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Nurturing a Healthy Church Culture – Part 2

Nurturing a Healthy Church Culture – Part 2

To read Part 1 of this blog click here. What follows is a further explanation of our staff culture, taken directly from our new staff orientation materials, Cultural Habits: A Staff Devotional for Christ Community. 

 

We Expect God

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Matthew 28:18-20

We have been called to take part in a seemingly impossible mission. In the face of satanic opposition, human rebellion, addiction, injustice of so many varieties, everyday human limitations and even our own enduring doubts, Jesus says “Go and make disciples.”

What hope do we have that we might actually be able to carry out this mission? The only reason Jesus gives that this is not an utterly hopeless mission is that the Almighty Son of God is here with us. He who is trustworthy has promised His presence.

And not just sometimes. Always. I love the word always. It leaves no room for exceptions. He’s always there watching over us, going before us, and guarding behind us.

Since God is always with us, then as we stack chairs or order print materials,He’s there. When we meet with that struggling couple, teenager, or coworker, He’s there. He’s working, mending, revealing, and moving. When we are organizing volunteers, He’s there. When we are preparing sermons, lessons, meeting agendas, or orientation material, He’s there. Whenever __________ feels hopeless or insurmountable, He’s there.

Always.

But do we expect Him? When is the last time you expected God to intervene?

 “He answered your prayer!”

It was early on in my pastoral role, and I had just met a guy who had been on the job hunt for about nine months. Over coffee, he shared his frustrations of emailing company after company and gaining little to no traction. I did what I could. I listened, and we prayed.

A couple of days went by, and on a Thursday morning, I spent some time in prayer for his job prospects. Transparently, there are times that I wrestle with whether my prayers matter at all. But I promised this gentleman that I would pray. So I did. And I texted him not long after that I was indeed praying for him. Then came his text response, “He answered your prayer! I got the job.”

I wasn’t expecting that. Really, it’s painful to admit, but I wasn’t expecting God. And years later, that gentleman is still working in the same place and still attending Christ Community. He’s reminded me often of that day, the day God surprised us both. And we’ll never forget it.

At Christ Community, we want to be a place where we aren’t surprised by God, but a place that expects God. A place that prays with anticipation. A place that works at our various responsibilities and callings, knowing He is watching over us and intimately engaged with us. A place that takes bold steps of faith, not because of how great we are, but because of how great our God is.

So whatever position you hold at Christ Community, let’s anticipate our God who is with us to do the impossible through us. Indeed, let us expect God.

However, we can’t just muscle up this sort of expectant perspective. It must be trained by the Spirit. Here are two helpful steps to cultivate this kind of expectation:

Hear God. Ask God to speak to you in His Word daily. If we come to God’s word asking for God to speak to us, and we experience His Spirit meeting us there, it trains us that God does indeed engage us right where we are.

Remember. Journal, write down, store, and share the stories of God’s intervention. Whether it’s an answer to a prayer request or a clear moment when God went before you in your work, write it down in a notebook or even on a random piece of paper and then keep it in a place for regular review. But don’t stop there. Share with one of your colleagues at Christ Community what God has done. Seeing the surprise on other’s faces will encourage both of your hearts.

We long to be a church expecting God. He’s here,

We believe, God help us in our unbelief.

We Stay Yoked

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

I never tire of meditating on the paradox of the yoke.

On the one hand, the image of the yoke is one of work. Plowing a field in the heat of summer, side by side with a master. The yoke brings with it the expectation that my life should produce the fruit of the one to whom I am yoked. We all come to work wanting to produce, to accomplish, to serve the mission of Jesus.

On the other hand, before Jesus ever asks anything of us—to serve Him, His Church, His mission—He offers us rest. Gentleness. A burden that is light.

