For a church to break growth barriers, systems must be created to help maximize the giftedness of the people for the good of the community and the church. One of the areas that often becomes an issue as a church begins to grow and age is Pastoral Care. How does this happen?
- May be that the pastor takes all the weight upon himself and starts down the road to burnout stifling his leadership and the growth of the church,
- May be resentment and criticism began to divide because of the elusive ENOUGH – “the church isn’t doing enough for me.”
- May be there’s an Acts 6 moment where the church realizes that needs are being unmet, like those of the Helenistic Jewish widows in the story of the first New Testament church (Act 6:1-7).
Eventually, the need to systematize and scale pastoral care will become apparent in a congregation.
The Question is: Who is Responsible for Pastoral Care in the Church?
Here’s how my church has answered this important question:
1. The Body of Christ
We are actually all responsible to care for one another – See Philippians 2:3-4, Galatians 6:1-2. We are to be looking out for the needs of each other as members of a church. Churches should seek to have a culture of compassion and care that leads people to look beyond themselves to the needs of others.
I asked a pastor of a fast-growing church, how he scales pastoral care. He said, almost every week, I tell people to turn to the person next to them and say, “It’s not about me.”
2. Small Groups
Small Groups are a great place to foster compassion and care. The Small Group ministry is a household to household ministry. In smaller groups, the needs of individuals can be more easily identified than on Sunday mornings. Churches should teach small group leaders that they are shepherd/pastors to their group and the first place for care.
3. Pastors / Elders
The Bible also calls godly pastors / elders to the task of pastoral care – 1 Peter 5:2, Acts 20:28. Their care was to be more oversight though. It was these that appointed Stephen to care for the individual needs of widows. Their pastoral care role should be more in the refuting, holding accountable, prayer, and teaching/preaching. Most pastors want to be involved in every pastoral care case, but they can’t always in growing churches. Churches must recognize their equipping role and not set the expectation that they be the sole proprietor of care for everyone.
4. The Cares Team
A best practice in growing churches is to equip a team to be a part of pastoral care in the church. This is a recognition that the pastor can’t do it all and that God is equipping members of His body to be shepherds along side the pastor of the church. Much of the task of pastoral care is administrative. Others can and should take on some of the roles of setting up meals, scheduling visits, visiting the hospitals, ordering flowers, even sharing at funerals, praying with people, etc., etc. Find a way to identify and equip the churches shepherds for the work of ministry.
5. Outside Support
What happens when pastoral care needs are beyond the scope of the churches care? Churches should recognize the support they have outside of their own body. Other churches may have ministries that could help. There are solid Christian counselors in every community that would love to be available to individuals or the church at large.
How does your church scale pastoral care? What would you add to this list?
Last week, I posted about my journey of Becoming More Tech-Wise as a Parent and Leader. One of the best books I read in 2017, was in this regard – The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology In Its Place by Andy Crouch. The social experiment that is kids with constant social media and technology, continues to demonstrate extremely negative outcomes for families, mental health, faith development, etc. Crouch’s book was breath of fresh air to this parent who is trying to figure out how to guide our kids and families through these modern mine fields. The chapters build out the covenant or commitments of a tech-wise family. Families are encouraged to build out your own covenant or commitments as well. What would these commitments look like for your family?
The Ten Tech Wise Commitments:
We develop wisdom and courage together as a family.
We want to create more than we consume. So we fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement.
We are designed for a rhythm of work and rest. So one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year, we turn off our devices and worship, feast, play and rest together.
We wake up before our devices do, and they “go to bed” before we do.
We aim for “no screens before double digits” (age of 10) at school and at home.
We use screens for a purpose, and we use them together, rather than using them aimlessly and alone.
Car time is conversation time.
Spouses have one another’s passwords, and parents have total access to children’s devices.
We learn to sing together, rather than letting recorded and amplified music take over our lives and worship.
