Ministry is about people. Yes, we must have policies, but our policies should be in place to serve and help people, not bind and limit people.
"It's about using policies to serve people, not making people subservient to policies."
I was reading in the book of Matthew the other day and was reminded of this.
Here's what happened. Jesus and His disciples were walking through grain fields on the sabbath.
The disciples were hungry. And so they plucked some of the grain to eat.
The Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of the day, had a hissy-fit. They strictly followed the policies of the day, one of which was to not "work" on the sabbath day (plucking grain to eat was considered work). When they saw the disciples put their hunger needs before the "official policies," here is what they said to Jesus.
"Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath." Matthew 12:2
They cared more about policies than they did about people.
How did Jesus respond to their legalistic way of thinking? Here's what He said.
"The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath."
Jesus was saying people are more important than petty policies.
In your ministry, do you put people before policies?
When I talk about putting people before policies - one thing to keep in mind is this. Policies that are in place to protect and keep kids safe should always be followed. This includes policies like background checks for volunteers, no one being alone with a child, showing a pick-up tag before a child is released, etc.
Besides these type of policies, you have other policies that are in place, that can be by-passed at times if it means helping people.
Here's an example.
Let's say you have a policy that doesn't allow people to check-in their kids after 20 minutes into the service. Nothing wrong with having that policy in place.
But what if a first-time family walks through the door 30 minutes after service has started and there is no other service they can attend that day?
If you are a "policy before people" ministry, then you would tell them, "Sorry, we have a policy that says we don't allow kids to check in after 20 minutes into the service. You are welcome to sit in the lobby though and watch on the tv screen."
But if you put people before policy, this is a situation where you make an exception to the policy and you let them check their kids into the room.
To navigate this effectively, it's crucial that you train your volunteers on which policies are rigid and which policies can be bent when needed to help people. Then you can empower them to make the decision of people vs. policy when a situation arises.
Churches that put policies first focus on rules. Churches that put people first focus on relationships.
Churches that put policies first say "we don't do that." Churches that put people first say "let me find a way to make it happen."
Churches that put policies first are all about guidelines. Churches that put people first are all about grace.
Churches that put policies first stop at the first mile. Churches that put people first go past the guidelines of the first mile and to the second mile to help people.
Churches that put policies first look for ways to shut people down. Churches that put people first look for ways to build people up.
Churches that put policies first inhibit. Churches that put people first inspire.
Churches that put policies first bind. Churches that put people first bless.
Churches that put policies first reflect the heart of the Pharisees. Churches that put people first reflect the heart of Jesus.
The story of Jesus and the disciples eating grain on the Sabbath is a great reminder of what really matters. Meeting the needs of people.
Just as the disciples were physically hungry, there will be families walk in the doors of your church this week that are spiritually hungry. More than anything, they need to encounter the love and grace of Jesus. Let this overshadow everything else.