Did you know you’re an artist? You are. Sometimes the world steals our art.
Let me explain. Be encouraged.
I continue to learn. I hit 51 years of age this year and one thing that’s become apparent over the last couple years is how much more I still have to learn.
And, yet, along the way, I have moved into a unique opportunity. It’s almost scary at times. People are looking to me for advice. They think I have something to share. Wow! Just when I realize I don’t really know anything, people think I know some things.
So, I culled together some of my learnings.
If you want to reach the next generation then you have recruit and develop the next generation. They need your wisdom, knowledge and experience.
How you lead them, however, may challenge how you’ve ever led before.
Give them the freedom to experiment. Even when you may not agree with the idea — let them try. They may need to experience failure in order to experience their next success. That’s likely how you learned.
Give them opportunities to grow. And help them see how they see fit in the organization’s continued growth. They want upward mobility.
Realize the generational differences. Don’t pretend they don’t exist. They affect how we relate to people, change, and technology. Be honest when you don’t understand something they do. Ask questions. Learn from them.
Allow flexibility. Don’t let structure control how people complete their work — allow individuality. Newer generations, for example, aren’t as tied to an office as other generations. Let them figure out their how — and often where — of work progress.
Limit generational stereotypes. The younger generation does value your wisdom. They want it. But, they are less likely to be excited about gleaning from us if we always start with “When I was your age…” In fact, avoid continually reminding them how young they are or appear.
Value their opinions. The most successful changes being made today come from this generation. Don’t dismiss their input because you don’t feel they have enough experience. They aren’t limited usually to all the reasons you think something won’t work. And, it just might this time.
Give them a seat at the table of leadership. This is difficult for some older leaders, because you often gained your position through years of hard work. You may not feel they’ve completely “earned” it. But, younger generations want leadership opportunities now.
To lead younger generations the bottom line is to help them achieve their goals and ideas far more than you put a damper on them. Be a people builder.
Anything you would add?
How’s that for a title?
After I finished talking to a group of pastors recently, a pastor approached me and asked a question. He asked, “What do you do when there is one person who is always trying to disrupt what you are doing? He is never satisfied with anything I do and he incites people against me. I know he’s going to complain about something every time I see him or his name comes up in my inbox. Honesty, I think he’s the one obstacle in us being all we could be as a church. He’s like an 8th grade bully who never grew out of it.”
That’s a paraphrase– but it’s a true story.
And you’re shocked. You’ve never heard anything like it before – right?
It’s certainly never happened to you. Correct?
Of course it has!
In my experience, most churches have one of these type people – – or more.
They remind me of reading 1 Samuel 17 and the introduction of the giant Goliath. These people are intimidating, disruptive, and, if we’re honest, frightening at times.
I need to say that I don’t believe these type people are as big an obstacle as we make them out to be in our mind. We allow them to intimidate us that way. And, they usually know it which is often part of their objective.
Thankfully, the ruddy shepherd boy David was willing to call the bluff.
But, how should we respond?
Understand their pain. I have usually found there is a story behind most of these type people. They have been injured at some point. Perhaps they feel the church let them down when they needed it most. Maybe they have had a hard time forgiving. They may have an injury in their personal life that hasn’t healed. They unfairly hold that injury against everyone else. Get to know them. Hear their story. Attempt to place yourself in their shoes. Sometimes God may use you to help the healing process. Understanding always helps you be better prepared to respond.
Pray for them. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44). I find I see people in a different way when I pray for them. When I worry about approaching them, what they’re saying about me, or the impact they are having I never seem to impact the situation in a positive way. Prayer works. If it doesn’t change them — it always changes me.
Love them. Smother them with love. Genuine love. They likely need it. (And, aren’t we commanded to do so?) You don’t have to love their actions, but we are called to love. And, the only way I know to do this is to love God first. If I can’t love the unloveable I always know it’s an indication of the quality of my love of God. Always.
Speak truth. Don’t say what they want to hear if it’s not true. Be honest with them. Chances are good that half-truths were a part of their history — causing them to be the way they are today. Be transparent and authentic with them. Be kind always — but don’t sugarcoat. I have learned that some of these type people are waiting until you push back. They’ll likely push you with bully tactics until you do. Stand firm.
Don’t let them dictate your actions. When you give into a strong-minded, complainer-type person it never goes away. You’ll lock yourself in to being dictated by their negativity and complaints. You’ll only find more complainers. Or, they’ll find you. Because they know you’ll yield with the right (or wrong) amount of pressure.
