October 2, 2016

The Younique Life Plan – Personal Calling and Life Planning for the Church

When is the last time a pastor asked you about your Life Plan?

Younique launches this week as a new training company that brings a simple and powerful Life Plan experience to believers everywhere. It’s not just a brand new life planning process. It’s the first personal calling and life visioning experience for the church, thru the church to release the church. 

After a decade-long journey and several beta arounds, the toolbox is ready to roll.  Why so long you wonder? The answer is simple–break-thru. I didn’t want another workbook to clutter our desks. It didn’t want to lead people to list so many goals that they would all be rendered useless. The simple fact is that most Life Plan products don’t work. And none are gospel based from the ground up. That’s why we say that Younique is:

  • Break-thru built
  • Gospel-grounded
  • and Vocationally targeted

What does “break-thru” really mean? It means that you discover patterns and potential that change the trajectory of your life. It means that you name what God put you on earth to do. It means creatively imagining where God is taking your life and prioritizing singular goals to get there. It’ all about traction: deep reflection that leads to meaningful new action. 

You already know what break-thru doesn’t mean. That’s when you attend a class or read a book and get more information with no transformation. It’s easy to find new ideas that tickle your mind but don’t re-train your feet. I call it a Life Plop, not a Life Plan.

The classic problem is that most life plans don’t take into account your life and are so complicated that it’s impossible to actually follow. As a case in point, consider Michael Hyatt’s book published this year entitled,  Living Forward. Because he is a platform building master, he sold lots of books. But did his readers experience lots of break-thru? I doubt it. While the book provides plenty of positive encouragement, the step-by-step guide leads you to an impossibly complex plan (at least for 98% of the population.) For example, Rachel’s Life Plan in the appendix, overflows with over 50 content pieces including nine separate purposes, nine separate visions and umpteen commitment goals. How would you like to wake up the next day with 50 new gauges on your life’s dashboard?

Have you heard the saying that it’s simple to make things complex, but it’s complex to make things simple? That’s why Younique was 10 years in the making. I wasn’t  creating a product, I was testing for break-thru. I didn’t want anything less for you. That required solving several major challenges over the years…to be unpacked at a later time.

So What is The Younique Life Plan?

It’s the combination of a personal Vision Frame (4 ideas to declare your identity) and a personal Horizon Storyline (4 ideas to define your future). For example, what is known as “mission” on the Vision Frame is now your personal LifeCall. Imagine being able to name what only you can do on planet earth with your LifeCall statement!

Some of you used me or another Auxano navigator to lead your church’s Vision Framing process. Many of you follow this blog. You will certainly recognize these two master tools of my life’s work in organizational consulting. Now these tools work beautifully for personal application. Again, I will unpack more later.

How do You Build a Younique Life Plan?

The plan itself is developed through what we all the “Personal Vision Journey.” The primary delivery system is through the church. That’s why I’m ready to talk with interested churches about being the designated Younique provider in their local community. Church leaders get certified as Younique Coaches, and then offer the Personal Vision Journey through the church to their leaders, attenders and members.

But there is good news! Since it will take a while for churches across the country to get trained up, we have immediate opportunities for individuals to take the Personal Vision Journey through intensives (3-days) or through a virtual cohort (12 weeks). Read more about them. We have four intensives coming up (Nov., Dec. and Jan.)  and two virtual cohorts launching in January 2017.

In the end, know that you inspired this massive life project! Countless leaders over the years have asked me about the application of my ideas to their personal lives. The time has come and the toolbox is finally ready. So let’s get some personal calling break-thru!

April 30, 2016

8 Tips on How to Access Free Advice from Any Expert or Mentor

Free Advice Will ManciniAfter walking out of a crowded breakout session at the Exponential Conference last week, a guy handed me a folded-up note. The kind of note you get from your best buddy in middle school, crinkled and hand written. He wanted free advice.

Here is what the note said:

Will, I can’t (currently) afford your time, and I know your time is not only valuable but I’m sure very limited. I am not very good at what you are great at. I need to be better for the sake of the kingdom. If you can help me think about my Vision Frame and future dreams, I’d love to connect. No pressure– If you can’t right now, please don’t. Thanks for what you do.

