Archive for Coaching

Reaching Millennials (5 of 5)

5. Show a Willingness to Change

We will never be ready to embrace change. When we force the change, we will stir up resentment and anger. Why? Change usually happens when we aren’t enough prime for change. We can convince ourselves that proposed change needs to be close to perfect before we pull the trigger.

G.K. Chesterton was a Believer who often debated writer and atheist George Bernard Shaw during WWI. Once when Shaw was attacking the lack of love from Christians, Chesterton made the point that all Believers are on a journey and learning as we move forward.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” – G.K. Chesterton

A church that attracts the millennial generation is one that is teachable and willing to change, even when the details aren’t complete. If we wait till we have all the answers or even clear plan for success with change, we’ll likely never even start down the path.

The message the church sometimes sends, “When this or that happens, then we will be ready for the change.” Guess what – we will never be perfectly ready for a change. It’s understandable that the Old-timers in a congregation especially resist change. They’re dead set on avoiding the discomfort of getting out onto the thin branches.

I’ve heard ditty “The older you become, the wiser you will be.” For the most part, the truth is “The older you grow, the more careful you become.”

Take a risk. It’s almost a guarantee that we will raise the ire of some who are defensive about any tinkering with the church they seem to own. Those already here is their “Church family” as they see it, and you don’t want to mess with someone’s church family. Research, as well as experience, tells us that it’s not possible to be in the family of any sort that is larger than about a dozen. Anger that comes from the old guard stems from the fear that they will not be comfortable any longer – which might be partly accurate. They want to be part of the group they’ve grown close and the predictability. As well, they like being a big fish in a little pond.

If you want to help these folks, smile and show them patience. Point them to the fruit that is coming as God opens to people like them who were once new once upon a time.

When we embrace change with a smile on our faces, they will be more likely to cooperate with the new thing – the new atmosphere – that God is building.

Bonus Tip: Fun, fun, fun!

God has built into all of our hearts the desire to embrace life with joy. The Westminster Catechism nails it down in a sentence:

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” — Westminster Catechism 1.1 & 1.2

Some in this generation have decided that to fit into the Christian world, they need to become angry. I know that was the message I heard from well-intentioned veteran Believers.

God’s presence creates an atmosphere that creates the best party imaginable. When we take ourselves too seriously, we destroy the feel of a party and can create a funeral service. I figured out that no one is looking for a funeral. They’ve had enough of that during their week.

When we take ourselves too seriously, we will likely kill the party that God wants to build. I’ve found there are ways to redo parts of the typical Sunday service. For example, at the end of worship, instead of going through the robotic words of, “Say hi to your neighbor” mix things up with non-religious ways to accomplish the same thing.

Try this – Turn to your neighbor and say, “I’m getting hungry. I hope doesn’t thing doesn’t run too long.” They will laugh and even with more enthusiasm connect with those around them.

A church with momentum has the feel of a party – the opposite of a funeral service. People are in a desperate search for healing and encouragement.

Funerals don’t change people. They just make them even more miserable than the way they came in. Positive parties bring encouragement, joy, and even healing.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” —Plato

Sometimes a good way to start this change is to adopt a motto. Here’s one of mine –

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is… fun!” (2 Cor. 3:17, KJV)

Reaching Millennials (1 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (2 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (3 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (4 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (4 of 5)

4. Lead and Challenge New Behaviors

This generation isn’t just willing to be challenged – they nearly demand it. A significant part of their mentality is they want to make the world better than they found it, whether their focus is on the environment, or putting an end to bullying. They are just waiting for the call to action to jump into a life of influence, particularly when it comes to learning to love the people around them. Their requirement is that you take the role of a “Lead goose” in the V-formation. Where you go, they will follow. It’s a doing thing, not a talking one.

Call them to change the world with you, not for you.

