Help, I’m the Old Guy on Staff! (How to Manage Millennials with Mercy)

Help, I’m the Old Guy on Staff! (How to Manage Millennials with Mercy)

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I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I became the old guy on our church staff. I don’t think of myself as old. I’m social media savvy. I text on my iPhone 7+. I don’t use it, but I even have a Snapchat account (I’m not sure why.).

Of course, I don’t wear skinny jeans, spike my hair, have a long beard, or have the coolest eyeglasses. I don’t sleep more than 6-7 hours a night. I still say “dude,” and I enjoy a mid-afternoon power nap. I also now qualify for the senior discount at a growing number of places.

Okay, at almost 60, maybe I am old, but I’m learning some things about relating to millennials. I’ll get there in a second, but let’s first attempt to describe who is what.

The generation breakdown is a bit difficult to define. In fact, the census bureau doesn’t classify the different generations except for Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964, who are roughly 52-70 years old).

The media, or some self-proclaimed pundit somewhere, have said that Gen-Xers are those born between 1965 and 1981, those who are 35-51. Millennials are typically those under 35, born between 1982 and 2004.

I’ve never been a big fan of pigeon-holing people, and there are plenty of folks who defy definition, but I recognize that some significant differences exist among these age groups.

That being said, how does a Boomer love and care for a staff comprised of some Gen-Xers and lots of Millennials?

Here are seven lessons I’m learning:

  • Be a good listener. If you’re a pastor, you’ve told couples a thousand times, “You’ll see some major improvements in your marriage if you work on your listening skills.” We all know how important this is, but we senior pastors (pun intended) have a nasty habit of liking the sound of our own voice when it comes to managing staff. However, it’s better to ask insightful and useful questions and to listen sincerely. You’ll make great headway with a Gen-Xer or Millennial who feels genuinely heard.

  • Clearly define your expectations. Listen first and listen well, but you’ll avoid a lot of frustration with everyone if you work hard to spell out what you want (or don’t want) and when you need it. Communication is a challenge when assumptions are made and ambivalence and indecision are present.

  • Pick your battles. On a regular basis, while being challenged by one of the young bucks on my staff or in other areas of my life, I’m consciously thinking, “How much does this truly matter? Is this a hill worth dying on?” Be honest. When it’s all said and done, does their way conflict with your ultimate goal? If you’ve defined the “win” (your clear expectations), it’s okay to give a lot of latitude to those doing the work. Of course, there are times when you should pull rank and say, “Thank you for your input, but this is what you’re going to do.” Just make sure those times are done in love and after you’ve listened to them well. Also, learn to under-react rather than over-react.

  • Don’t get defensive. Millennials are sometimes combative. I know that’s a generalization and not always true, but it is a common trait among the young. They rarely lack an opinion, and they often won’t back off until they feel valued and heard (review the point above about listening). Yes, it’s irritating when it seems like you aren’t being respected and your experience is being rejected or discounted as irrelevant, but take a deep breath and work hard not to be aggressive, defensive, or cynical because doing so never ends well for anyone. Remember, Millennials want to be valued (which is a good thing), and their opinions matter too.

  • Be mindful of the common ground you probably have with Millennials. Keep in mind, many Boomers (myself included) once were the arrogant, cocky, self-absorbed, know-it-alls who challenged everybody. Sooner or later, most people figure out that the generation before them weren’t all idiots and that experience actually does matter.

  • Lead by example. Words matter. Actions matter more. If you want them to work hard—then work hard. If you want them to have a servant’s heart—serve. If you want them to listen more and talk less—listen more. If you want them to learn from their elders and be teachable—you keep learning too. Being a lifelong learner isn’t easy. At my age, I’ve caught myself thinking, “I deserve a break. I shouldn’t have to work 10-12 hour days anymore. Where’s that life cruise-control button?” But relevance and respect must be earned, even if you’re old.

  • Be patient. If heading up a church staff and being the lead pastor were easy, you probably wouldn’t be needed. Believe me when I say, staff challenges are common. Put two or more humans together and some conflict is inevitable. Be patient with your young staff, and be patient with yourself.

Mistakes will happen. People will fail you, and you will fail them, but failure is always an opportunity for change and growth.

I’m thankful for the younger staff who surround me. I believe in them, and I see enormous potential for the future of the Church led by these young people. I deeply value the input and perspective of the young. In many ways, my Church is what it is because of the Millennials who contribute so much to who we are and what we do.

Sure, you and I might be old, but God’s not done with us yet. We still have the opportunity to shape the generations in our wake. Whether we do or don’t will have a lot to do with our attitude.

Enough said. Time for my nap.

 

 

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Why We Took “Christ” Out of Christmas (Or did we?)

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xmas-4I get a call or email from her every year. I don’t know her name. She doesn’t go to our church, I only know she’s mad, and she considers it her spiritual duty to correct me.

The issue?

Xmas.

For years now, we’ve placed an electronic reader board near the street in front of our Church building before Christmas that lists our Christmas Eve service times. The sign says, Xmas Eve.

