The Beauty of Approachability

When I was 16 years go I got my first job busing tables at a Goldie’s Restaurant in my hometown.  This job involved removing half-eaten food from tables, waiters that wouldn’t share their tips, cleaning the bathrooms, and just about every other conceivable disgusting thing in the restaurant business.  But I’ve always remembered one thing from my 4 nights of  employment.  (Are you surprised?  Of course I quit after 4 days!)

I guess I wasn’t exactly hiding my dissatisfaction with my chores, and my boss pulled me into his office to tell me to smile more.  I laughed at his request and then he got in my face and told me that to work for his restaurant I had to look approachable, and if I was walking around looking upset; that nobody would ever ask for my help…and then there was the potential that an unhappy customer might leave the restaurant.  That right there is some truth!

So fast forward almost 20 years and that advice still stands!  Every Sunday morning as I walk in and through the areas of my church, I’m interacting with a customer of sorts.  Not the kind of customer that is buying something, but the kind that has a need that needs to be filled.  I don’t know what those needs are, but I need to work to be as approachable as possible.  Sometimes it’s being approachable to tell someone where they can find a particular place on our campus.  Other times it’s being able to reward the bravery of a child that wants you to pray with them.

Here are the ways I work to always make people feel welcome.

  • Smile.  This is the simplest one.  Simply smile.  A simple smile always disarms even the most frustrated person.  And here’s a little secret about the power of a smile…it can cover whatever turmoil you may be going through in the moment.  Have you ever heard this saying, “Fake it, ’til you make it!”?  Just because you don’t feel like smiling, isn’t a good enough reason to frown!
  • Look Around. I work every weekend to not always look at myself, and what I’m going through during a busy weekend.  Instead, I take the time to look at what is around me.  Many times I’ve discovered I can help people by just seeing what they see.  Walking around and looking for those needs, is key to finding the needs I can meet.
  • Avoid Groups. By this I mean, that I avoid standing around in groups of cliques.  If you go to church you know what I mean.  I don’t hang out with the other pastors in the lobby, loiter in front of the nursery, or restrict myself to the guest connections counter.  I’m not rude, but I just never stay in one place very long.
  • Smile. Oh, did I already mention this one?

If you’re working at a church, and you’re not deliberately working to make yourself available to those that need you…then you’re missing one of your greatest callings!

Setting and Keeping Goals

I’m a big list maker.  I prefer the Santa method, I make a list and check it twice.  My moleskin is full of to-do’s, notes, and things I need to remember to stay on top of all that I’m required to do.  But sometimes the list needs to get bigger, and be in front of you more.  There are some lists that fit the category of “Official Goals.”  But goals doesn’t suffice entirely, because goals can be broken down further into three different categories.

  1. Everyday Goals -> You could call these core values, mission statements, or whatever; but I prefer “everyday goals” as they are the filter that allow us to say no to other good ideas.  On our ministry team I have 3 everyday goals, and they are on my dry erase goal board…right at the top in red ink!
  2. Short Term Goals -> These are things that get specific, and I should be working on  immediately  (like yesterday if possible!)  These goals are quick-fix things that we can accomplish quickly and with limited discussion.  The accountability on these is fierce and lightning fast, because it has to be done and it has to be done shortly.
  3. Long Term Goals -> These are the goals that make everyone uncomfortable.  These are sometimes audacious and dreamer-oriented; but at the same time I have to see them as  immensely  doable at some point in the future.  I stay away from impossible things here, but still want to stretch myself with the long term initiatives of the team I lead.

But after I’ve nailed these down and illustrated them out for everyone, I can easily end up with 20 short term goals and 20 long term goals; so what to do now?  Break them down into different areas of responsibilities; and start delegating them out.  And for heaven’s sake put them up where you can see them!  Here is an example of the goals worksheet my team and I have created together (click image to view them in a large format.)

In some upcoming posts I’m going to talk about the process of coming up with the goals themselves.  Because they are truly owned by everyone on our NextGen team, and that may be the most important part of all of this!

Handling Offense

benefit-of-the-doubt

Fact #1: The people you interact with the most will be offended by you at some point.