We show up in person for the big events of life. We learn how to be human by being fully present at our moments of greatest vulnerability. We hope to die in one another’s arms.
This book, plus our own hard lessons have led our family to make some adjustments along the way with technology. What rules or guidelines or commitments, if any, do you or your family exercise regarding technology?
Recent Question from an honest member of a local church. “What’s the thinking of the Louisiana Baptist Convention (my employer), behind planting all these new churches? Why not just send more people to great churches like mine?”
Answer: There are Three Major Problems with this kind of thinking as I see it.
1. The problem of the numbers. How many does your church seat? “1,200”. Let’s say your church fills its building 4 times each week. That’ll be 4,800 people attending church. Praise God! I’ve studied your community, and there are actually 125,000 people that live there, and after much research, liberal estimates show that only 10% of them attend an evangelical church. Another 10% attend Roman Catholic churches based on research and liberal estimates. That still leaves 100,000 people that are not going to church anywhere. Where are we going to put that many people? If all the current evangelical churches in the community filled their facilities twice each Sunday, there would still be no room for the majority of these people.
2. The problem of the people. I’ve been to your church and I like it. Most of the people look a lot like me and dress like me and the music fits what I like to listen to. I feel very comfortable there. The preaching speaks to me, because I’ve been in church all my life and I like good Bible preaching. However, did you know that there are a lot of those 100,000 people who have never been to church. They don’t know who Noah or Abraham or Moses are, and they would be a little lost just opening a Bible for the first time. They also listen to different kind of music, their lives look a lot different than mine and yours because of race, upbringing, past mistakes, etc. So, we need to start ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF CHURCHES, FOR ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF PEOPLE along with making our churches more comfortable for everyone.
3. Saturation vs. Parish Strategy. Louisiana Baptists and most evangelicals have a saturation strategy of evangelism and church planting. Until EVERY PERSON has had the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel, we keep doing EVERYTHING we can to deliver the gospel and disciple them. And the Evangelical community has found that church planting is one of the most effective means of doing that. Roman Catholics and other liturgical churches have a Parish Strategy, meaning, we’re going to plan to have one church for an area or part of town, and assume that everybody that needs the gospel will respond at or through that church. It doesn’t consider the number of people, or types of people in the strategy, limiting the number of people that can be reached through the church.
Does that make any sense?
Response: YES! I understand!
1. I was actually thinking about how many people in my neighborhood don’t go to church. Out of 70+ homes there is only 2 or 3 of us that go to church on Sunday.
2. And you know, you’re right, I wish they would, but they probably would not all feel comfortable in a church like mine.
3. And yes, we believe we should do everything we can to share the gospel with our community.
What are some ways that my church could help??!!
Parenting is hard. Much harder than you’ll ever imagine. Nobody can tell you how hard it is until you’ve experienced it. And each new generation has its challenges. One of my generations parenting challenges is definitely technology. We are learning more and more about the land minds that smart phones, social media, and gaming devices deposit before our kids every day. Parents must be vigilant to remain on top of this ever changing world. Some of the unexpected lessons we’ve learned over the last few years as parents and as a pastor:
- You can protect kids from internet searches and some harmful websites with filters, but filters have little affect on Social Media sites.
- Snap Chat is bad. Really bad. No child should have access to Snap Chat. Block it!!!
- From a local school principal: “Everything bad at this school – drugs, bullying, and sexting – can be traced back to Snap Chat or Instagram.”
- Instagram has grown more like Snap Chat, allowing anonymous sharing of pics. Monitor it or block it!
- Watch who your kids are following on Instagram. These people are discipling your children and shaping their worldview.
- Gaming devices are not just about playing games anymore. The unfiltered internet, Youtube, and many games offer views of the darkest parts of the fallen world to kids.
- Youtube is a great disciple making tool and mostly for bad. Figure out how to block access to it on gaming devices and smart phones.
