A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sometimes It's Best Just to Get Out of the Way

Wednesday evening we had our last community meal before summer. For three years now our church has hosted dinner once a week from September through May for anyone in the church and in the community to attend. The meals are simple and delicious, and it is donation only. It lasts from 5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. We also have our various choir practices at 6:30, and then at 7:00 we have programming and activities for all ages.

The entire ministry came about with the vision of one person in our church who approached me with the idea of having a Wednesday evening meal. She is an excellent cook. She said that she would enlist the help she needed. I told her to run with it and let me know what assistance she needed from the church. As a staff, we then began to talk about how we might add to our existing programming on Wednesday evening.

Three years later our Wednesday evening meal and minstry have become quite a weekly event with attendance more than doubling since we began. Church members attend, people in the community attend, some come and have dinner before they go to their own church for prayer meeting, and we have people, who are clearly at the low end of the economic scale and do not make a donation, nor are they expected to do so. The donations support the entire ministry and then some. No funds have ever been taken from the budget.

Sometimes the best thing a pastor can do to foster new ministry in the church is to simply get out of the way and let the laity run with their vision and allow them do what they have a passion for. I've seen more vital and exciting ministries start in our church in the past three years by following a few simple rules:

1) If the new ministry is in keeping with church's mission statement, it does not need to be approved by the church board. Do not bog down new ideas in committees and endless debate that just foster discouragement. A church does not need to vote on everything; if competent and trustworthy lay leadership is in place, things will happen and the slow-moving turtle of ecclesiastical democracy can be saved for such decisions as new construction and Sunday morning schedule changes.

2) Any person who suggests a new program or mission is responsible for implementing it. It is amazing how many people in the church come up with wonderful new ideas that simply make more work for others.

3) The pastor and the paid staff are there to provide ancillary support, but other than that, they should get out of the way so that people can pursue their passion.

4) Pastors should allow people to plug themselves in where they are passionate. Burnout in the church happens not so often from people doing too much, but from people who are doing things they have no desire to do. It is better to leave a job undone then to push someone into it making everyone unhappy.

It is amazing what God can do with people who are passionate for a particular ministry; it is amazing what God can do when the pastor simply gets out of the way.


Ted M. Gossard said...


I couldn't agree with you more. Thanks.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Thanks for your comments.


Brennan said...

I totally agree. I'm learning that more and more as I continue to be involved in so many different and widely ranging activities.