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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Prayer

I’m a big fan of prayer. All the time. At work. At home. At play.

Prayer is conversation. When we are in relationship with someone, conversation is a normal practice. Or it should be. If we stop conversing, we put distance between us. Duh.

I’m a fan because I’ve seen it work. Because I hear from God. Because I need wisdom. I need strength. I need to come clean. I need to trust. I need to rely on God. He centers me and gives me perspective through prayer. He helps me recognize his faithfulness as I pray and remember.

The list goes on. And let’s not forget, I pray because God instructs us to many times throughout scripture and it was Jesus’ habit.

I don’t pray about what to clothes to wear. I don’t pray about what to eat. I don’t pray about hygiene choices.

I don’t pray about everything.

It’s not that I don’t want God’s opinion. God speaks to me in other ways besides prayer. Through other valid vehicles.

I don’t need to ask God about what to wear because there are cultural rules, common sense, style, modesty concerns, wisdom, city laws and ordinances, and my own personal style that come in to play there. Not to mention my wife’s tastes and opinions.

It’s not necessary to get on my knees regarding breakfast or dinner. Those choices are sometimes dictated by what’s in the cupboard, who I am dining with, how much time I have, my dietary restrictions, and my cravings. Sometimes I eat too much. My stomach tells me that. And, I feel guilty sometimes because God has already revealed to me in His word I shouldn’t be a glutton.

I don’t pray about hygiene because my stink and discomfort dictate when it’s shower time. Even if my dentist didn’t remind me my health is predicated on good brushing habits, my breath and sore gums would surely give me away.

I don’t get on my knees about every decision I make as a leader.

I was recently challenged on my lack of prayer in decision making. We are starting a short-term meeting for the men of our church upstairs in a coffee shop on Sunday evenings. When we revealed the plan someone asked how God revealed we should do this. I told them it seemed like the right timing, we had a few patterns we are observing that need to be addressed, and we decided, “Why not?” I told them we were willing to give anything a shot for a period of time if all the planets aligned.

Apparently the phrase, “If all the planets align” reeked of some mystical new age sentiment to them though I only used it as an idiom to mean everything seems right surrounding the decision. They asked, “Did you guys pray about it?”

Here’s the thing: We pray regularly for the needs of our congregation, our families, and our city. We ask God for wisdom and direction. He provides answers through wise council, history, personal reflection and past lessons to name a few. We know some choices are better than others based on what we know about our city, our church, our own skill sets and abilities, our own tastes, and the temperature of the congregation. We know what things we should not do because they are either expressly revealed in the Bible (we shouldn’t open a strip club for Jesus), it isn’t our personality, or we are too taxed with our current calendar of events.

So, did we pray about it?


Not specifically at a given moment in time on our knees in a prayer closet with an open Bible. Not about the specific start or end time. Not about the location. Not on a prayer retreat. Not with the entire church. Not with a vote at the end.

We prayed about it on the way.

On the way to paying attention. On the way to listening to opportunities as they present themselves. On the way to engaging our city. On the way while we listen to our people and hear their struggles. On the way to being good human beings. On the way as we invite the Holy Spirit to partner with us and direct our steps.

When it comes to decision making, we want to be able to respond quickly to the Spirit, or to a need, or to our intuition, and that requires us to be constantly in prayer. We pray in advance of any crisis or opportunity so we don’t have to slow down and try to hear from God in order to move forward. That way, when good opportunities come, we can capitalize on them quickly and with confidence.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A letter to the Childish Men I Don't Know but Observe Every Day (A Cathartic Diary Entry)

Dear diary,

People expect pastors to have an opinion on matters. It’s part of the job. But individual rebuke/correction is done in relationship. Where there is trust. Where there is invitation. Where that expectation of accountability and editability has been established. Where you can be certain you have the other’s best interest at heart. When you can be certain you don’t enjoy it. (I have two or three men who call me out on things in my life that have gone awry. They are my life editors. Relationships like theirs are precious). 

Calling out someone one-on-one isn’t always appropriate. I’m a big fan of communication rules, biblical process, and weighing our intentions and the potential for growth. I’m also aware it is not my job to convict.

Sometimes, the rules allow me to say harsh truths to a general audience. Large groups of people, in the context of a sermon, will hear instruction and even rebuke differently than if they heard the same thing spoken to them as an individual.

