In western contexts, churches across the board fight the tides of culture to create “connections.” With mixed results, I too have joined the effort.
I use to think that a quiet time, small group, and ministry team were the proper prescriptions for a fully “connected” church member and Jesus follower. I’ve come to see though that things to do and places to be don’t guarantee any sort of health; values and characteristics are now my drug of choice.
The biggest eye opener for me has been the reported disconnect amongst people I’d consider “top volunteers.” I’m talking about the people who give more than ten hours a week to serving the church. People who know what their gift is and use it to the fullest. People who have received the most personal discipleship from church leaders. People who give their finances with abnormal generosity to the mission of the church. When one of these people say, “I don’t really feel connected,” I’m truly beside myself.
I have put some thought (mainly prayer) into the issue volunteer connectedness as of late. I’ve tried stepping outside my pastoral role for a while, just to think about what the average church member goes through. If you’re up for engaging my thought process, get ready for some naked questions…
Foundational Questions Everyone is Asking
- I can serve anywhere, so why here?
- If my call is to love God, love people, and reach the world; does this church community offer me the best possible chance of getting there?
What would I want if I were a church member?
- I’d want more than a place to serve or a cause to identify with. I can find that in a number of places.
- I’d want an active, engaged, listening ear; someone to wonder what I’m doing and thinking at all times. I’d want someone to ask for my input on other developments within the church.
- I’d want challenges (not really accountability); I’d want someone to make me demand better of myself.
- I’d want a resource; someone who knows how to surround me/my ministry with more assets for success.
- I’d want friendships that are going somewhere; a good friend with shared goals and a mutually bettering exchange is hard to find. I don’t want more social time; a few mass gatherings are fine, but what I want most is depth of friendship.
What’s behind what I’d want?
- My personal calling matters. I have to follow God as best as I’ve understood his calling. The God honoring decision is to work with whichever church that helps me achieve God’s calling best.
- I want to grow with Jesus. If I feel stalled, I’ll get restless or panic. The church doesn’t have to do anything wrong, it just has to feel like I need a fresh change for me to detach.
- Loyalty isn’t a value today. Progress is.
What can we do as church leaders?
- Staff, Elders, and Area Leaders need to pick the brain of every engaged or exemplary member no less than every 4-6 weeks.
- We don’t have to make this rocket science, I’m pretty sure that any genuine inquiries about where people are going with God and ministry will help further the connection.
- If we’re looking for more of a science, I’d suggest these questions as formula: 1) What are the highs and lows of your ministry right now? 2) What are the highs and lows of your relationship with God right now? 3) The church has been considering ___________; I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter. 4) offer challenges, resources, or relationship according to how they’ve responded to the first three questions.
All in all, I think it would be best for people to treat church like a family; accept the good with the bad and offer determination to grow. That being said, church leadership needs to wrestle with their part, dealing with the naked questions that the average person is asking.