8 Leadership Principles from my first 90 days at Saddleback

My family and I just made a massive move across the United States, from Nashville to California. From the syrupy sweet Southern US culture to the fast-paced, always-sunny Southern California.

To say that Nashville is different that Orange County would be the understatement of the century.

But we’re adjusting. Slowly, but surely, we’re building healthy relationships, finding our rhythm, and figuring out where to get the oil changed.

Coming on staff at Saddleback has already been an amazing adventure. I’ve learned more here than I’ve learned in the same amount of time in any other place. The learning curve is steep, and the amount of content, strategy, and intentionality runs deep in this place. I love it. It’s such a great fit for me in how God’s wired me for ministry.

Even though I feel like I’m just trying to keep my head above water most days.

Hosted the weekend services. Not sure about my gesture there, though.

Hosted the weekend services. Not sure about my gesture there, though.

I’ve learned a few things about leadership since I’ve been here. I can tell this is a place where I’ll continue to learn in every season of life and ministry.

8 Leadership Principles I’ve learned from Saddleback

1. Take your next step in the current one.

This is a little nugget I’ve picked up on as I’ve spent time around leadership. In other words, don’t just do an event. Help people to take the next step in their faith journey. Don’t just host a marriage conference. Recruit small group hosts and ministry leaders. Don’t just give out resources…use them to draw people into ministry. Don’t just host a family missions event…use it to help people step in to a small group.

Your next step is just as important as the current one. (Tweet that)

2. Listening is more important than talking.

Learning the culture, values, and language of an organization is often the difference between successfully transitioning into an organization and staying back on the starting line. Taking the time and space to on-board well is one of the keys to building a solid foundation. For me, I’ve done this by listening, studying, and reading. By buying cups of coffee for staffers, church members, and small group hosts. By listening WAY more than I talk.

3. Relationships are key to organizational influence.

They help you grab the real values of an organization. Relationships help you understand how things REALLY get done. They help you feel at home, like you’re a part of a family. They help you learn what people do intuitively that needs to be made known. Relationships help you move further, faster.

Without relationships, you’ll shrivel on the vine. (Tweet that)

4. Know your church’s strategy forwards and backwards.

Understanding how you’re going to accomplish your core values is key. Your strategy is unique to your local congregation, your organization, your business, or your family. Understand your strategy and relentlessly work it.

5. Be a student of your city’s culture.

The cultural demographic in Southern California is just the slightest bit different than the one in Nashville, TN. Understanding the people you’re trying to reach is vital to progress and growth. Know what they value, where they go, and how they spend their free time.

Without a knowledge of your city’s culture, you’ll never move forward. (Tweet that)

6. Tell your story over and over.

I have heard Saddleback’s story dozens of times since I’ve been here. And every time I hear it, I feel more and more like this is my home church. That Saddleback’s story is my story.

Stories, not programs, inspire people. (Tweet that)

7. Never sacrifice your family for your ministry

If you’re married and/or have children, your primary calling is to your family. Giving your family your second best is never okay. “Killing it” in ministry but not investing time and energy into your family is not okay.

Pastor: if you lose your family, we all lose. (Tweet that)

8. Cynicism is dangerous.

It doesn’t matter what part of the country you serve. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the church world, the business world, or volunteering in your community. Cynicism can eat an organization from the inside out. Cynicism callouses your heart towards growth and change, and keeps you from believing God’s best about your organization and the people you’re called to lead.

Run, don’t walk, from cynicism. It’ll steal your heart. (Tweet that)

 

The 8 keys to being a better small group leader

You want to be a better leader, in life and in your small group. I know you do.

Nobody that reads, watches instructional videos, and seeks to grow in their faith says, “I want to put this work in…so that my leadership capacity decreases.” Nobody.

This is one of the best talks on small group leadership that I have ever heard. My friend John Morgan (blog, Twitter, Facebook) gave the talk at a leadership rally I held for small group leaders at Long Hollow Baptist Church. Whether you’re on a church staff, a small group leader, or not, this video will help you become a better leader.

