Things Rarely Drift Towards Good and Healthy

So here is a thing I am slowly learning, and this will seem obvious but hang in with me.

I have a great family.  What I have noticed is that when stuff gets bumpy in my family it has an effect on me.  Now, when I say bumpy, I don’t just mean between us. It could just be something in their life, but it still affects me, and it should.  I am certainly not complaining about that. Even something that isn’t bumpy but is change ripples through my life.

Again, that’s how it should be.  I am a husband, father and son, and these are all roles given to me by God that I need to step into.  Which brings us to the problem I am noticing. When things are smooth (everyone is good, there are no major changes or challenges) I can easily stop paying attention to my family.  Things are good, everyone’s fine, they don’t need me. I can focus on other things. This can be my thought process if I am not careful.

Except things don’t stay smooth.  Life happens. Bumps happen. If I have not been paying attention, and if I have not been actively engaged in the roles God has given me, I find myself scrambling to catch up because I will have missed some details along the way.  I will not be fully up to speed on all the factors and facets. So I can’t be as effective at listening or helping or loving or serving or whatever else may be needed of me.

Now, beyond judging me as a family member, you may well be asking, “What does this have to do with Church Health?”  I think a lot. Let me explain.

I find that leaders and people involved in ministry are often tempted to not pay as careful attention as they should when things are rolling along.  It becomes easy to coast. We become less likely to ask difficult questions or evaluate what is actually happening. We don’t invite the outside observer to observe and comment.  We keep doing what we are doing, and we may be missing some stuff along the way.

This can be true of the individual ministries we are involved in, and it is certainly true of the church.  I hear it all the time. “Everything is fine. We don’t need to talk to the Regional Coach. Folks are still showing up so we really don’t need to evaluate it.  We are doing lots of stuff. We don’t need to do a LifePlan. Giving is still good so we are fine. We don’t need to change. By the way, there are studies that show that evaluating health by looking at giving is not a great idea.  Often giving is the last thing to decline when unhealth sets in to a church, but once it declines, things are in a bad way and it might be too late.

So the ministry area or church drifts, and things rarely drift towards good, healthy results.  I will not drift towards being the dad or husband God calls me to be. Your ministry/ church will not drift towards robust health.  So now, even if things are good, commit to fighting drift. Commit to not coasting because things seem good. By all means celebrate the good things God is doing in and through your ministry/church, but do not settle for good enough.  Pay attention to what is going on around you.  Ask good questions. Evaluate and plan. Get outside eyes and voices to speak into what is happening.  Use tools like LifePLan and resources like your Regional Coach and pray and seek God’s leading so that your ministry/ church can be all that He has called it to be.

Even if things are smooth right now, pay attention so the bumps don’t get you.

Marc McAlister

Director of Leadership Development and Church Health

Free Methodist Church in Canada