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Note to Leaders: Expectations

My wife recently took my daughters to the Nutcracker play.  It’s become a tradition in our family...for the girls, that is.  They get dressed up, go out to dinner with some friends and then enjoy the play.  It’s something they really look forward to.

My wife was telling me about how much fun they had and then told me something my five year old daughter, Karis, said to her about a half-hour into the play.  It blew my mind.

Karis said, “Mommy, I have to go potty.  Can you pause it?”

What?  Pause the play?  Wow.  She had no idea if she was watching a screen or a play or live television.  She’s always been able to pause live television so, I guess, who could blame her.  This has been a luxury she didn’t know how to operate without in her life.  She expected to be able to pause it, go to the bathroom and not miss a beat.

This is cute for a five year old, but these changed expectations is a reality for all of us and especially younger generations.  I enjoy technology as a 38 year old man and in many ways my life can’t operate without it.  But technology didn’t shape my thinking the way it has younger generations.

I’ve found that technology has shaped college aged people in some ways that should drastically change how we approach relationship with them.  If we don’t take these to heart and adjust how we approach them, we’re in big big big big trouble.  Perhaps the biggest area we must take notice of is how technology has changed their expectations.

Sure, it’s changed their expectations with how fast they obtain information and technology has certainly made the world smaller.  But, in my opinion, the thing we really need to take notice of is how much they expect to have a voice into things.

Think about it.  They have never not had a voice.  They have always posted comments on blogs or articles when they had an opinion.  If they saw something that interested them, they write about it on their personal blog or post links on Facebook or post a video explaining their views.  They have always had a voice and therefore they expect to have a voice in just about everything.  And, truthfully, who can blame them?  It’s all they’ve known.  

It’s hard for older generations to grasp this idea as being appropriate, but it’s reality in our world today.  We must give younger people a voice in our ministries.  If we don’t, we will lose them.  We lose trust.  We are viewed as controlling.  We are seen as people stifling them.  So, here are 2 quick ideas of how to go about that:

  1. Cut off your toes.  What I mean by this is, make sure people know they’re not going to “step on your toes” by sharing their honest opinions.  Continue asking what people think about your ministry.  Let them know there are no sacred cows.  Ask them to tell you what they would do differently if they were you.  Ask them what they think you should be doing next.  Ask them to tell you what they think is not working.
  2. Open your ears.  The truth is the more we open our ears and listen to them, the more they ask for us to open our mouths to share our perspective.  If we want to have a voice in their lives, we must first listen to theirs.


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