Are you a Boss or a Leader?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

It’s easy to say “I’m a leader because I’m the boss,” but that’s not what makes a person a leader. True leadership doesn’t come from the title we carry, but from the influence we have with those around us.

As you evaluate your own influence with those you lead, which side of the equation do you think you fall on most often? Are you a BOSS or a LEADER?

Can’t see the infograph? Try clicking here.

When Email Makes More Enemies Than Friends

Recently, I received an email from a colleague who had not taken the time to write the email properly. I responded by explaining that I was confused and needed clarity. I didn’t hear back from him for more than a week. When he finally did respond, he gave a quip and unhelpful response without answering my questions or explaining anything further. I could only surmise that he was in a hurry and didn’t really read through his email to me or my response to him.

Had we been sitting in the room together discussing the issue, this would never have happened. He would have been a lot more focused on me and how he was presenting himself. 

As pastors and leaders, it is important we pay attention to WHAT we communicate via email as well as HOW we communicate it. I have made it a habit to follow these four email best practices. I recommend you give them a try.

Four Steps to Communicate Kindly in Email

1. Reread the email before you hit ‘Send’.

It’s super easy to do, and well worth the time. Just read it one more time. Eight times out of ten I bet you’ll find something that wasn’t clear and tweak it. You will never regret taking the extra time to reread an email before clicking ‘Send’, but you will sometimes regret when you didn’t. You can’t ‘take back’ an email!

2. Keep it to one topic.

I’ve discovered that people (myself included) are often guilty of just skimming an email before replying. If I try to address 2 or 3 issues in the same email, sometimes the reader will only respond to the first issue, leaving me hanging for the rest. Try to keep emails to one topic at a time – and include the topic in the subject line. If you have three separate things to say to someone, send them three different emails. It might seem a little weird and redundant – but it works!

3. Respond within 24 hours.

Waiting two, three or more days to respond to a legitimate email is the equivalent of ignoring someone while they are talking to you. It creates unnecessary drama and for some people it is quite offensive. Responding to the multitude of emails you receive each day can be daunting. If you know you can’t properly get back to someone right away, try replying with a very short note saying something like, “I’d love to get back to you on this, but can it wait until next week?” Bottom line, don’t leave people hanging!

4. End with a genuine sign-off.

We are all familiar with the typical boiler-plate sign-offs included in email signatures, like, “Sincerely,” or “Thanks.” Although this is common, it is also fairly impersonal. An extra 10 seconds for every email can turn your detached and sometimes inappropriate sign-off into a friendly one. I don’t say, “Sincerely,” to my wife, but I might for a formal letter to a company. For many of my friends and colleagues, I often close with “Be Blessed!” or “Blessings!” Sometimes, the most appropriate email sign-off is, “Thanks so much!”, “I really appreciate it.”, “Great job” or even, “Have a fabulous day!” Whatever it is, why not make it unique for every email? It will set a positive and authentic tone to the end of your conversation. Another idea: include the person’s name as well, “Have a great day Tim!”

What other email habits would you add to this list?



Bonus: Check out this infographic with more email tips at the bottom!

mbti_sendmail_infographic

Teach Yourself to Smile

[This post is also available at www.guestfriendly.org.]

That’s right. I said, ‘Teach Yourself’. Just because you have a face and positive emotions doesn’t mean you have a good smile. Don’t believe me? Check out my post, “The Problem With Your Face!” When I realized that my habitual smile looked more like a scowl than anything else I realized I needed to fix it. Here are a few steps I recommend to get you started:

STEP 1: EVALUATE YOUR ‘REAL’ SMILE.