Provide them with simple, doable tools that will get it done. One that I’ve seen work incredibly well is going into the community to reach out to those in need (I like that term versus “The weak” – using the first gives room for change. Just because they are needy now that’s not a category they will live in all their lives).

It’s easiest to begin outreach to these folks.

Even if your knees are shaking from fear, they will be thankful and show you their love.

Reaching out is as simple as bagging up some sacks of groceries. Recruit, a couple of friends. Find an area where people seem like they might need some food or know of a neighbor who does. I usually say, “Do you know of anyone around here who could use some groceries?” I learned to say it this way after blowing it by asking, “Are you poor?” Like I said above, even though I was goofy, they thanked me profusely. There is an excellent communication network among people in need – far better than suburbanites. If they need the groceries, they will let you know. Otherwise, they will point you down the street. When you connect with someone who needs the groceries, spend a little bit of time with them. Ask them if they could use some prayer. They will always have a prayer issue. Then pray on the spot. When millennial folks do this even once, they will be lit.

Coming soon: Part 5

Reaching Millennials (1 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (2 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (3 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (3 of 5)

3. Build an Accepting Community

Pastors who lead congregations that feel “Stuck” – no sense of momentum, resistance to any new idea or direction.

In conversations with dozens of pastors and leaders, I hear the same sentiments.

“We are a very loving congregation, but no matter what we do, we have no momentum.”

After sitting in on some of their services, it seems right that their group is loving. On the other hand, those congregations are usually dug in and unwilling to upset what is already there.

Sometimes I’ve followed up on a list of their recent visitors to ask how they felt in visiting the church and if they will likely return. More often than not they too picked up on the love between members, but they didn’t feel love aimed at them. One couple said they felt “invisible” among the people. Acceptance goes beyond the required, “Turn to your neighbor and say hi” at the end of the worship.

When you go into the community to bring God’s kindness, you send an invitation stop by and check it out. Ask yourself (and detractors who might put fear into the mix) by saying something like, “If we open the doors too widely, who knows what sorts of people would show up – and bring in their problems here.” It is easy to justify attitudes and situations that stink, and that will cocoon us from being soiled by new people.

I usually ask them, “‘I hear your concern.’ How about this question, ‘Who isn’t welcome here?’ Here’s another one that goes with the first. ‘How long does it take for someone to change? As far as I can tell, it’s God who does the heavy lifting when it comes to hearts breaking. Our job is to love them and accept them as they come to us.’ Remember – acceptance isn’t the same as approval.’”

Every couple of weeks, at the end of services I usually ask the congregation to invite some others out to lunch. Usually, three individuals or couples are easier than just two. The new person will be more likely to say yes to dinner with three than two.

I suggest they take the new people out to lunch on their dime and maybe get them a burrito “that’s as big are your head” to give them a touch of the generosity they need to show. It’s amazing what can happen over a 45-minute lunch, even at Taco Bell (if that’s more in line with your budget).

Coming soon:4-5

Reaching Millennials (1 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (2 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (2 of 5)

2. Outward Focus on Loving the City

Millennials are not just open to being outward toward the world around them; they are also open to the possibility of failure. Unlike most, they are willing to take the risk.

Possible failure isn’t something we naturally embrace at any age, but the younger we are, the less we are concerned with it. No matter the typical age of a congregation, if we hope to reach Millennials we need to take more risks. The tendency of established churches is to avoid danger in the least.

Risk-adverse churches will fail to draw the majority of Millennials. On the other hand, those that are willing to take a chance at possible failure are the ones that this generation will be magnetic to them.

Congregations that insist on playing it safe are the least likely to tinker with what they already have in place – what feels safe.

  • Their image
  • Money
  • Time
  • Enthusiasm

It doesn’t have to be that way forever. We can change to become a church that draws Millennials.

