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In the past, I've dealt with the question, "How much will your people commit to"? It is based upon an assumption that people do make commitments. Today, I want to focus on practical ideas to help you cultivate your congregation's willingness to make commitments.

I am not unsympathetic to the struggles and frustrations of commitment issues. In my own current involvement of church leadership, I experience last minute cancellations, broken promises, and people who seem to not want to get "in the game."

But I remain encouraged, because this is not the norm, and frankly, the "commitment issue" will never go away.

People are people; they're human. It's because they exist and Christ died for them that we do what we do! My desire is that by the end of this article you will be encouraged too.

1. Embrace the idea that people do make commitments.
People do make commitments—and keep them. They make little commitments, like showing up on time for dinner at a restaurant for fun with friends. They make big commitments, like 30-year mortgages on their home for huge sums of money. They make commitments to churches too!

I want you to consider that from a leadership vantage point it does little to no good to focus on what people won't do. That only wastes time and energy, and it discourages you. To concentrate on the negative can make the issue even worse than it really is—what is perceived is taken for the truth.

There is no end to the commitments people make. Kids make commitments to paper routes, adults make commitments to tennis lessons, and employees make commitments to their bosses.

Don't lose sight of this fact.

You are simply after your piece of the "market share" of the infinite number of commitments people make.

2. Be intentional and strategic in the commitments.
Another article I wrote, "You Get More When You Ask For Less," focused on placing a "limit" on how many different commitments you will ask of a person, such as Sunday church, ministry involvement, and small group participation.

Requests for multiple commitments result in less response than when you limit your requests. I encourage you to become very strategic and intentional in what commitments you desire to see from your congregation.

3. Make sure you are committed before you ask for commitment.
OK, can we get a little personal? Don't ask for commitment to anything that you are not completely sold out to yourself. If you are half-hearted or uncertain about something, don't ask the people to participate.

This doesn't mean that you attend and do everything—you can't and shouldn't. It does mean, however, that with full integrity you never stand before the people declaring something to be a priority that isn't a priority in the life of the church or in your own life.

4. Be certain that the person, group, or entire congregation can see the genuine value in the commitment before you ask them to participate.
The most precious commodity is time, and it's a finite resource. As church leaders, your great challenge is to create productive environments where meaningful relationships are experienced within your congregation.

In order for commitment to happen, these church relationships must meet an equal or greater need than both the demands of their job and the pleasure of their entertainment. This is a big challenge, but we have no choice but to rise to it.

Bottom line...people commit to their work and play because they find value in it. They must see the value in what you ask of them. (This is not meant to suggest that their work or play is not important, but only to raise the bar for church leaders to think in terms of cultivating commitment.)

5. Always connect the commitment to the mission and values of your church.
When you ask for anything that appears disconnected to the primary mission of the church, or is not in alignment with your values, commitment will begin to decline. People want to know how they can make a difference and that they are part of a worthy cause—the cause of Christ, a cause that does not vary or drift.

Using your mission and values as a commitment "plumb line" will help you from becoming distracted. This focus will greatly strengthen your ability to cultivate commitment. The people will begin to sense in a deeper way that there is significant value because of your consistency, focus, and passion.

6. Make commitment personal and specific.
When you call for commitment, invest yourself in the process by "owning the asking." This is done by making a personal connection by saying something like, "I want you to..." or "I need you to..." or "Together we will..." etc.

The more specific you can be, the better. For example, don't say, "Small groups are important and you will be blessed if you join one." Say something like, "My wife and I both attend a small group and our lives have been changed because of it. I'm asking you to join a small group because I care about you, and I want you to receive this blessing too."

7. Forgive those who fail in their commitments.
No matter how much God blesses the process or what you do or how masterful you get at raising the bar of commitment; there will always be people who let you down.

Some will do this because they are not yet spiritually mature, others because they have gaps in their character, and some because their schedules are out of control—extend grace to all of them.

In the case of leadership positions, gracefully offer them a "sabbatical" or other creative ways to preserve their dignity, while at the same time placing someone in that position who is ready for the commitment.

If your people sense judgment or condemnation, even if it's behind a disciplined smile and a friendly tone of voice, they will feel the judgment. This often de-motivates them from trying to grow in their maturity and commitment to Christ. Love them where they are and encourage them to live at a higher level.

This article is used by permission from
Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter
The Pastor's Coach available at

Author Biography

Dan Reiland
Web site: 12 Stone Church
Dan Reiland is Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

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