We are in an age of mega-church mentality, Christian hero-worship, the bigger-is-better delusion, and the Pastor as CEO model of doing church. The “successful pastor” is one whose congregation has crested 3,000, whose book has edged into “Recommended for You” list on Amazon, and whose blog is cruising along with 4,509 RSS subscribers. He is getting invited to speak at conferences, and he even wears designer jeans with graphic Ts. This pastor has truly arrived. What does he lack?
Possibly, he lacks accessibility.
What Is Accessibility?
It is possible that “accessibility” has been forgotten in the information-tech, high-speed, plugged-in, online, media-driven age. When caught up in the adrenalin-pumping excitement of a multi-thousand-member congregation, the concept of accessibility wafts away like an unpleasant odor, disintegrating into oblivion. Traveling to other churches, the next major conference, and the Christian leadership summit, the busy pastor is more like a powerful executive–distant, unapproachable, and too high-and-mighty for the needs of the little commoners who fear and tremble in his sometimes presence. Like the too-busy apostles in the big church at Jerusalem, who were “serving tables” (Acts 6:1-2), today’s pastors are serving the administrative needs of vast churches, effectively harboring themselves from any one of those many members, and building themselves into an unreachable corner of inaccessibility.
You want to get in touch? Sure, shoot me a text. You want to feel like you’re in touch? Subscribe to my Twitter feed, or at least check out my blog now and then. Man, if you feel that lonely, at least write on my Facebook wall. I’ll see it.
Accessibility goes beyond the impersonal stream of electrons, luminous screens, and iPhone 4s, despite the unmistakable coolness of gadgets. However powerful technology will become, it should not substitute for the one-on-one personal meeting between pastor and people. Shepherds don’t shepherd from afar. They shepherd among the flock. There is always a need for counseling. Always a need for prayer. Always a need to help others on a personal basis. However busy he may be, the pastor cannot neglect this crucial task.
Some Words about Accessibility
Few pastors will be able to personally counsel, disciple, or meet with every one of their members on a regular basis. A pastor who meets with people all the time, to the neglect of his family, his own soul, or his preaching, has gone too far in one direction. A balance is important. Accessibility does mean overcommitting yourself, burning out, and unbalancing your time. Accessibility means that you maintain an approachable spirit, have a way to stay close to your people, and are open to meeting, talking, and helping people.
As you seek to cultivate accessibility, remember that your family is of the utmost importance. If you neglect your family, you have, in effect, neglected your ministry. In your role of equipping believers, you must realize that your first responsibility is to your wife and children. Keep them in center stage. Give them the best of your time.
How to Be Accessible
1.Rethinking the Paradigm. To cultivate the practice of pastoral access, today’s pastors should rethink the contemporary paradigm. Is bigger better? Is it in the best interests of God’s glory and Kingdom advancement to grow a larger church? Might it not be more effective to start more local churches? Give this some thought to see if your personal aspirations and growth strategies may be short-circuiting the pursuit of pastoral accessibility.
2. Plurality of godly leadership. The church is not a one-man show. If you are doing it all as a pastor, you are doing it wrong. You should have the assistance of godly elders and deacons in your administration and shepherding responsibilities. Although you can never personally disciple and counsel every individual in the church, you should have a number of colaborers who can help to fill this role.
3. Stick around church before and after. When you’ve finished preaching, go somewhere to meet people. Whether it’s stepping down from the platform or standing at the door to greet, make sure that people can see you, speak to you, and greet you.
4. Be kind and personable, and not just on a surface level. Some pastors are adept at being artificially kind. Other pastors just have a tough time putting a smile on their face, and showing their joy. Accessibility has a lot to do with expressing an outward appearance of kindness and graciousness.
5. Let people know that you want to help. It never hurts to explain to people your willingness to help them personally. You may want to mention from the pulpit, “If you would like to get further help on this issue, please speak to me or give me a call.”
6. Invite people to your home. I know of one pastor, who led a 1,000-member congregation, who was able to invite every family in the church to his home over the course of 2-3 years. While not every pastor may be able to do that (or should), it is nonetheless a sign of Christian hospitality (which is a requirement for a pastor, 1 Tim 3:2) and loving shepherding. Bring your people into your home. Meet with them. Talk with them. It is an excellent way to cultivate accessibility.
Few pastors will ever be satisfied with their level of accessibility, but it is important to work at this important pastoral practice. As you pray and seek God’s help, He will give you greater ability in the important pastoral practice of accessibility.