Category Archives: Church Culture

Ministry in the Family Chapel Church Part 3

Christian_MinistrySuggestions for Pastoral Care in a Family Chapel Congregation

How can I make this work?

After a minister has settled the question about his calling to ministry and assignment to serve a local congregation, the next question of importance is what to do now.  The answer to the first question provides a motivation to serve and analyze the context and immediate needs of the congregation. Looking at a church in context leads to finding helpful information to understand the context and demographics of the church.  Any contextual ministry occurring will be preceded with a plan that addresses the question of what needs to be done, but also how and when will ministry take place.  The pastor of a family chapel congregation is a solitary staff member, with little structure to work with, and few people to aid in the task of ministry.  Therefore, understanding what needs to be done and what can be done places needs and ideals into a usable form.  Indeed, the task of ministry without a plan can lead to an overwhelming sense of frustration about how to meet the expectations of ministry need. Without an attainable plan, pastoral ministry may leave the minister feeling exhausted, frustrated, and unable to meet the needs that face the small church body. 

1.      Study Your Congregation and Identify What is Needed

A place to start is to develop a need identification process that addresses your congregation’s present and future ministry needs. A plan may need looking outside the box and identifying areas that go beyond commonly understood ministry goals.  For instance, begin by looking at the age-group distinction of your membership and attendees and identify their spiritual needs.  Another part of the answer relates to understanding how age group or culture group needs indicate ministry tasks that need to be implemented to address individuals or groups.  Consequently, an evaluation of the congregational context and church culture will help identify ministry needs, as well as, suggesting methodology to provide pastoral ministry.  Need identification suggests how ministry can be offered in ways that are indigenous to the person or the church body by using approaches focused upon the spiritual needs.  In fact, congregational ministry is going to have the greatest effect when pastoral ministry is provided to the needs of a congregation rather than an ideal held or within a program function.  Knowing the information will help you plan ministry effectively.

2.      Organize Tasks For Ministry Effectiveness.

Church ministry works best when strategic ministry is organized into a system of identified tasks to manage effective workflow in ministry efforts.  Taking the task apart and re-assembling the work into manageable bites assists in creating manageable ministry delivery.  Considering how time is used is an important function of ministry; if the efforts are going to be effective time management allocates priority scheduling for ministry.  One consideration about how time is used is that ministry to the congregation, which brings the ministry of presence to the congregation and community served in an effective way.  Deciding on how to best see the most people with the least amount of time between calls is a part of the management task of pastoral ministry.  

3.      Developing Programming For Pastoral Care

In the Family Chapel Church, the ministry of presence includes programming and special events throughout the year.  Every pastor can use the calendar to plan events, which focus on pastoral care.  In fact, the practice of planning preaching that addresses ministry need, interest, and special times of the year can be an effective way to be a caregiver.  Using the church calendar and working with other leaders through the year can be a method of involving others in the caring ministry of the church.  Special programs may target personal and spiritual development, family life, improving relationships, grief management, finance management, discipleship, and prayer among many others.  Using group process in planning caring events can be an excellent way of developing caring skills.  Persons may realize that caring is a ministry of the church and not the exclusive domain of the pastor and begin to use their spiritual gifts to minster to the body.

 4.      Understand  Your Role in Pastoral Ministry

Knowing where you fit in small church ministry is a hard task for most pastors.  I can honestly say that this is crucial to many jobs, but especially true in the small rural church.  When pastors look in the mirror, they may see a preacher, a leader, or an evangelist.  However, if he does not see a servant, the leader does not see his role clearly.  A servant, not a doormat, is not to walk on, but to lead by example and empowering others with opportunities to serve and being a model of faith.  As I have cited before, most rural Family Chapels see the pastor as a Chaplain, not an executive leader.  While that may bother some people to realize, if the pastor does not understand the shepherding task of pastoral ministry, the sheep that have been assigned to be cared for will not receive the opportunity to grow in Christ.  If you find yourself in one of these churches and are wondering, what your role is going to look like, look at Jesus and you will find the answer –servant of all

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Ministry in the Family Chapel Church Part 2

4 Elements of Holistic Ministry

What is standing in the way of effective ministry?

Be Realistic not Egoistic

The method of ministry that Jesus taught His disciples, while He was in their midst models the principle of servanthood as the central motive for ministry.  Somehow, ministry in churches becomes charged with emotional energy about rights, self, and personal matters when ministry does not include personal reflection or maturity.  The result can be that ministry takes on the attitude of a corporate marketing strategy instead of a spiritual process of investing in the Kingdom of heaven.  Instead of the work of the church engaging in a spiritual endeavor, centered upon God and His work done through the life of a church, the work is a work of human effort.  Unfortunately, the pastor who has not taken the time to fully understand why God placed him strategically in a pastoral position in a Family Chapel  will ultimately face a head on collision with his idealism sooner or later.  The unseen reality that may not be obvious in the moment of despair is that God places pastor in the church as a gift, to the church to bless the church.  Something not understood in the moment is that God’s greatest blessing to the church is when the pastor learns how to live as a servant, not as a celebrity.  The focus of church ministry is not what the pastor wants or people demand, it has always been what God is doing and not what we think He should do.  A question that is relevant to small churches is, “what is God doing in our midst?”  A place to begin is to remember the words of Jesus who said, “He that would be greatest among you must first learn to be the servant of all”.  Ministry is born out of the model of servanthood to God.

