For two years my son played tee-ball. This year, he graduated to pitching machine league. The transition was not easy.
To help Bryce make the adjustment, I took him to the batting cages where he could practice with a pitching machine. I bought some tokens to place in the machine, and Bryce stepped into the batter’s box. He swung and missed all ten pitches.
Before placing another coin in the machine, I walked into the batter’s box and began to coach Bryce on his stance and approach to hitting. Before I could utter one sentence, he said, “I got this dad.”
I knew he really needed help, but at the same time, I liked his confident spirit, so I backed off and placed another coin in the machine. Another ten pitches flew by without a hit.
After a few more tokens worth of pitches, I decided intervention was necessary. I stepped back into the batting cage with Bryce and gave him a few pointers.
Would you believe that he hit the very next pitch? In fact, he went 3 for 10 in the next series of pitches. Not great, but forward progress.
As I look back on the experience, it reminds me of the fact that an outside, objective viewpoint can be valuable. Many times, our own activity blinds us from seeing what is really happening. To continue the baseball metaphor, we are so busy swinging the bat, that we can’t see the problem with our stance, grip, or technique.
Churches are susceptible to this too. We get so deep in the trees of ministry that we can’t see the forest anymore. Our busyness and activities make unbiased, objective assessment impossible. We have too many blind spots.
Yesterday, I blogged about the importance of evaluating your church.
Today, I want to take it one step further and encourage you to consider periodically asking for an objective, outside opinion.
An outside opinion isn’t necessary all of the time. In fact, healthy churches should be in the practice of regular self-evaluation. However, from time to time, an outside perspective is very helpful –especially when facing difficult issues, lulls in outreach, seasons of apathy, etc. In the moments when you know something needs to change, but you can’t put your finger on the changes that’s needed, it’s time to bring in someone from the outside.
You may be wondering if it is biblical for a church to seek an outside opinion. To answer that question, I would encourage you to read the New Testament –particularly the letters Paul wrote to various churches. In effect, he was giving outside opinions and guidance to local congregations.
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you need to spend vast amounts of money on a professional consultant. Although, I would encourage you to be selective in searching for the right person to help. There are many fellow pastors and leaders who have experience and training that will be advantageous to evaluation.
Remember, a coach doesn’t have to be a super-star (most NBA coaches never played professional basketball). Coaching, rather, requires skills of observation. Trust me, you would rather have a coach who takes the time to understand your church’s unique personality and calling than a superstar who jumps into “here’s how I did it.”
A good coach cares more about your church being all that Christ has called it to be and less about conforming your church to what the coach prefers. That’s why Paul treated different churches in different ways –always tailoring his message to each church’s context, members, opportunities, and needs.
So what about your church? Would some outside evaluation be helpful? Could a fresh set of eyes help your congregation discover solutions that are currently in your blind spot?
If you’ve spent time self-evaluating, but keep “striking out” when it comes to breakthroughs, consider asking a trusted ministry leader to spend time coaching you. It could be as informal as a conversation between two pastors over lunch or as formal as a well-planned process consisting of meetings, surveys, and brainstorming sessions facilitated by a trained coach.
If you need help getting started, or would just like to know more about church evaluation and coaching, feel free to reach out to the ministry in which I serve, DiscipleGuide by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.