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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Church. My Tribe.

Today I started an online course with Jeff Goins. In our first lesson, we learned about the importance of having a tribe for a writer.

Jeff’s definition of tribe is “ . . . a specific group of individuals bound to one another around a common cause or idea.” He goes on to say, “A tribe is more than a niche or a target group” but rather a group of people that resonate with a worldview.

As a writer, I’ve determined my tribe over the years. After my first lesson today I started writing about my tribe (from a writer's perspective), as I know her.

“We are those disenfranchised with church but we still love her deeply. We are men and women who have a good deal of angst towards mediocrity. We are hard workers and we aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty or take stones in the public square. We are stubborn and teachable at the same time. We aren’t afraid to fail. We often challenge traditional church methodologies but we respect where we’ve come from. We think change for the sake of change is wonderful and helpful in ministry contexts. We are creative. We have never been accused of being docile but that doesn’t mean we like to fight. We are willing to try new ideas . . . “

What I was reminded of as I was jotting this stuff down is that tribe is not only important for writers, it’s important for Quirky Leaders.


In my new book, Quirky Leadership I wrote, “It has been a popular practice in churches over the past decade or so to take a prompt from the business world and clearly define the “target audience.” Churches that define target audiences are usually asking questions about who they are catering to, who is in their neighborhood, and how they should tailor their programs and messages to meet the particular needs of that group. In many ways, this is how businesses approach sales.

At Westwinds, in relation to programs and The Cue, our approach is different in more ways than it is similar. We certainly would agree it is unwise to believe one model or device that works well in one demographic would work as well in another. Instead of asking, “Who is our target audience?” we ask a different question based on who we are, our personalities and culture, our backgrounds, and the kind of bona fide creativity and thought patterns that flow from within. We ask, “Who will most likely be attracted to Westwinds?”

There is great freedom that comes with knowing your tribe.

Knowing your tribe starts with knowing yourself. Constantly trying to adapt to whom you think you’re supposed to reach will leave you wanting and will ring inauthentic. Continuing to change your message and style to adapt to an audience someone else told you you’re supposed to speak to will only allow your voice to fly at half-mast.

Knowing the tribe you lead helps you weigh criticism. Not everyone will like your voice, your style, or your leadership decisions. But, being true to those very things will keep you on task and help you define what things are truly worth fighting for. You will not have the support or gain the trust of everyone, but you will have the support and trust of the ones who know what he or she signed up for.

Quirky leaders find this kind of freedom within their tribe as they remain as available and accessible as possible, talk like a real person, and give people the back lot tour of their lives.

People are eager to follow someone who looks, sounds, listens, and acts human. When Quirky Leaders know their tribe, they are given permission to speak in to that tribe. They are invited. Their leadership, instruction, voice and opinions are all anticipated.

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