Addressing Fear

By Pastor Teresa Smith


What happens when fear takes hold of a group?


I have found that fear gets in the way of progress. I had been helping one struggling church redefine itself and grow. I preached hope and faith, and projected great confidence that good things were ahead. One person in the church did food demonstrations at a local grocery store on Saturdays. She began telling everyone about the good things happening at the church. We connected the Scout troop and Church Preschool to the church and two or three families joined the church. Our prayers led to several different actions, which made the church ready for two services, as we had outgrown the Sanctuary.

That's when we ran up against a problem. The leaders of the congregation were seized by fear -- fear that they wouldn't know each other if they went to two services; fear that if they went to two services and a new pastor came, they would be back in the same broken place. We did not begin a second service. When I left, they were back down in attendance, albeit they were better off with their finances, physical plant, and mission giving.

Some years later, I learned that fear can be defeated by using a deliberate process which involves study, dialogue, and education. We do the best we can with what we have and what we know, and people receive what they can where they are in the midst of their Christian walk.

When paralyzed by fear, first identify what the issue is. Once the issue is identified, learn as much as you can about it through books, others on the same journey, and the internet. Share what you have learned with leaders and individuals; be open to discussion and dialogue. Especially be ready to listen without dismissing or minimizing other people's fears. The process takes time and requires trust building, but always results in some kind of growth, even if the outcome isn't what you originally hoped to have happen.