“They don’t deserve your investment.” BAM! That statement hit me like a ton of bricks.
This was said to me while I was serving a congregation, a ministry situation that was killing me. I stopped breathing for a second when my coach said these words to me.
My thought went like this – that’s not theologically correct. “Deserve” doesn’t have a place in Christian vernacular. Everyone is deserving and worthy because of who God is, not because of how we behave.
Did this statement have some truth to it? It sure sounded true to me.
“They haven’t earned your investment,” my coach restated. Now THAT was something I could wrap my head and theology around. No, in fact, they had not. I researched my investment (counted the cost, as Jesus puts it). I willingly went, excited for what ministry and mission might be possible in partnership with this congregation.
It is one thing to enter into a new ministry setting and work to gain trust and build relationships. I get that. I did that. But I was the one doing all the work. I was invested more than the congregation.
These words from my coach helped me see what I could not. That this was a two-way street, that this relationship was one-sided, and that I was doing all the work. There’s a saying in coaching, “don’t work harder than your client.” Well, this saying goes for pastors too. “Don’t work harder than your congregation.”
Is your congregation showing returns on your investment in them? If not, it might be time to challenge them by holding up a mirror to your investment in them. It’s an easy metaphor to understand. If you have a savings account, you get the concept. You get something out when you put something in. Even if rates of return are low, you still get something back.
It is acceptable to challenge the people in whom you are invested.