A youth pastor may have a ton of skills and passion, but if he sees parents as his biggest problem, he’s totally missed a vital issue in his ministry. Parents aren’t the problem; they’re key constituents in his calling! I’ve heard youth pastors complain, “What’s wrong with those parents? Don’t they know I’m giving everything I’ve got for their kids?” “They gripe that I’ve messed up their family vacation when I scheduled summer camp five months ahead. Hey, I’m devoting my summer to their kids! Can’t they give me a break?” The youth pastor is blind to the needs and desires of the parents, and he sees them as adversaries instead of allies.
The kids’ ministry pastor is upset because parents communicate their frustration that it takes 30 minutes to check in on Sunday morning. The kids’ pastor reacts, “I’m doing the best I can! I was given this system, and this is the best I can do. It’s as fast as it’s going to get.” This pastor is blind to the fact that it’s not good enough to blame the system. She has to find a more effective process. A worship leader keeps picking the same songs over and over and doesn’t even realize a lot of people are tired of them. Their lack of participation is written off as spiritual passivity, not musical boredom.
A small groups’ pastor has a meeting with zone leaders and chews them out, “You never get your information to me on time! You’re making me look bad!” He’s not hearing how he’s coming across. He thinks he’s being a strong leader, but he’s a bully, speaking down to them. He’s not encouraging them, not empowering them, and not loving them.
(Self-disclosure: Years ago, I listened to one of our staff berate people like this, and I realized he had been listening to me. I’d been modeling that exact behavior. My deaf spot was revealed in living color. It was painful, but it was necessary.)
One of our staff told me his wife is often defensive when he talks to her. I asked him to tell me about their last awkward conversation, and I mirrored back to him the words, and more importantly, the tone he was communicating. His eyes got wider, and he said, “No wonder she’s defensive. My tone is know-it-all and demanding, even about little things.”
He thought his communication was just fine, and he often wondered, What’s wrong with her? They had been married for 20 years, and he finally realized he had been deaf to the caustic way he often talked to his wife.
People don’t know what they don’t know, so they don’t even think of the right questions to ask. This is an almost universal problem because the majority of people assume they have plenty of knowledge about performing well in their responsibilities.
The director of a media department can take a church’s communication out of the Dark Ages and into the Modern Era, but until he spends a couple of days at a church that’s killing it in media, he thinks he’s at the limit of what can be done.
A pastor told me that one of the people on his board came to his office and handed him a copy of a recent email sent from the pastor’s executive assistant. He pointed to 15 typos circled in red on the single sheet. The pastor tried to explain that “mistakes happen” and blow it off, but the board member handed him a folder of about a hundred emails from the past year, and all of them were bleeding red with typographical errors. He explained, “The first time, I thought it was an anomaly, but it’s not. It happens in every piece of correspondence. And Pastor, it makes you look like an idiot.” Until that moment, the pastor had a dumb spot. He assumed his assistant had used spell check on all correspondence, but she hadn’t. He wasn’t dumb any longer.
Dumb spots continue when people have too little exposure to new ways of doing things, they’re too comfortable and aren’t pushed to be creative, or their fear puts a muzzle on their courage to try something new.
No matter how sincere, passionate and skilled they may be, people simply can’t grow beyond their blind spots, deaf spots, and dumb spots.
This article was extracted from Issue 7 (Fall 2021) of the AVAIL Journal. Claim your free annual subscription here.
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