This is a guest post by my friend Jordan, who lives in Louisville, KY where she works as Account Coordinator for Heartland Communications Consultants, Inc. She enjoys blogging on a variety of topics including career, family, God, or most often, the awkward moments of the twenty-something life. To read more of her blog, go to www.jordansblahblahblahg.com.
I am 23 years old and I go to church.
I am rare.
In fact, many of my closest friends are not involved in church at all.
Some of my friends simply don’t believe in the Christian faith. Others call themselves Christians, but church is just not a necessary part of their lives.
By now, it is no secret that my generation, or “Millenials” as we are called, is largely unchurched. There has been an extensive amount of research on the issue, and churches have made extensive changes to combat the problem.
Changes often include ridding of choir robes and organs in exchange for skinny jeans, drums, and fog machines.
But still, why are so many of my friends anti-church?
I grew up in the church my entire life, so when I went away to college, finding a church was at the top of my priorities. Unfortunately, finding one didn’t come easy. For a while, I found myself in the same category many of my friends are in. I loved Jesus, but I simply did not have a desire to be a part of the churches I was visiting.
And I visited every type of church. From traditional to “hip”, from small to big. I didn’t want to join any.
My reasoning was simple and it came down to one word.
Nothing seemed authentic.
Don’t get me wrong; I was full of teenage/twenty-something know-it-all cynicism and arrogance, I am sure. Churches are definitely not the sole problem. People are the problem. Because people are sinners-the church going ones and the non-church going Millennials.
But despite the associated arrogance, I truly think my generation is on to something in our desire for authenticity.
You see, the hardest years of my life came in college. For a while, it seemed like every week brought a new disaster that I had never faced before. As one event piled on top of another, I became a mess. My usual happiness turned to sadness, my usual good decisions turned to bad decisions, and my usual faith turned to nothing but questions.
I desired to be a part of a church that got it.
That got my struggles. My sin. My doubts.
All I wanted when I entered the doors of church was to find people who would bear my burden and remind me of whom God was, because quite frankly, I wasn’t sure anymore. Unfortunately, so many times, it seemed like the God people were pointing to was one that would want nothing to do with me and, if I was being honest, I didn’t know if I wanted anything to do with him.
Either everyone was really happy all the time with no problems, or they were being fake…and I was in no position to play the Fake Game.
In fact, I don’t think my generation in general wants to play the Fake Game when it comes their desire to find and know God.
We’ve played the Fake Game enough. The Fake Game surrounds us in advertisements, tweets, and Facebook profiles. When it comes to seeking God, we don’t want to play anymore. We want to find Him.
We want to ask questions.
Voice our doubts.
Explain our struggles.
Confess our sins.
Confide our fears.
And we want the church to do it with us.
We want Pastors to admit their weaknesses.
Leaders to confess their sins.
Sunday School classmates to confide their struggles.
A church to recognize its shortcomings and rely joyously on God’s grace.
We don’t just want church-goers and pastors to hang up their suits and ties for t-shirts and jeans because its “cool”. We simply want people to be who they are Monday through Saturday on Sunday, too.
We want to come to God as we are.
And we want to be a part of churches full of people who do the same.
Because that is the Gospel we are interested in. And the cool thing is…that really IS the Gospel.
If you want to reach my unchurched friends, it’s simple.
You be you. Really.
And let God be God.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
I am frequently contacted when someone is debating the right time to leave a leadership position. I once wrote 10 Scenarios to Determine If It’s Time to Quit. It’s still one of my most requested blog topics. Deciding when it is time to leave a leadership position is one of the hardest decisions a leader makes.
Thankfully, there are still leaders with a sense of loyalty, who want to do the right thing, and they simply do not know how or when they should leave. If you want to see long term success in the place where you lead, you need long-term tenure.
We all love hearing how a church planter carried the church from infancy of a few core people in a room to the maturity of a healthy, established church. I am always impressed to hear of a long term pastorates. Some of the most successful churches have the longest serving pastors. The healthiest way, organizationally speaking, is to have one long-term leader, who goes through seasons with the organizations, who carries the vision forward over a long span of time.
But, that’s not the calling of every leader. And, there’s no shame in that.
