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Pleasing the People - Part Three

The last few weeks, I’ve been looking at the term ‘people pleaser.’

You’ve probably heard this one: ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time.’ I prefer its extended version – ‘you can’t even please some of the people some of the time.’

So stop trying!

Serving people – yes. Pleasing people – no. One of the toughest lessons a leader must learn is this one: It’s okay not to be liked. It really is. All the great leaders throughout history learned this lesson early on. However, in church ministry, it’s easy to see how hard it is to implement. How can we teach and serve people unless we have them on our side? And so begins the process of ‘people pleasing.’

Yet it’s impossible to please everyone all the time. Hence the familiar quip above. So at some point, a leader must develop the ability to disappoint people. Decisions must take into consideration the people we’re serving, that much is clear. But they must not be driven by the desire to please everyone. Because that’s just not possible. So a leader must live with the reality that some will be unhappy. At least some of the time. Learn this early, and a leader can then lead by conviction.

Music and church services are notorious areas of conflict in a church. As are many of the decisions around the allocation of resources. A leader must be able to assemble all the relevant input, pray, make clear decisions and then move on. All the emotional energy expended worrying about what people will think – it’s largely wasted energy. Be clear in your head why you’re making your decision. Make it. Move on.

A leader must lead. You can’t lead by focus group. It won’t work.

It means disappointing some. It means some will give negative feedback. It means a tiny minority will spend their time on the side-lines throwing metaphorical stones at you.

What’s a people-pleaser to do?

A thick skin would be handy, of course. But let's call that resilience. Resilience is a virtue, especially for leaders. But also the development of inner conviction about the direction of the church. Plus the thing we all need - a heart that is centred on Christ. There is no substitute for spiritual depth and maturity. Both emotional and spiritual maturity.

But there is one other thing a people-pleaser – and any other leader, for that matter – should do. That’s the subject of my next blog post.

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