church so it could do more fundraisers….. You get the idea, I’m sure.

It had become difficult to feel God there. Because of the small numbers, there seemed to be quite a bit of gossip, back biting and judgment. The culture was not a healthy one. This has changed somewhat as it has been made clear to members over the past few years that the church belongs to God, and not to them. Some chose to leave once their sense of ownership was called into question. All in all, the church feels healthier.

One day I walked into the social hall of this same church to find lots of the dishes, kitchen equipment and kitchen supplies spread out on a few tables with a sign, “Take what you want.” One member of the Dorcas Guild, as the guild cleaned the kitchen, had decided that the church would never again be able to do large dinners so made the decision on the spot to start getting rid of items deemed too numerous for the church to ever use. When questioned the response was, “We can do what we want with this stuff. Afterall, our parents and grandparents bought it all.” There is a more exact name for all that stuff on the table, and that is “church assets.” Consolidating churches helps one to understand better the importance of church assets.

When a group of church members see the church as belonging to them and not to God, then something has gone horribly wrong over the years. Sadly, this is pretty common in churches. We church members seem to be a lot about hammering in our stakes and claiming territory to the detriment of a church’s culture. It makes it almost impossible for new people to feel as though they’ve come to the right place.

Since the decision to merge was voted on this past summer we’ve been moving more quickly. One of the three churches was a latecomer, and that has required us to do some back peddling. But, all three churches bring many gifts to the table and at this stage I’d say our greatest asset is knowing that God is directing us. We pastors and church members alike feel a very strong sense of excitement at the way the Holy Spirit has filled us to over-flowing and caused us to want to do a new thing. It IS exciting. It’s a fascinating process. But it’s also a little scary.