(the video’s long, but worth carving 35 minutes out for)

In case you missed them, here are the 8 keys:

1. Vision – what is my small group going to look like?
Without vision, you’re not going to accomplish anything. (Tweet that)
2. Attitude – if your attitude is bad, your life will be bad.
Your attitude in how you respond to problems is the determining factor in your life. And your attitude shifts others’ attitudes, whether positively or negatively.

A negative attitude is one of the primary causes of failure. (Tweet that)

If you’re not fired up about your group, nobody else will be.

3. Confidence – improvement comes from self-improvement.
If you want your group to grow, you need to grow. Be “selfish” with your own personal spiritual growth. If you don’t believe in yourself, don’t expect anyone else to. (Tweet that)

4. Environment – you can motivate others by having faith in them.
Believe that the Holy Spirit changes lives, and create environments where that can happen best. (Tweet that)

5. Seek – learn from those with the knowledge and how-to that you lack. 
Who has time to read? You do! “There’s no such thing as a time management problem. There are only priority management problems.” (Tweet that)

6. Bravery – faith is tested in the moments of difficulty.
Fear regret more than you fear failure. If we remembered people for their failures, Christopher Columbus would be the guy that didn’t find India.

You owe it to your small group to be brave. (Tweet that)

7. Initiative – develop habits of taking action before they’re ready.

Don’t wait until your group is “ready” for their next step. Push now. Don’t wait until the church does a small groups push to get people into group life. Take the initiative now. Invite people to join your group.

It’s a shame that sales people do a better job than the Church. (Tweet that)

8. Habits: can you create your vision with your current habits?

Your habits create your reality. Everyone of you is happy with where your life is, and where your group is. If you weren’t you’d be changing your habits and standards. Your small group is as good as you want it to be. (Tweet that)

 

Post Traumatic Church Disorder

I’ve talked with a number of men and women in ministry, and I’ve noticed an alarming problem. It’s often felt but rarely talked about. Just below the surface, it affects daily interactions, vision casting, and strategic planning. It affects how we relate to God and how we relate to others.

I call it post-traumatic-church-disorder.

image: CreationSwap.com user Megan Watson

image: CreationSwap.com user Megan Watson

It may not be a professional diagnoses, but it’s a real issue.

You’ve heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, right?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. – mayoclinic.org

PTSD happens after a terrifying event. PTCD, however, happens after a traumatic, stressful, chaotic, terrifying, painful experience or season in a local church. It can happen after events that our society would deem abusive (physical, sexual, verbal) and/or traumatic. PTCD cuts deeply. If there’s a place where your spiritual, emotional, and physical life should be safe, it is in a local church.The safety net you should feel by being there erodes. Finding abuse and traumatic events where a wall of safety and health should exist carves deep wounds on your soul. You may begin to deal with this issue after having been in an local church that is filled with one, or more, of the following features characterizing its leadership (whether paid staff, volunteer leadership, or elders):

  • unhealthy staff culture
  • abusive (spiritual, emotional, verbal, physical or otherwise) leadership
  • unwise leadership decisions
  • controlling
  • constant complaining
  • fighting (open name-calling, character assassination, slander)
  • gossip (behind-closed-door name calling, character assassination, slander)
  • insulated leadership, refusing to be held accountable
  • self-serving shepherds
  • manipulative leadership
  • bullying

Church staff/leadership teams can have these attitudes and behaviors creep in over time. And you’d be foolish to think that one person that’s dominated by one of these traits doesn’t seep its way into other staff members and into the church at large.

One bad apple spoils the bunch, and one bad staffer can spoil the team. (Tweet that)

These prideful character traits can destroy staff and church morale quicker than just about anything else.

How to know you have it

It doesn’t take long for PTCD to set in. Just a season or two of a self-serving, manipulative, controlling leadership in your life can move your heart to a dark place. Trust is built over time, but is torn down in a moment. (Tweet that) Fortunately or not, our view of the local church greatly impacts our view of God.

How do you know if you’re suffering from PTCD? Here are some markers.

