The Blog of Leader, Pastor, and Church Planter Ron Edmondson. My specialty is organizational leadership, so in addition to my role as a pastor, as I have time, I consult with church and ministry leaders.
Where life involves people – whether among family, friends or co-workers – there will be potential for conflict.
Any disagreement there?
Want to fight about it?
In fact, if relationships are normal, conflict is inevitable.
But, conflict doesn’t have to destroy relationships. It can actually be used to make relationships better. That takes intentionality, practice – and a whole lot of grace.
In an organizational sense, conflict is certainly a huge part of a leader’s life. Even in a pastor’s life.
It seems to reason that learning to deal with conflict successfully should be one of our goal as leaders.
Here are 10 ways to effectively handle conflict:
Understand the real source of coonflict.
What’s the real battle? Many times we address symptoms, but we really aren’t even addressing with the main issue. This only wastes time, frustrates people, and makes the conflict linger longer. It’s usually a heart issue which is controlling everything being said. (Proverbs 4:23) Discovering that is key. Make sure you ask lots of questions and attempt to clarify the root issue of the conflict. (This is where a third party help is often needed.)
Find the right time and place.
When emotions are high is not good timing for dealing with conflict. Personal conflict should not be handled in public. Don’t be afraid to schedule a time to address the conflict.
Examine yourself first.
Sometimes the issue is personal to you and you are only blaming others for your problem. Not only is this unfair, it doesn’t lead to a healthy resolution of conflict. Look carefully at the “plank” in your own eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)
Consider the other person’s side of the conflict.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider their viewpoint. (Philippians 2:4) Why would they think the way they think? Is it a difference in personal values or a misunderstanding? What if I were in their situation – how would I respond?
Do not overreact to the issue or overload on emotion.
Stick to the issue at hand. When emotions are exaggerated it disarms the other party and a healthy resolution is harder to attain. Control yourself from extremity or absolutes. Avoid phrases like “You always…”. (Proverbs 25:28)
Do not dance around or sugarcoat the issue or disguise it in false kindness.
Sometimes we fail to address the conflict because we are afraid of how the other person may respond or we are afraid of hurting feelings. The avoidance usually will cause more conflict eventually. Be kind, but make sure you are clear, direct, and helpful.(Proverbs 27:5)
Do not allow the small disagreements to become big disagreements.
The way to keep most huge conflict (the kind that destroys relationships) from occurring is by confronting the small conflict along the way. Minor conflict is always easier to handle than major conflict.
Be firm, but gentle.
Learn the balance between the two. It’s critical in dealing with conflict. (Consider Jesus’ approach in John 4.)
Work towards a solution.
Never waste conflict. Use it to make the organization and/or the relationship better. Everyone wants a win-win situation, and sometimes that’s possible. Getting to the right decision should always be the ultimate goal. (Proverbs 21:3)
Grant grace and forgiveness easily.
Healthy conflict makes relationships stronger, but to get there we must not hold a grudge or seek revenge. This never moves conflict forward towards resolution. Learn the art of grace and forgiveness. They are protectors of healthy relationships. (Ephesians 4:32)
Conflict is a part of relationships. All relationships. As leaders, we shouldn’t shy away from conflict. We should learn it’s value and how to navigate conflict for the overall good of the team.
One of the primary purposes of this blog is to help others learn from my experience. So, I want to share some of the mistakes I’ve made. I hope at least one of them encourages other leaders.
These are 10 of the biggest:
Playing salesman more than seeking wisdom.
I have had times I was so convinced I was right I used my skills as a communicator to get people on my side. In hindsight, I should’ve taken more time to seek other people’s insight and wisdom, because I wasn’t right after all.
Listening only to the yea-sayers.
The fact is critics sometimes have valid points to make. I prefer they find kinder and gentler ways to share them – and, even better, be brave enough to attach their name – but it’s a mistake to only listen to people who agree with you.
Ignoring my gut, because the crowd was excited.
We were going to launch a capital campaign. We knew we needed to do it at some point. Everyone was excited, or so they seemed. The momentum was high, but something inside of me said wait. When I began to get nervous about moving forward and went back to the excited crowd, and asked them to pray again, it was unanimous. They didn’t think the timing was right. We were moving forward in emotion, but not under God’s direction. I learned this one the hard way. Other times I’ve not been as sensitive to my gut or the Spirit’s leading.
