April 19, 2014

Welcome to “No Church” – 4 Steps To Reversing Your Negative Church Messaging

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 12.12.30 PMAlmost without exception, churches somewhere utilize negative messaging for very practical reasons. After all, someone parking in the wrong spot can create havoc. So it’s quite natural to put up a sign that says, “No Parking Along Curb.”

But is that the only way to get the intended result?


Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 7.47.14 AMThe question is worth asking because studies show the impact of negative verses positive messaging on the brain. Negative messaging narrows your thought activity and focuses on actions related to the message. Positive messages on the other hand, broaden your thinking and create openness. More on this topic, from The Science of Positive Thinking.

So the big question is what kind of brain patterns do you want to create for people as they enter your church an prepare to worship the all-powerful and all-present living God and creator of the universe?

Let’s play this out for a guest coming to your church. What happens when they hit a cascade of messages like these:

  • No parking
  • Do not enter
  • For church members only
  • No skateboarding
  • No rollerblading
  • No bicycles
  • No scooters
  • No food or drink allowed
  • No talking
  • No trespassing
  • No running
  • No mobile phones
  • No signs allowed
  • No posters
  • No advertising
  • No parking along the curb

Essentially you create what we call the “No Church” church dynamic. Enough negative messaging and you might as well be saying…Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 12.00.27 PM

  • Don’t come here
  • Don’t relax
  • Don’t worship
  • Don’t find God

Sounds laughable, doesn’t it. It wouldn’t if you could feel the influence of multi-stages of negative messaging from the perspective of someone totally new to church.

What can you do about this dilemma? Four things:

Step #1: Inventory your negative messages. List every one, walking from your entrance of your church to the worship center or sanctuary.

Step #2: Ask how important the prohibition message really is. I once worked with a church that prohibited the use of the ball field on their campus. Is that really worth it?

Step #3: Consider a positive message instead. This might not be obvious at first glance, but explore options as a team. Can a “No parking along curb” sign be replaced with a “Please keep traffic flowing” sign?

Step #4:  Use your negative message  with a point of humor. Why not have fun if you must communicate a negative message? The classic illustration is the “Thou shalt not park here” sign. What other ideas have you seen?

And, if you have any other funny negative messages, please share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 6, 2014

Why Your Church is Probably Operating at Less than 50% Effectiveness

Church Mission StatementMost of you will disagree with what I am about to suggest. Nevertheless, I will try my best to share with you what I’ve learned over the last 13 years. Keep in mind that this post title is not a theory; it comes from a front row seat watching real transformation of senior pastors, their staff, their lay leaders, and eventually their entire congregation.

First, I’ll share the problem and give some quick illustrations of churches in the transformation process. Secondly, I will give two analogies to reinforce my point.

THE PROBLEM

The problem is that most churches have a general sense of their mission rather than clearly defined and contextually crafted mission.  What does it mean to be working with a general sense of mission? Let’s illustrate. I just surveyed the top 10 staff at a large church (and by most standards a successful church) running over 1,000 in weekend attendance. When asked to state their mission, the answers included:

  • Extending the joy of following Christ to all people
  • To make disciples and serve the community
  • Reach people and growing disciples
  • Being God’s agent in world to make a difference in the world, everywhere we go.
  • To provide worship, small group and service opportunities

These statements of mission illustrate “leading from a general sense” for two reasons. First, they are not articulating the same words. Second, they are general re-articulations of the great commission. Any nuance among them is due to the bias and experience of the individual. One sounds operational while another sounds missional. One is a follower of John Piper, and one just read, “The Externally Focused Church.” You get the idea.

Now, some may object and suggest that these generic restatements aren’t a problem at all. Isn’t having a general orientation toward a disciple-making mission enough? I don’t think so.

REAL MISSION

In the last 4 years, I have worked with three churches all within a 10 minutes drive from one another in Dallas, Texas. All of these churches run over 1,000 in weekend attendance. Below is the new articulated mission of each church. Keep in mind that when I started working with them, the key leaders only had a general sense of mission.

Church #1: Inviting people into the unexpected joy of desperate dependence on Jesus.

Church #2: Rescuing one another from cultural Christianity to follow Jesus every day.

Church #3: Calling the Christian-ish to become passionate servants of Christ.

Each one of these churches has a mission that reflects:

  • Aspects of denominational heritage (Bible, Baptist & Methodist, respectively)
  • Clues to their corporate strengths and passion as a congregation
  • Nuances guided by their location and facility assets within Dallas
  • An outward posture based on engaging the Dallas culture

Last week I had a follow-up visit with two of the churches. Here are exact quotes from their staff:

  • “We are not the same church we used to be.”
  • “Everyone in our church ‘gets it.’  They know who we are and what we are about, and this creates powerful synergy.
  • “As a result of our focus with leaders in the body, we gave $550,000 more than we ever have to a one-time missions offering (50% increase in giving).”
  • “Our greatest challenge is a willing readiness of our people to do more!”

More energy. Greater resources. Better synergy.  Would you like to have that right now at your church? Sure you would. Would you have guessed that the first step toward this “more” is defining for the first time what your specific mission is as a church? Probably not. And that’s my point. As a result of your generic mission you are most likely operating at less than 50% of what you could be. If you don’t know your mission, you certainly don’t have a culture of mission. And if you don’t have a culture of mission, than what are people in your church really doing? Why are they there?

TWO ANALOGIES

The first analogy is a restaurant start-up. Imagine that we were excited to start a new restaurant and believed it had the potential to be a successful franchise. To get off the ground we want to attract investors and a few talented people to join our ambitious dream. How successful do you think we would be if our mission were to “make food and serve the community?” You guessed it— not very. Why? The language of mission does nothing to differentiate us from the thousands of restaurants that already exist. Nor does it guide our thinking, synergy, planning and communication for practical next steps. We really need to decide whether we are a fast-casual Italian or fine-dining seafood? Right!?

