Conversations are hard for some people. I’m one of those people. They’re not hard because I have difficulty talking, they’re hard because sometimes, I’m awkward. There are many pastors and church leaders who have no issue striking up a dynamic conversation on a variety of topics, you might be one of them. But no matter whether you are a pastor or church leader who’s incompetently awkward or a conversational wizard, you have to communicate with the understanding that God has called you to lovingly and strategically lead those whom He has put in your care.
Every conversation we have is an opportunity to lead those whom God has called us to Shepherd. Here are a few ways that I have used conversations to lovingly lead and shepherd others.
Converse to Learn
In order to lead those to whom God has called us to, we must know them. When having a conversation with someone, your main objective is to get to know them, not to talk about yourself. So, while they are talking to you stop thinking about how you can impress them and focus more on what questions you can ask them so that you can dive deeper into their life and understand more about them. Conversations like this usually happen in a one-on-one environment, which allows for more intentional questions about that person’s life. More often than not, when you end those conversations people feel genuinely cared about and you know how to better minister to them.
Converse to Connect
This sort of conversation happens in a more informal environment, typically with a larger group of people. This is the time to share funny, embarrassing, or learning experiences that you have had. In this type of conversation, people learn that you have a personality beyond what they see in the pulpit on Sunday morning or in the classroom on Wednesday. These are the interactions that signal to people whether or not they can come to you to share their struggles and their failures. This is the time that people are measuring you to figure out if you’re relatable and nonjudgmental because you’ve had your own series of missteps and mistakes in the past. They want to know that you’re not perfect or, more acurately, they want to know that you don’t think your perfect.
Converse to Show
As a pastor, people are going to come to you to express frustration and exhaustion in their current serving situation. They are going to say things like: “I’m tired” “I’ve been burning the candle at both ends” “I feel like this ministry is going nowhere” “This is just too much for one person to handle”. These are all realities that people face when serving in ministry positions. Sometimes these frustrations are valid but many times people want to know how what they are doing matters. As a pastor, you need to show them how their service in the short-term is affecting the church’s long-term mission. You need to show them how the current reality connects to the future vision of the church.
The tired Sunday school teacher needs to know how they are contributing to the overall health of the church. The exhausted nursery worker wants to know how the diapers they change are a blessing to the parents who come to the church. The worship team member needs to hear how their praises help lead others to a place where they can be mentally and physically ready to hear God’s word. Those conversations show people that they are not just “doing their thing” but that they are part of a bigger story and their investment is one that is essential to God’s plan for the church.
Converse to Plant
Throughout these various types of conversations that take place in any given week, you have to look for opportunities to plant the seeds of changes that may, or need to, happen down the line. For example, if you or your leadership team are wanting to establish a specific vision and direction for the church, the best time to begin discussing it with the congregation is, at least, a year before it is put into place. That doesn’t mean that you hold off on launching a vision once you have the direction that God has instructed. What it means is that you need to consider the most logical trajectory of that particular vision and begin using terms in meetings, small talks, and sermons that illuminate the concepts related to the potential vision. This process familiarizes the people with the vision before the vision is launched. This allows the transition to the actual vision to go much smoother because the direction isn’t new information. This approach to planting seeds is like the music in the background of a movie, you don’t really notice it until the dramatic climax.
Another example of planting seeds in casual conversations is using the phrase, “in the future (or in the next couple of years), wouldn’t it be great if we could fill in the blank” and then directly tie the individual’s current ministry investments into the eventual goal. Planting these seeds of eventual change prepares the other individual for something that might be able to happen in the future and it gives them ownership when it comes to fruition.
Converse to Reveal
Finally, and most importantly, pastors and church leaders must reveal, through our conversations, our need, and the need of our flock, for the gospel on an everyday basis. Too many church members believe that the gospel is just something that affects us at the point of our salvation, but in rightly understanding the gospel, we see that it does much more. The gospel is about the rule and reign of Jesus being ushered into our lives from now into eternity. When the “good news” about Jesus Christ has been revealed into our lives we look to that reality when we face struggles and temptations.
If someone is addicted to porn, they are valuing what their eyes are feasting on more than they value what Christ did for them. If someone is dealing with a drug addiction, they are putting more hope in their fix than The One who truly satisfies. If someone is a gossip, it’s because they want to be judge and jury over people’s lives and deflect from their own insecurities instead of finding comfort in the way that the creator has created them. Sin desires to take Christ’s place as the ruler of our hearts and the gospel reminds us of the lengths that Christ went in order to secure His place there.
As pastors and church leaders, we converse with people on a daily basis and we need to make sure that we’re lovingly leading them as we engage with them in conversation. Banter and casual conversation are always fun but we have to do more than that.
What are some ways that you use conversations to lovingly and strategically lead the sheep whom God has placed in your care?