When I was planting and pastoring Oak Leaf Church, I think I alienated just as many people as I befriended. I talked about how I didn’t really like people (as a smokescreen for my lack of real relationships). I justified offending people with aggressively going after unchurched people.
I’m not there yet, but I learned a lot about the like-ability factor.
In fact, I think it’s one of the most important characteristics for success. If people don’t like you, they probably won’t listen to you. And if they don’t listen to you, they probably won’t be impacted by your life. So here are a few ways pastors and church leaders can be more like-able.
1. Don’t hide.
As our church grew in size and importance, I started to shut myself off from people. Some of this was absolutely necessary, but part of it was an infatuation with going to the next level. I allowed my introverted personality to become an excuse from secluding myself from people.
So before the messages, I hid in my office. After the message, I was wisked away to solitude. I put literal walls up between me and the people in the church, as well as the people in my community.
This was not a good decision.
While it is absolutely necessary to put some healthy boundaries in place, creating systems to help you hide is a bad thing. Email auto responders that make people feel unimportant and green rooms that subtly suggest you’re above the people can become a wall of contention between you and the very people you are trying to serve. Don’t hide behind systems that separate.
2. Talk about your mistakes.
Dr. John Maxwell says if you want to impress people, talk about your successes, but if you want to impact them talk about your failures.
Authenticity is the doorway to like-ability. If you want people to like you, you’ve got to be real.
Take intentional steps to combat pedestal thinking in your church members. They need to know you’re a real person, with real struggles. Whether they are financial or spiritual or relational, find ways to relate to real life.
You’ll do more when you talk about your mistakes (even the ones that don’t end with a supernatural blessing) than you will with subtly bragging on your victories.
There’s an important principle here. You don’t need to ACT like you’re on their level…you really need to come down and BE on their level. We are all equal at the foot of the cross, and being in full time ministry does not give you special access to God or secret knowledge on how to live the Christian life.
3. Don’t complain.
This is something I am continuing to work on. It so bothers me in other people, but I am tempted to ignore the 2×4 in my own eye when it comes to this issue.
Just the other day, I picked up my phone to tweet about how long it took to order a sandwich at Subway. Why was my first inclination to complain? Why wasn’t I grateful that I had enough money to buy food? Or that I was getting food for my incredible family who was waiting in the car.
Complaining isn’t attractive, no matter who you are. Whether you’re complaining about bad customer service, how tired you are, or long lines at Subway, it isn’t endearing talk. Nobody says, “You know who I like to be around? People who complain!.”
People want to be around positive people. Positive people are just simply more likeable.
4. Be accessible.
You don’t have to be accessible to everyone, but you don’t have to bring your systems front and center either. An email auto responder that comes from your public email address that tells the person how busy you are or that someone else from the team will get back to them just isn’t necessary. It just puts a wall up between you and the other person.
Sure, go ahead and have someone else answer the email. You can do it without making the person feel bad.
It wouldn’t have killed me to take some time at the end of church services to shake hands or talk to people. And I really didn’t need a security team of seven people surrounding me either. I knew how to be a big boy and have conversations and serve people.
I know of pastors who have open office hours, who find a way to control their schedule yet still be available for people. It might require some thinking or planning, but you can do it.