Welcome people well by telling them what their next step “in” would look like.
You know your church. Your regulars know your church. But the new person doesn’t. So, you can’t just assume they’re going to find their way in to the community and life of the church. In fact, not telling them is quite unloving.
So it might be worth describing it for them, help them picture the type of thing they’d choose to do next to step into the church family.
It might look something like, “Look, we’d love you to make this your church, but that can be a really vague decision, can’t it. Most people either stumble into church families, or they don’t. If you wanted to start making that decision yourself, I reckon the next step for you would be to sign up, and come along to…”
At one level, I think we all need to get better at giving specific, regular, behaviour based, feedback. But, we need to be careful that on doing so, we don’t undermine our peers, by encouraging their people to do things that they’re not meant to do.
So, instead, it might look something like… “Hey, I really appreciated when you [describe the ACTION you observed]. Is that what Ben (your manager) wanted you to do?”
They might say, “Yeah!” So you can say, “Great,”
They might say, “Actually, no… I think he wanted something different.” So you can say, “Well, it would be worth going back to Ben and making sure you understand WHY he wanted something different.”
They might say, “Actually, I don’t know.” So you can say, “Well, there were certainly some positives there, but it would be worth getting some specific feedback from Ben, heh?”
So, there… Feedback and keeping your team members first.
When it’s clear someone has a concern, the longer it takes to get the concern out of them, the more likely there is that there’s other concerns still sitting behind that one.
Once you’ve started digging, and they’re opening up about the issue they have with you, or church, or whatever… squeeze the pus. Keep creating space to let them get it all out. Keep thanking them for their opinion, thanking them for having the guts to come and talk to you, keep asking if there’s anything else.
It might even be worth getting to a certain point and writing it down; “So you’ve raised a few issues… first it was X, then you raised A, B and C. I’m really glad I got to hear those. Is there anything else?”
When you need to have a difficult conversation, one of the keys is to de-personalise it. You want to avoid them feeling attacked by you. You want to avoid it turning into a “relational issue” (simply because this is an easy way to get you off their back).
So grab a pen and paper, or a white board and a marker and write down the thing you want to talk about. This will take some planning on your behalf. For example it might be, “I want to have a discussion with you about how you can love your wife better.” Or, “I really want to talk to you about how you’re going to put your porn addiction behind you.” Or, “Lets talk about how you responded to Bob last week.”
And you write down “How can Tom love Tara better?”, “How can Tom put porn behind him?”, “How you responded to Bob last week.”
I know it seems a bit odd, but now it’s not YOU asking them this question, its the paper. The piece of paper becomes the “antagonist” and you and the person can work together to answer the antagonist piece of paper. It’s the 3rd party in your conversation.
And so when they go off on tangents or try to change the topic, you can redirect them back to the paper, “Tom, we still have this question in front of us… I’m on your team… What are we going to do?”
As pastors, we have (I hope) a natural bent towards helping people. When people come with issues in their Christian life (sin, spiritual questions, etc) we want to help them through it. But that’s the key… through it, as in out of it, or dealing with it.
There will be some people who don’t want to be pastored through it. They want want to go over the same things over and over again. You have the same conversation, with little variance. They come with a “new” issue, but it’s really just the same issue in different words. Beware. What starts so innocently, can become a big issue. See 2Timothy 2:14-17…
Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene.
So, some helpful questions…
- Who else have you chatted through this issue with?
- How many times have you and I had this conversation?
- What did I tell you last time?
- Why haven’t you taken my/other people’s advice?
- I think we’ve reached the point where talking about this issue any more is of no value.
- I’m concerned you’re more interested in talking than changing. That’s ungodly. Stop it and drop it.
They arrive, join in, seem to settle in well. They smile when you talk to them, they nod when you say Christian stuff. They talk about their last church in favourable terms.
There’s two opposing things you need to assume:
- Assume they’re Christian if they’re giving that impression.
Most people who are “seeking” or checking out Jesus will give some indication of that. If they don’t they either don’t want you to know or they are Christian and just haven’t said, “Oh… and just so you know… I’m a Christian”.
- Assume they’re not a Christian until they’ve made it clear
Just because they can go-with-the-flow and talk the talk doesn’t mean they’ve given themselves to Jesus. They might have been in churches for years! They might have hung around Christians and picked up the lingo. You just can’t tell.
The danger is assuming one over the other. Rather, there’s a tension there to manage. Again and again I’ve been suprised by new people at church… everyone else thinks they’re Christian… they come to so much stuff! But then you just ask them how they decided to first become a Christian… we’ve had people come straight out and say, “Oh, I’m not a Christian!”
So, don’t assume they’re all non-Christians, and don’t assume they’re all Christians either.
It’s worth being aware of the many reasons we Christians (myself included) come up with to justify being all “I love JESUS!” with our mouths, but all “I can’t give money”. You’ve probably heard the line, “the last part of a man to be converted is his wallet”.
Here’s some reasons that might going on in people’s hearts…
- “I don’t feel led to give at the moment”
= being obedient to Jesus isn’t enough for me, I want him to make me feel good about it too, OR
= I’m not a christian, OR
= My church hasn’t worked hard enough to prove to me why I should give them my money, OR
= I think my money is mine, not God’s.
- “I don’t have much money to give at the moment”
= Jesus won’t be pleased with me unless I can give lots, OR
= I won’t be pleased with myself unless I can give lots, OR
= I’m waiting for God to give me more money, because he wouldn’t want me to part with any of this, OR
= I’m actually starving, I have no money, and I don’t know where I’m going to get money from in the next month.
- “I give to other things, rather than my church”
= I want to disassociate myself from this group of people; I’ll attend, but that’s all, OR
= I don’t see why my church needs my money, I think it’s operating fine without mine, OR
= Other people can give to my church, and no-one will know I don’t, OR
= Other churches/ministries need it more than my church, even though the bible says I should give to my church (i.e. I disagree with God).