7 Tips to Breaking the Impact Barrier …

Impact versus Numbers, which is more important? Numbers matter, because each number represents a person who matters. Therefore, we should pay attention to numbers in ministry. However, I am more interested in the impact we are making in our community. I am more interested in the number of people whose lives are a little better because my church is in this community. I am praying that we pay attention to the number of people who think a little more about Jesus because they see His love in us and feel His compassion through us.

There has been a lot written about how to break through certain numerical barriers in the church. I believe these articles and books have an important place in the evaluation of a church’s effectiveness. However, I believe that if we only seek numbers then all we will be left with are those numbers. If we instead, seek to love, help, touch and impact people we will have a church that has people who are seeking and following Jesus, and that will make a huge impact anywhere.

To break through we must …

  1. Be a part of the community – It is nearly impossible to have a lasting impact in a community if we are not in that community. We need people, from our ministry, who live in, and near, that community. If we are not in the community, we may be viewed suspiciously by those in the community.
  2. Be participants in the community – If we are physically in the community but do not participate in the affairs of the community we will severely limit our opportunities to have people listen to us and trust us. Get involved in the community. Attend community events. Have a presence in community functions that allow groups to have a booth, a float, a banner, or whatever is appropriate.
  3. Partner with other community groups – Come alongside and support other groups. If you only participate when you can be in control you will not be viewed as a team player. If you are not viewed as a team player your community will stop paying attention. When they stop paying attention, your opportunity to make an impact disappears. When you support existing groups, and help them to do well, you will gain a hearing with those groups.
  4. Love your community – If you do not already have a love for your community then slow down and seek it. Spend time praying for the people in your community. Not nameless faces, but the real people in your community. Spend time out in the community and get to know people by name and story. This will begin to change, and charge, your heart.
  5. Appreciate your community – Frequently mention things about your community that you appreciate in your ministry gatherings, as well as things you are praying for in the community. (Thanks for that reminder Pastor Todd Keller.) In doing this you will raise the awareness of your people for the community and your community will take notice.
  6. Seek to know the real needs of your community – Don’t assume that you know the needs of the people in your community. Listen and ask questions as you move about in your community. You can even make an appointment to meet with some community leaders (such as the Mayor, School Superintendent, school personnel, Police, …) and ask questions. At this meeting, don’t tell them things, ask them about what is needed and how you might be able to help. Be sure to listen and take notes.
  7. Pray a lot for your community – Too often we plan and don’t pray. Too often we create strategies without taking the time in prayer to seek God’s guidance for these strategies. Too often we talk, and write, about praying for our community a lot more than we actually pray for our community.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. This is just a “let’s get started in the right direction” list. Making an impact is too important to be left to our assumptions and clichés. We need to recognize the need and then do all we can to make an impact in the communities in which God has placed. Otherwise, we are not being the church that we are called to be. When that happens, we suffer, the church suffers, and our communities suffer.

Tell me your thoughts and what you are doing to make an impact in your community.

 

Dennis

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10 Things I have Learned about being a Pastor …

Even after 30+ years in ministry I am still learning about being a pastor. If I ever stop learning it is time to stop pastoring. Here are a few things I have learned. I am not claiming to have mastered these, but I have learned. I am narrowing down the dozens of things I have learned to this list of 10. (In no particular order.)

  1. It is about People – Being a pastor is about the people and relationships with them. Sometimes we are tempted to think it starts with policy, but I have learned that people trumps policy every time.
  2. It is very rewarding – Being deeply involved in the lives of the people in your community and church is very rewarding. Seeing lives changed. Baptizing people and seeing the joy on their face as they come out of the water. Baby dedications are a favorite of mine. Watching people come to Christ and then mature in their faith as disciples of Christ. These are just a few of the many rewards.
  3. It is difficult to pastor well – As a pastor I deal with life and death issues regularly. I walk with people through crisis and loss. I deal with seeing people get upset and leave the church. Even harder is when they are upset with me as they leave. I deal with the weight of knowing that I am dealing with eternal issues each Sunday as I stand in front of my people to preach.
  4. My personal relationship with Christ must be priority number one – It is easy to get busy doing good things and being swayed by the urgent that I neglect my own relationship with Christ. If that happens my church suffers, my family suffers and obviously my spiritual health suffers.
  5. It is not really “my church” – The church belongs to God, it is his church. When I attempt to assume ownership, things get messed up in a hurry.
  6. My family is more important to me than the church I pastor – If I don’t get the family thing right my influence as pastor is diminished. It is not a matter of having a family with no problems, it is putting them ahead of the church and realizing that they are my most important ministry.
  7. Taking time off is critical to be a pastor of value – I am still learning this one and I struggle with it often. I didn’t do this well at all early in my ministry. I am getting better but it is still something I wrestle with often. The critical nature of what I do and the life and death, eternal issues give a sense that things must be done now. This is especially true of solo pastors with no other ministry staff. Without time off I become stale in my thinking and I can become weary and I may begin to resent the things I must do.
  8. The church is much bigger than me and will function long after I am gone – One reason a pastor may be hesitant to take time off is that they are fearful that people will realize they can survive without them. That is actually a good thing, but it can mess with the ego.
  9. Not to take myself too seriously, have fun while ministering – While I deal with life and death issues regularly, there are still many moments to enjoy life and to laugh at myself. I do a lot of things that are just plain funny. I get words mixed up at times. I forget some stuff. I also tend to see things differently at times and I laugh at some of those thoughts. I believe that people relax and listen better when they realize that you freely admit you are not perfect and that sometimes you are downright goofy. Not sure where that fits theologically, but I find it makes a difference for many people.
  10. Encouragement is a big deal – I want to encourage the people I pastor and I need encouragement as well. A word of encouragement can keep a person going when they may be considering giving up. Encouragement sparks more encouragement and that matters to people. We would all rather be around someone who encourages as opposed to someone who discourages. I want to be known as an encourager. I don’t have this one conquered, but I am always seeking to do this better.

This is just a sampling of things I have learned in my time as a pastor. The list is a lot longer than ten. I typed this quickly as I am sitting here thinking on a Thursday night. What do you think should be on this list?

 

Dennis