First, it’s important for you to get a good, solid evaluation of your smile. I’m not talking about the pasted smile you put on when you are taking a picture. I’m talking about the smile you use every day at home, work, in the store, etc. You’ll need input from more than yourself too. This will require a good dose of humility on your part.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Look in the Mirror
    As long as you aren’t embarrassed being with yourself too much, this one is really easy. The next time you are alone in the bathroom spend some time smiling at yourself. The best way to do this is to just ‘pretend’ you are in different scenario’s and smile like you would at those times. While doing this, ask yourself, “Is this what I want people to see?” The first time I did this I became very frustrated. I found that I didn’t really know how to smile except when I was getting my picture taken or was laughing. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with my facial muscles and worked on retraining them.

    But don’t stop there. Just because YOU like your smile doesn’t mean others do!
     

  • Ask Someone You Trust
    This means you have to admit that you might have a problem and need help. I know enough about us leaders that this one hurdle may be bigger than the smile itself. Assuming you can get over whatever pride you may be carrying, find someone you trust to give honest feedback. You’re not looking for someone who is afraid to hurt your feelings. That’s totally counter-productive. Find someone who will honestly evaluate your natural smile and ask them their opinion and thoughts. Then, as they give you feedback, just listen, ask clarifying questions and resist the impulse to defend yourself if the evaluation you receive is less than you expected.
     
  • Ask a Stranger
    OK. Maybe that’s going a little too far. You’ll have to decide. But consider this, your most trusted friends are used to seeing your face every week. It’s possible they will not be capable of giving you an objective opinion. So ask a stranger. Next time you are sitting in a waiting room or standing in a line, humble yourself and ask the person next to you for some feedback. You might start by simply smiling at the person before saying something like this: “Excuse me. I know this might sound really weird, but I am a public speaker and recently I’ve been wondering what kinds of first impressions I make when I smile. If it doesn’t make you too uncomfortable, could you just rate your impression of my smile just a moment ago as well as right now while I’m talking on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being that I seem really mean and 5 being that I seem very friendly and approachable? Again, just let me know if you’d rather not. I know it’s a very strange request.”
     
  • Ask a New Acquaintance
    Finally, you can ask someone you have recently become acquainted with. Perhaps it’s a pastor or leader from another church, a new attendee in your church, or a next door neighbor. You could use a similar approach as above and solicit their feedback.
     

STEP 2: DEFINE YOUR NEW SMILE

Next, you need to begin working on your new smile (assuming you need to). This isn’t something you will accomplish in one sitting. It will likely require a concerted effort on your part over a period of days, even weeks before you find the smile you are really looking for. Here are more suggestions:

  • Focus on Your Muscles
    Ask yourself what muscles you are using when you are truly smiling. There are over 50 muscles in your face. It’s highly likely that there are some that you almost never use and don’t even know are there. In fact, a good 20 minutes of ‘smiling’ could leave your facial muscles feeling sore. That’s a good thing. Find and consciously discover the new muscles you are using. You’ll need that knowledge later when you want to smile but don’t have a mirror in front of you to make sure you’re doing it right!

    A lot of research has shown that great smiles use the orbicularis oculi muscle. This is the muscle that surrounds your eyes. Good smiles will produce a slight squint in your eyes that help transform the smile from a ‘fake’ smile to a genuine one – sometimes called ‘laugh lines’. 
     
  • Ask Yourself How Your Face Feels
    This sounds weird but it works for me. I’ve discovered that when I’m smiling properly my cheeks touch the bottoms of my glasses and I can feel a different kind of pressure on the edges of my mouth. Again, that’s great knowledge to have when I’m out and about. About the only time I can genuinely ensure I’m smiling while talking to people is during a Skype call where I can see myself at the same time as the person I’m addressing. Since you and I don’t live on Skype we need some ‘help’ making sure we’re getting it right.
     
  • Get More Feedback
    You’ve developed a new smile and you like it. So you begin turning on the charm everywhere you go . . . and people start running. What gives? Try going back to Step 1 and get more input. For all you know, your new ‘smile’ still says things you never intended (and never said before). The last thing you want is for your first impression to be, “I’ve lost my marbles and hope you know where they are!”
     

