November 15, 2014

Stop Being an Overworked Pastor by Becoming an Essential One

I run into overworked pastors every week. In this second post of a series reflecting on the book, Essentialism, by Greg McKeown for the benefit of church leaders , I want to explore the reality that you are bombarded with the “trivial many” every day in ministry. In fact, you are probably an overworked pastor:

Now let me ask you this: Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin? Have you ever felt both overworked and underutilized? Have you ever found yourself majoring in minor activities? Do you ever feel busy but not productive? Like you’re always in motion, but never getting anywhere?

Of course you have. We all have, especially working in the church. What are you going to do about it? Allow me to recommend, in the words of Greg McKeown, that it starts by discerning the trivial many from the vital few! The key to being an “essential pastor” is knowing precisely what you are called to do. As you focus on the essential things God wants you to focus on you will accomplish more with less energy. And most likely, you will have more joy doing it. But you must find the “vital few.” More ministry and more joy without the burden of more work on your back. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?  I can assure you that its not. So, how do you get there? Three actions are the first steps of freeing yourself from the burden of “too much” and flood of the “trivial many:” You must start by escaping, exploring and evaluating.

The way of the Essentialist is to explore and evaluate a broad set of options before committing to any. Because Essentialists will commit and “go big” on only the vital few ideas or activities, they explore more options at first to ensure they pick the right one later.

ESCAPE: Enjoy the perks of being unavailable Whether you can invest two hours a day, two weeks a year, or even just five minutes every morning, it is important to make space to escape in your busy life. When was your last episode of deep reflection? Pablo Picaso said, “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.

  • The overworked pastor is too busy doing ministry to think about life
  • The essential pastor creates space to escape and explore life

EXPLORE: Observe what really matters Essentialists are powerful observers and listeners. Knowing that the reality of trade-offs means they can’t possibly pay attention to everything, they listen deliberately for what is not being explicitly stated. What have others been saying that you haven’t wanted to listen to? What has God been saying to you? What are people talking about everyday about the ministry?

  • The overworked pastor pays attention to the loudest voice
  • The essential pastor pays attention to the signal in the noise

EVALUATE: Decide what matters most Through process of escaping and exploring the goal is to evaluate. What ministry is most important? Where is God a work? What relationships require the most energy? What is the most important thing I must today to advance the mission? Of course these questions can be asked for seasons in ministry or your task list this week. In my work with churches we try answer this first on the broadest level, “What can your church do better than 10,000 others?” We call it the Kingdom Concept. Only then do we move further in the process of planning.

  • The overworked pastor is overwhelmed by all the information
  • The essential pastor scans to find the essence of the information

ESSENTIAL LIVING: You can do it As you decide what matters most, you will run into things that wage war with your decision—the trivial many will want to push there way through! Specifically I struggle with three- the momentum of yesterday, the emotion of the moment, and the interruptions of the day. It’s natural to struggle, but the more you practice the more you’ll progress.  The single greatest tool I use in general to be an “essential pastor” is the Vision Frame that guides my ministry, my family and my life. The single greatest tool I use to practice essentialism each day, is to identify the two most important things I can accomplish by 11:00am.

November 15, 2014

3 Mindsets You Must Conquer to Live Your Mission Each Day

Living your mission each day requires an emotional, daily connection to one core or essential idea. That one thing applies to your life, family, church and vocation. To stay focused on your one thing requires conquering three mindsets. 

This post kicks off a series on Jesus, Church Leadership and Essentialism. It is a simple remix of my experience with churches, my understanding of Jesus’ life and the recent work of Greg McKeown, called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

Remember that essentialism is a broad category of philosophy that goes back to Plato and Aristotle. But McKeown masterfully applies some guiding ideas of essentialism to a practical application in a business context. My enthusiasm for his work is rooted in my own purpose for life: Jesus has created and called me to glorify God and serve others by “applying essence.” That is, helping people and Christ-centered organizations live out of the core (essence) of their God-given design and calling. And remember you have a unique design (Ephesians 2:10).

McKeown opens his book by challenging us with how hard it is to stick to the essential stuff of our lives.

What is the core mind-set of an Essentialist?

Essentialism is not a way to do one more thing: it is a different way of doing everything. It is a way of thinking. But internalizing this way of thinking is not a neutral challenge. This is because certain ideas – and people peddling those ideas – constantly pull us toward the logic of Nonessentialism.

McKeown asserts that there are three deeply entrenched assumptions or mindsets we must conquer to live the way of the Essentialist:

  1. “I have to”
  2. “It’s all important”
  3. “ I can do both”

These mindsets continually lead us to do more than we should. They get us dabbling in the nonessentials. We drift, we cruise and we get distracted. Like mythological sirens, these assumptions are as dangerous as they are seductive. They draw us in and drown us in shallow waters.

