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?
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.
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…
Who, in your opinion, is the best leader as a coach in sports today?
The way a leader handles correction of someone on the team is important if the desire is to keep quality people on the team. All of us occasionally need someone to help us become better at what we do. That should be the end goal of correction. All of us make mistakes.
Avoiding the corrective procedure keeps the organization from being all it can be. It keeps people from learning from their mistakes. Good leaders use correction to improve people and the organization.
It’s important that we correct correctly.
Here are 7 aspects of healthy correction:
Relationship – Corrective actions should start here. It’s hard to correct people effectively if you don’t have a relationship with them. Using authority without an established relationship may work in a bureaucratic organization, but not in a team environment. Relationship building should begin before the need for correction.
Respect – Never condemn the person. As soon as correction becomes more personal than practical, the one being corrected becomes defensive and the leader loses the value of the correction. Focus attention on the actions being corrected and not the person. (Even if the correction involves a character issue, if you intend to retain the person, you will accomplish more if he or she knows they have your respect.)
Reprimand – Make sure the action being correction is clear and the person knows what they did wrong. Don’t wait until the problem is too large to restore the person to the team. Even though protecting the relationship is important, the person doesn’t need to leave still clueless that there is a problem.
Refocus – In addition to telling the person what he or she did wrong, help them learn from their mistakes. Spend time discussing how the person can improve in the area of performance being corrected.
Restore – Make sure the person being corrected knows you still believe in their abilities and that you have faith they can do the job for which they are responsible. Correction is never easy to accept, but the goal should be to improve things following the corrective period. People will lose heart for their work if they do not think their work is still valued.
Reinforce – Correction can be a valuable time for the team member and organization if used appropriately. It should be a learning time for the leader and the person being corrected. Use this as a time to remind the team member of the culture, vision, goals and objectives of the organization, as necessary to improve the team member’s performance. The leader should consider how he or she can improve to help the team member improve.
Replace – Some people simply aren’t a fit for the team. The problem could be them or the team. Making the call to replace a team member is hard, but sometimes necessary to continue the progress of the organization. The sooner this call is made the better it will be for everyone. (If it reaches this point, the leader should spend time evaluating what went wrong with the relationship — was it the person, the organization, or the leader?)
Leaders, do you avoid correction? Are you using it for the good of the organization and the people on your team?
What would you add to my list?
Ever wonder why the introvert on your team isn’t talking?
Introverts can be highly creative. They have original ideas. They think things through thoroughly. You need to hear from them.
Chances are, if they aren’t sharing, you’re missing out on some good participation.
Here are 7 reasons they may not be talking:
Everyone else kept talking – Most introverts aren’t going to talk over other people. They’ll wait their turn. If it doesn’t come. They won’t share.
You are rushing the answers – You don’t give them time to process. Introverts take time to find the right words to say. If you press for quick responses, they’ll likely share less. That’s true in brainstorming too, where you’re looking for many responses.
There are too many people, especially extroverts in the room – If there are plenty of “talkers” an introvert will let others do the talking. Again, they won’t interrupt. If introverts are easily outnumbered they are usually silenced.
You have them in an uncomfortable seat – Maybe they were late to the meeting and all that was left was an awkward front row seat. Not happening. They won’t likely share if they feel they are being made the center of attention.
They’ve got nothing to say – Perhaps it isn’t their subject. Introverts aren’t as likely to talk about subjects they know less about as an extrovert will. Their words are typically based on thoughts they’ve processed longer, so if it’s a new subject, they may still be processing internally.
The conversation isn’t going anywhere – Introverts aren’t usually fans of small talk. If too much time at the beginning of the meeting was about nothing they consider of great importance, then you may have lost their interest .
You put them on the spot without warning – Introverts are often NOT opposed to making a presentation. (The “not” is capitalized on purpose.) The myth is that introverts are always silent. Not true. Or that they have nothing to say. Not true again. They simply want to be prepared before they share.
Of course, this means you need to understand the team you’re trying to lead. Who are the introverts — the true introverts — on your team? They may have thoughts you need to hear. Your challenge is to create an environment conducive for hearing from them.
Edited note: I always receive push back from introverts about brainstorming. (Remember, I am one. Fairly extreme one.) I don’t think the problem is brainstorming, but rather how we do it. The process is too important not to do it and the collective thoughts are too important to miss anyone. We don’t get an “out” of everything uncomfortable because we are introverts. No one does. We just have to adapt and leaders have to get better at leading everyone, which is the point of these posts.
Go to my 7 suggestions post for ideas for each of these to get the introverts sharing.
What other reasons do you know that keep introverts from sharing in a meeting?