STEP 3: PRACTICE

You spent most of your adult life perfecting that grumpy look. I guarantee you won’t ‘fix’ it in just a couple of weeks or even months. They say it takes 21 days to build a new habit, but in this case I suspect we’re talking more like 6 months. Practice, practice, practice. Check out your smile in front of the mirror often. Look it over every day. Until you know you are representing the ‘real you’ stay on your guard whenever you respond with a smile.

 

The Problem With Your Face

[This post is also available at www.guestfriendly.org.]


Your face probably lies . . . a lot!

You think you know what your face is saying, but it’s very possible you don’t. I discovered this the hard way. For years I thought I was expressing a kind, friendly expression everywhere I went.

Here are two examples:

  • A few years ago I was driving to work and passed by a church attendee walking in the parking lot. She saw me and lifted her hand in a brief wave of greeting. I made eye contact as I passed by, moved my mouth muscles into what I considered to be a ‘greeting smile’ and nodded. Immediately, I got the impression I should ‘check’ what my smile looked like. So I looked up into the rear view mirror and repeated the smile, only to be horrified to see a scowl looking back at me!
     
  • I remember sitting in my office across from a young couple in our church. The young man was interested in a job and had brought his wife along to discuss details and options with me. At one point in the conversation, he made a great comment that solicited a positive emotion inside of me. In a purely automatic response I again, moved my facial muscles in a modicum of a smile and nodded thoughtfully. A few moments later, I remembered the ‘scowl’ from the parking lot and realized that I had just frowned at him when I should have been smiling!

Most people smile at least a few times a day without even thinking about it. At least, they smile on the inside. Something happens that brings a small measure of joy into our hearts and we respond, either intentionally or unconsciously with a smile or nod.

The problem is, for MANY of us, our outward reactions don’t even
come close to our intention or genuine feelings.

This was true for me. One day my wife mentioned something about my ‘frown’ and I finally started paying attention. I was appalled and embarrassed. What I thought was a thoughtful or gentle smile was a total frown. I’m not exaggerating. My mouth automatically turned down on both sides creating a perfect frown. Ugh!

Since then I have been having an almost daily battle with my face – forcing it to truly express what I think and feel instead of what it (as if it has a will!) naturally expresses.

As a pastor, public speaker and Jesus follower with a strong desire to encourage and strengthen those around me, this became a very important issue for me. I’m afraid to think too much about the number of people I have given a negative impression about me, or worse, Jesus Christ, because of my expression.

The Scary-Mad Man

A while back our church hosted a national speaker and pastor for a conference. He brought one of his pastors and associates to assist him during the conference. Since I was sitting behind him, I engaged him in some breif conversation before the service. My first impression was less than nice. He seemed extremely unfriendly and antisocial. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was mad at me.

What shocked me was when the national speaker got up and introduced him as one of the kindest, passionate man with a huge hunger for God. I realized I had fallen for his scary expression. He seemed to be constantly frowning, even when it seemed like he should be happy.

It’s sad to say, but this has happened to me more often that I want to admit, and often from pastors and christian leaders that are, or should be, held with a measure of respect and esteem.

In his book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, Guy Kawasaki said, “What does it cost to smile? Nothing. What does it cost not to smile? Everything, if it prevents you from connecting with people. While smiling sends a very clear message about your state of mind, not smiling creates an opening for many interpretations, including grumpiness, aloofness, and anger – none of which helps you enchant people.”

It turns out little orphan Annie had the right idea, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”

How is your smile, really? 

Check out “Teach Yourself to Smile” to learn some great tips on how to smile!

What Is the formula for united change?

I recently spoke with a church member who was frustrated with his local church. He confided he was considering attending elsewhere. He expressed doubt in the leadership’s ability to make wise choices. He always felt out of the loop. Announcements made about changes in the way things were going to be done with kids, small groups or upcoming event schedules always came unexpectedly and last minute. There was never any room for discussion. They were announced and it was assumed that everyone would line up and follow the new marching orders.