For example, if I am preaching and I say, “Men, quit being an idiot and _____________ (fill in the blank)” it will often get met with laughter, applause, nods of approval, and/or conviction. A few men might even meet me afterward who say something like, “Man, I felt like you were talking right to me. The Holy Spirit really used your words. Thank you.”

However, if I pick out that same guy from the crowd and talk to him after church and say, “Hey, man. You need to quit being an idiot” he might punch me in the face. If I’m honest, I think sometimes it would be worth it.

Sometimes, I wish I could say a few things with no fear of backlash. With no fear of anyone saying, “Are pastors supposed to talk like that?” Sometimes I wish I could break all the communication and relationship rules and just say what needs to be said.

I have an opportunity to observe the lives of many men. I'm privy to more stories. I get a closer view than the average guy because many send me emails or Facebook posts--looking for advice and direction. Because their wives complain about them. Because their kids express feelings to me. Because of my community involvement. Because they sometimes show up at church. Because I watch them live out their lives in social networking.

It’s easy to get depressed as I watch lives waste away. Lives that are close enough to reach but far enough away to lack permission to speak. Close enough to ask for a handout but not be interested in real help.

Sometimes I wish I could lay aside my role, lay aside all the rules, and take a few guys out coffee.

As a human.
As a fellow sojourner.
As a dad. 
As a husband.
As a father.
As a fellow townsman.
Man to man.

Because I see them hurting.
Because they are hurting others.

So, here’s a shout out to all the men I don’t know but I get to observe (although, you probably aren't reading this).

Not the ones trying hard, loving others, giving themselves away, being humble, working hard, investing in their community, and loving their families. I’m talking to the other ones.

Listen up only if it applies to you.

Quit whining.
Quit being self-absorbed.
Kill your Facebook account until you learn responsible communication.
Put on your big boy pants.
Put down the video games.
Grow up.
Start paying attention to your family.
Get a job.
Don’t tell me there are no jobs. You just don’t want that one.
Swallow your pride.
Keep it in your pants.
You’re a bona fide jerk. Only bona fide means genuine. You are not.
No one owes you anything.
Get your poop in a group.
Make real friends.
Allow people to edit your life.
Quit being lazy.
Your wife deserves something better but she’s stuck with you. Rise up.
Go find your balls. You may think you have them. But you don’t.
Break that habit.
Treat her right. That’s someone’s daughter.
There’s a reason everyone hates being around you.
Your adolescence should have ended 20 years ago.
Quit being comfortable with living off the government.
I’ve heard your story 100 times. Now shut up and do something about it.
Follow through.
Break up with your girlfriend.
Quit going to the strip clubs. Use that money to buy food for your family.
No one hears you crying wolf anymore.
No one “did this” to you. Except you.
Pay back the money you borrowed (stole) from your friend.
There is a life worth living.
The people around you are valuable.
There is such thing as hope.
As joy.

I wish it were this easy.

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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

St. Patrick's Analogies Humor

I was on a plane most of the day on St. Patrick's Day. When I finally went through my email today, I saw a friend had sent me this.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Restaurant Owner

Quirky Leadership Promo #1 - The Restaurant Owner from John Voelz on Vimeo.

My good friend owns and operates multiple local breweries, wineries, and restaurants.  Because he knows I’m directly involved with steering design elements in the church I pastor, and because he knows I am deeply committed to investing in our city, he recently recruited me to design the branding and aesthetic of his new venture in our city’s downtown.

I’ve learned a lot about the industry in the process.

I’m amazed at how similar our “business” lives are. Restaurants and churches are both about people. People come to both with expectations. People make decisions on whether or not to return within the first few moments of their first visit. If people like a restaurant they will tell all their friends about it. If they hate it they will do the same.

There are a lot of differences as well. A restaurant is not a perfect analogy for church by any means. But let’s forgo examining the ways the metaphor is inadequate for now.

My friend is the leader of his business. He has a clear vision and business plan. His business is not like other businesses by design. He doesn’t want to own a chain or franchise—his business is unique.

