COMMUNICATION & Why/when you should publish church budgets in the bulletin.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. 3/I4/18.

I received the question (below) from a former student. It is followed by my answer.

Pastor: “In seminary I seem to remember hearing that it was a desperate move to publish weekly giving/need financial info in the bulletin. If a church is on mission and helping congregation members buy in to that then the finances will come in from the people. Rather, by putting them in it seems we’re advertising to new visitors we care more for their money than their hearts. I can’t find anything other than blog posts (research data or book quotes elude me) in support of this idea. I’m at (church name), and this idea came up at board meeting last night with fairly wide support. We already make the monthly budget summary available in print and digital, so this feels desperate since our giving is way down. The treasure can also nearly directly correlate the drop in giving with unfulfilled mission promises from church leader (namely raising money for a building that hasn’t been built/spent in over 5 years).”

I responded:

I don’t recall any research that has been conducted on this. But, usually when a church board makes this suggestion it’s because they feel it will increase giving if people know the church is in need. And that is true, it will do so among the people who are already committed to the church. And it will do so if these committed people have forgotten to give their offerings recently or have not given it because they thought the church is not in need.

But, most people (if they are moderately attached to a church) will know a church is in need when the church is encountering financial difficulties.  There may be uncompleted maintenance issues or paid staff being let go. Usually financial difficulties are easy to spot for regular, committed congregants. Therefore there is a rationale for this approach and it might help, But I believe only slightly so.

If the board members are aware of congregants who have not been giving because of the above reasons, then rather than an impersonal announcement in the bulletin which might be missed, a personal visit by a board member would be more productive.

Let the board know this reasoning and they will see that publishing the budget in the bulletin will probably create little increased giving. But it might be a little … and that could be helpful.

The downside, to which the student is alluding, is that people who are not yet strongly attached to the church may feel that the church is a “sinking ship.” And it appears that it might be the case here. Therefore, the logical thinking is that publishing the budget might scare them away.  And this might scare away some people, but mainly those who may be coming for the wrong reasons.

It is better in my mind to be forthright. In my consulting practice I have seen over the years that is best to be honest and forthright. Therefore publishing the budget may be helpful and even more so if it is prefaced with a short introductory sentence. Perhaps something that says: “We want to make our church family aware of our financial challenges and that we appreciate your prayers and input.”

Finally I’ve seen that putting a budget in the church bulletin can help newcomers understand where the money goes. Even a simple pie chart that shows the percentage of money that goes to staff, upkeep of facilities, outreach, etc. can help people see that an extraordinary amount of money is not going for personal or congregational purposes. However if it is, then that’s another problem you need to address.



FEEDBACK & Harvard research shows “negative feedback” only works – when the recipient truly feels valued by the giver: 4 things to do.

Surprising Harvard Research Says Giving Negative Feedback to Peers Won’t Work (Unless You Do 1 Simple Thing)

by Scott Mautz, Inc. Magazine, 1/16/18.

“Harvard researchers say we’ve got it all wrong on giving negative feedback to peers. It’s useless if you don’t do this too.”

Giving negative feedback to peers can be as stressful and confounding as figuring out how to give feedback to your boss or how to give feedback to a difficult employee.

And now new research from Harvard says you might be wasting your time in doing so anyway.

The Harvard study indicates that giving or receiving peer-to-peer negative feedback rarely leads to improvement. In the study, coworkers that received negative feedback simply chose to avoid the corrective co-workers and sought to be around and strike up new relationships with more self-affirming co-workers. This is a process the researchers call “shopping for confirmation” (which sounds like the album title of a reunited boy-band).

As the study noted:

“There’s an assumption that what motivates people to improve is the realization that they’re not as good as they think they are. But in fact, it just makes them go find people who will not shine that light on them. It may not be having the intended effect at all.”

So this is terrific news for all of us that don’t exactly love doling out criticism, right? We’re off the hook because what’s the point, right?

Nope. There’s a catch.

Peer to peer negative feedback can work–when the recipient truly feels valued by the giver.

Again as the researchers noted:

“We put employees in a position to deal with dueling motivations: I need to feel I’m valuable, and I need to improve. And we don’t do a good job reconciling them with our feedback mechanisms.”

… Here are simple things you can start doing today:

1. Compliment them on who they are, what they do, or how they do it.

And be specific within this specificity. Being precise implies you care enough to notice and to take the time/brain power to thoughtfully articulate your appreciation…

2. Invest in their career.

Imagine how it would feel if all your co-workers felt truly invested in you and wanted to help you succeed in your career. Now give that energy to a co-worker.