The purpose of this post is not just to respond to my conference attender (his name is Scott) but to equip you with how to get free advice from experts and time with great mentors.

Why did Scott’s note trigger this post? I stand on the shoulders of  many superb leaders who were always willing to take the time for me. But the more I grew in leadership the more inaccessible the best experts became. And yet, I still found ways to get free advice and time with great mentors. 

There are times when I pay for coaching and consulting. I think every effective leader should. However, I have received amazing benefits by working hard to find excellent teachers and rare mentoring moments. Depending on your experience level and resource base, the next best step for you is probably some cost-free advice or a significant mentoring engagement.

TIP #1: Don’t waste your breath stating the obvious; like talking about time and money.

If you ever want to spend a moment with a great leader or a well-known expert, don’t tell them that you value their time. You just wasted their time by making the statement. Show them that you value your time, by the first thing that comes out of your mouth. (More on this to come.)

Don’t tell them that you don’t have money. The person you want to learn from is not thinking about the money. Making the statement, “I can’t afford you” is lazy at best and an insult at worst, albeit unintended. Scott, who wrote the note above, could have spent time with me and learned from me, if he was prepared to learn from me. Money has nothing to do with it.

Keep in mind that most people you might want to learn from didn’t become experts by worrying about the money. They became experts because they are passionate, focused and experienced at what they do. They is always a path to access if you really want.

TIP #2: Know what you want from them before you approach

You are not ready to learn from an expert if you haven’t done a little homework. Do you know  what you are looking for? Do you know where you are stuck? Have you located your issue in the would-be mentor’s body of expertise? Imagine the difference between the next two appeals: “Thanks for your writing.  I have a question about vision…” Or, “I really appreciated chapter 14 in your latest book, and I have a question about the napkin-sketch version of our disciple-making strategy.” You won’t get free advice if you don’t know what kind of advice you need.

TIP #3: Be prepared with precise questions

This tip is the most important in this list. In fact you should probably list several versions of the same question to hone down exactly the best way to ask it. An expert by nature is most motivated to help you where nuances are important to performance. Avoid big, giant questions that are too general and imprecise. These questions expose either: 1)  Your lack of pre-work or 2) Your passing interest in the topic that you aren’t really going to follow-up. Look at the questions below to prompt how to begin asking a quick question that could deliver big value:

  • Would you invest a moment’s attention to tell me what you like best about this.
  • Your second point today had to do with this.  Here is our current approach on this. What do you see as our greatest limitation?
  • I have spent hours with a our team and have boiled down our best options to this and this. What question would you ask to help our team decide which one is best?
  • If we were to make this decision, what do you fear we have failed to consider?

TIP #4: Use their “love language”

Make your presence interesting and engaging for the expert by showing that you know something about them. Penn State. Mountain Biking. The names and interests of my wife and kids. Kite Boarding. Favorite travel spots. Fishing for smallmouth using topwater lures on a river. If these things are salt and peppered into a conversation with me, I am going to lean into the conversation and laugh with you.

If the person you want to learn from has just spoken at a conference or has written a book, there will be plenty of things you can pick-up and use. Experts are people too. Make the connection!

TIP #5: Have next steps ready depending on their response

The most important free advice may require a little extra time or effort from the teacher. The key question is, how do you get access? It’s important to think through what next steps might be involved. For example, maybe you are asking permission for  15-minute phone call or a lunch appointment.  Maybe you need them to review something you have created. How do you get a next step of commitment from them? First follow tips 1-4. Then follow tips 6-8. But as you do think very carefully about the scope of your follow-up request. Have 2-3 options or different “sized” requests ready based on the feel and vibe of the conversation. If the expert feels engaged make the bigger ask. If they feel distant, ask for the smallest next step possible.

TIP #6: Make a “next step ask” by appealing to an investment paradigm 

The more inaccessible the expert, the more thoughtful the appeal of the request must be. I like to use an investment paradigm. What does that mean? It means that I position myself to be the best investment of their time and energy. I let them know that I want to increase their impact and legacy. I want them to know that they are missing a great opportunity not to invest in me. Of course this could easily become arrogant. So don’t make it sound prideful. It is about how important they are, not me.  It’s about how busy they are not me. I want to simply differentiate why they should spend 15 minutes on the phone with me.

