Three Questions Pastors Should Ask to Activate their Congregation

by Jan 19, 2021Church Ministry

Scott Foster lived every NHL fan’s dream.

On March 28, 2018, the 36-year-old accountant from Chicago was called in to become an emergency goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks, fulfilling his dream of playing in the NHL. He stopped one shot after another—successfully blocking the opponent’s attempts to score seven times. Seven! In a matter of moments, he went from being unknown to having scores of fans in the United Center Arena chanting his name.

It’s a quite a story. The night a fan became a player.

As I sit here writing this today, I wonder how many people we have in our church’s congregations that desire to “get in the game” but feel like they are unable to do so. You see, in many cases we find our churches filled with people who come to see what others (the players) have prepared for them. They see door greeters and ushers, listen to pro or semi-pro musicians on stage, and hear a gifted communicator deliver an inspiring message. The process is repeated weekly, and everyone goes home happy for the day.

But deep in the hearts of people, there is a hidden desire to be part of something bigger – an activated member of church’s mission.

I have been a pastor for almost ten years. In that time, I planted a church that began with about 40 people and has grown over the years to more than 300. I used to think that people attending services in general do not want to be part of the mission of the church. But the more I serve and the more I talk to people one-on-one, the more I hear people share how much they desire to serve and be part of the church’s mission. They’re just not sure where to start

So where is the disconnect? Why do we have churches where large percentages don’t seem to participate—churches which are filled with fans who do not seem ready to play? How do we avoid a fan-filled church and promote more opportunities for people to get in the game?

I can only speak from my experience. I will share the questions we’ve asked ourselves, and I hope that these three questions will get your creative juices going to help you achieve your desired results.

What are we trying to “produce” in people that come into our physical and digital doors?

We are all going “phygital.” The old pre-pandemic normal is not coming back; we need to adapt to a new normal that combines a physical presence in the local community and a digital presence in cyberspace. The new church foyer is your digital location. But whichever way people come into your church, the principles of ministry do not change. We still need to provide an environment where people can relate and eventually fall in love with Jesus.

People are showing up at your doors or checking your Facebook page, your website or your app because they are looking to make a change in their lives, not just to listen to great worship music or hear you preach. So, we begin with the end in mind. We want to help individuals become committed to God, His Word, His people and His cause. You know this process as making disciples. We want them to get hungry for God’s Word. We want them to know how to study the Bible, how to have a quiet time, and eventually to be concerned for unbelievers.

This last aspect is key. People should not wait to minister until after they are mature; they mature as they minister to others. We need to provide plenty of opportunities for ministry from the get-go. Remember, we want them to become instruments in God’s hands so they can reach others with the good news of the Gospel.

How can we be the kind of church that produces an activated congregation?

We understand the importance of an individual’s changed life, because it’s going to make a difference in his/her family and community. Pastors work hard to equip and establish people in the faith—not just at our Sunday service but during the week—by creating environments where people can come as they are into a big group service. We create environments where people can be transformed in small groups. And finally, we create opportunities for service where people can use their talents and abilities to make a difference in the church and the community.

The key here is to not just establish and equip them but to also create an environment that fosters trust. We are a church that trusts in the process of forming leaders and walking with them as they succeed and falter. We try hard to place people where they can flourish, but we also allow people to explore areas they want to serve in, even when that is not their gifting. This approach allows for them to get out of their comfort zone and discover their limitations and ultimately, their potential.

From time to time, I have unintentionally placed people in a position where they are not exercising their God-given gifts. As a result, they may experience frustration, discouragement, or even a sense of failure. As Jesus walk with us, we walk with them through this process so the individual learns to create guardrails to work with in the future. They grow. Along with this process, we are a church that gives them time to grow–a church that is always patient while they learn. Training, trust, and time are all keys in this process.

What kind of leaders do we need to become to be the church that turns a fan into a player?

This last question has to do with the type of leaders that you need to train and equip in order to grow as a church, and produce the character in people that helps them go from fan to collaborator.

My biggest advice to you is to become the type of leader that leads by example. In other words, model leadership so that you can equip leaders and people who can do the same. Be careful to not only delegate tasks but also to delegate authority. Establish, equip, and empower leaders and people that can say with confidence, “Follow me.”

Once you see the potential in a person to be a leader in your church, make sure you establish him or her in the faith, then equip them to minister, and finally empower them to lead. This is the essence of the discipleship model: Let them see you minister first so they can learn. Then let them do it alongside you so you can help make appropriate corrections. Thirdly, let them minister as you watch and provide feedback. And finally, leave them alone as they lead others. That last step is called empowerment, and it will change the lives of not just the leader but also those around them. Never forget that a leader is one who actually leads.

A final word on leadership: from the beginning, make sure that you model servant leadership. Never be afraid to stoop down to “tie someone’s laces” or to be the one removing the plates from the table after an event.

Use these three questions to help create an environment where people can go from fan to follower; from inactive to activated; from the pew to the platform; to make an impact in the world for the sake of the Gospel.