Some church leaders really connect with the people who make up the congregations they serve. Others have great difficulty. The following are a few suggestions that might help you connect. Perhaps one or more of these will be helpful.
1. Listen to people. Listen to a wide variety of people in your congregation. Too many church leaders seem to listen primarily to their critics while others seem to only listen to kindred spirits. Again, listen to people across the spectrum in your congregation.
2. Ask good questions. Give some thought as to the questions you might ask people in your congregation. Having specific questions in mind can help prevent an awkward silence when you don’t know what to say. It can also keep you focused on having an exchange with someone instead of dominating the conversation.
3. Reflect on what it might be like to experience another’s circumstance. For example, consider what it might be like to experience situations such as these:
*What’s it like to be divorced?
*What’s it like to be depressed?
*What’s it like to lose your job?
“What’s it like to have cancer?
*What’s it like to have lost a child?
*What’s it like to learn of your spouse’s affair?
*What’s it like to be secretively in debt due to gambling?
*What’s it like to be gripped by pornography?
Pondering such situations might flavor your remarks in sermons and classes. Such reflection might also help a church leader reconsider telling a particular joke or making flippant comment.
4. Don’t tell inside jokes. A speaker will make a remark in a presentation. Then he says, “That’s an inside joke.” A few people laugh while everyone else is baffled by the remark. This practice can leave other people feeling as if they are on the outside looking in.
5. Pay attention to the edges. Years ago, a woman gave me some very good advice regarding connecting with people who were on the edges of our congregational life. After a Sunday morning assembly, she asked me if I had met a couple who had been visiting our church. I had not. She said, “You are going to have to try harder. These are not people who are going to come to you.” She was right. I needed to be more intentional in connecting with people who were on the edges.
For a number of years, I’ve had a front row seat to witness first hand some great fathers as they’ve interacted with their children. Most of these dads also modeled what it means to love their wives with an unconditional love.
The guys who I have in mind are in their 30s and 40s. They are normal men who have a mortgage and go to work each day. Yet, they have allowed Christ to deeply impact their lives as fathers.
Here are ten traits of a great dad:
1. The best kind of dad first models faithfulness and loyalty to his wife. His children witness this. While many men behave in ways that are small and childish, this man is real grownup. This mans wife married a real man who refuses let his immaturity dominate the relationship. This kind of man also blesses his children as he relates to them as a real father.
2. The best kind of dad is more concerned about being what his kids need instead of being focused on his own ego. Some boy-men are so insecure they must have their fragile ego massaged each evening when they are home. Such ego needs doesn’t leave much time or energy for being attentive to their children.
Words to avoid when writing. (Globe and Mail)
Son keeps his promise to his dad and gives him a 1957 Chevy for his birthday.
Thom Rainer has written a very good post “12 Reasons to be Optimistic About the Future of Local Congregations.”
Have you seen these resources? Some very helpful resources (video, audio, notes) from Austin Grad’s Sermon Seminar.
I paid little attention to the value of sleep for years. However, Michael Hyatt has written a fine post in which he discusses the value of sleep for productivity. “Why People Who Sleep Longer Achieve More.”
See Victoria Labalme’s video in which she discusses “The Amateur Versus the Professional.”
My friend told me many years ago, “If you are going to last, you can’t keep working like this.”
I was a young preacher. I had just told my new friend some details about my typical work week. I had no sense of boundaries or priorities. Consequently, my days were typically spent with far too much activity and too little reflection on the value of these activities.
My friend had served congregations for many years. He was ten years older than me and had given much thought about his use of time in his own ministry.
Consequently, I made some changes in the way I used my time in my work. I also learned much about the way I had been using my time.
Perhaps you will find these helpful.
1. Every “yes” is a “no” to something else. Some people say “yes” to almost every request they receive. Yet time is a limited resource. Consequently, I can be busy fulfilling the requests of a few people, while I ignore the message preparation that will impact hundreds of people on Sunday morning. I learned to think through the implications of saying “yes” to far too many requests.
See this post by Eric Geiger “Why Your Pastor Needs a Sabbatical.” One way to bless your entire church.
Students should watch this video. “My Advice to Students” (series). Matthew Barrett says, “Don’t Forget to Read Scripture.”
John Saddington has written a good post “Mr. Proctor, Mr. Gamble.” Two unlikely business partners.
Richard Beck has written a very good post on singing, worship, and hymns. See “Worship Songs Aren’t Just for God: On Lament and Old Hymnbooks.”
