Motivating People: How Can We Do It?

DRiVE Daniel PinkIn my career as a minister, college professor, and college dean, I have often run into the difficulty of motivating people. Sometimes I am able to recognize that I am just trying to get them to do what I want them to do, but on my better days, I sincerely believe that I need to motivate them to do things that are in their own best interests.

The Dean at a sister college recently pointed me to a fascinating book by Daniel Pink called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pink is an expert in motivational theory, and area of research of which I had little awareness. Let me summarize a couple of main ideas from the book.

Initially, Pink looks at the history of motivation, and divides the earlier era into two categories. First is what he calls Motivation 1.0, which includes all the biological or environmental motivators: hunger, thirst, need for shelter/clothing, etc. These are ongoing and normal, and while they can be controlled, exaggerated, or misused, they are part of the way we are wired. We are motivated in these ways whether we like it or not.

Second is what Pink calls Motivation 2.0. This is motivation by “extrinsic” factors, also known as the “carrot/stick” or “reward/punishment” method. Pink claims that almost all business models based from the early twentieth century until now have this at the core of the way employees are motivated. If you are late for work, you get fired (stick). If you exceed your quota, you get a bonus (carrot). This type of motivation also underlies most of the American educational system, especially as it is related to grades. The only real change has been a shift from an emphasis upon the stick (dire threats) to the carrot (rewards). This is seen in the trivialization of school awards from kindergarten on, the child who can paper her room with certificates of excellence when in reality she is a mediocre and indifferent student. Pink’s analysis is that such rewards usually have a positive short-term effect, but rarely make a difference in the long run.

Third is what Pink calls Motivation 3.0, “intrinsic” motivation. This is the appeal to a person’s desire to accomplish a challenging but doable task, and the satisfaction the person takes from doing it. This means that the nature of the work itself is a motivation. In this, Pink points out the value of achieving “flow” in a task. This is “Goldilocks” point, not too difficult, but also not too easy. This is when “flow” comes, when a person is doing something he enjoys and believes he can accomplish. There is no flow if the task is overwhelming or if the challenge is too puny. This Motivation 3.0 is where we need to focus, according to Pink.

I am still processing all of this in terms of motivating faculty members, and in helping them to motivate students in their classes. I also see many applications in ministry, in church situations where there is a great need for volunteer participation. How do we motivate volunteers? Not by threats of punishment and probably not be promises of reward. They must find motivation intrinsically, and leaders must find ways to tap those inner urges. For example, most people want to serve and do so in a meaningful way. The task of the church leader is to channel that already present motivation into an area that is both fulfilling for the person and productive for the congregation.

Interesting stuff.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Whatever Happened to Sin?

politicianI am fascinated by a relatively new phenomenon in the public sphere: the disappearance of sin. It is not new to have brazen personalities who do whatever they please and don’t care if some see their actions as sin. But now, more and more, we are seeing public figures who have been caught in a peccadillo, retreated for a while, and now seek to regain the public trust. These folks acknowledge some sort of expectation of moral behavior from the public, but act as if they can rise above it.

What is most troubling to me, I guess, is that past problems are labelled as “mistakes” or “poor judgment.” Rarely is anything admitted to be “sin” or “moral failure.” So adultery is a mistake. It is at the same level as using your #8 iron when you should have used your #9. My bad.

My class is currently plowing through the wonderful little book of 1 John. John is a blunt dude, and I like that. He is not afraid to say stuff like:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
If we claim we have not sinned, we make [God] out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

John is not addressing hypotheticals here. I think there are some teachers in his churches who are claiming they have no sin. I don’t know if this means they are claiming that they never sin according to traditional standards (they have become perfect) or if they are redefining sin so that all their behaviors are good. But John will not stand for this.

In his column this week, Ross Douthat lamented the passing of the “Catholic moment” in US politics. As Douthat notes, at the time of the death of John Paul II (2005), there was great respect for many Christian moral values in our country and among our politicians. Things have changed. As the time has come for another papal transition, Douthat notes:

If this era is passing, and Catholic ideas are becoming more marginal to our politics, it’s partly because institutional Christianity is weaker overall than a generation ago, and partly because Catholicism’s leaders have done their part to hasten that de-Christianization. Any church that presides over a huge cover-up of sex abuse can hardly complain when its worldview is regarded with suspicion.

While I was ministering in Los Angeles four or five years ago, the sex scandals of the Catholics in the Dioceses of Los Angeles were beginning to become public. Some Evangelicals seemed to take a certain amount of glee in this, for they had been fighting Catholicism for years. I didn’t. I remember saying, “This will hurt us all, this will damage the church.” And it has.

All of this is related somehow. If the church brings a message of God-given, biblical moral standards that the world dislikes, the world is likely to shoot the messenger. If the messenger has already shot himself in the foot, he is an easy target. We can act like we have moved to a post-Christian, post-moral world, but that does not change the reality of sin. The one who says he has no sin in a liar, and he makes God out to be a liar, too.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Lenten Meditation: Dying with Jesus

I once saw a picture of a war protester holding a sign that proclaimed:

Nothing Is Worth Dying Foranti-war_vietnam_war_protest_rally

I’m not intending to write about war or pacifism today, but I want to pause and think about this assertion. Is anything worth dying for? Or, conversely, is anything worth living for?