Show the expert quickly, precisely, and humbly why your request is worth their time, without talking about time. Don’t be afraid to list a 2-3 things that you have accomplished.

For example, one time I asked Carl George, if I could spend 3 hours with him over a long meal. I let him know that I lead a team of consultants in a non-profit church consulting group that works with over 300 churches a year. I told him I want to multiply his learnings for my generation. And he was glad to give me his time.

TIP #7: Never leave the initiative with them 

The saddest thing about Scott’s note to me, is that he wrote his cell phone down and asked me to call him. He thought he was respecting my time, but he wasn’t. He put a thing on my to do list that I will never get to. (Remember I am willing to spend time with him.) If he would have stopped me and said, “What’s the best way to ask a brief but intelligent question about church vision when you are not surrounded by people?” I would have given him my cell number and told him when to text me.

TIP #8: Model respectful persistence 

The single greatest mentor of my life was Howard Hendricks. I learned that his love language, like many accomplished experts,  is genuine initiative. Many students would flock to him after his inspiring teaching sessions. The after-crowd was big, but the real follow-up was thin. Why? Prof, as he was called, was not very dynamic and funny one-on-one. People got bored quickly with him in smaller settings, because they didn’t know how to learn from him.

Thousands are interested but very few are consistently persistent. If at first the expert does not respond,  try again. Differentiate yourself with great questions, engaging follow-up, and real initiative.

As you can see from this post, I love to learn. Here is my favorite post on learning: 6 Radical Steps to Learning What you Don’t Know

April 23, 2016

5 Crucial Social Media Cautions for Pastors

social media pastorsOn Tuesday this week, Mark DeMoss addressed a group of fifty senior pastors on the topic of social media. As a well known Christian public relations guy, I expected a list of pros and cons. But Mark shared 30-minutes worth of cons only, focusing on the unintentional abuse of social media by leaders and the downsides of engagement without reflection. After a few days of ruminating on his insights, the following “cautions” are my re-articulated points of his advice to pastors.

Crucial  Caution #1: Beware of a gradual grip of narcissism 

As someone who studies the brands of ministries and Christian leaders, Mark made a provocative statement. He noted that there is little difference sometimes between the social media of famous Christians and those just “famous for being famous.” While social media doesn’t change the heart or create narcissism, it certainly can be a tool to accelerate an unhealthy focus on self.

Crucial Caution #2: Don’t let immediate emotions get the best of you

The instant access to publishing on social media means that we can start “talking” in public while being frustrated and angry. Recently Perry Noble, the lead pastor of NewSpring Church, tweeted his frustration at American Airlines. His blog and apology for “I freaking hate American Airlines”  is a worthwhile lesson for any pastor on social media.

Crucial Caution #3: Consider whose benefit you are posting for

The question is, “Who is your constituency?” Who really is the designed beneficiary of your social media content. You? Your family? Your peers? Your congregation? Your “followers?”  Is it the people who sit on the front line of your ministry or other pastors in your network? I think it is easy for pastors to post content that is positioning themselves rather than serving the people they lead. 

To help calibrate the social media content for a pastor, Mark suggested asking this question: “Would an unemployed person in your church, whose spouse is battling cancer, appreciate your post?” 

Crucial Caution #4: Manage content to minimize “dueling brands”

It’s possible over time that the messaging of your social media feed starts to contradict your mission. What types of content create a disconnect from your true calling among the people in your sphere of social influence? To dramatize the reality that your social media is always emanating a brand, a message and a mission, Mark posed the scenario: “What if the next time your were introduced, they pulled up your instagram feed instead?” Would your most recent pictures and content be a suitable introduction? Would the mission and values of your life and ministry be present?

Crucial Caution #5: Don’t respond to critics in the social media space.

Because Mark deals with crisis management, I thought his black and white advice on responding to critics was helpful: Don’t! Due to the public nature of social media and the inherent lack of accountability and control of people who can attack, manipulate and fabricate, he recommends not responding.