  • a deep distrust of church leadership, despite anything specific that you see
  • a callousness towards church staff
  • growing cynicism towards the Church
  • growing desire to gossip about leadership
  • When your pastor calls you, your first thought is “What have I done?” or “What’s he going to be mad about this time?”
  • a knee-jerk anger when your pastor asks to meet with you
  • a knee-jerk fear when your pastor asks to meet with you
  • constant questioning of the motives of your church staff
  • refusal to engage in serving and attending worship
  • continual doubting of your pastor’s heart
  • refusal to give financially to your local church because of your distrust
  • a growing anxiousness in dealing with church leaders

How to guard against it

Be careful that PTCD doesn’t wreck your heart. It can. And it will. Satan would love nothing more than to keep you from Church by convincing you Church is worth keeping from. (Tweet that) By couching “Church” in the category of pain, frustration, and uselessness, you’ll sideline yourself when the Church needs you and your voice.

Here’s how you can guard your heart from growing distant and calloused:

Pray.
Start here. End here. And fill every moment with asking God to guard you from bitterness, inaction, and callousness. It realigns your heart with what pleases, and what breaks, the heart of God.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Remind yourself of who the Church is.
The Church is the bride of Christ. It’s the one for whom Christ suffered and died. And remember this…Jesus had to suffer and die because the Church isn’t perfect. We’re a bunch of messed up sinners who continue to do battle against our flesh. Church leaders are sinners being redeemed, too. The Church isn’t perfect, but its Redeemer is. And He loves his bride. (Ephesians 5:21-33)

Help make better decisions
Instead of complaining, speak in to the life and leadership of your local church. If you see things differently, that just might be a gift you could give. When you see a different path, point it out. When you see disunity, expose it. When you see poor, abusive leadership, blow the whistle. Terrible leadership begets terrible leadership unless you speak up.

Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools,
or they will become wise in their own estimation. – Proverbs 26:5

Serve selflessly
Keep serving. Give of yourself until it hurts. Give of yourself until it costs you something. This will help curb your tendency of thinking that your local church only exists for you. Yes, we’re broken. Yes, we’re imperfect. But the Church is better when you serve. And as you serve, you become a part of the solution instead of a part of the problem.

Don’t go at it alone
Don’t be so foolish that you think you can work through PTCD on your own. (Tweet that) Masking over problems doesn’t make them go away. Find someone you can be open, honest, and transparent with. You need an outside perspective in order to biblically, helpfully, and healthily walk through this issue.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Don’t give up on the local church. She is the bride of Christ, as broken and twisted as she sometimes can be. She’s worth fighting for.

She’s redemption in process. (Tweet that)

 

How to break up with your small group

image credit: Creation Swap user Boaz Crawford

image credit: Creation Swap user Boaz Crawford

*que sad music*

Oh gosh. Wow. How do I say this?

I didn’t think this day would come. I mean, I really liked you. We clicked. We laughed. We cried.

*eye contact ceases*

For a while, this was really good. But…well…it’s me, not you.

Um…

*insert awkward silence*

I’ve changed. I guess.

*que sweaty palms*

This just isn’t working out.

I’m just not in love with you any more.

But I still like you. But not like I used to. And I know someone else that you could see.

*que the ugly crying*

Ever felt like you wanted to break up with your small group? Know it’s time to move on? Maybe your schedule changed. Maybe you added baseball practice on the same night as your small group. Maybe Thursday nights aren’t the same for your family as they were a year ago. Maybe you’ve started taking a night class.

Maybe you know it’s time for you to lead a group of your own.

Maybe the group isn’t accomplishing what it needs to accomplish, and you’re ready to be more intentional with your spiritual growth.

Break-ups are never easy. But the quicker you rip off the band-aid, the less painful the whole process becomes. If you wait years to do what you know you need to do today, you’ll cause undue pressure on you and your group.

If it’s time to break up, here are some pointers.

How to break up with your group

In person.

If you don’t have the guts to break up in person, you’re a coward. The gravity of this decision necessitates an in-person conversation. Your group loves you, and you will greatly devalue their love, and their impact on your life, if you just stop showing up and assume that they get it. You owe it to your group leader, and to the group, to be clear and forthright. An email, or a text, or just abandoning your group with no explanation isn’t the way to go.

If you’re going to break up with your group, go mano-a-mano.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.  – Jesus, Matthew 18:15

(the principle application is when your brother has sinned against you, but whether he has sinned against you or not, difficult and sensitive conversations like this are best handled in person)

 

With honesty.