And every year she accuses us of taking Christ out of Christmas.

Hers is a common misconception.

First, she is historically wrong. The use of “X” has been common in the Church for a long time, and it stands for CHRIST. (See this link for an explanation.)

In fact, its use was a very popular practice, particularly by religious scribes, who are thought to have started the whole “Xmas” thing in the first place. Indeed, the practice of using the symbol “X” in place of Christ’s name has been going on amongst religious scholars for at least a thousand years. (Here’s another link just in case you need more convincing.)

biblical-scribes

Second, we use Xmas on our sign for a very practical reason: Space. To use “Christmas Eve” and list all our services would take too many panels. People driving by have time only for a glance.

Third, of all the things that matter, like the billions who don’t have clean drinking water or the millions suffering from starvation, this issue is not worthy of an uproar by Christians. (Especially, when they are being inaccurate. See my first point.)

Maybe instead of worrying too much about taking Christ out of Christmas we should be a lot more like Christ at Christmas. I’m quite certain Jesus wouldn’t mind the use of “X,” and He’d be way more concerned with things and people that matter.

Fourth, to think that a Christian, evangelical church has taken Christ out of Christmas is a unfortunate false assumption. Every week we preach Jesus, and our stated mission is to “help people find and follow Jesus!” For the record, Jesus Christ is at the center of everything we do and say at Eastpoint! Everything.

Fifth, our mission as a church is to reach the unchurched. And trust me, the unchurched are not the ones calling and complaining. Frankly, they tend to think arguments about “X” are stupid, and they sometimes use this foolishness among believers as an excuse to avoid Christians. How sad.

x-logo
A = Alpha / W = Omega / X = Chi (first letter in “Christ”)

When the sign got delivered this past week, one of my staff said, “Are we going with ‘Xmas’ again this year? Are you sure it’s worth the flack we’ll get?”

“Yup,” I said, “We’re not trying to be offensive, but the only people who will be offended aren’t the unchurched folks we’re trying to reach.”

She smiled. So did I.

Merry Xmas!

(Please feel free to share this post with your friends and family. Thank you!)

 

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6 Responses to Why We Took “Christ” Out of Christmas (Or did we?)

  1. Bless you, Kurt, for taking the time to elaborate on the meaning of the “X” in Xmas. I had read about it before, but it is sadly something so many folks don’t get.
    Have a blessed Advent and a Merry Xmas!

    • Sadly, some Christians seem to just need a “fight” to find worth. Unfortunately, they (we) tend to pick things that a watching world just shakes their heads at while wondering, “Why don’t they fight for something (like better drinking water) that truly does make a difference.” Thanks for adding to the conversatio, Martha.

  2. Learned about Xmas from a Lutheran Pastor many years ago. Maybe the person with complaint needs to take a little class. Pretty sure ALL of the Christian Pastors could school her. Proud of you for sticking to your guns. Merry Xmas!!

  3. This is a fine explanation. But I ask you, how many people who drive by your sign know Greek? How many people remember when it started happening (Xmas instead of Christmas)and felt the change as a slight by commercialism to save space on the signs for shopping and remove religion from a holiday we weren’t allowed to talk about in schools. I am 65 years old and it will always hurt just like cussing and putting Christ’s name in the sentence when you are not praying but angry. At school, we can’t say Christmas but have to say Happy Holidays. I kind of feel like saying Christ’s name for the good whenever possible.

    • Hi Judy,
      I agree, very few know Greek, and I don’t pray to “Dear X” — but I would respectfully ask you to consider all five of my points in this blog (including the “space” issue). This blog was written to: 1) educate the uninformed (ignorance is never a good excuse for anything); 2) to explain the use of Xmas on our sign; 3) to remind Christians (the only ones who get upset about this) that we are trying to reach non-Christians (and they tend to think our fighting over “X” is “religious nonsense”). Remember this too…we have not taken Christ out of anything at Eastpoint. In fact, over the last 3 Sundays, over 25 new believers have given their lives to Him at the conclusion of our services. I humbly suggest that we best keep Christ in Christmas by doing our best to reach those He came to earth to reach.
      Thank you for adding to the conversation.
      You are loved.

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Thankful for My Enemies?

Thankful for My Enemies?

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In one twenty-four-hour period, I ran into two families who pretty much hate me. Once upon a time we had been friends. These encounters weren’t the first time I’ve seen these people, but, ironically, my personal devotion that day had been from Luke 6 about loving our enemies.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in a loving, sovereign God who has a way of dealing with my heart. If I know anything (and sometimes I wonder if I do), I know that God is far more committed to my character than He is to my comfort.

The good news—I didn’t feel anger or hate toward these people. I wasn’t anxious or afraid. But I did feel pain and the angst of loss.

Tossing and turning in bed last night, I said out loud, “God, how am I to deal with this situation and these people? I’ve asked them to forgive me, and I’ve forgiven them. I don’t know what else to do!”

He whispered to my soul, “Be thankful for your enemies.”

thankful-water-2

Not what I wanted or expected to hear from God.

