Questions are keys to growth.

A leader always thinks about whether he or she is asking good questions. Good questions energize and encourage; poor questions lead to lack of focus and uncertainty.

As another new year approaches, it is important to consider the kind of questions we are asking.

We ask questions of ourselves as individuals, setting priorities and goals for the coming year and planning how we will reach them. We do this because we want to be better than we are now.

Churches often ask questions about the future as well.

Especially at the end of the calendar year, church leaders – both clergy and laity – stop to think about what is happening or failing to happen in the life of the congregation.

In my experience, however, churches are often asking the wrong questions, questions based on survival rather than mission.

In committee meetings and leadership groups, churches will commonly ask questions like:

  • Will we accept the budget for next year?
  • Are we spending too much on external ministry?
  • Is our pastor (student minister, music minister and so on) spending enough time in the office?
  • What’s the cheapest bid on our roof repair?
  • What’s our Sunday school attendance?
  • How many are we baptizing?
  • Will our church survive?

Our perspective on church and mission might be different if we asked these questions instead:

  • Where is God at work in our community?
  • Are we spending enough on external ministry?
  • How are members growing in Christ?
  • What is the growing edge of our ministry?
  • How are we – staff and laity – calling out and equipping new leaders?
  • How are we releasing congregants to minister in the world?
  • How are people being changed as the result of our ministry?

The primary difference here is between an internal versus an external focus.

I understand the need to have some internal focus to provide for necessary ministries that serve members, but too often we stop there and do not think about where we are called to make a difference – in the world around us.

Stop and think a bit about the questions your church is asking. How can you help to change the focus in those conversations?

Ircel Harrison is coaching coordinator for Pinnacle Leadership Associates and is associate professor of ministry praxis at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. A version of this column first appeared on his blog, Barnabas File, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @ircel.

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