What would happen in your congregation if you suddenly made an announcement that you would like for members of the congregation to be more welcoming of guests who come to your church? What if you announced that you would like for your leaders to rely more on the Holy Spirit in their decision-making and ministry efforts?
Among the many reactions you are having is probably the phrase, “I could announce it; but I would not expect much to happen just from the announcement.” All of us are aware that the days in which a leader simply broadcasts a decree and expects people to follow are long gone.
In this column, I would like to suggest a new four-step process for motivating others toward worthy causes. Step one is not an action step, but rather involves recognizing that there is usually a variety of reasons for getting involved in a worthy cause.
Many of us in the past have started our motivation process precisely in this place. Logically, it seems like a good idea to begin discussing reasons why we should do something prior to doing it. The problem with starting here is that we may be setting in motion a discussion that will take eons to finish.
Sometimes people just can’t resist trying to decide which reasons should become the reasons for performing a particular task. Items often get bogged down in committees, especially when the skills of the ones doing the discussing are much more in line with debating, rather than performing, the assignment. Go ahead and generate a list of reasons, but keep them to yourself.
The first action step actually occurs in step two. Step two involves engaging members in a common activity that promotes the topic. For instance, if the topic involves being more welcoming of others, here is a common activity that will work.
During a congregational business meeting or other similar meeting held in the church sanctuary, ask all those present to get up from where they are standing and sit in their regular Sunday morning seat. Many already will be there. There will be more gaps among them than exist during a typical weekend worship service. Ask each one present to be responsible for some portion of space where no one is currently sitting, making a “pact” with one another to welcome any guest who enters their “space” between now and the next business meeting.
Step three involves waiting for someone in the group to surface your goal for you. Be patient. It will happen. At the next regular business meeting, ask those present to sit in their regular worship seats again. Unprompted conversation will ensue. People will talk about guests that they have seen and welcomed, who they may have been related to in the community, and times when they have missed one of the regular members sitting nearby.
Eventually, someone will say, “Is this all about … welcoming others,” or “practicing evangelism,” or showing hospitality” or “being kind to our neighbor”? The first time someone generates an idea that was on your private list in step one, reply, “Yes, while there certainly could be multiple facets of this activity, what you phrased is at its core.”
At that point, because someone other than the leader announced the goal from among the ranks of the group members, the group will have immediate ownership over the task. Ownership is the key to implementation.
Relax and watch step four unfold all by itself: “allowing people to brainstorm creative ideas for accomplishing the agreed upon task.” As soon as the goal has been identified and owned by the group, group members cannot resist contributing to the common task themselves. One member might say, “Well if that is our goal, I think we should also enhance how we welcome people at the door.” “What about welcoming people in the parking lot?” another will add. “We also need a central place for people to ask questions about our church,” might be another response.
In addition to direct effects, you also can expect some pleasant side effects any time you use this tool. In this case, the side effects might include increased attendance at the second business meeting, increased guest attendance as people tire of having no one to welcome beside them, and increased assimilation processes.
Obviously, the key to this tool is shifting a task from the individual realm to the commonly shared realm. Church members can be very cooperative once they have agreed to head in the same direction.
Jeff Woods is executive minister for the American Baptist Churches of Ohio.
Buy Woods’ books from Amazon!
Better Than Success: 8 Principles of Faithful Leadership
We’ve Never Done It Like This Before: 10 Creative Approaches to the Same Old Church Tasks
User Friendly Evaluation: Improving the Work of Pastors, Programs and Laity