See Thom Rainer’s “The Most Common Factor in Declining Churches.” I rarely miss one of Rainer’s posts.
When someone refers to another as “unpretentious” it is often quite a compliment. Such a statement is not typically made with cool detachment but with great pleasure. After all, unpretentious people are not only people we like but are often people who cause us to feel good when we are with them.
Meanwhile, we may know also know some people who we might describe as “pretentious.” These people perceive themselves to be important and have a way of being with others that may cause them to feel critiqued and evaluated.
I recall a conversation with a woman who had walked into a social setting where she was to meet a new friend. She sensed the eyes of others staring at her. She felt as if others were thinking, “Who is she and who invited her here?”
Meanwhile, her new friend came into the room and warmly greeted her guest. In spite of the rather cool beginning, she actually enjoyed the evening. The nice evening was attributed to her friend whom she describes as being completely unpretentious.
Have you been in situations like this where you were put at ease by another’s lack of self-importance?
I love to laugh.
A funny story can be told in a sermon, class, elder’s meeting, or in a small gathering of friends. It is particularly enjoyable to laugh with friends. Laughter can often draw us together.
Laughter, used in the wrong way, can also be deadly. Someone’s laughter can be embarrassing or even humiliating. A public speaker or a person in a small gathering can actually use laughter as a weapon.
Beware when humor is used in the following ways.
1. Beware of humor that causes another to feel embarrassed, exposed, or shamed. This can happen when certain people share stories about another’s humiliating moment. Yes, everyone laughs. However, more than once I have suspected that the person about whom the story was being told was dying inside. Do I really need to tell these kinds of stories?
2. Beware of humor in which you find yourself telling or laughing about another’s misfortune. A joke about their son’s arrest? A joke about a wife’s unfaithfulness? A joke about someone’s bankruptcy?
3. Beware of humor in which you intentionally tell a story that exposes the private moments of your spouse or children. Your spouse and children ought to be able to relax and live in your home without fear that you are going to trot out their latest mistake in a sermon. Far better for one to tell about his own mistakes and his own blunders than those of family members.
The other day I was on the telephone with one of my daughters. We talked for a few minutes when suddenly she said, “Well Dad, I guess I had better go.”
I responded by saying, “Already? What is your hurry?”
She then said, “Dad-I can tell you are distracted.”
I could not argue. I was distracted. Charlotte and I had just arrived home after a trip to Arkansas. I was distracted the moment we walked into the house. I apologized and said that I would love to talk with her. She said, “Let’s talk some other time.”
I suspect many of us have experienced such conversations. However, sometimes the failure to be fully present with others is more than a momentary occurrence. Some people are just not emotionally present regardless of the circumstances. This is just the way they function. In other words, they live each day not really present in the moment they have right now.
What do we lose when we are not fully present?
Third Third of Life
See this fine post by Walter Wright from Fieldnotes Magazine regarding his book The Third Third of Life: Preparing for your Future. I really enjoyed this book!
Note this info graphic regarding productivity and time wasters. “The Four Biggest Productivity Killers in Your Office.” Sobering! (Thanks Tim Spivey).
James Bryan Smith
I enjoy reading anything James Bryan Smith writes. See his post “Defining Spiritual Formation: The Need.” I have read almost every book Smith has written. A very good and helpful writer.
Shane Duffey has written a fine post on Perry Noble’s blog entitled: “Five Leadership Lessons I Learned When I Began to Work In A Church.”
Who do you intend to be? Will you finish well?
I recently read Walter Wright’s most recent book The Third Third of Life: Preparing for Your Future. Wright is the former President of Regent College in Vancouver. Wright suggest that one’s life can be divided into thirds.
“I like to think of life in thirds. The first third (one to thirty) we spend in incubation, education, preparation, exploring identity and purpose, intimacy, and relationships. The second third (thirty to sixty) is dominated by family and work: we define our core relationships and commit to a career path. The third third (sixty to ninety) encounters the unexplored terrain of life after the working career.” (p 9)
The book explores the “third third” of life. You may not be there yet. Before you stop reading, however, you might note this paragraph:
“Planning for the third third of life draws heavily on the first two thirds. Who we have become is the result of a lifetime of learning, work, and relationships. Who we will be is a choice that builds on this foundation. Preparing for the future is not a uniquely third third concern. It is an agenda for life.” (p. 114)
Given these realities, who do you intend to be? Will you finish well?