If there was something that bothered you about the group, be honest about it. Help the group leader know what could be done to improve the group. Choose how honest you want to be in front of the whole group. Don’t go out scorched earth. For the group leader.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. – Paul, Ephesians 4:15

 

With encouragement.

Your group wasn’t all bad, was it? Did God do ANYTHING? Then encourage your group leader by helping them see how God used them. We all need encouragement, daily. Leaders especially. Most group leaders consistently wonder if what they’re doing is making any sort of an impact in people’s lives, and if God is doing anything. You leaving the group feeds their fears and insecurities, so help reassure them and assuage their debilitating fears.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Paul, Hebrews 3:13

 

Quickly. Rip that bandaid off.

Don’t wait a year to do this. Don’t wait months to do it. If you know you need to break up with your group, prolonging the inevitable makes things more difficult when the time comes. It’s going to be a hard conversation, but it’ll only get more difficult with time. Call your group leader today and schedule a coffee meeting.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. – Jesus, Matthew 5:23-24

(the principle here being that if there’s something between you and your brother, there’s something between you and God. Take care of it immediately.)

 

By starting a new group.

There’s hardly a better way to break it to your group leader that you’re leaving…to start a new group. There’s hardly a better confirmation of God’s work in and through your current group than for you to take the step of faith to start a new one. Don’t just leave. Leave FOR something. Don’t abandon community.

“[Don’t neglect] to meet together, as is the habit of some…” (Hebrews 10:25)

The sum of the above “break-up rules” is to cover everything you do with love.

Ever had to break up with your group?

 

Leaders move without the ball

In basketball, there’s a concept that’s vital. And it’s something that’s rarely seen by the person unless they’re watching intently. The casual basketball viewer won’t see it, because the casual viewer watches the ball. The ball is where the action happens. Scoring, passing, steals, and blocks all happen AT the ball.

But what happens away from the ball is often just as important.

image credit: UKSports.com

image credit: UKSports.com

 

It’s a concept called “moving without the ball.” It’s pretty self-explanatory, but just for the sake of clarity allow me to explain in further details.

Moving without the ball means you move even when you don’t have the ball, with the express purpose of creating the next play, receiving the next pass, gaining the next rebound, or blocking the next shot. IF you don’t move without the ball, you’ll be caught in the wrong position at the wrong time. Or, said more accurately, you won’t be in the right position at the right time if you don’t move when you don’t control the ball.

If you don’t move without the ball

  • You’ll never get open
  • You’ll never score
  • You’ll be out of position when the time is right
  • You won’t be ready to steal
  • You’ll get left behind
  • You’ll constantly be wondering where the action is happening
  • You’ll not be in the action of the game

In a 48 minute game of basketball, the game is dominated by moving without the ball. To a casual observer, the person moving without the ball looks goofy, like they don’t know what they’re doing. Like the game is happening in spite of them. But the casual observer doesn’t know just how important it is to position yourself to be ready.

Moving without the ball isn’t sexy. But it’s vital.

The same is true in ministry.

Moving without the ministry ball

There are times when you, in your role, have “the ball.” These are the busy seasons of ministry, when the spotlight is on. For me, this happens during small group signups and launches. It happens during our church-wide alignments. During these seasons, it’s all-hands-on-deck for our team.

But for the most part, I don’t have the ball. It’s apparent “down time.” And if I don’t move, plan, strategize, recruit, train, and mobilize, when the ball’s passed to me I’ll be caught flat-footed. I’ll be left behind. The infrastructure won’t be ready, the plan won’t be in place, and my heart won’t be in the place it needs to be.

That’s why the casual church observer thinks pastors just work one day/week. Because our “time with the ball” seems like a waste of time. All the casual church observer sees is the time when we’re in the spotlight, highlighting our ministry, getting people into serving and growing, preaching, teaching, and executing. They don’t always realize that executing at the right time in the right way is loaded with lots of “moving without the ball” times.

If I don’t work to prepare myself spiritually, either, I’ll be dead in the water. I’ve got to spend time allowing God to refresh, recharge, and equip me for the work ahead.

That’s why I read books, meet with other pastors, and go to conferences like Re:Group (which is a must-attend event, by the way. To get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the healthiest small groups ministry will help you strategize, and become better in your local context).