You’ve heard it, and I’ve taught it: Be thankful in everything but not necessarily thankful for everything.

Yes, I’m supposed to be thankful in all things regardless of the good, the bad, or the ugly in my life. (Did someone just whistle?) But I don’t have to be thankful for cancer or for any other horrible thing that’s happened.

Thankfulness in all circumstances does not mean gratefulness for all circumstances. Thankful in but not always thankful for is good theology.

So God and I had a bit of a disagreement. “Father, I can be thankful in my pain and despite the sting of a broken relationship, but being thankful for these people, my enemies, is just stupid!”

The heavens were silent.

“Okay, God, why?”

Then it hit me.

I can be thankful for my enemies because of the way God is using them to mold and change me into the image of His Son. (You might want to go back and read that last line again.)

  • My enemy provides an opportunity for me to love the unlovely even as God has loved me.

  • thankful-picMy enemy provides a path for personal blessing. I get blessed by God when I love the haters, and I can rejoice in a reward that will someday be mine in heaven.

  • My enemy provides a profound opportunity for me to practice the golden rule.

  • My enemy provides me with a chance to be more like my Father, who is kind and merciful to the ungrateful and wicked.

By the way, all of the above can be found in Luke 6 (you should click on this link and read verses 22-36).

Of course, we are supposed to love everyone, but why should you and I be thankful for those who curse and hate us?

Because our enemies help us to grow.

be-thankful-3

Being thankful for those who hate me changes my fear about them or my frustration with them into a radically different perspective.

My enemy is a gift. A gift I can be thankful for.

Didn’t see that one coming, but I’m glad I did.

Blessed are you when people hate you,

when they exclude you and insult you

and reject your name as evil,

because of the Son of Man.

 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy,

because great is your reward in heaven.

For that is how their ancestors

treated the prophets.

Luke 6: 22-23

 

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10 Responses to Thankful for My Enemies?

  1. Kurt … Outstanding insight. It hurts when God starts chipping away from us those things that don’t look like Jesus.

    I’m a slow learner unfortunately.

    Then there are those precious times I’ve perceived someone to be against me and I had the wrong messages floating around my gray matter.

    Ron

  2. Wow. The line “God is more interested in my character than my comfort” really stood out & spoke to me!
    Hard stuff but God told me years ago not only to forgive but to bless.

  3. I’m right there right now and it’s been hard to come to church feeling the shame. How can God and his people love me when one of my closest family members and family have chosen to disowned and reject me for the rest of my life? Your messages have been a comfort to me. I’ve grown more through this experience so I have to be thankful for this. I still pray for reconciliation, but it’s healing to hear that I’m not alone in this experience.

    • Hi Judy, it’s hard not to believe the lies we are told (and sometimes tell ourselves)… I’m so sorry for the relational conflict you’re experiencing with your family. Know I am praying for you right now. Know too…you are loved…no matter what. Blessings.

  4. Hi Kurt,
    This post brings to my remembrance of Proverbs 27:
    17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

    When we take the mindset behind this verse, and apply it to any enemies that we face instead of friends, I believe that spiritual growth or maturity is the end result. Well, at least to a certain extent.

    Also, weaker tempered iron is sharpened by a harder tempered iron. The one being sharpened, wouldn’t overcome the one that’s sharpening it. There may be a blog post in that somewhere…

    Great post and very informative!
    God bless,
    Brian Reynolds

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A Call to Love and Unity

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It’s early and I was up late, too late, watching the election results. I’ll keep this short, but if I’m your pastor (or friend) then I beg you to read this slowly and thoughtfully.

Regardless of whether you are happy or not about the election results—if you are a Christ-follower you are called to love.

We are never given the option to pick and choose whom we will love.

We are to love our neighbors (even the grumpy ones).

We are to love our family (even the dysfunctional ones).

We are to love those who are right and those who are wrong (perfection and performance are never a basis for love).

We are to love those who persecute us.

We are to love our enemies.

And yes, we are to love Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and all.

For those who follow Jesus there is no wiggle room here. Love is not an option, a suggestion, or even just a good idea. Love is a command.

We love as we are loved by the Father. A love that embraced us at our absolute worst by the way.

And for the record, love is a choice not just an emotion.

A choice to care for another whether they care for or about us or not.

A choice to serve with humility, and do what is best for someone else.

A choice to surrender our rights and our needs, and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

And dare I say it, a choice to place our political views below, well below, our call to treat one another with honor, compassion, gentleness, and forbearance (Gal. 5:22-23).

So whether you are terrified or thrilled about the election results of 2016, I implore you to love one another. Love is the one command which encompasses all (yes, all) of our relationships.

Those around you are watching and listening.

Are you demonstrating faith?

Are you modeling love for the unloveable?

Are you being kind with your words and in your actions?

Are you gloating or perhaps the opposite extreme, being consumed by fear?

If you follow Jesus, you have chosen a different and better path.

Love.

Enough said.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.

I do not give to you as the world gives.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27 (NIV)

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