3 Ways to Guarantee Success – By Dr. John Maxwell

maxwell copy

Thanks to University of Kentucky girl’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell for bringing Dr. John Maxwell to our church last night. Coach Mitchell is starting a foundation to give back to the community of Lexington and this was one of the first events.

I’ve heard John Maxwell several times and read many of his books, but I actually think he’s getting better with age. What a blessing to hear him.

Maxwell shared 3 ways to guarantee success.

(These are my notes – basically nuggets from his talk – capturing them as close as I could to what he said.)

1. Knowing my purpose in life.

There 2 great days in a person’s life.

*Birth
*The day you discover why you were born.

Most people know when but they don’t know why. If you discover your why you’ll discover your way.

There are two paths to discovery.

First path is 75% effective.
Discover your passion. That normally leads to purpose.
Passion is the fuel that will take you where you want to go.

Second path is 100% effective.
Passion plus giftedness. Or strength.

Combine your passion with what you do well.

2. Growing to my maximum potential.

Growth is not automatic. You have to be intentional.

Most people accept their life. Few lead their life.

There’s no coasting on the road to success. You’ve got to have a plan for growth.

A growth environment is one where others are ahead of me. If you’re at the head of the class — you’re in the wrong class.

(He shared a lot here on what a growth environment is like. I wish I could have captured more of it, but sometimes he was giving a list before I knew there was another list. :) But, I’m sure it’s either in one of his 76 books or there’s another book on the way.)

Nothing is more sad that waking up one day and there be no more mountains to climb.

3. Sowing seeds that benefit others.

Highly successful people know there’s a line they cross from success to significance.

You cross that line when you understand that the seeds you sow in others are more important than the harvest you reap.

Thank you Dr. Maxwell. I for one want to be successful.

7 Commandments of Leadership

gavel

Commandments: A divine rule. A rule to be observed strictly.

The 7 Commandments of Leadership:

Thou shalt protect thy character. Who are you when no one is looking? Is who you claim to be who you really are? In my experience, true character is eventually revealed in leadership. Every time. When stress mounts — when pushed in the corners of life — when power rises — when opportunity creates itself to take advantage of others for the benefit of self — true character is revealed.

Thou shalt empower thy people. Delegation is not only necessary to be effective in leadership, it’s a necessity in order to truly be a leader. You’ll either burnout, control people until they burnout, or simply stall everything — and then a leader is no longer needed.

Thou shalt continue to learn. When a leader ceases to learn he or she ceases to grow. Before long the leader has nowhere new to take anyone. And, nothing anyone would want to follow.

Thou shalt remember thy purpose. Zig Ziglar once told me that if you understand the why, the what or how won’t matter as much. I believe he was right. Our purpose fuels us for excellence. We must cast the vision — for ourselves and others — often. Daily even.

Thou shalt embrace healthy conflict. Ain’t it a shame? You have to have conflict to be healthy in relationships. It seems counter-productive, but conflict is really for the good of everyone. A good leader learns to use it for the betterment of the entire team.

Thou shalt persevere. Through good times and bad times, a leader holds the banner high. Press on!

Thou shalt celebrate. Leaders are for progress — but part of progression is appreciating the achievements of days gone by — accomplishments already made. As much as it is a leader’s job to keep things moving forward, people won’t stay motivated unless we recognize they are currently making a difference and have in the past.

Obviously these are man-made commandments, not God-made, so I appreciate your input.

Any you would add?

5 Real Fears of Growing Older

Fifty Yard Line with Bleachers

I remember the first night in my own house. New wife. Mortgage payment to make each month.

I felt responsible — more than I ever had in my life.

And, honestly, there was a part of me afraid. It wasn’t a boogie man kind of fear. I’ve never been one to be that kind of afraid very much.

It was a revering kind of fear. An awe of the weight of the responsibility. The enormity of the demand in front of me.

I wanted to be a good husband. Be a provider. Protect my home. Pay for it. Keep a roof over our head.

And the night we brought a baby into our house. — wow — having grown up most of my life without a father in the picture, I certainly wanted to be a good dad.

Those were normal fears of the entry into manhood. I’m sure girls feel similar fears.