His solution to the problem was to quietly slip out the back door. When I suggested he talk to the pastor he made a very interesting comment. He said, “I wouldn’t know what to say to him. He’s in charge, I’m not. Plus, it’s not like he’s done anything grossly wrong.” When I pressed him further, I discovered he actually had tried to talk with the pastor about the issue earlier in the year, as best he could. The problem was that he didn’t really know exactly what the issue was – just that he felt discontent, disconnected and powerless to make a difference. Nothing changed.

There are two very important elements that every church leadership team should include whenever introducing change. Most don’t. Both elements slow things down. They gum up the works and make things more complicated. However, without them there will almost always be dissension and dissatisfaction. Something the apostle Paul warned us to stay away from.

In my years of ministry I have come to the conclusion that the below formula is super important when introducing change to your congregation. It doesn’t matter if the change is something huge like a building campaign or something relatively minor like switching youth group night. Following this formula will ensure the highest involvement, participation and commitment to your cause from your attendees. 

Here is the all-important formula:

Communication + Time = United Change

Let’s unpack the formula a little bit.

Communication

The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. George Bernard Shaw  People need to get the skinny if you want them to buy-in. Even better, give them a chance to pipe in with their thoughts and input. All you have to commit to is explain and listen. Most complainers wouldn’t be so difficult if they were just heard. Of course, who wants to do all that work? Better to just make the decisions and roll them out, right? That could work, but it won’t lead to committed people. The people that usually follow that kind of leader are those who are either loyal to them no matter what or those who really don’t care either way. No. Share the vision with them and give them time to process and be part of the discussion, first. “When people see their own ideas and fingerprints on the work, they have a sense of ownership that feels true and genuine.” Barry Demp

Time

If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? John Wooden  Communication must be combined with time. That is, people need time to think through your vision. To process. To ask questions. To check their schedule and life and see if it will fit. When you don’t give people time, you are showing a lack of respect for them – the very thing you’re trying hard not to do. So give people time to process change, especially change that will impact them. If your changing worship team rehearsal night from Tuesday to Wednesday, there are only a few people who need to know, but give them time. Communicate + Time will more likely lead to wholehearted commitment to the changes, even when it requires a sacrifice on their part.

United Change

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 1:10  The Word of God has a lot to say about the topic of unity. We are called to work hard at obtaining unity and maintaining it. How ironic that many times we are the reason we lack it, simply because we don’t go the extra mile to communicate clearly and give people time to get on board!


 
How do you introduce change to your congregation?

Blind Spots for the Local Church

 
I visited a church a while back that had a BIG blind spot. At least, it seemed like a blind spot to me. I could see the problem, but none of the leaders seemed to realize it was there. The problem was that they really believed they were a friendly church, but in reality they weren’t . . . unless you were an insider. I was greeted at the door, which was nice; but from that point forward I became invisible. People actually seemed to work hard at avoiding eye contact with me! This ‘Blind Spot’ is really hurting them – mostly because they are blind to the problem, while it’s painfully obvious to every guest who darkens their door.

Last week I wrote a post entitled, ‘Blind Spots for the Christian Leader‘. This simple matrix does a great job of defining the various areas of self awareness each of us possess. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you jump back & check it out.

Today, I’d like to explore how the Johari Window applies to the local church (rather than just the pastor or a leader within the church). Here’s a review of how the Johari Window works. 

Johari-Window3

In the above image you’ll note the four quadrants.  Each section represents knowledge or lack of knowledge regarding various character traits, weaknesses, etc. for the individual, or for today’s discussion, the local church. Because we are dealing with a group of people instead of just one person, each quadrant gets a little more complicated. With the exception of the ‘Unknown’ section, there end up being different groups of people for each area. So far as I can tell, here are the different groups of people we should keep in mind:

  • Leaders: This includes the pastor, key staff, elders and any other leaders who are on the front lines in ministry at the church.
  • Members/Attendees: This includes everyone else who attends regularly and are the recipients of most of the ministry at the church.
  • Guests: This includes anyone who attends a service, activity, or event for the first time as well as those who come back to visit two or more times. A ‘guest’ is anyone who considers themselves a visitor at the church, regardless of how long they have been attending.
  • Community: This includes anyone in your community who has never attended your church. 

