I can’t remember how many times I was surprised by what my church members were thinking, even though I was their pastor. What I thought was the case wasn’t always so. How does that happen?
1. We assume we hear everything in the course of ministry. We know we don’t, but we act as if we do. After all, we’re constantly with our church folks over the course of a week, and we’re always talking with them.
2. We assume people tell us what they’re thinking. In many cases, of course, they do (and even painfully so at times). Many others, though, don’t tell us anything. They don’t tell us when they’re rejoicing over our ministry, and they don’t tell us when they’re struggling with it.
3. We assume everyone in the church is comfortable coming to us. We’re the shepherds. We love them. We want them to come to us with concerns. We tell them that, inviting them to set up a meeting. Still, some folks simply aren’t willing to bring their issues to the pastor—even though they may talk with others.
4. Sometimes those struggling with the church are planning their response behind the scenes. I’m not arguing that’s a right move, but I am saying it happens. Sometimes we don’t know about a problem until the forces have already united against it. They’ve intentionally kept their distance.
5. We focus more on telling than on listening. After all, that’s our job. We proclaim the gospel. We cast vision. We make announcements. We give advice. We do counseling. We lead staff. We do so much communicating proactively that we sometimes fail to listen, even when others are seeking to share their concerns.
6. Sometimes our heart and mind are already thinking about the next place of service. We’re trying to pastor the church we currently lead while also dreaming about the church where we want to be. When our heart’s divided like that, we’re likely not even paying attention to what’s happening around us.
7. We never ask them what they’re thinking. This may be, in fact, the primary reason we don’t always know what our church is thinking. Seldom do we take opportunities to hear from folks like small groups, focus groups, or student groups. Even less often do we seek to survey the entire church about their thinking.
That’s the reason I’m such a fan of the “Know Your Church Report” available through Church Answers. I’ve used this survey in some format for more than 20 years, and I find it to be an incredible resource to understand your church. I encourage you to consider using it.
Posted on March 28, 2023
Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
More from Chuck