How to love your church by letting go
Churches are made up of people, and — let's be honest — sometimes people can be hard to love. No one knows that better than pastors and other church leaders. So, how can you learn to love your church more? You may want to sit down. If you're reading this on your phone, you can lay down if you like. Take your time. All right. All set? Now take a nice big breath ... and exhale slowly. Get it all out ... and just ...
That's right. Now don't get the wrong idea. Your eyes are working just fine. You read that right. In fact, learning to be a quitter is essential for church growth. It seems easy, but ironically, quitting is quite the task. Changing your routine is tough and changing your mind can prove to be even harder.
Here are a few of the things you should let go of when loving your church:
Let go of your time.
As pastors and leaders of the church, you probably spend more time there than anyone else. That doesn't mean you always want to be there. Sometimes you give your time begrudgingly. To love your church more, you may need to let go of your time. How can you do that?
- Prioritize your activities. Be a good steward of your time.
- Set daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals for yourself — and set goals for the church.
- Delegate. Recruit volunteers who can help you accomplish tasks more quickly and easily.
- Invest your time wisely. Question programs that may not align with the mission of the church. Prune programs that have outlived their usefulness.
- Don't waste. Effectively manage church staff meetings, small groups and other church ministries.
- Quit doing things that devour your time and provide little reward. How much time should be spent on social media? Do you waste time watching too much television? Look for areas in your life where you can trim the time you spend.
- Be flexible. Sometimes giving your time is inconvenient but necessary. Be ready to change your schedule, if needed.
- Say no. Enough said.
Let go of pride.
Even pastors can fall victim to pride. You may believe that others' perceptions of your church directly reflects how they perceive you. To a certain extent, that is true. That's why you may take the faults and frustrations of your church personally. In order to love your church more, however, you need to let go of your pride.
- Have a thick skin. Demonstrate what it means to be forgiving and gracious.
- Learn to laugh at yourself. Sometimes you are funny. Learn to use humor to communicate God's grace and forgiveness in a friendly environment.
- Be humble. Don't be afraid to admit when you mess up.
- Refrain from negative talk about the church body, even when what you say may be true.
- Extend mercy and speak kindness about your church, even when those in it fail you.
- Contribute to the solutions. When an issue needs to be resolved, address it. Prevent church conflict before it festers. Learn how to calm difficult people, redeem or replace volunteers and deal with frustrating situations in a biblical manner.
- Lead by example. Don't be afraid to take on mundane tasks if the need arises.
Let go of inconsistencies.
Who will notice if you skip this week's post-church potluck? Why does it matter if you don't do nursing home visitation this week? You'll be there next week. We all know why it matters. Sometimes you can't avoid planning a last-minute sermon, but sermon preparation shouldn't always be left until Saturday night. It's natural to be inconsistent. It's human. Of course, it's OK to say no and delegate when it makes sense. Pastors have to take days off and plan for vacation to avoid burnout. But recruit backups and create a plan to prevent pastoral care breakdowns. Loving your church means letting go of inconsistencies so that you can avoid overlooking people in need. The more consistent you are, the more your congregation will learn to trust you and the God you serve.
- Be as faithful in your attendance and participation as you want your congregation to be.
- Be intentional in your relationships. Make an effort to get to know the individuals in your church.
- Pray for your church. Seek out innovative ways to pray. Pray for your congregants by name.
- Treat everyone the same.
- Live what you preach. Be consistent in your private life.
- Give the same effort in your ministries that you would expect anyone else to give.
- Be willing to adapt your leadership style to help motivate those around you.
Get MyCom tips for church leaders in my inbox.
Let go of money.
Even pastors and teachers have to be reminded occasionally that giving is important. Lead by example. Don't ask your congregation to do something you are not willing to do.
- Give regularly. Because of your position on Sunday mornings, the offering plate may not pass in front of you. If you tend to be forgetful, try using automatic payment or online giving to make your giving experience easy.
- Give willingly; set an example of joyful giving.
- Give above and beyond. Give even when it hurts.
No one said loving your church would be easy, but it's definitely worth the effort. If you want to experience the blessings of a church overflowing with love, you must be willing to let go and to love.
— Tricia Brown has been a freelance writer and editor for more than twenty years, ghost-writing and editing for individuals as well as for health, education and religious organizations. She enjoys reading, writing and public speaking commitments in which she teaches and encourages other women.