Tag: local church

Post Traumatic Church Disorder

I’ve talked with a number of men and women in ministry, and I’ve noticed an alarming problem. It’s often felt but rarely talked about. Just below the surface, it affects daily interactions, vision casting, and strategic planning. It affects how we relate to God and how we relate to others.

I call it post-traumatic-church-disorder.

image: CreationSwap.com user Megan Watson

image: CreationSwap.com user Megan Watson

It may not be a professional diagnoses, but it’s a real issue.

You’ve heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, right?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. – mayoclinic.org

PTSD happens after a terrifying event. PTCD, however, happens after a traumatic, stressful, chaotic, terrifying, painful experience or season in a local church. It can happen after events that our society would deem abusive (physical, sexual, verbal) and/or traumatic. PTCD cuts deeply. If there’s a place where your spiritual, emotional, and physical life should be safe, it is in a local church.The safety net you should feel by being there erodes. Finding abuse and traumatic events where a wall of safety and health should exist carves deep wounds on your soul. You may begin to deal with this issue after having been in an local church that is filled with one, or more, of the following features characterizing its leadership (whether paid staff, volunteer leadership, or elders):

  • unhealthy staff culture
  • abusive (spiritual, emotional, verbal, physical or otherwise) leadership
  • unwise leadership decisions
  • controlling
  • constant complaining
  • fighting (open name-calling, character assassination, slander)
  • gossip (behind-closed-door name calling, character assassination, slander)
  • insulated leadership, refusing to be held accountable
  • self-serving shepherds
  • manipulative leadership
  • bullying

Church staff/leadership teams can have these attitudes and behaviors creep in over time. And you’d be foolish to think that one person that’s dominated by one of these traits doesn’t seep its way into other staff members and into the church at large.

One bad apple spoils the bunch, and one bad staffer can spoil the team. (Tweet that)

These prideful character traits can destroy staff and church morale quicker than just about anything else.

How to know you have it

It doesn’t take long for PTCD to set in. Just a season or two of a self-serving, manipulative, controlling leadership in your life can move your heart to a dark place. Trust is built over time, but is torn down in a moment. (Tweet that) Fortunately or not, our view of the local church greatly impacts our view of God.

How do you know if you’re suffering from PTCD? Here are some markers.

  • a deep distrust of church leadership, despite anything specific that you see
  • a callousness towards church staff
  • growing cynicism towards the Church
  • growing desire to gossip about leadership
  • When your pastor calls you, your first thought is “What have I done?” or “What’s he going to be mad about this time?”
  • a knee-jerk anger when your pastor asks to meet with you
  • a knee-jerk fear when your pastor asks to meet with you
  • constant questioning of the motives of your church staff
  • refusal to engage in serving and attending worship
  • continual doubting of your pastor’s heart
  • refusal to give financially to your local church because of your distrust
  • a growing anxiousness in dealing with church leaders

How to guard against it

Be careful that PTCD doesn’t wreck your heart. It can. And it will. Satan would love nothing more than to keep you from Church by convincing you Church is worth keeping from. (Tweet that) By couching “Church” in the category of pain, frustration, and uselessness, you’ll sideline yourself when the Church needs you and your voice.

Here’s how you can guard your heart from growing distant and calloused:

Pray.
Start here. End here. And fill every moment with asking God to guard you from bitterness, inaction, and callousness. It realigns your heart with what pleases, and what breaks, the heart of God.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Remind yourself of who the Church is.
The Church is the bride of Christ. It’s the one for whom Christ suffered and died. And remember this…Jesus had to suffer and die because the Church isn’t perfect. We’re a bunch of messed up sinners who continue to do battle against our flesh. Church leaders are sinners being redeemed, too. The Church isn’t perfect, but its Redeemer is. And He loves his bride. (Ephesians 5:21-33)

Help make better decisions
Instead of complaining, speak in to the life and leadership of your local church. If you see things differently, that just might be a gift you could give. When you see a different path, point it out. When you see disunity, expose it. When you see poor, abusive leadership, blow the whistle. Terrible leadership begets terrible leadership unless you speak up.

Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools,
or they will become wise in their own estimation. – Proverbs 26:5

Serve selflessly
Keep serving. Give of yourself until it hurts. Give of yourself until it costs you something. This will help curb your tendency of thinking that your local church only exists for you. Yes, we’re broken. Yes, we’re imperfect. But the Church is better when you serve. And as you serve, you become a part of the solution instead of a part of the problem.