Moving without the ball isn’t sexy. But it’s vital.

Strategize, shift, train, recruit, and prepare. Because the ball’s coming your way.

 

Is your church really safe?

Is your church safe? I don’t mean “we have police officers” and “we have hidden cameras” and “I’m packing heat on my pew.”

Is your church safe for you to be you? Can you be the you that doesn’t have it all figured out? That has more questions than answers, some days? Can you be the you that you are on the inside that nobody else sees? The you that wonders how in the world a God that loves justice could also love you? The you that you’re ashamed of?

Is it safe to for you to bring your doubts?

Fears?

Questions?

Struggles?

Victories?

Insecurities?

Quirks?

Gifts?

Doubts?

Is it safe for you to bring the full force of these and not be shunned?

Not be cast out?

Not be shamed?

Not be laughed at?

Not be marginalized?

Not be made to feel “less than”?

Maybe a bigger question than, “Can you?” is “Do you?”

Do you lead the way in vulnerability? Because if you don’t, they won’t. If your current church environment doesn’t afford you this luxury necessity, create it. If you’re waiting for someone else to give you the permission, you now have it. I’m granting it to you right now. Be you. And when someone else brings their junk, don’t take a step back. Take a step forward towards them and with them. Give grace, mercy, and patience. Give truth in love. Give space for continued exploration.

If we have a Savior that died for us, and was the ultimate example of welcoming sinners, we as the Church should be the most welcoming environment on earth. The safest place to still be “in process.” The place where when you join our community you instantly feel at home. You may not be able to put your finger on it, but our people should feel like your people. Our group, your group. Our home, your home. Our grace, your grace. Your story, our story.

By our posturing, may we, the Church, be certain we’re not telling the world, “Fix your junk before you come in here. Otherwise we will boycott, marginalize, slander, and shun you.”

The safest place you’ll ever find yourself is in a small group community that simultaneously knows and loves you. (Tweet that)

Jesus was a “friend of sinners.” (Matthew 11:18) Are we?

 

Getting your small group to like you

photo credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

photo credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

Getting your small group to like you isn’t something you may have explicitly set out to do. If you did, you’re pretty self-centered. And there’s a great chance that nobody really likes you.

There. I said it.

While you may not have set that out as a written goal though, it’s on the back of your mind whether you’re a leader or a group member. Don’t lie. You want to be liked. And that’s not a terrible thing. If you didn’t care what others thought of you, you’d probably be a jerk. Caring what others think (while not being dominated by that) shapes our responses, and helps us become more loving and generous. If you didn’t care what others thought of you, you’d dress like a slob and never shower. So please, please keep caring.

If people genuinely don’t like you, and you’re a representation of Christ for them, then there’s a great chance you’re acting as a barrier for them to enjoying Jesus. It would be wise for us to not be a barrier.

How to you get your small group to like you? Well you can start by taking a shower before group. Then, let’s get to the more important things.

How to get your group to like you

Listen intently.

Listen way more than you talk. When you think you’ve listened too much, you’ve just started the process.

Share your story.

You’ve got a story of loss. Victory. Defeat. One that makes much of God, and His power to change your heart and shape your journey. Share that. It’s a gift.

Be authentic.

Nobody likes a fake leader. We all want to know that the person we’re following is the person we think we’re following. Be real and open and honest with your struggles and victories.

Be consistent.

Show up and engage. Week after week after week. On the weeks that you feel like going, show up. On the weeks that you don’t feel like going, show up. On the weeks when you’re too busy, show up. Consistency builds trust.

Go over and above.

Have coffee with a group member outside of your group’s meeting time. Invite a couple over to your house for dinner. Text them when you know they’re going to have a difficult day. Reach beyond the “normal” and “expected.”

Love unexpectedly.

Call on their birthday. Offer to watch their kids so they can go on a date night. Buy them a book that’s made a difference in your life.

Give grace when it’s not deserved.

I know, I know…grace “deserved” isn’t really grace. But there are times when you give grace and it’s expected. But when it’s not deserved in the least. When it hasn’t been earned. When everybody in the room expects you to go 100% truth in the moment…go 100% grace.