How can both be true?!? Or, in the words of Frederick Dale Bruner:

A yoke is a work instrument. Thus when Jesus offers a yoke he offers what we might think tired workers need last. They need a mattress or vacation, not a yoke. …But Jesus realizes the most restful gift he can give to the tired is a new way to carry life, a fresh way to bear responsibilities.

A church and its staff should embody a culture that is both hard-working and at rest. Both productive and content in our callings. Longing, yet restful souls. 

The way we do that is by staying yoked to Jesus. We recognize that before Jesus ever asks anything of us, He offers us rest. For our physical bodies. For our spiritual lives. We believe Jesus wants us to experience the fullness of life, physical health, spiritual vitality, and emotional health. We do not work for a church, we work on ourselves—yoked to Jesus. A Jesus who does not load on us burdens of unrealistic expectations, demand that we are everywhere, with everyone, at every time. No, Jesus just wants us yoked to Him.

To experience this rest, we must enter His yoke. We do not just wait and hope for Jesus’ promise of rest. We enter His yoke by following the same practices that marked His life. We practice the Sabbath (take a day each week away from our work). We take time to get to a quiet place to pray. We remember that our physical bodies are a part of our spirituality. We fast and celebrate, rest and exercise. These spiritual disciplines give us the framework of the “…new way to carry life…” We practice the disciplines as the way to enter the easy yoke of Jesus, so that we can thrive as whole people as we serve the church and care for our families and friends.

Then, from that place of soul restfulness, we go to serve His church, with Him, alongside Him, for Him, secure in His kindness towards us.

How restful are you in your work? How light is your burden when you put your hand to the plow to go to work? How peaceful is your soul in the midst of your work?

Do not forget. Jesus does not burden you with unrealistic expectations. His burden is light. His yoke is mercy. Forgiveness. Grace. Peace. That is why His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

We take the mission seriously, not ourselves

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 

1 Peter 5:5-7 

I honestly can’t think of a more miserable person on Christ Community’s team than the person who can’t laugh at themselves. And I’m not talking about a little smirk and chuckle. I mean a full-on belly laugh, tears down your face, laughing at yourself in a meeting kind of thing. Maybe this is weird to say, but it is one of my favorite things about serving with this church.

We don’t do this because we are being silly. It is our constant reminder that while we work hard on our God-given corporate mission and take that mission seriously, we never take ourselves too seriously. It is truly a way we “humble ourselves,” as Peter put it, before an all-powerful and good God who doesn’t need us to accomplish anything, but lovingly invites and empowers us anyway. We do it because we are confident that while we are deeply loved and cherished by God, by His people, and by one another, we are replaceable. Humans come and go. The mission of God stays the same. This should not strike us as belittling or discouraging. It is a profoundly humbling and freeing truth we cling to! 

Of course, a humble view of ourselves isn’t the only way we practice this habit. We work hard to make things better, seeking out honest, but loving, feedback, because we aren’t striving for our glory or reputation. We want the mission to thrive for His glory! We only say “me” and “my” when we are owning our mistakes or failures. We only say “we” and “our” when we celebrate our good ideas and successes. We do our best, together, to follow God’s lead as He has revealed it in His Word, never projecting our visions or goals onto Him for our own agenda. No job, task, problem, or person, is “too small” or “too big” for our attention. We take our basin and towel and serve as Jesus taught us.

We aren’t perfect at any of this, mind you, so that is why we need to be able to laugh at ourselves. But with God’s help, this is part of the culture we try to build. We have a wonderful, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, mission from God. It is of utmost and eternal importance.That mission is as serious as serious gets! But we want to be humble enough to know that sometimes God does His best work despite our weakness, our frailty, our sin, and our half-baked ideas. That fact brings a smile to my face. How about you?

 

We remember names

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” 

Isaiah 43:1

Remembering names is not simply about knowledge, but love. I might remember where you live, when you graduated from high school, what your greatest childhood fear was, and how allergic you are to tree nuts. But none of that will have any real impact on you if I can’t remember your name. A person’s name carries great importance. Names aren’t just utilitarian titles that help us categorize one another in our memories. Names convey a sense of worth, value, and identity. That is why remembering names is a keystone habit that we believe cultivates a culture of compassion, empathy, and grace.