It is a revolutionary idea to believe that God cares more about the pastor serving in the way Jesus served than He does about the ideals people have, or what the pastor may want.  Quite often, churches and pastors lose sight of God’s desires in the congregation because they are so consumed with a set of expectations coming from the culture of the church, the expectations of the pastor, and misplaced goals that focus on controlling what happens instead of surrendering to God’s unique activity in the life of the congregation.  A place to begin is spend some time in the throne room to begin to understand what God is doing instead of telling everyone our thoughts about what God is doing.

A Sense of Agency –Calling

A place that every pastor must begin is to understand whether this church is the place that God has called him to be at this time.  If so, the pastor must understand the role and capacity that God wants him to operate in within the body is the place where God has has called him to serve.  A common mistake that pastors often make is to believe that calling means doing the same thing at every church.  Cookie cutter service results in tunnel vision, unfocused leadership, feelings of defeat, depression, and ministry burnout among other problems.

Narrowing Activity Focus to Gifts Driven Ministry

A good place to begin gaining focus is to spend some time reflecting about who you are as a person and the strengths that you possess.  Another part to consider is the identity of the church is that you are serving, and how your unique abilities and gifts can be used to engage God’s purpose in the moment.  An unfortunate mistake that many pastors make is to base their work from the expectations of the faithful few who have not stopped to consider the work and mission that God has called it to fulfill.  In contrast, churches that have not had experienced spiritual leaders look for cookie cutter pastors who fit in, who confirm the past  Quite often the result is systemic failure repeating the failures of past patterns in church ministry.  A church that does not understand the gift of the pastor will never develop an appreciation for the work he does and will fail to recognize the spiritual endeavor that they have been called to fulfill through obedience, servanthood, and humility before God.

“Ministry in the church embraces two fundamental ideas, the pastor is a spiritual gift to the church, and the church is a spiritual gift to the pastor to develop his faith and release the gifts of God within the body to reach the community for Christ.

Commitment to Pathways Thinking

When ideas collide with reality, many pastors have one of two responses.  Opposition results in resume’s circulating because resistance leads to the conclusion that difficulty means God is finished when you are done.  As a result, one response is to flee as quickly as possible to another place when you are tired of trying, so the same things can be tried all over again.  Another response is to accept the terms and calling of God’s Divine placement where you are as an opportunity to develop and learn to find a pathway to effective ministry.  It is a thinking process built on hope and a sense of calling that can build a bridge to effective ministry.  Consequently, if a pastor understands that God has called him for a time such as this; then, a pathway of hope certainly must be found to create direction in a Family-Chapel ministry.  When a minister defines himself by calling with an understanding that God is charting the direction, ministry can take on a spiritual goal of providing incarnational ministry in a context that is different from what we expected and has a purpose greater than the circumstances of that create ministry myopia.  

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Ministry in the Family Chapel Church Part 1

Feeding the 5000If you are working as a pastor/leader in the small church, you should not feel alone.  The majority of churches in America, especially in rural areas are small churches.  In fact in the state of Florida, at least 82 percent of the church served in communities around the state, fall somewhere into the group of being small. As perplexing as it is to those who graduate from seminaries, Bible colleges, and theological training; the reality of small rural church ministry does not always congeal with the educational concepts received.  It is because ministers are trained to preach and teach with little emphasis given to human relations skills and the cultural implications of church ministry.

The disparity is deeply felt when theological expectations comes into conflict with an existing culture that does not fit within a firmly held idealism about how people should behave in a given church context.  The unfortunate conflict is a clash of ideals and many times a clash of personality, which is labeled as spiritual by one group or the next to justify behaviors.  To some degree the conflict is somewhat a matter of semantics about what ministry means in a given context or group of people.  Because many religious leaders fall into the category of absolutists, as well as, black and white thinkers; meaning applied to ministry is not defined in a context of community, but in the context of theory, exegesis, and systematic theology.  Thus, idealism clashes with culture and the result is conflict that turns into a battle for right.  Therefore, the result is often ongoing conflict and misunderstanding that defeats the purpose of providing contextual ministry to the community of believers.  As a result, the real problem may be a conflict between the idealism of the minister or expectations of the people about what the Bible says and how meaning is applied in the context of church or community culture.