We avoid talking about death. Or we joke about it. George Burns (who lived to be 100 years old) used to joke that he wanted the epitaph on his gravestone to read, “I wish I were reading this.” (Actually he is buried in the Forest Lawn cemetery near Hollywood next to his beloved Gracie, and their stone reads “Together Forever.”)

There is a striking story in the Gospel of John that is often overlooked. When Jesus and his disciples learn that their friend Lazarus is deathly ill, Jesus delays going to him in Bethany. The disciples think this is because Judea has become dangerous for them, with the Jewish leaders seeking to kill Jesus. Then, they learn that Lazarus has died. Unfortunate. But this seems to take the pressure off them to travel to this dangerous place. Surprisingly, though, Jesus announces his intention to go to Bethany anyway. When some of the group object, an unlikely voice supports him. Thomas, whom tradition disparages as the “doubter,” urges, ““Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16). The one who many see as a weak link among the disciples is willing to put his life on the line for his Lord!

Dying with Jesus, what does this mean for us?

One author has said, “Any religion that has nothing to say about death has nothing to say.”  I think that only Christianity has a message of hope that transcends death, because it places faith in the one who conquered death. For us, to die with Jesus and to die for Jesus means that we put him first, we serve without regard for self, we have a willingness to give up everything for him. This is the essence of the Lenten season, a time of reflection and self denial. It is in this way that we prepare our hearts to remember the agony of Good Friday and the glory of Resurrection Sunday.

When Jesus and his disciples arrive in Bethany, Lazarus is dead and buried, and Jesus has an opportunity to minister to his sisters, Mary and Martha. In Jesus’ conversation with Martha, the topic of death is at the core. Here Jesus presents a Mighty Truth of the Gospel: the one who believes in Jesus will live, even if he dies.

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25-26)

At the beginning of the Cold War George Orwell wrote his famous dystopia, 1984. The novel pictured a technological future of horror, where the western democracies had become one vast totalitarian regime. The state propagates three great paradoxical slogans:

  1. War is Peace
  2. Freedom is Slavery
  3. Ignorance is Strength

What Jesus is saying to Martha is an even greater paradox. At the end he is saying:


As we proceed in this Lenten season, may we live intentionally in denial of self and affirmation of the Lord Jesus. May we find life in less, fulfillment in denial, and joy in serving others. May we remember the final words of the great prayer of Francis of Assisi:

. . . it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Resolving Conflict among Church Leaders (part 3)

The last two blogs I have done have been on this topic, “Resolving Conflict among Church Leaders.” A sub-plot in all of this is to recognize when we, personally, might be part of the problem. Today, let me offer three more principles:

women-fightingPrinciple 2: Choose Your Battles Carefully, You Cannot Win Them All. You Cannot Even Fight Them All

Questions to ask:

  • Is this conflict over the well-being of the church or over something I find personally threatening?
  • Is this battle worth the emotional toll it will take?
  • Yearly question: Have we made progress in resolving leadership conflicts, or are the same old hot spots still there? If you are not making progress, just navigating minefields, you should either take action or move on.

Bottom line: You don’t have to win all the time!

Principle 3: A “Rogue” Board or Staff Member May Inhibit Your Church’s Growth

In the business world, an unconventional person may become a successful entrepreneur by forging his or her own way, making unpopular decisions, not listening to critics, rejecting anything traditional or status quo. However, this person, if put into church leadership, will wreck your church if he or she follows the same path.

In the case of staff members (particularly youth ministers), if they demonstrate an inability to get along with others (or a propensity to create conflict) and are resistant to evaluation that asks for change, it is time to part ways. Also, beware those who want to be elders because they have an agenda (such as fire the minister). Embrace those who want to be elders because they love the church and its people and want to serve it.

Principle 4: Church Leadership Functions Best If It Operates By Consensus

The worst possible scenario: Deciding a very big issue (especially if it involves spending a lot of money) by a 5/4 vote in a church board. The church is not a democracy, there is no biblical mandate to vote on everything. If you operate with a parliamentarian and a handy book of Robert’s Rules of Order, it is likely a sign of deep dysfunction. A church leadership, whether board or staff, operates best if everyone is on the same page. Consensus operates like this:

  • When an important decision is being made, it is talked through thoroughly. Opinions are just that: opinions.
  • Sometimes these decisions need time to mellow and mature.
  • When there is a consensus, the decision needs to be articulated by a leader.
  • After this consensus is reached (which will usually be some type of compromise), all the leaders need to support it.

I hope these are helpful. Three more to go.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Resolving Conflict among Church Leaders, Part 2

I began this topic last week. Today, let me give you one principle that relates to this topic.

angry manPrinciple 1: Don’t Tolerate Angry Church Leaders

Common media portrayal:  Angry people are the ones who get things done.  Patient people are dithering fools, totally ineffective. Angry people are to be admired, considered to be people of strong character. We have TV & Radio Talk Shows full of blathering rage, the daily “rant.”  (Advice:  don’t tune in to the ones who are full of anger.)