There are certain “fair” expectations people have about his businesses e.g. there should be beer at the brewery and wine at the winery. But, since he is the leader of his company, he can serve up those items as he sees fit. He does what he thinks is best for his customers in the environment he is situated in flavored by his own preferences and quirks.

He just started a mug club for his new business. Before the mugs were fired, he invited mug owners to put their own thumbprint in the soft clay. As wonderfully unique as this idea is, he knows some will complain the mugs don’t fit just right or aren’t big enough or are too large. Complaints come with the territory but he sticks to what he knows is best.

There’s a lot of his personality all over his business. Good, bad, or indifferent. It is an extension of him. He doesn’t apologize for that.

He’s open to suggestions. He’s adapted his menu here and there after listening to patrons but he’s not a slave to people’s opinions. He knows his restaurant is not for everyone.

There have been employees with good suggestions and those who have been caustic and divisive. Some have hurt his business. Too many have undermined his authority by trying to change things they shouldn’t and setting themselves up as the expert.

But my friend is the owner. He is the leader. If the business doesn’t succeed he has no one to blame but himself. He makes tough calls. He works hard to make it the best it can possibly be. He is invested.

He hires people and keeps them employed (or not) based on their work ethic and their understanding of and commitment to the mission he feels strongly about.

Everyone understands and expects my friend to step up and make the ultimate calls for the design, personality, business plan, layout, music and entertainment choices, menu, and color scheme of the business he leads.

I don’t know of a successful restaurateur who allows his or her staff to overrule, allows his or her patrons or staff to alter the brand, or leads by consensus. But I know many church leaders who have at least one if not all of these shackles.  

I don’t know of a restaurateur who has successfully branded his business as a half-assed copycat of another. But I know of a few church leaders who have gone that route with equal frustration.

Maybe they don’t know how to step in where the last guy left off. Maybe the church is small and the power brokers have held the reigns for a long time. Maybe it’s fear that holds them back. Maybe tradition.

Church leaders, like restaurateurs, need to have permission to surface what they believe about how things get done, how things should look and sound, what is (or is not) on the menu, what roles staff members play, day to day business, community relations, and who will most likely be attracted to their particular flavor and panache. They cannot allow someone else to brand them or choose a menu that is the lowest common denominator, least offensive, or most appealing to imaginary guests they may or may not have.

The role pleads for the discerning of one’s own palate, being familiar with the local crops, bartering with local merchants, and creating a feast that celebrates the individual’s culinary genius. They must stand behind what is being served. When they are approached by someone who thinks their cuisine is detestable or needs to be changed, they need to be able to say, “I’m sorry it’s not to your liking. This is what we serve here. And we’re darn good at it. It’s local, home-grown, prepared by our own chefs, and our regular clientele find it amazing.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

iCreate 2013

This is the third year of iCreate. It started with Westwinds' desire to partner with local schools in ways that encourage and give a platform to the creativity of children as we celebrate what it means to be human.

My aunt is a published poet. She used to sit with me and write poetry. She encouraged me. She celebrated with me as I put those words to melodies at her Kimball "Magic Chord" organ. That investment she made in me has paid off in my confidence, my skills, my art, and my desire to teach others. It was these memories that funded my dream of iCreate.

3 years ago we began inviting schools to participate in writing poetry based on the themes of perseverance and/or courage. This year we added the theme of hope. The local schools' staffs choose two winning poems from each grade in their school (3-8 grade). Those poems are submitted to the iCreate band made up of local musicians from Westwinds and throughout Jackson. On the night of March 6, the band will reveal songs written from the children's poetry in a multimedia concert extravaganza at the historic Michigan Theatre.

Students have an opportunity to win art scholarships, gift certificates, recognition in front of their family and peers, and (best of all for many of them) the chance to have their poetry turned into a song that will be written and performed by local musicians and songwriters. One Grand Prize winner will receive a brand new guitar and guitar lessons.

The evening of the performance, students will arrive and be escorted down a red carpet surrounded by screaming fans with cameras. Inside the historic theatre, guests will be treated to a video about the history of iCreate full of interviews with children and faculty of local schools. With no time to waste, the band will reveal song after song. Country, blues, bluegrass, rock, punk, reggae, folk . . . they've all been done before.