Failing to remove the wrong people soon enough.
They say hire slow and fire fast. They weren’t necessarily in the church world, were they? Seriously, I’ve waited too long too many times. It only delays the pain.
Rushing too fast to fix things.
Some things need time to gel. I have learned that sometimes things get solved on their own. Conflicts are resolved and relationships saved, even strengthened, because I didn’t get involved.
Avoiding a brewing conflict.
At the same time, when I know trouble is stirring, and it isn’t going away without my input, it’s a mistake if I refuse to deal with it, because it is awkward or uncomfortable. It always comes back to haunt me. Unresolved conflict never just “goes away”. And, when left to brew long enough it can cause irreversible damage to a team.
Talking someone away from their heart.
For example, I’ve talked a few people into staying in jobs they didn’t like just because I liked them. It never works. It isn’t fair. It always ends worse than if I’d let them follow their hearts. I’ve learned when someone knows what they should do, I should encourage them rather than persuade them otherwise.
Not challenging, because I didn’t understand something.
I lead areas of ministry I’m not an expert in. Worship. Students. Small groups. Children. Preschool. Technology. Missions. Okay, I was afraid you’d notice, pretty much everything.
By practice I’ve surrounded myself with people smarter than me. But, I have learned it is a mistake to believe, because I’m not the expert, I can’t challenge them in their field. I may have to study more, but as a leader my job is to challenge us to excellence. Therefore, I can, and should, challenge all areas, which impact the overall vision. Again, which is pretty much every area within our church.
Assuming people understand.
I don’t need many details. Well, let me be a little clearer, I don’t want or retain many details. But, everyone is not me. Some people thrive on details. They can’t function without them. And, neither personality is wrong. We need both types on our team. I’ve had to learn to communicate in different ways and let others assist me in communicating and I welcome questions.
Ignoring the real problems.
I’ve been tempted to band-aid the problem, because it was too messy to address the real problem. Real problems often involve people. It’s easier to add a rule than get someone upset, but problems never go away until the real problem is addressed.
I’ve been honest with some of my leadership mistakes – some of them at least.
One signature of my ministry, as a pastor, has been how approachable I appear on Sunday.
I’m not saying that to brag. You need to keep reading before you make that assessment. I’m actually sharing it to encourage a few of my pastor friends who may read this blog and need it.
This morning I had a doctors appointment. It was just a checkup. Thankfully, I’m well. But, as I checked in the man behind the desk said, “I enjoy going to your church.” I thought he looked familiar, but sometimes I don’t recognize people out of context.
He continued to talk about how friendly the church is and how I personally made people feel welcome. He specifically said, “You appear so humble and approachable. It makes people feel very welcome. That’s unusual in a large church.”
I hear that kind of thing frequently.
Again, before you think I’m bragging, there is actually an important story behind this man’s compliment. I haven’t always been this approachable. I hope I was still humble. I certainly wasn’t trying to be arrogant, but I used to be harder to find on a Sunday.
As I’ve written about many times on this blog, I’m an introvert. This simply means my preference is towards less talking, rather than more. I tend to be reserved and quiet more than I am outgoing and gregarious. After teaching or preaching I’m usually whipped. Words spent – used up for a while.
Years ago, before I was in ministry, I taught a large Bible study class. It was lecture style and when I finished teaching I would pray and quietly slip out the door before I said amen.
Being totally transparent, if asked I might pretend I was being humble or even had somewhere else to go. I certainly wouldn’t let people know I simply didn’t enjoy “small talk”. After teaching for 45 minutes I was “talked out”.
I should point out, as I have in other blog posts, this was not an indication I do not love people. I truly do. Introverts, or at least most of us, love people. We are just more reserved in showing it sometimes. (At least by most extrovert’s expectations.)
Anyway, the practice continued when I became a pastor. I would preach and then quietly, as I closed in prayer, slip behind the platform, into the back of the church.
One day, a godly old deacon came to see me in the office during the week. He asked if he could share something on his heart. Of course, I agreed, so he began to talk about my exiting strategy.
I will never forget what he had to share. He said, “If as you are praying you will slip to the front of the church, and shake people’s hands as they leave, they will be more likely to return the next week.”
Wow! I felt caught and convicted.
