Just one…

Earlier this year I attended a conference featuring Leonard Sweet, Kay Warren, and Ed Stetzer as keynote speakers. Here are three highlights from my notes:

  • People get bored with hearing how God loves us. We sing a few worship songs, give a “woohoo” or two, say “Yeah, I got it—Jesus loves me,” and move on.  (Kay Warren) This made me wonder if people get equally bored with hearing, “You are called and gifted to serve.” Knowing God loves me intellectually versus experiencing God’s love through serving… How can I offer the same message of hope in a fresh way?
  • We live in a TGIF world: Twitter, Google, iPhone, and Facebook. (Leonard Sweet) He also asked the question, “Are we on mission for the world we wish we had, or for the world we’ve got—the TGIF world we now live in.” How often do I wish for the past, the simpler world I am most comfortable with? How often do I resist using technology to communicate effectively in the world I’ve got now? This TGIF culture is based on images and stories, not the words and principles I grew up on. How does that understanding impact the way I encourage and invite people into ministry?
  • Any system that demotivates and disempowers the people of God from doing the mission of God is unhelpful and probably sinful. (Ed Stetzer) When and where am I doing for people what God has called them to do? Am I too busy servicing customers rather than training co-laborers? What am I doing to ensure that God gets his due glory because people are using their gifts?

For those of us who have been in equipping ministry for a while, I suppose none of this is particularly new. At one level or another, most of us have heard some variation on these same themes. But here’s the thing: What have I done with what I heard? As I was reading over my notes, I had the same sense of excitement as when I first heard the talks. I found myself saying, “Yeah, preach it!” all over again. And yet, I came home from the conference, jumped back into the routine, and forgot much of that good teaching. I didn’t utilize it.

What about you? What are you learning these days? What good books are you reading? What workshops, conferences, and seminars have you attended where the content was relevant to you and your ministry? What are you doing with what you are learning? If you aren’t utilizing it, you are just wasting your time and your money, not to mention cluttering up your brain!

Here’s your challenge: De-clutter that brain of yours by taking one good idea you’ve heard or read in the past month and put it to use.

Just one.

The simpler the better.

Right now.

Make a plan.

Do it…

Then share it–I would love to hear your idea, and how you utilized it!

Wake up!

I escaped from the cold and snow of Kentucky last week to attend a conference in the somewhat less cold and certainly more sunny city of Greensboro, NC. I’m thinking this blog is a good place to process what I heard into the context of developing people and ministry (and hoping you will agree!), beginning with Dr. Leonard Sweet’s address. Here are some of my take-aways…

Dr. Sweet began by pointing out that many of us in the room are “Gutenbergers,” having a preferred communication style using the written word. The rest of the room was made up of “TGIFers.” Yes, there’s new meaning to that old acronym which, for my generation, meant “thank goodness it’s Friday.” The new meaning? Twitter, Google, iphone, and Facebook! Sweet’s message, of course, had to do with changing the communication methods we Gutenbergers employ–words and principles–to the preferred style of the TGIFers…images and stories.

New news? Absolutely not. In fact, you may already be thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah… I’ve got this!” But before you hit the delete button, let me ask you this: Do you practice what you know?

Take-away #1:  It’s not all about me

Typically, my initial approach to convincing people that their vocation is serving others is to employ scripture and its principles. But what difference might it make if I began with a contemporary image or a story to illustrate the biblical call to serve. Would this more effectively invite the hearer to consider a different paradigm for their life in Christ? Would it lay a better foundation for introducing the principles of equipping… a more effective foundation?

As equipping leaders, we rely on the word of God to make our point about every believer’s call to serve, and well we should. I often feel a sense of urgency and think that God’s word is the most expedient way to convince believers to leave their posh-pew Christianity behind and engage in real life in Christ through serving. But that’s coming at it from my preferred style (Gutenberger) which doesn’t necessarily catch the attention of everyone in my audience.

Which actually brings me to a second point…

Take-away #2:  It is about them

If Dr. Sweet thought he was addressing a bunch of  fuddy-duddy Anglican priests and leaders, he missed the mark. He was speaking to a group of highly passionate, highly missional leaders who are determined to make the ancient Christian faith relevant to the lives of all generations, leaders who are always looking for the most relevant means for reaching the lost. The audience didn’t need convincing; I think most were looking for something more substantive. The old axiom proves itself again: Know your audience.

Take-away #3:  Wake up and smell the coffee!

Dr. Sweet’s message was not new news for me, any more than it is for you. It was a wake-up call! I need to climb out of my comfort zone… my default mode… my preferred way of equipping. I need to know my audience, e.g., Gutenbergers or TGIFers? How do I invite their attention? Through the written word and its principles? Or do I need to first approach them through their other four senses? What might that look like?

  • a story of serving told by someone other than me
  • a visual of some sort–video, skit, art, props
  • an actual serving experience
  • What innovative ideas can you employ?

So…  are you awake now? I hope so, because I have another question to consider:

Is there a difference in the way we “advertise” ministry opportunities to Gutenbergers versus TGIFers?



Recruitment Tactics, Part Two

Earlier this week I vented my frustration over the use of the term “recruiting” when applied to volunteer management. Terminology is often a conundrum. Do we use words that the majority of people will understand, and not concern ourselves with their response (after all, we can’t control what others think or feel). Or do we adopt words that more effectively describe our point, but may be confusing and require explanation?

Frankly, I don’t have the answer…  Except for the term “recruit” (and its various grammatical forms)! I much prefer to invite people into ministry than to recruit them for ministry. You may want to repeat that last sentence a time or two to let it sink in.

As a ministry leader, when I work with folks to help them understand how God has equipped them to serve, I want to develop a relationship. I ask God to help me see beyond our conversation to what he has done, and is doing, in their life. My goal is to help them find the ministry that God has prepared for them (Ephesians 2:10) and which will contribute to their spiritual formation (Romans 8:29).

As we enter into the matching/placement phase of equipping, I am not only thinking about the person I’m working with, but now I also turn my attention to the various ministries. I want to invite this person into a ministry that will be fulfilling; I also want to serve the ministry area by matching someone with gifts and graces that spur it on to meet its objective. I want to extend an invitation to participate in something that is mutually beneficial. This process is motivated by a genuine concern for the servant minister and a deep love for the ministry of the Church.

Recruiting doesn’t convey that same sense of care and concern… in my mind, at least. It doesn’t speak of the asking, listening, discerning, and guiding that goes into an invitation to serve. Rather, it speaks to me of a slot-filling, meet-the-quota mentality. I regularly run across churches that have that same mentality when it comes to getting ministry done. Many of them speak of the need to “recruit more volunteers” and having “recruitment drives.” Before they know it, they are treating volunteers like tools–objects to be used to get the job done–rather than who the really are: children of the Most High God and ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I encourage you to take some time to seriously consider the terminology you use and how it impacts those you serve. Which terms do you use that may have a negative connotation? Do you need to change them? Perhaps more importantly,  how do the words you choose shape your perspective towards ministry? How do they reflect your objective? If your objective is to fill slots, then using “recruitment” terminology is fine. But if your objective is to lovingly guide people into ministry, you will want to adopt “invitational” terminology!