5. Your church office has a thick bubble around it, and you want to get out of that bubble.
One of the most important books I read on my journey of understanding missional theology was Dan Kimball’s book They Like Jesus but Not the Church. In it, he unpacks the idea that many pastors are often “too consumed with meetings” that they miss out on a lot of good ministry. He writes:
“I looked at my schedule as a pastor in an active church. It seemed I had become so consumed with meetings: meetings to review the weekend worship gathering, meetings to plan the next worship gathering, meetings with our home group leaders, meetings with all of the staff, meetings with leaders of ministry teams, meetings about the church budget and goals for the upcoming year. In addition, I’d block off a good chunk of time every week to study for a sermon, usually at home or in the office with my door shut so that I could have it quiet. It dawned on me that all I was doing was meeting with Christians all week long” (p. 38).
Kimball helpfully discusses how church offices can actually become “prisons” and that it’s very easy to get sucked into the “Christian bubble.” Even though his book is now five years old, it’s still very relevant for rural church pastors. Partly because rural church culture is always a little behind the times (hey, it’s true), and partly because I believe his insights will probably always be important for ministry.
Throughout Kimball’s work, he’s almost entirely talking about evangelism. Thus, it makes perfect sense why he’d encourage Christians to get outside the Christian bubble in order to reach people for Christ. However, I think his insights are extremely important for rural church pastors to consider in relation to how they minister to rural church Christians! This is to say the people we are serving are often more comfortable sitting around a table at the local diner or will open up in ways you never imagined while they are sitting in your living room.
So what should replace your church office? Where should you spend your time meeting with people?
I think there are a number of places that will be far more effective for ministry to take place. There are several questions I think you should really think through:
- Where will people feel most comfortable to open up?
- Where will people feel safe?
- Where are the people? After all, it’s hard to minister to people if there aren’t people!
- How can you best provide an example to the church that ministry isn’t about a building?
For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that ministry happens a lot easier in my home. My wife and I have worked hard to create a safe environment in our living room. There’s something about a cup of coffee, a comfortable couch and the safety of not being in a church office. My second favorite place to meet is a local diner. Sitting around a table while being surrounded by other people from my community is also a great place to hang with people. And there are always coffee shops, too.
It’s not that church offices are inherently evil, so please spare me the hate mail. Obviously I still find myself in our building doing a variety of administrative things. Church buildings are not evil (sorry, house church folks, you take things too far).