An often-neglected area of understanding is that culture has a dramatic influence upon how people value the importance of traditions, specific actions, and even individual, or classes of people.  I heard a friend say once that in many churches “we like to clean our fish before we get them in the boat”.  The point that resonates from the statement is that in churches of all sizes conformity is a major issue to insiders.  Therefore, in the process of understanding ministry in a Family Chapel Church a major force in shaping expectations about how ministry happens is contained within the culture and nature of the congregation. As a result,it is very hard for pastors to articulate ministry leadership into practice that is functional.  Unfortunately, one of the things often misunderstood about reaching people outside the church is when others from the outside do not the fit cookie cutter; outsiders are often kept at a distance and feel rejected.  The disparity felt deeply occurs when two sets of values and expectations meet in the context of dissimilar cultural beliefs about what should happen in church and who is allowed inside the family.  Unfortunately, as bad as most people hate to admit that this occurs, people who make up the family chapel church have lofty or lowly ideals that are imposed upon others.  Something that is important to understand about  fishing expeditions is that even when people are different from us in significant ways, the gospel still directs us to minister to them in Jesus’ name.  Many people find this very easy to offer ministry to insiders, but when it comes to those outside the loop; an internal focus creates a disability in ministry. Consequently, the central motive of servant-hood and ministry is sidestepped from sharing the love of Christ in practical ways to those who fit the cultural expectations of the group.

The motive in all churches should be ministry that demonstrates the loving Christ who gave His life for the church. However, an important question is how a pastor can minister in a church that is inverted theologically, while culturally isolated from everything he has been taught and experienced.  How can a pastor in a Family Chapel Church remain faithful to his conviction and calling and be effective in ministry to the place of service?  The answer is simple, but challenging at the same time.  A pastor who will be effective must be adaptable in the style of leadership and ministry that will occur in a process that keeps him focused upon the main thing, “pastoral ministry”.  

So, Why Do People Really Go To Church?

Have you ever been a part of a church that has convulsions every two or three years and it seems that the church never gets past the culture of chaos that defines thee character of the congregation?  You may walk away scratching your head and wondering why people really continue to  go to church there.  If you have asked that question don’t feel like you are alone because it is more common among many congregations today. In fact, maybe a better question to ask is why you are still go there?  After growing up as a PK and serving for almost 40 years as a pastor, I have come to understand that people do not always come to church for healthy, Godly, or spiritual reasons alone. Unfortunately, in the midst of the mix of personalities idealism, and activity inside the church sometimes more bad occurs than good in the name of misplaced motives and organizational dysfunction.  Many people have a lived-experience of being hurt, manipulated, or mistreated and they no longer want to go to church because it is too painful and disruptive to life.  If you have found yourself in that frame of mind and ever wondered why people continue to attend church, and stay in a church: thinks about what follows from a lifetime of experience at observing, learning from experts, and forming a rational point of view. Obviously, the reasons why people go to church are numerous, and sometimes bizarre and not very logical, little alone spiritual, but there are reasons to consider.

The Simple Answer is that it is Sociology and Culture

I heard Elmer Towns once say that when people go to church that they look for someone who is like them to identify with and if they cannot find someone to connect with who is like them or they will go somewhere else.  The point that this draws attention to is that one issue in church attendance and membership is a result of social and cultural identity issues. This is readily demonstrated  by demographic patterns in different parts of the country.  For instance, if you live in the South or parts of the Midwest, social standing, or social identification might be determined by which church you attend.  Think about it for a minute on a personal level.  Then,  look around yourself the next time you go to church and ask yourself the question:  What kind of people go to this church?  I think that what you will find is that there are age, cultural, ethnic, and spiritual factors that unite people in worship activities.

Guess What that Tells You? 

The message is that the people that you see in a group determine the kind of people that a church is going to attract.  After you look around, what you will see is that your church has characteristics that are common to the people that are there and representative of the cultural identity of the people who attend a church.  If you have  ever wondered why disorganized, disheveled churches attract people with a lack of spiritual discipline or people who value disorder as if it were a spiritual gift, remember people reflect their personal values through their religious practices.  How people identify religiously reflects important matters in people’s, as well as, how they value what is important in the life of a church body.  Theorist’s call it the homogenous principle: like kind attracts like kind.  In fact, when churches have unruly members who terrorize people with their dysfunction, it is a source of distress for the congregation, but it says as much about the church as it does about person.  The simple answer is that sociology and culture drive the ability or limit the ability of a church to reach people. Consequently, if you want the church where you are worshiping to be larger, better, or something different than it is now, the church must experience a cultural, sociological, and value change to reach people that are different.

