There was never a class at
seminary on conflict resolution, people management or actual action items one
could take in the care of others. That’s not a bad thing. A
classroom is a wooden place to learn such things beyond the theoretical.
What I learned in regard to these issues came from the men and women who
So I offer seven practical action
items to help you love people.
Share Meals In Your Home
The theme of sharing meals is so
important, someone has even written a book about
it! It's hard to harbor resentment towards someone you have dinner with.
Larry Osbourne in his book Sticky Teams shares
how different his board meetings were once they moved the meetings into someone’s
home and out of a conference room. Amy and I have had a lot of different
people into our home and it is there where we have begun to understand who
people are and correct our own misconceptions of them. Many nights have
ended with hugs and "Minnesota Goodbyes."
Write Thank You Notes
I'll admit, I had to learn this
from my wife! After we got married, she has appalled to learn I didn’t write thank you
notes after receiving gifts. Now, I write notes to people all
the time and have thank you notes on my desk at all times.. When I was a pastor, I would write random
notes to thank people for their Christian witness in the community or for their
service at church. With TLI, I write
notes to people who have taught or invested time and money. A hand written note shows a little bit more care and thought than an email you could quickly write and send to many people. Practice this on a regular basis as a
means of encouraging people!
Answer Email Within 24 Hours
I know not everyone can do
this. There are some people that get inundated with email because of who
they are, but most of us are not “Christian Famous.” When people are
emailing you, they expect you to respond, so do it! Many in the business
world (especially in the younger generation) answer 100’s of emails a week as
part of their job. It’s
amazing how much I get done by just answering the people that contact me. This does not mean you need to be a slave to email or not pass emails on to others.
Follow Through on Deadlines,
Especially Self-Imposed Ones
Keeping your word, even if it
hurts, reveals character. If you say you are going to do something by a
certain date, you must do it. If you are a seminary student and
constantly asking to turn in work late, it is a sign of things to come (a
friend of mine no longer accepts any late work under almost any circumstance
for this reason). People who are late in the business world get warned or
fired. Those in vocational ministry usually come up with some sort of
excuse, inserting some spiritual sounding reason. The problem is most
apparent when you set the deadline yourself and do not get the task done.
It shows a lack of self-control and a propensity to break your word.
Put Your Cell Phone Away
Another way to think of it –
focus on the person you are talking to. When I meet with someone, the
cell phone does not come out of my pocket. When I’m with my family, I
leave the cell phone in the office or plugged in somewhere. I can’t focus
on a conversation with my wife and play Angry Birds or read a blog (no matter
how interesting it is). I don’t want anyone to know me as someone who is
always thinking about something other than what I should be doing.
Have a Study Plan
There is a general shock to the
system when one graduates seminary. External pressure and structure is
good. It causes one to be disciplined. But when those structures go
away, you will need to discipline yourself. Create a list books you want
to read and work through them. Pick a Bible reading plan. Don’t do
anything until you pray. Self-imposed discipline is not legalism, but the
marks of a godly man or woman. In doing so you will serve the
people you are entrusted with caring for.
Don’t Tell People How Hard Your
Job Is and How Unique Struggles Are
Pastors are typically
introspective people – especially the Reformed ones. We tend to
throw pity parties for ourselves, especially in sermons. It is one thing
to share personal struggles as a way to relate to people, but it is naïve to
think the pastorate is harder and that Satan somehow has a closer eye on you
because of your job. You don’t know too many people if you think
vocational ministry is harder.