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!

The Lie of Consensus

Consensus is defined as “general agreement among a group.”  You know where consensus comes into play in your life, right?  You want to start moving ahead with your ideas, but you feel you need some consensus from your leaders to do it.  You know what needs to be done, but you want consensus from others before moving forward.  You are burdened with a need that needs met quickly, but you want to build consensus so you won’t feel all alone meeting the need.

The danger with consensus is that oftentimes it stagnates our progress and delays our successes.  In and of itself, consensus is a great thing to have.  There are times when it is absolutely necessary to get others on your side before moving forward on something.  But there are those other times that we use the lack of consensus as an excuse to not obey what we know God has told us to do.

So how do you know when to gain consensus, and when to act quickly without it?  How should I know.  You’re the one working in your church, leading your family, and daily seeking God’s Will for your life and situation, right?  You’re already the expert.

Just refuse to buy into the lie that you NEED consensus to do anything.  Pray and act, pray and act, pray and act, and I believe you will go in the direction that you and your group need to go.

Not Being a Jerk

Are you a nice person?  Are you an encourager?  Do people want to be in your presence?

Are you a jerk?  Do you push people away with insulting behavior and a lack of respect?

There is great power and influence in simply being a nice person.  Of course you could lead by demanding and pushing out those that resist, but then you will probably end  up working in a different place than the local church…right?  Unfortunately, this isn’t the case; and I’ve had my fair share of “What are they thinking?” moments with supervisors and pastors I’ve worked for in the church.  But when you make a decision to be a nicer person to those around you, you will open doors of opportunity to truly impact people around you with your vision for where you want to go!

There are probably 1,000 things that could help you be nicer to those around you, but have you considered these?

  • Have someone over for dinner.
  • Take someone to coffee.
  • Write a thank you note.
  • Send an unwarranted mobile text saying thank you.
  • Smile at people.
  • Stop complaining in the presence of others.
  • Stop conversations that are turning negative.
  • Compliment someones shoes.
  • Give people time to answer the question, “How are you doing?”
  • Be intentional about getting to know people.
  • Be generous with your time.
  • Open your life up for others to see.
  • Make eye contact when listening to someone.
  • Talk to children.  Really, really talk to them.
  • Introduce your spouse to new people.
  • Have a firm handshake and offer your hand to strangers.
  • Don’t brag about yourself.
  • Wear deodorant and brush your teeth.
  • Speak complimentary of your superiors and bosses.
  • Praise good things in others.
  • Laugh often.
  • Don’t laugh when it’s not appropriate.
  • Ask forgiveness when it’s needed.
  • Be quick to pray for people when they open up about a need.
  • Listen well, Talk less.

And most importantly, just try to be nice.  I can promise that if you intentionally set out to be a nicer person, it will happen.  People are much more gracious than you would imagine, and there is room for bad days here and there.  The power of forgiveness compliments this so well!

When we strive to be a person that is concerned for others, then we can become an influencer of people.  When you influence people, you can help lead others through life change!  The power to influence others may be the greatest power given to us, and it all starts with learning to NOT be a jerk!

Tell your Story

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Did you know your church is always searching for more leaders? No matter how big the church you serve in is, there is always a need for more people to invest in the lives of the children there. As a small group leader, you play a huge role in this “recruiting” plan.

If your church leader could clone you, they would! You are the one your leaders are attempting to replicate, and you play the oh-so-important role of recruiter for your ministry. You know the people in your world, and you know who would make an awesome SGL. Part of fulfilling the responsibility of “Creating a Safe Place” is to make it a safe place for new kids and for the times when you can’t be there. So, tell your story!

Invite Someone You Love. Most of us serve because we were asked by somebody we trust, so pay it forward by doing the same for someone else. What we do always carries more meaning when we do it with someone we enjoy being with. Don’t keep it to yourself, invite others to share the experience!

Read the rest of my contribution at the Lead Small blog at: http://leadsmall.org/elementary/tell-your-story/