- Kids and most adults are not capable of handling the emotional toll that constant connectivity offers us through smart phones and social media.
- Kids get up at night and reconnect with technology after their parents have gone to bed. They struggle to turn it off and stay disconnected. Turn off the internet! Place devices in a secure place. Model and teach the importance of rest from technology.
- Drug dealers are using Snap Chat and Instagram to entice your kids. Yes! Local drug dealers are on Snap Chat and Instagram advertising their services to your kids.
- Sexting is a huge problem for teens and many adults!!! Model and teach the importance of accountability with text messaging.
- Most parents are clueless of how their kids are being affected by technology.
I could probably go on, but we are learning more and more of the potential harmful effects of technology and how to shepherd our kids through these mind fields. I know, I know. There is good that can come from technology too. But parents, lets beware and be aware! And set limits and boundaries on technology use for your kids and for yourself.
Here are some good sources of info for parents that have been helpful to us along our journey of discovery:
- Book: The Tech Wise Family by Andy Crouch. This book helped us devise our own Technology guidelines for our home. Great resource.
- Blog: CovenantEyes.com/blog. Covenant Eyes is a great filtering and accountability tool. The blog offers regular articles that are informative for parents and leaders in setting limits and boundaries. The stories also share reminders of the potential danger of the internet and hope for redemption after inevitable mistakes occur.
- The Axis Culture Translator. This is a weekly email that deposits some good tidbits of info for parents trying to keep up with language and trends impacting our homes.
What are other good resources for families regarding technology? What are lessons you’ve learned so far?
In 2003, a devastating earthquake struck Iran that killed over 26,000 people and injured 30,000 others. But in the midst of despair, one story gave people hope. Cradled in her dead mother’s arms, surrounded by the crumbled remnant of a collapsed building, a baby girl was found alive. The mother shielded six-month-old Nassim from the falling debris and saved her life. Rescuers found the girl 37 hours after the earthquake. A Red Crescent worker in Tehran reported it like this: “She is alive because of her mother’s embrace.”
What a beautiful picture of Christ substitution. Christ was “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). Those who take refuge in Jesus’ embrace are shielded from sin’s devastating impact and saved through His sacrifice.
Beyond this, Christ chose the punishment. It wasn’t a natural disaster like an earthquake that killed Jesus. When I deserved the crushing blows of judgment and condemnation, Jesus took my punishment and died in my place. He substituted Himself for me.
“In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.”– 2 Corinthians 5:21 (The Message)
Church planters are seen as a rare breed in the body of Christ, but I don’t think they’re as rare as we think. God still calls & empowers people for this important kingdom role. Many times they’re just not discovered or mobilized because we’re not looking to discover or mobilize them. Knowing church planters & being one, here’s an observational list that you may find true of yourself if you’re thinking you may be a fit for church planting. Not saying all of these have to be true, but they may be true.
1. You made a lot of visits to the ER growing up.
Church planters are risk takers at heart & this probably started early. The desire to jump off of, over, or go through any obstacle to the detriment of personal health is often a characteristic of pioneering church planters.
2. You can’t concentrate in church because of the kids you saw playing in the street on the way.
You’re heart will be with those who are NOT in church on Sunday’s. At times it may consume you to the point that you seem at odds with church leaders. God may put that discontent there if he’s leading you to those outside the camp. (See my post on Sending the apostles).
3. You think Chic-Fil-A would be a good place for a church.
If you find yourselves in different environments & believe that spiritual life could happen there you might be a church planter. The imagination of the church planter is usually full of ideas about creating environments to share the gospel. The new churches I have been involved in have met in apartment complex offices, a fire station, a former bar, a local gym, & a museum. Doesn’t make sense? Made perfect sense to me! And worshipping in Chic-Fil-A on Sunday is a dream of mine!