Those fears are long gone. I haven’t felt them in years. We’ve kept the house. Actual had several over the years. Praise God. God blessed me as a dad. I have two pretty good children. (Actually they are excellent — seriously — two of the best men I know.) God has been so good to us.

But, fears are back — in a different kind of way. Again, not a boogie man kind of fear. I don’t fear as in a worry sense. I wouldn’t even use the word “afraid” as I would use the word “fear”. I hope that makes sense. Probably not — but it does to me.

It’s a feeling of reverence. Of seriousness. Of responsibility.

Granted, age is relative. To someone who died too young I would be an old man. Blessed with years. And to some who live long I’m still a very young man. My grandfather lived to be a 101 years old. I’ve got some days in front of me.

But, those fears, as a 50 year old, are so unique.

Here are 5 real fears of a 50 year old:

I will leave something undone. I don’t want to miss anything God has for me to do. I realize time is drawing shorter. There’s still so much left with the calling He has placed on my life. I don’t want to miss any of it.

I will start to fear change. I’ve never been resistant to change. I love it. Most of my life has been shaped by leaps of faith. I don’t want that to stop. I know change supposedly gets more difficult to accept with age. I want to defy those odds — take risks — willing to live with great moves of faith.

I won’t be prepared. I’m not afraid of death. Quite the contrary. I know my future eternity is secure. That’s a great feeling. A great comfort and hope. But, chances are, I will leave people behind someday. Will I have prepared them for my exit? Will I have invested well, have my paperwork and life in order, to limit any burden potential for my children?

They won’t remember. Of course, many will “remember” who I was — a father, a husband, a friend, a pastor — it’s hard to forget the significant people in our life. But, will they remember the right things and will what they remember add to the quality of their life? Will the words they recall be filled with wisdom and be life-giving? Will my lasting influence make their life better?

Not finishing strong. Cheryl’s father used to say, “I don’t want my body to outlast my mind.” I understand that more now. I want to be productive every moment of my life. I know men decades older than me who can still outwork and out-think me. I want to finish like that. Of course, we can’t control that. We can play a part — and I’m more careful what I eat and that I exercise — but so many things are out of our control. I feel the weight of that.

There.

How is that for gut honesty?

Why post it? Well, somehow, it feels better to put it in writing. I suspect — because of human nature — I’m not alone in some of these fears.

I will still teach that one of Christ’s most dominant commands is “Don’t be afraid”.

But, maybe too it’s a challenge to myself to do everything in my power to avoid these fears from becoming reality. To live even more intentional with my life. And, trust God for the sufficiency of His grace for where — for whatever reason — I am unable to do so.

Great Organizations Empower People to Think

Solving a problem

Several years ago I had problems with my cable service. I made numerous phone calls and several trips to the company; all in an attempt to correct the problem while politely obeying what I was told to do. I realize my community reputation is on the line and so I try to be extremely respectful in dealings with the public — even when I’m frustrated. (Actually, I am reminded that it’s Biblical to guard the tongue.)

Each unresolved phone call and visit ended the same way; with the service person who had not yet solved my problem, and had actually prolonged it, asking me the same question. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

It soon became obvious that the company policy required them to ask this question at the conclusion of every service encounter. I get that. As I reflected on each conversation, however, it was apparent that customer service people were scripted in all their responses. They are trained what to say for certain situations, but how was I supposed to answer this standard closing question?

I hadn’t received any help.

How could they help me with “anything else” when they hadn’t help me with anything?

I realize the scripted question was intended to ensure good customer service and without some scripting most employees wouldn’t have a clue what to say, but instead of making me feel better about my situation, it only incited a negative emotion. (Which I tried — successfully for the most part — to control.)

This was a minor incident, and honestly not that big of a deal in the story of my life, but it reminded me of an important organizational principle.

Great organizations empower employees the freedom to think for themselves.

[tweetthis]Great organizations empower people the freedom to think for themselves.[/tweetthis]

They allow individuals to make the best decision at the moment for the setting they are in, realizing that the best person to make a decision as to what they should say is the one having the conversation with the customer. In my situation, it may have been better to say something such as, “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you this time.  We will continue to work to resolve your problem.” Instead, I was recited a standard, pre-written line from a company handbook that really didn’t even apply to my situation. If a leader wants his or her team to make the best decisions, give them the right to think for themselves!