Take the time to share balanced, thoughtful feedback (remember, corrective feedback will be more likely to work because you’re showing you value them by executing this very list). Find out what’s important for advancement in their career and gear your feedback towards that. And tell their boss when they’re over-delivering on a criteria/attribute important for their function.

3. Make them look good.

Give them credit (genuinely deserved) in public whenever you can–if they’re cool with that. It speaks to your genuine interest in seeing them succeed, as will your tougher feedback when the time comes.

4. Seek out their advice, listen, and act on it.

Some of the most satisfying moments in my career weren’t always when my boss agreed and took action on something I suggested, but when a peer did. It’s about relationships, not reporting lines.

Read more at …

INTERNET & A Mature and Biblical Response to Trolls & Cyberbullies #HaleyBodine #ChristianityToday

“We Are the Light of the (Cyber) World: Let’s Act Like It” by Haley Bodine, Christianity Today, 1/10/18.

… internet troll is a person who intentionally posts inflammatory, divisive, or otherwise upsetting messages and comments online with the goal of inciting quarrels and provoking emotional response. A cyberbully is an individual who attacks another person or people group directly, using shame, threats, and intimidation.

According to a recent study conducted by YouGov, 28% of Americans admitted to online “trolling” activity. The same survey showed that 23% of American adults have maliciously argued an opinion with a stranger, and 12% admitted to making deliberately controversial statements.

Most of us have witnessed this type of behavior. A new Pew Research Center survey found that 41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online, and even more (66%) have witnessed these behaviors directed at others. Nearly one in five Americans (18%) have been subjected to particularly severe forms of harassment online, such as physical threats, sexual harassment, or stalking.

This is a major behavioral problem, especially when 70% of Americans still claim to be Christian. If we profess Christ as King, we have a high calling to demonstrate character fitting for children of the Living God. We are to live as a sent people everywhere we are, including the cyber realm. Antagonistic, divisive, abusive, attacking, or otherwise harmful and destructive words have no place in the online lives of anyone who says they are a follower of Jesus…

Here are four things to ask yourself before posting anything online:

Will my words be useful for building others up (Eph. 4:29)? The power of life and death are contained in the tongue (Prov. 18:21)…

Is my post truthful?

Will my words reflect the character of Jesus? Before posting anything, we should run our words through the filter of the fruits of the spirit. Do our words come from a place of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? We will never regret choosing to withhold words that do not pass this litmus test.

Do my words honor the image of God imprinted on the people who will read them?Contentious online arguments and dissension will probably never cause someone to change their view on a hot topic issue. When we post our thoughts online, we must keep people as the priority, not our positions…

Read more at …

CONFLICT & How to communicate with difficult people: online trolls & bullies #IncMagazine

People Can’t Stop Talking About How Sarah Silverman Handled a Twitter Troll. (It’s a Master Class in Emotional Intelligence)

The right thing to do was the much harder one. But she did it.

By Bill Murphy Jr., Inc. Magazine, 1/8/18.

…Here are five key things to take away from Silverman’s response, that will help you to communicate with difficult people in any context.

1. She took a few minutes before replying.

Without having the self-control to pause before reacting, none of the rest of this would have been possible.

2. She took the time to learn the context.

Tim Ferriss says in his book, Tools of Titans: “Everyone is fighting a battle [and has fought battles] you know nothing about.”

Silverman seemed to realize this, which is why she took the time to look through Jamrozy’s feed. Besides learning about his physical pain, she also would have seen that he’s apparently using his real name on Twitter, and that he’d actually tweeted a very nice supportive message at her weeks earlier.

3. She decided to take a chance.

Of course, the safest thing to do might have been simply to ignore Jamrozy’s caustic … comment. It’s the internet; people might be crazy.

But deciding to reply is fully in line with the across-the-spectrum outreach Silverman has been doing recently. She deserves a lot of credit for it.

4. She offered love and understanding, and spoke his language.

Silverman’s tweet is something to be proud of. It’s authentic, empathetic, and personal. It’s the kind of thing you might write to a friend who needed some tough love, more than a total stranger. That’s perhaps why it worked.