There is something powerful that happens when you are talking to a stranger at the park about the weather and then you finally get to a point where you exchange names. Just as a child enters the world and is given a name because she has worth, there is something about learning a person’s name that causes their worth to be birthed within your mind and heart at that very moment.

At Christ Community, we value the habit of remembering names because we believe it is a catalyst for creating a caring family. We live in an increasingly impersonal world where we are known less and less and where we know others less and less. The church may very well be one of the last institutions and communities where people can truly be known, seen, heard, and loved in very personal and dignifying ways. And it all starts with remembering names.

This habit is not just the irreducible minimum of love. It can be an ignition switch that begins the good work of seeing and treating people with the God-given dignity they possess as image-bearers. It is the launching pad of hospitality and vulnerability. It is a small yet profound way of telling someone you care for them and you see them in the beauty of their humanity, despite their brokenness.

So let’s make every effort to learn and remember the names of our co-workers. Let’s see those we work alongside as people to be known and loved before we see them as anything else. Maybe that means reorienting the relational category of our staff team to be more like family. What if we treated each other like cousins, not just co-workers? But don’t stop there. As we think about Sunday mornings, try to implement practices and tools to remember the names of people you meet at church. Put this habit into practice everywhere you interact with humans. Keep a note on your phone with the names of people you meet in your neighborhood, the gym, your kid’s school, your archery class, wherever. Personalize the people and places where there is so much impersonal interaction. Remember the name of your server at a restaurant. Refer to the customer service rep on the phone by his name. Learn the name of your mail carrier. Odds are his mother didn’t name him Buckaroo.

When we remember names and make it a central part of who we are as a church, we will not only find ourselves growing in love toward others, but if done well and with great intentionality, it will be reciprocal and cyclical. Love begets love. And when we love people by name we find ourselves emulating the very God who has shared His name with us and has called us by name.

We are better together

The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it…. Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

Genesis 2:15, 18 CSB 

You were never meant to work alone.

Is that the first thing that comes to your mind when you read Genesis 2:18? It was not the first thing that came to my mind for much of my life. I thought about humans needing community. I thought about the reality that Adam, by himself, couldn’t fill the land with other humans.

But when you read verse 18 in the context of verse 15, you see first and foremost that what the first human is incapable of doing alone is the WORK of working and watching over the garden.

The triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who is Relationship and Community from all eternity, did not design you to work alone. In the beauty and mystery of the tri-unity of God, all three persons of the Trinity participate in the work of creation, redemption, and new creation. As creatures made in the image of this triune God, we are designed to work together.

Whether designing graphics, meeting with students, editing copy, writing sermons, recruiting volunteers, fixing broken toilets, or fixing broken spreadsheets, you and I were never meant to work alone. We are better together. That isn’t just a platitude. It is an inescapable, unavoidable truth woven into the very fabric of reality.

Being better together looks like valuing teamwork and collaboration even when it feels like it is slowing us down— and it will almost always feel like it is slowing us down— because usually it is. But we believe the result will be better. Why? Because we all bring different perspectives, gifts, experiences, insights, and backgrounds. We are impoverished as an organization when we neglect or diminish the ethnic and gender diversity God has created —for His glory and our good. We were never meant to work alone.

Being better together looks like choosing trust rather than suspicion when there is a gap in the facts. We work from a foundation of trust. When something goes wrong, when our expectations aren’t met, we choose to believe the best about our co-workers rather than the worst. Why? Because suspicion divides and isolates us, and we were never meant to work alone.

Being better together doesn’t mean that we never need time for deep, focused work as individuals. Far from it! In fact, that sort of work is vital to meaningful collaboration. But it means that even those times of deep, focused, individual work are in the service of what we are doing together.