This is what local schools are saying:

"The iCreate" project has really created quite a stir at Bean Elementary. We had a large number of students participate last year, and expect even more to jump on board this year. This has given students a valuable opportunity to showcase their creative writing skills and to watch in amazement as their words are put to music. Watching kids light up at the realization that their words can move others is so rewarding and fun to see. We're excited to partner with our friends at Westwinds!”

–Mike Ykimoff, Principal, Bean Elementary School

"iCreate has motivated Paragon students to take their writing to the next level. When students see their poetry come alive thought music, their faces light up. We are grateful to be a part of an event that builds success in our school and community."

–Zack Perfitt, Principal, Paragon Charter Academy

Join us Wednesday, March 6 at 6:30 at the Michigan Theatre in downtown Jackson.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Who Should Pay for Lunch?

For quite some time I’ve been wanting to write this post but never feel like the timing is right since I usually remind myself right after a lunch with someone and think, “If I write this, they’ll know I was talking about them.”

But, today is the day.

I have either lunch or coffee with someone about 5-10 times a week on average. No matter the cause for meeting, or who initiated contact, it’s somewhat of a social experiment when it comes to picking up the check.

These aren’t “biblical” rules or advice by any means. But, these rules and advice apparently aren’t common sense either so, maybe I can help. Here are some simple, polite rules and advice for “who pays for this?” situations.

  1. Whoever did the inviting should pay for lunch. This rule is the most important of all rules. It’s common sense and should win out in any situation where there is confusion. If you invite someone out and make it clear you will each pay for your own meal and “meet up” somewhere, that’s different. But, when you invite someone out, pay. If you were the person who was invited out, you might offer to pay for your portion of the lunch out of courtesy. However, if you are going out with someone you always hang out with, offer to pay for yourself even if they did the inviting. 
  2. If you invite another to lunch by saying, “I need to talk to you” you should pay. The above rule applies here anyway but it is doubly important to pay when someone knows there are “things” to be discussed that may be a burden to you. It is common courtesy to pay for lunch if you are asking something of someone.  Doesn’t matter if you want their advice, listening ear, or you want to complain to them; if you NEED to talk to them, buy their lunch. In those situations where you say, “I need to talk to you” and THEY suggest lunch, you should still pay. If you don’t want to pay, don’t agree to meet over lunch.
  3. If you are inviting your pastor to lunch you should pay. This is a hard one since I am a pastor and I know everyone reading this will think I’m asking for a free lunch. But, truth be told, it is courteous to pay for your pastor. This is true for anyone in a professional people-business field (teacher, city council, counselor, etc.). Professionals in the "people business" are rarely taken to lunch on a friend-to-friend basis. Usually someone wants something of him or her. Even if it is “to get to know them better” it is kind to pay for your pastor. If one pastor is inviting another pastor to lunch ask the questions: Did I do the inviting? Do I want something from them? In these cases, the first rule applies. 
  4. If you take someone to lunch to reprimand him or her, you should pay. Seriously, if you take someone to lunch to give him or her a spanking and expect him or her to pay, you are a bit of a jerk. P.S., if that is the nature of your lunch, you should tell them beforehand with something like, “I want to talk about some things that need improvement. Can I please buy you lunch and talk them through?”
  5. If you invite a volunteer you oversee to lunch, pay for them. Period. Seriously. But, if they invite you to lunch, the first rule applies (invitee pays), though not strictly. If the volunteer invites you to lunch it may be appropriate to at least offer to pay for your own.
  6. If a boss invites someone to lunch, he or she should pay. If you are the boss, everyone will say, “yes” to you because they don’t want to say, “no” to the boss. However, if the boss and employee are friends outside of work, it’s okay for people to pay for themselves.  Talk about the arrangement beforehand and keep the other rules in mind.
  7. If someone gives you free tickets to an event and invites you along, you should offer to pay for a meal while out. They can decline but it’s cool to offer. This can be tricky if THEY pick the restaurant you are going to that night and they pick an expensive one. In these cases, offer to pay for your own or simply be honest and say, “Hey, I’d like to pay for dinner but my budget is a little tight. Can we go somewhere more affordable?”
  8. If someone invites you to double-date pay for your own dinner. They are just saying they want your company. Double-date doesn’t mean they want to treat you.
  9. If you are interviewing someone for a job you should pay. If you don’t hire them, you want them to at least feel like it was worth their time and they aren’t out any money.
  10. If you agree to go to lunch with someone and expect they will be paying, have a backup plan for payment. I always make sure I can ay for myself even if it seems obvious to me they should be paying. When that check sits on the table forever or in those situations where they are trying to pawn the bill off on me, I speak up and say something like, “Let me make sure they put this on separate tickets.” This breaks the awkwardness and allows them to say they will cover the bill or, at least you know where you stand and you don’t get stuck with their bill.
  11. If you are “out and about” with someone and you pull your car into a restaurant for a coffee, you should offer to buy him or her something. They are in your car. You are in control. It’s not polite to drink coffee in front of someone without asking him or her.
  12. Be careful not to set up an expectation for a repeat offender. If I get invited to lunch because someone wants my counsel, I expect they will pay but I have my backup plan. If they invite me to lunch again, I expect I am going to have to pay for myself so I either say something like, “Why don’t we meet at my office?” and avoid having to buy my lunch or I say something like, “Just so I can plan ahead is this your treat?”
  13. If the server asks, “Is this on one or two bills?” and someone invited me to lunch, I let them answer. Then, I know where we stand right away.
  14. If a young student or an unemployed person asks you to lunch, you might offer to pay. Don’t assume the student knows the rules yet or that they have any money. Truth be told, they might assume you are paying since you are older and wiser and probably wealthier. Know this going in and don’t feel bad about paying for them if you agree to meet. It might even be nice to offer to pay for them buy saying, “I was a student once. Let me pick up the bill.”
  15. The unemployed person might not expect you to pay but it’s cool to offer. On some occasions, if the person is unemployed they may act a bit defensive because they are frustrated (and maybe a bit prideful). Still, take the weight off of them. Take the wondering out of the equation for them. Or, better yet, be honest from the start and say, “I know you’ve been out of work. I’d like to pay for this lunch.” They may refuse, but it’s nice to know someone cares.
  16. Honesty takes away the awkwardness. If I ever am in a situation where I am broke and someone asks me to lunch, I have no problem saying, “Hey, thanks. I’m totally broke. Can we meet somewhere else?” This way, I give them an opportunity to tell me it is their intention to pay or, I at least take myself off the hook. Whatever situation you are in, calling out the awkwardness makes it go away. Never be afraid to ask for clarity ahead of time. This works both ways. If you invite someone to lunch but don't expect to pay for them, tell them. 
I'm sure I haven't covered EVERYTHING. Anything you want to add?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"I Don't Even Know You Anymore!": Perceived Intimacy in Social Networks

