The fog of denial is beginning to dissipate.
A picture of your current reality is coming into focus.
Your church has less people worshipping than you can remember.
There’s more “wood” than people. In other words, you can see a whole lot of wood from the backs of the pews instead of people who used to sit there. You've also come to admit that it isn’t just a function of an odd weekend or a weather event or a holiday that has distracted people from worshipping. Yipes! This problem is real.
You’ve resisted jumping to conclusions and throwing some solution at the problem. You’ve determined that you need to dig deeper and do your homework to really diagnose what is going on (from part one). Good! Congratulations! You are making real progress.
The challenge has only just begun. You’re going to have to resist blaming, scapegoating, accusing, “told-ya-soing” and even denial from a number of people. You’re also going to have to work hard to see reality as it actually is instead of your perceived reality shaded by your denial or bias. It is your church. You will look at things through the lens of your perception. Perhaps you have chosen to engage a church consultant or denominational representative to walk with you through this minefield. Great! Perhaps it was a huge effort to get people to agree to pay for help when they can barely pay the light bill or the pastor. Yes this is very real. Emotions can run high.
So what now?
There is an old coaching maxim which goes like this: “You always have a choice.”
So, now you have a choice about what you will or will not do. Whether you are the pastor, a lay leader or a faithful member, you have a choice. You might feel like or think that you have no choices but you do. It all depends on being clear about what you are assuming and what you want to put up with!
- Do you want to put up with the “slow death” of a church? Then you have the choice of doing nothing.
- Do you want to experience the angst and disruption of identifying and naming and sharing the problems that you discovered when you did the homework described in the last blog? Then you have the choice of admitting reality and spreading the unpleasant news.
- Do you want to leave people in that “survival anxiety” that comes with learning that things are not good and the church might not survive? Then follow up the identifying, naming and sharing of the issues you discovered by choosing to do nothing at that stage.
- Do you want to begin to work through the numerous options and the “learning anxiety” that comes from responding to the problems and issues that you uncovered by actually doing something? Then you can choose to engage the whole church in what will likely be a disruptive, messy process where they experience the anxiety of learning to do and be church differently.
- Do you want to point people to a compelling future while also being open about the “wilderness experience” that they will go through to get there? Then you also have the choice to point them to God and His promises and how He often works with sinful people in this sinful world.
You have choices. Those choices mean facing your fears and facing what you may have been avoiding. Those choices have ramifications. What you choose depends on the price that you want to pay and the resilience you and your church have by God’s grace. It is not easy. It often begins with repentance and God’s grace and only continues as we extend that same grace to one another. Your church may even experience another downturn as you prayerfully seek to turn things around together. You see, some others may choose not to work through this rough spot and choose to leave. Yet God is faithful and God is good. You can choose to die or you can choose to live through a rough spot together while humbly turning to God who is with you. There is hope.
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Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, firstname.lastname@example.org or scottgress.com