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 4, 2014

Finally, All the Help You Need to Build a Leadership Pipeline in Your Church

Developing Church Leaders

I have known Mac Lake for several years. I am convinced that God has raised Mac up to usher in a leadership development revolution in the church of North America. I am excited to bring this guest post from him:

It’s happened once again. You’ve lost a key leader and find yourself filling in and doing things you know you shouldn’t be doing. So, once again, you promise yourself that this year will be different. You’re going to conquer the challenge of leadership development and build a deep leadership bench- a pipeline for developing leaders – for your ministry.

Why is leadership development a reoccurring problem for so many? In short, it’s a lack of intentionality.  We know leadership development is important, but few leaders integrate it into their weekly routine. And even fewer develop an intentional plan that ensures an ongoing reproduction of leaders. It’s just too easy to be distracted by the urgent and allow the development of leaders to take a back seat to everything else. We feel stuck and we’re too busy to develop leaders, but we need more leaders to get all the work done.

In 2013 I begin working with Will Mancini at Auxano to provide a Leadership Pipeline Development process for churches. The process focuses on building a culture of leadership development and emphasizes four essential components of an intentional leadership development strategy:

STRUCTURE – How is your church structured? 

Just as our spinal structure can dramatically impacts our mobility, our church structure can impact the development of new leaders. Most churches structure for function rather than for development.  An intentional leadership development strategy focuses on both function and development.

SYSTEM – How do potential leaders move to new levels of leadership? 

It’s essential you have a defined system or map for moving leaders from one level to the next. The absence of such a system makes the leadership development pathway confusing and inconsistent. It unintentionally blocks the movement of leaders.

CONTENT – What skills are essential for every level of the leadership pipeline?

As leaders move to new levels of leadership it requires new skills. Too often we simply throw them into leadership responsibility without proper preparation. An intentional Leadership Pipeline Development plan has defined exactly what competencies are required for various levels of leadership, and how to get them there.

PEOPLE — Who is responsible for equipping new leaders?

If that responsibility falls solely on the shoulders of one person, you will never build a culture of leadership development. The focus must be on raising an abundant harvest of reproducing leaders in your church. That’s when you will begin to fill your leadership pipeline.

Throughout 2014 I will be working with individual churches in six month iterations. During the six months you will get…

  •  20 Principles for creating a culture of Leadership Pipeline Development
  • Tools and techniques for developing leaders
  • A template to guide you in building your own systems
  • Development of a learning path for every level of your pipeline
  • An action planning guide for use between sessions

If you’re interested in participating in a six-month process for building an intentional Leadership Pipeline Development strategy, fill out the form below and I’ll connect with you.

February 8, 2014

What is Break-Thru Clarity in Ministry?

Vision and Clarity in Ministry

Break-thru clarity is a simple thing that makes a huge impact in your life.  It’s a powerful thing that will dramatically change your ministry.

Most of our days are filled with the daily stuff. And the daily stuff is always pushing you here and pulling you there.  Sunday is coming. People are needy. There’s never enough time. Church life goes on.

Amidst this daily rhythm—sometimes flow and sometimes grind—we find the beauty and blessing of break-thru clarity. Maybe it’s easiest to describe what it feels like when you have it.

  • It’s the power of seeing the same things in a whole new way.
  • It’s the surge of energy that rushes through you and doesn’t seem to stop.
  • It’s the freedom of perspective that suddenly makes prioritization easy.
  • It’s the satisfaction that comes when the staffing puzzle finally make sense.
  • It’s the confidence of a much more vivid 3-year vision.
  • It’s the thrill of a team that wins, again and again.

When God brings you break-thru clarity, nothing feels better.

But for most of us, too much time has passed since our last break-thru. The funny thing about break-thru is that we forget what it feels like; we forget how bad we need it.

How does this happen? Once we taste a little bit of success in ministry, which is always nice, there is plenty to work on. Something is going well and that is good enough. We stay busy. We start something new. We grow. We start another thing. We hire another staff person.

Or maybe you inherit a church with a legacy or we attain a position with prior influence. There’s a lot to protect, a budget to steward. There are expectations from the past and assumptions about the future built into every conversation.

The end result is the same. While you read this there are a hundred other things to read and a thousand other things to do. And you aren’t the only one person in the equation. Your church has other leaders, lots of volunteers and other staff.  They too have thousand things to do to.