Remember your calling. Really negative people can sometimes make you feel like you are doing no good. It’s almost never true. This is a good reason to keep an encouragement file from past notes or emails you receive from people who appreciate your work. Go back and review some of them. Think about your past success — and how God has and is using you. You were called to something. Seek your affirmation among the people God called you to minister to. Your calling probably wasn’t to the select agenda of a negative few. When complaints are at their highest — remember why are doing what you’re doing. You have a purpose. You have a passion. Renew it.
Confront when necessary. It should be rare, but there are times you need to confront the one who is continually responding in an unbiblical way — in a very direct and firm, but still loving way. You need to call them on their sin. My Bible says to do everything without complaining. There are healthy ways to do conflict. We are to be kind to one another. Some people need help learning these truths just as others need help learning to tithe. It’s part of discipleship. Practice the Matthew 18 model of confrontation. Don’t talk about them. Talk to them. Confront them about the way they are responding to you and ultimately to life. The crazy thing is they may not even know the damage they are causing.
Do you have any people like this in your church? Amy suggestions?
This is a guest post by my son Nate:
My name is Nate, and I’m a millennial.
That means I must love liturgy, hate big production in church, want to ask really hard questions about faith all the time, go do organized “social justice” every Saturday, am nowhere near shallow enough (or I’m just far too clever) to attend a church with a hashtag campaign, want a pastor who preaches messages that are “on point” and filled with “authentic, hard truth”, think that the majority of Christians I grew up with were hypocritical bigots who suppressed all of my doubts, love Jesus but question institutionalized Christianity, yet simultaneously desperately desire a church that will help me get back in touch with the “historic roots” of the Christian faith.
So, church leaders… if you want to reach me and all my millennial friends, decipher how all of that fits together, then get busy changing to become exactly like me so that I can have a church that’s perfect for me. But make sure you stay “authentic” along the way, otherwise we will see straight through you and discount you completely.
Heew. What a difficult task you have. Unless, of course, that’s not true for all (I might even argue, most) millennials.
The last couple weeks, there have been several articles posted about how the church can reach millennials. Below are just two examples.
These kinds of posts have been rolling out for a few years now. The reason I’ve decided to write this post is because several older believers and pastors I deeply respect have been sharing the articles, almost as if their ministries are completely irrelevant and headed toward extinction.
I simply don’t believe that’s true.
You can read the rest of the post by clicking
This is a guest post by Bill Blankschaen:
It’s time. Or at least you think it might be. You’ve been sensing a struggle within for awhile, but you’ve kept it to yourself. You’ve felt a restlessness, a sense that you should be pursuing a new life calling, something more in line with your God-given gifts — but you’re scared to step out without knowing how it will all turn out.
You may be sensing a new calling to get into the pastoral ministry, to get out of the pastoral ministry, to start a church, to start a business, to switch careers, or to revisit a calling left dormant for far too long.
That was my story. Not many years ago, I found myself deep in ministry as the leader of a thriving Christian school. And yet I sensed a restlessness within, an awareness that I had quietly begun to drift into simply existing. I’d allowed God-given writing gifts to lie dormant. And I knew a drifting leader was not what the school needed.
In what was one of the most challenging decisions of my life, I let go of the school and stepped out to pursue a new life calling as a writer, a Kingdom catalyst determined to live a story worth telling where it matters most. My journey, the journeys of others I encountered with similar stories, and the practical faith-stretching lessons learned from it form the framework for my new book A Story Worth Telling: Your Field Guide to Living an Authentic Life.
There are different ways to live with radical faith. Some can look pretty normal on the outside. Most don’t involve relocating your entire family, or even changing careers. But when your God-given dreams do require you to step out in a significant, life-changing way, here are some lessons I learned from having gone through the process of stepping out before I knew how it would all turn out.
1. You do not have as much help as you think you do. If you’re expecting people to respond as if in a scene from It’s a Wonderful Life, think again. Sure, family and friends will help as they are able. But most people have lives and pressing issues of their own.
2. You have more help than you think you do. Instead of expecting other people to come through, expect God to show up as you learn to trust Him in ways you never imagined possible. Only when we had no other choice but to trust God did we realize we should have been trusting Him more fully in the first place.
