Jeff Goins is a writer. It’s who he is, simple and direct. He’s the communications director at Adventures in Missions and somehow found the time to establish himself as a cheerleader for writers, cranking out blog posts and ebooks about writing, including The Writer’s Manifesto and You Are a Writer.
This summer he released the book Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life, which leaves the topic of writing (mostly) behind and explores how we live our lives. We bragged about the book earlier this year (and the fact that Jeff has done some guest blogging for us) and now it’s time to sit down with Jeff and share some of his wisdom on writing and living:
Your job is basically telling other people’s stories. You talk a little in the book about how that can get kind of draining. How can church communicators who basically do the same thing avoid that feeling?
Jeff: I think there are three important choices you must make:
One, embrace the role you’ve been given. Not everyone can be the main character all the time. We need supporting roles and people backstage. The problem is if you’d like to be in the spotlight and aren’t called to it in that particular scene. Something powerful happens when we surrender to the larger story; it’s freeing. You might call this submission, but I’d like to think of it as an act of worship.
Two, find a way to be remarkable right where you are. G.K. Chesterton said an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered. It’s a lie to believe that nothing cool ever happens in your neighborhood or life. You just need eyes to see it and step into the adventure.
Three, become who you are. If you’re telling someone else’s story and that’s a role that’s been imposed on you, maybe it’s time for a change. We all deal with angst and disappointment, but if there is a recurring, unmet passion in your life, pay attention to it. Maybe it’s time to finally step into your calling.
Churches—especially your non-mega-churches—seem to struggle with the tyranny of the announcement. That’s all they ever have time and energy to communicate. How can busy churches push past the usual announcement stuff and tell real stories?
Jeff: Just an idea, but this would be fun to try: place a five-sentence limit on all announcements and use the extra time for one significant story per week. Remind people that stories are simple. They are accounts of people overcoming conflict and usually follow the structure of beginning-middle-end.
Churches are good at offering the wrecking experiences you talk about—missions trips and service opportunities. But I don’t think churches are good at helping us navigate the aftermath. What’s one thing churches can do to help us be wrecked in a good and productive way?
Jeff Goins: Debrief. This is so simple and so overlooked. Create some kind of experience or process that honors what the people went through and gives them an opportunity to share it—with the congregation, if possible.
You talk a lot about the importance of commitment in the book. It seems like people have a hard time committing to a church for the long haul—we like to bounce around a lot. How do people foster a long term commitment to a church and what can a church do to encourage that?
Jeff: First, they need to stop believing in the myth of the perfect church. Churches are full of people, and we all know how perfect people are (present company included).
Second, they need to decide to commit to a church. In other words, make the decision ahead of time that you are going to pick just one church. Otherwise, you can find weekly excuses to keep looking.
Third, look for something that’s broken. Yes, you were already doing that, weren’t you? Now comes the scary part: offer to fix it. I hate the saying “just geting plugged in!” but there’s some truth to that. We’re more committed to organizations that need us. We all want to feel like we have something to contribute. If where you’re at isn’t open to that (or they have everything they need), maybe you should find another church.
And what can churches do? Relax. Stop trying to push people into roles. Yes, we all need to get involved. But your organization benefits when we do that, so you talking about it feels disingenuous. Start investing in your people, and you might be surprised by how they’ll return the favor.
How can churches encourage mentorship, both among those being mentored to go looking for a mentor and on the mentor side getting people to agree to offer mentorship?
Jeff: The best way to create a culture of mentoring is not to empower the mentors but those being mentored. The teacher arrives when the student is ready, so teach students how to be ready. This is sorely lacking, especially among younger people (youth and young adults alike).
Also, I wouldn’t begin by making it a program. Mentoring is mostly organic; help facilitate it, but don’t control it. Once it’s established, you can give it a name and put some more structure around it.