Beyond Leadership to Collaboration in the Local Church

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form] Last December, “I’m Dreaming of a ‘Fat Christmas’” began a Metokos blog journey to show a path to healthy, revitalized churches.  This entry, a final bit on Collaboration, ends this first cycle of Metokos blogs. These six pieces have been designed to lead us through the rationale and means and processes of the services of Metokos. Let’s look now at the practical application of collaboration as a leadership process in a local church as that church strives to become a healthy church, a revitalized church.

First, size matters. Metokos Ministries offers its services to any church, but our primary focus is the 900+ congregations of the Presbyterian Church in America where membership numbers less than 100. The less-than-100 marker is the primary focus, but we also will work with congregations of up to 200 members. The Metokos process, as we will review, works best with churches of under 200 because of our close, careful examination of the particular local church through surveys and interviews.

Those surveys that we conduct focus on the life of the congregation as it should be centered around the three areas of worship, discipleship and mercy – remember the illustration of  three legs on a stool?  All three “stool” supports must work in collaboration – not sequentially – to balance/improve/fix one area before we move on to another problem area. Emphasizing collaboration ensures the participation of larger number of the congregation – right from the beginning of the path to healthiness.

Initially, the elders of the church recruit task force members, then Metokos provides the church with an online Revitalization Readiness Survey. Everyone who attends the church completes the survey.  Early steps also have the Task Force members interviewing all members and attendees – one-on-one and in-person – asking questions about their perceptions of congregational life. This is important:  Each and every person in the church has the opportunity to work together!   As the Task Force gathers and considers all the information before them, they begin to create a way forward – and ALL the people were able to have their say and were listened to by another member. Sure, being listened to is not the same as getting your way, but for many folks, being listened to counts for a lot. When the gathered and analyzed information is presented and is followed by an action plan, everyone can know that what each of them said was part of the process that resulted in the plan.  This thoroughness is the genius.

The talking, the listening, the gathering.  How then do we complete the thoroughness that leads to the action plan?  Gap analysis.  In the previous blog entry, there was a short description of GA, but let’s look at GA a little more closely.  A  statistical tool, GA looks at the differences between a person’s responses to their ideal church and the one they experience. These differences receive a value of 1 to 5.   The action plan, obviously, addresses gaps that need work. Most Task Forces will work to close the gaps that are, in the perceptions of the congregation, the largest. In examining these larger gaps, the Task Force will be careful to look at the distribution of larger gaps in all three areas of congregational life – worship, discipleship and mercy. Besides the large gaps, there can, of course, be small gaps. A small gap could mean that there is little interest about that issue within the congregation. These “little interest/small” gaps can occur for any number of reasons.

It is not difficult to find an illustration of gaps when it comes to music in churches because music can be a hot issue in churches.  Let’s consider, for example, a church that sings hymns in worship. The gap turns out to be not about hymns/Christian contemporary music/Psalms, but style or “singability,” especially for the men. In the Gap Analysis it is the men who want fewer hymns because hymns are hard for them to sing, or they think the hymns are too slow. Many men just drop out when it comes to singing because they feel they are not good enough or do not like doing something where they may sing off key or draw attention to themselves because they have more volume than pitch control. One church addressed this gap and brought someone in to have a singing school for men. Another church approached the gap from scripture and strove to have men offer up their voices as living sacrifices. Sometimes we need to drill down into the gap with more questions to find the right bridge for the gap in a local church.

We looked previously at the prism that is collaboration; simply, it means working together.  We also looked earlier at Ephesians 4, and now let’s turn our attention to highlight verses 15 & 16, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  The phrases We grow and each part speak to the Biblical focus on community, working together as we grow into Christ. These Biblical descriptions of a healthy church should guide us as we work together to create paths in local churches that lead to future sustainable health, being what Christ wants his people to be, in Him.

Many people in many churches feel left out. They might not be sure why they feel left out – maybe because they feel that all the church’s leadership wants is their bodies in the pew and checks in the offering. Getting members and attenders to feel invested in a local church is hard and often messy work. Any change comes with missteps and its share of dead ends. Sometimes, getting leadership to trust “each part” is risky. Leadership trains, equips, motivates and resources “each part” so the “the body grows so that it builds itself up in love.” Let the body do the body’s work and build itself up in love.

Many of the “left outs” will take personal recruitment. When the personal individual questionnaire, “what we should keep, what we should discontinue, and what we should start?” shows items for follow up consideration, ask questions such as, “What would you like for the church to do that it is not doing now?”  How can we recruit a pew sitter to become a collaborator to help minister – both in and out of the congregation?

We all know that the world is changing, and we all feel that it is changing faster and faster. We need to keep up with our neighbor (s). The simplest and most basic way to do that is not just to read about them but know them. Hospitality – having a home that is an open home – is a great way to start. Do not expect to make this change in your home overnight. It will take time.  Our country and beyond is saddened by the shootings and deaths in Orlando this past weekend, but we should not  be surprised that none of the shooter’s neighbors knew him. It is true that relationships work and grow in both directions, and we have much to learn about the man who committed that heinous act. But for our part as members and leaders of healthy churches – don’t turn hospitality into a scheduled program, but make it part of the fabric of the culture of the local church. How many people invite others over to their homes after church for an informal meal?  Those of us who are old enough can remember Edith Schaeffer speaking of the cost of hospitality – all of her wedding china was broken after a few years. Hospitality is sacrificial and hospitality should be a safe place. How many of us remember someone who opened their home to the youth of the church and community, just to hang out?

As I wrote earlier, a healthy church, a revitalized church, is both a glad and a generous church, like the Acts 2 church. Hospitality grows out of a glad and generous heart.  Whether a congregation comes to Metokos Ministries for help in becoming a healthy church or just tries to work it out on their own, they should ask this question —  What would a glad and generous church look like in that particular congregation? And individuals should ask, what will I give and give up to become a more glad and generous person in my church? With whom can I share my gladness and generosity in my church family?

Let’s end with a few words to leadership:  Will you trust the Holy Spirit according to Acts 20?  “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood?” Will you trust God’s way of building up the church described in Ephesians 4? Collaborate with your people, work with them, and listen to them so every part can do what the Holy Spirit wants them to do in your church. Help your people become glad and generous through hospitality. Start with your own home and family. Remember, Metokos Ministries is here to help your church become a healthy church, a revitalized church.

Pray for Metokos Ministries and our outreach to small churches. Spread the word – as well as links to this blog cycle – about our ministry of revitalization.

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