How (Not) to Initiate Change

I saw this sign at a restaurant and I just loved it.

Sometimes the best example is failure.  Nothing speaks louder than, “Well, that didn’t work!”

The same goes in life; we learn the most from our failures, as long as we are willing to re-visit them in a healthy frame of mind.

With those thoughts in mind, here are a few ways not to initiate change at your church.

1.  Sign your notes to the pastor, “Your thorn in the flesh.”  I kid you not.  I had one lady in the choir who would smile and give me “suggestions;” then she would sign the note just that way, as if criticism was a spiritual gift.

Why not send your pastor an encouraging note and thank them for what they are doing right?  If you have a concern, take him or her out to lunch and have a healthy conversation.

2.  Yell.  Loudly.  In.  Your.  Leader’s.  Face.  This happened to me once.  One of my older musicians got up in my face because I refused to allow them into a confidential meeting I was preparing to lead.  I am not a superhuman.  I left the meeting in the hands of my elder and went home crying.

The best way to get your leader’s ear is to speak more quietly and sparingly than anyone else.  Leaders become masters at tuning out noise because they deal with it all of the time.  I take notice of the people who listen well and then interject thoughtful comments.

3.  Pass around a letter to gather support for your cause while the pastor is away.  Several people used this ploy in different ways during my tenure at one church.  Nothing does more to support Satan’s work and spread division.  Unless you make the letter anonymous, which is like lobbing a grenade into an unsuspecting crowd.

In contrast, Matthew 18 gives us a model for resolving conflict.  First, go by yourself to the person with whom you have an issue.  Deal with it directly rather than mulling it over with a few sympathetic friends.  If you cannot resolve the issue, then go again and bring one or two godly friends (not bouncers!).  If that still does not work, involve the key church leaders.  Finally, the last resort is to involve the church body as a whole.

4.  Leave in the middle of a rehearsal or meeting because you do not like a decision or comment the leader made.  Instead of punishing the leader for their supposedly errant decision or comment, you are emphasizing your inflexibility, self-centered-ness, and resistance to constructive criticism.

Instead of leaving the scene of the conflict, walk through it together.  Even if you come out agreeing to disagree, you will come out unified and stronger.  Few things in life outside of a bathroom emergency require an immediate exit.

How have you successfully initiated change?

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Fail, Fail Again.

I wish someone had told me this is elementary school, don’t you?  I wish someone had told me it was alright to fail, that I most likely WOULD fail.  A lot.  That failure was even necessary.

And I should celebrate it.

Think about it.  When you have you learned the most in your life?

Have you learned the most when you succeeded on a grand scale, or when you have colossally failed?  I would wager you have learned the most in the latter circumstance.

I have.

I tell my musicians that I would rather them make a huge, loud mistake than play or sing timidly and make an unheard mistake.  Here’s why:

  1. I can only help them fix the mistakes I hear.  Timid musicians never improve.  You must risk yourself to improve.
  2. Timid musicians rob us of all the good stuff.  While you play quietly for fear of making a mistake, chances are 75% of what you do will still be good.  Who cares, though?  If you play quietly, I will never hear you.  You might as well turn off your guitar or mouth the words.

When you are tempted to timidly toe dunk into a risky world where you might fail, think about this:

  1. Risk is required for improvement.  Make a mistake.  The worst that could happen is that you could *gasp* find an area to improve.
  2. Don’t selfishly rob us of your successes.  Yes, embracing risk, whatever it is, pretty much guarantees some failure somewhere.  If you shy away from risk for fear of failing, however, you are going to rob us of all your successes along the way.

By the way, I have been thinking about this topic because, well, I need to hear it as much as you do.  So skip the toe dunk for a cannonball, OK?  I’m right there with you.

Where do you need to take a risk even though you might fail?

failing well

Just because you fail does not mean you are a failure.

Seth Godin preaches this mantra.  I do not know why I only began to grasp that idea after hearing it from him when the Scripture preaches the same thing.  In Christ we can begin again.  We can fail and try again.

I have lived most of my life up until recently consciously or subconsciously feeling like a failure because I failed at some point.  I’m changing that.

I have failed many times.  I am divorced, something I never dreamed would happen.  Does that make me a failure?  No.  I surely took the long route to learning some things, but God takes me right where I am and those failures have no power over me.

In college I entered the piano concerto competition twice at the University of Florida and once at the state MTNA level and lost all three times.  Does that make me a failure?  No.  I played some fabulous music and learned a lot about myself in the process.

Several times I have raised my voice at my two wonderful boys.  Does that make me a failure?  No.  I am human and I do not always manage my frustrations well.

The beauty of the Gospel is that I am allowed to learn by failing, not just by succeeding.  In fact, in some weird twist of reality, I find that I learn more from my mistakes than from my successes.

If you struggle with accepting yourself and your failures, read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.

From a business standpoint I recommend anything by Seth Godin.  He will help you understand the value of failure in the practical things of life.

How do deal with failure?