When a person has the authority to alter the script, they are more likely to provide a positive experience for the customer.

I love the motto of Nordstroms Department Store. I’ve read their philosophy is to instruct employees to always make a decision that favors the customer before the company. They are never criticized for doing too much for a customer; they are criticized for doing too little.

By the way, I believe this is an important principle in the church as well. Our goal should be to help volunteers understand the vision, basic teachings and philosophies of the church — then empower them think!

Do you want to know how my cable situation was resolved? Do you like the “end of the story”?

I finally got in touch with an employee from the company that I knew. I asked him what he would try if it were his house. He gave me a suggestion. We went with that. Trouble solved.

Leaders, does your team feel freedom to make the best decision at the time?  Have you freed your people to think?

10 Dangerous Distractions for a Pastor

no

I encounter so many struggling pastors. And unfortunately, I know so many who used to be pastors but no longer hold the position.

It may be through a blatant sin or a casual drifting from doing what they knew to be right, but it landed them in disaster. A pastor friend of mine said recently, “We need healthy churches and we need healthy pastors.”

Amen. Agreed. We must stand guard.

What are we guarding against?

No single post would be perfect. Obviously sin, but I can’t address everything that gets in the way of a healthy pastor. I can only list some that are more common in my experience.

Here are 10 dangerous distractions for a pastor:

Neglecting your soul. One of my mentors reminded me recently. “Ron, don’t forget to feed your own soul.” It was subtle. Almost given as a sidebar to our discussion. But it was gold. One of the biggest dangers for a pastor is when we begin to operate out of stored up knowledge of and experience with God. We need fresh encounters with truth and His glory.

Sacrificing family. Families learn to resent the ministry when it always trumps the family. Ministry families get accustomed to interruptions. They are part of the job as they are part of many vocations. But the family will hopefully be there when no one else is around. Ministry locations change but the family does not — so we must not neglect them. I’ve sat with men who lost the respect of their family. I know countless pastors who’s adult children no longer want anything to do with the church. Apparently, there’s not much that hurts anymore than that.

Playing the numbers game. Whenever we put the emphasis on numbers we are always disappointed. They will never be high enough. God is in charge of the numbers. We are in charge of what He has put us in charge of — but it’s not the numbers. We must be careful to concentrate on making disciples and the numbers will take care of themselves.

Comparing ministries. There will always be a “bigger” ministry. Someone will always write a better tweet — or a better book — or a better blog post — preach a better sermon. When we begin to compare it distracts us from the ministry we’ve been God-appointed to lead.

Finding affirmation among the rebels. This is the one that gets me in trouble among the rebels when I point it out to pastors. But we must be careful not to get distracted by people who would complain regardless of the decision we make. Yes, it stings the way some people talk to a pastor. And, it’s certainly not always godly how some people express themselves in the church. But, what if Joshua had listened to the naysayers? What if Nehemiah had? What if Moses had given up every time the complainers were louder than the people who are willing to follow? Okay, he probably was willing to give up a couple of times but he held the course. If you are leading there will always be someone that is not happy with the decisions you made. People bent on pleasing others — more even than pleasing God — have a very hard time finding peace and joy in ministry.

Sacrificing truth for popularity. It’s easy to preach the easy stuff. Grace messages are pleasant to share and popular to receive. And, we need them. Where sin increases — grace should increase all the more. But, we need truth. Even when it is unpopular. Making disciples becomes impossible when we sacrifice either one — truth or grace.

Stealing glory. My mama used to say “that boy got too big for his britches”. Sadly that can happen in ministry also. Many pastors struggle with ego problems. God is never honored in that. Pastors are in a God-glorifying position. Actually, everyone yes, but it is written into our job description.

Poor boundaries. In an effort to “minister” to people, I know too many pastors who fell into a trap because they didn’t have proper boundaries in place. The enemy enjoys a door of opportunity.

Neglecting friendships. Most pastors struggle knowing who to trust, but because of that they have few people really get to know them. Therefore they often have no one who can speak into the dark places of their life. And, pastors have them too. So, they put on a good front — but inside, they struggle alone. It’s dangerous.

