Nearly all the pastors I have ever met are wonderful people. Gifted and intelligent communicators with strong people-skills; committed to living out God’s calling through all the ups and downs; dedicating their lives to understanding God’s message and sharing it with the world around them. Noble, exciting men and women with a sense of purpose and vision. I love them and am inspired by them.
And yet, I am increasingly convinced that the sit-sing-sermon model of church has had its day, and needs to give way to something new – something interactive, and engaging, and empowering, where God’s people are invited to contribute and join in. Something that turns the congregation from passive recipients into active participants. But where does this leave all the pastors, with their many years of training; with their finely honed preaching skills; with their ability and talents for performance?
The truth is, churches are going to need leadership as much as ever if they move from performance to empowerment – but the leadership will be less about performance and more about facilitation. Many pastors have the right temperament, wisdom, and communication skills to make excellent facilitators, but they have to turn their thinking upside down to get there.
Preaching involves talking – facilitation is about listening.
Preaching has all the right answers – facilitators ask the right questions.
Preachers take all the credit – facilitators give all the credit.
Preachers hold on to authority – facilitators hand over authority.
Preachers have a voice – facilitators give others a voice.
Excellent facilitators do less than 30% of the talking, and get others to do the 70%. They risk letting others interpret God’s Word and listen to God’s Spirit instead of doing it all themselves. They give others credit for their ideas and insights, without boasting of their own. They hand over most of the power, control and status, rather than holding onto it.
Not everyone can be a good facilitator. It takes skill and faith, confidence and humility, maturity and vulnerability. These are traits many pastors and “lay-people” already have. Since we’ve moved from monologue, lecture-style sermons to interactive, participatory meetings, we’ve seen the most unexpected people grow, and speak up, and discover their gifts and potential in Christ. Our prayer is that pastors will stop performing for God’s people, and start empowering them. Less personal reward, greater kingdom impact.