Two years into meeting as a new church, there are a few things you can expect. Hint – it has to do with tantrums.
It seems silly to imagine members of a congregation throwing tantrums, but for some reason in our experience, the two-year mark is when people rise up out of the previously content silence, and voice disgruntled opinions.
Two years is enough time for people to become disenchanted with the church. I thought we were going to be a church that ____ fill in the blank. It’s just enough time to get people excited about your direction, but not quite enough to make things happen. Possibly finances won’t be as great as you expected, causing programs you wanted to get started to become delayed. Maybe you haven’t grown as much as you had thought you would.
You and your congregation might be thinking, are we really doing what we set out to do?
You need a two-year check up.
If you’re a mom, you know the feeling of taking your little one to the doctor’s office. The child is nervous, and so are you. Your child wonders, will I get a shot? You’re wondering, is my child healthy and developing? All it takes is the crinkle of paper on the patient table to send both of your hearts and nerves racing.
The crinkly paper of ministry is usually the following sound, “Can I set up an appointment with you, Pastor? I have a few concerns.”
Your (and your husband’s) response is probably, “Here we go.” The dread of the meeting can be annoying as you wonder, what’s making them unhappy?
But in the same way your two-year-old needs shots to survive deadly diseases, getting poked or prodded doesn’t have to be scary. These types of meetings and interactions can be life-giving, as long as you approach them with confidence and vision.
You can use this frustrating period to redirect. In one-on-one meetings, with leadership, and with the whole congregation, you can do a few things to get through the terrible twos.
1. Keep your vision clear and ever-present in your mind.
Remind everyone why you exist. You exist to spread the good news about Jesus Christ. The main question is this: Are we telling people about Jesus? If the answer is, “Yes,” then everyone needs a reminder that this is the ultimate purpose of your church. The rest of the conversation is a pragmatic one. Are we doing things the BEST way possible? The answer to this question will most certainly be, “No.” Nobody is doing ministry with seamless perfection. But if we are serving with the right heart and looking outward to our community to be Jesus’ hands and feet in a dying world, then everyone needs to settle down.
2. Recap where you came from, and where you’re going.
The journey to surviving two years as a church is exciting, but it’s also exhausting. Look how far you’ve come! Just like you wouldn’t expect your two-year-old to be reading and tying his or her shoes, yet, don’t expect your two-year-old church to be holding multiple services or supporting full time staff members. I am sure you’ve made progress. You’ve gathered a team, you’ve started serving your community, people have been changed by the gospel. That’s amazing!
Now for the where-you’re-going part. Monthly vision casting is essential for leaders. Make sure you include the rest of the church in vision casting sometimes, too. If everyone knows the direction you’re heading, people will be more energized about helping you get there.
3. Cut, cut, cut.
Cut anything that is draining your people, but doesn’t seem to be working toward your final goals as a church. Remember, when you’re focused, things get done. It’s better to be doing a few things well than many things half-way. This might mean you hold off on that youth group several families have been clamoring for. Instead, maybe you could connect with another youth related ministry that a different organization hosts. For example, at Infusion Church in Escondido, CA, the youth do Young Life instead of a church sponsored youth program. We are all on the same team. It’s okay to make connections with existing ministries. In fact, I think it’s a sign of health!
4. Be consistent.
I believe the number one rule to parenting is consistency – with consequences and between parents. Make sure your leaders are all on board with the same vision, because if they aren’t, your congregation will be confused. Your team should be on the same page, casting a consistent vision.
5. Remember who is the lead pastor of your church: Jesus.
It’s so freeing to remember Jesus is the head pastor of every church. That means whether you’re in the newborn stage, or two years in, Jesus is still in charge. He is the creator of all good things, and He will finish the work He began in you and your people.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18 ESV