by Mike Ingram, Care and Support Pastor
“Church Member Engagement” “Open Door Ministry Policy” “Member and Attender Empowerment” Every Member a Servant”
We have all heard these buzz words and phrases for years – popular ideas that we hope are answers to help make our ever-changing ministry environments easier to manage. Many of us have pondered if any of these motivational words have lasting impressions.
How can we create a culture of support that lasts beyond the buzz words in today’s fast-paced, me-first, microwave world?
Simple definition of support: to agree with or approve of; to show that you approve of; to give help or assistance to.
Support can come in the form of tools and resources, as well as in how we behave. Another word that is worth looking up is culture. The beliefs, customs, arts, etc. of a particular society, group, place, or time. A way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization.
Culture at its core is about expectations. We expect behaviors to exist within a church, and those behaviors, good or bad, are chosen by the church community. We hope that our “core” helps to guide us in our behaviors. Culture is NOT just the way we do things around here. Culture is the way we feel about each other within our organization! If we truly want to see our churches filled with healthy serving leaders it begins by creating a culture that affirms the behavior that we are expecting.
Healthy Culture Building Blocks
The culture of your church will dictate the actions of your membership. There are two sides to creating positive, caring environments where lay leadership and general membership thrive. Leadership must embrace that it all begins with them. If they cannot create a culture of support, thus begins a handicap. When we create a caring-supportive environment, healthy expectations for membership follow. How do we do this?
EMPATHY and TRUST
All relationships are built on two foundational concepts: empathy and trust. If either are missing, leadership stalls. The relationship either fails to progress or it ends completely. The key to ensuring success in this area is – one word – Sincerity. If the people God has entrusted to our care cannot reach a place they see sincerity, value what each bring to the table, and care for them when they fail or become ill…. trust is unlikely to follow.
THE “WANT TO” ENVIRONMENT
I remember several years ago watching a pastor as he went before the church to begin the offering time of the service. Before the plate was passed and business went on, he told the people, “Guys, I am thankful to the Lord for changing my “Have-to" to a "Want-to”. That makes it clear have-to is head and want-to is heart. That is a true culture shift. Many can argue that we as top leaders do not have much influence in matters of haves and wants. I disagree! Over time, changing from head-serving to heart-serving has profound impact in creating a want to environments.
Here is where the “Law of Reciprocity” comes into play. People put time and resources into what they value. As the top leaders have embraced the approach that culture begins with them having the ability to exhale positive, caring culture vertical and downward, produce empathy and trust. The culture of your church will dictate the actions of your membership.
Here are 4 things to remember
- People first – Process second
- Lay Leaders and membership need to feel heard, valued, and have a place to give back or serve
- Providing a clear, caring process for growth, spiritually and otherwise, with freedom to fail is key
- When crisis comes and we are not there, it destroys the very culture God designed
Many times conversations I hear about this speaks about membership or lay leaders. We say things like "IF they would”.
This focus must begin at the top leader level. Churches sometimes forget some very, very basic things that great leaders know. Your direct reports both paid and volunteer are the ones to be served first. When both leader and lay leader alike create a sub-culture among themselves of serving each other across departmental lines, the result is an explosion of service. What members see modeled is generally how they serve.
PERSONAL COMMITMENT/OWNERSHIP ON THE OTHER SIDE
Up until now we focused on top leaders. What about "the other side of the coin?" If the culture loop is not closed in this final step, it produces frustration, low serving levels, and burnout. Lay leaders and church members alike must join hands and hearts with top leaders in making very personal commitments. We ALL own cultures we create, good or bad.
We ALL have the responsibility to shine the light in improvements and issues, but work together to find solutions that improve the culture we desire. Culture-building begins at the top, but unless it becomes the commitment across the board, then the organization will become unhealthy, unclear, unmotivated, and unfruitful.
TRUTH - No One Gets A Pass in the Kingdom of God
Jesus said it this way:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[d] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. I Cor. 12:12-21