But, I was new to ministry, I respected this man greatly, and so I began to practice his advice. It was life-changing for my ministry.
I’ve practiced this since then, even as I have pastored much larger churches, and here’s the real interesting part. Not only is it signature of my ministry you can shake my hand – and, I seem to encourage it. It is also one of my favorite parts of Sunday mornings.
Did you catch that? I actually look forward to interacting with and engaging people who attend and visit our church. Again, I love people. I simply have to force myself to engage sometimes. Now it’s no longer an effort. It’s a joy!
Yes, as an introvert, I am extremely tired after Sunday. I need time to recover. But, I truly believe it has made our church more welcoming and it’s made me a better pastor.
Fellow introverted pastors, you can do this! You will have to be intentional – at least at first, but it will lead you and the church to be more welcoming. And, isn’t that who we’ve been called to be?
That deacon passed away a few years ago, but his quiet, encouraging impact on this new pastor is still making a difference today.
I love pastors. I’m not saying that because I am one. I haven’t always been. I was in secular leadership far longer than I’ve been in ministry leadership.
I say it because, having now been a pastor, I see the uniqueness of the role and what’s required to be effective in ministry. It’s hard work. I applaud God’s servants who are obedient to their call.
The real motive behind this blog is to encourage and help equip pastors. I know there are others who read this – and, I’m thankful they do – but, my heart still reaches out to those who serve in vocational ministry positions (whether part-time or full-time).
Occasionally I like to share some of the tweetable thoughts I’ve got running through my head. That’s the point of this post. I want to share some words for pastors I’ve learned in leading people.
Most of these I’ve learned the hard way:
1. The change you most need to initiate will often be the hardest change to make.
2. The loss of power, or sense of loss, will always be a key objection to change.
3. People aren’t always taking your situation as seriously as you are. Remember, you aren’t likely taking their situation as serious as they do either.
4. All criticism stings. Some stings more than others. Even when you need to hear it – even if it’s not true – it hurts.
5. Being a bad fit for the team doesn’t make someone a bad person.
6. Some of your greatest partners in ministry are often silent partners. God will often reveal them to you only when you need them most.
7. Your greatest fear will likely be in an area where God can most use you.
8. Just because it is the right thing to do is no indication everyone is going to love it.
9. You build greater loyalty in people when you share a common vision, not when you share common personalities.
10. People naturally resist what they can’t understand. This makes vision-casting a premier function of leadership.
11. You limit what you control.
Anything you’ve learned in leadership you’d love to share?
It seems every week a church contacts me to ask advice about church revitalization. I also frequently hear from pastors who are considering stepping into a role in church revitalization. I greatly appreciate the Kingdom platform God has given me, but sometimes it feels overwhelming, as if I have something to offer.
Frankly, I am still in the learning process.
But, we have learned a few things. And, God has graced us with some success – twice in church planting and twice in church revitalization.
I fully believe we need lots of church revitalization.
The problem for me is it seems people often start the conversation at the wrong place. They start with the how and I want to start with the why – or maybe the what.
When people start to talk about the how of doing church revitalization – the things we have done or haven’t done – I always feel like we are putting the proverbial cart before the horse. We need to talk first about what church you are going to attempt to revitalize – and why you are considering the move in the first place.
I think before you consider revitalization you need to first consider some broader questions.
Here are 5 questions I would consider before I would attempt to help revitalize a church:
Can this church be saved?
There is actually a more difficult question: Is the church worth saving? I know this is a hard question, and it may even make me seem very arrogant. You would have to know my heart behind the question and that’s extremely hard to do in a blog post.
But, the reality is there are some toxic churches in the world. I know churches who have never held on to a pastor for more than two years. They are brutal to pastors. They don’t want someone to help them grow they simply want someone to maintain things as they are, fill the pulpit three times a week, and visit them when they are sick. And, if you try anything else they will remind you they were there before you came and will be there when you’re gone.
What is the realistic potential even if the church is saved from eventual death? Will a pastor, or anyone with an outside perspective, be able to lead? Can changes actually be made? Nothing of value happens in church revitalization – or really anything organizationally speaking – without some change. Chances are good it won’t be popular. This is true in any church, but change is always necessary. The very word “revitalize” has a connotation of change.
Is this the right location?
