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They Probably Told Me…But, I Wasn’t Listening (Part 2)

Mentor young people.  You must place the highest value possible on the youth of your church.  Pour yourself into them. Try to be the most influential person who speaks into their lives.  The dividends produced will keep coming for the remainder of your ministry, and that’s only the personal benefit.  Your investment will enrich the youth and will ensure the spiritual prosperity of the church at large.  Make sure they go to camps and youth conferences, involve them in ministry, support their projects and attend their functions.  Do these things even if it costs you substantial sums of money.  You have a much greater chance to affect your youth than your own generation or your peers.  

Make major innovations only after getting a consensus.  Before you launch into a big program, make sure the majority of your people is on board with you.  It is a huge mistake to start off doing something on your own that your church is ambivalent about at best.  If people don’t understand it, if they think it will cost too much money, or if they see it as impinging too much on their family or personal time, you will only garner tepid support.  They may not say much, but they will conveniently find other things to do and they will not respond well to solicitations for finance.  Tip:  Influence the influencers if you want to get something done.  (A John Maxwell maxim).  

Love the kids.  Let the kids run up to you and hug you.  Let them climb up on your lap and jabber about their puppy, their new toy or something that you can’t quite translate.  One little tot came up to me and proudly announced “I got panties!”  (The mortified mom explained that they were going through potty-training).  It’s better to have them running to you than running away from you.  Why is this important?  Jesus said so, that’s why!  Besides, the easiest path to the parent’s heart is their child.  Make sure the kids have a prime place in the spotlight of your church. 

Preach out loud but live quietly.  I suspect that the reason some preachers constantly talk about themselves, dress extravagantly and live largely is because they seek affirmation and love that they were deprived of as a child.  Pour excellence into your ministry and be demure about your personal life.  Your attraction as a minister must be the Christ you preach, not the totally awesome person that you are.  (Forgive my sarcasm).  A personality cult disguised as a church will only endure as long as the personality that drives it does.  

Play no favorites in the congregation.  A pastor cannot answer the call to minister to everyone if he bestows special attention on some select people in the congregation.  If you go to a person’s home for dinner, make sure you have a particular spiritual motive and not just for fellowship.   Nothing stirs up jealousy quicker than to hobnob with a few elite and deny the same camaraderie to others.  Go to an event if all are invited.  Decline if it’s not for everyone (special occasions being an exception).  Turn to your peers in the ministry for your close fellowship. 

Love lavishly, discipline sparingly.  When you walk down the aisle, your people need to see warmth, friendliness and love in your eyes.  Be down-to-earth; engage in small talk and just “hang out” with your people (at least for a little while).  Approaching a group of people should evoke responses like “Hi, Pastor!” not “Oh-oh.  Here comes the pastor!”  Avoid the temptation to scold people for every little thing, especially in front of others.  When rebuke is necessary, it ought to be for a truly offensive or sinful act, not for a pet peeve.  Disciplinary action should be baptized in love and a genuine attempt at lifting and helping instead of a knee-jerk reaction to a problem. 

Consistency is king.  Psychologists tell us that operant conditioning that successfully changes behavior is based on consistent rewards or consistent denial of rewards.  Whenever you begin a program or project, do everything in your power to keep it up.  Phase it out only if it has fulfilled its objective, or if is an obvious failure and must be shut down.  Neglect, inattentiveness or sporadic participation should not cause the demise of the activity.  Besides being a disappointment to those who were invested in the program, it casts a negative reflection on the pastor.  The security of consistent follow-through redounds to your positive reputation. 

Do not be afraid of any person in your congregation.  This is a big one.  Depending on the clout of the person in question, bucking him or her could mean war.  Nevertheless, the pastor who submits to a dominating personality in the congregation becomes a hireling or a lackey to power.  In the end, the only things that will get done will have to be cleared with this person.  If the pastor is clever, this situation can be handled in a positive way (i.e. “Claude” in Maxwell’s books).  The pastor who values integrity and righteousness over personal welfare will lead the church in right ways, even at the cost of angering any particular member.  This paragraph is included only to point out the problem.  Resolving it may require much thought, study and backbone. 

Invest in a sufficient number of projects that have immediate and visible benefits.  You may be involved in many noble projects, but if the benefits do not register on the congregation, unhappiness may set in.  Some may think you are wasting your time in matters that do not pertain to the church.  Make sure that you focus the bulk of your time and energy on endeavors that pertain directly to your job description as pastor.  Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. called this “stick to the knitting” in their classic book, “In Search of Excellence.”  The more people see what they expect to see in the leadership of the church, the more they will respond positively to that leadership. 

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