Abusing power. The pastor holds a certain amount of power just because of position. It has been said, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.” One of the more dangerous things I see churches doing these days is giving a pastor too much power, without enough built-in personal accountability. (That’s coming from a church planter’s heart — and one who is prone to lead strong.) BTW, I’m not for controlling the pastor or forced relational accountability — and I haven’t discovered the perfect system here — but there needs to be one that balances truth and grace equally. Again, I don’t know how to systematize that, but it is a dangerous distraction. My challenge would be to the pastor or ministry leader to build this system into his or her own life absent a system within the ministry.

Those are some that I have seen. These distractions are displayed in a number of ways — and all of them are not fatal thankfully — but all of them are real. And all of them are dangerous.

 

 

A Critical Leadership Error and 4 Ways to Approach It

Car driving

There is one critical error most leaders make at some point. I make it frequently. If you’re leading – you probably do also.

We forget that people are trying to follow.

We get so caught up in our own world that we forget people we are trying to lead are trying to follow. We “think” we know where we are going — and we assume they do also — almost at times like they can read our minds.

Have you ever tried to follow someone in a car?

Some are good at that kind of leading and some aren’t. Some take quick turns — even without using a blinker. Some dodge in and out of traffic — forgetting that the person behind can’t react as quickly.

It’s that way with a team or organization also.

Some leaders get so passionate about what they are thinking and doing that they forget others are trying to keep up with them. The leader sets the pace for the organization. – almost every time.

Good leaders frequently evaluate to make sure the current pace doesn’t leave someone behind — unless that’s intentional — which would be the subject of another post.

What can a leader do to keep from losing those who are trying to follow along the way?

Here are 4 suggestions:

Ask questions. Granted, most people are not going to call out the leader. That’s true regardless of how “open” the leaders door might be. So, good leaders ask questions. They are continually evaluating and exploring to discover what they wouldn’t know otherwise. They check in with people often to make sure they understand where they are going, have what they need and are able to continue the pace healthfully.

Be vulnerable. While the leader ultimately sets the pace, good leaders allow others on the team help set the pace for the team. They share leadership across the team. It’s more difficult to argue against the pace when the team helped to set it. It takes humility, but they allow the decision making process of the organization to be spread throughout the team. They are open to correction — giving people permission to speak into their life and are not easily offended when someone challenges them — or even sometimes corrects them.

[tweetthis]Good leaders allow others on the team help set the pace for the team.[/tweetthis]

Be systematic. One way to control pace is to operate under well-planned and executed written goals and objectives. These are agreed upon in advance. Of course, things still change quickly — that’s part of life — and we must be flexible to adapt, but having even a short term written plan gives people a direction that keeps them making progress without chasing the whims of a leader.

Keep looking in the mirror. Ultimately, it’s up to the leader to self-evaluate frequently. Clueless leaders push and pull people with no regards to the impact it is having on organizational health or the people trying to follow. (And we are all clueless at times – we only know what we know.) Good leaders are self-aware. They know their tendencies to push too hard or their struggle with contentment — or they’re lack of clarity in details — whatever it is that makes them difficult to follow at times.

Here’s a hard question every leader should consider:

Are you allowing those attempting to follow you a fair opportunity to follow?

7 Ways Leading Is Like Driving a Car

Driving Car

Leading an organization is like driving a car.

Okay, it’s not exactly like that, but it is similar.

Leading an organization is hard work and that’s regardless of the size of the organization — or even the strength of a team. It’s true of leading it the church also.

It is often difficult to think through all the issues that the leader should be considering. I have found it helpful at times to compare organizational health and success to other things I may understand even more; things I do everyday. For example, I can consider the health of the team in an organization by comparing it to the dynamics of family relationships. This type exercise helps me clarify principles of organizations I might not otherwise think about and create a paradigm of leadership that hopefully makes leading easier. It’s simply a tool to help you brainstorm.

Recently, when I was facing a difficult leadership season, and was also driving somewhere for a meeting, I thought about how organizations have a great deal in common with the road system most of us use everyday. I began thinking how leading an organization can at times be like driving a car and it helped me process some issues relative to our organizational health.