Learn their kids’ names.

Do this one today.

Remember their birthdays and anniversaries.

Go ahead and plug them into your calendar now, and set yourself a reminder. Trust me…they’ll notice this.

Share a well-timed truth.

Don’t just sit in your big comfy chair and drop theological bombs on your group. Listen well, and share a well-timed, well-pointed, well-applied truth. One that’s informed in the moment, and that walks the nuances of a deep relationship.

Give your resources.

You can’t give everything to everybody. But you can give significant, needed resources, to your group members. In a way that’s much faster, more efficient, than applying for aid from government, or even parachurch, organizations.

Be yourself.

If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re contemplative, be contemplative. If you’re patient, be patient. If you’re the life of a party, be the life of the party. If you’re an intellectual, be an intellectual. Be the you God created you to be.

Anything else that you do that engages your group to enjoy being around you?

 

How do you measure the value of a book?

To measure the impact of a book,

don’t count the pages.

Count the coffee stains that mark late nights and early mornings.

Number the highlights, underlines, notes, and scribbles.

Note the dog ears, screenshots, and Facebook shares.

Watch how your thinking shifts and your attitude morphs

as questions increase.

Notice your patience rise. Your love of life swell.

 

Life never slows down,

until you find yourself buried neck-deep in line after line,

page after page,

thought after thought,

crescendoing with an abrupt crash that leaves you marked.

It changes your world.

It whispers into your past and present.

Into the future a book beckons.

 

It’s time to wrestle your nose into a good book.

One that will challenge you to think,

to love

to grow

to change

To measure the impact of a book,

don’t count the pages.

Count the coffee stains that mark late nights and early mornings.

 

What are you reading right now?

 

Why it’s biblical to keep your shoes on during small group

I never wear my shoes in the house. Shoes bring in dirt.

On top of that, I’m more comfortable without them on. My at-home routine when I finish the day is to take my shoes off and put them in the basket beside the front door. After that, I feel like I can relax.

I don’t choose to take my shoes off because I feel like I have to. Or because my wife expects it. Or because it’s something I’ve done since I was a child. I do it simply so I can relax.

Small group time

Just a few weeks ago, we started a small group in our home. When I came in that Tuesday evening before people started arriving, I continued my normal routine. I took my shoes off, placed them in the basket, and started getting our house ready.

30 minutes before we started, I got my shoes back out of the basket. I put them back on my feet, tied them, and wore them until everyone in our small group had gone home for the night.

Then I went back through my routine. I took my shoes off, placed them in the basket, and sat down on the couch.

I didn’t accidentally wear my shoes during small group. I didn’t forget to take them off. And I’m not self-conscious about the smell of my feet. (though you may be conscious about the smell of my feet, I’m not. :-))

I wore my shoes to help people feel welcomed.

Many people don’t like to take off their shoes in others’ houses because

  • they’re self-conscious about the smell of their feet
  • they have dirty socks
  • they didn’t cut their toenails
  • they’re worried about the dirt in someone else’s house
  • they don’t take their shoes off in their own house
  • they feel more relaxed with their shoes on
  • their feet are cold

And if they feel like they have to take their shoes off, they’ll either:

a. Not. And feel guilty.

b. Take them off. And resent you for it.

So I chose to wear my shoes, and help people feel comfortable coming just as they are. Not having to bend to the rules of our family, or change their routine to fit our culture. I wanted them to feel like their wasn’t a hurdle they had to jump over, that they don’t have to at their own house, to engage in our group.

If keeping my shoes on helps someone feel more comfortable, welcomed, and loved, I’ll wear my shoes every week.(Tweet that) Small group is a blend of cultures, values, and traditions. Some people value keeping their shoes on.

If you want to love people well, go out of your way to serve them. (Tweet that) Surprise and delight. Make the best coffee in town. Let them sit on the couch nobody else gets to sit on. Let them eat off of the forks you reserve for special guests. Kindle the fire if it’s cold. Crank up the A/C if it’s hot. Open your home, open your life, and open your heart-shaping, will-bending, costly generosity (Re: Luke 14:12-14).

And if you want to create a culture that values people right where they are in life, let it start with your shoes. (Tweet that)

How do you creatively welcome people into your life?