 This collective activity becomes the enemy of break-thru clarity. Just imagine…

  • When a potential member asks a question like “Who are we as a church?” or  “Where is God taking us?” what do you say?
  • If someone throws a curveball into the conversation like,  “Are we really making disciples?”  how do you respond?
  • When an elder asks, with a hint of sarcasm “What is our priority for this year?” What’s the next word out of your mouth?

Break-thru clarity is about living and leading with answers to questions like these.  Break-thru clarity is both something you experience and something you have as a team.

What is break-thru clarity?

It is a God-given idea, well understood and skillfully articulated, that brings notable and immediate progress toward realizing your vision.

A simple conviction drives us on the Auxano team: Life is short enough and ministry is hard enough not to have break-thru clarity.  We exist because break-thru does not; or at least not often enough.

When’s the last time your team experienced break-thru clarity?  Where in your ministry could you use break-thru today?

To connect with me and the team at Auxano about break-thru clarity, fill out this short form below.

Fill out my online form.

October 28, 2013

Will the Real Mission Please Stand Up – The 12 Functional Mission Statements of Churches in North America

Church mission statementsI wrote this post to be fun and challenging. By “functional mission statement,” I mean the unstated ideal that really drives the empowered leadership of the church.  I work with all types of churches including all of the ones below. So I want to state up front that this blog post is an equal opportunity offender!

  • Community / Seeker / Multisite churches
  • External Focus / Missional churches
  • Mainline / Liturgical churches
  • Church plants / Home churches
  • Reformed / Gospel-centered churches
  • Charismatic / Spirit-filled churches

Which one of these most characterizes your church culture? 

#1  Our mission is to grow worship service attendance by attracting the “have-it-together”  people in our community who will then invite other “have-it-together”  people in our community.

#2  Our mission is to talk about the glory and pleasure of God so much that no one will doubt that our highest motive is the glory and pleasure of God.

#3  Our mission is to have over 100 people in our worship service who will give enough that the pastor can feed his kids.

#4  Our mission is to have the most and most highly visible service projects in our community.

#5  Our mission is to be ready for 1950 in case that decade rolls around again.

#6  Our mission is to have a children’s ministry that will attract young families who want the best for their kids.

#7  Our mission is never-ending, double-digit, transfer growth in our relevant worship services by franchising our church across our region.

#8  Our mission is to be the only genuine church in our city because we don’t need church buildings and refuse to let our children be influenced by the public school system.

#9  Our mission is to build a platform for our incredibly gifted pastor so he will never want to leave and we can keep enjoying his gifting.

#10  Our mission is to feel good that we are Spirit-filled and to help others feel good through our Spirit-filled worship services where God’s presence feels good.

#11  Our mission is to have a gospel-centered mission statement that will help a gospel-centered people do anything we want as long as it is gospel-centered.

#12 Our mission is to keep the elders happy, bills paid and staff employed.

Okay, now its your turn. What other ideas do these 12 spark for you? How would you poke fun of your own church?  Help me create a list of 25!

What functional mission statements am I missing? Use hashtag #missionfun. 

 

October 24, 2013

Join Me at the Multiply Conference on Friday, Oct. 25 and Saturday, Oct. 26

Multiply Conference 2013

I’ll be speaking at the Multiply Conference 2013 this Friday and Saturday up in beautiful Colorado Springs, on the campus of Vanguard ChurchIt’s always a privilege to speak to church planters who are stoked about reaching their communities with vision clarity!

WHEN AND WHERE I’M TEACHING

Here’s where you and I  can connect:

Friday Oct 25th | 9:30-11:30
PreConference Track
“Vision Clarity for your Church”

 

Friday Oct 25th | 2:15-3:15
Break Out Session
“Discovering Your Kingdom Concept: How to Unlock and Unleash Your Unique Strengths as a Church”

 

Friday Oct 25th | 3:30-4:30
Break Out Session
“Six Elements of Compelling Vision: How to Bring Meaning and Momentum to Every Conversation”

 

On Saturday Oct 26th, I’ll be sharing from the main stage at 10:50 on ”Navigating the Five Vision Tensions of Every Church Planter”.

 

CONFERENCE TWEETS

If you’re on Twitter you can ping me with your thoughts and questions during the conference with the hashtag #multiply and I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for it.

I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones at the Multiply Conference!

 

 

 

 

Click the link above to register for the conference if you haven’t yet done so.