In 1963, anthropologist Edward T. Hall coined the concept of proxemics. The concept says (my paraphrase); What we intend to communicate and how messages are received are affected by the distance between us and another human being (space) as well as by certain “codes” we send intentionally or not (body temperature, touching, eye contact, smell, volume). The categories of space Hall identified are public, social, personal, and intimate space. 

Each space has rules and expectations. Some seem intuitive e.g. “Mom! She’s touching me!”(personal space invasion) and others are learned; such as the unfair expectation of thinking one will find community in a church service (public space) he or she  attends two times a month.

Internet Social Networks exist in a space we are still defining. I like to call it the Not-So Space (or Nutso as the case may be). Not-So Space aggregates friends, family, and acquaintances in to something that only resembles and has ripples of the traditional spaces. 

Here, a post our spouse makes is followed with a quip from a co-worker, and then commented on by an old elementary school friend who is recognized by someone we barely know who attends our church. While these newly discovered connections are often amusing, the fallout is frequently a false perceived intimacy that is exponential compared to a scenario where all these people meet on the street. Soon, the person we barely know is swapping recipes with our co-worker and posting emoticons on our vacation pictures. The feeling that we’re all in this together is intensified in Social Networking (SN) platforms.

Many recognize this false sense of intimacy and as such have abandoned the mediums in favor of “real community” found in traditional spaces. Frustrated by sarcasm and name-calling by people who think they have a right to speak into one another’s lives, many are leaving SN behind. Bewildered at how someone we barely know is offended by something we posted or saddened because we did not wish them a virtual  “happy birthday,” more are shutting down their profiles. 