Psychologists:  Describe this anger as “hostility”.  Many years ago, Christian psychologist Clyde Narramore put it this way:

The hostile individual is difficult to get along with.  If he does not get his way or is engaged in severe competition, he becomes very unpleasant.  He frequently has marriage and family difficulties.  He may argue with his wife constantly and scold and punish his children.  In church and other social situations the hostile person often disrupts the plan of activities.  He becomes engaged in personality conflicts with group leaders and seeks to have his views become the center of attention.

Does this sound like anyone you know? Here is a biblical perspective:

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)

Uncontrolled Anger marks you as a fool in the eyes of those around you. Fools don’t make good church leaders. Two further observations help define this issue:

  1. The opposite of anger is not passivity, it is patience.
  2. Two angry persons accelerate the situation and this leads to disaster. This is why anger is often associated with “fire” in the Bible

Here is the great danger: if you have an angry church leader, the tendency is for others to avoid conflict and allow this person to get her or her way on almost everything. This is rarely in the best interests of the church. A church board can be controlled by an angry board member whom no one else wants to challenge. Two angry members at odds will bring the board to stalemate. We don’t need angry church leaders, whether they be elders, ministers, pastors, or other persons of influence. Such folks need to be removed from leadership until the anger issue can be dealt with (or never be allowed to be leaders in the first place). This is a place where prevention is the best strategy. If you know a person has anger issues (and you will), don’t let them be an elder. Don’t hire them to be a minister. Angry people are conflicts waiting to happen, and this is not in the best interests of any church.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Resolving Conflict among Church Leaders (Part 1)

board conflictThis weekend I am participating in a conference in Cherokee, IA, and doing a workshop on “Resolving Conflict among Church Leaders.” In my years as a professor and dean, I have been called to help mediate several dozen church situations where there were problems. Most of the time, a root or contributing cause is conflict between elders, board members, or leading members of a church.

Many Christians believe that the way to resolve conflict is simply to follow the procedure outlined in Matthew 18:15-17:

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

While there are important, godly principles here, I think this is a statement of principle rather than a procedure that should be slavishly adhered to. For one thing, it is talking about a “sin” situation, and not all conflicts are in this category. For another thing, how do you do this if the conflict is between two prominent church leaders? Does the one with the most votes at the next congregational meeting win, and the other one must be sent to live with pagans and tax collectors?

I have been told that in a growing, dynamic church, conflict is inevitable. This may be true, but effective churches will resolve conflicts quickly and satisfactorily. I am most concerned about conflict that has split churches wide open, or caused them to dwindle for years. How can these situations be either avoided or ended? I believe that answers to church leader conflict are both:

  • Preventative: Avoidance of placing folks in leadership positions who are going to cause conflict
  • Prescriptive: Deliberate actions to resolve conflicts

While we may have the unlimited power of the Holy Spirit available to us, church leaders have limited amounts of spiritual and emotional energy and passion. This is best used in growing the church in numbers and in depth, not in fighting with other church leaders.

If you are in Cherokee, Iowa this Saturday, drop by the First Church of Christ for my workshop. Otherwise, watch this blog. I have seven principles for resolving conflict among church leaders, and will post them in the next three or four blogs.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College



Giant Theology: The Long Table of the Lord

Julie DeltonMy family and I finally went to see Les Miserables, the movie featuring Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, and Hugh Jackman. I’m not doing a review on this movie, but let me make two comments:

  1. Viewing it was an incredibly draining experience. I have not been this emotionally drained at the end of a movie since Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. The format of being a near-opera with almost all the lines done in song adds to this, pumping in great emotion through the musical expression. It was well worth the price of a ticket.
  2. This is a complex exploration of grace, a theme and word that reappear throughout the story. I’m still pondering some of the movie’s aspects on this.

I was particularly struck by the final scene, like a curtain call in a musical, where there is an impossibly gigantic barricade in Paris, and everyone is there: Jean Valjean, Fantine, the Bishop, Eponine, and the other rebels (I don’t remember seeing Javert, though). They are there even though they have earlier died in the movie.

All of this reminds me of what I think is the most powerful and moving final scene in the history of Hollywood movies: the communion scene at the end of Sally Field’s Places in the Heart. This story ends where it begins, in the little church. This time, they are passing the communion tray from person to person, and everyone is there. Edna, the heroine, is there. The greedy banker is there. The Klansman is there. The dead Sheriff is there, as is the boy who inadvertently killed him and was subsequently lynched. They are all there, gathered around the Table of the Lord.

The Table of the Lord is the ultimate symbol of fellowship for the church. When communion is denied, the body of Christ is broken, for one of its members has been ex-communicated. This is very serious stuff. We should remember that while we may provide the physical elements used in Communion, it is the Lord’s Table. He is the Host. He is the Inviter. There may be people around the Table we don’t care for, folks we think should not be there. But it is his Table, not ours. We come with our sins, with our burdens, with our need to be forgiven and restored. And he will give us rest. That, my friends, is Giant Theology.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College