Don’t go at it alone
Don’t be so foolish that you think you can work through PTCD on your own. (Tweet that) Masking over problems doesn’t make them go away. Find someone you can be open, honest, and transparent with. You need an outside perspective in order to biblically, helpfully, and healthily walk through this issue.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Don’t give up on the local church. She is the bride of Christ, as broken and twisted as she sometimes can be. She’s worth fighting for.

She’s redemption in process. (Tweet that)

 

6 Reasons I Love the Church

I love parachurch ministries. (ministries like Campus Crusade For Christ, Lifeway, Hope Pregnancy Center, etc.) They play such an important role in the kingdom, coming alongside the church in a beautiful way to serve our communities. I’ve done ministry with parachurch organizations, served on leadership boards, and pointed countless people to them as viable, vital organizations.

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image credit: Creation Swap user pru lee

But I have distinctly chosen not to work at a parachurch. I have nothing bad to say against them. Nothing at all. But I understand where God’s called me to lead and serve, and it’s in a local church.

Recently I sat down with the VP at a large Christian organization, and he pitched me a job offer. It was a sweet gig, and the twist he threw my way was, “This is the chance to serve not just one, but to serve thousands of local churches through your work here.” It caused me to take a step back and evaluate who I was and what God was calling me to.

In the process, I realized how much I love the local church. I saw just how much I adore the local expression of the body of Christ. I received a renewed passion for this beautiful, hot mess of a bride that Jesus died for.

6 reasons I love the church

 1. It’s messy.

Local church work isn’t neat and tidy. Ever. If it grows clean, that means you’re not doing the work of evangelism…or you’re disengaged from real ministry. Real ministry with real people who have real problems is a mess. And I’ve found that when people are open and honest with where God has them, the doubts and frustrations they’re experiencing, and the places where they’re most confused, spiritual growth happens in huge ways.

Neat and tidy is boring.

2. It’s not a formula.

There is no one-size-fits-all system. There is no perfect structure. No ministry without hiccups. You can learn principles from other churches, but copying methodology doesn’t work. What worked in one church likely won’t work in another.

Formulas are boring.

3. It’s not a bunch of “professionals.”

Pastors are not “professionals.” We are on the journey with those we are leading, broken people leading broken people. We are redeemed sinners leading people to the King. I’m thankful that I am free to be who God has created me to be, not masking over the parts of my life I’d rather stay hidden. It’s time for pastors to stop hiding behind beautiful masks.

“Professional” is boring.

4. It’s chaotic.

Church world not always chaos, but ministering to and with real people is edgy. You can’t box ministry in, because the moment you do, you’ll find that the box has moved. Chaos is scary and uncontrollable…ripe ground for faith to grow.

Controlled boxes are boring.

5. The work is never done.

No matter what you do, who you “fix,” what system is just “perfect,” there will always be more work to do. And I love that. There are challenges everywhere you look. And everybody is a work in progress. Pastors included. Sunday is always coming.

Completion is boring.

6. We are the bride of Christ.

Christ died for us! The local church was worth the blood of Christ. The local church, that messy, chaotic, unprofessional, constantly-needing-fixed, uncontrollable, beautiful bride, is worth every ounce of effort I can give.

The bride of Christ is not boring.

Question:

Do you work in/serve the local church? What do you love so much about your church?

 

 

#3 in 2011: Dear Church,

I’m taking a break from my blog between Christmas and New Year’s. I’m re-posting a couple of your favorites (based on clicks) and a couple of my own favorite posts from 2011. I hope you enjoy! I’ll be interacting in the comments section, so if you comment, I’ll respond. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

image via iStock photo user Anthia Cumming

 

Dear local church,

You do weird things. And please don’t tell me you have no idea what I’m talking about.

  • You eat tiny crackers and drink tiny glasses of grape juice.
  • You sing. Loudly and passionately. And it’s 8:30 on a Sunday morning. Seriously, who sings, out loud, where others can hear them before 9:00?
  • You ask people to come down front. Nobody at my son’s baseball game has ever asked me to make a big life decision right in front of the whole stadium.
  • You tell me I need to go somewhere else, into someone else’s home, to really connect.
  • You pass a bucket for me to put money in. Do I have to pay to worship here?
  • You lay hands on people to pray for them. Never seen that one done in a helpful way in a PTA meeting. Never.
  • You preach from the Bible, and keep referring to it as an authority in your life, but I don’t see it like that. It’s a bit strange that you would put such weight into such an old document.

I’m not saying that these things are wrong. They’re just weird to me. I need you to help me understand why I need to do them. Why they’re important. Why you do them every week. Why I need to join in. Why I feel like such an outsider when I’m there.