Look at the demographics of the community. Does it, or are the people willing for it to, represent the community? If the community has changed demographics around them they may need to make changes for the community to see them as a vital part of the community.
The message doesn’t change. I’ll say that again for my friends who read into a post what they want – THE MESSAGE DOESN’T CHANGE. But, the demographics of communities change over time. People move. New people move into the community. If the church isn’t willing to embrace the unique needs of the community maybe there is a more receptive area elsewhere.
Bottom line – Are people willing to ask such hard questions? If not, it might be difficult to revitalize the church.
Is this the best use of resources?
Would Kingdom dollars be better spent elsewhere?
I know, again, it is a very difficult question. The fact is, however, the longer a church has been plateaued or declining, the longer – and harder – it will be to help the church grow again.
Another hard question – how many churches could be planted with the same resources and efforts? Is there a wiser stewardship for the Kingdom than this?
Now please understand, I believe in revitalization. I think established churches still play a huge role in the Kingdom – for so many reasons – but, you should be willing to ask the difficult questions or your chances of seeing progress will be limited.
In fact, these are bigger picture Kingdom questions I think we all need to be asking. In my strong opinion, we are sometimes too protective of what’s “mine” (in a local church) and not as concerned about what will have a greater impact on the masses. We want comfortable and familiar more than we are willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the Gospel.
Is everyone (or a majority) willing to pay the price?
It will be hard. Change will be difficult for people to accept. Revitalization is harder than planting, in my experience. Will change be accepted? Can you personally take the hits? Are the leaders of the church going to stand with you? Does your family fully support your decision and are they up for the challenge?
Granted, there will be people who simply don’t make the turn. With every decision you make as a church leader you are deciding who will sit in your church the next Sunday – and, with what attitude they will sit with when they do. We need to make good changes. I’ve written and spoke at conferences on this process, but make no mistake about it – to revitalize there must be some difficult decisions made. Is the church really up to this?
Are you the right leader?
This is the hardest, but perhaps the most important question.
Does your experience, passions and skill sets prepare you for this role? Or, would you be more effective elsewhere?
And, the bottom line question here: Is God calling you to this? I have often said I believe God gives tremendous latitude at times in where we are to serve. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
We need more church planters, more healthy leaders in growing churches, more missionaries, more people to be solid, missional believers serving in secular positions – and we need more people to revitalize churches.
Sometimes God calls us to specific places, even if only for a season. If God is calling you to this then nothing else matters. Obey quickly!
But, if He is not, I would never recommend church revitalization to someone who simply needs or wants a job in ministry.
Tough questions. Again, I’m not trying to be cruel or arrogant. I do believe we should answer those questions before we can discuss the how questions.
If you are not active in the local church (which is a small part of my blog readership), please allow me to apologize in advance for this post. It’s really written to those inside the church – especially pastors. Please know it’s not at all representative of everyone in the church. In fact, it’s usually a very small minority of people. Thankfully.
That disclaimer out of the way, one of the more frustrating things about being a pastor is people who are difficult to deal with, usually because they are negative about everything. Thankfully, I deal with this less often the longer I am with the church.
When I was in church planting our complaints usually came from outside our church. Other churches didn’t like our methods or what they assumed we were doing. (They were usually not correct in many of their assumptions.) In the established church, difficulty in dealing with people comes from inside the church. Again, thankfully, often from a few people.
Either way, dealing with difficult people has been a huge part of my work. I talk with pastors every week who tell me they have large groups of people who are always negative about something they are doing. One guy told me recently his job has been threatened every week for the eight months he’s been pastor.
I have learned when change comes the complainers will rise – often among the most seemingly “religious” of people. And when these type people talk their negative energy spreads fast.
Of course, there are also people who are difficult even when nothing is changing.
How do we, as pastors, respond to difficult people in the church?
As Jesus taught His disciples how to build the church, a chief command was to love people no one else loved. Since they were to love even their enemies, this included loving people when they were not very lovely. Even people who are always difficult. (That’s a hard command sometimes, isn’t it?)
I have tried to lead a church with this philosophy. Along the way I have discovered what Jesus experienced in working with religious leaders in His day.
With this in mind, what do you do with constantly difficult people – some who even remain negative towards the mission God has called you to?
