Leader to Leader, Leadership

Three Ways I Stay Connected to the 3,000 Members in Our Congregation

August 15, 2016 | Posted by Randy Raasch

My mother comes from a very small town in north central Illinois. As I grew up we would travel to visit my relatives on my mother’s side of the family a couple times each year. I don’t get to that town too often anymore, but this past fall my wife and I traveled with my parents for a visit. While we were in town we stopped at a local establishment for dinner. We walked through the door and the locals turned to see who was entering. As we entered, Bob greeted my father. Bob has been the town’s mayor for years. Everyone in town knows Bob. He grew up in that town, works in that town and spends time with the people of that town. Although my father didn’t grow up in that town and only visited a few times a year, Bob remembered him, got up from his table, greeted my father by name and spent a few minutes with my father to get caught up. I was impressed.

This event reminds me how important personal relationships are. My challenge is staying connected with the 3,000 souls of our congregation and the more than 20,000 citizens of our community. It’s easy to get caught up in all the administrative responsibilities like budgets and buildings, personnel and publicity, strategic planning and visioning and neglect relationships.

I find it necessary to stop, look and listen.

  • It is important to stop and take time to connect with people. Greeting worshipers as they enter the building is a joy. Just a handshake, a smile and a word of welcome is a great connection. Staying after meetings to chat with people is revealing. We don’t talk about the meeting. Instead we talk about their family, their job and their lives in general. Welcoming students and parents as they enter our school each weekday morning let’s people know we’re available. In each of these situations there are times people will ask if they could set up a meeting to talk with their pastor. Stopping to spend a moment with someone opens doors.
  • The responsibilities of a large congregation often keep me on campus. It is vital to take time to get out of the building and look at what’s going on in our community. Working on a sermon at the local coffee shop, strolling down the main street, attending local community events opens our eyes to the community. It’s important to see what’s going on in the community where our people live and work.
  • Listening is the most important element of communication. Surveys and open forums allow us to listen to our people. Asking the members of Bible class what they would like to study provides a window into their spiritual lives. Having the leaders of the congregation evaluate ministry gives important input. Spending time with leaders of the community provides information that will assist us in developing our mission to our neighborhoods.

A wise man once said that a good shepherd smells like his sheep. As leaders we need to be among the people we serve. This enables us to understand how we can best serve them.

Randy Raasch
Randy Raasch has served as pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church of Cedarburg, Wisconsin for 27 years. He has been an adjunct professor of theology at Concordia University Wisconsin since 1990. His personal mission statement is, I serve God by serving others.