July 4, 2015

The Nine Forms of Generic Church Vision that Stifle Practically Every Church

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Most pastors are visionaries. But to fully realize the vision of a church, a pastor needs more than a generic sense of the future.

When it comes to vision, the biggest challenge to success is not your obstacles. The biggest challenge to overcome is settling for a lesser vision and not knowing it. If you grab on to a faulty tool—in this case the tool of vision—everything you to try to build with that tool will be limited.

Once you move past a generic sense to a vivid vision, you will still have many obstacles to overcome, but those are the natural challenges of implementation. You still have the hard work to do. But every action and every point of communication is more powerful with the vivid and compelling picture of the future in view.

If you are living with generic vision, and I believe most pastors are, more of your implementation challenges have to do with clarity than you realize. In the last week alone, I have seen issues like staff hiring decisions, children’s programming decisions, and campus launch decisions all present major dilemmas only because of unclear vision. Yet the lead pastor didn’t recognize it as such.

How then, can we apprehend the generic church vision that plagues our churches? In my forthcoming book, God Dreams, I have identified nine forms generic vision to help you name it in your church. The nine stem from three healthy biases. That is to say, we empower generic vision with good motives most of the time. We do the wrong thing for the right reason. It’s a good motive taken a little too far in application.

The three healthy biases are: accuracy, growth and efficiency. I will briefly describe each bias with the three forms of generic vision they create. Also, I will invite you to receive free God Dreams resources when they are available at the link below. The next resource is a worksheet to help your team identify its specific form of generic vision.

#1 – ACCURACY BIAS

A healthy bias toward accuracy can lead us to confuse Biblical statements with Biblically informed vision.

 The story of church vision in the last two decades could be described as the great misuse of the Great Commandment (Mt. 22:34-40) and the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20). Most people have heard some variation of the following as a vision statement for a local church:

  •  “Our vision is to love God and love others.” (Love God vision)
  •  “Our vision is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.” (Make disciples vision)
  • “Our vision is to glorify God.” (Glorify God vision) 

These are biblical imperatives that should apply to all churches, but not as a vision statement. Why? When Jesus summarized the law, He was not giving churches a vision statement. This is a meaningful summary of the law, but it’s not an answer to the question: if we’re a church, what should our vision be for the next three to twenty years?

To summarize the problem, in our efforts to be biblical we fail to be imaginative, by cut-n-pasting verses as vision.

#2 – GROWTH BIAS

A healthy bias toward growth can lead us to substitute a grow-only vision for a growth-minded vision. 

Some church leaders equate growth with vision. “If we experience momentum, we must have vision,” they reason. Here are three examples of how growth becomes an end in itself as generic kinds of vision statements for a local church:

  •  “Our vision is to reach more people for Christ.” (Reach more vision)
  • “Our vision is to build a bigger facility or launch more campuses in order to take the gospel to more places.” (Build more vision)
  • “Our vision is to change world.” (More change vision)

Every church should be reaching more people and multiplying disciples. And an increased response can certainly lead to more facilities and more campuses.

A healthy bias for growth might undergird a vision, but statements like these are weak by themselves. “Reaching more” and “changing the world” are too vague. And buildings and campuses might be important tools, but they are means to something greater, not an end in themselves.

#3 – EFFICIENCY BIAS

A healthy bias toward efficiency can lead to a done-for-you vision that neglects adequate do-it-yourself vision ownership. 

Church leaders across the centuries have been drawn to learn from other churches where good things seem to be happening. Often this happens with the best of motives: they suspect God is at work and they want to be part of it. They appreciate the encouragement, the ideas, the tools, and the training from the other churches’ leadership. They follow the spirit of 1 Corinthians 11:1 where the Apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” A noble intent for sure.

But the passion that says, “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” while wisely seeking to improve efficiency, can lead to a debilitating blockage of the imagination. Who wants to leverage the learning of others to the point of sacrificing the thrill of having a God-given, handcrafted vision?

