Wednesday, March 03, 2010
One of my comments about that church was that it had all the welcome the guest procedures down. What it didn't have was a congregation who would say hello or even make eye contact with someone who was obviously a visitor. The Sr. Pastor posted a comment saying that he had printed off my blog post and taken it to a staff meeting. For some things, like information missing from a website, that is important. What I wanted to know is why didn't he forward it to his Board of Deacons? Aren't those the people who should be your front line in terms of hospitality to visitors? You know what? They aren't at my Church either. So, why not?My headline says what I think about this pretty much, but it is a serious question. And it is a chicken-and-egg thing. Every pastor I have ever challenged on this has, in private, admitted that their lay leadership, especially ordained lay leadership just does not rise to the occasion. My response is always "TRAIN THEM" which garners the response that "They won't show...."
One of my pet peeves is that the best way to really foster growth in mission work is to support the rank and file members who have a vision or are doing something on their own. Our membership are degreed professionals (primarily). We can accomplish great things by empowering our own members. I would like to see a Church's mission team acting as the equivalent of a small business incubator for mission projects.
It's true, its hard to get lay people to step up to the plate. When you ask someone to do something it always comes with conditions and provisos, and endless negotiations. "Too busy with the kids." "Work is a bear right now." So it goes.
That's real, but I want to speak about something that is at least part of the problem - particularly in the PC(USA). Note JusticeSeeker's reference to the congregation as primarily degreed professionals. That means they are leaders and innovators and organizers all on their own. But too often the "Word and Sacrament" types treat them like obstacles or cats to be herded rather than resources or real leaders. Way too many pastors treat Session as something to be managed rather than allow it to fulfill its role. Most never pay attention to the Deacons at all (hint, hint)
See, here's the thing the pro's need to remember - it's not your church, it's ours. If we elders want to make a "stupid" decision - its our prerogative. Yours is to go along dutifully and if you are really worried, get your profile out there so you have a place to land when our screw-ups come home to roost. But it is not your job to try and get us out of the way somehow, or force your "better" ideas down our throats.
Here's an even bolder point - if you trained us, if you spent time developing us - then maybe, just maybe we wouldn't be such screw-ups. And that does not mean just those currently serving. You need to be working actively to develop the next generation so the Nominating Committee has something decent to pick from.
Those are severe words and the problems I raise are probably not as widespread as I make them out to be, but I have seen them more than I would like. But the bottom line is this. Leaders need to lead - they need to generate ideas, mold them, discuss them, make them their own. They do not need to simply vote the money for what the staff proposes. For Deacons they do not merely fill slots in some bureaucratic organism the Congregational Care Pastor has developed. If their role is limited you turn leaders into middle managers of the worst sort - the mindless, numb, unmotivated wage slave (only in this case, Christian duty slave.)
I do not fool myself here. Many are those unable to rise to a challenge like that. Such a road will be littered with failure. I keep thinking about the fact that the crucifixion looked a lot like failure at the time.