Until Eric Geiger’s move to Lifeway just over two years ago, Eric had spent his career serving as a minister in the local church. With God’s blessing clearly evident on the work Eric was doing, he most recently served as an executive and teaching pastor at Christ Fellowship in the Miami area.
Now Eric ministers to ministers as a Lifeway Vice-President, and leads its Church Resources Division. Through that role, his influence in leadership, speaking, and writing has reached evangelical Christians serving churches, both as paid staff and volunteers.
Eric has not given up his love for or service to the local church since being at Lifeway. He continues to serve the local church in interim and volunteer roles. However, a new position, outside of the day-to-day work of local church ministry has provided Eric a different perspective. Once having the perspective of a church minister, now he has one more similar to a church members’ view of the church and its ministers.
I recently interviewed Eric about the misunderstandings that ministers and church members have of each other and what advice Eric has on how each group can better understand each other, for the purpose of working more synergistically.
My questions are in bold, followed by his responses:
Now that you’ve stepped away from full-time local church leadership, has your perspective changed regarding church leadership?
In some sense, my perspective has changed because I interact more regularly with local expressions of the body of Christ in more locations than I did while serving exclusively in one church. Through that lens, I see more and more how each church is unique because the local communities are unique and diverse. At the same time, I also have more firmly realized that many issues are not unique at all. For example:
- People need the gospel preached to their hearts continually.
- Churches must develop their leaders or the body won’t be as mature as she should be.
- Healthy leaders lead healthy churches.
- Churches must move people to participate with one another in community, not just merely attend and associate with one another.
So I have a sense that churches are unique in some ways and a stronger view that many important aspects of church life are not unique at all.
How are ministers often misread or misrepresented by members within the church?
I don’t think it is possible to know fully the burden that ministers carry—a blessed burden, but a burden nonetheless—unless you have served as a minister. Because of that, I think some church members at every church will saddle the ministers with expectations that are completely unrealistic and unhealthy.
What do church ministers most often misread or misunderstand about church members?
As I interact with people who don’t see me as “a pastor at that church,” I realize more and more how little the average person who attends church thinks about church throughout the week.
The implication for me in this observation is that church leaders are wise to give simple and clear direction about what the church is about and where the church is headed. Over-communicate the important things. People are bombarded with a plethora of messages, so give clarity of mission and clarity of direction.
What advice would you give ministers to help them better understand the average person in the church?
Smell like sheep. Be among people.
What are the biggest needs of church ministry leaders?
Training is going to be a continually increasing need for church leaders, for at least two reasons:
(1) Churches are more frequently hiring from within the church. They are hiring people who have not served in full-time ministry before and have not received formal ministerial education. These churches will need to develop leadership development pathways for the new staff members they bring on the team.
(2) Ministry is becoming more and more specific in terms of the needs that people in the congregations face, and many ministers have no specific training around the new challenges facing churches today.
Healthy churches will not only have trained ministers, but they will have trained ministers who excel in training all of God’s people for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13).
I am grateful for Eric’s time and wisdom, and if by chance you don’t know about Eric, his books, read his blog or follow him by Twitter, I highly recommend that you do–you won’t be disappointed.