The world is in turmoil about so many things. How do we move forward? How do we even get through THIS Sunday? In this Chemistry Conversation, Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing, discusses these questions and more with Culture Coach, Nikki Lerner, who is a speaker, teacher, author, and singer.
Nikki Lerner's Resources
- Online Course - 10 Ways to Respond to Racially Fueled Events
- Culture Coaching for Teams
- Subscribe to the Culture Coach Podcast
- Sign up for Nikki's Free Email Newsletter
We'd love to hear your strategies for addressing this with your congregation (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!
Read the Full Transcript
Matt: So Nikki is a culture coach. She's an artist. She's a speaker. She does a lot of things. But her big theme in her life is helping people move from being in a monocultural world into a multicultural way of life. So Nikki thanks for sitting down with me. I really appreciate it.
Nikki: You're welcome, it's my joy.
Matt: So here's how these conversations go. It's just real quick, real simple. Got a ton of church leaders that are watching these, and here's the deal. When we first met, you were a worship leader at a great church outside of Washington, D.C. So you've been in the grind of where Sunday's always coming. Now you're helping church leaders, you're helping people kind of rethink diversity issues and all that. We are in a time when 2020 has just been brutal, right? We went from the apocalypse, and now we have just significant racial tension in this country. And we've got a ton of pastors that, this is Thursday and Sunday's coming. So let's just put it out there. What do we need to be thinking about for Sunday? How do we talk about this? How do we have these conversations in a way that acknowledges the weight and the ugliness and the beauty that's coming out of it? How do we go about that in a way that honors all of us?
Nikki: That's a really good question. Organizationally as a leader when things like this happen, the most important thing for you to do is to acknowledge that it's happening. I think what happens sometimes, particularly around racially-fueled events, is that as leaders, particularly if you're a part of the majority culture in the country, that you may feel some fear and apprehension. And many of the leaders that I'm talking to this week literally every day are saying, I don't even know where to begin. I don't even know what to say. And I'm scared that I'm going to say something that's going to make it work. So then what happens is, then as leaders we end up saying nothing. And we can't do that anymore. And so the most important thing to know as a leader this Sunday is that you must acknowledge what is going on. Now, let me just say. It's very important that an acknowledgement does not equal opinion. Very, very important as a leader, particularly for senior leaders. Acknowledgement doesn't equal opinion, and it doesn't acknowledge siding with whatever it is that you're talking about. Acknowledgement is just there to say I see it, and I see you, whoever "you" is. That is the beauty of acknowledgement. It literally would almost be like if I was having a conversation with you, you're acknowledging what I'm saying right now by shaking your head. What I don't need you to do in the moment is literally every word I say you tell me your opinion about what I'm saying. Right? But that's kind of how we can share things sometimes. So just as leaders, the most important thing we need to do on Sunday is to acknowledge that the country is grieving, acknowledge that we are in crisis, and acknowledge that we are seeing some new things arise from the ashes of this that will propel us forward if we choose them.
Matt: That's great. So let me ask you some practical stuff. You blow up the service? Change the sermon? You know. Do you do that kind of thing, or is an acknowledgement enough?
Nikki: It depends.
Matt: They teach you to say that in church consultant school.
Nikki: I know, right. It depends, and it really does. So let's take a couple of things that you said. So do you blow up the service? Maybe. You may need to, depending on your context.
Matt: Okay, unpack that.
Nikki: If you were going - I'm making this up now, right - but if your plan for today was, you know, Ten Ways to Be Forgiving When Somebody Hurts You. It might now be time for that yet. Now here's the thing. Is it any less Bible-believing or worthy or anything? As Christian people who love Jesus, do we need to know how to forgive people? Yes. However if that's the plan and there's nothing else about what's going on in the world, you may think you're being safe, but actually your people might see you as being tone deaf. And that's the beauty of acknowledgement, right. Acknowledging something that is happening in the world, again, without having an opinion per se, but acknowledging it, you're sharing with your people that we as a church, we see it. And we see what's going on. And we're here for it. Right. Like we are engaged, whatever that means. In every part of the service, maybe you've got a worship set if you're a worship leader, right. And that set was all about, it was jumpy and "Woo!" and everything is great kind of a set. You may need to scrap that for some songs of lament and songs of turning our faces back to who the character of Christ is. Now if you don't need to blow it up, you may need to add to it. So if you've already planned the videos and planned the service and all that, you may need to add to what you've already planned in order to acknowledge it. And I tell my sisters and brothers who are watching, don't let that pass by. Follow your intuition. I think for a lot of us, we have the intuition saying, you know what I think we need to add something. Or hmm, I think... and then we don't follow it because we get scared. Right now is the time for leadership. And I don't know about you, but I want the people at the church where I lead to hear my voice, not just the voice, particularly of people in an unbelieving world and what they have to say about it. I want to hear from my leadership.
Matt: So a simple way to just change up, is that time of corporate prayer? How do you do that? And it's different for each church in each context, but is that the type of thing you're thinking? Or are you thinking more of a statement more than acknowledgement? What's a way that a church can do that? I keep pushing back on you on this.
Nikki: No, it's fine, it's fine. I would say particularly right now, and I'm honing in on this on purpose this way because this is different than the things we have experienced, but particularly right now there needs to be a multi-pronged approach to this. So yes to an email to your church about not only the fact that you see it, you're making an acknowledgement, but what the church will do to serve. So yes to that. Yes to a recorded video of you as the leader showing up in the moment, right now, to say we see it. We know what's going on. Your church is aware. We're not sticking our heads in the sand, right. Yes to that. Yes to live video. Yes to live video on your Facebook page or on your personal page or whatever platform you have. Yes to writing a blog. Whatever it is, whatever resource you have available to you, use it and use it as a tool in the hands of the Spirit of Christ to bring compassion, light, love, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, peace, all of those things into this place.
Matt: Did you write that yourself?
Nikki: No. But I live it like I do.
Matt: Nice, nice. Nikki, Nikki that is really helpful. We try to keep these short, which is really difficult when you and I get together. So at the risk of starting off another 30-minute conversation, what's one thing, just if you were to leave people watching this, what's one thing you leave them with and one encouragement that you'd give them going into this Sunday?
Nikki: I would say if you feel paralyzed by not knowing what to do, reach out, ask for help, find another pastor or another leader in your network. Hopefully you're already building relationships cross-culturally. Hopefully. But this is the time. Reach out to those people. Humble yourself and know that you don't have to know how to do this right now but that there are tons of people resources and written resources that will help you know at least how to tap into what it is that you need to say and acknowledge this weekend. So don't be afraid. Find your courage. Find your bravery. And ask for help.
Matt: That's awesome. Nikki, thank you so much.
Nikki: You're welcome.
Matt: If people want to get in touch with you, nikkilerner.com that's pretty much the best place?
Matt: And for what it's worth and I think it's worth a ton, Nikki also has a great online course on 10 Ways to Respond to Racially Charged Events. Which is it's something that we don't typically do well in the church space. Call it what it is. If you don't have those connections to be able to reach out to, I think that's an awesome place to start. Nikki, thank you so much.
Nikki: You're welcome, Matt.