Please understand, this is not a post encouraging anyone to leave their position. It’s not a post that indicates I’m leaving mine. (Please read that last line again if you’re in my church.) But, this is a post intended to help a leader who may be struggling, feeling it’s time to move on, but can’t bring themselves to make the hard decision. I’ve spoken with pastors who feel they’ve done all they can do. They’ve prayed and prayed about it and don’t even sense God telling them they have to stay, may even feel a sense of release, but their sense of loyalty keeps them from even entertaining the idea. In the meantime, the longer they do stay the more frustrated they become and the church starts to feel it.
And, that’s why I write this reminder.
Some leaders are only there for a season. A unique season. A special season, reserved for a designed purpose. It’s helpful when a leader can recognize or discern a seasonal assignment.
Here are a few examples:
Some leaders get things started – They are great starters, but horrible maintainers. They do best when they are allowed to begin something for someone else to carry forward. I have a friend who is a serial entrepreneur. He’s great at getting healthy organizations started, but lock him into somewhere for very long and he will frustrate a lot of people. Including himself.
Some leaders guide the organization through transition – These leaders can handle the tough times. They help once successful organizations start again. They love changing things. When things “settle” they are ready for a new challenge. I have another friend who in his career has helped several businesses recover from near disaster. He moves in, takes over, rebuilds confidence in leadership, provides a sense of direction and momentum, then gradually yields control to others.
Some leaders close things out graciously – This has to be one of the toughest assignments in leadership, but there are leaders who are especially gifted in helping things come to an end. When I was in retail, there were some store closing experts. Many times a new store was opening across town and one store, perhaps in an older, more established part of town, was closing to make room for the new. That’s never popular, but these leaders knew how to come in, evaluate, assess what could be salvaged, help the employees transition, and leave the area as painlessly as possible, so the excitement for the new would not be lost in mourning what would be gone. They were seasonal experts in leadership. (Frankly, for this last example, although this is the subject for another post — and this sentence only opens the can of worms — the church needs some of these leaders.)
Granted, each of these scenarios can often find new leadership positions within the same organization, but the key understanding is that they are leaders for a season. An assignment. A specific need. When the need is met the season often has to change.
If a leader does what he or she has been called to do, there is no shame in doing ONLY what the leader was called to do. Recognizing that and discerning it helps leaders and the organizations they lead to be healthier.
Have you ever been the leader for a season?
I’ll never forget the first “sex talk” I had with our oldest son. The “talk” occurred at my office at the company we owned at the time. It was after hours when no one was in the office but him and me. It was a very scary moment — for me and him — but I’m glad I did it then.
He had already started to make comments and ask questions that indicated he needed an “education”. He was about 10 years old at the time. (I understand that sounds young to some, but it may be old now for others.) I recognized that helping my children live pure and healthy sexual lives would be a challenge in a culture that is often defined by sex. I wanted to be the primary influencer in their development as adults, because I knew no one had a stronger desire for them to make wise choices than me.
I began with a few principles, which helped me to continue to have open and honest dialogue with my boys, even in their teenage years and adulthood.
Here are 7 suggestions for having the sex talk with your child:
Start Early - The key here is that you want to be the primary and first source of information for your child. The old saying is true, “If you don’t tell them, someone else will.” You want to make sure they are getting the correct information about sex. With the oldest it was about 10 years of age, but with the youngest it was about 8 years. It will depend on their surroundings at school, the dialogues they are having with you and others, and their maturity level at the time.
Share in Stages – A four-year-old needs to know that there are boys and there are girls and they are each different, but that’s about it at that age. Share information based on the child’s interest, maturity and ability to understand. I don’t believe one “talk” will be enough for most children. Make sure children feel freedom to discuss anything with you as they have concerns or questions.
Answer questions – If your child is willing to ask a question it is because they want an answer. Many parents make the mistake of telling children they “don’t need to know yet”. There are no bad questions. Again, they will search for an answer and the wrong ones are the easiest to find.
Teach according to truth, not culture – The fact is that today’s culture is mostly wrong about the issue of sex. Culture has tried to redefine what sex is and the purposes and values of sex. Sex is not to be seen as dirty, cheap, or easy. Don’t be afraid to teach your children to be different from everyone else in culture. Help them understand the healthy role sex can play in building a strong marriage. Help them also understand that in the right context, sex is a wonderful gift from God. (It’s okay for them to look forward to something…even sex!)
Deal with the emotional as well as physical – Our children should understand the emotional aspect of sex and the damage, which can be caused by sexual activity, as much as they should understand the physical aspects. The emotional pain caused by early sexual experiences is usually the most damaging aspect later in life.