Let’s take a look at each quadrant in relation to the local church:

Open Self – Known To Everyone

For the local church, this is the smallest quadrant of all. There is very little about a local church that everyone knows about, especially when you add in the community – some of whom may not even know the church exists. Depending on the community, the ‘Arena’ quadrant may include things like the church name, location and/or pastor.
 

Hidden Self – Known Only To Us

Leaders are aware of things that members, guests, and the community are unaware of. Examples might include sensitive information like giving records, individual’s unique circumstances, people problems, etc. It may also include a clearer understanding of the bigger picture for the church. For instance, leaders are most likely to know where the church has been and where it’s going.

On the down-side, leaders are often guilty of unintentionally holding their cards too closely to the chest. As a result, sometimes other leaders, volunteers, and/or members can be stuck serving without fully comprehending what they are doing, how they should do it, or why it’s important.

Members are usually ‘in the know’ in some areas, at least in comparison to guests and the community. Where church life can get messy is when members are aware of sensitive information that doesn’t include the whole story or bigger picture. This is a feeding frenzy for satan to reek havoc in the church. Lack of communication or miscommunication will often lead to false conclusions, wrong expectations, and misguided assumptions.

To make matters even more complex, many times members are privy to situations and needs in the church that leaders are unaware of and don’t take the ownership to communicate what’s going on with them. Again, this disables whatever care those leaders may be able to exert in the situation.

Finally, leaders often fail to realize that many members are exactly what they need to solve certain problems, lead certain ministries, or fund new initiatives. God has placed the right people in ‘the house’ for the ministry He wants to initiate. This means many members have the skills, experience or funds to fulfill those purposes, if leaders would just invite them to participate.
 

Blind Self – Known to Others, Unknown to Us

Leaders are often the ones in the dark in this quadrant. There’s an old saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” It may be true for the church leader & pastor. Many would rather not know what they don’t know, but ultimately it isn’t healthy or helpful to the success of the church.

Blind Spots for leaders will include what people really think about the services, events, and activities in the church. For instance, the pastor may believe the weekly bible study is important, relevant and impacting to those who attend while the attendees may simply come because they believe they are supposed to, not because it is helpful to them. Other leadership Blind Spots might include genuine needs that members, guests and the community has, but which have never been communicated to them.

(Remember, we are focusing on the organization, not the individual – there are more blind spots that the pastor or a leader may have personally which I’ve discussed in the post ‘Johari Window for the Christian Leader‘.)

Members often have blind spots in their overall effectiveness or involvement in ministry in the church. Additionally, they may not reflect the values and culture the leadership is expecting or hoping for. This is usually due to a lack of communication, mentoring and regular leadership development.

Guests are blind to nearly everything going on around them. Often, their perceptions do not fully reflect reality. They may perceive the church as a warm, friendly place at the start but discover later on that it’s very difficult to connect with people. Conversely, their first impression may be that the church is unfriendly and irrelevant when in reality the opposite is true, were they to stick around. They may be blind to conflict or organizational dysfunction until they’ve been around for a few months or even years. Research says that 96% of people who have a bad experience never complain. This means your guests may know things about your church that you are completely clueless about; in particular, their first impressions and experiences.

