The platform came alive with flashing lights, billowing smoke and the pounding thump, thump of the base. Loud and energetic worship commenced.
My eyes focused on the two young people leading the first song. A feeling of pride welled up in my heart and tears filled my eyes as I stood watching them giving themselves in enthusiastic passionate worship. I whispered, ‘God, will You just look at these two. I know their journeys. They are treasures in Your sight. This is why we do what we do.’
As a woman in ministry, a pastor’s wife, we spend a huge portion of our time with people. People bring us our greatest feelings of joy, satisfaction and our reason for continuing in the call of God on our life. People are also our greatest frustration, hurt and challenge.
We are called by God to make disciples, care for the flock, and equip the saints. These are all people! We are pastors’ wives and we are in the people business.
In the same way as any person working in a specialised occupation or calling must become proficient in their field so must we. There is commitment to study. A gaining of knowledge, understanding and expertise in their dedicated field. Our specialised field is people.
People in your church come in two genders. They also come in varied sizes, have differing personality types, love languages, gifting, abilities, skill levels, attitudes, past experiences, health issues, relationship problems, generational preferences, expectations of you, understanding of Scripture, dedication to God and so much more.
10 Outstanding Necessities to Understand People in Your Church
1. EDUCATE YOURSELF
- Become an observant people watcher.
Watch and take note in a variety of situations as to how people behave, react and respond. Is a person being inclusive of others or exclusive?
Does that person consistently sit by themselves, a loner? Why does that person look uncomfortable? Are your greeters chatting among themselves and ignoring visitors?
- When you have been hurt by someone or are annoyed with someone, take time out think it through and ask yourself some questions.
What did I learn about myself from this? What did I learn about the person from this? Is there something I would do differently when it happens next time?
- Complete a bundle of on-line questionnaires related to personality types, spiritual gifts, IQ and the like. Be sure to consider the strengths and weaknesses listed.
We had a couple in our church who try as I might, I could not get them to decide to volunteer; ‘Yes, we will, no we won’t’, over and over. They continuously lived their lives in the valley of indecision. When I discovered both wife and husband were phlegmatic, I understood why. Phlegmatic personality type people don’t enjoy, and will avoid making decisions.
- Formal education.
Any type of people focused formal education is hugely beneficial. Maybe a counselling course or psychology studies would be appealing for you.
2. PRACTICE WHAT YOU ARE LEARNING
Be comfortable to experiment and practice the people skills you are learning.
I was learning to use encouragement as a method to produce a desired outcome. We had a young lady in our worship team who only managed an occasional smile when she was on the platform. So, post service I took her aside and encouraged her by saying, ‘I love having you in the worship team and I love your smile. Your face just lights up when you smile and I enjoy seeing you smile when you lead worship’. From that Sunday, there was no more expressionless face, she smiles repeatedly all through the worship time.
Ask God to heighten your discernment, intuition and insight.
God knows each person individually and when your motive is to love and care for that person He will help you to understand them.
4. ASK QUESTIONS
A good question is one which commences with how, what or when. For example:
- How would you respond if this was to happen?
- What is God saying to you about that?
- When are you planning to activate your decision?
Ask questions which will lead the person to look within themselves to locate the possible answer or solution they are looking for. Avoid questions which generate a yes or no answer. ‘Why’ questions can carry with them a feeling of accusation. In addition to asking questions I often use the phrase, ‘Tell me more about that’.
On a Sunday, pre and post service is the time when lots of people are wanting to speak with you.
I’m sure you have been in a situation when whilst talking with someone, their eyes have been darting all over the room, obviously distracted and sending a clear message they are not interested in you or what you are saying.
I have made a conscious decision that when I am listening to someone I look them in the eye and give them my full attention. I have determined, that to the best of my ability, I will not be the cause of anyone feeling under-valued.
If the person is settling in for a lengthy conversation, I will respectfully interrupt and ask them to ring me during the week when I will have the time available to talk with them.
6. SET CLEAR BOUNDARIES
Analyse your week on a day by day basis to identify where the intense pressure points are.
Declare these time slots as people free, phone free or I am not available times. Don’t book any people appointments during these times and put your phone on silent.
People generally think you should be available for them at the time they need you and at a time that is convenient for them. I found the time slot around our evening meal was a pressure point, so I was mostly unavailable during that time.
7. TRAIN YOUR PEOPLE
There are times when your people do not realise they are behaving badly simply because no one has explained, or taught them, how to behave nicely. This is called discipleship.
- One way for this to take place is to include an occasional ‘family chat’ segment on a Sunday. We established this in our church. John would say something like, ‘Time for a family chat church’, and then proceed with whatever the problem or issue was which needed to be addressed.
Asking the church not to contact us on our day off, unless it was an absolute emergency, was covered in one such chat
- Another way is to take advantage of one on one moments. Have the courage to step into the training moment when it occurs. After the family chat about respecting our day off, one of our congrants rang me. When I answered, the person began with, ‘Pastor, I know it’s your day off, but…’ I politely interrupted them by saying, ‘Yes, it is’. Then I asked, ‘Is this call in relation to an emergency?’ When they replied, ‘Um, well, no’. I said, ‘Well, what say you call me tomorrow and we can talk then. Bye for now’. And I terminated the call.
Once you have set your boundaries, you must stick to them and be diligent to enforce them because if you don’t, you will lose your credibility and train your people to think, ‘She doesn’t really mean that!’ thus allowing them to continue to behave badly.’
8. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Emergencies, crisis and the unexpected will happen. They will most often happen at a time which is inconvenient for you and your family.
People normally don’t check the church calendar to ensure they don’t die while you are away on a much needed holiday. They will commit suicide the week before Christmas or have a hospital emergency on your planned family night.
Press into God for an abundance of His grace.
9. PROTECT YOUR HEART
People will hurt you with their actions and their words.
People will disappoint you, cause anger to rise within, frustrate you and give ample opportunity for you to go the extra long-suffering mile. Ensure you always put on your breastplate armour, to protect your heart. Eph 6:14
10. IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU
I think one of the toughest realities to learn in pastoring is that you are there for your people, and they are not there for you.
As a pastor’s wife, you pray for your people, care for them, carry them before God, teach them how to live life well, believe in them, disciple them, visit them, and enjoy doing life with them.
But your perspective is somewhat different to theirs. You are the shepherd and they are the sheep. You have been called by God to care for them, they have not been called by God to care for you. Getting a handle on this and coming to a place of peace with the reality of it, will help keep your expectations of your people in perspective. It will also limit the occasions for you to be hurt unintentionally by them.
We have all been created in God’s image. Each person is unique, special, valued and deeply loved by God and He has entrusted me, trusted you, with the awesome responsibility to shepherd them for Him.