Exercising People into Irrelevance

nextMy friend Chris Huff has a couple of great posts on his blog about “exercising people.” It is worth taking the time to read both part one and part two, because he asks some great questions.

For clarity’s sake, exercising people  is when you ask people to do something that you never plan to act aon. Chris explains it this way:

I have a friend who works in sales for a large cabling manufacturer, and he recently told me how much he hates being used as a “quote machine”.  That is where customers ask him for a quote…but their request isn’t motivated by the desire to purchase anything.  They are making him jump through the hoops to generate a document that they later trash or ignore.  He can tell….because his email system tells him that they never even open the document that he sends.

The problem with exercising people  is that they remember… or, as Chris says:

Do that too often, and you will waste your influence and no one will take you seriously.

I have seen this happen in the church world far too often:

  • A pastor has a habit of telling everyone ‘I’d love to get together with you soon and talk about that some more…” whenever someone shares a significant personal story with them. Initially, that statement makes people feel great, until they never get together… and he doesn’t remember the conversation next time they speak. The problem was not that he’s insincere… it’s just that he doesn’t have the time to connect with everyone he wants to connect with.
  • A church calls people to participate in a special initiative, asking them to come forward if they feel the Holy Spirit prompting them to participate. People come forward, they are prayed over, and excitement is in there air. However names are never written down, follow up is never done, and the bold new initiative drifts out of the collective consciousness and sputters.
  • A church leader connects with someone who is eager to serve. After a breakfast meeting where potential service opportunities are discussed, and interest is piqued, the meeting ends. Over the next few weeks emails get read, phone calls get answered, and expense reports get submitted… but nothing comes of the breakfast meeting.

We have all been there.
I can still see the faces of people that I have exercised in the past… when I made big promises that I never delivered on.

In ministry, we have the opportunity to exercise people everyday… unless we are intentional about follow up.

The older I get, the more I realize the importance of follow up. We, as church leaders, need to be fanatical about follow up. Whether it is an assimilation process for our first time visitors, taking notes on our coffee meetings, or being intentional about not making “accidental promises” we need to realize that what we say, do, and don’t do communicates volumes about our priorities.

The church is too important to not be taken seriously… don’t exercise people into irrelevance.

How do YOU keep from exercising people?


About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through MinistryBriefing.com and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.