I just completed a survey that our church is conducting prior to our search for a permanent pastor. As I proceeded to respond to the over 100 questions, I noticed that when asked, specifically, my feelings or opinions…that I was somewhat surprised as to my answers.
For instance if you were being surveyed as to your employment satisfaction, should you be asked if you are satisfied with your job…you might check that you are very satisfied. However if the next question was, do you believe that your supervisor cares about your success, you may check the box of …tend to disagree. It seems that we are prone to paint, the blanket-opinion of our environment with a broad brush, when the nuances of what makes up that opinion are complex.
At the conclusion of the survey, there was a paragraph in the explanation section of the instrument. It was a response to the inquiry, ‘why would there be a need to ask each member of the congregation of the church when there is elected leadership that are tasked with representing the will of the people?’ The answer was that church leaders tend to identify with a small group of the congregation and are not good barometers of the thoughts of the congregation, as a whole. I have found this to be true for the entirety of my adult life, both in churches that I have been a member of and throughout my career at SIUC.
Loud voices tend to be heard, more clearly. I had a supervisor, once, who decided that my department was comprised of a certain type of person, that was representative of the few members of the staff that he knew because of complaints or concerns that they had expressed to him. From the time of his ‘blanket-decision’ forward…his comments to me, on a weekly basis, would be that he did not know how I succeed with the staff that I had. I continually had to fight the biased opinion that he had developed regarding a group of the hard working, and intelligent, and well educated, colleagues, that he had, mentally, pigeonholed into a corner of limited potential and possibilities.
Church congregations tend to have strong voices among the group. Often these voices speak for the people that they work with in mission or ministry…while many of the silent majority of the congregation are assumed to be in agreement with leaders…if for no other reason than their silence signifying assent. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Many christians live and die believing that their opinion is neither sought by leadership or if it is…it will be discounted if it is in disagreement with leadership.
Families leave churches due to their understanding that no one really cared what they thought…or how they felt. Many members of congregations are searching for someone to give voice to the voiceless.
The comprehensive survey, that I concluded today, was a beautiful tool to examine my nuanced thoughts and feelings regarding a church that I love and have been a member of for over 20 years. The revelations of my answers caused me to think of how healthy it is to survey other areas of life. It is important to understand why you are engaged in the activities that you are in the midst of…and what you may want to change about facets of those activities and dedications.
Let me tell you a little secret…no one will ever care more about your opinion and feelings…than you do. No one will be a more powerful advocate for you ideas…than you are.
It is incumbent on church leadership, as well as supervisor and managers and administrators in the work-place, to hear the voice of the silent majority. It is imperative to be a voice for the voiceless.