Here are 7 ways leading is like driving a car:

Freeways - Sometimes the organization can proceed quickly, with limited interruption. (We like those times.) they don’t come very often.

Potholes - Small things often slow the organization down, but progress still continues. (Good leaders take time to address potholes before they become major road damage.)

Detours - Often the organization is still heading for the same end goal, but may be forced to go at it from a different direction. (Too many times, instead of detouring we change our destination. We give up too quickly.)

Speed bumps - There are times we need to slow down, reflect on where we are, adjust our speed, and continue forward. (We can’t always keep the pace of the freeway, so we consider when a speed bump is in order. I’m guilty of this one. If I’m not careful we are constantly in the freeway mode. It can be dangerous for the health of the team.)

Exits - These provide a safe way off the freeway to refuel, relax, and readjust the direction. (We shouldn’t wait too long to find the needed exit, even if it’s for a short bathroom break! I learned that one from my wife :) seriously, it’s important that we pause long enough to reflect on where we are and where we are going. Reviewing progress and organizational health is an important part of healthy leadership.)

Accidents - Accidents can be our fault or the fault of another, but they often set us back for a period of time. (when mistakes happen, see what needs repairing, what needs replacing, and when to call it a “total loss”.)

Flat tires – At times, team members can be injured by simply wearing out, a serious puncture wound, or damage caused by another. (Leaders should always be watching the health of the tires. One flat tire on the team can derail the entire trip.)

Road signs - In every organization, there are signs which the leader needs to learn to recognize — when momentum slows, when people are stressed, or when the vision needs refueling. (First, good leaders learn to recognize these signs directional or the warning signs, but then they don’t ignore them. Signs are for an intentional purpose.)

The list of these imageries could continue much longer. You could attach ideas to things such as stop lights, reverse, neutral, intersections, road rage, etc…anything that helps you think, but by now you should have the idea I’m working with in this post.

What other road illustrations could you make as they relate to organizational success?

You can carry these thoughts even further than I have, with how to address each issue, how addressing them with your travel would relate to how you address them in the organization, and how each one impacts you safely reaching your destination. Again, this is just a framework by which to help you think through more complex organizational issues about which you may not otherwise think. It might even be a helpful brainstorming tool to use as a team.

For example, ask your team what “speed” they think you’re currently moving as an organization. See how many differing responses you receive.

Can you see how an exercise like this can be helpful in thinking through organizational health and success?

8 Ways to Deal With the Emotions of Change

Grumpy, pissed off, unhappy old man

In previous posts I shared about the way people respond to change. One post share the “Absolute Most Common Objection to Change“. Another post shared “7 Common Emotions to Change“. And, there were actually 8 emotions. :) No one seemed to catch that.

With each post I was asked for some feedback on how to address those reactions. Emotions are unpredictable and unique so there’s probably not one answer here — or an easy answer. But, there are some things you can do — much as you would when dealing with emotional issues in any relationships for any reason.

Here are 8 ways to react to the emotions of change:

Fear. Give information. People usually fear what they don’t know more than what they do. During seasons of change it’s important to increase the level of communication.

Grief. Allow time to adjust — even to heal. There’s been a loss. You don’t get over that immediately. Obviously, if a person can never get over it you may have to move forward without them. But, make sure you don’t move without them because you stepped on their season of grief.

Enthusiasm. Temper celebration when change is still hurting some people. Don’t slap those opposed in the face immediately. Of course, never say “I told you so”. That screams arrogance. Celebrate yes, but do it with taste when feelings are involved.

Anger. Give it time to see if it calms. Extend forgiveness where necessary. Allow people to express their anger without retribution. Anger is usually the result of unmet expectations. Don’t agitate even further by not following through on commitments made. Some people can’t move forward once they’ve gotten angry. They don’t know to move forward. But allow time to see if it’s just an initial, reactionary outburst.

Confusion. During times of change attempt to be the king of clarity. Use various methods of communication. People hear things in different ways. Make sure everyone hears you or has an opportunity to it they are listening. (And some won’t)

Loneliness. To address this one you have to somehow replace the loneliness people feel with something they can enjoy even more. It will take time. Again, some won’t get there, but if the change is worthwhile, most people will eventual see some value in the change — especially as it relates to their personal values. Bottom line here: Make good changes.