The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. – Acts 28:2

 

 

 

The one thing you should never say to a gym returnee

This is the time of year when people are returning to the gym. You know those guys. Maybe you’re one of those guys.

You have intended to be more faithful in the gym, more faithful to work out. But life has happened. Kids’ sports have happened. Work has happened. Vacation has happened. Sleep has happened. And it’s not that you’ve been intentionally avoiding the gym (ok, well, maybe you have, but just hang with me), it’s just that carving out time to drive across town, get an hour-long-workout in, then drive back hasn’t happened.

Thank you very much, January-new-years-resolutions, for reminding us we need to get back at it.

You want to know the worst thing you can hear when you step a foot back in the gym? The one thing that, more than any other, may cause you to not come back? The one thing that seems benign by the one who speaks it?

Welcome back! It sure has been a while…

Thus implying:

  • You must be lazy.
  • You are really packing on the pounds.
  • You sure do need to be at the gym.
  • I know your kind…we probably won’t see you for more than a few weeks.
  • I see that pudge…hopefully you’ll stick around long enough to work it off.
  • You haven’t been here in a while, so you probably have no idea what you’re doing at all.

That may not be explicitly stated, but it’s often what’s heard, because it’s so easy to bring our insecurities into the gym. When you look around, you see people who work out every day. You see equipment that’s intimidating. And then you see yourself. Out-of-shape. Out-of-time. Tired. Weak. A-little-too-round. Don’t-really-want-to-be-there-anyway. And those seemingly innocuous words fall like a ton of bricks on your fragile psyche.

Instead of asking them where they’ve been, or feigning shock that they’re back, just welcome them. Help them feel acclimated. And remember that being there is better than not being there.

Church returnees

The same thing is true around this time of year in churches around the world.

People are gracing the doors of church buildings in an attempt to maintain spiritual goals they set that they knew they should’ve been working to keep all last year. Maybe that’s you.

You have intended to be more faithful in your spiritual life, more faithful to God. But life has happened. Kids’ sports have happened. Work has happened. Vacation has happened. Sleep has happened. And it’s not that you’ve been intentionally avoiding God (ok, well, maybe you have, but just hang with me), it’s just that carving out time to drive across town, get an hour-long-worship in, then drive back hasn’t happened.

Thank you very much, January-new-years-resolutions, for reminding us we need to get back at it.

You want to know the worst thing you can hear when you step a foot back in a local church? The one thing that, more than any other, may cause you to not come back? The one thing that seems benign by the one who speaks it?

Welcome back! It sure has been a while…

Thus implying:

  • You must be lazy.
  • You must hate God.
  • You are really living a life of debauchery.
  • You sure do need to be in church.
  • I know your kind…we probably won’t see you for more than a few weeks. (churches even have a name for you…C&E. Christmas and Easter attenders.)
  • I see that tattoo…I smell that alcohol…I heard that muttering…hopefully you’ll stick around long enough to work it off.
  • You haven’t been here in a while, so you probably have no idea what you’re doing at all.

That may not be explicitly stated, but it’s often what’s heard, because it’s so easy to bring our insecurities into church. When we look around, we see people who have been following Jesus longer than we’ve been alive. And way more effectively than we ever will. We see processes and procedures and systems that are intimidating. And then we see ourself. Out-of-shape. Out-of-time. Tired. Weak. A-little-too-hooked-on-something. Don’t-really-want-to-be-there-anyway. And those seemingly innocuous words fall like a ton of bricks on our fragile psyche, full of baggage that we bring in towards God, the Church, others, and ourselves.

Church returnees: we’re sorry. We say dumb things to help us feel better about ourselves. Or sometimes we just babble because we don’t know what to say. Please give us another chance. We’re just as broken as you are. We need Jesus as much as you are. We can just be knuckleheads sometimes when words start coming out of our mouths.

Church members: just shut your mouth. Paste a genuine smile on your face. And for crying out loud, would it kill you to just give someone a hug? Or, if you’re not a hugger, give a hearty handshake. Nothing else. No “funny” comments about wondering why they’re here. You’re not that funny…and in fact, you’re offensive. If you say, “Welcome back! It sure has been a while…” they won’t come back. Trust me.