“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Monday, August 10, 2009

Loss of Key Persons

One of the things that will burn a small church pastor out is the loss of key persons within the core team. We experienced this as we worked through our first few years.

What often happens, as I stated in the last post, is that a church gets planted with a lot more emotion than planning, and therefore things have not been thought through.

So, what happens? Well, the folks heading up some portion of a key ministry realize that their four children have no Children's Ministry for a while as teachers are identified, and curriculum is sought and studied. (This is simply one example).

And so, they begin looking around at bigger, established churches and seeing that these churches have a ministry ready-made for their children. Off they go to that church.

Now, let me say that I understand that to a degree -- parents want their children to have a good Children's Ministry, but the reality is that a small-church drained of key personnel, AND their children never can get their ministries off the ground.

It might be youth, it might be a choir, but any of these things can strip a church of key members. Now, I will be blunt about part of the reasoning -- people are not as committed to a church as much as they are committed to a program, or perceived needs that their family has. Part of the issue there is that you did not do adequate planning and communication during the initial plant stage. People rarely understand what it takes to plant a church - there is sacrifice, frustration, and many other emotions that will occur.

You must understand that you are battling the social conditioning that we have created around the church that intimates that we are there for YOU -- and whatever needs YOU deem important. Long ago the church ceased, by and large, of being a gathering of God's people to worship Him, and became a social event with all the bells and whistles of a secular club.

Now yes, churches still worship God -- but many times the staff is professionally paid, the lights, music, setting all TV quality and the 'event' short enough to satisfy the most ardent football fan.

And when one plants a church that has none of that, it is a true disadvantage, and one will have a difficulty in maintaining members. So, enough of the problem -- what can one do about it?

Well, first and foremost -- be crystal clear with the people working with you -- "We may not have a functioning [children's ministry/choir/worship team/youth] for a while, are you committed to helping build that up?"

Second, don't try to compete with the local mega-church -- understand the focus of your ministry and stay true to it. You may shrink, but if you try to be all things to all people by adding every ministry that the local dotcom church has you will quickly exhaust your budget and your people.

If someone wants to be on a 90 person choir, well then you may just have to tell them that you won't be forming that sized choir for a while (especially since your church is 30 in number!), and they may have to find a church that provides them with that opportunity.

The greatest danger for a small-church pastor in this area is the attempt to be something that you are not, or do not yet have the funds to be. Don't over-extend your own time or the churches resources attempting to keep one or two key families, identify others who are committed to the church and work with them to bring them along.

We have had several key families leave for some of the reasons stated above, and have maintained friendships with them -- they have been a blessing to the churches where they have gone, and everyone ended up fine. Trust that God will provide for you, and that He will bring into your church those with the necessary gifts to provide the needed ministries.

At the end of the day, stay focused on your commitment to God -- NOT to the many felt needs that are out there. This can only lead you to burn-out, or compromise in some manner.

If you stay true to God He will make clear the ministries you are to have, and the size church that you will become.

May God Bless Your Work!

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