Here are 7 ways to respond to difficult people:
Filter negative talk. Ask yourself if what they are saying lines up with truth. Is it true? If not, dismiss it quickly, so it won’t begin to control you. When you own falsehood about yourself or the church you validate the person offering it. And, you fuel them for further negativity about you or the church. Ultimately, you are looking for truth, not one person’s opinion on truth.
Learn when necessary. We should not refuse to listen to criticism. There is an element of truth in most criticism, even among things you need to ultimately dismiss. Let’s not be arrogant. We should always be humble and teachable.
Surround yourself with some encouraging people. It’s true there are people who are difficult about everything. They would never encourage anyone. That’s the reality of working with people. But, there are also people who are positive about most things. They have great attitudes. They are supportive encouragers. I have found these people to be true Jesus-lovers. Every Christian leader needs to find a core of people who can encourage them in their walk with Christ, believes in their leadership ability, and who genuinely cares about their (and their family’s) best interest.
Remember difficult people are difficult to others too. It often helps me reconcile what a difficult person says about me when I realize they are always spreading their negativity somewhere. I’m not trying to be cruel, but it’s often more about who they are than who I am. If it were not me being criticized, it would be their next victim. Do not give as much weight to the voice of the consistently negative person. Sometimes we tend to give them the most attention.
The only way you will ever shut down the person who is always difficult is to refuse to give them an audience for their negativity. The more they are given a continued voice the more they bring other people into their negativity. If the same attention is placed on people who are a positive influence then they will bring people along into positivity.
Confront untruth. You do not have to go on a witch-hunt for untruth, nor should you, but you should try to stop the spread of falsities if you hear them being repeated or told to you. This is especially true if it is going to get in the way of doing what you know God has called you to do. Don’t be bashful about doing so. Don’t embarrass people or treat them harshly. Treat everyone with love. Be an example of how to handle disagreement Biblically. But, don’t ignore it either.
Be truthful and positive around others. Decide you will always be a positive influence. Don’t repeat untruths and avoid being a hypercritical person. Look for the good in situations. A positive attitude is equally contagious.
Love everyone I probably should have started with this one, because it’s most important, (and I kind of did in my opening remarks) but I wanted to save the hardest one for last. There is a long story in my personal journey about this one, but God has convicted me continually that my first calling is to love Him, so I can adequately love others. It’s the work of grace taught throughout the Scriptures.
(Let me pause here and recognize if you’ve read this far it’s likely you have some very difficult people you are dealing with currently. I know the pain. I’m voicing a prayer for you now.)
You don’t have to love everything about your church, it’s structure, or even the actions of everyone in your church. But, you have to love everyone. In fact, if you can’t love the people who are most difficult to love, I contend you’ll have a hard time pastoring the church effectively.
Find the most difficult person you know and let them be your standard. Are you loving them? Coudld you pray for them?
One thing to understand is most likely they are difficult for a reason. They are hurt, angry, broken, confused, or simply sinful in their attitude. Either way, we have to love them. That’s our calling as believers. We may have to challenge them at times, and that’s part of discipleship, but we have to love them first. Many times, I’ve found if we love them we can actually begin to temper their negativity – at least lessen their volume.
There are always difficult people. That’s part of ministry, but it’s also part of life. Learning to deal with difficult people effectively will make you a better leader and your church will have the opportunity to be a healthier church.
We are all capable of pride. Some of us more than others.
I’ve learned over the years – mostly from my own personal growth and experience many times what may appear to us, or what we may label as, a leadership style or personality is actually a leader’s personal battle and a sin of pride.
And, pride is very dangerous.
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Proverbs 26:12
Knowing how dangerous pride can be and how much God hates pride, I’m continually trying to evaluate places where pride creeps into my own leadership.
I decided to list some statements I’ve heard, some I’ve said, and some I’ve simply thought. In checking my own heart and motives it was like an “ouch” gut check.
10 leadership statements which often come from a heart of pride:
“I need to know about everything happening around here.”
“If I don’t do it – it won’t be done right.”
“Look what I’ve accomplished.”
“I don’t think there’s anything I can learn from you.”
“They’ll do what I say or else.”
“If I left all this would fall apart.”
“Did you hear about what I said/did?”
“I don’t need anyone looking over my shoulder.”
“It wasn’t my fault.”
