There really is nothing like an old, abandoned theme park. It’s sad and it’s scary. Without proper maintenance, the rides become dangerous and unusable. It takes money and manpower to keep the rides open and functioning properly and without these things, there is a real danger of collapse.
Seminaries churn out Bible teachers and evangelists every day who are ready to fulfill their roles with confidence. However, the greatest teacher can still find him or herself alone and without support. How does that happen? Is it possible that regardless of your talents and skills, having the support of your people means just as much as killing it on Sundays in services? But if you’re interested in giving your people the quintessential middle finger, then there are at least three sure-fire ways to lose their support.
Here’s how start losing immediately!
Personally, I hate talking on the phone. It’s probably because I wasn’t held enough as a baby or something, but I really hate being interrupted. Unfortunately, good communication usually means being interruptible. You know, like Jesus was.
Josh Griffin, student pastor at Saddleback says that ignoring phone calls, failing to call people back, never replying to emails/texts, and generally keeping everyone in the dark about what’s going on are all quick ways to lose the support of your people (read that blog here). We think that the caller will interpret our neglect as “They must be busy doing something important, so no problem.” Instead it says “You’re not important.”
Bad communication can be a public endeavor as well. I will do a whole blog on communications soon, but for now, just know that announcements made from the pulpit aren’t as effective as they used to be; and if you have kids in your service, their parents aren’t going to hear about your chili cook-off, trust me.
There are so many ads calling for our attention today that one more in church doesn’t really stand out. People are getting good at ignoring ads, so don’t do one from the pulpit. Tell a compelling story instead and point people to where the info is (like your website). Give them the compelling reason to care from the pulpit. If they care, they can remember “go to the website” much easier than “Mens retreat is Feb 22-25. Cost is $30/person at Awesome Camp Grounds. Carpool together on Friday….”
A poorly-managed perception.
I’m not the kind of guy who likes to dress up. I think a suit is usually too much and I might wear a tie if I can do it in a sloppy, kind of trendy way. But that’s me. I’m a t-shirt, jeans, and Chuck Taylor’s kind of guy.
However, there are moments when it is appropriate to dress nicer and it always depends on two things: 1) Who is my audience, and 2) What am I trying to accomplish?
When you ask, “Who is my audience?” we may find that our target audience, congregation, or community are not like us at all. If I was in a suit-wearing church, then I’d wear a suit. I’m not changing who I am, but I want a platform to speak into people’s lives who aren’t like me. I need their support too. Paul did it; so can you.
This leads right to asking ourselves “What are we trying to do?” When I became the leader in a certain youth ministry, the previous minister had developed a reputation for not following through on planned events. I began to notice that when I announced events, no one would sign up. The attitude was something like, “We’ll see if that is really happening before we commit.”
So in order to change my student parents’ perception of the youth ministry, I planned several events that seemed a little bigger than others and made sure that they happened! Over time, our ministry was able to shed the reputation for letting people down and parents began to trust that when I gave them a calendar, that it was reliable. I’m proud to say that in nearly 4 years there, I only had to cancel one major event.
An unprofessional pastor can really lose support quickly. Now, I’m not saying that pastors should be like corporate CEO’s, but I am calling for a professionalism that demonstrates that you realize the importance of your role in the local church and the lives of the people God has asked you to shepherd.
How we speak to people; how we handle our office time; arriving on time to appointments; the amount of study that goes into our messages and lessons – these are all important factors that demonstrate that you have your act together. This is how maturity looks.
Also, how we handle difficulty can be an indicator of professionalism. A pastor who keeps his cool when tensions are high will be seen as an inspirational role model and he will influence others to do the same while keeping the support of his people.
We could take a stroll through your social media feed for a quick look at your maturity level and professionalism, too. What kinds of things are you posting? Are they uplifting, encouraging things? Or is Facebook your online complaint journal?
Nobody likes to be around a negative person and social media is no different. Mature professionals don’t complain, they lead with encouragement and positive affirmation. Your social accounts are now part of your very public resume for any future jobs, so make sure you’re not giving future employers a reason to think you’re a bad idea.
If you do everything in this post, you too could be on your way to successfully alienating everyone in your church like a pro! If you’ve got a great story about anything from this post, share it in the comments. We would all love to hear (especially the funny stories) how God has allowed you to keep the support of your people despite your best efforts!