Being better together means we’d rather go down with the ship together than escape on a lifeboat by ourselves. Why? Because we aren’t just committed to the mission or progress or efficiency or getting things done, we are committed to each other.

And we were never meant to work alone. 

 Nurturing a Healthy Church Culture – Part 1

 Nurturing a Healthy Church Culture – Part 1

My heart breaks with story after story of church meltdowns. As a follower of Jesus and an active churchgoer, it makes me sad and angry, embarrassed and even ashamed. As a pastor it humbles me, and if I’m honest, it scares me. The weight of such stewardship in the light of so many failures feels almost crushing. 

There are too many stories of churches, pastors, and church leaders who make terrible mistakes with sex, money, or power. Too many examples of those who burn out, walk away, or despair. The fallout and pain to congregation members and the damage done to Jesus’ reputation is almost too much to bear. We know His bride, the church, can be anything but beautiful at times, and every institution has to reckon with its own sinfulness. But how do we learn from the failures?

Christ Community is NOT a perfect church. We are nowhere near immune to the disease of sin that can so easily infect any group of people. Nor would we ever want to sit on our high horses wagging our fingers at those who have very clearly messed up. We also don’t want to be guilty of those same mistakes or arrogantly believe it could never happen to us.

We want to be different. 

This is not a statement of pride but rather an earnest prayer that God would protect us and that He would continue to show us tangible ways to foster that protection within our church culture. 

These things include appropriate checks and balances between staff, elders, and congregation. It includes our clear reporting structure, system of annual 360 reviews, and built-in accountability and camaraderie as a multisite church. We could and should talk about our annual financial audit or our partnership with the outside institution Red Flag Reporting. All of it matters and all of it helps.

But none of it is ultimately effective unless there is a healthy institutional culture.

There is no set of systems, policies, handbooks, or bylaws that matter as much as a healthy culture. I’m not minimizing those other things—they are important and we spend a lot of time sharpening those areas. But none of those things will ultimately succeed in the midst of an unhealthy culture or unhealthy staff. So we spend a lot of time thinking about culture.

In fact, a few years ago we began a quest to identify the healthy aspects of Christ Community’s staff culture, not so we could pat ourselves on the back, but rather so that we could do whatever we can to preserve the good parts, and abandon the bad. We wanted to identify the things that are really hard to name—the hidden, often unseen realities, that make us tick. The things that are true now that we always want to be true, and become even more so in the future. The kind of stuff we want every staff person, in any place in the organization, as well our elders, congregant leaders, and volunteers to whole-heartedly embrace. What follows is a summary of years of work and countless conversations throughout every level of our organization.

We call them our cultural habits. 

They describe the kinds of people we try to hire and recruit. They are the things that we work really hard to reinforce and celebrate through our all staff gatherings, new staff orientations, and ongoing reviews. 

In fact, what follows is the content taken directly from some of our new staff orientation materials. That means these words were not written for you, although we hope and pray they help foster a healthy ecosystem that deeply enriches you and your experience of this church family. 

We hope that by sharing these things with you it will increase your confidence in your church, even while acknowledging that we often fail to live up to these ideals. We hope that by giving you this window into our inner-workings as an organization, you see this as an invitation to join us in reinforcing a healthy culture, and as an opportunity to keep us accountable whenever we fall short.

This blog is part 1 of 2. Part 1 is an overview of why we believe this is so important and Part 2 consists of further reflection on our cultural habits. Thank you for taking the time to read, and thank you for taking the time to nurture a healthy culture with us.

Cultural Habits: A Staff Devotional for Christ Community

I love Christ Community. I have loved this church as a congregation member and as a pastor, and while she is far from perfect, there is something beautiful here worth cultivating. I think of her a bit like a tree.

In Jeremiah 17:7-8 we read: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” What an incredible picture of God’s people—we want that to be true of us too!