3. You do not have the faith you think you do. But don’t let that stop you. You will grow it along the way. When we place great faith in our great God, we pull back the curtains to reveal more of his majesty. And that just makes us want to trust Him more — so we can take one more step. The test of your faith is what it takes to stop you.
4. Not everyone will understand what you are doing. In fact, a lot of people aren’t going to get it. And that’s OK. The truth is that when you step out to live an authentic life, one that is true to what you believe about your God-given gifts, you will scare some people. I saw it in their eyes when they congratulated me for making the move and stepping out into the unknown while praying it never happened to them. To minimize discouragement, only go public when you know you’re going to follow through.
5. Someone understands and supports what you are doing. You’ll want to find that person early in the process. I enlisted a life coach as I began the transition. As your life situation shifts, you may not have ready access to advisors you regularly lean on. It is critical that you find someone you can trust who shares your faith and who will speak the truth in love to you along the way.
6. You’ll need encouraging success stories. You’ll find plenty of negative thinking out there, in addition to the thoughts you’ll have on your own. One of the most encouraging things for my wife was to learn of other FaithWalkers who had already emerged on the other side of significant life transitions. She found great comfort in Biblical stories, as well, such as those of Abraham and Sarah — ordinary people who lived memorable stories by walking with extraordinary faith.
7. You must make a habit of praying — hard. Don’t wait until a crisis arrives before cultivating a deeper prayer life. Henri Nouwen said, “Prayer is a great adventure because the God with whom we enter into a new relationship is greater than we are and defies all our calculations and predictions.” Share your concerns with God before sharing them with others.
8. You’ll need to repeat the previous step. Often. If you think you don’t have time to pray, that’s exactly when you know you should. It’s when we have no communion with God that we hear no calling from God.
9. You can expect to fail. You should also expect to get back up. We focus a lot on Peter’s failure to keep walking on the water in the midst of great uncertainty. But seldom do we consider how he got back into the boat. Matthew doesn’t tell us Jesus carried the soaking-wet disciple or magically transported him. The most likely answer? Peter walked. On water. Again.
10. Get a lot of counsel, but listen most closely to those who’ve actually done what you are thinking of doing. Seek out those who’ve been there, done that. These days, you can buy the t-shirt online. But scars only come from experience.
Bill Blankschaen is the author of A Story Worth Telling: Your Field Guide to Living an Authentic Life, just released from Abingdon Press. A writer, speaker, and content strategist, he blogs at Patheos on church and culture and at FaithWalkers.com where he helps Christians live an authentic life with abundant faith. Follow on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
To be successful today there are a few things we must have. We’ve always needed them. We need them even more today.
Efficiency – There is never enough time or enough me. All leaders are pulled in so many directions. It’s easy to get distracted — and distractions are almost always things of lesser value. If you don’t have a plan for each day you’ll waste most of them — certainly not live up to the day’s potential. Today’s leader must learn and master efficiency.
Adaptability – Things are changing fast. Profusion is at an all time high. By the time I learn my phone there’s another update or another phone. And, it impacts every area of our life. If we are not going to change our core values and mission — and we shouldn’t — nor should we have to — then we must learn to adapt our strategies, systems and processes. Doing the same things that previously worked is no longer a sole option. We must embrace change.
Accountability – This is not a holdover from an 90’s Promise Keepers movement. Honestly, it’s a growing new concern for me. In my opinion, the focus on strong leadership can be taken to an extreme. We have created some powerful people with limited accountability. Church plants can be notorious for this. How many moral failures do we need to observe to understand this one? If you can create energy around a vision and attain a level of success, a leader can be given way too much individual authority — with no one to speak into the dark parts of the leader’s life. If numbers are good, budgets are met, many pastors are given way too much authority. I see this in business also, but it’s closer to me in churches.
I’m sure there are many more. Those are the three on my mind.
I’ve always been captivated by the friends of Job.
You remember Job. The man of suffering. He suffered the loss of everything.
Somewhere in the grief process his friends came. Start about Chapter 2. They provide a bulk of dialogue in the book.
We can learn a few things about how to be friends to those who are hurting from the friends of Job.
Thanks for showing up. Sometimes physical presence is the most comforting way to help someone grieve a loss. You came when it was uncomfortable to be a friend. That’s when a true friend is found. You even sat with him — apparently not even eating — for seven days. Thank you. Your witness is well-noted.
