“They’re getting a divorce!?!”
A church board member had just shared this information. One of our core families was separating. This news left me feeling heartbroken for the family, the couple, the kids, and the extended family and friends in the church. I wanted to go and help, solve, own the problem. But, I couldn’t.
I couldn’t do anything; It was too late.
Looking back, I could have done something. And that is the topic of today’s blog – Helping people change.
Why Help Your Church Family Change?
As pastors, why do we do what we do?
Because we love people.
Specifically, the people that God has brought into our church family. We also want people to change because we want to see growth. Furthermore, we want to see the people around us grow and become the men & women God is calling them to become.
Also, as pastors, we can see the blind spots in their life (hint, they can see our blind spots too). God has put us in a unique place to share truth with those we lead graciously. What’s more, the church family is a relationship, and it’s easier to grow and change when we are in a relationship with others.
Consider God’s call on Ezekiel as he leads Israel;
After seven days, the Lord gave me a message. He said, 17 “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. 18 If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. 19 If you warn them and refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me. 
Being a pastor is a responsibility. God has called us to lead change and ask for change.
We cannot own the change of the church member; be we can ask for it and model it. But something is getting in the way.
What’s Getting In The Way of Helping Others?
The church family is a relationship; because of the relationship, the pastor might fear being the change agent in the church member’s life. It could be due to a fear of rejection (“If I confront their marriage, addiction, or lifestyle, they might reject me or leave the church.”) Or, we fear that, as their pastor, we might harm them. Harming them is partially true; wherever there is a real-life change, there will be a pain. Growth hurts.
But think of the difference between a thief and a doctor; the thief wants to harm you while the doctor wants to heal you. People we lead will get hurt when we help, but let’s not “fragilize” them (“walking on eggs” around them or ignoring the situation). Instead, let’s graciously confront (our own fears and their need for growth).
The second thing that gets in the way of helping our church family change is that we believe that we don’t have permission to confront them.
So, maybe we need to do exactly that – ASK.
“May I share something with you?”
We don’t have to blast someone when we confront them, but we can ask, and we can be direct. I had a friend who several years ago had to go to the hospital ER for some critical health issues. In the ER, the doctor gave my friend some HARD TRUTH. “You know why you are having these heart and health issues don’t you?”
The doctor continued; “Why would I want to help you get better when your actions are the reason you are here? You’re a chain smoker and an alcoholic. You need to be responsible for your health.”
That was tough language, and it was exactly what my friend needed to hear. He started a recovery program and has been smoke-free and alcohol-free for several years now.
Pastor, you have permission to ask for change. Do it graciously and directly.
Finally, we fear asking for change because we fear that we are controlling them. No, your church member is responsible for their life (their feelings, attitude, and behavior). You are responsible for shepherding them. You ask for change; you don’t demand it or force it.
Skills to Learn
Check your motives: It’s not your job to “Fix” them or be their “Savior.” Also, confronting is not about punishing or rescuing them either. Instead, we help people because we love people.
Put Yourself In Their Shoes: How do you want someone to confront you on your blind spots? Put yourself in their shoes and mentally walk through the confrontation process. Role-play the confrontation; this will allow you to get feedback on your wording and motives.
Live the Change You Want to See: Nobody likes a hypocrite, so you better look in the mirror first.
Be Vulnerable: To get to the next level of helping your church family, you will have to get to the vulnerable side of yourself.
Learn to be open about how you feel and then processing those feelings. As you examine your life, you will start to see inside the life of those you lead (and begin to understand WHY they do what they do – hint, it’s probably connected to a powerful emotion).
Be Specific: Don’t be vague about how you feel and why you feel it, and what you would like to see changed. Your church member has to have a clear path as well.
And they must know what will happen if there is no change (i.e., the consequences for not changing).
Be Patient: Life growth takes time, courage, truth, and grace. Be patient.
Do your part and allow God the time to do His part.
Let’s Work Together
I love working with pastors and helping them reach their ministry goals. Let’s start the coaching engagement today.