As long as I can remember, I have been amazed by trees. And when I find a good one—one that stands out—I can’t help but notice its beauty, wonder about its history, and its strength. I recognize it wasn’t created in an instant and want to preserve it and somehow increase its beauty.

Like a tree, Christ Community is years in the making, and we all now play an important part in sustaining her. While she belongs to God, and only He can make her grow, it is our privilege to cultivate her as best we can.

What follows is our attempt at a “gardening” manual, meant to provide a snapshot into the inner workings of our church, how all the various parts fit together, and the important role each of us plays. To get to the core of it, we have summarized this into these questions about Christ Community that must be answered: Why, What, How, and Who.

The Why of Christ Community

Christ Community exists because we believe the local church as God designed it is the hope of the world. This big WHY is built upon our five Core Values:

Cross: We believe the finished work of Christ on the cross makes it possible to enter the life we were designed to live.

Yoke: We believe we become the people God designed us to be when we are in the yoke of Christ.

Bible: We believe the Bible reveals God’s design for all of life.

Church: We believe the primary context in which we are to experience the life God designed is the local church.

City: We believe we are designed to give ourselves away in our neighborhoods, city, and world.

 

The What of Christ Community

In order to bring hope to our world, Christ Community has a mission that has been with us from the beginning.
We desire to be a caring family of multiplying disciples, influencing our community and world for Jesus Christ.

This statement can be summarized with these key multiplyings:

Multiplying Churches | Multiplying Disciples | Multiplying Leaders

 

The How of Christ Community

At Christ Community we believe this mission can be accomplished by equipping our congregation to apply our core values to their “Monday” (everyday) lives. These applied values make up what we call the “marks” of a disciple. We believe a growing disciple of Jesus: 

  1. Takes up their CROSS
  2. Puts on the YOKE
  3. Builds their life on the BIBLE
  4. Loves the CHURCH

Seeks the good of the CITY by

  1. Giving themselves away
  2. Sharing the gospel in word and deed
  3. Working diligently for the flourishing of all

 

The Who of Christ Community

At Christ Community we couldn’t accomplish our WHY, WHAT, or HOW without our WHO: our staff, volunteers, and congregation members. More important than any strategy are the cultural habits our people embody that fuel this mission. We summarize them like this:

We expect God. We stay yoked.

We take the mission seriously, not ourselves.

We remember names.

We are better together.

We are so convinced of the importance of healthy staff culture that we want to unpack what these five statements mean to us. None of us embody these perfectly, and we all fail at each of them from time to time, but these are the habits that have shaped us over the decades. These are the habits we strive to cultivate.

Go back to the metaphor of the tree. If Christ Community is a tree, these cultural habits—the WHO of Christ Community—are the conditions that enable this tree to flourish. Only God can make her grow, but these are the seasons, the soil, the sunshine, the amount of rain and nutrients that have led to health, beauty, and fruitfulness over the years. Our cultural habits are often the secret ingredients to our flourishing.

These habits are so important to us that we believe they are absolutely necessary for every staff member in every role. They are not optional. We can’t pick four out of five or start working on some of them later. All five are essential to flourishing at Christ Community —for the church to flourish and for the staff team to flourish.


As a result, we want to recruit and serve alongside people who embrace them. We want to train, coach, and equip ourselves to grow in them. We want to celebrate successes and provide accountability as we learn to embrace them more and more.

In short, we want to cultivate this tree, and that takes each of us.

We’ll take a closer look at each of these cultural habits in Part 2 of this blog. 

I’m Lousy at Remembering Names

I’m Lousy at Remembering Names

I’m lousy at remembering names. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said this since I became a pastor. I’m terrible at it. And listen, this is not a “humble brag.” People regularly tell me I’m good at it, but I always feel compelled to confess. I’ve just got you fooled. I am awful at it!

