Several years ago CBS television network began to air a show entitled Undercover Boss, which showed a CEO of a large corporation going undercover to get a first hand look of what was happening in the trenches of his own company. Each episode features a high-ranking executive or the owner of a corporation going undercover as an entry-level employee in their own company.
The executives alter their appearance and assume an alias and fictional back-story. The fictitious explanation given for the accompanying camera crew is that the executives are being filmed as part of a documentary about entry-level workers in a particular industry, or a competition with another individual with the winner getting a job with the company. They spend approximately one week undercover, working in various areas of their company operations, with a different job and, in most cases, a different location each day. They are exposed to a series of predicaments with amusing results, and invariably spend time getting to know the people who work in the company, learning about their professional and personal challenges.
At the end of their week undercover, the executives return to their true identity and request the employees they worked with individually to corporate headquarters. The bosses reveal their identity and reward hard-working employees through promotion or financial rewards, while other employees are given training or better working conditions. They also make adjustments, which will help their company be more effective and responsive to both the customers and the workers. It is amazing how this experience often affects the CEO as he sees and hears the lives and personal stories of the people who work for his company.
It is easy as pastors to sometimes feel that we know what is happening with our church ministries and in the lives of our people when, in truth, we may only be seeing it from our ivory tower. Let’s take a look at some ideas of what we can do to stay in touch with our churches.
Go to the workplace of your men. It would be wise for pastors to have lunch with one or two of their men each week–but not at a restaurant. Go to their workplace with lunch in hand. Allow them to show you around and introduce you to their fellow workers. Lose your suit and tie (unless it is appropriate for their workplace) and be a real guy. Ask if you can stay for awhile to watch them work and if possible lend a hand. Ask them questions about their work. Allow them to teach you what they do. Find out what they struggle with at work. Most of all just show interest in them.
Eat in your members homes. Why did we get away from this? Too many pastors have gotten too big too fast and they really do not know how their people live. Your people will get to know you personally and you will get a glimpse into how they live. Talk about it in the next service and let everyone know you appreciate their hospitality. Most of your people live humble lives. It is good for you to know how they live so you stay in touch with the pulse of your members.
Be available to counsel your members. Many times we may feel we are not properly equipped to counsel, but it is in these private moments that people will often share their heart and hurts. Often all they really need is your ear and care. Listen to them and pray with them. The Bible tells us that if we lack wisdom all we need to do is ask for it and God will give it to us. Do not dump the responsibility of counselling on someone else.
Take your members’ personal prayer requests yourself. Do not have them call the office or fill out a piece of paper. Encourage them to tell you personally either after church services or over the phone and always pray for them on the spot. Follow through on these requests so they know you really are praying for them and that you care.
Do the ministry work your people do. Hey pastor, when is the last time YOU worked in the nursery, taught a children’s class, drove a bus or handed out bulletins as an usher? Are you too big for that. Perhaps you should take a few months and work a different job every week so you understand what is going on with your people. These people are for the most part volunteers, yet we can easily take them for granted. Maybe you will even discover that they are not well trained or properly equipped for their ministries. How can you talk the talk if you haven’t walked the walk?
Be hospitable. The Bible says that one of the qualities of a pastor is to be given to hospitality. When is the last time you had members over to your home for a meal or fellowship? If your members break down on the side of the road and had no one else to call would they feel free to call you? Are you a servant? Often pastors make excuses for why they cannot do these things but in reality that is what they are, excuses. Great pastors do not want to stop these things but are forced to because more and more people come to their church. They do not hire others to do it for them but rather with them–to help carry the overload.
Visit the hospitals and nursing homes. These are the trenches for a pastor. If you have a member who has a loved one in a nursing home, go by and visit with them and ask the member to meet you there if possible. Take time to really get to know the sufferings of the members in your church.
Spend time with the widows and orphans. Hmmm. That sounds Biblical doesn’t it? Pastor if you don’t start out doing this you will not be able to effectively have deacons. Actually, the time for deacons is when you have too many to minister to by yourself and you need help. Have deacons to assist you in these things. Why do you think the qualifications for a deacon are so similar to yours as a pastor? Is it so they can run the business of the church? NO! It is so they can help you SERVE the people. Start them off serving and you will probably have far fewer conflicts in your church.
Pastor is it time for you to go undercover? While it may not be possible for you to put on a disguise and do these things, your members may wonder who you are if you did. Let us be like our Lord, who took on the disguise of human flesh and walked among us so that HE could be touched with the feelings of OUR infirmities. Our “undercover” Saviour went about doing good even when people did not know WHO HE was. Is it time for you to do the same?
Pastors are only one member of the body. If they would step off the pulpit, and remove the distinction between clergy and laity…they would be relieved of having to be the entire body. It was never to be, and God is shifting things today. Those that will hear the spirit, and make the move to every member involved, will be set free to really perform the ministry of pastor. Some pastors, perhaps are really called to another function but the tradition of how it’s done has only basically allowed for one ministry gift…pastor.