Some church leaders really connect with the people who make up the congregations they serve. Others have great difficulty. The following are a few suggestions that might help you connect. Perhaps one or more of these will be helpful.
1. Listen to people. Listen to a wide variety of people in your congregation. Too many church leaders seem to listen primarily to their critics while others seem to only listen to kindred spirits. Again, listen to people across the spectrum in your congregation.
2. Ask good questions. Give some thought as to the questions you might ask people in your congregation. Having specific questions in mind can help prevent an awkward silence when you don’t know what to say. It can also keep you focused on having an exchange with someone instead of dominating the conversation.
3. Reflect on what it might be like to experience another’s circumstance. For example, consider what it might be like to experience situations such as these:
*What’s it like to be divorced?
*What’s it like to be depressed?
*What’s it like to lose your job?
“What’s it like to have cancer?
*What’s it like to have lost a child?
*What’s it like to learn of your spouse’s affair?
*What’s it like to be secretively in debt due to gambling?
*What’s it like to be gripped by pornography?
Pondering such situations might flavor your remarks in sermons and classes. Such reflection might also help a church leader reconsider telling a particular joke or making flippant comment.
4. Don’t tell inside jokes. A speaker will make a remark in a presentation. Then he says, “That’s an inside joke.” A few people laugh while everyone else is baffled by the remark. This practice can leave other people feeling as if they are on the outside looking in.
5. Pay attention to the edges. Years ago, a woman gave me some very good advice regarding connecting with people who were on the edges of our congregational life. After a Sunday morning assembly, she asked me if I had met a couple who had been visiting our church. I had not. She said, “You are going to have to try harder. These are not people who are going to come to you.” She was right. I needed to be more intentional in connecting with people who were on the edges.