One humorous example Mark gave involved a pastor who was responding back and forth to a critic on twitter. The pastor, with tens of thousands of followers, engaged in what become a social debate with the critic. The pastor soon realized that the critic only had a dozen followers. The critic was criticizing and no one was listening. No one was listening that is, until the pastor starting responding.

March 21, 2016

How Great Pastors Learn “Not to Care”

Great Pastors - Not to CareGreat pastors care about a lot of things and a lot of people. But with the non-stop opportunity to minister to peoples’ never ending needs, every pastor must eventually face a crazy question: “Is it possible to care too much?

An essay I read as a young pastor marked a pivot point in my life. It was an essay by Eugene Peterson entitled, “Teach us to Care and Not to Care” in his book Subversive Spirituality (The essay title is taken from a line in the poem by T.S. Eliot,  Ash Wednesday.) The big idea is that we must let God be God and not take too much personal responsibility for the spiritual growth of others. God is the one who causes the growth, not any man’s skill as an evangelist, teacher or shepherd. Great pastors must learn not to care too much.  It was a classic call to repent of the the “messiah complex.” Jesus is the only true rescuer.

The timing of a provocative article like this is everything. A a few years earlier in ministry journey, and the essay would not have made much sense. But at that time I was overwhelmed as a spiritual formation pastor with several thousand congregants in our church. I was feeling the increasing weight, week after week, of disappointing people by trying to do too much for too many. Peterson’s exhortation “not to care” was useful in breaking my spirit of self-importance.

This important essay would expand in its meaning over the years. Not only would the words “not to care” help me learn humility, they would remind me to focus my calling. Today,  I remind myself not to care in at least four ways. I will repeat Eugene Peterson’s phrase to keep the boldness of “not caring” anchored in a fundamental call to grace and kindness.

#1 – Great pastors don’t let anything but the gospel become the power center for life change. Teach me to care and not to care if I think my personal presence in any way becomes a source of transformation for other people.

#2 – Great pastors don’t let success in  ministry distract from their presence at home. Teach me to care and not to care if my ministry career is keeping me from coming home on time.

#3 – Great pastors don’t try to help everyone personally in their sphere of influence; they look long-term to multiply their ministry by investing in a few.  Teach me to care and not to care about doing the work myself when God is calling me to develop others who will multiply the work.

#4 – Great pastors don’t let the flood of trivial tasks distract from their core calling.  Teach me to care and not to care until I have given my best energy and effort every day to my most vital responsibilities.

Warning: One way that “not to care” will backfire.

Years ago, church consultant Lyle Schaller used an important idea to describe the pastor’s foundational work. He said a pastor must “pay the rent” when it comes to the basic expectations of the church board and congregation. Showing up to preach a good sermon is paying the rent. Showing up on time at the elders meeting is paying the rent. Doing the funeral only you can do is paying the rent.

I think that the “paying the rent” work of ministry is always important to care about. If my “not caring” ever becomes lethargy or laziness, then I have crossed a dangerous line. “Not caring” cannot justify sloppiness or slothfulness

Be passionate, work hard, and  stay focused by not caring too much.

February 27, 2016

5 Reasons Why Disciples Need Ministry Tools More than Sermons

Will Mancini on Ministry Tools
The discipleship results of your ministry are not defined by content of your preaching alone.  One significant factor that impacts disciple-making is tool-making.  Unfortunately, you might not recall any seminary classes or conference breakouts on making ministry tools.

Why not? The simplest explanation is that we rely too much on teaching. As a result, we as pastors, do not become good at training and spend little time on toolmaking. In fact the average pastor rarely pursues improved competency as a trainer. But pastors go to great lengths— attending workshops, digesting sermons, and reading books— to become better preachers. 

Think about it for a minute: Is your church better characterized as a teaching center or a training center? Do you consider yourself more of a bible-communicator or a people-developer? When is the last time you thought about finding or making ministry tools?

I know what you want to say— “It’s both Will, why would you separate it?” Of course your intent is both to communicate well and see a disciple form as a result.  But I want to separate the two so that you can double check your assumptions and expectations about how people change and grow. Does your teaching provide the pathway toward the modeling, practicing, and evaluating of new life skills? Are you really helping people develop new life competencies in the way of Jesus?  Or are you just preaching?