Speak truth. Not what everyone else is saying. Some in your culture believed that all suffering was the result of sin. We know that’s not true about Job. You said some things that sounded good. Culturally acceptable things. But it’s usually best not to provide commentary. Just say what is true. Nothing more. Sometimes that’s only stuff like, “Wow! You’re hurting. I’m sorry. I love you. I’m here for you!”
Not everything has to be explained. You had a lot of “ideas” why Job was suffering. Thanks for your insight. You just couldn’t possibly understand all that God was allowing in Job’s life nor could you predict his final outcome. Sometimes explanations are more burdensome than they are helpful in a time of grief.
Silence isn’t deadly. Seriously. Sometimes silence is gold. Even godly. Look at Ecclesiastes 5:2 for an example. You did that — before you started talking. The days you were silent were possibly as much help to Job as anything you did. It was your presence. Don’t be afraid just to demonstrate your love with your presence more than with your words.
You help me better understand the Bible. The Bible is true. All of it. Cover to cover. I believe that. I know that in the core of my being. Everything in the Bible is truth. But not everything in the Bible is true. It’s truth in that it’s God’s written word. It’s not true unless God said it. Man talks in the Bible. So does the evil one. Some of the things you said weren’t true. You meant well. But, it’s not truth unless it comes from God’s mouth or it amplifies His truth.
So I learn from you — Job’s friends. Thank you.
I must be present when my friends are hurting most. I must not try to explain everything. I must not think everything needs my input or my attempt at a solution. I must be okay with silence. I must not take what I’ve heard — or what’s culturally acceptable — as an indication of truth. I must stick with the Scriptures and an accurate interpretation of them.
And, when I don’t know truth to share — I’ll just be silent. And, be present. Fully present.
I have only been in ministry about 14 years. In that time, I have been part of two revitalization churches and two church plants. We have been graced with tremendous growth in all four churches. One church was a smaller church, but the other three have grown to be considered larger churches. I grew up in a large church. So, that is most of my church experience.
It goes through seasons, but periodically I will hear less than positive remarks from people about their perception of growing or large churches. Sometimes it comes from within the church — someone who may struggle as the church experiences growth — which always means change. The majority of time, however, the criticism comes from people outside the church making observations about the church.
And, those are the comments I’m addressing here. Comments from people who really do not have experience with larger or growing (especially fast-growing) churches.
These comments are usually well-meaning in terms of the person’s concern for the church. At least, I’m willing to assume. But, they are usually also generalized and often given without complete understanding about the specific church.
These type comments are easily repeated. Some people love to talk. If we are not careful, they become detrimental to the Kingdom. Because some of them — I would even say most — are simply not true. At least in the churches with which I’ve been affiliated directly. (Which are really the only churches we can definitively criticize. And, even then, the larger the church the harder it is to understand all that is taking place within in it.)
“All you care about is the numbers.”
This is always a funny one for me. Most of the time people who say this are in churches that also count numbers. I’ve been in some very small churches that even post their numbers on the wall in the back of the church. Numbers are important. In all churches. Because they represent people. For me, I don’t want to pastor a growing church where people aren’t equally growing in their individual walk with Christ. Every large church pastor I know personally feels that way. But, to know this one, whether you’re in the church or not, you’d really have to know the heart of the people in positions of leadership. I know this, however, it is certainly not a fair generalization of large or growing churches.
“You are just stealing people from other churches.”
I have found in my ministry a couple of things to be true. First, once someone is involved in their church it is a very difficult decision for them to ever leave. Regardless of the size of the church. Unless they are moving to the community or there is some major uproar in the previous church, it is fairly rare that a truly committed church member joins another church. Second, some people change churches frequently. If you look at their life over a span of decades they will have been in numerous churches. I have known some churches where their primary growth comes from conflict, church splits, or transferred growth. But, these are rare, in my opinion, and have not been the case in churches I have been affiliated with directly.
“You have too much flash and not enough depth.”
Again, this is a funny one to me. The people who are looking for depth – who know enough to be looking for depth – – it would seem to me would know that real depth; real maturity almost always occurs in much smaller settings. The worship service is only one part of discipleship. And, whether a church averages 40 or 4,000, there will need to be some smaller settings for people to grow deeper spiritually.
“People aren’t growing.”
