I want my congregation back!
The congregation is falling apart. Members realise that things will have to change, or it will only get worse. But change is difficult. These members want their old congregation back – the good ol' days that will never be again. The pace of change is fast and it will speed up even more in future. How do we respond to members who get hurt – or even angry – in the process?
1. React in a pastoral manner
These people are grieving. Some believe they can somehow return to the congregation of 30, 40, even 50 years ago. When they eventually realise that it isn't possible, their sadness deepens even more. They need our love, encouragement, support and prayers. If we fight anger with anger, we will only exacerbate an already difficult situation.
2. React with reality
Don't give these people false hope – it will only make the situation worse. Tell them in a loving way that change is unavoidable – the church can choose to react to change proactively, or it can become the victim of change.
3. React with the non-negotiables
Reassure these members that some facets of the congregation will never change. The Bible is still the word of God, the gospel is still powerful. Christ is still the only way to redemption. By emphasizing these non-negotiable facts, you are able to distract them from what is less important and focus their attention on what matters most.
4. React with an outward focus
Sometimes, members' yearning for the past is an indication that they are focussing inwards. They see the congregation as the place where all their needs and wants are met. If possible, involve them in activities that will shift their focus from their own needs and wants to a world that needs our hope, our love and our ministry.
5. React with a decision
A few members will fight to keep the past alive, no matter how toxic it may be for the congregation and its future. Leaders have to decide to move forward anyway. They can't spend all their time on unhappy members, because then they neglect those who are willing to change. This is the last step – the final option. It is painful, but necessary for the health of the congregation as a whole.
We live in fast-changing times. Congregations aren't immune to the impact of change. We must always love people, but we can't allow a few church members to obstruct the work that God has called us to do.
Gratitude is good for you
Being grateful allows relationships to flourish and makes trust possible. Gratitude encourages, motivates, unites and includes people. If we are grateful, people feel that they are appreciated, they know what is important and they feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. But gratitude is also good for you. It means we have the right attitude towards serving. Gratitude and humility are linked. They strengthen each other. Gratitude says: "I didn't do it alone."
The egoist is ungrateful because he doesn't like to acknowledge his debt to others and gratitude is this acknowledgement (Andre Comte-Sponville, the French philosopher).
A lack of gratitude is at the core of narcissism. We aren't solely responsible for who we are or what we do. This is the core of leadership: We are never completely self-sufficient.
Michael McKinney lists a few consequences of gratitude for leaders:
1. Gratitude acts as a safety net in your life.
Gratitude helps us to protect ourselves. Gratitude plays an important role in avoiding poor conduct and improper thoughts. Gratitude sets boundaries for our thoughts in that we have to consider others. It helps us avoid doing what we shouldn't do, because we are more self-aware.
2. Gratitude requires slower thought and more reflection.
Gratitude is the basis for emotional intelligence. It puts others first. It says you know and you care. Compassion is vital for leadership, but compassion cannot be compassion if it is quiet. Compassion should be expressed.
3. Compassion suppresses unproductive emotions.
Here we think of emotions like frustration, revenge and holding a grudge. It is even an antidote for depression. It has the power to heal and to move us forward.
4. It improves relationships.
Why? Because it is also an antidote for jealousy and greed. We are no longer competing against others, we are thankful for their contribution. It ensures that the leader doesn't stand on his/her own rights. Grateful people find more joy in life and they have more ties with other people.
In these difficult, changing times, gratitude is a leader's best friend. Gratitude focuses not only on the present, but also on the future. Life is a continuum. Gratitude enables a leader to appreciate where he/she is now and the resources that he/she has. An attitude of gratefulness gives us perspective. It doesn't blind us for what is negative, but rather facilitates solutions.
Gratitude isn't only something we do, but rather something that a leader is. It should come from the heart. It should be the attitude with which we lead, manage and take decisions. Gratitude is based on reality, because we have to realise that everything good in our lives are gifts. Leadership begins and ends with being grateful.
I want to please people.
As followers of Christ we focus on others. This can be either good or bad, depending on your motivation. Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10, NIV).
If we put others first from a God-centred perspective, it is an extension of the love that we receive from God. It enables us to love others in a healthy way. However, if we place others first in order to win their approval, it is a direct result of uncertainty. This is most often motivated by a fear of rejection or a poor self-image or a feeling of unworthiness.
If you live for people's acceptance, you will die from their rejection. – Lecrae
Are you a leader who tries to win others' approval? Here are three ways in which to lead in a healthy way.
1. Take decisions.
One of the biggest challenges for leaders that try to please others, is decisions that aren't unanimous. Every group has to take decisions. If you are the leader, you have to lead the group in this process. If people can't agree on a decision, such a leader is faced with a problem – how can you move forward without disappointing someone? There are a few possibilities:
Trust in God's leadership. Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10, NIV). In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps (Proverbs 16:9, NIV). The group should take the decision, but the steps and growth involved are more dependent on God than our own plans.
Don't get caught up in arbitrary restrictions. Is it really necessary to take a decision right now? When tension increases, we keep thinking 'inside the box'. Free yourself from the restrictions and allow yourself to think of a creative solution.
Use a 'preliminary decision'. Call it an experiment and encourage everyone to examine the pros and cons until you reach consensus.
2. Differ gracefully.
There will always be different opinions in teams. The discussion allows everyone to say what they think and feel. What should you do if the differences are particularly pronounced? If you are a leader who tries to please people, you will want to put the event behind you as soon as possible – you will change the topic. The problem with this is that the team will assume that you condone conflict and within minutes it will happen again. 2 Timothy 1:7: For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. We have to face conflict with the Spirit of God. We have to speak the truth in the context of God's love. If people clash, we have to speak the truth... but with love. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:15). We are invited to be God's ambassadors for others.
3. Empower others to lead.
Empower others to bring their own wisdom and gifts to the team. Don't try to do everything on your own. Because we are unsure, we love to show others that we can do everything by ourselves. But Scripture like 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 remind us that we are all part of one body. We all have to perform different, but important tasks. In this way, everyone benefits.
If you are leader who wants to please people, you shouldn't be afraid – you're not alone! With determination and support you can canalise your need to serve into a healthy, powerful instrument in God's kingdom.