Family Connection Drives the Church Bus

For some people, their children also bring them back to church.  Sometimes people feel the awesome responsibility of molding and shaping young lives to be happy and productive for the future, and sense almost instinctively that those things require faith and knowledge of God.  We know they will not develop a strong moral core from the society around them.  It did not work for us, did it?  And so we bring them to God’s house, and come along with them, sometimes for the first time since our own childhood.  And as our children learn about Jesus, we experience a wonderful renewal of our faith.

Friendship Drives the Fellowship Wagon

Friendship brings us to church, too.  Sometimes we are invited by friends; then, we come with them.  Nevertheless, so often it is the desire for friends –good friends, caring friends, friends who share our values that brings us to church in hope.  God knows, loneliness can eat at our sense of well-being, so He draws us into fellowship with Him and a church to engage relationship with others.  Being new in a community often accentuates that longing to love, be loved, and belong.  In fact,  this is as it should be because it is a fundamental need to belong, find acceptance, and identify with God and othhers.  God means for the church to be a place to build long-term caring relationships, to be a community in every sense of that word.

Another Answer is Materialism or Social Networking

For many people going to church is the main social event of their life.  It is where their family congregates and decides how spirituality will be expressed.  However, think about this: do people  join a large church to network for business or create opportunities?  It does happen.  However, before you judge too harshly, consider the fact that when you’re looking for a future husband or a wife, networking in a church isn’t a bad place to start — at least you’re likely to find people with the similar value systems.  Many people go to church to find a wife, date their girlfriend, spend time with their friends, and make business contacts.  Look around the average church and ask yourself if the people are there because of the deep conviction about the theology of the church, or are they there for some other reason that may be relational or social.  The down side of this is that the church has become more about the material and social aspects than it is about having a servant’s heart to worship God through submission to a sovereign God.

What About Fear and Guilt as Motivators?

Fear or Guilt? Unfortunately, many people who go to church, especially in fundamental churches are plagued by fear of what might happen if they don’t go and sometimes guilt about what is wrong in life.  I have often said that guilt tends to make people hide –in a crowd, a church, beneath some leaves to serve as a cover for what has happened in their lives.  We hear guilt from the pulpits, guilt leads to fear and fear to conformity to appear to be religious.  What people may not understand fully is that people attend church for the most human of reasons that are some time emotional and sometimes relational. Family also history has its place in why people attend church as there do and at types of churches. Children of Catholics are most often Catholic, in orientation at least. Those habits, duty, emotional ties, and family history are components in church attendance. However, let me talk for a moment about what I see most.

Hurt, Pain, and a Search for Answers

Hurt is way up there on the list for why people go to church.  When people go to church they are looking for a hand up and someone to care about them. At times, everyone will find themselves reeling from some painful experiences and wounds because of life experiences.  Things like, estrangement of a spouse or marital problems.  The loss of a loved one to death, loss of a family, loss of a job, loss of innocence, loss of health, loss of hope.  At times like this, life is on the ropes and we are down for the count.  It’s only natural to seek healing in relation to God.  It is in the context of the church that God uses some of his dear people gifted in ways to be channels of God’s healing, hope-filled, non-judgmental love.  I can’t begin to count the times I’ve seen people’s hurts healed within the context of a healthy congregation.

Discipleship and Personal Growth

For many people, personal growth is a factor in regular church attendance.  As people attend a congregation that they can identify with, gradually these individuals allow the Holy Spirit to clear the smokescreens away and allow God to bring to the surface things that need to be faced.  In the process individuals  begin to grow up and get past the time when they saw a hypocrite in church and excused themselves from any commitments.  When church attenders start to experience personal growth the result should be discipleship the moves people beyond life-long resentments like being forced to attend church as a child.  God uses the experiences of life to allow us to learn about ourselves and grow past childish rebellion.  When that takes place, we grow up, and we are freed once again to include God in our personal exploration.

The Search for Significance and Meaning

For many people, especially men over 40, the need for significance is a strong motivator in why men go to church.  Something inside of a man wants to make a difference, to do something meaningful, lasting, to be part of a cause bigger than ourselves.  The church is a perfect context for this type of fulfillment, since, at their best churches change communities for good –one person at a time.  Unbelievably, there are people who are asking, “What do I can I  give here?” rather than just “What can I get?

Worship and Intimacy through Knowing God

Believe it or not people attend church in order to come to know God, to honor him through worship and by their very presence in his house.  The French philosopher Blaise Pascal put it succinctly, “There’s a God-shaped vacuum in every man that only God can fill.”  You and I have felt that emptiness before and the need to have it filled.  We’ve wondered at times if we’ve lost forever that most important link of faith that shapes who we are and who we can become.  People come to church because they are searching, and they find they can search for God in this context better than they can in other places.

 “Our hearts are restless,” said Augustine, “until we find our rest in You.”

 Some motives are better, some worse, but in one sense it doesn’t matter much what is your motivation. What matters is the process that begins when we enter a relationship with Jesus Christ an allow the Holy Spirit to direct our lives.