4. You hang out with the wrong kind of people for the right kind of reasons.
In college, I didn’t play intramural ball with my collegiate ministries intramural teams. I had a desire to use the skills I had to build relationships with non-Christians. The church planter will often be energized more by these relationships than relationships in Sunday School. But get ready…
5. Your Christian friends think your weird for that.
You may even be labeled by religious friends for hanging around sinners & disreputable characters. But seems like I saw someone in the Bible that had the same thing happen. Mark 2:13-17.
6. You get a kick out of calluses on your hands.
Church planting is hard work. Gathering & motivating people can seem like pushing a rock up hill. Setting up church in non-traditional locations is not easy. If you are afraid of physical & emotional calluses & soreness then run the other way. Some go into church planting to avoid what they perceive as hard things in church leadership, but you’ll find many of the same things plus some in church planting. Make sure its a calling.
7. You’ve shared the gospel more times than you can remember.
Sharing the gospel must be a natural part of the church planters life & vocabulary. A church is a church because of the Gospel & the Gospel must be shared. The church planter must lead the way.
8. Friends call you with spiritual questions.
Leadership is innate & merely recognized by others. Do people see in you something that they want & need? Do people seek you out when there are questions about life & God? As a church planter you’ll probably be without title, position, & respect. Your character & ability to earn the respect of people because of leadership ability will be important.
9. You usually travel with a group.
You are more comfortable in a group & with a team, a posse. You will not be able to do this alone. Church planters must love people & believe that everyone is better off sticking together. Lone Ranger Church Planter is an oxymoron.
10. You daydream about solving big problems in the world.
North Korea, the crime ridden multi-housing complex down the street, the high school dropout problem, etc. These issues may cause you to stare off into the future & make list in your mind about how you would go about reaching people & changing the places with the greatest problems.
If this list still doesn’t talk you out of it, find out a little more about next steps here. And feel free to hit me up (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d love to help you get started on the church planting journey. And there is a community that is needing God’s people to say yes and take the jump into multiplication!
Parenting is at the same time, the greatest joy and the most difficult task one can undertake. Now, I’m a veteran, and getting opportunities to share my failings and hard lessons learned more often with parents younger than me. Here’s what I find myself saying over and over:
- Parenting is hard. Much harder than you’ll ever imagine. Nobody can tell you how hard it is until you’ve experienced it.
- Parents must work to set the spiritual temperature and pace in the home.
- Limit technology. Limit technology. Limit technology. So much danger lurking on the other side of a click, finger swipe, and game controller.
- Say no to Snap Chat. Just do it. There’s just nothing good about it. Just say no!
- Recognize the competing voices in their hearts and heads and deal with them decisively.
- Get them around mentors and positive people early and often.
- Recognize God’s providence is greater than imperfect parental guidance.
What would you add to this list?
C.S. Lewis said it best: “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
“Communication: Without It You Travel Alone” – John Maxwell.
Working with a few churches this week, including mine, to clean up communication. These three questions seem to have risen to the top as the most essential.
How do people hear about our church?
How do people know where to go when they get to our church?
How do people stay connected to our church throughout the week?
Let’s take these three one by one:
How do people hear about our church?
Remember, it’s not their job to find us, but our job to take our message to them. How will you intentionally take the gospel of Jesus Christ and good news happening at your church to the community? Ideas:
- Website. Lots of great sources for high quality websites today. Our church uses The Creative Place. Great partners. Ask around for local sources. Check out ChurchTechToday.com for reviews of church website template services.
- Social Media Pages. Everyone that uses Facebook Ads, etc. says they have people respond with attendance. Our Church uses SundaySocial.tv to help with high quality graphics for social media pages.
- Invite Cards at Outreach Events. Do you have outreach events? Hopefully. When you do, hand everyone an invite to the next thing.
- Direct Mail Plan. Check out the Mapping Center for Evangelism where you can get addresses with an annual subscription plus other good outreach strategy tools as low as $480 per year.