5. She didn’t just drive-by.

One of the nicest things about this story is that it’s ongoing. As noted, Silverman didn’t just get into a short Twitter conversation and leave; she’s stayed involved, as Jamrozy has tried to get a handle on at least one of the underlying things that’s bothering him: his back issues. And it’s had an effect…

Read more at …

COMMUNICATION & Words to turn a conversation around (and those to avoid)

by Rosie Ifould, The UK Guardian Newspaper, 12/4/17.

Elizabeth Stokoe, professor of social interaction at Loughborough University. Stokoe and her colleagues have analysed thousands of hours of recorded conversations… They discovered that certain words or phrases have the power to change the course of a conversation…

Do use: willing

…Stokoe found that people who had already responded negatively when asked if they would like to attend mediation seemed to change their minds when the mediator used the phrase, “Would you be willing to come for a meeting?” “As soon as the word ‘willing’ was uttered, people would say: ‘Oh, yes, definitely’…

What to say Deploy it when you’ve already been met with some resistance: “I know it’s not your first choice, but would you be willing to meet on Friday?”

Don’t use: just

In 2015, Ellen Leanse, a former Google executive, wrote a LinkedIn blog about the way men and women use the word “just”’. In the blog, which went viral, she claimed that women use it far more often than men. “

She claimed the difference in how confident people felt was noticeable after a few weeks. Her evidence wasn’t scientific, but, even so, “just” is one of those words that has a habit of creeping into our emails and spoken conversations…

What to say Try your own experiment over the next week. Read your emails back before you send them and count the number of times that “I just wanted to” or “Could I just” appear. Edit them out and see the difference in tone.

Do use: speak (instead of talk)

The word “talk” seems to make a lot of people resistant to conversation. “We observed this when looking at interactions between police negotiators and suicidal persons in crisis,” Stokoe says. Negotiators who used phrases such as, “I’m here to talk” met with more resistance. “Persons in crisis would often respond with something like: ‘I don’t want to talk, what’s the point in talking?’”

When the verb was “speak”, however, persons in crisis were more likely to open up the conversation or offer new information…

There was a similar difference in the effectiveness of the word “sort”, as opposed to “help”. “Let’s sort it” feels much more direct and active. “There’s no point in trying to fake a softly-softly relationship with someone in crisis. Better to be practical and direct.”

What to say If you really want someone to engage with you, use, “Can I speak to you about this?..”

Don’t use: How are you?

It’s not so much that the “How are you?” is rude, but rather that it’s false. In real life, no one asks “How are you today?” in that cold-call way, if they know the person and genuinely want an answer to the question. We would rather they got to the point.

What to say The next time you have to speak to someone you don’t know, don’t be overly friendly. Stick to being polite.

Do use: some (instead of any)

“Anything else I can do for you?” Sounds like a perfectly reasonable question, doesn’t it? But John Heritage and Jeffrey Robinson, conversation analysts at the University of California, Los Angeles, looked at how doctors use the words “any” and “some” in their final interactions with patients. They found that “Is there something else I can do for you today?” elicited a better response than “Is there anything else?”

“Any” tends to meet with negative responses. Think about meetings you’ve been in – what’s the usual response to “Any questions?” A barrage of engaging ideas or awkward silence? It’s too open-ended; too many possibilities abound. Of course, if you don’t want people to ask you anything, then stick to “Any questions?”

What to say Try not to use “any” if you genuinely want feedback or to open up debate. “What do you think about X?” might be a more specific way of encouraging someone to talk.

Don’t use: Yes, but

“…We all know the phrase ‘Yes, but’ really means ‘No, and here’s why you’re wrong’,” says Rob Kendall, author of Workstorming. A conversation expert, Kendall sits in on other people’s meetings as an observer. The phrase “Yes, but” is one of the classic warning signs that you’re in an unwinnable conversation, he says. “If you hear it three or more times in one discussion, it’s a sign that you’re going nowhere.”

What to say Kendall advises shifting the conversation by asking the other person “What’s needed here?” or, even better, “What do you need?” “It takes you from what I call ‘blamestorming’ to a solution-focused outcome.”

Do use: It seems like

…As former FBI negotiator Chris Voss writes in Never Split The Difference, his manual of persuasive techniques, there are five stages in what’s known as the “behavioural change stairway model” that take anyone from “listening to influencing behaviour”. The first stage is active listening…

Rather than focusing on what you want to say, listen to what the other person is telling you, then try to repeat it back to them. Start with, “It seems like what you’re saying is” or “Can I just check, it sounds like what you’re saying is”. If that feels too contrived, it often works simply to repeat the last sentence or thought someone has expressed (known in counselling practice as “reflecting”).

