I have a working hypothesis, and it goes like this: Joy is a muscle that must be trained.
Assuming my hypothesis is correct, allow me to introduce you to your new and improved personal trainer:
Remember that verse in Philippians 4 where Paul tells the reader to rejoice, and then he says it again just to make sure it stuck? For some reason I can’t help but imagine this little girl yelling these instructions at me as I start my day: “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say rejoice!”
We say that we practice forgiveness, practice hospitality, practice spiritual disciplines, but somewhere along the way we decided that rejoicing was an easy switch that we can flip on as needed.
As church leaders, what if we joined our friend from the video and served as our congregations’ personal trainers in the practice of rejoicing? Would you be willing to actually lead your teams in doing so?
Want to know the scary part? Your visitors already know the answer.
Let’s be honest, as I have the opportunity to visit GNJ churches, I can typically tell in a few nanoseconds whether the pastor leads the congregation in practicing joy. I see it in the way I’m greeted, the way people treat one another during coffee house, and in the way committees entertain suggestions of new ideas. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say rejoice!”
Recently I heard a pastor say, “If you hang around the barbershop long enough, you’re going to get a haircut.” Besides the fact that I just love the axiom and fully intend to use it in a sermon someday, I think it’s true for our churches. If you hang around a culture long enough, you’re eventually going to partake in it. So I ask you, as the leader of your church cultures, are you about the business of building joy, hope, and even optimism? Or are you leading the culture you serve toward grumbling, bitterness, and pessimism? Either way, if your people hang around long enough, they’re going to get a haircut, as it were.
So, what are some practical ways to train the muscle of joy? Consider these five:
- Talk about the weather: It’s okay for your leadership teams to spend time talking about nothing. My in-laws wrote a book on marriage (no pressure, huh?) that says “great relationships are built on a million meaningless conversations.” In other words, your church (or marriage, for that matter) won’t be ready to talk about something if they haven’t learned to simply chat about nothing.
- Never start a meeting without a check-in question for the group (subtext: remember we’re all real humans with real stories).
- Never end a meeting without celebrating a little success story. (subtext: remember why we’re doing this in the first place).
- Laugh: Besides the fact that it’s a statistical indicator of church growth, it’s a reminder that we’re to enjoy each other as we work with each other.
- After every event that utilizes volunteers, take 7 minutes to gather up your volunteers and celebrate all the things that went well and the people who were positively affected (By the way, you can expect this little practice of gratitude to triple your volunteer retention rate. And don’t worry, there will be time to critique the event later).
So for those who would like to grow their churches, consider the regular practice of rejoicing. Become your congregations’ coach and motivate training that joy muscle. Your visitors will notice the intangibles. And for everyone else, it still doesn’t hurt to train for a little rejoicing every now and then.