Sadness. Recognize and acknowledge that some people will have a genuine lack of happiness about the change. That’s okay. Don’t force it. Don’t expect it. Give it time. Sometimes giving them new roles within the change gives them relief from the sadness. But the best response here is to be patient with people. Sadness doesn’t heal under pressure.

Numbness. Energize them with the vision. Let the vision drive their enthusiasm. That means you have to repeat the vision often. Sometimes daily. And you celebrate vision accomplishment more than anything else you celebrate.

Any ideas you would care to share?

7 Ways I Have Learned to Focus

focus

I’m fairly productive as a person, but the truth is, I get distracted easily and have a hard time staying focused at times. If I didn’t have notes when I was preaching, I would totally get off track. My mind wanders too much.

Thankfully, there are a few things that help me focus. Or, at least, they help prepare the conditions to keep me focused. It’s still a discipline on my part, but these things help.

7 things that help me focus:

Rest – It could be a 10 minute walk or a nap, but taking a break from what I’m doing helps me better focus when I return to the work. And, being well rested when I start my day helps me face the day with a clearer mind so I can begin to focus. The more tired I am the more restless my thoughts become.

Deadlines – I work better under pressure. I know — that sounds strange, but it’s true. And, many people do. I sometimes set my own deadlines. If I put a task on my calendar or if I schedule the steps to completion, I’m more likely to discipline myself enough to meet the deadline. Checklists are my friend.

Passion – If I’m passionate about a project — I mean really passionate — I’ll invest the energy and stayed focused to complete the task. That’s true about most things that grab our passion. Without passion I give up quickly. If it’s something I know I have to do I even ask God to give me passion and enthusiasm. I return to the roots of where my passion began. I review the purpose of my calling.

Encouragement – It may seem petty, but sometimes one well-worded email can break a period of distraction and push me to focus on the task. It reminds me why I need to discipline myself to move forward. That’s why I keep an “encouragement file”. Basically, anytime someone emails me an encouraging email I set it aside. When I need to focus better, especially when doing things I don’t enjoy as much, nothing redirects my energy any quicker than reviewing this file.

Success – Following a big “win” I’m motivated to work for another. Honestly, it’s usually a short-lived window of opportunity, but if I strike “while the iron is hot” I can better “seize the day”. This is one reason celebrating success is so important. It motivates you to focus on another moment like this one.

Exercise – I’m less disciplined, less motivated, and less content when I’m out of my exercise routine. Actually, I’m less happy overall. I recently had some health issues keeping me from running. I could feel the drain of focus. I had to figure out some new exercises to do. Exercise gives me the stamina to do the things I need to do.

Systems – I’m not a rule follower. I don’t like a lot of structure. However, if there is a system in place, I’m more likely to stay focused to completion. The old saying goes “if you want something repeated — systematize it.” The same is true for completion. You’ll be more focused for progress if you develop a system to get you from start to finish. If fact, if someone tells me focus is a problem for them, I almost always encourage them to first look at their system of doing work first.

Do you have a problem with focus? What helps you stay focused?

7 Ways to Be a Community Building Pastor

Building Blocks

In my recent post I contend that…

To be a kingdom building pastor you MUST be a community building pastor.

I admit that “must” is a strong word — and there are few things that I’m emphatic about unless they are Biblical, but I do believe that in order for us to reach people today we have to get outside the walls of our church buildings. And, that means we MUST do something intentional to make that happen. The community has to know — and believe — that we really do care for them. For me, being a community builder makes sense — and seems most effective.

And, we do love our community already, don’t we?

I certainly hope so. We believe we have the hope for the world as our central teaching. The Gospel is not to be a hidden truth but the light in the city on the highest hill. That means we must take our light into the world.

So the fair question to follow a post like that is how do you do it? How can a pastor — or ministry leader — be a community builder?

I don’t have all the ideas, but I have some suggestions.

