Oh…Now you are interested…

by vernsanders on February 7, 2012

Sorry about this one…it’s a bit of a vent…pass on by if you are afraid I’m going to ruin your day…

Recently I had perhaps the third deja vu conversation with a pastor. This particular pastor is one that I worked for (not with) a long time ago, and like the other such conversations we’ve had since then, it was rather unidirectional. To put it bluntly, I was cornered, and pressed to provide advice about a problem.

Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with someone while part of your brain is screaming “why do you care about what I think now,  since you made it clear my opinion was worthless when we worked in the same building?” This has happened often enough with this person that I can maintain a conversational tone of voice, but I still can’t control my body language. I’m working on that, but still…

My integrity is such that I gave my best advice, but experience tells me that it will not be valued any more now than it was then.

Why is this important, as opposed to being just rant-filled hot air?

Because as much as you can’t make a horse drink, you still can lead it to water…again…and again…

I’m not one to throw stones here, because I’ve got my own blind spots. But so many church leaders continue to chase “experts” for advice because they (in my opinion) think that if they can just find that “magic bullet” their congregation will grow, or their ministry will thrive, or their budget will increase. And remember…the definition of “expert” is someone who lives at least 50 miles away…

Here’s a clue: you can chase trends all you want, but sooner or later you have to do the work. And the work, in ministry, is hard. And because no two people, or congregations are the same, my magic bullet isn’t going to fix your problem now, any more than it did then. Plus, if you don’t trust what you hear (now any more than you did then), what difference does it make (and why are you wasting my time)? And if you don’t pay attention to the people you serve, all the magic bullets in the world are going to misfire.

There is a well known navigational technique to get where you want to go. Fix your eyes upon your destination rather than looking at where you are walking. If you keep turning your eyes this way and that, distracted by one path and then another that seem to be popular and well worn, hoping that you’ll get there quicker, you’ll not only end up lost, but the ones you are leading will lose faith in your ability to lead.

There…I feel better now…did that help?

Had it happen to you? Got a better way to handle it? (and don’t tell me to start charging for my advice…in this case it would never occur to this person that it should be anything but free…sigh…)

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Margaret February 7, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Vern, two thoughts come to mind: 1) you are absolutely right that we are all looking for the magic bullet, and it doesn’t exist — we have to work to understand deeply our own context and then experiment to see what works (and nothing works perfectly…).
2) Edwin Friedman used to say people can only hear you when they are moving toward you (emotionally, that is). There’s no point in chasing after people — but if they show some motivation, as perhaps this pastor did for a time, you can give your best thinking — and then let it go. Thanks for sharing your experience.

vernsanders February 7, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Thanks for the good advice, Margaret. I’ll try to be less “closed” next time…and I’m sure there will be a next time…sigh…

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