Communication & Community

Updates
I’m still preparing for Thursday night at Blueprint .. but with some more structure at least which is helpful. I’m still caught up working through much of my own journey in this area of working for the Kingdom… others thoughts are welcome in fact necessay… Rich, Skip, Stu, Sam, Marko… heck, all of you.

Kate Tristram says:
The life of a saint is not the life of a great man or woman, but of God’s life in an ordinary man or woman. Saints’ days are not all about that saint: but about a celebration of Christ. …Remembering the saints gives us a bigger idea of the things of God. When Elisha’s servant saw the enemy chariots (2 Kings 6:15-16), he had to have his eyes opened so that he could see God’s chariots of fire. It was such a big view of God that Elisha had, and now his servant could share in that. This is exactly how the saints can help us: if ever we feel outnumbered, remember that we never get to see the whole church.

I’m looking at the idea of hands, open hands and the bridge between Church/church and how that impacts our idea of what working for the sake of the Kingdom looks like. The last thing I want to do is portray an image of tentmakers as those that simply choose their workplaces as missionfields.. but something bigger and more and grander and greater – something that embodies unique DNA shaping. Modern day sainthood – inspired by Paul Newman more than Mother Teresa. Is this heresy?

More On Communication, Momentum & Community

“Something shifts on a large scale only after a long period of small steps, organized around small groups patient enough to learn and experiment and learn again. Speed and scale are the arguments against what the individual and communal transformation require. They are a hallmark of the corporate mindset. When we demand more speed and scale, we are making a coded argument against anything important being any different.” (emphasis my own)
– Peter Block

Youth ministry is historically a ministry of change – very rarely do we expect things to stay the same. In fact, we are so change-oriented in our culture, that if we don’t see ‘progress’ or momentum, shifting of structures.

Especially when a new ministry leader arrives on the scene, there can be enormous communal pressure and expectation of ‘change’ being implemented on numerous levels. That pressure can be motivated by all sorts of things – ministry effectiveness, values, shifting cultures, changing personnel, style is a big factor. Sometimes, it’s easy to move smaller things and keep the PR machine going whilst implementing smaller, slower, significant remodelling.

The Necessity Of Communications
So in navigating our way through this whirlpool of expectations, change, re-structuring.. what’s important? Something key that cannot be underplayed, is the role of communication. With GenY expecting and appropriating more and more ownership over their consumable product (yes, church communities fit in here), communicating what’s going on is crucial. Not just for GenY who desire ownership, but for GenX constituents who need something to rebuff and Babyboomers who are still paying for it all.

This vital role of PR is really doing several things within the community
1. Creates and highlights awareness of movement, responsiveness of leadership and the community, opening passages for dialogue and reassurance of activity. It’s election time, so never have we been more aware of the importance of a good report card. It’s better to be seen doing something, rather than assumed you’re doing nothing.

2. Answering questions asked and unasked ie: communicating the values, vision, thrust of a community. Talking about the implicit things that are crucial to the community you’re establishing. Using all the metaphors/storytelling you can to paint the bigger kingdom picture of what’s happening within the community. At every point you have the opportunity to remind people of the bigger story they are part of, and inspire them again.

3. Advancing inspiration and creativity. In the rise of the creative class (a turn of phrase but also a book you should read), never has the language of creativity been so important to a Western culture dominated by youth tastes(15 – 35years). Every opportunity to communicate is a chance to do so in a language that births warm feelings of sensuality and goodness. Do this alongside telling great stories and you’ll be inspiring people. Inspired people get connected.

Debunking The Myth Of Church Notices
Often undervalued because they are often done poorly or haphazardly.. find the people who really know how to tell great stories and get them doing your church notices. Great communication is 80% great storytelling, great emotion, great inspiration and 20% information. Church notices are a great time to catch up on the family stories, not simply communicating what’s on when. Look for the people that instinctively tell great stories and there you’ll find your great communications experts. Add some creativity and flavour and this will become a highlight of your community gatherings. Employ technology like blogs, Facebook and email – but not to simply expound dates and calendar bookings… opensource sermons, gatherings, big ideas, discussion forums… open invitation gatherings with no purpose but celebration and play.

Communicating And Implementing Change
The bigger the community, the longer it takes communication to flow, move..the more you have to rely on secondary and tertiary parties to communicate your message and to do it well. But, we know that Millenials excel at taking messages they care about and brands they feel ownership of and communicating in a ‘pass it on’ fashion. Dialogue potentially becomes open-ended and channels through multiple layers of community. It may be that for a time, when a new idea or leader surfaces/arrives in a community – there’s a holding pattern, a glorious time of courtship and wooing. Then the change management kicks in.

Great communication recognises always, that it’s all about what the receiver hears and that happens by way of what you say, how you say it, when and where you say it and taking into consideration how the receiver feels about the subject you’re talking about. Nevermore so than in widely owned communities with multiplestakeholders .. So truly great, Kingdom communication within communities has to allow for :

1. rarely is an opening statement final with GenY. your opening position is the starting point for their interaction with you. therefore, be cautious with the overarching finality of your opening statements. young people do respect your position and authority, but they also expect to be able to interact with the dialogue before the final conclusion is reached – they are upwardly mobile and self-assured in regards to their role and contribution.

