People, Not Projects
Following is the transcript from my talk at yesterday’s Staff Infection online conference. If you fancy yourself an audible and visual learner, you can take your chances with my out-of-proportion head on the video (there’s no way my head is really that large…right?).
And no, watching the video and reading the transcript at the same time won’t cause a little bouncing read-along ball to pop up. But a guy can hope.
Hey internet. My name is Danny Franks and I’m the Campus Pastor and Connections Pastor at the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
One of the issues that we face often on our teams is the constant tension between caring for people and managing projects. Like most of you, we’re neck-deep in an very busy, very fast paced church culture that sometimes requires spending a huge amount of time on administrative tasks like answering emails, suffering through meetings, or mowing the lead pastor’s yard. (maybe that’s just me)
Sometimes we get so busy doing ministry that we forget we’re pastors. 1 Timothy 3 doesn’t just talk about leading the church, but also caring for the church. We get caught up with blogging, budgeting, and barking out orders, and we forget that most of us entered the ministry first and foremost because we felt called to teach people to know Jesus and to care for them spiritually. I mean sure, we still may respond to an emergency hospital visit or a pastoral need, but those things have become times are reactive rather than proactive. Running the machine becomes central to us, and people are secondary. And when those events are over, we have a tendency to run back to our cocoons the way Rick Warren runs after an acronym.
This is a constant struggle for me as a pastor. Sometimes for me, days can go by – maybe even weeks in some seasons – where I don’t emerge from the church office or conference rooms because I’m up against deadlines. During those seasons I have a tendency to hide behind a layer of administrative assistants and voice mail and inboxes. That will kill your ministry effectiveness with people and cause them to feel like no one is concerned for them or cares for them.
To paraphrase something John Moore said in Tribal Knowledge – people don’t quit organizations, they quit people. In other words, if you have a church member who becomes disillusioned with your church, you can probably trace that back to disillusionment with a person. That person may be you or a member of your staff team, because often you are the face of your church.
Now, I don’t want to negate the importance of your administrative tasks. Those are still there as a constant reality. I have time blocked out on my calendar every day that Michael Hyatt calls the “alone zone.” That’s the time I try to bear down and crank out the administrative tasks that have to be done.
And what I’m not encouraging is for you to be available to every single person every single minute of the day. If you’re available to everyone, eventually you won’t be available to anyone. I’m not advocating that you put your cell number on a billboard with four foot lettering that says, “Call me if you need anything.” No, you have to be wise with the time that God has given you, but wisdom dictates that we fulfill what we’ve been called to, and that’s to care for people.
Jesus sums up this idea, and in fact his entire ministry, in Luke 19:10: “the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Jesus’ mission was people, and people should be our mission as well. But when people become projects or projects supersede people, we’re pathetic pastors. (I threw that in for free for my Southern Baptist friends.)
So what I’d encourage you to do is to take a look at your calendar for this week: are you spending more time on projects or on people? Are you trying desperately to get your inbox to zero, or are you spending time with the people that God has called you to reach? What we hold as valuable will hold our attention.
If we are to lead our teams effectively, we have to continue to beat the drum that people are the mission. We have to encourage our pastors to be pastors. We have to lovingly kick them out of the office and into the marketplace. We have to remind them that what we hold as valuable will hold our attention.
We have a calling to reach those who are far from God as well as to shepherd those who know him. Jesus purchased the souls of people with his blood. Again to paraphrase John Moore, we take missionaries (that is, our teams) and turn them into minions. Don’t be guilty of leading your team to accomplish more administrative tasks. Lead your team to love people well.