Presence Versus Process

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]A colleague of mine at Good Shepherd recently summarized a ministry dilemma in two words:  presence vs. process.

My friend correctly observed that I place an extraordinarily high value on the ministry of presence — that I personally want to be there in ways that a) help newcomers feel welcome in the church; and b) represent the church during the most vulnerable moments in people’s lives.

Those twin passions stem no doubt from training I received in seminary and from serving nine years in a small-town congregation.

In fact, during my time at Good Shepherd some of my times of greatest frustration with other teammates have come when I don’t feel that they share my enthusiasm for and commitment to the ministry of presence in the lives of people.

And then my friend made a corollary observation:  other churches on the same kind of growth and expansion cycle as Good Shepherd realize that the ministry of presence is difficult to maintain if it revolves around one person (the preaching pastor), and so they develop a process to make sure the church is well represented in those two areas I mentioned above: welcome and crisis.

Which means that even if a pastor can’t be at every surgery, funeral, counseling session, or Welcome Center conversation with a first-time guest, he or she ensures that there is a process in place to enable the church and its DNA to be well represented in all those situations.  In our case, that means that someone represents what it means to invite all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ in those critical moments in people’s lives.

If the process works well, that someone won’t always be me or even another staffer — because we have prepared and positioned people in the church to use their gifts in ways that make their ministry surpass ours.

This is not a new conversation, nor is it a new struggle in my own understanding of pastoral identity and what it means to lead a large church preparing to start a new campus.

It’s just that now I have some new language that can help me wrap my mind around the issue.  And a challenge to embrace: establishing processes that will multiply presence.