- Signage. In front of the building. Yard Signs around town. In some cities, billboards can be an effective tool as well.
- Radio Spots. Many stations offer a free community board for church events. If not free, they are usually very affordable, depending on the station.
- What else have you used to let people know about your church?
How do people know where to go when they get to our church?
The curse of knowledge plagues us as regular church members. The curse of knowledge is knowing where to go, we forget what it is like to not know and assume everyone must also know. Assume the opposite to become a more welcoming church. Ideas:
- Signs for visitor parking in the parking lot.
- Signs on outside of building giving directions.
- Signs inside of the building giving directions. Especially if you’re portable.
- Greeters at the entrances and if possible in the parking lot.
- Sign for Sign-up Opportunities.
- What else do you do to help people know where to go and what to do when they get to your church?
How do people stay connected to our church throughout the week?
Some people will naturally stay interested and know how to jump in and get involved in the life of the church, but that number is shrinking. We must be intentional to make relationships sticky in today’s culture. Ideas:
- Sunday Bulletin. I know it seems like it doesn’t get read, but it’s still worth doing. Can be done for very cheap with templates from Outreach.com and others.
- Social Media
- Letters / Snail Mail – people still love to get mail in the mailbox with their name on it.
- Email – FREE
- Montly or Weekly E-Newsletter – FREE
- Text Messaging – There are several great text messaging services for churches that range from FREE to around $35 per month. ChurchTechToday.com provides some helpful reviews.
- Personal contact through Small Groups
- What else do you do to help people stay connected to your church during the week?
What’s missing from this communication strategy list?
Download a FREE Strategic and Dynamic Communication Checklist to assess your churches communication strategy: Church Communication Checklist.
I get a lot of help and inspiration from these Church Communication Leaders:
- Rich Birch and Unseminary.com
This February, I’ve for the first time tackled preaching through the Song of Solomon. Sounded like a great idea last summer when I was planning sermon series for 2018, but as I got to digging in I began to think, “what have I gotten myself in to!?” Ha! As I studied, I began to see a beautiful love story outlined in the relationship between the bride and groom depicted in the Song. Here it is:
- God is the author of LOVE, ROMANCE, SEX, AND MARRIAGE. Genesis 2:18-25.
- Love is FOSTERED through God-given desire, attraction, and curiosity. Song of Solomon 1:2, 7-10; Proverbs 30:19.
- Love is FULFILLED in the marital relationship between man and woman. Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:7-11; 4:9-11; 5:1; Proverbs 5:19
- Love can be FRUSTRATING as two people bring their differences together and experience life’s difficulties. Song of Solomon 5:2-3; Proverbs 17:1; 21:9; 25:24
- The beauty of Love is found in FAITHFULNESS. Song of Solomon 7:1-2; 8:6-7; Proverbs 5:18; Ecclesiastes 9:9
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
And I’m glad to be living this story out with my bride of 18 years now (valentine of 21 years). Thinking about our story, here’s my Valentine’s Day letter to my valentine:
God created you just for me. Light shined from heaven and music started playing in my head the first time I saw you. You were different from anyone I had ever met. As I got to know you, the curiosity and desire to know more about you never dulled. Separation from you scared me because it made me feel incomplete. Our wedding day still seems like the best dream I’ve ever had. My every wish and idea about love has been fulfilled in this relationship. There has never been one day that I have regretted taking you as my wife. My heart still leaps when you walk into the room and my mind remains ever curious about your heart and your thoughts on everything. We’ve faced our share of frustrations with this life, with no doubt more trials and difficulties to come. I look forward to growing old with you and experiencing the beauty of faithfulness. Thank you for being my valentine and my wife. Thank you for putting up with the frustrations caused by me. Thank you for the promise of life long love. Thank you for making faithfulness easy and longed for. Happy 21st Valentine’s day!
What’s your Love Story? Can you see your story in the Song of Solomon? Take time to write it out. Identify gaps and close them.