  • By investing money with less regard for what might happen
  • By talking/teaching about it without it bearing fruit
  • By recruiting many in the congregation
  • By training leaders who join up but don’t stick with it
  • By the current leaders begin to do what they want the rest of the flock to do
  • By being willing to look possibly dumb by the critics

To begin to reach regularly out a congregation needs simple and realistic tools that will allow them to get to work. Anyone wants to see a return from the seed they plant. Mainly they just need practical tools that will enable them to get to work.

An easy outreach project to begin with that is likely to succeed is the “One-dollar Carwash.”

  • Set up some sign holders/cheerleaders to draw cars.
  • Go to the trouble of getting professional vinyl signs – you will communicate excellence. In future outreaches, they will still look great.
  • Have an array of washers to do different parts of the car. The introverts don’t need to risk talking to drivers. We can do that by walking through some new doors. Put a couple of enthused, friendly outgoing people who find it easy to connect with drivers.
  • Put a “Designated Evangelist” in place to explain what you are doing. When they go to pay for the wash, tell them, “Oh, you don’t understand. We pay you for the privilege of serving you with this.”

I often ask if I can pray for them for ten seconds. Of the hundreds I have offered prayer to, only two have turned me down so far. That shows a bit of the spiritual hunger of most people. Sometimes people tear up. Of course, we get questions. The three most common are: “Where do you meet?”, “Do you have something for kids?” and, most telling, “How long do your services last?” (Gulp!) Most can’t imagine giving more than an hour to a service.

Coming soon:3-5

Reaching Millennials (1 of 5)

Reaching Millennials (1 of 5)

There is no magic to reaching the Millennial generation. On the other hand, if we hope to get them, we simply need to do and be what God’s word has called us to be about all along.

Sometimes working with Millennials is about as frustrating as trying to use Jello as a baseball. The truth is they are not just a gift to your church. They are even the strongest booster rocket you can desire.

They call us to think through what we want to see. As you look this over realize a couple of matters. These are descriptions of the sorts of churches that Millennials will consider joining.

As you read these over, resist the trap of “Cognitive dissonance” – that is, the tendency to assume the best about what we are doing, even when our image is far from reality. This confusion is more prevalent in the church world than any other.

When we begin to make changes those already in our church usually resist – even to the point of threatening to leave or even worse, to stir up others to leave because all of the sudden “My” church has changed to a different direction.

1. Be Generous with Money

In the eyes of many Millennials, the church seems to exist mainly to for self-perpetuation. More than their predecessors, they live out the line “Put your money where your mouth is.”

To reshape that assumption, let’s be known for our extravagant generosity. Let’s even go so far as to be willing to nearly “Squander” money on the world around us. All hyperbole aside, let’s drop any caution and now define ourselves as incredibly giving without being overly concerned with that self-interest mindset.

The Orthodox Jewish Bible uses the word “Generous” to describe one of the marks of the fruit of the Spirit in Ephesians chapter 5. When we show generosity, we establish credibility. As we go into the community to give away bottles of water at a stoplight, sometimes people ask how we can afford to pay for all of this.

“Oh, we pay for it out of our offerings. We can’t help but spend a lot of money in our community to bring the same love that Jesus showed in his day.”

“But how do you cover all the expenses your church needs if you give so much away?”

“We see the city is worth investing in – worth showing love by serving. We believe that if Jesus were walking around town today, he’d being doing this sort of thing.”

As we loosen our grip on funds, our reputation as a giving church will begin to spread like a life-giving tsunami. As it was with Jesus, when we get into the community “Advertising” will take care of bringing all the attention we need to notice and experience God’s tsunami, his love, attention, and acceptance, they will start to “Gossip the Gospel.”

When we start to flow with God’s generosity, we are merely opening the door for our people to do what has already been in their hearts.

When it comes to outreach to the needy, pantries are good, but don’t let that be the limit of your outreach. Sometimes those with the greatest needs can’t get to any pantry without a lot of difficulties. Jesus reached out to the poor in a variety of ways. The most common way Jesus reached out was to meet needs as he ran across them.