The Community is usually completely clueless. If they are even aware your church exists, what they do think about the church and those in the church rarely reflects reality. Unfortunately, this may also contribute to their unwillingness to visit. That said the community may also have important information about your church that you are unaware of. In particular, they know what they think about the church, even if it’s not true. For example, perhaps they ‘heard’ about a guest’s bad experience or a member was rude or insensitive to someone they know. Maybe that community event the church hosted ten years ago that didn’t go very well is still resident in many people’s minds. Individuals in the community will almost never share these thoughts with church leaders, unless they somehow find their way into the life of the church first and reflect back on their original perceptions.
 

UNKNOWN – Known to No One but God

There are things about your church that nobody knows, but God. Some of those things don’t really matter, like where the cool Christmas lights went that were bought two years ago. However, sometimes there are important aspects of ministry that, if revealed, would stimulate personal and numerical growth over time. This is why it is so critical that church leaders remain humble, are voracious learners and readers, and are willing to allow others outside their church (and often inside their church) provide ongoing coaching to them both personally and organizationally.

As a ministry coach, I might be able to play a role in helping you unveil some of the ‘Unknown’ in your ministry. If you’re interested, please contact me and we’ll start a conversation about it.

 

Blind Spots for the Christian Leader

Back in 1955 a couple of men came up with this great model to help people discuss various aspects of self-awareness. The word ‘JoHari’ is a combination of the two people’s first names (Joseph & Harry). In the Johari Window you see four quadrants expressing personal knowledge or lack of knowledge regarding various character traits, weaknesses, etc. The below chart shows each of these quadrants.

Johari-Window3

Open Self: Known to self and others.

This is what we usually communicate to others or is obvious to nearly everyone. It may be something physical, like a blemish or your weight; or it could include things like your education, number of children in your family, a hobby or your job.

Hidden Self: Known to self, but unknown to others.

This is what we conceal from others about ourselves. Sometimes there is a good reason for holding something back, ex. computer passwords or confidential information about others. At other times it may include information you know would not be appropriate to share, ex. a special moment with a spouse or with God. The rest of the time this quadrant will include secrets – most of which we are embarrassed or afraid to share with others.

Blind Self: Unknown to self, but known to others.

Also known as ‘Blind Spots’. This is where our ignorance can truly hurt us. Others see a weakness, flaw, or even a strength and assume you already know about it or choose not to tell you. You’re left in the dark and don’t even know it. For example, perhaps you tend to have strong B.O., often seem angry, rarely smile, or just can’t preach (wait, I meant ‘sing’). On the positive side, it’s very possible others see a gift in you that would be great to strengthen and develop, but nobody ever says anything, e.g. hospitality. Blind Spot’s may run much deeper and darker as well. This is where people have bought into lies earlier in life that they are completely unaware of. Lies may include pride, insecurity, an addiction, stubbornness, insensitivity, and more.

Unknown Self: Unknown to either self or others.

This final quadrant is disclosed to God alone. It will include the inner workings of your life, personality, character, history, sin nature, etc. that may never fully be disclosed to anyone else. That doesn’t mean it won’t one day be revealed. It’s possible God is waiting for the opportune time to reveal an Unknown strength or weakness. David’s prayers were often requests for God to reveal the unknown to him, like in Psalm 139: 23-24.
 


 
If this is your first time seeing this matrix, I know what you’re thinking. “I can’t wait to teach this on a Sunday morning!” or “I should share this with {fill in the blank} – since they have so many blind spots!”

Let’s hold the phone for a while. I’d like to pose a question to YOU first. Here it is.

What are you doing to shrink the “Blind Spot” quadrant in your life?

It’s folly to assume that we don’t have blind spots. Proverbs regularly reminds us to remain humble before both God and man. For example, “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.” Pr. 28:26, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” Pr. 19:20, and “rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge.” Pr. 19:25.

There’s an age-old way for you to begin shrinking that window in your life; but it takes great courage to do it. Find some trusted people and ask them to share what they know or think about you. I’m not just talking about your best friend. Select several people who see you in different venues and who you trust implicitly to be open, honest, and loving with you. 

