Have you ever noticed that every story can be told from a positive or negative perspective? One team’s story of winning the national championship at the last second is another team’s heartbreak of losing the championship at the last second. In the church, this is especially true. You could say, “We had 40 people in worship Sunday!” Or someone could ask, “We only had 40 people in worship Sunday?!”
One of the great struggles of a church that is trying to find momentum is overcoming the negative perspective. Some churches operate on the downbeat or seem to only sing songs that have lots of flats. Other congregations seem to have an endless list of wonderful stories happening at their churches. Does the negative church really not have anything positive to celebrate? Does the positive church really have nothing negative going on?
What’s the difference in the two congregations? A different lens. How did they get there? Positive spin.
A Different Lens
Churches that have been hurt, that have gone through a split, or perceive that they are losing need a different lens. They focus on what is not happening instead of what could happen. They are like folks caught in a depression. They need something to help them realize that the sun is just on the other side of the clouds.
They need “glass half full” people to speak up and stop the pessimism of the “half empty” folks. They need a different lens.
As a leader in these environments, your job is to invite folks to look at things differently. You have a great responsibility to show others how to see the world, their lives, and their church differently.
When the church looks through a negative lens:
- They only see who was not there.
- They operate from a place of scarcity.
- They look for people to blame for their situation.
- They are divided.
- They miss what God is doing.
When the church looks through a positive lens:
- They celebrate who was there.
- They operate from a place of plenty.
- They look for opportunities to do something.
- They are united.
- They recognize God’s presence.
“There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.” —W. Clement Stone
You are called to witness to God’s action and to share the Good News with others. The great news about the Gospel is that it is Good News. No one wants to hear bad news, so share the Good News of what God is doing in your life, in your church, and in your community. Learn the art (I believe it to be a spiritual gift) of positive spin.
Let’s practice: How many youth were at Bible Study? Try “We have five youth who are asking great questions and really trying to figure out how the scriptures apply to their lives. God is doing some awesome things in their lives.” Instead of “We only have five kids coming. I wish we could get more.”
Of course you hope to engage as many youth as possible in Biblical study, but how many questions turn us towards issues of scarcity and plenty not towards God’s action in the lives of youth. The truth is we can never have too many youth in Bible study, so in reality the glass could always be half full.
God’s action in the life of one teenager is worth more than the presence of 100 youth in a room.
As a youth leader, you are often asked how the youth ministry is going or you find yourself in situations where you have the opportunity to share about the ministry. At the next council meeting, share stories of what young people are doing because of their relationships with each other and God. Forget the numbers: what is God up to in your ministry?
- Fred, who comes from a different background than most of the other youth, has been accepted into the group.
- You have seen evidence of their faith impacting their decisions and what they do at school or home.
- Youth have asked you about doing something to stop injustice, hunger, or to help someone.
- Youth were willing to give up their Saturday to help a shut-in or to work at the homeless shelter. (It doesn’t matter that it was only eight of them, that is eight small miracles!)
If you want a church to quit dwelling in the past, to quit wallowing in their sorrow, to break out of their depression, then you need to use positive spin to change their expectations. Does good news or bad news travel faster? I think it depends on how badly people need to hear it. Good news in a bad environment is like water in the dessert. Folks will drink it up. They are desperate for a life line.
As you use positive spin to share the Good News of what God is doing, you will help others to shift their lens as well. Others will become your messengers of Good News. Folks will come to see and hear for themselves. Over time, the expectation of expecting to hear bad news at church or in a meeting will change and they will come to hear the Good News that God is alive and at work in their congregation and youth ministry! The truth is, God always was!
So, how is your church doing? Are you contributing to the negative attitude? Do they need a new lens? What stories of God’s action can you tell to provide positive spin and create Good News?
Be a witness!