One proof that you are good at training is the presence of ministry tools. What tools have you given to people lately through one of your sermon series? When was the last time you brainstormed with your team about a new ministry tool to create? If you have small group leaders in the church, what ministry tools have you provided for them in the last year?

What’s the bottom line? If you are not adding ministry tools to the lives of your people, you are not close to maximizing a disciple-making culture. You are probably not equipping people that much.

Before explaining why, let’s define what we mean by a tool. One definition reads:

Tool: A handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task. The basic definition brings to mind a hammer or screwdriver that you hold in your hand. The definition may expand if a tool doesn’t have to be literally handheld. Another definition reads: a device or implement used to carry out a particular function.

The term “device” broadens the range for disciple-making purposes. For example, the model prayer of Jesus was a device to train the disciples how to pray. Jesus used questions, metaphors and parables as devices or tools of disciple-making that weren’t “handheld” per se.

So what are examples of ministry tools? Here are five:

  • A church does a sermon on praying and provides a prayer journal (ministry tool) as people walk out the door.
  • A pastor preaches on missional living and creates a table tent (ministry tool- a triangle-shaped brochure that stands in the middle of the dinner table)  for family conversations designed to encourage the application of being better neighbors for the sake of the gospel.
  • A team codifies a definition (ministry tool) of what kind of disciple their church is designed to produce and then creates a self-assessment (ministry tool) to use in small groups.
  • A pastor uses a 4-question, gospel fluency matrix (ministry tool) –drawable on a napkin–to help the congregation apply the gospel to the daily fluctuations of sinful emotions and actions.
  • A bible study leader passes out a business card (ministry tool) with a daily bible reading schedule and three applications questions to ask for every passage of scripture.

This is a short list that begins to illustrate the endless possibilities of ministry tools. Keep in mind that I didn’t even reference the internet or digital devices that really explode the possibilities ministry tool-making.

Now that we have defined and illustrated what a ministry tool or device is, let’s get to the heart of the post. Why do disciples need ministry tools more than sermons? Why should we not rely on preaching alone if we are to train people to follow Jesus?  Here are five compelling reasons:

#1 – A ministry tool signifies importance.  A tool highlights the greater importance of the idea thus setting it up for application and helping stand out among the competing messages in every area of life. When a tool is introduced in the flow of communication, the idea behind the tool will trump every other idea. The tool immediately indicates the value of repeatability as well.

#2 – A ministry tool activates learning. A tool utilizes a part of human brain that is activated by a concrete object to hold and use, or an audio device to return to like a question or repeatable story. Again this sets up an important step toward application. It engages visual and kinesthetic learners.

#3 – A ministry tool guides application. This is the main idea. The tool itself provides a “how to” that can be practiced, repeated and eventually mastered. It shows the way and validates when action has been taken or not.  The device clarifies a step of implementation. In a way, a tool gently brings accountability to the table–every time I see the tool, I know whether or not I have used it.

#4 – A ministry tool creates energy. A tool helps people feel excited about ideas. It helps people win. And by the way, may pastors can unintentionally create a sense of failure for their people.  As people listen to sermons year after year, they oftentimes feel like they aren’t growing like they should. A tool can reverse that dynamic. It’s focuses application, so they can do it. And that gives pastors the opportunity to celebrate their new skill development. Then, even more energy is created!

#5 – A ministry tool reproduces training. A tool makes every person a trainer not just the pastor or preacher. As a leader, it’s not important what you can do; it’s important what you can duplicate. If you make a tool, it can outlast you and be passed from disciple to disciple to disciple until Jesus returns again.

This last principle has changed by personal conviction that I must spend time to make tools. In fact my two most important books (tools themselves) are Church Unique an God Dreams each of which cover how to create a master tool for church leadership, the Vision Frame and the Horizon Storyline, respectively.

Ministry tools- family tree trainingI would love to hear from you. What is your favorite ministry tool? What ministry tools have you created recently?

A final illustration of one of my favorites is a how-to PDF and video on creating a family tree. This tool comes from a short sermon series at Clear Creek Community Church, my home church. To help people gain perspective and apply the gospel to the brokenness of extended family dynamics, they encouraged everyone to practice writing out their family diagram.