Imagine that you receive a phone call or email one day, explaining that your uncle passed away and left you their workshop in the will. “That’s great”, you might think. You kind of always wanted your uncles shop.
That is, until you get there, and it looks like this:
Now sure, your uncle knew the system for the shop, but it just looks like chaotic clutter to you. You know that you have a lot of tools and materials in there that you could use. You just need to organize it all a little bit.
Getting appointed or assigned to a church can be a lot like inheriting a workshop. There are a lot of tools and materials for doing ministry. And some people know the system. But looking from the outside in, you can’t see it right away. So here are a few thoughts to help you out when you inherit a workshop.
Identify any urgency – I described a situation above that didn’t really have much urgency to it. The workshop was a hobby, and so there may not be a big rush to hurry up and clean out the workshop, and you may rather wait until a good time. But if I was talking about a family business that needed to keep producing something or else you could lose the business, suddenly you have more urgency.
Sometimes you walk into a church that is steady and doesn’t have a lot of urgency for quick production. Other times, you’re walking into a church that is only a few months away from closing and needs something tomorrow. You have to know what the situation is, because that urgency will help you determine your priorities. If it’s more stable, you can take your time and thoroughly examine everything in the “shop”, taking a full stock. If not, you may need to clear some table space and start making stuff, ignoring other messes just to get stable.
Do an honest assessment of your churches situation. Do you need to “stop the bleeding”? Or can you take your time a little bit?
Assess Need, Not Nostalgia – Nostalgia makes things sticky. Every item, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant suddenly sticks to your hands and you can’t let go of them. I’ve watched families box up entire garages to take over to their house because they couldn’t bear to part with anything from their dear “grandpa/grandma/uncle/aunt/etc.” The problem is that suddenly, your former relatives clutter just became yours.
Churches are some of the worst offenders of letting nostalgia win out. Ministries that they’ve done for years remain in tact, despite the fact that no one can remember when or why it started or the last time someone came to the church because of it. This creates a lot of “emotional” or “nostalgic” clutter within the church. Sure, the church could use a new “tool” (service, study, ministry, etc.) but there isn’t any space for it because the church is already so busy doing everything else.
As the new pastor in town, you’re going to have to walk a fine line here. You can’t go throwing everything out just because it was there before you got there, but you also need to cut out things that distract from the overall focus. Here’s a good question to ask when you’re trying to assess the ministry in question:
“If we weren’t already doing ________, would we start it now?”
Be willing to learn something new – Recently, I visited another woodworkers workshop where I saw a tool I had never even heard of in my life. Turns out, it was the predecessor to the router (a tool used for creating grooves, joints, and rounding edges on pieces). And it still worked.
Now, I don’t know if I would want that tool for my personal workshop, but here’s the thing you need to remember pastor – The church is not just YOUR workshop. It’s everyones. That means that there will be ministries, models, and methods you’ve never even heard of, no matter how great your seminary or last church was.
Some things will need to go. But don’t let yourself walk into a church “knowing everything”.
Let me know what you think down below.
And remember that I love y’all and there’s nothing you can do about it.