A psychologist recently told me, "When a couple comes to me and they have wrecked their marriage over the past 20 years, my goal is merely to help them improve their relationship by 5 percent. Why? Because as soon as someone sees 5-percent improvement, they get hope. The minute someone gets hope, anything is possible."
I realized that's equally applicable to leaders and the church.
Hope is powerful. A 5-percent rise in hope will fuel innovation and creativity in our churches. That's all it takes. When a church's hope level rises, the church begins to thrive. And how do we raise the level of our hope? By putting four factors into practice.
Recharge your batteries
Nobody dreams well, innovates well, or exudes hope when they're running on empty. Once I finally realized what drains me and what recharges me, my hope level improved. I began adjusting the way I approach draining experiences and maximizing the times of refreshment.
For instance, I used to meet with critics one-on-one. It was totally draining. Then a couple wrote saying, "We're concerned about the church finances, and we have concerns about the teaching ministry. Can we meet with you?" I knew they were coming with criticisms.
Previously I would have seen them privately. By myself. And afterward I would have been exhausted. So I changed that. I asked two of our other pastors to join us and two of our board members, specifically the financial oversight board member. As a team we were able to answer their questions and provide the answers they were seeking. The criticisms were baseless. I will never forget this, one of my favorite ministry moments: about 10 minutes into the meeting the husband turned to his wife and said, "Honey, I guess we don't have a clue what we're talking about."
I said, "Well I'm glad you brought this to our attention because obviously we need to communicate better in these two areas. Help us figure out how we could communicate to the church better." So rather than complaining to me about the church, they helped us develop a better way to get information to the church.
Not only do I have to remove things that are draining but I have to figure out how to regularly recharge my batteries. So my wife and I, either every Friday or every Saturday, go out on a date with some other couples. When my kids were growing up, we had daddy/daughter date nights. These kinds of things recharge me because I am an extrovert. You may find something else recharges you, like reading a good book or taking a long walk. It is those times of recharging that prove valuable to cultivating hope.
At Bayside Church we have trained our whole staff on this idea of building times of recharging into your life. We say: divert daily, withdraw weekly, abandon annually. In other words, don't work every hour of every day, take your day off each week, and take all of your vacation each year. We actually changed our policy, we don't let anybody roll over vacation because we want them to use it.
You begin to create hope by raising your expectations. Steve Jobs showed us the importance of raising expectations. Jobs believed that impossible things were possible. His employees called this belief his "reality distortion field." Jobs said: "Have you ever seen one of those concept cars at a car show and you look at that car and say, 'That car rocks.' You see it four years later when it comes out and you say, 'That car sucks.' What happened between the vision and the reality? The finance department said we can't do that, an engineer said we can't do that, and everyone else said we can't do that." Instead of setting high dreams and expectations, the dream car declined every step of the way through production. Jobs said, "They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory."