Why You Should Listen to Your Congregation When They Vote with Their Feet

It’s an old phrase, but one that I find extremely helpful as a leader.

It’s “voting with their feet.”

So many times we wonder about the validity or value of something when the answer is patently clear: people have voted with their feet. Meaning they aren’t coming, supporting, inviting…you fill in the quantitative blank.

The point is that they have given you the feedback you need.

I’ve had numerous conversations with leaders over the years about the value of this or that, and in the end, it comes back to a simple assessment: people have voted with their feet. They don’t want it, need it, or care about it. It doesn’t matter how good the idea was on paper, how passionate a particular individual might have been for the enterprise, or even the handful of “fruit” stories that might have emerged from its efforts.

Now, let me qualify this in two important ways.

First, this does not mean you only give people what they want. That is a consumer-driven church, and that leads to heresy. Or at least a superficial faith.

So I’m not talking about doctrine, disciplines or anything else that would be put on a “doesn’t matter whether it’s popular it’s essential” list.

But I am talking about programs and ministries that are in the “good” but “non-essential” camp that people “vote” on in a way that good leaders should pay very close attention to.

Here’s why:

You have a limited amount of energy, resources, finances, volunteers, square footage and time. You are called to fulfill the Great Commission with both tenacity and wisdom. As a result, it would be foolish to allocate anything to a non-strategic path.

Now the second qualifier applies to the above-mentioned “handful of fruit stories” comment. Jesus was very clear in the parable of the talents that we are to be shrewd investors of time, talent, treasure…anything that is ours to be managed. Of course I can mobilize 100 people to fan out across a city for door-to-door visitation and witnessing and get one or two stories of receptivity.

But what if I took that same mobilizing energy and used it in a way that resulted in over 1,000 lives changed for Christ? Isn’t that what we should be wrestling with? The Holy Spirit will honor Himself as the Word is proclaimed in whatever fashion (at least, I believe He will), but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t honor even more those efforts that seek to maximize His witness to the world in ways that are most effective.

So here’s the leadership question:

Where aren’t you paying attention to the vote?

Read more from James here.

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James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
— Debra
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
— Laurie
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)

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