You haven’t communicated enough, yet #horstmans-laws.2

(This is a series of reflections on Horstman’s Laws)
You could communicate more. Even if you feel you’ve already told them, even if you think they ought to know by now. It’s always, always, always better to risk over communication than risk under communication and all the risks that flow on from that.

Try this: ask yourself, “What if Person X actually hasn’t understood what I have been asking them/telling them? What might happen if they’re not thinking what I’m thinking?”

Yeah… That’s why you should just call and check, and communicate again.

Entering a Ministry Pragmatic break

Even though these posts get written a few weeks in advance, I’m taking leave now*, so I’m going to also take leave from writing for a while**.
But it raises the issue of leave planning – particularly in ministry. How do you leave things when you go on leave?
A basic principle is communicating. Before you go, make sure you’ve communicated…

  • when you’re leaving
  • how long and when you’ll be back
  • what normal things you won’t be doing
  • who will be responsible for those things while you’re away

So, see you in a week.

*when this post gets published
**before this post gets published

“More important than” does not mean “rather than”

It just means one is more important at the moment. Saying something is more important than something else says nothing about the value of either, nor the evil of either. Just because something is more important doesn’t mean that the less important is wrong or evil.
For example, in 1Cor7 Paul says it is better, more important given the age we live in, to not get married – but getting married is not evil.
Also, it’s more important that I spend time with my wife than my friends. This doesn’t mean I never spend time with my friends, nor that spending time with friends is evil (nor that my wife isn’t my friend).
So when your church or growth group or whatever says that something is more important than something else, don’t get upset because your golden calf is getting sacrificed… There’s just something more important.

How many times do you need to communicate something new?

I didn’t like this when I heard it, but upon reflection, it’s as true in church world as it is in any other human environment.
The common agreement is seven. Yep. Seven times. Are you planning a new church plant? Running an evangelistic event? Starting a new initiate? You’ll need to communicate it about seven times before people will admit they’ve heard it once.
Yep. Once. In fact that’s not everyone. Some people will say they’ve heard it a few more times. And – get this – some people will still claim to your face that they haven’t heard anything about it. Or worse, they’ll claim that YOU haven’t told them.

Recognise if people have a “trust leak”

It’s worth being attune to the fact that some people have a tendency to be distrustful. The standard pattern goes something like this…

  • they appear withdrawn
  • you go and chat to them
  • they say they don’t “feel” right about something vague they can’t really put their finger on
  • you chat/convince/encourage them
  • they say they feel much better
  • they go along for a while seemingly ok
  • they start to appear withdrawn
  • you go and chat to them
  • they don’t “feel” right about something, and they can’t see it’s the same vague thing they said before.
  • and so on…

Thankfully, there’s not usually heaps of people who do this. But just know there are some and there’s little more you can do.
Chances are they’ve already changed from their previous church because they “never felt right”. And chances are they’re going to leave your church too, because it will never feel right.
Unless they see the problem is theirs, they’ll probably never find a long term church.

Reflections from building the HBC Hub

About 12 months ago I took an architect and a couple of our Committee of Elders to a 1970s warehouse and pitched the idea that by the grace of God we could use it as a home base for our church activities. They showed amazing trust in my intuition, they helped work out how to communicate it well to our church, and they pitched-in heaps. God showed amazing grace in getting it all finished too. It was a wild ride that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But here’s some reflections a year out…

(If you don’t know about our HBC Hub, it’s for all our non-Sunday activities… we don’t do church there at all. It’s just for meetings, lunches, Women’s Bible Study, night time seminars, evangelistic series, welcome nights, anything… just not “sunday church”)

