1. There is much to be said for listening. In the past month, I have been intentional about meeting with small groups of people in our community (outside our church family) in order to learn more about our city. I ask questions like:
- What are people in your circles talking about? (Your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.)
- How could a church be more helpful in this city?
- What are people in this city anxious about?
I have gained so much by doing this. Again, I am listening to these groups and actually say little about our church etc. When I do speak in these gatherings, it is mostly to ask follow-up questions after someone has commented. I take extensive notes. One person said, “It is very nice for someone to genuinely want to know what I think.”
3. Far too many ministers underestimate the importance of pastoral care. I really don’t think one has to choose between being a good leader or being a person who cares for people pastorally. Ministry is about loving and serving people (in the best sense of those two words.) When one loves and serves a church over a period of years, credibility is built–usually. However, gaining credibility is not a given. If you live among a group of people as a minister for several years, they will learn that you can be trusted or they will learn that you are not trustworthy. If a minister proposes some initiative regarding ministry in the future, it is very difficult for a church to hear this if this minister has no credibility. However, if this minister does have credibility (which again typically comes through some years of genuine love and service), they will often give this person the benefit of the doubt.
This is not to say that a minister has to serve a congregation for years in order to lead or attempt an initiative. Rather, ministers should not overlook the importance of serving and loving the congregation.
Sometimes a minister does not have credibility, after being with a congregation, because of too many instances of poor judgement. A congregation wants to know that those who preach, those who lead various ministries, and those who in some way are a part of pastoral leadership consistently exercise good judgement in what they say, what they do, and the decisions they make.