This bias shows up in several approaches to vision. But unlike the accuracy bias and the growth bias, the efficiency bias doesn’t usually express itself in a written vision statement, but in the mindset of the leaders. I would label three expressions of this intent as follows:

  •  Serve as a franchise vision
  • Offer the most vision (i.e., more programs)
  • Be the best vision (model church, top 10, etc.) 

Of course I have much more to say about these nine forms of generic vision in God Dreams. But I bet this is enough to begin a meaningful conversation with your team.

The post will be unpacked in greater detail in God Dreams, my fourth book. The subtitle is 12 Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future.  I invite you to sign up for pre-release specials before the book is published in 2016 (link below). The biggest one will be a free visual summary that you won’t want to miss! The next tool I am providing is a generic vision worksheet.

Get on the list for pre-release specials for God Dreams here.

June 3, 2015

46 Ways to Use Periscope in Local Church Ministry

A guest post from Bryan Rose, one of Auxano’s Lead Navigators.

As the social media app Periscope continues to grow in popularity, an ever-increasing number of church leaders are leaning in to this emerging tool as an opportunity to connect and transfer vision.

Periscope videos are public broadcasts viewable by anyone, with notifications that are sent to your followers and to your Twitter feed when you “go live.” However, there is also a private broadcasting feature which allows the user to limit potential viewers to a select group of followers.

Given this functionality, the ability to interact with viewers, and the 24-hour lifespan of each video saved, here are 46 examples of how leaders might use Periscope in Church Ministry…

For the Vision-Dripping Senior Pastor…

1. Deliver daily devotions during a season of campaigning

2. Share vision-soaked highlights of the day on Sunday evenings

3. Reveal a Thursday afternoon sermon preview with handles on how to invite to Sunday services

4. Broadcast business meetings during those hard-to-quorum summer months

5. Lead sermon-based small group leaders by reviewing main points and potential applications

6. Share weekly prayer moments – taking requests and praying

7. Poll member’s feelings about a topic while preparing a sermon

8. Host regular “Bible answer man” / tough questions sessions

9. Give live tours and updates during a building or renovation project

10. Moderate monthly roundtables with area pastors to discern community needs and promote unity

For the Mission-Multiplying MultiSite Campus Pastor…

11. Connect the core team to vision during pre-launch phase

12. Bring updates to the entire church before, during or after campus services

13. Host community round tables anchoring campus to geographic location

14. Moderate real-time chat with the teaching pastor, connecting them personally to the context

15. Broadcast set-up/tear-down as it happens, capturing the heart for vision behind the hard work of the volunteers

16. View the central campus live feed with onscreen notes for campus leaders as they happen

17. Engage live Q&A with teaching pastor, fed from stage at each campus

For the Deep-Connecting Christian Education Director…

18. Conduct weekly training for leaders highlighting vision-fueled application questions

19. Create regular input sessions with group leaders receiving feedback and sharing stories of discipleship

20. Highlight a small group each week and live stream from their meeting

21. Reinforce the vision of connection and community by sharing stories from groups

22. Invite invested leaders into real-time thinking and get input before decisions are made

For the Snapchatting-Before-It-Was-Cool Youth Leader…

23. Share nightly updates on what God is doing among the youth at camp or on a mission trip

24. Preview youth group worship topics for students with an inviting hook for students to use at school

25. Prep youth volunteers on their role in upcoming big events

26. Create fun, interactive video segments during youth group

27. Push real-time helps for parents in response to a community crisis or cultural event

28. Blow up a student’s big game, performance or life event, letting everyone celebrate with them

29. Host a live “ask me anything” night for the teenagers, if you dare

For the People-Empowering Children’s Minister…

30. Build VBS anticipation with a walk thru of environments theming

31. Deliver weekly volunteer preparation for the lesson or craft that will be used that week

32. Broadcast VBS rec/craft/worship with real-time look-ins

33. Host monthly parent forums with Q&A on a particular topic

34. Give a Sunday night recap of the morning with questions for parent/child interaction around the lesson

35. Settle once and for all how much more fun volunteering with kids really is

For the Always-Analyzing Executive Pastor..

