You Are Only As Good As Your List

I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” – Revelation 3:15-16

Funny that we humans tend to fear failure when lukewarm is the real danger, according to the risen Jesus.  The Holy Spirit brought this verse to mind recently, challenging me to survey my life and get honest about the places where I’m practicing “lukewarm living.”  There are obvious places, of course.  I’m never going to get that early morning devotional hour right.  I stink at being kind to strangers and even neighbors.

Then there are the not-so-obvious places, like list-keeping.  As I explore ways to “warm up” the way I relate to others as a pastor, I am discovering that the lists I keep are a way I can treasure people.  In fact, I hear the Holy Spirit teaching me that lists are a key to both treasuring and mobilizing lay people.

Simply put, a good list sparked by the fuel of the Holy Spirit can start a fire.  If our lists are not current, accurate and hopeful, how can we expect the people in our communities to know what we’re doing, what is needed and what is effectively drawing down the Kingdom into our midst?

With that in mind, here are a few questions to help you get started on the path toward building a better list of people:

Is your list current?

Does your list include everyone who is involved at any level right now in your ministry?  Is your leadership list up to date?  Is your participant list up to date? Does it include the latest information on every person?  Do you have a clear and easy system, so the information can be accessed quickly when the need arises?

And are you sensitive in the ways you communicate, both to those just joining and those who have asked to step away?

A few months ago, I found myself on one Board too many.  I asked to be removed from a Board on which I was serving.  I sent a nicely worded email explaining my decision to be removed.  I heard nothing.  Meanwhile, group emails for this Board continued to include me so I had no idea whether or not they’d gotten my notice.  I emailed again.  No response.  I called.  No return call … and still, the group emails kept coming.  Finally, I got a response and not that I needed it, but I noticed that the last communication I received included no “thanks for serving” or even a word of understanding.  They just dropped me.

Meanwhile, I noticed recently just how well another Board on which I serve honors those who step down.  They held a dinner, gave a gift and said nice things about those people who were leaving.  It was a great way to honor people who had given time and gifts to that organization.

Keeping a current list helps you honor people (see, hear and treasure them) as they come and go.

Is your list accurate?

Does it include all contact info (phone, email, Facebook, street address, work number, birthdate … anything that might connect you meaningfully to others)?  Does your list reflect life changes?  People notice when they are still listed with a spouse after a divorce, for instance. You may not have made that mental shift yet, but they certainly have.  Caring for that informational change shows respect and sensitivity.

Is your list hopeful?

Does your list include not only current volunteers/leaders/participants, but also emerging volunteers/leaders/participants?  I’m thinking about the person who might be on the verge of a new level of involvement, the person who isn’t there now but could be.  Our youth pastor has developed a list of current leaders, a list of potential leaders and another list of “potential-potential” leaders. This list is one of his discipleship tools.

An active list helps us cultivate the potential in others, leading them from “lukewarm” to “on fire.”  Who needs to be on your list, so they can begin to receive more regular communication from you, so they can begin to get acclimated to the next level of involvement?  Lists that focus on emerging leaders are a great tool for intentionally mobilizing laity.

Most of all, is your list being used?

Healthy, consistent communication requires a list and a list helps us to consistently, effectively communicate.

Are people hearing from you regularly, beyond the time they take to walk into the building?  Are they receiving regular, constructive communication from you mid-week?  Back in my marketing days, we used to say, “If you want your list to work, then work your list.”  Its true.  If we want to flatten the power structure in our churches, if we want to involve more and more volunteers in ministry, if we want to see every member engaged and using their gifts, we have to immerse them in the culture of our community.  And that happens with healthy, consistent communication — communicating the needs, inviting participation, building the relationships, strengthening the connections.

Bottom line:  A current, accurate and hopeful list is a way to treasure people.  It keeps the fires of the Holy Spirit stoked.  It communicates, “You are part of the family and your life matters.”

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Carolyn Moore is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. She was born and raised in Augusta, Georgia and graduated from the University of Georgia (B.A. – Religion, 1985) and Asbury Theological Seminary (Masters of Divinity, 1998). In June of 2003, she was appointed home again to the Augusta area, where she and her family were given the joy of birthing Mosaic United Methodist Church. Mosaic focuses on reaching people in the margins. In more than ten years of weekly worship, Mosaic has seen more than 130 baptisms and hundreds of professions of faith. A satellite ministry serves adults with disabilities in downtown Augusta.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Wow. This is a super practical and necessary article. More and more I have been thinking of deliberateness and why it is important in ministry. This hits the nail on the head.

    I have had versions of this floating around in my notebook and other places, but this is a great reason to be more intentional.

    Thanks!

  2. Carolyn, Allison sent this to me and it is real good, especially the part about thanksgiving. I would only make two small suggestions.
    “Is your list growing”? You hit on this in your “hopeful” section. Growth shows vitality.
    The other small but important issue, “Are all your lists the same”. A lot of times in a parish we see the same “movers and shakers”, doing everything. Whether we are talking about outreach to new members, assistance to the poor or taking care of the altar, the same names keep showing up. This isn’t a bad thing unless those folks “burn out”. Sometimes the issue arises BECAUSE the Pastor has their “go-to” list that they keep using. No matter how many times you invite from the pulpit or in the bulletin, some folks need a more personal touch. Perhaps we should take our global lists, exclude present leadership, and then send out the requests for help. New blood on committees bring the global experience to the table and can help the ministry.

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