fail

Choosing to Quit: When Ministry Impedes Ministry

  • 19 October 2017
  • Keith Reed

PruneI was raised to never give up. A drawing was fixed to my family's refrigerator door that I still remember. A heron is being choked by a mostly-swallowed frog that's gripping its predator’s neck in a desperate act of survival. The caption? Never give up.

We love inspiring images like this. Every story worth telling involves a degree of adversity and the best stories tell us how a hero overcomes extreme odds to achieve something extraordinary. Terry Fox. Captain Sully. The Hickory Hoosiers. 

We feel inspired by these stories and the slogans that fuel them. An entire brand was launched on the premise of these axioms (No Fear). The most beloved team of my childhood was defined by a three-word rallying cry that still gives me goosebumps: refuse to lose.  

Vince Lombardi once said that winners never quit and quitters never win. An inspiring quote fit for any locker room, but in most other settings it's a statement that's misleading and inaccurate. You see, the best winners know exactly when to quit.

To be fair, we must understand how to correctly define winning and losing. The best coaches and players understand the importance of "making adjustments". This is the positive way of saying they recognize what isn't working and choose to do something different. Stated differently, they choose to quit so they can win.

But what coach would actually say that? Quitting is associated with such negativity that it's typically equated to the willful acceptance of failure—a behaviour quickly linked to shame and embarrassment. Little consideration is given to the positive results of surrendering harmful practices or to the healthy consequences of giving something up after careful consideration.

In his book called Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud uses the word "ending" to describe the calculated decision to give up something up for the sake of a new direction. He uses a pruning metaphor to illustrate the positive effects of proactive termination. A skilled gardener intentionally removes branches that fall into any of three categories because this will produce the desired results: 

7 Phrases That Make Church Visitors Groan

  • 17 August 2016
  • Keith Reed

Church visitors should be treated like gold. But sadly, they sometimes feel excluded by the very people who are trying to make them feel included. How does this happen?

I believe it’s mostly due to communication errors. Most people simply don’t realize that what they’re saying is inappropriate or even offensive. They likely have good intentions, but they fail to think about how their comments might make others feel (a friend of mine helps his church staff avoid this error by reminding them to “think like a visitor”).

Like it or not, church members will continue to unknowingly offend visitors. No leader can (or should) control what others say to a visitor, but what leaders can do is make better word choices when they get the chance to speak in front of the congregation. What is said by the person holding the microphone will not only put visitors at ease, it will also model the type of language that others in the church will hopefully adopt. 

Here are seven phrases that you should think twice about before using.

1. "If you're visiting with us today, we're so glad that you're here."

A classic line that worship leaders and emcees often use as a greeting to welcome guests. On the surface, there’s nothing “wrong” with this statement. But this statement carries subtle messages that aren’t helpful. 

    • This identifies visitors as a separate group which might make them feel like the one person at the dinner table who isn’t a blood relative. Most visitors don’t want extra attention; they’d rather be treated like everyone else. 
    • Unless there's an added message or course of action, these words of “gladness” are just words. Depending on how visitors experience the rest of the worship gathering (does anyone introduce themselves to them?), this statement might later be interpreted as empty words and reinforce a presupposition that a visitor may have of the church or of the Christian faith.  

I suggest that you use inclusive language when you address visitors. You can speak to them directly, but make the transition from “them” to “us.” Here’s an example: “Thanks for being here today. Whether you’re a newcomer or have been part of our church family for decades, we’re thankful that we can worship God in this place together.”  

2. "Make sure to invite your non-Christian friends.”