“I don’t need anyone else’s opinion. I know I’m right.”
So, do any of those sting?
What can we do leaders?
How do we battle a pride pastors?
We above all else “guard our heart.” (Proverbs 4:23)
We let people in – we value others. (Romans 12:16, Philippians 2:3)
We recognize who we are and who God is. (Ecclesiastes 5:2)
We remember that we are created for His glory — not our own. (Isaiah 43:7)
It’s a constant battle.
As leaders, we’ve been given a platform. We have the opportunity to build a name. We value our work done for the good of others. And, God can use the voice we develop for His good. He does it everyday.
No denying that.
But, we must be careful not to let pride be the motivation in building our seat of influence. Or in taking credit that belongs to Him and should be shared with others.
Someone said humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less. (And, others more.)
That should become a discipline of our life.
Thankfully God gives “grace to the humble”. (James 4:6)
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2
I’m in the battle with you. To His glory, let’s lead well.
Apparently the phrase, “Never let them see you sweat” came from a 1984 Gillette company deodorant commercial.
It’s a great phrase. When I was younger, it was a popular cultural saying. The idea was used for much more than a deodorant. If you want to really be a man – never let them see you sweat. If you want to display courage – never let them see you sweat. And, perhaps even, if you want to lead well – never let them see you sweat.
Sadly, the phrase or mindset has carried over to the minds of some leaders today. Many leaders are afraid to be discovered for their inefficiencies and shortcomings.
I’ve found this equally true of pastors. I have even had parishioners tell me they don’t want to know my weaknesses. They want to see me above temptation and failure. But, to portray that would be hypocrisy on my part.
Here’s the bottom line with leading well, in my opinion.
You better let them see you sweat!
Leadership is more about being real with people. It’s admitting failure. It’s being transparent about weaknesses. It’s not covering up flaws – it’s exposing them so others can learn from them.
Leading well is being willing to say, “I don’t know how” or “That’s not my area of expertise” and then asking for help. It’s even a willingness to say, “I’m afraid” or “I can’t do this one”, apart from the grace of God.
Here’s my advice:
Wear your deodorant for underarm protection, but when it comes to authentic leadership, it’s all about the sweat!
Let me be clear. I’m not suggesting you don’t try your hardest, or put your best foot forward, or that you constantly complain about not being able to keep up. People want to follow confident, capable leaders.
I am suggesting you don’t try to be someone you are not and be honest about who you really are.
Learning the difference is part of being a good leader.
I’ve been an introvert all of my life. I was born that way – or at least I’ve been this way as far as my memory carries me. As a child, I remember at social gatherings people asking me if there was something wrong with me. Because to some people it’s “wrong” to not be talkative. I had to force myself to engage others all through high school. And, I wasn’t a recluse. I was elected student body president of my high school. I was just quieter than some people.
And, if you’re really an introvert. I just said some things you understand.
The major problem with introversion, which, by the way, is not a disease – and not a problem – is the misunderstanding of it. People act like it’s a personality flaw. But, it’s not.
Introversion is a preference in how we respond to life. Nothing more. It’s a wiring. But, there’s no flaw in the wiring.
So, I’ve attempted to change the misunderstanding to understanding. Helping you understand introverts.
That’s the point of this post.
Here are 9 things you may not know about introverts:
We can be very social. You should see me on Sunday. We can even be the life of the party if we choose to be. I have entertained rooms before – as an introvert.
We have humor. We may even be very funny. You may have to “wait for it” – and pay careful attention. We usually have time to think about it before we project our humor on the world, so it might be a dry wit. And, when we let you see our humor – be prepared to laugh. Laugh hard.
We love people. Seriously. We do. Deeply. Just because you may talk more than us doesn’t mean we don’t love as much as you do. Introverts are often very loyal to the ones we love. Just like extroverts may be.
We are unique. We are unique from other introverts. We aren’t all alike. And, we are somewhat offended with a stereotype. (Just as any other stereotyped person is.) Introverts have a realm of introversion. Some appear more extroverted than others. Some more introverted.
We aren’t afraid of people. We usually don’t need you to speak on our behalf to remove our fears. Fear is not the reason we are introverted. It’s a personality.
