meeting the needs of your church

The challenge of meeting the needs of your church members

Pastoral ministry can be compared to parenthood, especially if you pastor more than one church.

James Clinton is a pseudonym.

An invitation for a pastor friend of mine arrived from the conference president, asking him to schedule an appointment for a consultation at the conference office. Now, this pastor knew that to spend some time in discussion with the president, at his initiation, may not always include a dialogue about something positive. His mind, in a rather fertile state, began wondering, Was the president planning to ask about his pastoral activities? Would he reproach him for something he had or hadn’t done? Might he inquire about something in his personal life?

He marked the day in his calendar and on that day treaded softly in the direction of the president’s office. The president was polite, but this pastor understood clearly by his facial expression that the president was planning to deliver a message of reproach.

A member from one of the minister’s churches was also there in the president’s office. After rather stoic handshakes and the traditional “So good to see you,” they were ready for the discussion of the problem at hand. The accusation? The pastor had deserted this member’s church. Recently, the board of directors of the conference had voted to downsize the district from twelve churches to six. This, of course, should mean that the pastor would have more time to visit all the scheduled church events in each church as well as call upon the members.

The president sat behind his desk; the accused and accuser facing him. The accused started to think; he had been in the district more than three years and believed his ministry had the approval of the church members. He had aspired to add members to each of the six churches, the leaders of each church were kind, and his family had adapted perfectly. Whom had he ignored? To whom had he been unkind? Whom had he hurt?

For two scheduled Sabbaths in one year, the pastor had not been able to worship with the accuser’s church body; otherwise he had followed the agenda agreed upon by the church board and himself. The accuser seemed to believe—as thought by the pastor—that missing two Sabbaths meant that he had abandoned that church. This situation seemed to be pointing to something fairly simple: the church group was clamoring for more attention.

Pastoral ministry compared to a family

Pastoral ministry can be compared to a father and mother with several children. Each child requires undivided attention from their parents, and may practice negative attitudes and exaggerated actions to call for this parental notice. What do these offspring really desire? Special attention.

As in a family, the pastor needs to be aware of the needs and desires of each church group. What do they wish to accomplish in the church setting or in the community? How could they work together in the district to accomplish their goals and dreams for the advancement of the gospel?

However, some church groups seem to monopolize the work, social life, and family of the pastor. They act as though they need their leader’s attention and do not seem to be concerned with whether the aims of the church are achieved—just so the pastor shows them the special attention they crave. Because this group wants and may receive the pastor’s major attention, another church in the pastor’s district might work on their own, tread ahead of the pastor, and override all church goals and planned activities. Really, these two groups may be saying the same thing: we want the special and undivided attention of our pastor.

Listed below are several suggestions for meeting the needs of your church members. Implementing them may result in significant blessings to everyone.

Have a plan

Yearly planning should include representatives from every church in your district, if possible. In this way, each group feels included and involved. This plan, developed by the group, does not need to be complicated. In fact, the simpler the plan, the easier the assimilation and involvement. Appropriate planning requires work and dedication but results in very agreeable scheduling for the future.

Do not compare

We sometimes have a tendency to compare the way some church groups do some things well with other church groups that do things resulting in obvious mistakes. Some parents say to their children, “Your brother does this better than you. Why don’t you learn from him?” Because no one likes to be compared with another, a different ministry or varied events should be developed. In a similar manner, some church members may say, “That church handles things in an excellent manner. Why can’t we do things in the same way?” In a pastoral district, this attitude can produce rancor, rage, a spirit of competition, and a big sense of incompetence. The group negatively influenced by those who compare themselves with another church body may feel humiliated. Pastoral responsibilities include attempting to assure the troubled group that they have needed talents and assets, and helping them discover their strengths.

Keep a team spirit

Most people feel good about, and love, working together as a team. In your meetings with the leadership of the district, form groups to plan activities for the district, naming some to function as leaders and others as advisors for the groups (for instance, name a leader for women’s ministry and another for the youth and Pathfinders). The more unity shown from your team of leaders, the more members of your churches will become involved in the activities of your district. The effects of this kind of unity result in wonderful responses that last for a very long time.

Visit

Visiting your members in their homes is the best way to become acquainted with the members in your district. The visitation should, however, be scheduled since people may resist surprises. You should tell them in advance the reason for the visit and suggest a date and time. Then be sure to be there at the scheduled time.

Appear in church settings

From time to time, you should take part in the active components of the church. For instance, help in the various departments of your Sabbath Schools as your schedule permits, spend time with the children, attend gatherings of the older people and promote their social occasions, and take part in the young people’s service activities. After that marathon schedule, you may wonder, How can I do everything just mentioned? Must I be a superpastor? No. You just need to spend some time with each group as your schedule permits.

Be faithful

Loyalty accounts for a great deal in the life of a minister. You must be faithful to your family, your colleagues in ministry, church organization, and the members of your church. Never demonstrate a lack of respect by an exclusive social relationship with a few members.

And remember, you are the conductor

Think of your church as one united symphony, with each member playing a different instrument. The instruments must be tuned, the team established so that the result of this practice becomes noticed, and with practice, the orchestra will present a great musical concert.

And don’t forget, we work for the Supreme Pastor, and He will never let us stand alone. We are objects of His sweet attention, and He stores our names in the palm of His hand.

“ ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; / I have drawn you with unfailing kindness’ ” (Jer. 31:3, TNIV).


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James Clinton is a pseudonym.

December 2009

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