Invest a given percentage of the congregation’s income back out into the community. A smart way to begin is to commit to percentage giving. If you already have required portions, you are expected to pay – tithes to the denomination, the denomination’s requirement to foreign missions, etc. You can negotiate those percentages.

Coming soon: 2 – 5

How About A Summer Outreach Lab

photo 2If you haven’t taken a stab at Kindness Outreach, the summer is the perfect time for doing a “Lab” – that is, to do some experimenting to learn a few lessons about how to build a heart connection with the those in your community.

Any season has it’s advantages for connecting with people, but the summer works well for both servers and those they serve. The weather is better, so people are outside more, and in general there is a bit of a “Vacation mentality.” This could be the ideal time for your people to take a stab at reaching out.

Here are a couple of pointers to keep in mind.

A. Relax.
As we show God’s kindness we are planting seeds more than harvesting crops, at least to begin with. Don’t pay attention to the conventional stats you might be tempted to count, like “How many came to church this month because we served them.” Trust me, they will come, so don’t worry.

Right now the goal is to learn how to enjoy reaching out with the kindness of God “…that leads to a radical life change.” As we reach out in fun, doable ways we will catch the “Virus” of God’s love for others – and begin to see them with new eyes.

B. Have fun!
We have been wired by God to enjoy life. We may need to “Practice,” but as we stick with it, before long, we’ll be having fun like pros!

If we aren’t having a good time, we can’t disguise the truth. Those we touch will pick up on that, they’ll be turned off and won’t want to have anything to do with the God we are inviting them to follow.

Here are a couple of summer “No-Lose” projects to try on for size.
Give Away Bottles of Water
There are lots of places and ways to serve thirsty people in warm weather.

Dollar Car Wash
Wash a car, then give drivers money for the privilege of serving them. Mind blowing!
This is great for involving numbers of people (a minimum of 10 or up to as many as you want if you are able to do several cars at once).

To get the detailed explaination of these and many more projects, pick up “101 Ways To Serve Your Community.” It’s available on Amazon as an instant kindle eBook purchase, or in a paper version as well.

Reaching out in the Fall

Sometimes I’m asked, “What do you do for outreach when the weather doesn’t cooperate?” It’s not that difficult but it requires a little bit of creativity. Here’s a gimme to help you where you are (unless you’re in Phoenix).

Go out in teams to rake leaves. It’s not that complicated. Needed: Rakes, 55 gall bags, and most importantly some eager beaver people who are willing to get a little grimy.

There’s more to this but you need to go to ServeCoach.com for more details.

Mistakes I’m Glad My Kids Made

Parents tend to stress themselves out in hopes of raising children that are going to “do right” at all times. I know that was my orientation throughout my childrearing years, but looking back now I realize I needlessly drove myself crazy at times in my aspiration to be an error-free parent.

I have a different take on things now. Here are some perspectives I’ve come to. Maybe my reflection will encourage you a bit whether you are facing entering into life as a parent or are a grandparent and coaching parents.

1. Ticked off the in-crowd
The crowd is nearly always in the wrong. They are usually in the majority and as Jesus pointed out time and again, though it’s a tough way to go, to follow their lead is a significant mistake. To stand firm in their convictions, no matter who is their side, is always worth it.

2. Colored outside the lines
I’ve done this fairly consistently for this myself. In fact, I’m something of an expert in this department as they’ve seen me penalized a few times. They’ve picked up on my modeling and haven’t done things the way everyone else has operated and I’m proud of them for it.
Some parents discourage this behavior but I don’t see it that way. Thinking from the outside in is valuable most of the time. All three of them have broken the rules on a fairly regular basis and have been rewarded, not punished, most of the time. Color on!

3. Embarrassed themselves
Is the goal of life to look good – to save face above all things? They’ve known that if you are going to be yourself it’s inevitable you are going to look dumb sometimes.

