Archive for Communication

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 to Increase Your Reach

God has placed in your heart and mine a desire to reach out beyond ourselves. The problem is often that we don’t know how to begin to pull that off. Many times we have tried this or that “Program” in an attempt to touch those around us. I’m not talking about outreach necessarily, but connecting in all of our relationships.

Here are some thoughts I’ve been pondering lately about how to grow in relationships in general.

Read More

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!

Lonnie Frisbee Autobiography Coming

Few people have had more impact on the 20th church scene in the west than a little known guy named Lonnie Frisbee. Like a lot of change makers, he was controversial, and sadly, he died pretty much penniless, and with few steadfast friends, yet God chose to use this guy in amazing ways.

I was excited to hear that an autobiography of Lonnie was in the works – one based on his journals and an extensive library of taped interviews. When I was contacted by the editors of this book to see if I would be willing to write the forward to this, I instantly said yes. I knew Lonnie – a lot of people knew him, but I guess not many of them are writers.

The book is jam packed with Lonnie’s Holy Spirit stories connected with the stirring up and the release of the power of God he was known for. He also gives a birds eye account into the power ministry that went on in the launching of two well-known denominational movements. A lot of Lonnie stories have circulated for years. Perhaps you have heard a few yourself. I encourage you to either pick up a copy of this or get the kindle version when it comes out on July 4th. I will tantalize you by sharing outtakes of the book in coming weeks.

New Steve Sjogren book coming

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After spending a few months working on my last book project I’m excited it is done and moving quickly toward publication.

After doing this a few times I’ve figured out that writing a book is doable once you have the basic plan nailed down, but getting to that point can be a challenge.

The sub-title is “Ten things I learned about God when I died.” There were lots of lessons I picked up on when I went through my NDE. I could have shared twenty lessons, but we capped it off at an even ten. I share a lot of details about what happened to me in the injury and the trauma I experienced after the injury in the months and years following – all stuff that was never made public until now. There has been a lot of pain I’ve had to deal with and forgiveness I’ve had to deal with and to seek from other others who have had “ought” with me.

I’ll share more about the emotional end of things I went through as i wrote this. Suffice it to say, this stirred up a lot of deeply stored up stuff in me I wasn’t aware was there as I recalled what I went through.

I hope you’ll help me talk this up in the coming months leading up to its release.

Earning the right to be heard

A few years ago in Conspiracy of Kindness, I made the statement, “We must earn the right to be heard.” I’ve heard that line a few times since then but I wonder if people understand what I meant.

Here’s my take: We serve those around us diligently, persistently over the long haul with no expectation of a return on our efforts. We let go of a mentality that says, “I give so you’d better sit down, listen up and listen good, buddy.”

Instead of depending on our ability to pull off verbal gymnastics, we relax, we serve and we unleash the Holy Spirit upon them to do what only the “Hound of Heaven” can do – to draw them to himself. As we continue to serve in diligence and in the kind of love only God can provide, it’s just a matter of time until there will be plenty of conversing – plenty of opportunity to talk. But then that conversing will come in response to the work of the Spirit.

What he does will last.
What he does will bear fruit.
What he does will open doors!

Ideas or People – which are you excited about?

“It’s an awesome thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.” I tasted a little bit of that in my near-death experience a few years ago. We will all taste of that awesomeness one day not too long from now. It’s wise to live in light of that reality.

All of life boils down to pleasing Jesus who wants his family to grow larger and larger. Any reading of the words of Jesus makes it apparent that seeing people come into the Kingdom was Jesus’ primary concern.

One day we will all stand before the Lord and be evaluated for what our lives stood for – for how we lived in this life. Some will say, “I promoted some important ideas Lord!” Ideas are important. It is vital that we think in a biblical way, but ideas are merely an assumption that will spur us on to effectiveness in reaching people more effectively. Often in the Church we have copped out and made the focus thoughts about obedience instead of actively obeying Jesus.

One day we’ll all see face to face that God never has been all that concerned with some of the ideas we found so much definition with. It has always been about people. Start today. People are what it’s all about. Pray for a heart for people. You may fancy yourself an idea person. That’s great – so am I – joint the club! But you absolutely have to stretch yourself to actively embrace people. Isolation isn’t tolerable. Ask God to empower you to live in a pleasing way – in a way that is empowered by him to love them one at a time.