Monday, June 2, 2014

Learn from your mistakes

One of the frustrations I sometimes feel in working with smaller churches is that they often repeat the mistakes they've made in the past that has got them in trouble.  There is nothing wrong with making mistakes.  Much of our learning comes from making mistakes, at least that's been true for me, but if we don't learn from our mistakes we will find ourselves continually in trouble.  We've all heard the old cliche: Insanity is believing we can keep doing the same thing over and over again and get different results.  The truth is if we keep doing the same things we've been doing we will continue to get the same results.  If the results we've been getting is not what we want, then we have to begin doing some things differently.  What are some of the mistakes smaller churches seem to repeat that leads to problems?

  • Calling poor pastoral leadership.  One small church called me a few years ago asking for a reference on an individual they were considering calling as their pastor.  I suggested they not call this individual based on his ministry in previous churches.  Two different members of the church called me on two different occasions, and I gave both of them the same advice.  They called him anyway, and even though he's been gone for some time, the church is still suffering the consequences of his ministry.  Small churches need pastors who can provide healthy leadership.  They don't need chaplains nor do they need dictators.  They need pastors who have been called by God to serve their church and lead it in the vision God has set for the church.
  • Lack of stewardship training.  A committee chair in one smaller church was complaining to me about the lack of funds in the church.  I asked how long it had been since the church received any training in biblical stewardship.  She asked, "What's stewardship?"  When I started to define stewardship she quickly stopped me and let me know that was not going to be discussed in their church.  This church continues to limp along financially.  We cannot preach the whole counsel of God without talking about money and what it means to be a steward of what God has given to us, but many smaller churches do not want to hear any of this.  As a result, they continue to struggle financially.
  • Lack of training in general.  How long has it been since anyone in your Christian Education ministry received any training?  Are your deacons and other lay leaders regularly receiving training?  It always amazes me that the church can ask someone to serve in some position and then provide them with no training in how to effectively perform in that role.  Training should be ongoing in the church if we want our lay leaders to provide the quality of leadership our churches need.
  • No vision.  I find that many smaller churches drift along from Sunday to Sunday hoping something good will happen.  Because they lack a God-given vision they do little with any sense of purpose or intentionality.   Drifting seldom leads to a successful ministry or to transformed lives.  God has a vision for your church, and one of the most important things any church can do is to identify that purpose and then direct its resources towards that purpose.
We could list many more common mistakes smaller churches often make, but this will suffice for now.  If the leadership in a church would focus on just these four issues it would dramatically improve their church and set it on a positive course for the future.

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