A few years back I used to catch up with a person who attended our church but I never felt like he and his family had settled or actually chosen to put their roots down.
There was one massive clue. Any time he spoke of church he used the word ‘you‘ rather than ‘we’.
‘I like what you are trying to do’, he’d say and all I would hear is ‘I am not part of this thing.’
The language of what we are trying to do communicates something entirely different.
This is our church – our project. But when it i ‘yours’ it isn’t mine – we aren’t in this together.
Listen for it sometime – in your own language or in other people’s. You v we – it makes all the difference. One is communicating ownership and the other is just interest.
This is similar to something our pastor pointed out to us young adults nearly 20 years ago. In our case, it wasn’t that we weren’t committed members of the church, it was that we saw him as the one who was going to drive all the initiatives of the church. He reminded us that the work belonged to all of us.
There’s a flip side of this that you, as a leader, need to be aware of: the ability to alienate those who used to own the work.
For decades the church has been ‘we’ in to context you used, but increasingly it feels like you. As a leader you need to take the people with you – not try to drive them someplace that isn’t home.
I’m sure the guy in the story moved on after a bit, after all, who wants to stay someplace you don’t belong? As I see church populations turn over it makes me ask about how and where people are being led, and whether that’s a good place or just some place the leader wanted to visit because that’s where the present phase/movement is headed.