I was asked to facilitate a wedding for a church attendee. In the course of negotiations the couple decided to have another friend facilitate. They asked if I would still attend. I was happy to do so and put the date on my calendar. Due to a calendar sync computer issue, the date came and went. 

Days later, I received a Facebook message saying I was missed at the wedding. I apologized and explained. They said they understood. Weeks later, I received another message saying how hurt they were—especially since they saw posted photos of me at another party. I hadn’t made contact with them at church since the wedding and they wondered why I was “ignoring them” adding, “It seems like you go to everyone’s events but ours.” Truthfully, I barely know them.

Internet communication and devices have heightened perceived intimacy between us all.

  • Most nights I can be found at home with my wife snacking and sipping wine. Then again, a camera on every phone combined with tagging photos has depicted me as a party animal. I may go to two gatherings a month but a hundred shared photos of me tell a different story. 
  • Bite-sized conversations make it seem like I have a ton of close friends but in reality I have only two or three friends I spend a lot of time with.
  • On any given day I may have the same amount of online conversation with my best friend and a mere acquaintance—onlookers understandably perceive the relationships the same. 
  • Before Social Networking, a birthday wish, a comment about a photo, or giving a compliment usually required depth of intimacy and knowledge and/or physical proximity. Today, public bios, compliments, birthday wishes, and “liking” a status update are universal and add to the confusion of perceived intimacy.
  • Years ago, we might have snail-mailed a close friend an event invitation. Today, SN platforms allow us to quickly invite everyone we know to every event we host or are interested in—all at the same volume without favor.

Artificial perceived intimacy is not necessarily our fault. But, it is our predicament. We can abandon the medium all together, or we can face it head-on. Honestly. Carefully. Lovingly.

I thanked the wedding couple for their honesty. Many would have harbored bitterness. I let them know I turn down multiple invitations out of necessity. I carefully shared the dilemma a pastor has of knowing he can’t be everyone’s buddy though he hopes he’s friendly to everyone. Finally, I shared they would have future events I won’t attend but it isn’t personal.

Honestly, I’m often exhausted by these interactions. But I am encouraged by follow-up conversations like the confession from this couple affirming their sensitivity, unfair expectations, and connecting mistaken dots. Are we besties now? No. Probably won’t be. But, we’ve also removed speculation, confusion, and seeds bitterness. And, we in fact understand each other a bit better now.

While Social Networking may not be the depth of community we ultimately aspire to, it is nonetheless a “kind” of community. Let’s not forget that community in traditional spaces also has shortcomings and requires great care and intention. With all its flaws, frustrations, and facades, Social Networking remains an opportunity to invest in people.

Look behind the voices that are shallow, obnoxious, and abrasive and you just might find a soul looking for anyone to listen—rejected by a world that embraces only the lovely, damaged by toxic relationships, and craving spiritual conversation. Look beyond the awkward conversations and you might find a soul who has just been given a voice for the first time. Press beyond the uncomfortable interactions and you may find questions behind questions that get to the root of real issues and opportunities to foster real relationship.

For more on Social Networking and ministry, please check out my book, "Follow You Follow Me" at

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I thought we came up with a new word yesterday and I was so excited.

I was in conversation with a coworker at Westwinds and I got tongue tied with the word appreciate. The context however was one where we only kinda appreciated something and detested it at the same time. So, my tongue failed me but my coworker immediately retorted, “Appreciahate.”

I Googled the word thinking his brilliance matched with my slur was monumental and historic. To my dismay, Urban Dictionary had already defined it. This is what it said:

1. The ability women have to both appreciate the beauty of another woman and hate her for the same reason.
   Charlotte looked amazing and all the other women appreciahated this.

This definition didn’t speak to our little nuances or context so I’ll expand and offer another definition.

I could sit down every day and make a list of the things I’d like to change about any number of things in ministry. I wish we were reaching more people. I wish people were more proactive. I wish we could expand our staff. I wish our church had no back door. I wish the financial giving was on the upswing. This list could go on all day.

Many things on my proverbial (and actual) list are things I can influence. Many are not. Or, at least, I haven’t found a way to influence them . . . yet. Many of them keep me up at night sometimes and I find myself praying about them a lot. Many of them are issues we deal with regularly as a church staff and we’ve tried many innovative things to turn them around. We also have a team of elders who are very involved in troubleshooting.