36. Produce training updates on one of your boring policies or procedures

37. Live stream mandatory annual health insurance meetings – the staff can fake interest by sending hearts

38. Realize, that – who are we kidding – you bristle at the thought of another social media channel to have to police

For the Cause-Mobilizing Missions Pastor…

39. Transmit updates from teams as they reflect on the work of God that day

40. Host “Missions Weekend” interviews with missionaries in the field

41. Give progress reports on construction projects or evangelistic initiatives

42. Live stream back home from worship environments around the world

43. Produce time-zone transcending monthly updates to partners in the field, with feedback and prayer request avenues built-in

44. Keep track of the “church has left the building” projects as they are happening

45. Connect groups meeting in prisons or missions centers to the larger church body

For the Hard-Working Church Custodian…

46. Show everyone how wrecked the church is after a youth meeting

Read more from Bryan.

May 28, 2015

12 Startling Reasons to Practice Long Term Thinking in Ministry

I have never been more excited to put a tool in the hand of church leaders. God Dreams is my fourth book and I’m currently in the writing home stretch with Warren Bird, who’s been an amazing collaborator. The subtitle is 12 Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future.

Here is the first of many peeks into the book. I invite you to sign up for pre-release specials before the book is published in 2016 (link below). The biggest one will be a free visual summary that you won’t want to miss!

One of the chapters in God Dreams is focused on recovering the long view of visionary planning. I unpack the benefits of “thinking long” in a world obsessed with now. The long term vision tool that I debut in the book is called the Horizon Storyline. It’s a visionary planning method that snaps right into the Vision Frame.

For more than a few reasons, the practice of long term thinking is hard to come by these days. Steward Brand, who is working on an interesting project called the 10,000-year clock project writes:

Civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span.The trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology, the short horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next election perspective of democracies or the distractions of personal multitasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing corrective is needed.

What are the 12 startling reasons to practice long term thinking in ministry?

  1. Think long because, most likely, you will lead for a long time.
  2. Think long to love people beyond your lifetime.
  3. Think long because that’s how God reveals himself.
  4.  Think long because God thinks generationally.
  5.  Think long because you will live forever.
  6.  Think long because how big you think guides how much you accomplish.
  7.  Think long to build a ministry that will endure.
  8.  Think long because it costs you nothing.
  9.  Think long to master plan your disciple-making impact.
  10.  Think long to connect people to God’s big story of redemptive history.
  11.  Think long to focus a broader resource base.
  12.  Think long so that God can do more than you think.

Get on the list for pre-release specials for God Dreams here.

May 23, 2015

7 Reasons Why Every Church Leader Should Consider Periscope, the New Social Tool

It’s only been eleven days since I heard about Periscope from one of Auxano’s newest navigators, Chris Rivers. We were doing a leadership training event at Elmbrook Church with 500 leaders discussing their new mission and values. In seconds,  Chris started live streaming the event and over 40 people joined in. Since then, I have broadcast 11 live events, averaging one per day. Yesterday, anyone could have watched 15 minutes of Auxano’s virtual team training. Last night anyone could have chatted with me about book writing, while I hosted a 15 minutes Q&A at 11 o’clock at night trying to stay awake for another few hours. (I have 14 days left to finish God Dreams, my fourth book.)

What is Periscope? It’a an insanely simple, live streaming tool that connects with your twitter account. (Twitter bought it for $100 million.) Whatever you live stream, people can comment on, and “heart” showing realtime interaction and engagement. Best of all, it archives your live streaming event for 24 hours so that you followers can watch later if they weren’t available.   Read more at Wired or TechCrunch.

So why should every church leader jump on the band wagon?

Let me say up front that I am not a tech guy and I don’t really pay close attention to all of the new stuff that comes out. I am an opportunistic guy, who sees patterns fast and far.  What periscope will become is actually mind numbing when you consider the possibilities.  I won’t unpack it in this post.

But I do want to urge you to get on this tool and start experimenting.  Here are at least seven reason why every church leader should consider periscope, the new social media tool. 

GENERAL LEADERSHIP REASONS

 #1 Every new social tool is a new opportunity to learn as a leader.

I know you are busy and you can’t get distracted by everything. But the benefits of this opportunity are huge. If you keep the perspective of periscope as a leadership tool and a learning tool it will help. Think of is this way— It’s more efficient and probably more fun than reading another leadership book.