To embrace the most important stuff of life, McKeown suggests we must replace these false assumptions with three core convictions:

  1. “I choose to”
  2. “Only a few things really matter”
  3. “I can do anything but not everything.”

These simple truths awaken us from what McKeown calls our “nonessential stupor.”  They free us to pursue what really matters. They enable us to live at our highest level of contribution.

So how do these ideas measures up against the life of Jesus. Was Jesus an essentialist? 

I believe so!

But I would suggest that we have to modify McKoewn’s sequence a bit to anchor it with a biblical perspective. To do so we will take the 1-2-3, and make it a 3-2-1 with one restatement. Lets start with changing “I can do anything but not everything” with “I was created for something not everything” and then reverse the steps:

  1. “I was created for something not everything”
  2. therefore… “Only a few things really matter”
  3. therefore… “I choose to”

Jesus’s lived his mission each day by conquering three mindsets.

Believe You Were Created for Something Specific, not Everything

Jesus conquered “I can do both” with “I was created for something not everything.” Okay, since Jesus was not created, let’s substitute, “I was sent for something not everything.”Jesus reveals his crystal clarity at several points in the gospel accounts, but perhaps no where better than in John 17:4: I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.Here we see Jesus identifying a specific purpose and work—his mission on earth. The context of knowing his essential reason for being on earth will root his daily difficult choices not in selfish ambition or narrow-mindedness but in the Father’s intent for sending him. And for us, in the Father’s intent of our created design. Until you believe that there is an essence, you will not pursue the discovery of  it with passion.

Define Your Mission Until it Emotionally Connects, not Evaporates. 

The bottom line is that most people haven’t processed there calling so that it remains fixed in their mind and heart. It stays vague, and ambiguous therefore constantly evaporates from mental focus and heart connection. Jesus shows that he “kept it close” through a stunning articulation. The best example is Mark 10:45: For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. In this problem solving moment with his disciples Jesus goes to essence, because he had emotionally processed his essence. It was defined and it was articulated. As Aubrey Malphurs once said, “You will never do anything that matters until you define what matters.”

Use the power of choice every day.

McKeown reminds us that the Essentialist knows that when we surrender our right to choose, we give others not just the power but also the explicit permission to choose for us. The questions is, how does Jesus show us the hard decisions he makes each day through the alignment of daily choices to core essence. Two stunning examples show us the extremely difficult choices he made.

The first is in Luke 2:46. This is the first opportunity to glimpse Jesus making an “autonomous” decision as a 12-year old boy. He decides against the expected—returning home with his parents from Jerusalem—and stays in the temple to learn: After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. By this time his parents are in a panic. They returned home from their family vacation without their son! And Jesus knew it. He had elevated his mission above the emotional well being of of his earthly parents. 

The second is snapshot was one if his first moments of popularity. The crowd wants Jesus to stick around in Luke 4:42. But Jesus must leave. He insists on the emotionally difficult choice to say “no” to the people with a clear reminder of his essence in verse forty three: But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent. Jesus leaves the people, denying their request and continues his movement mission in town after town after town.

Jesus was an essentialist and I think, you should be too:

You have an essence and you either you know it or you don’t.

You have an essence and you have either articulated it you haven’t.

You have one life to live and you will make mission-led decisions everyday or you will let someone else’s agenda do it for you.

October 25, 2014

Life is Like Whitewater: 5 Strategies for How to Ride

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 3.56.03 PMWe wall want to live with purpose.

One of my very short-term mentors is Kevin McCarthy. While I was still on the pastoral staff at Clear Creek Community Church, Kevin came in to consult with us. He modeled what expert facilitation looked like and spoke with great skill about organizational vision. One of his books is the On-Purpose Person and this post is taken from it.  Kevin skillfully summarizes what I am calling five strategies for making it through life. As you consider these it will help you live with purpose.

Imagine your life to be like a boat on a river of time. You captain your vessel. Some stretches of the river are smooth and quiet; other parts are turbulent with rapids. Most of the river is an endless converging and mixing of currents and conditions that inevitably move you along. The river exists, but its flow is indifferent to your presence. The harsh reality of ‘the real world’ inevitably hits us. How we deal with it matters. I’ve given the responses nicknames: floaters, fighters, fleers, flitters, and navigators.