Teach grace along with truth – The fact is, teenagers (even children) will make mistakes. They’ll go too far. They’ll wish they hadn’t. They’ll regret. Probably just like you do at times. Make sure they know they can come to you if necessary. To protect my influence and an open dialogue, I tried to be careful not to only share truth. I wanted to keep the door open for future conversations, rather than send my boys underground to avoid my wrath.
Get help – There are plenty of resources on teaching children the Biblical perspective on sex. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is another great reason to have a mentoring couple in your life!
My two boys called it “The Talk”. We even began to label it with parts. I think by high school we were on at least “The Talk, part 31”, because they kept having questions as they matured. I don’t believe my boys would be as open talking about such a difficult subject regularly and honestly if I had not established that freedom and practice at an early age.
Are you delaying the discussion because of fear? They will talk about it somewhere…go first!
What was your experience with this delicate parenting responsibility, either as a child or an adult? Did your parents give you the “talk”?
Part of my job as a leader is helping people I lead get better at what they do. That often involves letting them know about areas I see where they can improve.
That can be difficult for some people to receive. Granted, much of that has to do with my delivery of the encouragement to improve, but I’ve found some people especially struggle to receive anything with an appearance of correction. They don’t want me to believe they made a mistake or even that there is any room for improvement. Some, especially with perfectionist or prideful personalities, seem to feel that if something needs changing about their performance, then whatever they did wasn’t completely right. And, the opposite of right is — wrong.
For those people, I sometimes have to remind them:
Just because you can do something better, doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.
Unless the person was blatantly or intentionality making mistakes or not giving it a good effort…
They did what they’ve been taught to do.
They did the best they knew how to do.
They gave it everything they had — so far.
But, we all have areas where we can improve — get better.
Just because something can be done better, doesn’t mean it was being done wrong.
Leadership is helping people know learn the difference.
I consistently have leaders contact me who want help improving as a leader. What’s funny is, I have this leadership blog, and lots of leadership experience, but I’m still trying to improve also. I often encourage them to do something I do. One way to grow as a leader is to continually work to replace negative leadership patterns with positive leadership patterns.
That makes sense, doesn’t it?
Recently I posted about this subject in a post titled “Sometimes We Complicate Leadership Too Much“. This is a continuation of that thought process. Basically, if we want to improve as leaders, we don’t try to change everything about ourselves in one transformation. We work on areas that need improving one at a time. For example, I know I’m weak in the area of coordinating details, even the ones I’m responsible for doing, so I work on that area. Continually. It’s become a discipline. I delegate what I can, but I find ways to improve at handling the details only I can do.
I am fairly intentional, so I even coined a phrase that I often use as a subtle reminder to me of areas in which I need to improve.
Here are a few examples of rather than leadership:
Rather than needing to control everything…try utilizing delegation.
Rather than using intimidation to get what you want…try applying better inspiration.
Rather than having a culture of fear…try creating a culture of encouragement.
Rather than hiding information from people…try being more transparent.
Rather than trying to please everyone…try doing the right thing, regardless of the pushback.
Rather than having all the ideas…try embracing the creativity of others.
Rather than saying “I”, “my”, or “me”…try saying “we”, “our”, and “us” more often.
It’s Rather Than Leadership.
The examples I gave are fairly broad, and thankfully, all of them aren’t my issues anymore. I’ve improved in areas. But, you can make them as specific as you need them to be for you. As an example, knowing I get distracted easily, am very big picture, and have a thousand ideas a day, I can have very unproductive days. And, it’s miserable for me, my team and my leadership. One rather than leadership principle for me then might be:
Rather than ending the day feeling that I’ve had little or no progress…try making a reasonable, but stretching checklist and completing it by day’s end.
The key is to find those areas of good leadership principles in which you are weakest and seek to improve up one them — replace them with better patterns of leadership.
If you’re a control freak — if you stifle ideas — if your language is “me-centric” — then you know what you have to do. Write out your rather than leadership principle. Replace them. Improve as a leader.
That will first require identifying your weaknesses, then learning the positive ways to improve in those areas, and continually disciplining yourself to grow and develop, but it helps to at least know where to start. I find mental simple stimulants or reminders such as this help me improve.
Try it. Rather Than Leadership. Or use your own term. Let’s just continue to improve as leaders.
Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents…
(1 Peter 2:11)
9 great ways to be extremely strange:
Love – Loving others even when others may seem unlovable.
