Last week I invited you into a season of adventure and leadership discovery.
But first, this is why it’s important: We’ve had 2 years of everything taking a toll on everyone. Everything changed right in front of us, and accelerated us into a world we could little have imagined.
Almost all of us have experienced a loss of encouraging, supportive community. (Ask one of your leaders to take a look at “The Art of Invitation” developed by a gifted leader in the PLI family.)
For the last 2 years we’ve lived with fear! Fear of losing control, of losing what we love. And fear of what we’ve known and valued…that’s been important in our congregation! Fear lurks behind all types of attitudes and behaviors and misbehaviors these days.
You and your leadership board don’t need more facts, right? So, let’s continue our adventure and leadership discovery with another story from my early days as a leader.
WE GOTTA DO STEWARDSHIP!
From the short historic context I offered last week, it would be no surprise to you that our church and school were a financial train wreck. On a $400,000 budget my first year, we had a $100,000 planned deficit! Add to that a million dollar estate gift that had fueled the budget for 20 years but was almost gone. Our church had not only used up the income from the estate, but had chiseled away at the principal, as well!
(Ironically, it’s always a problem when a church has more money than it does vision!)
So, bad news for us became good news for us. The crisis created the opportunity to dream of a new future. (More on that another time.)
But, the immediate besetting anxiety-producing result were elders meetings. One after another. Harold would usually start the conversation: “Pastor, we gotta do stooooowardship.” The first syllable elongated for my benefit I think.
Let me tell you! I was no “expert” in the room!
I think I probably mumbled something. Or, better… I probably bowed my head in silence thinking Harold had said: “Pastor, you better pray. We’re a mess.”
I’m smiling now!
Where I feared to trod, equally ill-equipped elders chimed in!
“We just gotta tell everyone they have to give more.”
“I was at the hospital the other day and saw these gold leaves on the donor wall. We should do that.”
Tiny, the engineer on the board, said: “I figure if our worship attendance grew from 375 to 475, it would solve all our problems. Or the companion analysis, if the current attendees each gave xx dollars more per week…”
Funny: None of us proposed teaching what the Bible said about giving or money or our attitude toward it! None of us proposed that we preach that by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection He had offered a substitute sacrifice for our sins that was worthy motivation to order our lives (and money) in response to Him!
Actually, it’s not funny at all, right? It’s interesting that when anxiety begins to reign in the congregation we forget all kinds of things that we would otherwise never forget!
So, finally one Sunday I told the congregation everything I knew about stewardship. It went something like:
“If you have some money, you should start giving some money.”
(Keep in mind I’m less than a year out of seminary and whatever they taught about it, I had missed! PLI leaders today get a great introduction to the basics of stewardship in Leadership Essentials and a robust dive in Senior Leader.
I was probably a pretty average communicator (okay, below average) at that juncture, so it probably didn’t mean much to most folks… except one. White haired, distinguished, “pillar of the congregation” John was waiting for me afterwards: “If you use the word ‘money’ around here any more, there won’t be anyone in these pews!”
I didn’t know much about being a pastor yet, but emptying the pews didn’t seem like a good thing after my stern rebuke. (Funny how singular, even brief, encounters can wrongly shape our attitude toward ourselves or how we lead!)
I, of course, learned: Don’t say certain things, like stewardship, or people get angry.
A Call to Adventure
If you’re feeling stuck, or fearful, or discouraged, or just exhausted, take a deep breath, and let’s lock arms together for a moment. Know that you are not alone; I’m here with you, and I’m here to encourage you.
Get a group of your leaders reading these summer blogs. (They can sign up to receive the emails.)
Smile a bit. Feel free to laugh at my mistakes. Listen for a seed of informative truth.
Shut down the need to act like an expert.
Admit that we should have been discipling people and developing leaders all along even when we didn’t know what we’d need them for!