January 26, 2015

Generalists Do Talk to Strangers

Generalists know a little about a lot. And, generalists, even if they are introverts, can talk to strangers for a few minutes. So, these people can be an asset in welcoming a wide variety of church visitors. Put some generalists to work as greeters. I am a generalist, and I enjoy reaching out to church visitors.

What are the strengths of a generalist? Any factual information that a visitor reveals is interesting to a curious generalist. No person's occupation seems insignificant, and no hobby seems too trivial. The generalist sees these facts as an opportunity to learn new things.

A generalist, even if she is unwavering about certain doctrines, is not usually threatening to first-time visitors. For example, she approaches a stranger with, "Do you live nearby?" instead of "Do you think that Puritan William Perkins' views on the sovereignty of God were forceful enough?"

The generalist's sincere interest in others' interests puts new people at ease. A nervous visitor might say to herself, "There is at least one person in this church who didn't ignore me once she knew more about me."

Based on my experience, here are some general hints that will help in meeting new people.
  • Start with love. Your motive should be to minister to people's souls. You want them to hear the truth of the Word in your church, to believe it and to put it into practice in their lives.
  • Brush up on points of contact. Know the locations of the children's Sunday school rooms. Find out who is playing in Super Bowl XLIX. Memorize the date of the next church social event. Learn more about key people in the church who like meeting visitors. Keep up-to-date on a few current events and what is happening in pop culture.
  • Look in the corners. Some visitors feel awkward in a new situation because they have no familiar person to talk to. Seek them out and make a connection, using your generalist skills.
  • Be sincere. Don't fake interest to make a "sale." You are attempting to get to know new people not trying to manipulate them into church membership. Greeting is a ministry, not a project.
  • Keep the questions to a minimum. For some people, being peppered with inquiries from a stranger is as intense as taking the SATs. Let the visitor set the pace.
  • Open up. Share a bit of information about yourself. to put the visitor at ease. Sometimes I say things like, "I used to be a Baptist. How about you?" If possible, tell the visitor what attracted you to your church.
  • Take the hint. If you meet unresponsiveness, warmly say, "I am glad you visited," and move on.  Don't take it personally. As hard as it is to accept, this might be the rare person who doesn't like golden retriever puppies because they greet people enthusiastically.
  • Expand the visitor's horizons. Introduce him or her to another church member. A generalist will know exactly who to pick because of her general knowledge of the congregation. The family who lives in the visitor's neighborhood. That man who works in the same industry. The single woman who is getting her pilot's license.
  • Get beyond superficial when possible. Hopefully, your relationship with the visitors will develop beyond questions like, "Where do you work?." It may take a few weeks of conversation to get there. Keep in mind that Christianity (and your church's ministry) involves deep concepts like sin, the love of God, the renewal of your mind and encouraging one another to love and good deeds. Even a broad generalist gets that.
A note to pastors' wives: I am not ashamed of being a pastor's wife. But, I don't mention it right away in a conversation with a stranger. In my particular locale, being approached by a pastor's wife can be very scary. Sometimes people in my area take a literal step backwards when they learn about my role. So, I want them to see me as a "normal" person before I bring it up. Please pay attention to the reaction you get where you live and plan accordingly.

January 12, 2015

Pray for the Pastor's Wife: Self-Control

“The fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control.” (Gal. 5:23)

In his kindness, the Lord has given me great help to develop self-control.

He made me a pastor’s wife.

From women whose husbands are training for the pastorate, I sometimes hear the assertion: Well, my future church better accept me just the way I am! The church is going to have to get used to the fact that I’m my own unique person! I’m not going to change just because I’m the pastor’s wife!

But, dear sisters, none of Christ’s daughters truly wants to remain unchanged. None of us wants to appear before the Throne with all of our sin unchecked in the name of self-expression. None of us wants to be our own unique person at the expense of becoming more like the only unique Person, the God-man Christ Jesus.

And the church is often the Lord’s kind instrument to conform pastors’ wives to himself.

As a pastor’s wife, I never share all of my opinions. Recently, sitting at a table with some church folks, I listened to discussion about an issue that is dear to my heart—one that I have researched, prayed over, and written about. But, at that moment and in that group, to declare my opposing opinion would have been to give an offense. My editorializing—however well-reasoned—would have set up a stumbling block that was not Christ. And so I kept silent.

Can a pastor’s wife say everything on her mind? No. Can she always dress the way she wants? No. Can she buy all the material goods her heart desires? No. Can she stay home from church events because, baby, it’s cold outside? No.

Is this a bad thing? No.

A pastor’s wife is never her own woman. She is Christ’s woman. And Christ has graciously joined his people together into a church partly for her sanctification. Insofar as the expectations of Christ’s body encourage me to decrease that Christ might increase (Jn. 3:30), insofar as they teach me to control self, insofar as they make me less like myself and more like my Savior, well, then, I am thankful.

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