Here are 7 ways to be a community-minded pastor:

Know key leaders – I think you should know who the leaders in the community are and know as many of them personally as possible. You may not be able to know the mayor of your city, depending on the city’s size, but could you know your local council representative? Could you know a school board member? You’ll be surprised how receptive many politicians are when constituents contact them — especially a leader who has an audience with a significant number of people. (And, anything over an average household can be considered significant.) Let me be clear that I never endorse candidates in my official capacity, but I do vote and it’s amazing when you’re active in the community how many people in your church want to know who you support.

Listen to concerns – Wherever you are, wherever you go, whatever you do in the community — whether at city hall, a school meeting or the grocery store or barbershop, listen to hear the things people are talking about around you. If you hear repeated themes you can almost guess that’s an issue on people’s minds. And, if you aren’t hearing anything — ask. Actually, ask anyway. And, don’t hear for what you want to do or where your church is already serving. Listen with an open mind to the real concerns of people. You may have different answers than they’ve thought of before. You know how to organize people. You represent people you can organize. That’s a powerful combination when addressing community needs.

Love what they love – I’ll get disagreement to this one, but I think it’s one of the more effective ways to be a community builder. I’m specifically talking about loving the culture of the city. I’ve seen pastors bash their community online. That’s foolish in my opinion. You can talk against community concerns in a way to rally support for a cause without bashing the community. People often feel about where they live — especially if they grew up there — the way they feel about their family. They can say bad things about them, but you better not. But, here’s where I’ll get the most disagreement — to me, this also includes loving the traditions they love — including their local sports teams. I was visiting a church recently and the pastor joked about the local college team. He referred to the fans as “sinners”. The crowd gave a rousing disapproval — and they laughed. It was funny. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, how much more effective he could have been endearing people to his leadership if he was “on their side” rather than always blatantly rooting for an opponent. It must be genuine of course, and I’m not suggesting you drop loyalties to other teams, but ask what cause are you more loyal to supporting and how supporting it will be most effective. I’m in the heart of the University of Kentucky Big Blue tradition. I get criticized repeatedly by my Tennessee fans as a “traitor”, but I’m telling you people like me better — and listen more — when I’m wearing Kentucky blue. God has called me to reach people in this community and I’ve discovered they love that I’m learning their unique culture and exploring and enjoying the uniqueness that is Kentucky. When I was in a military town, the more knowledge and support I could demonstrate about military service the more our soldiers and their families seemed to endear themselves to my leadership. And, don’t misunderstand, it is absolutely genuine for me. I am intentionally trying to love the people to whom God has placed me to minister — and part of that — as I would do for any family member — is learning to love the things they love.

Learn the community – One of the best things I did when I moved to Lexington two years ago is go through the Leadership Lexington program. The following year I went through Leadership Central Kentucky. I quickly learned things I might never have known about the community. It’s amazing now how I can answer questions about things we offer in the community that people can’t answer who have lived here for years. Most communities have something like this. Often they are found connected somehow to the local Chamber of Commerce or equivalent. You can also sign up for any local tours that the community offers. If the town is too small for anything like this, make appointments with people who are known in the community for their years of service to the community. Go prepared with questions and pick their brains about the community. Cheryl and I recently started volunteering at the city’s visitor center. We are doing this to give back, but also to get even more familiar with the city and what it has to offer.

Build your community network – You never know when you’re going to need it. Plus, there will always be people you may not know but people in your network will know them. I’m consistently asking people to connect me with people I should know in the community. And, that’s in all sectors of the community. Don’t limit your network to those society considers influential. I recently had one homeless person tell me of another homeless person I needed to know, because he is an influence in that segment of the community.

Serve somewhere in the community, besides your church – I think this is critical in community building, but also simply the right thing to do. As pastors, we expect people from the community to serve in the church. It’s only fair for us to give back to the community that is giving to us. Plus, we need to lead the way so that others in the church will serve in the community also. Finally, it’s the best way to meet people who need the hope that we have to share.

Lead your church to be community builders – This begins with a general desire to see the people of the church investing in the community. But it won’t happen by accident. It takes the intentionality of teaching and serving by example. And, most of all it takes consistency. This isn’t something we do in a campaign once a year. This must be a lifestyle — getting the church into the community — being community builders — so we can eventually be Kingdom builders.

What other suggestions do you have to be a community builder?