  • There are ONLY 3 types of spaces you need in a church hub – these were the things I was looking for in the 80 or so places I looked at;
    • car parking spaces,
    • informal spaces (meeting rooms, conf rooms, cafe, entry, hot-swap desks, etc),
    • utility spaces (kitchen, toilets, storage, photocopier, stationery, etc).
    • (I’m really glad we didn’t use space for private offices. It can make it hard to have some conversations, but that’s what the meeting rooms are for. The space is too valuable.)
  • Commercial building requirements are generally twice as ridiculous as residential ones.
  • Labour is generally 4 times the cost of materials – so pray for helpers.
    • Some helpers are great at one type of job, some are great at doing many. Get people doing their type of thing.
    • People generally need to be given permission to start. If you find a good starter, he’s a God-send for helping others.
    • It’s worth getting professionals to do jobs that everyone will look at in years to come… like setting the plaster on the gyprock.
  • I’m glad we put the money into glass doors and extra glass panels in walls; it lets in heaps of light and it means there are no “unseen” meetings. Everything’s above board.
  • Getting the right materials and tools on site at the right time took 80% of my time.
  • While in the midst of it, I was very emotional. I was constantly on edge about how people would judge it, and if they thought it was a stupid idea. Even when they said they liked it, and they couldn’t wait, I still heard them as if they were complaining it was taking too long. Every question people asked sounded like an attack – but it wasn’t!! My ability to hear them positively went out the window. Towards the end of the project I took a week off before I became a complete wreck. That taught me a lot about my potential to mis-hear people’s intentions.
  • Moving the staff coffee machine was the best way to get the staff to leave the old office.
  • Some people clean well. Other people clean perfectly. Don’t get the former to do the last sweep, and don’t get the latter to come everyday.
  • I wish I’d made the conference room a bit more square shaped. It’s 12m x 5m. It works. And I don’t think we really could have changed the layout, but it’s the only part I’d like to alter.
  • The first thing we bought for the hub was a $300 leather sofa suite… 1 week before I even went to the Elders for approval. Having that sofa in the building the whole time meant a lot to me. I feel like I should leave it there when we move out.
  • When you ask for donations, be clear that you will only take the things that you want. If people want you to take it on principle that it’s a donation, don’t. It’s amazing how many broken items were “offered”. Ask for people to donate new things, not old things.
  • Have a list of things that you want to get, but you don’t have the money for… some people will only want to pay for those type of things. May as well let them.
  • Have a celebration at the end. Rejoice in all the ways people have helped… time, skills, even the money that was donated and the praying that was done for it behind the scenes. We got people up and interviewed them simply on the basis that they gave money. It felt a bit weird but they sacrifice was just like all the others, so why not thank God for them?!

Define what TYPE of conversation you’re having

What type of conversation are we having? Because if you think we’re having a “Let’s come to an agreement before we move on anything” conversation, and I think we’re having a “tell me your ideas, perspectives, issues with my plans and I’ll decide” conversation, then chances are both of us are going to miscommunicate a great deal and have to come back and talk this all out all over again.

So stop talking, and make clear the TYPE of conversation you’re having. It’ll save hours of painful untangling conversations in the future.

And don’t we all want to avoid those?

How girls unwittingly mis-communicate to boys

Most guys just don’t have the skills or capacity to pick up on all the social cues that most girls take for granted.

(Notice I’ve said “most” and stop writing that comment that starts with “Well some girls/guys aren’t like that”.)

Most guys operate on a very limited set of social “inputs”. Socially awkward guys work off an even fewer number of cues. That’s why they’re socially awkward – they don’t meant to be, they know that they’re missing something, they just don’t know what. It’s like they can only see in grey-scale… and some guys only have 5 shades between black and white.

Most girls, on the other hand, walk into social situations seeing all the colours of the rainbow; they notice glances, and eye-rolls from across the room. They perceive mood and other’s awkwardness in a flash. They react and adjust quickly to compensate.

And that’s where girls often unwittingly miscommunicate – usually while they’re trying to be loving.

A guy will make them feel awkward, try and be funny, etc… and the girl will try and give signals (social cues) that she’s not interested, while at the same time being polite by smiling and laughing, etc.

At which point, the guy only sees the girl smiling and laughing at his joke and has NO IDEA that there are other social cues and signals going on telling him that he’s being awkward.

So, girls… you wouldn’t talk to a child expecting them to “read” all those high-level social cues – that would be unloving. So in the same way, look at the guy and realise that its unloving to expect him to pick-up on those social cues too!!

Yes, I know you feel rude by not smiling and laughing… but he doesn’t think it’s rude (because that’s what he does isn’t it!?).

Don’t expect socially awkward guys to operate on a level that they obviously can’t operate on. Out of love for them, “dumb-down” your communication – not by using simple words, but by using simple social signals when necessary.

From a socially awkward guy, who’s being trying to learn social signals and cues for years (with wonderful help and support from my wife), be kind and generous to those of us who have trouble doing something you find so easy.

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Giving good news might be fun, but…

Giving good news in person is fun, but giving bad news in person is important

Andy Stanley mentioned this in his brilliant podcast (here)

It makes lots of sense, and its really hard to do. But that’s why it needs to be said.

If you’ve decided to make a massive change in your plans as a leader, and people have banked on your previous plans; don’t send an email, say it in person.

If something significant has happened in your church and people are going to feel hurt or confused, say it in person.