You might think the courageous part is sitting them down to ask them self-disclosing questions, but the really brave moment is when they begin telling you what you don’t know. That is the moment of truth. It’s the moment when you choose between foolishness or wisdom. I have one word of advice. Assume they are telling you the truth. To do otherwise is to be presumptuous – and dishonoring to them.

After all, how can you judge if they are right if it’s a blind spot? At the very least, admit that their commentary about you reflects a real perception, if not reality. 

A few questions to get you started:

  • What do you view as my primary strengths?
  • What do you consider to be my primary weaknesses?
  • Do I seem approachable to you?
  • Do you think people are afraid to confront me about anything?
  • Is there anything you notice in my personal life/family that concerns you?
  • Have you ever been aware of an ‘elephant in the room’ when I have been leading meetings or sharing a sermon? 
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate my effectiveness as a communicator?
  • If I hired you as a personal life coach, what would you want us to work on first in my life?
  • Is it possible that I believe I’m good at something that others probably wouldn’t necessarily agree with?

Rethinking How We Lead Meetings

 

How are you at leading meetings? If you lead them, you better be asking. I lead meetings. Lots of them. Perhaps too many of them. It is so easy for me to get into the groove of leading the meetings without evaluating if I’m actually doing it well. These people are looking to me to lead an engaging, productive, and team building meeting where we all grow in our trust for one another. They eagerly and often secretly hope that the meetings will end on time or early, but they want to be engaged in the meetings as well. They hate boring meetings.

In the past few weeks I’ve talked to several pastors and leaders who were hoping I’d give tips on leading meetings. I’ve gotten the ball rolling with the below posts. I also took a few minutes scouring some of my favorite blogs for additional food for thought on meetings. I don’t claim to agree with everything said, but I do agree that you and I should be thinking about it more.
 

Articles by Wayne Hedlund (me):

Articles by Michael Hyatt:

Articles by Seth Godin:

Articles by Patrick Lencioni:

Articles by Tim Stevens:

Articles by 99%:

8 Reasons Volunteers Don’t Feel Valued

One day Jesus decided to sit and watch people put money in the offering basket. When an unremarkable, poor woman threw in a couple pennies, Jesus honored her above everyone else. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

I wonder how that woman felt about herself. I wonder if she believed her gift didn’t really matter. I wonder if the people in her life ever validated her or what she had to offer. Or did they all pass her by when they looked at what she gave and discount her because they compared her to everyone else, who seemed to give so much more.

That’s not what Jesus did. He valued both the woman and her gift, when nobody else did.

Let’s take a moment and stop thinking of her gift as financial. What if her gift was in service to the church instead? Would we treat her the same?

I can tell a lot of stories about people who never reached their potential in ministry because the people around them (and they themselves) didn’t value who they were or what they could contribute. I’m sure you can too.

The following represents some ideas on why volunteers sometimes feel devalued in our ministries.

Lack of Communication

When people don’t know what’s going on, they feel devalued. The unspoken message they are hearing is, “I wasn’t important enough to be in the loop on this.” Most of the time, it’s not true, but our inadequate means of communication will eventually alienate and drive some of our most committed people away.

Non-Personal Interaction

It doesn’t matter what size church you lead, people are still people and they are craving personal touch. In particular, they will feel valued and important when the people they respect in leadership take the time to connect with them. This can be a huge challenge for christian leaders. Even so, finding ways to give 1 on 1 attention to people through cards, email, social media, personal visits, etc. will help them know they are a valued part of your team.

Responsibility Without Authority

When people are asked to get involved, but aren’t empowered to do it themselves, they feel like wheels in a cog. Systems can add great value to local ministries, but they are meant to serve your volunteers, not the other way around. Whenever possible, programs should leave room for enough creative liberty to allow volunteers to make decisions on their own.

No Opportunity for Buy-In

Announcing change from the pulpit is dangerous. People need time to process what’s going on and how it will impact them personally. If you want to value your volunteers, communicate way in advance and give them a lot of lead time so they can process change before it happens. 

