One of the biggest mistakes pastors make is thinking the people in the church are like them. You’re reading a Tim Keller commentary on Galatians for your next message series, but the people in your church are catching up on royal baby news via People Magazine online. And that’s not the only difference.
Let’s dive into some of the differences between people who work at a church and people who attend church.
They don’t think about church during the week. They think about their jobs, their families, their hobbies and their lives. They are the protagonist in their own stories, and the church is more like a footnote. You think about church all the time, because church is the middle of your map.
They don’t know the people you know. They don’t know John Piper from Peter Piper and they have never heard of Andy Stanley (gasp). When you quote them without context, you fly right over their heads. Catalyst sounds like an energy drink and Lifeway sounds like a grocery store. The people in your church run in completely different circles, so don’t assume they know the people you know.
When people are at church, they are on their own time. When they show up to those evening meetings, it’s after a long day at work. And they don’t get to go in late tomorrow or take time off on Friday. Your full time ministry schedule doesn’t look like their full time work schedule. Reminding you people aren’t paid to be at church seems ridiculous, but it’s an important fact to continually process.
They don’t talk about your programs, events or ministries every day. You might feel like you’ve talked it to death because you talk about the stuff all the time. You talk about stuff so much you’ve developed a language. But the people in your church don’t use those terms, and they don’t discuss what you discuss every day. You think they know it, but you’ve batted it around ten times more. Just when they start to understand, you’re on to something bigger and better, with a new program or initiative.
You want the church to get bigger and better, but they like it just the way it is. That’s why they started coming, and if things change too much, they won’t like it. This has nothing to do with the age of the congregation or the style of music. It’s not sinister and it doesn’t mean they aren’t on board with the vision. People just like stuff that’s familiar. The change you pray for is the change they passively (and sometimes actively) resist. Wise leaders keep this in mind.