Safety to be honest about our problems because we know:
- We will be listened to
- We will be given time
- We will be helped to further identify and resolve those problems
- We will find respect, and
- We will not be condemned or ridiculed
Of late I have encountered a number of people, near and far, who have engaged me in conversation and during it has voiced their sadness at the way they have been treated by others in the club we know as Church. I wish I could say that it was limited to leaders or people with some degree of authority but in fact it seems to me that perhaps we are all, across the board, becoming just a little less tolerant and a lot more impatient.
I made this comment to a church leader (they weren't CofE so for once I can breath a limited sigh of relief) and their response was, 'Well, they're just so demanding. They want your time and want you to listen to them and then want you to make their problems go away and I don't have the time for all that!' Sadly they weren't that impressed by my response to their response, because I merely pointed out that if they weren't there do do that then what did they think their role was?
What followed was a litany of 'I have to ...' and you know what, they didn't have to at all, the problem came from the fact that they were not only a blinking control freak but they also functioned as the lord of all they surveyed - running their little club as a fiefdom when some were granted rights and privileges whilst others were merely pew-fodder and their to be commanded and controlled. But I must be getting better for I merely smiled and left them to all that work they have to do - but sadly, one of their members I met have decided that they should do that too and have joined another (still not CofE) club elsewhere.
Now I know that we all have people around us who want time and a listening ear but never respond to advice.
I know that there are always people who have opinions and want things to be done differently - and perhaps if they wanted to 'do' the things done differently in the different way they wanted them to be done rather than merely criticise and make their demands they'd find life was a different reality for them too!
I am also all too aware that there are those who continue to do really silly things (and claim it was satan what made them do it perhaps?) and continue to repeat their mistakes at an alarming rate and sometimes increasing intensity - BUT - we have to make our churches safe and this means getting priorities right:
People are the most important thing we have in church and even if this means that we invest hours in them only to see them leave - it is right that we did it, and right that we do it again for the next person.
I'd rather have a 'worship band' that sounds like Des O'Connor and a church (for Church = people) that purred like a Rolls Royce than the other way round - for I know which of the two blesses God.
Rather than keep looking for church growth and seeking the lost (and attractive to those in other churches) we need to concentration on shepherding our flock for this is where real Church is to be found and it also results in retention. Bringing them in is relatively simple - it's the keeping them that takes the work and if you aren't prepared to do that work - then you need to be prepared to lose them: And send them with a blessing!
A friend recently said of my blog that it was a place where I often appeared 'to have a cob on' and they wondered how people read what I wrote without 'chucking a brick through my window' (verbally rather than physically). Now I have to admit that I'm rarely angry when I write this stuff - it's merely a five/ten minute dialogue internally - the physical evidence of an inner struggle, consideration or 'trying to make sense of' moment.
I don't write to lecture - but as a 'memo to self' which I invite others to read and consider and offer correction, advice, pity or prayer - but if it touches a nerve, inflames a passion or gets you going too, them I am doubly-blessed.
Church is a great place - it's only some of the people in it that make it a pain,
Church is a bigger pain when the people who make it so are those who lead.
So if you're a leader - how are you doing?
Ask your members ;-)
phew - nine minutes - keyboard's smoking and I'm off to early communion, funerals, school assemblies and a couple of meetings and whatever else the day brings - please pray for those who lead, we're not always sitting indoors with our feet up :-)