Have you ever heard somebody’s name, and then before they even finish their sentence, you’ve completely forgotten? Or you call someone by the wrong name…again? Or you avoid someone because you know you should know their name, and you’ve already asked them three times, and it’s easier to just move to another city than admit it?

This is me basically every Sunday. I’m lousy at remembering names!

When I tell someone at church this, they look at me like I’m crazy. But you remembered my name. Ahh…I don’t think we are talking about the same thing. Yes, I remembered your name, but that’s not because it comes even a tiny bit easy for me. No way.

I remembered your name because I want to go to a church where people are known. Where I am known. For only when we are known can we be loved, and only when we are loved, can we truly change and be made whole. Right?

My remembering someone’s name has nothing to with natural skill, but everything to do with the kind of church I want to be a part of. So I remember.

I’m still lousy at it, and some of you are reading this right now thinking, he thinks my name is Bob. He really is the worst. I get it. You’re right. Too many of us are still unknown at church.

But when I talk about this desire to know and be known, this is part of the lifeblood of Christ Community. It’s one of the things our pastors and staff passionately work on and help each other with, and there are many on our team so much better at this than I am.

We’ll never be finished. But we’ll also never stop trying. So what’s our secret? Yeah, you wish. Take this pill, and tomorrow you’ll never forget. Hardly. But let me give you three things I’m confident will help.

See how much it matters

First, you’ve got to see how much it matters–see in their eyes how much it means to them to be remembered. You already know this. You know what it feels like to be remembered. By name.

I feel special when the barista at Starbucks calls me by name. I feel seen. Not anonymously, but as me. Even when I hear my name from a stranger, it feels a bit like love. And I want to be loved.

Seen. Known. Loved. Is there anything else? With a little effort, you can do that for another human. You can give that gift. And you never know what it’s going to do.

For example, me. In 1997, I was a lonely and depressed senior in high school. I’d grown up in church, yet I wasn’t really sure what I thought of Jesus, and I certainly wasn’t taking Him seriously. That fall my family walked into Christ Community for the first time, and I experienced church like I never had before.

On our second week, one of the pastors remembered my name, and it literally changed my life. Sure, this was one thing in a long list of things that changed my life, but it sure felt like a biggie. That November I decided to seriously “try out” Jesus for awhile, and I’ve never looked back.

When you give someone the gift of being seen, known, and loved, you have no idea where that person is at, and you have no idea how God is going to use it.

It’s like a note I got recently. I didn’t know this person at all. I had no idea this person’s story or what they were carrying, till I got this note a few months ago, and probably a couple years after they began attending: Thank you for knowing my name, even after I’d just barely started attending Christ Community. It’s one of the things that helped keep me alive…

Don’t miss that. Something that seems so insignificant, that’s so easy to forget, but can be accomplished with just a tiny bit of work. “…that helped keep me alive…”

You can do that, too, you just have to believe it matters that much, and love people enough to do it. See how much it matters.

Imagine a community

Second, once you realize you can give life with a person’s own name, you have to begin to expand your imagination. It’s great to remember one person…but imagine a community of people where this is the norm.

Speaking of Norm, anyone else humming the theme song from Cheers? Maybe it’s silly, but these words ring so true. Just imagine if, instead of singing about a bar, we sang these words about our church?

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you’ve got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

(Go ahead. Give it a quick listen and belt it out. But no cat videos. I really want you to finish reading this.)

Why can’t those words be true of Christ Community? Imagine if that’s what our church was known for, no matter what campus, no matter what size. The one place on earth where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.

Would that not be a taste of the Kingdom of God? And how many people would be made whole as a result of something so seemingly small?

I know that sounds far-fetched, yet I’m convinced remembering names is one of our keystone habits. A keystone habit is a habit that leads to a million other good things.

For example, if we remember your name, we’re more likely to pray for you, bring you a meal when you’re sick, or come to your help when your hurting. We’re more likely to want to pull you out of your sin, email you when you’re missing, and continually share with you the beauty of Jesus. Simply because we love you enough to know your name.

