Categories for thinking about your church flock… (a.k.a. boxes to put people in)

Ok, I know that no-one – including myself – likes to be put in a box. When I take personality tests, I’m constantly trying to second guess what box they’re going to put me in and trying to offset that so I end up “un-boxable”. But, even with that in mind, it does help to have certain “non-ultimate” ways of knowing who’s around in your ministry. Here’s a few ideas:

“Crowd” – People who come irregularly, and for a variety of reasons (some good others not so good in your view) haven’t committed. They’re not really involved, they’re not in a group, they’re not keen to invite others along. They would probably call your church their church, but if everyone treated their church like that, you probably wouldn’t have a church.

“Community” – People who have committed to your church. They’ve made some type of intentioned decision to make the community of believers important and express that. They’d be giving financially, and they’d like to see their non-Christian friends come with them to meet Jesus at your church.

“Newish” – These are Christians (at least they’ve told you they’re Christians) who are new and so they’re not “Crowd” because they haven’t really had the chance to be lukewarm yet… and they’re not “Community” because they also haven’t really had the chance to faithfully express their intention to be part of the community. They could end up as one or the other… or neither and just leave.

“Non-Christian attenders” – Non-Christians who come along to church or other events your church puts on. They know that you know they’re a non-Christian, and they’re reasonably happy that you know that, and they don’t oppose the idea of you telling them they should stop being non-Christians.

“Non-Christian non-attenders” – this is everyone else in your parish/area/postcode/city. It’s the phonebook. They’re all part of your church too… just not in the way you’d like them to be… yet.

Why would you give a volunteer access to church data?

There’s a few things to think about before you give people access to contact details and other data.

  1. You’re not giving them access, you’re appointing them with responsibility.
    There are certain things people should do, and not do with private data. Access to data is not a right or a gift to use as they see fit. It’s a weighty responsibility they have to choose to take on. (We have volunteers sign a database privacy policy).
  2. If you’re appointing someone to a position of significant authority, it’s appropriate they have access to data.
    They might not need access to the database to fulfil their responsibilities, but the very fact they already have such responsibility means that access is appropriate. For example, our senior pastor rarely uses the database to do his job, but he has access.
  3. If someone’s smaller roll would be much, much easier with access to data, its loving to let them have it.
    There’s no point asking someone to organise a person from every growth group to be a contact person for a particular event, and then telling them they’ve got to find all those people the selves, or bounce that administrative hassle back to the growth group over seers. Administrators are great people to give access to the database.

Would you like the Apostle Paul’s church?

I often wonder how we’d go at being a member of one of Paul’s churches. Think about the list in 1Tim 5…

“No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list.”

That seems pretty harsh right? What about unique circumstances? What about if they’re 58yrs old? What if they haven’t done those good things and they’re just starting out in the Christian life?

Now I’m pretty certain Paul would have opened the door to exceptional circumstances, but that’s just a hunch, because he’s not hinting at that here to Timothy is he?

The point is that Paul endorses a structure, a church system for loving many people, rather than every person. Why? Why not just say, “Work out if being on the list is good for widows or not on a case by case basis?”

Think about that, remembering this is God’s word…

Structures are there to love people, many people. I’m sure that there would have been widows (and their friends) in Ephesus with Timothy who would have felt really hurt by where Paul drew the line. Some people would have felt it was unfair. Others would have found it difficult to understand his reasoning (which he describes only briefly). But how should they have responded to Paul’s widow-list system?

Are you happy to be in a church where Jesus appoints overseers to make decisions to love many people over the individuals? If you’re an overseer at a church (pastor, elder, minister, etc.) do you feel the weight of making decisions that try to love the most, even if some people won’t like it?

p.s. I’m not saying it’s bad to ever have “case-by-case” basis, but rather that “hard-and-fast” systems are not bad. There’s a tension to hold between saying both “every-member-matters” and “we do it this way to love more people”

Jesus’ database

“but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” Rev 21:27

The universal church is a list. Your local church is a list. Its a list of names, people, souls, individuals.

That list is very, very important. Its a human attempt (that we know won’t do justice) to replicate Jesus’ list – the lamb’s book of life.

But the list’s importance is derived from the importance of the people on the list – not the other way around. The list is important because it holds names of people whom Jesus thinks is important.

Applications:

1. Have a list. Whether you’re a church-planter or staff-team. Whether your a group leader or just taking it on yourself to pray for a few people. Write it down, make a list, because each name is important to Jesus.

2. When do you look through your list? Having a list is pointless if you don’t look through it. Get your team to look through it. Get your co-leader to look through it with you. Pray through it. Act through it.