A "birder" is someone who has devoted a lot of time to learning about birds of all kinds and how they differ from one another. While I don't own a pair of binoculars and would not consider myself to be a "birder," it occurred to me that pastors really need to learn the difference between a self-realized duck and a duck who thinks its a chicken. Confused? Stick with me. This will make sense in just a few inches of reading....
After hatching, a mother duck leads her tiny little ducklings to water to show them why they have webbed feet, how much fun it is to float on the water and how easy it will become to grab a fish snack when they get the hang of it. She lays her eggs on dry land and is fully capable of living on dry land and eating bugs. Ducks are quite happy and in their element when they have water in which to swim, and will go to great lengths to find water. For example, if you put ducks in a pen on land and put a small pail of water in that pen, each one of those ducks will climb into that tiny pail of water in hopes to float around in it.
Chickens are not designed for water. They're all about the land and only the land. Throw a chicken in a pond and, well, it will not survive (according to my good friend who is a farmer and has both on his farm).
Now transfer this important information to your church.
Pastors know their traditional, pew-warming church members are ducks deep down inside, and certainly built for water. However, they're really ducks who have been raised as chickens! In fact, they don't even see themselves as water foul. Their webbed feet have never seen water, and they really have no idea why their feet are webbed in the first place, even though the pastor reminds them about duck life and overall ducky-ness every single Sunday during the services they attend.
The pastor doesn't see that the ducks don't know about water, don't care about water, and that they view themselves as chickens. Yet he launches small groups and urges the ducks (who genuinely think they're chickens) to join groups and start swimming around and eating fish and being, well, ducky!
Small groups work well for Christians who are missional at heart and see the potential to be more successful at being missional if they were organized with others to work as a team. Small groups do not flourish when populated with people who see a duck with a beak when they look in the mirror.
This is why a slow implementation toward a group-driven church model is so important. You must take each disillusioned duck to the edge of the pond and prove to him that he is not a chicken. Show him his webbed feet. Show him his bill and how excellent it is for catching fish. Prove to him that he can float and be quite good at moving around on top of the water. And all of this must be done with a great deal of care and demonstration by you, the most duck-like person your church members know.
Pastor, it's time to become a people birder, one who really understands that small groups do not magically transform people who think they're chickens into mission-driven ducks just because you asked them to meet in homes and do good things for one another and unchurched people.
The process is slow, highly relational, and requires experiences to show people how to pray, reach friends for Christ, and disciple them as a spiritual parent. Without these areas embedded into the very DNA of your small group ministry, you'll just drown a bunch of little peckers.
As a true birder, one who chases rare birds across America, and a small group leader at my church, this article spoke to me.
My church recently started a new THRIVE ministry which includes 4 elements. Worship, Grow (group), Serve and Mission. Small group members find Worship and Grow easy but getting everyone to step up and Serve is a challenge. After weeks of encouraging and talking about the Serve opportunities, I think each duckling is dipping at least one webbed foot in. I'm praying their second foot follows. When someone suggested I didn't need to do more than serve as a small group leader, I couldn't bear it. What example would I be if I only stepped into one area, staying within the box? I stepped out of my comfort zone to serve in an area I'm not accustomed to. I pray that I always lead by example.
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