We don’t need help formulating thoughts. I realize it seems at times that we don’t know what to say, but usually it’s because we are processing, taking our time, or simply don’t want to interrupt everyone else who seems to be talking incessantly. Believe me, thinking is not a problem for most introverts. We do it quite well.
We don’t always want to be left alone. Yes, we may like our time alone – or at least our quiet time, but we don’t have to be alone. Personally, I don’t enjoy life as much when Cheryl isn’t around. Even if we aren’t talking non-stop, I like her in my company.
We can have fun. Some extroverts think we can’t. Because to them more fun is more conversation. But, we can have fun. Lots of it. And, there doesn’t have to be constant noise to do that. And, sometimes there does. And, my definition of fun may not be yours. And, that’s okay. But, let’s hang sometime and I’ll show you how it’s done my way!
We aren’t weird. Well, maybe. But, it’s not because we are introverts. Something tells me at least one of my readers of this post will be weird. (I’ve got some weird tendencies – I guess we all do.) You may or my not be introverted.
So,there are a few things you may not know about introverts.
In church planting, we defied the “rules” of growth for several years. By rules I mean things which happen that naturally stall growth. They are true in every organization. If you don’t understand them you will not be prepared to address them.
We were falsely convinced the rules didn’t apply to us. What we learned is it just takes more time – sometimes.
Recognizing these early and addressing them is key to sustaining growth and momentum.
Here are 7 potential barriers to growth:
Facilities – There is something to the 80 percent rule of capacity. When your attendance at in service reaches 80 percent full you will eventually begin to stall. It’s not immediate, but it is eventual. In church planting we defied this one for several years. We were convinced it did not apply to us. And it didn’t for a while.
I am still convinced it can be addressed without the only solution being building bigger facilities, but leadership must be intentional. One way we addressed it was to use “fullness” as a part of our vision-casting. It works for a time but eventually one of these other barriers begins to occur.
In the established church parking has been our issue. Churches notoriously seem to build more building than they have parking to sustain it. But, we run out of parking many Sundays and it stalled growth until we got more creative with our schedule. And, it remains a problem we are continuing to evaluate.
Mindset – When the resistance to change is greater than the need for change you can expect growth to stall. It doesn’t matter if it’s a church plant or an established church — eventually people get comfortable with the way things are and traditions begin to take shape. When you begin to alter those traditions some people will naturally resist. To continue to grow leaders must consistently challenge the norm and encourage healthy change.
Burnout – It could be volunteer or staff burnout. In a church plant, after people have spent so much time setting up and tearing down, eventually they grew tired. The key is to find ways to motivate them again or continually add to the volunteer base. And, doing both is probably the best option.
In a fast changing society, which isn’t going away, I’m learning we have to discipline ourselves personally and organizationally to rest and renew so we can go at full pace again.
Complacency – When people no longer seem to care if growth occurs or not. They may be satisfied or passive, but their attitude is always contagious. I know this is occurring when people start to say things like “all we talk about is numbers”. It’s not true, but it’s certainly their perception.
This is why leaders must continually cast and recast vision. Its why we need to tell stories of life change and how growth is impacting individual lives. It’s also why we must continually embrace change, because “new” stirs momentum.
Small group Bible studies – I’m not being blasphemous here. I fully support small group Bible studies. I’ve noticed, however, this one is often overlooked in the established church, especially when church growth has already plateaued. Whenever a group sits together with no new people entering long enough they become closed to outsiders — even if they think they are not.
Newcomers can’t compete with the inside jokes and confidential information the group has already developed together.
One way to address this is by continually starting new groups. Some churches “force” or strongly encourage groups to break up and start over with new people.
Leadership void – Continued growth requires new leadership. There will need to be new initiatives, creative ways to do things, and simply replacement of the leaders who move or quit.
One key to sustain growth is a successful leadership development program. I participate in addressing this one regularly. I am continually looking for new leaders in our church.
Leadership lid– This one is the capacity of the senior leadership. If a leader is controlling, for example, there will be a cap. The church will be defined to the leader’s personal abilities.
When leaders realize they have reached their personal lid they must be humble enough to admit it and seek help from others. Empowering and delegating become even more important.
These are some I have observed and experienced personally. I’m certain there are others. The biggest mistake I see leaders make, and I’ve done this as well, is to deny they are issues. They may be subtle for a tune but if you wait until they are obvious the damage will be much more difficult to address.
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