Someone suggested that pastoring an international Church is like pastoring a parade – people come for a period of time (typically they are on 2 or 3 year contracts) and then leave! At Oasis International Church in East Asia, we are losing more than 25% of our congregation this July!
Relationally this is very difficult for those who are staying. They’ve invested 2 or 3 years, sometimes more, with these people. It is hard to say farewell and challenging to build new relationships with new people every 2 or 3 years!
As you can imagine, having such a turnover of people has a significant impact on the sustainability of ministries and also on the leadership of the Church. So, what can we do about this? I believe we need to change our mind set in three key areas:
Firstly, we need to continually remind ourselves that the Church belongs to God and that he sees a much bigger, more global and less time bound picture, than we do.
Secondly, we need to accept that this “parade” is our reality here at Oasis and therefore we need to find ways of maximising the input and the output that people have during their time in East Asia. Part of this means taking greater “risks” in terms of encouraging people into roles of responsibility much more quickly than we might in other situations.
Thirdly, we need to see ourselves as an equipping and sending church. As people are being equipped they are encouraged to use their gifts within Oasis and the within the community. When they leave here, we are able to send them out with joy, better equipped to serve in their next place of ministry. Those who stay are able to and welcome newcomers as fellow travellers, and as people they can help to equip to serve here and also to send elsewhere at the end of their time in East Asia.
Pastoring a parade is fun, but definitely has its challenges!
Neil serves as Pastor at Oasis International Church in East Asia