One thing social media has done is portray others' lives to be better than they really are. In some cases, people blatantly lie about their lives, but in most cases, people put all the positive things about their lives on social media. They choose to leave out the negative stuff, the real life complaints. This has happened amongst pastors, too, in some ways. When is the last time you saw a pastor post on Facebook, "Attendance was way down yesterday, seems to have been a trend lately?" For many reasons, pastors will probably not post a statement like this. They are only going to post when they had a "great day," or when the "Spirit moved in great ways!"
While there is nothing wrong with statements like this, it could leave these pastors' friends wondering, "What in the world is wrong with what I am doing? If my attendance was down, and the Spirit did not move in great ways, and things are frustrating right now, am I the only going through this?" When we do a reality check, we know that this is probably not true, but in many cases, "perception becomes reality."
Thom Rainer says, "As many as 100,000 churches in America are showing signs of decline towards death" ("Autopsy of a deceased church," p. 7). Another statistic worth mentioning is that 80% of churches in America have plateaued or are declining. Again, this is not an excuse or a reason to give up, but it will help you to understand that most pastors and church leaders are going through the same kinds of thing you are.
One way to be encouraged is to get together with pastors to think and talk through the steps needed to get the church moving again. The key here is to make sure the group you form or become a part of is not a group of men who want to merely complain and lick their wounds. While there may be an initial time to share concerns, it primarily needs to be a group that thinks, strategizes and helps everybody in the group get to the next steps. Another key part of this would be to think about asking a coach or a mentor to be a part of this group. Let's face it, many times we cannot see the weaknesses we have. Having someone ask probing questions and speak into our lives may be the way we need to get things moving again.
If you are interested in setting up a peer group in your area, please contact me. We have been resourcing peer groups in Lubbock and in Dallas and would love to help you get one going if we can.
Here are a couple of comments from some already established groups:
- I wanted to thank you and Texas Baptist for providing funds for my office to host a Pastor Peer Reading group. It has been very fruitful. We have gathered on three occasions. We spend the time together discussing a book we all have read that deals with being missional and then making application to individual churches. Each of the pastors represents a similar dynamic of church make-up. There are a lot of common denominators among the pastors in reference to trying to guide an older established church to reach their community. I believe the pastors have seen the gatherings as inspiring and encouraging as they allow the book to guide their discussion into reality of their own pastoral life. It has also been great fellowship. The pastors are eager to attend, and I do not have to force them :).
Dr. Jerry Joplin
Lubbock Area Baptist Association
- Thank you for your help as DBA developed cohort groups to help urban and transitioning churches. Larry Venable, who authored "From Traditional through Transitional to Transformational" was our keynote leader. Each time we met the attendance and involvement from the pastors increased. This was a result of the enthusiasm of the group based on "value add" ministry. The meaningful discussion and the practical ministry suggestions gave purpose and direction to the cohort group. Monthly, the cohort group explored urban context topics and found a least one quality ministry idea and ministry takeaway.
Dr. Bobby Martin
Dallas Baptist Association