I’ll never forget something I read back in the 1990’s from a business innovation guru named Robert Kriegel. He wrote a book called If It Ain’t Broke, Break It! Kriegel said that when you aim to accomplish something, don’t wear yourself out trying your hardest. Instead, Kriegel says, “try easy.” In my observation, we have thousands of pastors out there trying their hardest to motivate, guide, and engage congregations in works of service and worship. I see support teams as one way they can succeed by “trying easy.”
Some points on the way to trying easy –
- Despite the fact that it sounds very counter-intuitive, the best place to begin with support teams in a congregation is NOT the pastor. While I see the support team methodology as an excellent way for a pastor to multiply the pastoral care exponentially in a given congregation, it might seem like a whole lot more work to a given pastor. As in every other instance of launching successful support teams, if pastors come on board, it’ll be with someone they trust and have established a relationship and relationships take time. Take it easy and spend the time building the relationship.
- In time it will become clear that the Support Team methodology provides support to one of every pastor’s professional goals: it equips church members to do ministry, and to do it enthusiastically.
- Pastors who feel the need to be in control of everything might view such delegation with suspicion, but most pastors I’ve known, including myself, welcome the enthusiastic involvement of laity. With this in mind, find key persons in the congregation who enjoy organizing and coordinating (gifts which I decidedly DID NOT possess). With the blessing of the pastor, let this person pursue the Support Team effort. The most successful teams begin with people who love the patient and family. The pastor’s involvement can be that of primary cheerleader of the method.
- Don’t EVER even HINT that the pastor isn’t doing enough. Even pastors with a sizable staff have more than they can handle, complete with laypersons who joke that pastors only work for four hours on Sunday. Personally, I haven’t committed this particular sin since I’ve been working at UAB. My own history as a senior pastor remains too fresh. Besides, one of the main points underlying the Support Team spirit is NO GUILT. You do Support Teams out of love and joy.
Here’s a last point. I think I’ve made it clear that my sympathies lie squarely with overworked and underpaid local pastors. However, I do have a word of caution. As pastors, it’s very easy to become preoccupied with oiling the institutional machinery, soothing ruffled feathers, and “putting out fires” and in the process overlook opportunities for building healing and healthy relationships. I’ve spoken with a number of pastors who recognize the potential for intentional, disciplined teams multiplying pastoral care, but wear themselves out preparing budgets, doing the bidding of a variety of committee chairs, or taking on a “lone ranger” mentality, thinking they have to do all the pastoral care themselves. In my estimate, this is neither wise, nor in keeping with the best examples of Judao-Christian congregational theology.
In both Jewish and Christian scriptures, examples abound of leaders enlisting the strategic and tactical aid of partners. Take, for example, Jethro’s advice to Moses for delegating the administrative load among competent team members in Exodus 18:17ff. Moses was trying to do all the work himself and Jethro said, “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Then there’s the Apostle Paul’s analogy of a church being like a human body with many parts working together. That’s in I Corinthians 12. I’m not saying that our Support Team method is the only method for enlisting and equipping congregations to care for others, but for the most part, pastors, priests, and rabbis who last the longest in their ministries have developed some method for systematically incorporating all of the corpus in the work of caring.
So, acknowledge the great work pastors, priests, rabbis, and mullahs are doing, then encourage them to do what every wisdom tradition teaches: DELEGATE – and try easy.