2. their feedback is valid and needs to be taken into consideration.. move as far from the modes of behaviour modification as you can and trust the intuitively ‘core’ of people within the community. become one with the people, eliminate as much of the leadership barrier as you can.

3. allow space and time for the Holy Spirit to interact. my position or hope is that we can establish modes of communication and change that enpower both leadership and communities to have ‘ownership’.

You have to be careful moving chairs. Communities tolerate and participate in plenty of structural and idealogical change willingly, until the changing structures require them to move. Literally you can rebuild the house around them until you need them to move their seat. If you remove choice and/or opportunity/willingness to partipate, those who are comfortably independant can feel affronted. So what are the chairs? Dialogue, identify and be fair and honest about why chairs must move, what benefits lie ahead, acknowledge the cost or sacrifice involved. But don’t expect that you can move the chairs without explaining, reasoning, working through. This isn’t making mountains out of molehills, rather it’s demonstrating that there is only a limited budget for experimentation & autocratic leadership choices. Egalitarian leadership choices will inevitably be smaller and slower as well as wider in process, but hand in hand with great communication strategies be way more productive and gentler.

All of this… thoughts that are mostly unfinished.. but I’ve been thinking about them. And, recently added to the blogroll, Mark Riddle. I really really appreciate Mark’s thinking and am desperately awaiting the arrival of his new book “Inside the mind of a youth pastor.” It should be on the pre-order list for anyone truly wanting to engage with intelligence and positivity towards healthy staffing for youth ministry. His thoughts here on commitment are great starters and flicked well with me this morning while ruminating on all this…

Riffing on Commitment from <a
href=”http://theriddlegroup.com/blog/”>Mark Riddle

i think this is often about community as well.
I have a couple theories on this, tell me what you think.
It’s something of a chicken or egg thing.

Engagement and responsibility it at the core of commitment. People who aren’t engaged by feeling a sense of belonging and responsibility for what happens at youth, or the church but do feel that way in other areas of their lives will be more engaged in those other activities. If I’m missing from my basketball team, or cheerleading squad then the team simply can’t function as well with out me. I serve an essential function on that team, a unique role and when I’m not there, the team struggles. Whether be a point guard or the person a the base of the pyramid, i feel a sense of responsabilty to be there. In churches were leadership is taken care of, and people give up their responsibility to others, then it gives them space to no longer be engaged.
Youth, families and individuals within our church who aren’t engaged in community or see themselves as responsible for their own spiritual well being and the nurture of others quite simply aren’t committed to your church. The question then becomes why?

Scenario 1:
On one hand it’s a followership issue. People just won’t do what we want them to do, or be engaged to the level we think a healthy individual, family, etc should be engaged. In this scenario the leader talks about people outside the room a lot. The leader’s job is to somehow leverage influence or to persuade youth, families, indivuals of the benefits of life in the church, or with God etc. This leader either talks like a vicitim a lot, or like a visionary. The victim wonders why everyone outside them won’t align with the way things should be, at least from their perspective. The visionary attempts to conform the world to their (read: God’s) vision for the church and the world. It seems that only difference between the the victim and the visionary is the amount of confidence and force. I suppose this really isn’t a followership issue, it’s more of a leadership isn’t it? I suppose people value what we teach them to value and if our leadership style is victim or visionary then people aren’t really valued in either. The victim resents the people for not going along with their idea. The visionary sees people as cogs in their plan. “Those people will be in community and love each other if it’s the last thing I do! WE will be a beautiful church that loves each other and their neighbors!” What people really value, or are committed to doesn’t really matter in this view, with the exception of lip service. The visionary church leader sees people as sheep, dumb and in need of serious direction.

Scenario 2:
On the other hand, it’s a followership issue. For real this time. That people actually value things, and some might actually value your youth group, and your church. Just in the way’s you’ve taught them to. People who see themselves as responsible for something have a choice. They will either hold on to that responsibilty or they will pass it off to someone else. To hold on to responsibility is be a disciple, to be human to be how we were created. To give away the power and responsibility to someone else is the act of a consumer. The parent who drops their teenager off at your activities but never talks about God might be an example of this. They have give you the power and responsibility to spiritual form their child. They have become a consumer. But before you go off on a “How consumeristic people are…” rant, it should be noted that it takes two people to make a transaction like this and that the more you talk about it, the more you sound like the victim listed about in scenario 1 above. I guess I’m just saying that you freely encourage their action by your action, and probably by your church’s action.

That said. You’re probably asking the how question by now right? How do we change this pattern? How do we make parent’s more responsible? How do we stop enabling them? How do we make people commit or be more accountable.

Friends, How is the wrong question. At least at this point in the game.

How only leads to more of the same. Why? Read the questions I just listed. They are all victim or visionary oriented. They are about people out there, people who must be manipulated or persuaded to fall in line with what I think. More of the same. If you like where you are now, keep asking how. You will never see change, other than superficially.

It begs the question:
What is the role of leadership in the church?
What does engagement look like in the church?

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