In the more traditional church we have prayer meetings on wednesday night, like in many churches. Today something happened in that church that I thought was insightful.
We were discussing why there weren’t more people coming out to prayer meeting. Actually, it was more like they were discussing. They brought it up. And they began to tell me “pastor, you need to just announce it more, with a lot of energy. If you announce it more they will come.”
So I asked them, “out of all the programs in this church (friday night service, saturday night vespers service, wed. night prayer meeting), which should I emphasize the most?” I thought that was a fair question. Without hesitation one gentleman said, “All of them!”
I’m going to come back to that statement in a little bit.
By this point our prayer meeting had shifted to something else entirely, but I flowed with it. I thought, let’s go there and explore this baby as far as they want to go. So I asked them, “so what do you think of our current format for prayer meeting? (I don’t assume our prayer meeting method is great. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s pretty lame. But here’s what we do: we sing for about 15 min., we share testimonies and prayer requests, we go through a bible study together for about 20 min, and then we pray together. I didn’t make it up, it’s what they’ve always used.)
Coming back to the question that I asked them, “what do you think of our current format?” Essentially, they said they were dissatisfied with it. They mentioned how in another Bible study that they attend on Monday nights, all they do for the one hour is study the Bible. One of the ladies said, “we greet each other quickly…we sit down…and then we begin the study. We don’t want to waste too much time.” She was using that as an example of an effective and successful small group Bible study.
I know what you’re thinking. Surely I’m embellishing and exaggerating this story for effect. Ahh….how I wish I was. Those were her words.
Here’s why I think what they were saying was so interesting, though. For one, their response to getting more people to come to prayer meeting was merely to raise the volume. Announce it more. Get sweaty. Work it up, and the people will come. And i’m sure more people would come if I hollered a little bit at them and made them feel like bad Christians for not coming to prayer meeting. Here they are revealing their high value and sense for “duty.” The people should come because that’s what a Christian who loves God does. He goes to prayer meeting. But he also attends every single other meeting that the church offers.
I’m tired just thinking about attending all those things.
Secondly, I think they were revealing that they place a very high value in receiving information in a Bible study. I got that pretty loud and clear. It’s such a high value, in fact, that fellowship and getting to know each other is not really important. It’s just about studying.
So why am I pointing these things out? Because the values that someone has will determine how you are able to lead them. If you don’t understand what their values are, you won’t be able to lead them effectively.
If I simply tried to force upon them a certain model and way of doing things, and it goes against their ingrained values, they will shut me out. They may put up with it. But their hearts won’t be in it. But if I shape how I minister to them in a way that agrees with their values, they will listen.
Let me give you the flip side of this. In my other church which has many young adults, community and fellowship are a very high value. After church is done, people sometimes hang out for hours…not doing anything in particular, just hanging out. If I were to try to force upon them a small group Bible study where people couldn’t really share about themselves and how the Word interacted with them, they’d probably stone me. It’s a part of who they are.
I know this probably all sounds a little technical and perhaps abstract. But I think this is the bottom line. If I can remember what the final end-goal is: helping them become more like Jesus Christ and to be ready for His return, and I know where they are (as exhibited through their values), I can help to lead them in the right direction. I can still have the right end-goal, but if I don’t know where the starting point is, I won’t know the right way to take them on the journey.
Does that make sense at all? I know it’s probably just common sense, but I was reminded of its importance in a vivid way tonight.
What about you? Have you ever misunderstood a group of people and as a result messed up in something? How does understanding the values of the people you lead help you to lead them?