Your congregation represents people from all walks of life—all ages and stages of maturity. All flawed, yet all drawn together because they love Christ, and they love to be a part of the ministry.
What a unique creation from God!
Some of these people who come to your church need time to heal. Some have experienced what I call “toxic religion.” They have had former pastors who dominated and domineered them, who took advantage of them spiritually, and who told them it was a sin to attend another church. How tragic.
All Fearful, Welcome Here
These wounded people will often stumble into your church afraid.
- They’re fearful, first of all, that they will be found out by their friends from their old church—most of whom are now shunning them because they left.
- Second, they’re afraid of not knowing the “right” thing to do in their new church.
- Third, they may even be afraid of you.
So please, have a heart. Be extremely patient with them. These individuals don’t come in and hit the floor running, ready to serve. Let your church be a place of refuge where they can find sufficient grace to heal. Be faithful to pray for them.
Feeding and Leading
Some of your sheep long to be affirmed, and all of them desire to be nourished.
- So feed them well. I have discovered that frequent chiding and rebuking of the flock is not helpful. Help them stay balanced.
- Lead the sheep. In my New England pastorate I drove the sheep. That was a mistake. I learned that a pastor can’t really lead the sheep if he doesn’t love them. So learn from my mistakes.
When you need to do some kind of reproving—and that’s part of our job—do it privately and confidentially.
- Never embarrass a church member.
- I suggest you have your difficult meeting off-site, so that not even the staff will know the individual showed up to talk to you alone.
Faithfulness and Tenderness
All will appreciate your faithfulness and your tenderness. They like to know that when you’re touched by something, tears will come. Never apologize for your tears. The older I get, the more tears seem to be on the surface. Jesus wept . . . remember?
Model for them the role of a shepherd. You’re working with sheep; it’s a great analogy. And remember that you’re a sheep too. (It’s easy to forget that.) You’re not even the Chief Shepherd—that’s Jesus. He’s the Head of the church.
Let’s keep Him as Head.