4. Questioned conventional / expected ways of doing things.
I’m not sure the word “rebellious” is the right choice but it’s pretty close to what I’ve hoped for them, at least to be a little bit that way. No progress is going to be made unless someone thinks outside the box. Life tends to discourage and penalize those who do that, but it’s worth every bit of heat one takes along the way to change the world.

5. Ticked me off.
At times it hasn’t taken much to pull this off! Don’t get me wrong. Long term, it’s a huge mistake to not follow the wisdom of a loving and wise parent. The line is “Honor your parents in the Lord that you may have a long life.” That’s an amazing promise to take to heart, but along the way there has been stress. I’ve endured stress points will all my kids but that’s just part of the deal in helping them come into their distinct adult selves. Those who aren’t allowed to tick off their parents are going to do this later in life, but then it will be messier and more hurtful. Parents, embrace the tick!

7 Things I Wish I’d Told My Dad When I Was Younger 

This Father’s Day has me thinking of some things I wish I’d shared with my dad a long time ago. Perhaps you too have some things you’d like to share with your dad. It may not be too late. My dad passed away years ago so this is more of an exercise in journaling, but for you there is tomorrow. 

1. “No matter how long I live, you will always be my greatest role model.”
I’ve had models for various areas of expertise come and go throughout life. Most of them have been helpful as they’ve left their mark, but at the core of all I’ve received is the deposit my dad made. He didn’t have to be the world’s best at everything. All I needed to know was that he was the greatest – period. 
2. “Deep down, I want to become like you in your best traits.”
He wasn’t perfect, but his imprint will have the greatest effect on me. I want to be like him in the ways he was strong. I want him to be proud of the person I’ve become. 
3. “Thanks for the sacrifices you made for me.”
I know my dad felt the strain of work many times. Perhaps he even wondered what he’d gotten himself into! But honestly what hard working guy who is totally honest doesn’t have that thought cross his mind occasionally. 
4. “Thanks for having me.”
Looking back it is clear to me there were a lot of decisions he made that led up to me being conceived and born. God orchestrated that but my dad cooperated. I’m grateful for his love for me before I was born. 
5. “Thanks for working hard to provide for me.”
Forty hours plus per week takes the starch out of anyone after a while. To do that for years on end requires a lot of love. No matter where your dad appears to be spiritually on the outside, keep in mind that no man can put in years, even decades, of sacrificial work for a child or a family, and not have some glimmer of spiritual life. 
6. “Thanks for being tough on me at times.” 
There is a hard side to love that’s  hard to see when we are young.
7. “Sorry I spent so much time being angry at you instead of listening to you.”
This is a big one for me. It took years to gain the perspective I needed to realize that my old man was pretty smart all along. Based on conversations and reading it seems that many of us have lived as angry young people while we were home. It took getting out of the house to wake us up to our limitations and our dads’ perspective and big time wisdom. 

If it is too difficult to call your dad tomorrow I’d recommend you go ahead and just tell him you love him, then do something unusual in our day – actually write him a letter by hand. It doesn’t need to be long. Share a few points – maybe lift some of the ones here. You don’t need to be original. Then see what happens. Whether he acknowledges your letter or not – many dads don’t do all that well with words – send it anyway. 

If your dad is gone, write a letter anyway. You can’t send it so hold onto it for a couple of days then read it again on the third day to let it sink in. This is something sacred between you and him no one else needs to see. If the contents are something you wouldn’t mind sharing with your grandchildren file it away. If you rather not see it again, burn it. It will just be something important you expressed that was good to get out. Now move on. 

Refilled by reading

I’ve been writing a lot lately as I’ve shared on this blog. I can only write so much and then I start to see double.

Something I learned from Stephen King that has been helpful along my journey – as a writer it’s vital to read about as much per day as you write. I’m not sure it’s possible to keep up that ratio every single day, but I love the idea just the same. In the midst of writing I find it refreshing to read as a replenishing exercise. Try it and see if it works for you.