A Chemistry Conversation with Dan Nichols
Join Matt Steen, co-founder of Chemistry Staffing, and Dan Nichols, Executive Director of North East Collaborative, as they talk through the challenges church leaders face managing all of the voices and opinions coming at them from all sides.
We'd love to hear your strategies for addressing this with your congregation and church leaders (just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org). As always, we are here for you, and we're praying for churches and teams all over the United States!
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Dan Nichols: Oh yeah, man. This is awesome.
Matt Steen: We haven't even gotten started yet, so we'll try not to ruin that response.
Dan Nichols: Your presence is awesome. That is sweet.
Matt Steen: That's touching. So man, hey, here's how these go. It's just a short conversation. And here's where I want to go today. You work with a bunch of churches. You're walking alongside a ton of church leaders coaching them and all that kind of stuff. [INAUDIBLE] We are coming - coming is a generous word because we might still be stuck there for a while - but we're coming through a season of unrest, of pandemic, of financial concerns, heading into a season of the elections and some of the divisiveness that comes from that. And one of the conversations I'm having, I'm sure you're having these too, is that a lot of the pastors we're talking to are just tired. They're being pulled from every which way, every which direction, and now we're kind of jumping back into a place where going back to in-person services and the grind that comes with that, but we still have to keep up the high-quality [INAUDIBLE] and people are tired. Here's my question, Dan. How are you coaching your tribe on how to avoid burnout? How do we keep people from really just frying in all of the hecticness and craziness of this season?
Dan Nichols: Well I know one reminder I sent out recently - I try to send out weekly reminders, just to be a personal encourager along the way. A lot of people did that for me in my ministry journey as I was [UNCLEAR] pastor. One thing I sent out is just make sure you're listening to God's voice. Sound really simple, but I know even for me I've looked back at this last month and I've even recognized that most of the voices I'm listening to are the 10-12 other voices that we can typically fall into hearing more clearly than God's. So I've reminded pastors, hey, don't neglect the tuning out of every other voice and just making sure you're hearing God's voice. And it's not even that all the other voices are bad voices. It could be the voice of our spouse, the voice of our congregation, the voice of other teammates on our teams. They're not even bad voices. But they're not the voice. That's one thing. Recommending resources to get healthier, I know Lance Witt's Replenish has been crazy helpful for us. I've been using personally the Pause app by John Eldredge. That app has been so helpful for me. You have one-minute pauses, three-minute, five-minute, ten-minute. It is incredible. It's helped my spiritual health incredibly, so I've been recommending that. And then the other thing is, bro, we are experts in complicating the simple. This kind of goes back to listening to the right voices, but I think we have way too many voices, especially in our fast-paced digital age, that are saying, "Here's what success is in ministry," and 95-97% of pastors don't feel like they are there. I actually have a friend, Dale Sellers, he leads the 95Network and his book is coming out really soon. I wish I... how does he put it? I'm sorry Dale if I botch this. "I wish I had been there by now." Subtitle. And so many pastors feel that way, but we have to figure out what real success is, and it's not what modern American, even "churchianity" culture says it is. It's about simply loving God and loving others. In our network, I have been so encouraged to see just the simplicity of our pastors in our churches getting the names of everyone that's a part of their church and just getting old school on the phone, calling them up and going, "How you doing? How can I spiritually help you?" That doesn't take a lot. That's not very complicated. It takes time, and it takes love. But I think a lot of the other things that we've been so used to in church, this high production, high overhead stuff quite frankly I don't think we've needed it. And what this COVID crisis has done, it's just accelerated where I think the church was heading, which hopefully, I'm hoping the church wakes up and sees that it needs to be less complicated, less about production and presentation, much more about connection.
Matt Steen: That's awesome. Hey I want to circle back to something that you said because I think it's gold and I kind of want to pick under the surface of it if we can. You're talking about starting to tune out some of those voices that aren't God. What are some of the sneaky voices that we don't even realize are creeping in and are crowding out God as you talk to people?
