All of us go through times when things just seem “down.” It may be that some folks have become unhappy and left the church. It may be that key people have moved away from the area. It may be that there has been a crisis or problem which has dampened the spirit of the ministry. What do we do during those times? Here are some suggestions I hope will help you to change the spirit in your church:
1. Identify the Cause
Sometimes this is an easy task and other times it is more difficult. But it is difficult to solve a problem until we know what it is.
2. Correct What You Can
Is someone stirring up strife? While often it is better to ignore it, there are occasions when the evidence is overwhelming. In these cases, it may be wise to confront the person who is spreading the strife.
Is there a worry about the future? Perhaps there is a common misunderstanding about something that was done. In one instance, people became upset because a registered sex offender had begun attending our church. I had no idea that this was the case. However, some of my members assumed that I knew and had done nothing about it. (What I did was to inform the deacons of the man’s status, tell them their first responsibility was to love and accept him, and their second responsibility was to keep an eye on him: making sure he did not hang around children, go near the nursery, etc. I then told them that they could share the information with those they thought needed to have it, as long as they told them what their first responsibility was: to love and accept the person.)
3. Explain the Situation if Necessary, But Don’t Dwell on It
Sometimes, I’ve had meetings after Sunday evening church with the entire congregation to inform them about a particular difficulty in our ministry. Other times I have sent out the children and teenagers and just explained things to the adults. On rare occasions, I have scheduled a meeting with that segment of the congregation that needed to know about a situation after a service.
4. Don’t Be Defensive
One of my philosophies is that the more blame we accept, the less blame others give us. If the temperature is set improperly in our auditorium and I say, “I don’t know what’s wrong with those maintenance guys, I told them to take care of it. I want to see you guys in my office after the service today,” people get upset—with me. Their attitude will be, “Well, the preacher should have thought of that before Sunday. He’s in charge. Why is he blaming them?”
If on the other hand, I say, “Folks, I’m sorry the temperature isn’t right. I’ll take care of it. We’ll get it fixed. It will be better for the next service.” Then people tend to think, “Well, isn’t that nice? The preacher’s taking the blame but it’s not his fault. He’s not on maintenance. He can’t set every thermostat in the building.”
5. Emphasize God’s Blessings
Perhaps there is a good offering. Maybe people have been saved recently. Maybe a new family has begun coming to the church. Perhaps one of the missionaries close to the church has had some victories on the field. There may be a member who has recovered well from a difficult illness. There are always good things happening if we look for them.
6. Work Extra Hard at Winning People to Christ and Bringing Them into the Church Yourself
In most cases, the church can grow just by the pastor’s soulwinning, if he is faithful and diligent.
7. Choose Happy, Uplifting Music
It is my belief that the pastor is the music director of the church. A good music man will understand what you are trying to accomplish and gladly accede to your wishes. One who resists either needs to be taught biblical principles of leadership, or be helped to find another place of service.
8. Enjoy the Services Yourself
When you sing congregational songs think of the words you are singing. Sing them as a praise to God. Listen to the specials and think of the message of each one. Make comments after the specials are sung, rejoicing in the truth that was in the music.
9. Preach Messages of Triumph, Victory, Vision, Comfort, and Encouragement
10. Write Letters of Appreciation to the Faithful Members of Your Congregation
This will accomplish two things: it will encourage them, but it will also remind you of some of the good, solid, faithful people who are part of your ministry. All too often we focus on those who disappoint us and ignore those who are doing well.
11. Ask God to Help You Be Funny
Now, don’t force this. If you do not have a sense of humor that shows itself in your preaching, it will seem strange and awkward for you to try to make funny comments. If, on the other hand, you can occasionally be funny, ask God to enhance that ability. Remember, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
12. Spend Time Fellowshipping with Key People
Have some folks over to your home, take them out to eat after the service, schedule a workers’ meeting to which you bring refreshments and allow people to mingle and visit after the meeting.
13. Schedule a Special Speaker Who Is Especially Encouraging and Helpful to Your People
Dr. Jack Hyles once told me of a preacher who had tried various programs to “get his church going.” He eventually started using a good portion of his Saturday afternoons to pray. He later said that all he had hoped would be accomplished in his church by the program was accomplished by his prayer.
Dr. John R. Rice said, “All your problems are prayer problems.”