And if someone remembers your name, you are more likely to remember the names of the people you meet as well. It’s contagious, isn’t it? It creates a new expectation among all of us, regardless of church size, that this is a place where we love each other enough to remember.

I’ve seen that. We have congregation members who work every bit as hard at this as their pastors. Why? Not because we’ve told them to, but because they’ve seen how much it matters personally (they were remembered) and because they now imagine a community where everyone gets to feel that way. Isn’t that the kind of a church you want to go to? Once that happens, what’s to stop us?

What’s to stop us? Our bad memories, of course! Our default selfishness, crazy busyness, and mild narcissism, of course! You may want to remember. You may even intend to remember. But good grief, am I still forgetful!

This often feels so overwhelming to me. I’ve seen the Olathe Campus grow from a few people to over a thousand. It’s so much harder than it used to be, and I’ve never felt more inadequate in the quest.

But I refuse to give up. Whether it’s that note that continually sits near my desk (see above) or this consuming desire to be part of this kind of church, we will never give up. Which means it’s going to take a ton of hard work.

Work hard

There’s no substitute for it. If you want this for yourself and you want this for your church, you just have to work hard at it! It takes discipline. Love always takes work, doesn’t it?

And while I’ve got nothing new here, let me just share a few of my cheats. Try them out to see what works for you.

  1. Say their name as many times as possible

When I meet someone new, I try to repeat their name as many times as possible. Obviously, I don’t want it to get weird, but I’ll say their name 2-3 times aloud while talking, and another 20 times in my head while listening.

  1. Write it down and study your notes

As soon as they walk away, I IMMEDIATELY write it down in a tiny notebook I carry in my back pocket. I write their names, and any details about them that might jog my memory.

Then the next Sunday, I try to review my notes in case I see them again. Or if I see them, I pull out the notebook (if I can do it discreetly), refresh my brain, and then go talk to them. Chances are, if I know your name, you were in my notes before you were in my brain.

  1. Stalk people online

I’m not a big fan of social media, but wow, it makes this task easier. As a staff (I hope this isn’t too creepy), we find pictures of new people and learn who they are together. Seriously.

If I wrote someone’s name down, but for the life of me can’t remember, I’ll try to find them on Facebook. This is super helpful.

  1. Find a good app

Similarly, you can find a good app to use. I’ve not gone this route yet (I tend to be a bit low-tech), but I know other staff who are trying it out, and I’m guessing I’ll jump in eventually. An app like Jog: Your Memories, which was actually designed by Christ Community members (I LOVE that!) or Name Shark. See if it might work for you.

  1. Talk to others

It also helps to talk to others. As a staff, we often talk about new people we met to try to help each other. It’s not uncommon for me on a Sunday to sneak over to another staff or congregation member who’s better at this than me, to see if they know so-and-so. Not only is this personally helpful, it also reinforces the expectation that this is something we, as a church, want to be about.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask again

Finally, as much as I hate this, you have to be willing to ask again. People understand, and they are always more gracious with me than I am with myself.

In this day and age, when depersonalization is the default, people are often just so amazed that you’re actually trying to know them, they’ll put up with a little forgetfulness. Besides, they’re probably just as lousy at this as I am.

From lousy to…slightly less lousy

See, no magic here. And I will continue to tell people how I struggle with this, because I know I will always feel like I’m forgetting way more than I’m remembering. But we can make it a habit.

See how much it matters, imagine a community like this, and then work hard at it.

Besides, isn’t it amazing that God knows our names? Oh sure, He’s God, so His “brain” has infinite room for nearly eight billion of us. So, yes, it’s “easy” for God to remember my name. But the fact that He wants to? Let that sink in. He sees you, knows you, and loves you. What else is there?

And you and I get to give people a taste of that incredible love. I’ve never felt so privileged to be so lousy at something.