Joe is a young adult pastor of a large church overseeing small groups and discipleship of adults. He has been on staff for five years and seen steady growth in his ministry in numbers of new members and numbers of small groups. He has felt God's calling to pastor a church since he gave his life to Christ and the desire to plant has been percolating for a couple of years.
He decides he needs to share his feelings about planting with his senior pastor. Joe is exited and nervous about the meeting. He believes the pastor will be glad to hear that he will be starting a new congregation and believes the pastor will support his decision because he has often preached on the great commission.
However, when told, the pastor is very disappointed that Joe is considering leaving the church to plant another church. The pastor begins to distance himself from Joe and then tells Joe he must be gone by the end of the week saying the elders had come to this decision. He gives Joe no support to start another church, either money or emotional. Joe now is heartbroken, angry and feels guilty about leaving and taking any close ministry friends with him. So he starts one of the most difficult tasks there is, planting a church, somewhat disillusioned with the church and having little to no support.
As a coach for church planters I have had numerous pastors share experiences much like this. What is behind this attitude of pastors? Why would a pastor or elder board not support someone on their staff that feels God calling them to grow the kingdom outside their own church? It boils down to a little kingdom vision instead of having a vision to grow God's Kingdom. When a pastor has a limited vision it leads to several negative traits.
- Possessiveness (My church is all that matters, so we must not let anything distract us from growing our church)
- Control (We don't want our members going outside of our church for information or inspiration because we have all the answers)
- Limits spiritual growth of the pastor, staff, leadership and members of the church.
- Limits numeric growth of the church (It's God's economy, the more you give the greater you will grow)
- Limits mission involvement outside of the mother church (The cost is too great to send people and do missions overseas)
- Limits opportunity to multiply
When everything in your world is only about your church, losing a staff member hurts, especially one that is popular and does a good job. It is natural to want to keep good talent, just like any business would hate to lose a good employee. But if we have an interest in the individual and a big kingdom mindset, we will encourage our staff to grow and expand wherever they feel God calling them to serve.
Even some businesses have a less possessive attitude about their employees than many churches. The San Antonio Spurs are a great example of an organization that is not possessive and only concerned about their team. They consistently encourage their best and most talented coaches to step up to better coaching positions on other teams. I blogged about the Spurs management style here. It should not be all about my church. It's about God's Kingdom and helping people become all they can be in Christ. If that means you have to search for a new staff member, so be it. Our purpose is to grow people and thus grow God's Kingdom to glorify Him.
All it takes is a change in one's perspective from small kingdom to large Kingdom. When your purpose is enlarged, you can start to intentionally train church planters and start churches. You can train missionaries and celebrate when church members move away to serve on the mission field, start a new church or serve another church. You'll be able to unburden yourself with "closing the back door", and not be so disappointed and hurt over families that leave your church. Yes, when you start giving your members away instead of controlling and holding on to them, you will be surprised at how your church will grow people, your church and the Kingdom of God.