I don’t want to be an outsider. Nobody does. I’d like to feel like I’m a part of you guys…but I need you to be patient. Walk me through understanding and doing. It took you lots of years to get where you are…help me get there. But don’t assume that, after 2 weeks, I’m going to “get” it.

Because when you don’t help me understand, you push me away…and it seems you don’t care that I come back.

Signed,

 

-Church visitors

 

* image via iStock photo user Anthia Cumming 

 

5 Easy Ways to Pursue Excellence as a church

Excellence doesn’t have to be expensive.

image via TypeInspire

A common misconception is that excellence is expensive. That you’re going to have to expand your budget, buy new “toys,” and constantly be on the cutting edge to have a service that is accomplished with excellence.

Thinking that excellence is tied with money is crippling. If you have the money, you’ll begin to rely on the money to do the work of excellence for you…that’s called laziness. If you don’t have the money, you’ll begin using the excuse, “We can’t do it as well as _____ because we just don’t have the resources.” Bologna. That’s a lack of utilization and equipping.

In the church world, where I spend my time and energy, I’ve seen plenty of leaders let excellence slide because they don’t have financial resources to pour into gadgets, lights, sound equipment, video equipment, new mics, and flashy “stuff.” And while that “stuff” looks nice, it doesn’t, in any way, guarantee excellence.

Want to pursue excellence as a local church? Here’s how you do it.

5 Easy Ways to Pursue Excellence

Execute your order of worship relentlessly.

I was recently a part of a service that was not planned well.  The worship leader didn’t know the lyrics well, and there were lots of gaps between songs, announcements, and the sermon.  Planning the order in advance so that everyone involved can see all of the details is crucial.  Running a rehearsal, including announcements, any videos, and any other elements are seen by everybody involved (before the live service) helps ensure major mistakes don’t happen.

Simplify.

The more programs you offer, the more diluted each becomes. And the less “excellent” each is, because each takes significant amounts of resources (time, energy, volunteers, money) to do well.  The simpler, more focused your church is, the more excellent you will be in each area.

Take pride in what you do.

Look around you. Take note of the little things. It’s often the small, seemingly insignificant gestures that go miles in promoting excellence. Here are a few things we do at Grace:

  • pick up stray trash
  • staff every door on Sundays with a welcoming person
  • keep printed material up-to-date
  • keep volunteers in the loop on information that new-comers will ask about
  • offer good coffee
  • set up an area on Sundays for moms with crying babies to still hear the service and not disturb others
  • keep your website updated
  • respond to emails promptly

Evaluate and improve constantly.

If an aspect of your church isn’t working, it’s time to change things up. Allowing a program to hang around because “we’ve always done it…” pushes excellence right out the window.  Evaluating, improving, and constantly being willing to change things that are broken encourages excellence across the board.

Celebrate.

If you feed something, it lives.  If you don’t, it dies.  Feed those actions, those habits, those strategical and forward-thinking moves that staff members and volunteers take.  When you feed those actions, they (and those they lead) will notice what your church values.  Thank them publicly.  Send them a note.  Throw them a party.  Celebrate steps in the right direction.

Pursuing excellence isn’t about money. It’s about the details. If what you’re offering (the Gospel) is valuable to your congregation, then casting it in the best light is vital.  Pursuing excellence does just that.

Are you serving in a church that pursues excellence?  What steps have you taken to get there?

 

 

 

Concrete, alignment series

We at Grace Community Church launched a series called Concrete yesterday.  We’re doing it as an alignment with our small groups, launching new groups whose goal is to engage people in authentic community for the 5 weeks of this series.

We’ve produced a DVD and small group study guide for our groups to track along with our Sunday sermons.

We do these alignments during series where you would feel comfortable inviting your friends and neighbors. And we construct our small group discussion guide so that if you have people you’ve invited who are far from God come into your home to do this study with you, they’re able to track along with the discussion, add in their own personal experience, and take a step of faith…whatever that looks like for them.

Who are small groups for?

Our small groups aren’t just for the mature.  But they’re also not just for those new to faith.

They’re for everyone. Because we feel that everyone needs the opportunity to discuss the Scriptures, process life, and build relationships…in an environment that’s safe to explore faith.

For this alignment study, we’ve chosen topics that are accessible and challenging to people wherever they are in their spiritual journey.  We’ll be exploring foundational issues, challenging people to take a step towards God in their prayer life, commitment to the local church, giving, reading their Bible, and sharing their faith.

If you care to join us, we’d love to have you!  Click HERE for access to the podcast and small group study guide from week 1.

The rest of the study guide (link to weeks 1-5) can be found online HERE.

Click HERE for a pdf version of our study guide from week 1.

If you’re joining us, please leave a comment and let us know!

 

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