Give them permission.

I was rereading my book on Nehemiah. This Sunday, I’m sitting with a group of people who have been studying it for the last few weeks. They now know my words better than I do. And I’d rather not look completely foolish.

I got to the end of the chapter I wrote about Nehemiah 3. In the Bible, it looks like a list of names. Until you read it through and realize that it’s actually a circle, a description  of the people who rebuilt a city wall. The names start by one gate and then go all the way around the city and back to the same gate.

At the end of my chapter, I summarized Nehemiah’s lesson about how to work with a group of people like that.

permission“Give people permission to do what they know how to do. Give them hope in knowing that God cares about what they do. Give them a personal connection. Give them attention. Give them room to fail. And to succeed.”

I was challenged by my own words.

It’s a great list of how to help people begin to rebuild after a catastrophe. With broken down walls or broken down relationships.

My most vivid memory of this rebuilding is of a church where half the people walked out following a manipulative leader, leaving a remnant with a massive mortgage. And a commitment to stay faithful in following God.

They had some leaders who were finally allowed to lead, and gave everyone else permission to do what they knew how to do. And they came together, worked together, prayed together, forgave together.

And rebuilt the church community as a place of safety and healthiness.

Nehemiah isn’t the only one who has faced the challenge of rebuilding what someone else destroyed. But he is a great example of how to do it.