Consider another very different example. My wife Romy is a very talented artist. Sometimes she paints a random scene or an image that inspired her. Sometime she paints with a purpose, selecting a pre-determined location for a painting with a specific objective that guides the content, color and emotion of the work. What might look like the same act to an unknowing observer—Romy painting two similar paintings—is actually very different. One painting requires no pre-thought or preparation. The other work of art is very calculated; she paints with a completely intensity and focus. Purpose changes everything!

So now it’s up to you. If this post means anything to you, conduct a litmus test: do your people know your mission? Is it meaningfully articulated based on your understanding of what your church can do better than 10,000 others? If not, then I think you are operating at a capacity less than 50% of what you should be. And that’s not an exaggeration. And, if you want to talk about it just let me know in the comments below.

If you already do run with a clear, concise, compelling and contextual mission, I would love to know about it and share it with the world. Let me know your mission in the comments section below.

Life if short and ministry is hard. So let’s lead with stunning clarity!

March 25, 2014

The Vision Statements of 13 Great Leaders in the Bible

Spiritual Vision

In a previous post, I introduced the powerful concept call the Future Perfect Paradigm. I am continuing this series by looking at the vision statements or the future perfect of 13 biblical leaders. What is the future perfect paradigm?

The Future Perfect Paradigm is simply looking at everything today through the lens of a powerful future perspective. The more clear and powerful the future perspective, the greater the impact it can have on the way you look at today. 

The summary chart below is taken from work by Robert Clinton and only slightly tweaked and expanded.

Vision Statements of Biblical Leaders and Future Perfect Paradigm

We will continue to explore how the idea of a future perfect paradigm add value to the typical notion of a vision statement in the next post.

March 17, 2014

Smiling is Not Enough: The Top Ten Mistakes Your Volunteers Make Welcoming Guests at Church

Guest at Church, Will Mancini & AuxanoThe team at Auxano enjoys playing the role of “secret worshipper” when we take a church through our visioning process called the Vision Pathway.  We call it a guest perspective evaluation. As I prepare to debrief a church again tomorrow, I want to share some general insights on welcoming ministry and hospitality for guests.

Here are the top ten mistakes I see when volunteers are helping me as a first time guest:

#1   Volunteers have not thought in advance about my next step as a guest so they don’t know how to guide the conversation with me. 

#2   Volunteers  are talking with friends and don’t notice me.

#3   Volunteers are doing task work and are not available or responsive the moment I show up.

#4   Volunteers generally hesitate when I initiate with a question. 

#5   Volunteers don’t know where the most pertinent information is located.

#6   Volunteers  tell me what to do with no information or tools or other people to help me.  

#7   Volunteers generally look preoccupied, distracted or unsure of themselves in their non-verbals even when being friendly.

#8   Volunteers are unaware of the basic “how to” questions for checking-in children of every age.

#9   Volunteers don’t introduce me to others at the church.

#10 Volunteers gave me written information that is not important, pertinent or strategic (sending me on a bee-line to the trash can). 

If you want more resources on welcoming ministry and church guest services, check out VisionRoom.com and follow Bob Adams who works as Auxano’s Vision Room curator and guest services maven. Here is a list of resources on his blog

My team and I want to connect with you. Fill out the short form below and one of our Navigator’s will contact you.

March 10, 2014

What’s Your Future Perfect Paradigm? Exploring a Powerful Ministry Tool

The future of the church

What if there was a simple way of thinking about your day today, that could radically transform it?

The term “future perfect paradigm” originates from the work of Stanley Davis in the eighties. He used the term as a framework in strategic planning. Even though the term may sound like just another cool way to talk about vision, Davis brought some unique and helpful thoughts to the study of vision and planning.

I will explore a few key ideas from Davis in a series of posts. In addition, I want to expose you to some of Robert Clinton’s adaptation of Davis’s work as the maven of Christian leadership “stages” and timeline thinking.

Awesome stuff- I promise.

But let’s get started right now with a definition:

Paradigm: a controlling perspective which allows one to perceive and understand reality.

The Future Perfect Paradigm is simply looking at everything today through the lens of a powerful future perspective. The more clear and powerful the future perspective, the greater the impact it can have on the way you look at today. 

Let’s unpack that a bit more. Put on your grammatical hat from Greek class and think of the future-perfect tense. From a time perspective, the present is the past of the future. So imagine having such a powerful image of the future that the present is transformed. It is transformed because the present must lead to that future.

One illustration is the world-class athlete that will fully envision the final performance before the event. Clinton explains, “They will actually go through the event twice, once in their mind—a future perfect way of thinking, and then when it actually happens.” It’s not that hard to image how decisions, priorities, practice and discipline are all shaped by a the substance of a necessary future that has been well defined. Now read Hebrews 11 and consider the biblical concept of faith—”the assurance of things hoped for, the convictions of things not seen.”  Pretty strong connect to the future perfect paradigm, wouldn’t you say?

Stay tuned and we will take a look at how this adds some new meaning to the work of vision planning and vision casting.

What are some of the very cool things you can look forward to?

  • How about a summary table of the “future perfect” vision of thirteen biblical leaders to get us started.
  • Then I want to take a look at one of my favorite ideas for the visionary- “beforemath.” Beforemath is the kissin cousin to a term you already know- “aftermath.”
  • Finally we will look at Clinton’s five stages toward developing a future perfect paradigm.