Questions have a curious function in the life of a leader. A good question can often propel us forward more than a great answer. Our roles in leading our churches requires us to not only work in our ministry but to also take a step back and work on our ministry. That means that from time to time we need to step back and ask questions that we don’t normally ask about our ministry.
I know this can be hard to do during the weekly crunch of getting our services organized, caring for our community, and completing all the various tasks that we are called to do in our churches. To help you start conversations with your leadership team around the development of your church, I’ve put together this list of 10 questions that I hope will help guide you to a deeper conversation, even if they’re just a jump-off point to new questions that might stir in you.
What’s happening this weekend at your church that’s compelling enough for people to drive to it?
We’re living in an increasingly isolated age. More than ever, people are experiencing the world from a virtual point of view. There was a time when you needed to actually get in a car and come over to a church if you wanted to hear great teaching or experience incredible worship music. These days, anyone who wants to learn and worship can simply download podcasts or connect via Facebook Live.
What is it that we’re doing that would invite people to walk away from their screens and actually interact face-to-face?
I’m still a firm believer in the gathered body of Christ. I do think that there is something powerful about people getting together and worshiping and learning together. Not only are we living in an age where people are increasingly connected digitally, but for the first time since the advent of the car we are seeing an annual decline of people’s willingness to drive in their vehicles. [ref]
This presents a challenge since most of our ministries are based on the notion that people will drive across town to come to our churches this weekend. Your church needs to do things that transcend the screen and are powerful enough to encourage people to get in their cars and come visit you.
Would you attend your church if you weren’t a paid staff member?
This is a convicting question for me. I can say there are weekends here and there that, if I’m honest, I’m not sure I’d attend church if I wasn’t being paid. Those days are usually in the middle of the summer when it’s super nice out, and I look out and think, “Wow, it would be great to go to the beach today.” However, over the long arc of my ministry I’ve been proud to serve in the churches that I have. I feel bad for people who serve in churches that they’re not excited to be a part of.
This question is as probing as it is a bit disturbing as it could reveal a betrayal in our hearts. If you’re in a place where you wouldn’t attend your church if you weren’t being paid to be there, I’d encourage you to reach out to friends for help and see if there’s a way to restore your passion for the mission to which God has called your church.
What is your succession plan?
Recently I was talking to an elderly church leader about the future of their church. While I found his energy and desire to keep reaching out and impacting the community inspiring, I was concerned because this leader didn’t seem to understand that his days in ministry were numbered. Many church leaders continue to work far beyond a date they maybe should in order to push the ministry forward. But the success of your church relies on you not only having a successor but the people who report to you having successors. Are the people on your team the kind of people who could end up replacing you (even with a short or long-term development plan)? What about the people that report to them? Succession plans need to not only cover an immediate, tragic situation but they need to work for the long term in order to move your leadership on to the next generation.
How is your church systematically increasing people’s generosity?
Finding ways to encourage your people to give generously to the mission is an important function of senior leadership in every church. In fact, in some circles it would be considered a normal part of your role to spend between 20-30 percent of your week thinking through how you’re encouraging people to be good stewards of what God has given them. The reality is that your ministry will function more effectively when your people’s generosity is increasing. Build the future of your church by finding ways to increase generosity such as:
- Offering talks
- Holding year-end campaigns
- Launching major capital initiatives
A good long-term goal would be to grow your generosity at a faster rate than the growth of your church. This will create a flywheel effect that will ultimately help your church reach more people.