Memorable moments happen in real time and at ground level. When you talk to long-time church members about a deep love for their pastor, they speak of presence—the times when the pastor was there. Why do you love your pastor? Nobody answers the question, “Stage presence” or “social media following” or “writing ability” or “leadership acumen.” Most often, church members answer with a personal anecdote of when the pastor was simply there, present in real time and at ground level.
When you live out the Great Commission, you must enter into the lives of people. Pastors must be among those they shepherd. Far too often, church leadership is made overly complex with vision, systems, structure, and programming. These items are necessary but lack the personal connection of a leader in the flesh. Most church members just want to know if their pastor cares enough to be there.
Granted, no pastor is omnipresent, and churches are guilty of placing too great a burden on their pastors’ constant presence. Neediness is not a spiritual gift we should encourage in the church. However, what’s often missing in the disconnect between pastors and church members is something quite simple—fun.
Pastors and church members should have fun together, hanging out and enjoying the presence of each other. Hanging out is uncomplicated. The main requirement is time. When personal agendas are tossed aside, the time becomes fun.
Ballgames. Every year I buy a flex pack of Rays tickets and use them to bring church members to games. No agendas. Just baseball, conversation, and a couple of hot dogs. I also try to attend a few high school ball games every year as well. I just have to refrain from yelling at the refs or umpires (they might be church members too).
Sunday lunches. My wife and I schedule several lunches a year with members on Sundays following our morning worship services. We bring our kids. They get to see our family chaos up close and personal. Nothing builds a bond like spilled soda in your lap.
Play dates. I lean on my wife for this one. She will schedule times with other families where we bring all our kids to a playground or some other contained area. We unleash our four small children on the others. The adults chat while the kids expend energy.
Graduations and birthday parties. I get invited to a lot of important life events. It might be a 50th wedding anniversary or a college graduation. There is no way I can attend all of them, but I try to make some of them. I’ve never regretted hanging out with a church member celebrating an important life marker.
Community events. We’re blessed to have several fun things to do in Southwest Florida—parades, festivals, and block parties. My wife and I take the kiddos and usually find a couple of church members there.
The main reason to hang out with church members is the enjoyment of their presence. Ministry should include fun! You’re probably (hopefully) just a normal person God called to serve a church. People need to see that. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me they had an entirely different perception of me after hanging out.
And if you’re missing gospel opportunities, then one of the easiest solutions is to hang out with church members who are willing to introduce you to their unsaved and unchurched friends at a ballgame, dinner, or the park. It’s hard to accomplish the Great Commission alone in your study.
Really, it’s ok to say yes to a church member who wants to take you out on the boat, or give you tickets to the game, or make your family dinner. People are a lot of fun; so have a good time with them!