Dan Nichols: The biggest one is self. We talk to ourselves more than anyone else. I think identifying how we talk to ourselves and whether it is aligned with God's heart or the heart of our enemy. And it can go one of two ways, right? Because pride is not only thinking too highly of yourself. It's also thinking too little of yourself because at the end of the day it's just all about self, whether it's too high or too low. So I think the voice of self. Obviously, the voice of our enemy comes in through the evils of this world. We have the voices of, honestly, brothers and sisters in Christ who are, I guess the old-fashioned term would be "back sliding," but they're not in tune with God's heart. They may be brothers and sisters, but they are not walking in the way that Jesus has for them, so tuning those voices - and not tuning them out to the sense that you don't love them and try to guide them back, but internalization that I know for me as a leader and I know pastors struggle with as well. And then you have the voice of culture, right? So there's the world of flesh and the devil, and the world, they system that we're in, there's so much coming at us and it's way faster than it used to be. Used to be you had a lot of time before you took all that in and absorbed it. Now it just happens in a millisecond. Those are some examples. There's probably a lot more I haven't mentioned.
Matt Steen: Yeah, I'm sure, I'm sure there are. I'm sure there's dozens, hundreds of them probably that are just kind of creeping into us and they get through. That's really helpful though because I think there's some wisdom there about focus in and really start to think through what are some of those voices that are speaking in. And I like the piece, and you didn't necessarily say it this way, but we almost need to be a little more graceful with ourselves right now. Because I think - and this may be your experience too, but I think I meet more pastors who are thinking too low of themselves and beating themselves up for just what you were saying, not meeting those goals and what the expectations are.
Dan Nichols: I would say in this season, if the majority of pastors are going to be on one side of the struggle, it's definitely too low because the expectations are unbelievably unrealistic.
Matt Steen: Yeah, yeah. So how do we help our congregations develop appropriate expectations of us as pastors? You know what I'm asking?
Dan Nichols: Yeah. That is a really... so first I would say it does start with ourselves in the sense of, I know when I was - and I'm still an elder at the church that I was a planter for, but I'm not a full-time pastor in a vocational... so when I was vocationally a pastor, I did a poor job, and I could blame it that I was in my 20's, but at the end of the day it was spiritual immaturity, to always be available no matter what. I just did that. I kept telling myself, "It's because I love people, it's because I love people." It's like, right, but you also have to learn how to take care of your body, take care of your mind, take care of your family. And you can't lose your own heart in the process, you can't lose your family. And so there's a balance there because now we're starting to see the need for soul care and replenishment and rest, especially in this COVID season. Some are now taking it - it's always about the pendulum swings - I've also seen some where you kind of walk into that situation with whoever it is, a pastor or ministry, and you go, okay, but we also have to get the job done. But walking that balance I say is, A, don't be available all the time but be very clear of when you are available. And then secondly, I think the biggest thing is you live out a value system of what you're going to prioritize as a community. Because as a Christian you can jump into anything, but being very selective of okay, what really matters the most. So I think there's got to be a railroad track, a balance where it's the doctrinal side, like the head side. Then on the other side, there's the relational side. And if you can kind of prioritize both of those in tandem, I think the congregation will as well.
Matt Steen: That's cool, that's cool. Well man, I want to be respectful of your time. So if there's one thought that you can leave with some of our crowd that's watching this today, what would it be?
Dan Nichols: Oh man, that is a great question. Just one grand slam.
Matt Steen: No pressure.
Dan Nichols: I'm honestly just going to leave it with what I said before. We are experts at complicating the simple, and I would encourage anyone listening to just take a few minutes and go, “How am I complicating the simple right now?” Because I can almost guarantee every single one of us is to a certain extent and I think God will give us wisdom. He promises - it's one of the best promises in scripture. If we ask him for wisdom, he'll give it, and he loves to. So why aren't we, right? So go to God, ask him for wisdom. "God, how am I complicating the simple?" And I think he'll do a great work in your heart and your life.
Matt Steen: That's great, that's great. Dan, thank you, thank you so much for your wisdom, for taking some time to talk with our crowd. If you want to learn more about Dan and what he's up to at the Northeast Collaborative, you can go to necollaborative.com and you can learn more about what they're up to there. Thanks Dan.
Dan Nichols: Thank you.