I’m a big Carey Nieuwhof fan. He produces some of the most thoughtful and relevant content for North American church pastors and I appreciate what he has to say. This morning one of his blogs didn’t just catch my attention, it caused me to pause. In “Why They’re Not Coming Back to Church (and What to Do With Those Who’s Left)” he offers some great points about why it’s best (and always has been) to invest in those who are engaged as opposed to those who attend (or are “Church Members” to use my descriptor). He suggests that pastors focus on those who have returned to church rather than on those who are gone. Good advice – something about crying over spilt milk. He builds on the recommendation to invest in turning your attendees into engaged disciples. Amen to that. And finally, he reminds pastors to embrace the new church, that is, embrace what you have and move on. All three points are spot on.
Now, to be fair, no single blog post, article, or book can say everything it needs to say on the topic (any topic!). Carey said what he needed to say and he said it well. But I’d hate to leave it there. One of the implications of the state the church finds itself in is that we, church leadership, didn’t invest as much in “the important” as we could have over the past decade or two or twelve. As pastors and church leaders, we invested the majority of our time in caretaking and administrative tasks. Sure, we called some of those tasks “discipleship,” but if we actually measure our results in terms of behavioral change we know that the report wouldn’t be terribly rosy. In fact, many of those folks we “invested in” are the newest crop of “Dones” who haven’t returned to worship, Sunday school, discipleship, or much of anything else either live or online.
All that’s to say that besides embracing our “new churches,” as church leaders we need to take some time to deeply reflect on how we spent our time BC – Before Covid – and reallocate our priorities in the AD – After Distancing (thanks to Scott Musselman for those great terms!). So, let me add a fourth point to Carey’s excellent blogpost.
Reevaluate and Reset Your Priorities
Stop doing these kinds of things
(hand them off to someone else or stop doing them altogether as appropriate)
- Member care (AKA, pastoral care)
- Scheduled office hours
- Pointless meetings
- Creating/editing bulletins, newsletters, etc.
Start doing these kinds of things
(make these your priorities)
- Networking in your community
- Creating and implementing a compelling vision
- One on one conversations with the pre-Christians
- Mentoring and discipling new leaders
- Ferreting out life transforming stories and incorporating them into church communications
That’s a lot of work, I know. And it takes a new mindset – but these are “new times.” It’s time for a new mindset and to reset our priorities.
The best place for most pastors to start is to download the free Get More Time Planner (and then actually work the process) My clients who invest in the Growing Church Network don’t just shift their priorities, they develop the tools necessary to reach new people, to turn members into engaged disciples, and grow their church.