False or Wrong Expectations

One of the easiest ways to hurt feelings and sow discord is to keep expectations vague or confusing. If YOU expect more from your volunteers than they realize, you will be disappointed. If THEY expect more from you as a leader, they will be confused or disappointed. Either way, it’s a recipe that can lead to broken relationship.

Square Peg, Round Hole

I get real frustrated when leaders delegate tasks to people and then get mad at them because they don’t do a good job. If you ask me to serve as the maintenance man in your church, you’ll be disappointed. I’m not good at fixing things. Instead of pushing me harder to do better, realize I’m a square peg, not a round one, and find a better fit for me.

Assume The Worst

Is it possible there are men & women in your church who could relate to the woman Jesus noticed in the above story? Do they think their leaders assume they have little or nothing to offer because of their skill set, circumstances or personality? After all, how much do 2 pennies really matter, right?

Jesus was the Master at accomplishing great things with almost nothing. Think fish & bread.

Invite people to be part of something great, find a good fit for them, and let them serve with the skills, talent & commitment they have to give. Value who they are and what they give just as much as those who seem to give so much more than them.

photo credit: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery via photopin cc

Why Simple is Better

Recently, I was asked to speak at a church. I already knew what I wanted to talk about when I was asked. I looked forward to the opportunity . . . except for the part where I had to sit down to do the ‘work’. Since I wanted the message to be simple, I ended up redrafting that message three times. I whittled a 45 minute message down to 25. Chopping it up was painful, but in the end it was well worth it. The congregation stayed with me the whole time and I believe God used my words to bring transformation to their lives. Simple. Hard. Worth it.

Perhaps one of our biggest mistakes when attempting to make ministry, leadership, relationships, or whatever, simple, is that we assume the process should be simple too. Not true. Most of the time, making something simple is complicated, time consuming and a lot of work. Most of us give up at the worst possible time, when it’s the most complicated. There’s a miserable valley we must walk all the way through before we arrive at the other side and our goal. 

Despite the work, simple is better. A few more observations about simple.

People Remember Simple.

God gave us 5 fingers on each hand, not 8. I suspect He knew that most of us can only remember a few things at a time. If I ask you to remember 4 words, I suspect you can do it no problem; but 12? God gave us 10 commandments, but Jesus summed them up in 2 that any four year old could remember.

People Value Simple.

We live in the day of the ‘elevator speech’. If you can tell me what you want to say between the 1st and 12th floor, I’ll listen. If not, well, “Sorry. I need to get going.” We pay attention to simple and lose interest in complex. When you present me with simple, I’m impressed and know you cared enough to prepare. 

People Do Simple.

Less is more. Give me 23 tasks and I’ll easily get locked up. I won’t know which ones to do and might just go find something else to do (like check Facebook). Give me 4 tasks and I feel empowered to get things done. Simple helps me focus and motivates me to action.

Other Examples:

  • Your congregation and community don’t want 8 announcements that last fifteen minutes; they want 2 announcements delivered in 3 minutes.
  • They don’t really want 12 emails a week about upcoming events & activities; one will suffice.
  • They don’t want to spend 10 minutes on your website trying to find service times or directions.
  • Certainly, they would love to have notes from your message; but if they are going to have to fill in the blanks they secretly hope they won’t get writer’s cramp, that there’s enough light in the room and possibly that you will provide pencils for them. 
  • Your volunteers and leaders would really prefer to open the resource closet and find what they need in 8 seconds.
  • Your attendees aren’t looking for a booklet with 28 volunteer opportunities; they just want to know what the one or two things are they can do to help make a difference.
  • Volunteers would like to have a simple 1-page document that lets them know what you expect. They would appreciate getting a quick email reminding them that they are scheduled to serve each week. They want to know about the training event at least a month ahead of time. 

What do you need to simplify in your life or ministry this week?

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