Fact #2: This doesn’t have to be an everyday occurence.

With as many interactions as you have on a daily basis, it’s inevitable that you will eventually cross the line into offense. I’ve found with my own experence that this is usually not because I’m intentionally trying to hurt someone, but instead is caused by my insensitivity, failure to listen, being prideful, or choosing to be dogmatic about one of my opinions. It boils down to this, when I offend…it’s rarely on purpose. It’s usually because I’m self-centered in some form.

This doesn’t excuse my behavior, but it does help me better understand others. It helps me realize that when I’m on that other side of offense, that I should give others the same benefit of the doubt that I want them to give me. Love that phrase, “the benefit of the doubt.”

benefit  of the  doubt

  1. A  favorable  judgement  given in the  absence  of full  evidence.

Go ahead and read that definition over again. The absence of full evidence. That’s good people, really good.  Could we choose to be favorable towards others, even when they hurt us?

Matthew 11:6Blessed is the one who  is not offended by me.

I Like Change

I like change.  It’s really a bizarre thing to like, but I like it when staffing changes happen (even though I hate to see strong leaders leave my team.)  I like it when our environments are switched up and changed.  Whether that’s the bedroom furniture being moved, the garage rearranged, or throwing away an old pair of shoes.

I also like life change.  I like that thrill of knowing that everything is about to change, and in that exact moment you are unsure of what the outcome will be.  Yet at the same time believing by faith that God will intercede to make this change a good one.  I like that  adventurous  fear I have before stepping out and doing something everyone says I’m crazy to try.  I don’t just like it.  I love it.

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power. -Alan Cohen

Don’t miss that last part of the quote above, “for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”  That’s a powerful thought for my family and I.  I want to be guilty of movement.  I want my change to empower others.  I want the security that adventurous and exciting change will bring for me and my family.  Bring It On!

Protecting Marriage

JonathanStarr

Often the most overlooked parts of our unique parenting style, is the marriage aspect. We read books on parenting, we talk to other parents about our kids, and we laugh together about all of our parenting misadventures. However, we don’t often put an equal amount of energy into our marriage.

We’d all agree that we want our kids to see a good marriage. Nobody wants their kids to see an eventual divorce, broken homes, constant bickering, and angry conversations. But, what does it look like for kids to see a good marriage? Is it public displays of affection? A little kissing, and a dad that does the dishes?

I believe it’s much more than any of that.

It’s conflict resolution. Spouses will argue, and if they are really passionate arguers it will be loud. All couples have disagreements, frustrations with each other, and even an occasional misunderstanding. We should limit how much a part of our lives are described by the previous reasons, but we all know those things will happen. The solution to making conflict work in your families is to let your kids see the compromises made, the apologies given, and the grace applied.

It’s serving even when it’s not  convenient. It’s as easy as getting that second glass of iced tea before they ask for it, and as difficult as taking an entire weekend to help the family accomplish a task that your wife is asking for. Serve your spouse in front of your kids, and the less convenient it is…the more of an impact it can have on them when they see it!

It’s spoken words of love. Sure, show your love with some actions, but fill the cup with overflowing in the words department. Say it. Tell her you love her. Tell him he’s awesome. Let the words between you and your spouse be words of life and love. You should also let the words of love flow, even when your only audience is the kids!

It’s including them in the love story. Once upon a time…I met my wife. There is a lot of story there, but the story really takes off when my little ones starting arriving. My 3 kids are one of the best parts of the love story that Starr and I are writing together. I let my kids know, that each time one of them entered the world…my love for their mother increased yet again. I love her more, because I have them in my family.

It’s putting them 2nd. Here is the importance ranking in my house. Starr is #1. Kids are scattered in somewhere at #2. Then everyone else is a distant #3. But the #2 ranked kids aren’t even close to their #1 ranked mother. It’s not #1a and #1b. It’s her first, always first, never last, and the one that will be with me forever. She’s the only person in the house that makes it all work for me. This doesn’t hurt my kids self-esteem, it builds it up.

Anything you’d add to the list? How do we protect our marriage in front of our kids?