Every once in a while (all the time) someone will invite themselves in to the conversation and offer advice about how we can solve a problem as if none of the above is or has ever happened and as if we are totally unaware of the problem at hand. I am not adverse to advice but there are certain kinds of advice that will make me go a little whack. It is this kind of advice I appreciahate.

2. The feeling one gets when they receive unsolicited advice from someone they either don’t know, know well enough, and/or don’t trust who is disconnected in one way or another from the problem at hand. 
   Steve knew Sheila was trying to help but he appreciahated how she suggested the church hold a bake sale to meet budget and acted like they were dumb for not trying it yet.

There are generally two groups of ministry advice most people in full-time ministry appreciahate.

Group #1 
  • Not involved in ministry 
  • Do not volunteer anywhere
  • Are barely interested in the church most of the time
  • Have no idea how ministry works
  • Maybe even go to another church
Group #2 (includes at least one or any combination of the following)
  • Go to the church just enough to think they know how to do things better
  • Are in a business they liken to ministry in some way 
  • Think their business/corporation/real job expertise gives them better insight to your small world problems
  • Give money to the church and think that should buy them power
  • Refer to you as “buddy” or “boss” or “champ” 
  • Have no idea their idea was something people did in the dark ages and it didn’t work then either
  • Have a ton of advice from the church they used to go to and usually start their sentences with something like, “Back at Third Baptist they used to . . . “
If I’m honest, I’ve opened my mouth and offered ministry advice to someone when I shouldn’t have before. We all make mistakes. And, if we are problem solvers by nature it’s even harder to shut up.

So, here are a few words of advice to anyone who is considering offering ministry advice to anyone for any reason to save you from being appreciahated.
  1. Never use the money you give the church as leverage to offer your advice. You can never, ever start a sentence with anything remotely close to, “I’ve been giving to this church for a long time and . . . “ 
  2. Never begin your advice giving by handing someone a book, CD, DVD, etc. and suggest they watch/listen to it for insight. This subtle move communicates, “I know something you don’t know and you too will be enlightened when you see/hear this although you should already know it, punk.” It can also communicate, “I don’t know how to put my thoughts in to words but I still know better than you.” Loaning these items for feedback may be appropriate as long as you are really interested in feedback as opposed to building your case or spreading your propaganda. 
  3. If you are a chronic advice giver, admit it to yourself. Listen to yourself talk when you are in conversation. Are you doing most of the talking? Chances are, they want you to do more listening and leave more pauses. They may even ask you for advice. Wouldn’t that be something?
  4. Double-check your credentials. Are you really that smart? Have you really gone through the same fire? Do you really have basis for your suggestions? Make sure.
  5. Ask permission before spewing. Try a simple, “Are you asking me for advice? I might have something that could help.” Let them say yes or no.
  6. Do not send unsolicited advice in a letter or email. This makes you look frightened and/or cocky and/or even more disconnected than you probably are.
  7. Own your idea. If the planets align, you’ve been given permission to speak, you are in good relationship with the person, and you believe you can actually help, own it. Don’t give someone else the idea and run. Never start with, “You know what you guys should do?” In most cases, nobody wants to do your idea. They have probably tried it before or have a good reason not to do it. If you own it, they may have opportunity to tell you why it doesn’t line up and thank you for your suggestion. Don’t drop it and run. Don’t become the flaming bag of doody on their doorstep they have to deal with. If you own it, they may hear you, and it may be just the thing they were hoping for.
  8. Ask yourself, “Do I have everyone’s best interest at heart or am I more concerned with being heard?” If we’re honest, for most of us, the selfless times are few and far between.
  9. Ask yourself, “Is it possible I don’t have all the information or history to offer the advice I have to offer?” Then ask, “Is it my job to find this stuff out or leave it alone?” If you decide it is your job to pursue more info and history ask yourself, “Am I the only one who believes this is my role or do others expect me to give insight?”
  10. Sit on it. Often times, an email will come across my desktop that offers the kind of advice I appreciahate. As a rule, I let it sit at least a day before responding. This works on the other side too. If you have a burning piece of advice to give, take a breather. Pour yourself some herb tea and relax. Pray. If it’s still there the next day, go back through number 1-9 on this list.