QUESTIONING PASTORS ON THEIR STEWARDSHIP OF THEIR CONGREGATIONS ENERGY
One of the precious resources of a congregation is its energy. A Biblical term for this might be “zeal.” Energy is a combination of both the time members have to give and their passion and tenacity to engage and finish the work. Pastors have to be the stewards of that energy. Part of the pastor’s job is to protect his people from expending their energy in ways and places that give them no spiritual profit, and no profit to the Kingdom of God.
It should become obvious to the leadership of a church when that energy is flagging. Members give less time, they are less than enthusiastic to participate, and things that pastors and leaders wish would get done, don’t.
Pastors give various answers to why this is happening. Sometimes it is seen as disobedience, just plain spiritual rebellion or a lack of faith. Sometimes it is seen as ministry overload, the people have been trying to do too much; which can be caused for various reasons, such as competitive ministry leaders, bad “works’ type theology, church traditional activities which are unecessary.
Members can give other answers, such as the pastor and leaders are simply piling up too many obligations and activities. Sometimes members see it as a justified rebellion against spiritual manipulation, whether using guilt or appeals to love Jesus more. Sometimes members see it as poor leadership that gives them no meaningful or believable motivation. Most times I don’t believe members see it at all, they just react with their feet, which either move or won’t.
There are some questions I believe pastors need to ask themselves in analyzing how they are stewarding the energy of their people: 1. What is a congregation for anyway, what is it supposed to be doing? If the pastor thinks their job is simply to listen more to him, to attend faithfully and give more money, one might begin to think the pastor doesn’t have a very large view of the Kingdom of God.
2. Is it a legitimate response to the need of energy stewardship to ask nothing of the congregation as a congregation, but to leave it to them if they feel they should or want to do something? If a pastor takes a “minimalist” strategy he should examine honestly whether he is merely justifying a refusal to lead or his own laziness.
3. Is it legitimate to only ask the congregation to do things for themselves, for the worship service, Sunday School, music, Bible studies, etc.? Even here people can overwork or feel burdened down. The call for more discipleship can simply mean more meetings and study time, and is studying the only way to discipleship?
4. Does a congregation have any responsibility to evangelize, to do acts of mercy, to participate in the life of its community, to participate in missions? How does the call to do these outward focused ministries combine with the necessity of interior and sustaining work for the life of the congregation?
5. Does the pastor know how to delegate, to help people identify their gifts, to help them discipline their lives to work where they best fit, to call them to rest and sabbath and to not overcommit? Is he an example of not overcommitting? Is the pastor able to help the people know the balance and combination of knowing, being, and doing?
6. Does the pastor lay out spiritual and practical reasons why jobs need to be done? Does he explain how ministries achieve the vision and goals of the church? Does the leadership seek to eliminate those activities which do not accomplish the overall goals of the congregation but expend the scarce energy of the people for no purpose? Does the leadership give the congregation missions they can accomplish and then gives them opportunity to celebrate in their success?
7. Does the pastor know the difference between physical exhausation and burnout? Can he see the anger in people that makes them resistant to more appeals for more work when they feel slighted, abused, and badgered. In contrast can he appreciate the seemingly inexhaustible energy of those who are motivated by faith, love, and joy? Can he see these things in himself?