Chasing the sheep
The routine for most churches is that structures start up for the year over the course of February. It means that February is a chaotic time as things ‘start up’. When we get to March, and things are going (with people coming), we can feel that we can breathe a sigh of relief.
However, herein lies a great danger.
The slogan that ministry is about ‘people, not structures’ has been going around for a long time. How easy it is to let it slide.
I have recently been reminded that only 60% of our ‘regulars’ attend on any one Sunday at one congregation at my church. I suspect an underlying reality that a third are almost weekly in attendance, and the other two thirds are on some kind of roster that I have never seen.
For some of these two-thirds of God’s flock, they need to and will grow as they grow in their understanding of the Word of God with the Spirit’s work and become more regular over time. But there is another category who have, or at the very least are in danger of wondering off. Jesus taught that the pastors of God’s flock left the 99 sheep to go and chase the one.
After the hard work of setting up the structures for the year (they are there to help God’s flock too, remember), it is time for the hard work of chasing those who are at the very least in danger of wondering off. As with many other things, prevention is the best cure.
Research seems to suggest that it is most effective when lay people are on the forefront of this kind of work. Whilst a call or visit from the pastor is appreciated, it is hard to get away from one feeling either checked up upon, or that the contact has been made because it is the pastor’s job. And as we begin work in this area at my church, I have been pleasantly surprised at how enthusiastic many lay people are to be involved in chasing the sheep who seem to be wondering away.
It is not the only approach – we would all benefit from using this opportunity to share different approaches.
Either way, with the importance of people, it may be better to think of March as the time when the real work gets underway.