I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard a comment such as, “the larger the church the more immature people you seemed find.” That’s a funny comment to me because I was always pretty good with math. It makes sense to me that more produces opportunity for more. More people — more potential for people who aren’t growing. Something tells me there are some immature people in smaller churches too. (Maybe even some of the ones who spread unfounded generalizations about other churches. Uh oh. Did I say that?)
“People aren’t cared for properly.”
That may be true. And, it might not be. Same would probably be true of smaller churches. In a large church you may not see the pastor every time you’re sick, but if they have a good care system you’ll be cared for in a Biblical community. I have witnessed countless stories of that in some of the churches in which I’ve been a part.
“You won’t get to know anyone.”
That would be like saying if you work at a large company you wouldn’t know anybody you work with. Not true. You won’t be able to just attend the large gathering, never speak to anyone, and expect to develop deeper relationships. But, something tells me, in every large or growing church there will be opportunities to get to know people.
“It’s all about the money.”
As with many of these, you have to think of things in a relative way. It is true that large churches require more money to fund the ministry. Again, that’s just math. But, all churches have a budget. It’s almost always proportional to the size of the church. I have loved watching some large churches that actually are very kingdom-minded and bless churches of all sizes. It’s been amazing to me, for example, to watch as our status church blesses smaller churches. This was something that was happening before me – so it’s not about me. But, I love it.
Here is my advice:
Be careful with generalizations. Look under the hood before you critique the engine. And, never throw stones at what you don’t know.
In fairness, people cast false impressions towards the church that isn’t growing. And, I certainly wouldn’t say that every church in decline or that has plateaued is “making disciples”. Some probably are. Some not as well.
People also make false impressions about small churches. Most of which are probably equally unfair. I have some good friends who are making huge Kingdom impacts in a smaller church. (I’d consider a well-written “7 misunderstandings of small church” guest post.)
Let’s be supporters of churches of all shapes and sizes. Let’s look for fruit, certainly consider the teachings, but take the entire ministry of the church into consideration before we offer generalizations — and certainly before we criticize someone with whom we are supposed to be on the same team.
I have the opportunity to speak to dozens of pastors each month. It’s one of my favorite things to do in leadership. Often I will share parts of the conversations I have with my wife Cheryl. She’s a great sounding board and always helps me form a more relational context around the situation.
Recently I was discussing a young pastor who is in a difficult church environment. He is a mid-level staff member and feels God may be opening the door to another opportunity. The problem is — from my perspective — he may be entering another difficult church environment. I said to Cheryl, “It could be miserable for a while.”
Cheryl knew all the principles I’m about to share, but they didn’t resonate before her immediate response.
Cheryl asked, “Would God really call someone into a miserable environment?”
Well, of course, He might. Consider Jonah. What about Elijah? Ever heard of Nehemiah or Noah or Daniel or David or Paul?
The Gospel is needed. That’s why Jonah was being sent. People needed to know the Living God. They weren’t yet seeking. They were very wicked people. That’s why Jonah didn’t want to go. But, God was seeking them. He wanted to use Jonah to reach them.
People need renewed hope. And, that’s a Gospel issue too. Imagine the “atmosphere” among the Israelites when Moses showed up to offer deliverance. They were frustrated, scared, oppressed, lonely from lack of interaction with God. But, Moses was being used as the deliverer from suffering into a renewed hope.
To show people a better way. It was probably a tense moment when Peter first arrived to the brothers after his time with Cornelius. Good disciples didn’t hang out with uncircumcised men like him. But, Jesus had brought a new message — one of grace — not one of rules. Peter was a messenger of grace.
We learn to trust more. We develop more in environments of tension. Abram left all that he knew to go to a strange land. He went without a good plan — certainly not one he could see very far ahead. That must have been miserable. Yet, God was using Abram to become Abraham — father and example of our faith. Faith is always going where you cannot see. Without Genesis 12, Abraham would have never been ready for Genesis 22.
God gets the glory. Who gets the glory when the credit goes to us? But, when we are in a miserable environment — and God shows up — who gets the glory? Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery. He was eventually thrown into a prison cell. Miserable existence for someone who had tried to do the right thing. Yet, God raised Joseph to a seat of honor. Who gets the glory in that story?
I’m sure there are many other reasons God would send someone into a miserable environment. I should be clear, it’s not at all that God loves to see His people miserable. That would be absolutely contrary to everything else we know about the character of God. I do believe, however, that God is very purposeful to work things for good. And, sometimes the best good comes from the most miserable — when the power of God is at work.
His strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)