WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW...AND NEITHER DO THEY!
“Do you have any vanity issues?”
The owner at the bow shop took me by surprise. I was there because my daughter wants to hunt deer with a bow, and we needed to make a plan. Why this question?
“The draw weight on this bow is 70 pounds,” he explained, referring to the bow in front of me. “Most guys come in here saying they want it set at 70-pound draw weight, but they can’t draw it. Most guys come in here with no clue, quoting some snippet they’ve read on the Internet. I can tell in five minutes they know nothing.”
I freely admitted, “I know nothing. Treat me like an idiot.”
He was glad to oblige!
Sometimes it’s smart to admit you don’t know what you don’t know. In fact, most relationships and endeavors would be more successful if those involved approached them with “I don’t know” instead of “Here’s what I know.” Because too often what they think they know isn’t true or complete. They don’t know what they don’t know.
It’s true with a marriage. Too many husbands and wives expect their spouses just to know what they want or like or expect. But they don’t. You must tell your partner what you want from them instead of expecting them to figure it out on their own.
It’s true in business. Yes, your employees have job descriptions—often so exhaustive or technical they’re too much for them to think about every day. You don’t know what they may misunderstand or forget in those job descriptions. You don’t know where your definition of “common sense” is completely lost on them. You don’t know what they don’t know. And they don’t fully understand specifically what you expect. You have to tell them.
What They Don’t Know at Church
It’s true with preaching. I’ve quit assuming my audience knows any biblical story I use in a sermon. Last Sunday I retold the story of Adam and Eve, because I’m sure some of those listening didn’t know it till I explained it. More than once someone has left our services commenting on my sermon: “Wow, I never knew that story is in the Bible!”
It’s true with leadership. Too often preachers stew in frustration because their elders don’t understand the mission of the church, the laws about ministerial pay, the difference between the church and a corporation or a democracy, or any one of a dozen other potentially contentious topics. But such elders don’t know what they don’t know! We need to tell them.
I sat with our elders not long ago and suggested five things I need them to know and do:
1. To champion the mission of our congregation.
2. To lead the church in prayer.
3. To support the lead pastor.
4. To model serving and giving.
5. To commit to growing themselves.
They were delighted to see the list. “We didn’t know this is what you need from us,” more than one said. I’ll devote a whole blog post to this list sometime later, but for today, the point is, “How could I expect these guys to know my heart for them if I didn’t tell them?” They didn’t know what they didn’t know.
What I May Not Know at Church
And here’s the last point I need to remember. Like everybody else, I don’t know what I don’t know. My children’s minister and youth minister and worship minister and facilities coordinator all have knowledge about our ministry that I don’t. And members of our church have knowledge about many of our tasks that’s missing among any of us on staff. We don’t know what we don’t know. We need to ask. We need to listen.
More often than we realize, the best way to approach ministry (or bow hunting, or just about any task or relationship) is to have the humility to say, “Treat me like an idiot.” It’s a great way to know what you don’t know.