#2 Your influence may dramatically increase if you are an early adopter with a tool that will be widespread.

You want to be in the know when the odometer turns and everyone is reset to zero. That’s right, everyone is at the starting line. And the first ones to use it will begin to have differentiated influence. And every day you wait, you get further behind.

 #3 Periscope doesn’t start from scratch, but leverages your current twitter following. 

Fortunately you are not turning a giant flywheel with no momentum, unless of course you are not on twitter. For many of you, jumping into periscope will enable you to connect with dozens of people due to its integration with twitter. Yup, more stuff to retweet!

MINISTRY SPECIFIC REASONS

The most important factors, of course, have to do with the gospel and your ministry calling.

#4 Periscope removes the greatest barrier to discipleship—opportunities for life modeling that don’t require physical presence.

You can teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are. Periscope is an amazing tool for life modeling. Think about it. You might teach or preach to a crowd once a week. But who gets to see you do family devotions? Who might want to peek in for 5 minutes to see where you have your God times? What’s better than seeing the mission trip live from a handful of people on the ground?

What did Jesus due when he came to earth? He modeled his life so that he could start a life-modeling chain reaction. When he left he provided his personal presence through the Holy Spirit. He distributed his presence through the incredible nature of the Trinity himself. In some ways that is the same multipliable opportunity with Periscope. Periscope has been called “consensual voyeurism.” I would encourage you to think about it as “ever-present modeling multiplication”

#5 Periscope expands how a mobile society can stay connected to your ministry events.

My first post in 2015 became popular as I discussed why you most committed people will attend church less frequently. Here is a tool to address that challenge. Why wouldn’t you want to have a distributed workforce of people showing your ministry events, shared experiences and God moments as a church? I can’t wait to see the applications for church communicators!

 #6 Periscope creates a new horizon of innovation opportunity for the almost 8 billion in the world. 

The mind blowing begins when you think of the modeling, teaching and training opportunities leveraged across a growing global population of digitally connected people.  If you want some fuel to throw on your imagination, consider reading this post on 8 Predictions for the world in 2025.

Do you ever get tired of the church lagging far behind the innovation curve? Again, here is an new opportunity to leap ahead.

#7 There will be tons of distracting and even evil stuff on Periscope, so let’s saturate it with the gospel! 

Enough said.

Are you on Periscope yet? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Oh and be sure to connect with me @willmancini. Periscope up!

April 3, 2015

5 Biblical Principles for Personal Visioning

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Two new initiatives have marked my ministry in 2015 and have me spending more time on personal visioning.

The first is leading my first personal vision cohort. Fourteen people have joined with me for a 12-month journey of finding and aligning their personal vision. It continues to be a great joy, and you will see a lot of new content on my blog toward the end of 2015 under the banner of “younique.”   Younique will be a brand for training and tools for personal visioning like nothing else currently available.

Another initiative is writing the official trade book follow-up to Church Unique— the book is called God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future. Both of these books have me digesting content about visioning and dreaming.

Today I wanted to pass on five biblical principles for discerning your personal vision from Chip Ingram. These come right out of his chapter from Good to Great In God’s Eyes: 10 Practices Great Christians have in Common.  He calls it “Sanctified Dreaming” which I really appreciate. Chip does a great job of anchoring his insights in Scripture and is sensitive to the problem of chasing dreams for self-fulfillment rather than God’s glory.

Here are his principles for dreaming God-sized dreams, each taken from the life of a biblical character. 

#1  God commands us to step out of our comfort zone (ABRAHAM)

#2  God puts his dream in your heart (JOSEPH) I like his emphasis on God’s dream not ours.

#3  God allows us to fail in our attempts to accomplish his dream in our own power. (MOSES)

#4  God teaches us through adversity to love the dream giver more than the dream. (DAVID)

#5  God clarifies our calling in times of crisis and often uses our worst failures as the platform for his future fulfillment. (PAUL)

I particularly like the last principle. Scarcity breeds clarity. And I am always amazed how God uses our failures to bring his fulfillment, which has reflected my own life story.