Church Leadership Insight: Count The YES Votes
By: Tim Stevens March 5, 2015
The following is an excerpt from Fairness is Overrated, Chapter Twenty-Four.
Until this year, I worked for nonprofit organizations my entire adult life—nearly thirty years. And there is one thing that is consistent: some people will join what you are doing, and others will not. Some will buy in, and others will ignore what you are doing.
That is really difficult for those who lead churches or ministries. They aren’t there because they are trying to make a bunch of money but because it’s a cause they believe in. And they are so passionate about it they think others should be involved also. So it’s easy to focus on people who don’t jump onboard.
But the fact is, you can’t focus on the no votes. There are over 290 million people in America alone who haven’t voted to participate in organizations I have worked with. That may seem obvious, but sometimes we get all bent out of shape because the no people seem so much louder than the yes people. And they will continue to get louder if you focus on them.
There are a number of reasons someone isn’t going to attend a particular church. Geography is a big one. But it might also be because of size, personalities, preferences, methods, or a bunch of other reasons. And that’s okay. A church’s leaders should just want to say, “Here’s where we are going. Do you want to come with us? Do you want to help us get there? Yes? Good, let’s go.”
At the church where I worked, we weren’t counting the people who said no. We didn’t have their names on a list. We weren’t mad at them. We didn’t think they were stupid. We didn’t think they were lesser as Christians. They just wanted to go somewhere else, and that was fine. We were looking for the yes votes.
Does that mean that we didn’t want feedback? Absolutely not. I used to have conversations every week with yes people about what they wished was different about the church. We changed things every day. I imagine there weren’t many organizations that were quicker at changing things that weren’t working or weren’t effective. I believe there is a kernel of truth in just about every interaction I have with people. So I look for that. Sometimes something a person tells you has a high percentage of truth, and other times you have to look hard to get past the individual’s filters and biases.
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I first heard talk about looking for the “kernel of truth” from Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She is a high-profile leader, and anyone who is getting something significant done is going to get criticized. She taught me to listen, pray, and see if there is a kernel of truth in the midst of the accusation, even if most of it is ridiculous. If that truth is there, learn from it and move on.
That is an important practice. Too often leaders get side-tracked by the no people. We cater to their whining, we spend all our energy trying to keep them happy, and we do damage control because of the side conversations they are having. Don’t misunderstand; I think it’s important to listen. Sometimes (perhaps often) God will speak through someone when we least expect it. But there is a crossover point after we’ve listened, considered, and prayed. We know what God has called our church or business to do and be, and we must pursue that with confidence.
Some will go with us. And some won’t. And we’ll sometimes experience deep pain when the person who chooses to leave is our closest friend or relative—the person we never imagined moving on without.
Just put one foot in front of the other. Learn from the kernel of truth, count yes votes, and keep moving.
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Excerpt from Fairness is Overrated
See book manuscript for footnotes
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