Joy – Being joyful, in spite of the circumstances around you.
Peace – Providing a calming peace to those around you.
Patience – Demonstrating patience even in chaos.
Kindness – Being kind to one another, even when others aren’t so kind.
Goodness – Not advocating perfection, but genuinely striving to be a better person and serving as a witness to that endeavor for others.
Faithfulness – Standing firm with loyalty and commitment to Christ, even when others are rejecting what’s true.
Gentleness – Not wimpy, but carefully balancing strength and truth with grace and love.
Self-Control – Disciplining self to live out a strange kind of life, often sacrificing what’s temporary for what is eternal.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Leading is hard, but the principles and practice of leading don’t have to be as difficult as we make them at times.
I talk to leaders every week who are stressed out by the things they know they should be doing but aren’t getting done. They’ve read a blog — maybe even this one — they read a book, they attended a seminar or conference and they feel defeated.
Sometimes I think we complicate leadership too much.
I often tell leaders who want to improve to think of one or two areas in their organization or church, or in their personal leadership style, that they’d like to improve upon and take some small steps to make something positive happen in that area. Don’t start big. Start small. One bite of the elephant at a time. Take one thing you learned and implement it in a small way. Get better at it. Over time, do it more. Simple. (At least simpler in concept.)
If a leader is continually doing that over time they will start to see major improvement.
For example, a leader who knows he or she isn’t building new leaders, and recognizes the need, could set a goal to help develop one or two leaders this year. Currently no leadership development is being done. Replace that with discovering how and implementing the development of just a couple new leaders.
- Meet with them regularly.
- Find out their strengths.
- Find out their weaknesses.
- Seek ways to develop their strengths.
- Help them learn to minimize their weaknesses.
- Talk with them through your own leadership experience — good and bad.
- Introduce them to new resources, new opportunities, new challenges, other leaders.
That’s not simple, and it’s not profound, but it is doable and it starts moving things in a more positive direction. With intentionality, discipline and practice, that simple effort can lead to systematizing leadership development in a larger scale in the future.
Sticking with this example, the problem for many of us is that we start at the overwhelming sense that we have nothing. So we try to begin with some complex system of leadership development. It is too big and too fast and so nothing ever gets off the ground.
You may have heard some big, lofty ideas. That’s great. They stretch you, but simplify it in your mind. Place it within your current context.
Start small. Make incremental improvements. Learn from the process. Improve. Increase. Add to. Grow. Systematize. Booyah.
My friend Bradley Stevenson wrote a post about Kentucky basketball. Isn’t everyone these days? Well, not everyone, but lots of people are around here. UK basketball is a topic of conversation wherever you go in Lexington this time of year.
And, all the chatter hasn’t been positive this year. You are obviously not a basketball fan if you couldn’t figure that one out for yourself.
But, Bradley’s post was different. It was challenging, but encouraging at the same time. It resonated with people. Lots of people. Read “An Open Letter to Coach Cal (Coaches, Players and Fans)”.
Then Bradley did something only a friend would do. He asked me if I had any leadership advice to offer the UK basketball program. What? Me? I’m a student of leadership, but I’m only a casual basketball fan. I love the game. I go to the games. I wear the team colors. I cheer. But, my greatest passions are consumed in other directions. (Like Jesus. I’m passionate about Him. And, leadership. And the church.).
Anyway, Bradley’s a friend, or at least he claims to be (we’ll see how good a friend after this post goes live), so I decided to comply with his request. We did it in an interview fashion. And, knowing how much I like (and use) the number 7, Bradley asked me 7 questions about my leadership advice for Coach Cal and the UK basketball program.
Here were the questions:
- What’s your best leadership advice when dealing with negativity?
- How do you motivate your team during difficult times?
- How do you stay focused during difficult times?
- What do you say to naysayers?
- If you had 5 minutes with Coach Cal what advice would you give him?
- Same question, but about the team! If you had 5 minutes with the team (without Coach Cal) what advice would you give them?
- Finally, if you had 5 minutes with the UK fans…what would you say?
You can read my answers on Bradley’s blog post, “A Leadership Perspective for Coach Cal, Players and Fans“.
Be warned. I’m a leadership guy. And, this is basketball. Big Blue Nation basketball. That’s serious stuff around here. And, I live here. Please be nice.
Let’s talk sports. Or leadership. How do you see the two subjects related?
And, for bonus points…