(Part 2) Proactivity vs. Reactivity in the Deaf Church: Learning to Thrive in the Decline
I met with my pastor-friend again as agreed. He had been telling me about the struggles of his church in a time of what many would describe as a time of decline.
He opened up by telling me what he had noticed in his church, the thoughts and feelings he was working through.
As a response, the Lord led me to share a similar conversation that I had with another senior-pastor friend. The senior-pastor, in his wisdom, asked me, point-blank, “Rick, are you called to pastor, or are you called to manage the church?”
As church pastors and leaders, we must realize that we have TWO options for every obstacle, journey, objective, vision, mission, and value that we envision. These two options provide the tools through which we can navigate ministry experiences, whether good or bad.
Those options are our Reactive Responses and our Proactive Responses. We too often are living on ONE and neglecting the other, often to our own peril.
It seems that many pastors and leaders are experts in REACTION but are novices in being PROACTIVE. Many leaders are experts in focusing on being proactive and are eliminating the practice of reaction, altogether.
Every perspective to be successful in resolution must have BOTH an understanding of reaction, and a plan for proactivity.
Pastors, being involved in a reactive ministry is defined as “an ability to respond to obvious needs in powerful and effective ways.” This is accentuated with a focus on the proactive ministry, which is defined as “an ability to see into the future, plan ahead with intention, and organize to deal with future developments.” Most pastors struggle with this aspect of resource management which creates the catatonic, immobilized ministerial reaction that I often see.
For Deaf churches, it is important to understand that true proactivity produces understanding, and awareness for the church to react with speed, efficiency, and precision. A well-developed disaster response team with clear leaders and designated resources can quickly pivot and move with the church, becoming effective with built-in organization. For example, using a sign-up software program to quickly organize folks who are willing to share a meal with a grieving family is something that can be activated quickly. Developing a team focused on communicating stories of hope and healing, while spreading the good news of the Gospel, using social media as a platform reaches and engages its members.
Worship is an interesting category to consider when thinking about these complementary strategies. Worship planning in many Deaf churches is still primarily reactive. It is still done week to week. In these cases, the Deaf pastor is so busy “reacting” to the many typical crises of a pastoral and administrative nature in the typical congregation, that worship planning becomes a kind of struggle to survive every Sunday. Developing worship planning teams that work farther ahead, develop ideas together, and share the workload. Proactivity, rather, makes the end result richer and more rewarding.
Of course, a more obvious dysfunction between reactivity and proactivity in the church is stewardship. Most Deaf churches are still largely reactive in their thinking about stewardship. The inability to develop and communicate a plan for stewardship forces us to react throughout the year to constant budgetary shortfalls by making dramatic appeals as necessary. It’s nerve wracking and promotes anxiety among leaders. This is not a faithful model of discipleship, neither is it nearly the best model for consistency. We all become habituated to responding in a reactive manner. But, as I have learned, being proactive as a leader is better, healthier, and more conducive to positive church discipleship.
In many ways church pastors and leaders must come to the place where the church, as we have always done it must die, and the new church must be raised in the newness of Christ before it can grow and be effective.
Some thoughtful questions to ask yourself:
In what ways do you see your congregation being proactive?
In what ways, if you’re honest, are you functioning as a primarily reactive ministry?
Do you feel like you are lunging from crisis to crisis?
Do you feel the peace of a long-range, organized, strategic approach to your goals?
Who called you? Why did you accept the call? How are you fulfilling the call that you received? How will you know that you have fulfilled the call?
Are you reacting to the current crisis at hand? Or, are you sensing a REACTION is necessary and that you are now beginning to develop a plan or PROACTION to meet that need? Remember, you cannot do one, neglect the other, and expect to be successful!
Catch Part 1 of the story here