What to say Try,“It seems like you’re feeling frustrated with this situation – is that right?” Always give the other person the opportunity to comment on or correct your assessment.

Do use: Hello

“‘Hello’ is a really important word that can change the course of a conversation,” Stokoe says. “It’s about how you respond to people who are what we call ‘first movers’ – people who say something really critical, apropos of nothing.” It might be the work colleague who steams up to your desk with a complaint or the neighbour who launches into a rant about parking as you’re putting out the bins. “What do you do with that person? Rather than respond in the same manner, saying something nice, such as a very bright ‘Hello!’, derails and socialises that other person a little bit.”

What to say …Stokoe says, “but just one friendly word in a bright tone can delete the challenge of the conversation.”

Read more at …

COMMUNICATION & From Gutenberg to Google – analysis by Elmer Towns

Commentary by Prof. B: Elmer Towns, founding professor of Liberty University School of Theology and elder statesman of the Church Growth Movement, shared his meta-perspectives on communication, by contrasting Gutenberg and Google.

Address by Elmer Towns D.Min., Ph.D., 10/19/17 to the annual meeting of The Great Commission Research Network at Asbury Theological Seminary, Oct. 19, 2017.

Gutenberg controlled the printing process by utilizing lightly trained individuals and an expert who oversaw the process. This created a top-down approach, which is not a rational approach but a power-based approach.

Google has democratized information.  It is bottom up and individualized. The next generations will probably attain their knowledge in this manner.

Speaking Hashtag #GCRN

COMMUNICATION & How to Give Negative Feedback in an Emotionally Intelligent Way

“How Emotionally Intelligent People Give Negative Feedback” by Melinda Zetlin, Inc. Magazine, 9/21/17.

…”Giving someone effective feedback is one of the most difficult things for people to do well,” says executive coach and bestselling author Wendy Capland. For the past couple of years, I’ve been working with Capland as my coach and writing aboutwhat I’ve learned in the process…

1. Don’t do it too soon, or too late.

How soon after a problem arises should you give feedback? That depends in part on your own mental state, Capland says. “Some people–this is me–if it’s really loaded emotionally, it’s better to sleep on it overnight. It’s also helpful for me to write out the dialogue ahead of time so my emotions stay at bay and I can be as effective as I want to be.”

…You should probably wait no later than that, though. “The longer you wait, the less effective it will be because they won’t remember it to the same degree. It won’t be fresh in their minds.”

2. Ask permission first.

“Start by asking for permission to give the feedback,” she advises. “‘Could I share an observation?’ ‘Could we talk about what just happened in the meeting?'” You should ask permission, she says, even before giving feedback to someone who reports to you. “Otherwise they’re not open to hearing.”

What if you ask to give feedback and the other person says no? “You shut up,” Capland advises. “The reason you give feedback is to create behavior change. That’s the only reason. You cannot coach someone who is not coachable.”

3. Share your understanding of the situation and ask for theirs.

As the person initiating feedback, you go first, Capland says. “My understanding was we would have something by October 1. It’s now October 15, so I’m wondering what happened. Was that your understanding?”

It’s important, she adds, to be careful to avoid blaming the other person throughout the conversation. “My rule is that if it’s possible to put ‘…you idot!’ at the end of a phrase or a sentence, then you’re blaming,” she says.

4. Say how their behavior made you feel.

It’s important to include both elements, Capland says, not only how you felt but also the specific behavior that made you feel that way. “‘I didn’t feel supported in the meeting when so-and-so said X. You kept quiet and I thought we were in agreement that you would back me up…'”

5. Explain what consequences it had.

It’s important to tell others that their actions (or inactions) had consequences and exactly what those consequences are. “‘When you submitted the proposal past the deadline, it caused the following cascade of effects,’ or ‘We lost the discount we had with that vendor,’ or ‘My boss reamed me out.'” The other person may not be aware what the ramifications are of their behavior.

6. Ask how things will be different next time.

You probably know exactly what the other person must do to correct the problem in the future. But resist the temptation to say so at least at first, Capland advises. “Start by saying, ‘I’d like to have this be different next time,'” she suggests. “Before I say what I’d like to see, I ask them first: ‘How can you make sure we don’t get in this situation again? What will you do differently next time?'”

Read more at …