One of the wonderful challenges of being the pastor of a church is encouraging folks to look beyond themselves--- their habits, their fears, the way they have always done things--- to the leading of God for the future. God's leading of us as individuals might be as simple as growing in faith; for a congregation, it could be serving beyond ourselves to an entirely new community. Most pastors spend time with churches inviting, encouraging, and equipping congregations for change on whatever scale is before them.
In these times of challenge and change, pastors and the laity who lead these churches more often than not talk about how "they" (the other church members in general) need to change. "They" need to open their eyes; "they" need to do things differently; why don't "they" get it? Occasionally there is a "we." "We" adopted and implemented the long range plan; "we" will fully pay our missional apportionments this year. I have served several congregations in my ministry; through continuing prayer and observation I can discern where a church (the we and the they) needs to go in its ministry. Lately, I have made a big deal with the leaders of India Hook that we need to change our operating system. The church governs itself as if they were a church of 25 rather than 200; if we are to meet the growing needs of the area, we ( oops, there is that word again) will need to change.
At some point in each appointment I have served, I usually make some observation not just about the church, but about myself. One thing I have noticed as I have gotten older is that change seems easier when someone else is doing it. Here at India Hook, I am coming to realize (again?) that change quite often does not start or end with "we" or "they." There needs to be an "I" in that formula. I should grow and change in each new ministry setting, so that hopefully I can better equip God's people to serve wherever I am. I need to change my leadership style and in the ways I work with the staff to equip the church. I realize that I can no longer be the Lone Ranger if the church is to be what it is called and needs to be. However, that is a big change for me; I have served churches where the pastor was the main force for administration and getting this done. If this church is to change, I have to change in some important ways. Yet, these are ways I am accustomed to, ways "I have always done it before." This change can be a challenge to my understandings of how I function as a pastor. This sounds very familiar to what "they" often voice, doesn't it?
I had our first "staff meeting" today with our church secretary and our youth director. It was a fruitful time. I am starting to implement (and hopefully will continue) a new way for myself. I can model change, and perhaps that is the best way for "we" and "they" to own the change that God leads. It is also a way that I can continue to grow--and change--in Christ.