Strategy #1: Floaters

  • Passively resign themselves to accept the river in its present condition
  • Aimlessly go along for the ride
  • Are unwilling to accept responsibility for altering their experience
  • Complain the whole time about how unfair the world is

Strategy #2: Fighters

  • Fight the forces of nature
  • Glory in ‘victories’ from time to time
  • Tout the virtues of perseverance and commitment
  • Fail to realize how little control they possess
  • Suffer from burnout, stress, and exhaustion because their strategy is futile

Strategy #3: Fleers

  • Check out of all responsibility and flee the flow of society
  • Fall into self-indulgent behaviors
  • Retreat from society in order to cope with their fear

Strategy #4: Flitters

  • Jump from job to job, person to person, or place to place
  • Are always searching but rarely finding what they’re looking for in life
  • Are masters at starting over but rarely take root
  • Feel productive because of their busyness, but never gain traction

We may all be floaters, fighters, fleers, or flitters to some degree, but these actions should be a technique, not a way of life. Navigating life and appropriately using these methods is the point. Strategy #5: Navigators

  • Know the flow, navigate to go
  • Accept the river and its ever-changing conditions
  • Are not resigned to futile determinism
  • Have not foolishly tried to change nature’s course
  • Do not run away
  • Do not panic

The difference between the floaters/fighters//fleers/flitters and the navigators is knowing the river, equipping oneself, and harnessing these resources to work with the flow of water or time. In a couple of words, it’s “lifelong learning.” It’s living with purpose.

Each of us owns unique knowledge and life experiences. Add to this our talents, strengths, and gifts and gird it all with purpose, and we gain a powerful and potent combination. When times get tough, we captain ourselves as best we can or we get a more experienced navigator to guide us. This is why so many people today turn to life coaches to help them accelerate their personal growth and professional development. Coaches are like river guides for life. They bring their perspectives and experience to the situation for our benefit.

This last year, I began my first Personal Vision Cohort–a group of 15-20 people spending 12 months working diligently on finding and aligning their call from God. If you want to follow along with tools and learnings from this cohort, just look for the the keyword “younique.” Check #younique out on twitter or type it in the search box. It’s going to be a fun year! Let me know if you would like to be a part of the next group!

January 17, 2014

What Pastors are Saying About the Book Innovating Discipleship

Innovating Discipleship by Will Mancini

Innovating Discipleship is the first book I have released since Church Unique. It is a read in one hour kind of book at 85 pages,  But my hope is that it will change how you read for a lifetime.

I am grateful for some of the first folks to review the book. Here is what pastors are saying:

  • Truly one of the best books I’ve read on ministry development. – Doug Murphy (read full review)
  • You need books that will grow you and stretch you. You need books that will challenge you and set your heart aflame. Will Mancini’s latest book accomplishes all of this and more. – David Bowman (read full review)
  • Clear, concise, creative insights to guide people through change in the direction of a church. An excellent model for innovation. – Steve Conway
    Innovating Discipleship Cover
  • No matter how you say it…your church’s scorecard, aim, dashboard, metrics, what you count…will be better defined by reading and processing this content as a team. I have shared it with key leaders in my church context and everyone of them—staff, elders, key leaders—agree this is incredibly helpful. – Jason Stewart
  • Will Mancini delivers again on a book to challenge church leaders to think outside the box – Jim Caldwell
  • Will Mancini wrote a definitive work for churches to be clear on their mission, vision, and values when he wrote THE CHURCH UNIQUE. Now, he challenges all churches to engage in true disciple-making in INNOVATING DISCIPLESHIP. A must-read for churches serious about disciple-making! – Cheryl Stouffer
  • I feel it was a great read for any ministry or overseer in the church today. You may find that you don’t want to change anything or need to change a ton, but this short read will ask you questions that will help you understand steps you may need to take. – Ryan Charest
  • My copy is a little bit of a mess.  Underlined.  Starred.  Dog-eared with a broken spine.  My copy looks like I’ve had it much longer than I have.  Packed with keen insights, if you’re looking for the truth about your current situation and more importantly, what and where your next steps could be…I highly recommend that you pick up your own copy. – Mark Howell  (read full review)

The best way to pick up a copy is right here.

If you have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts. What was most helpful? What was unclear? What questions do you still have?

 

December 25, 2013

#7 on the Ministry Vision and Planning 2014 Countdown: 7 Practices for Keeping Jesus at the Center of Church Staff

Will Mancini's Gospel Centered Church vision and planning

Merry Christmas everyone! This post is about keeping baby Jesus in the middle of our “daily mangers” all year long.

Before my ministry path took me down the consulting road, I served as a pastor of spiritual formation. My first love, theologically speaking, is sanctification. Most of my motivation for going to seminary was to learn how to walk with God (I know, maybe not the best place to learn that). I often couldn’t wait to get my coursework done, in order to devour the “spiritual reading” of the scores of mystics and saints from centuries past.

As a guy that most people put in the “organizational box” the roots of my org-based work come from my passion for gospel-centered spiritual formation. For example, I  assert that there is no church vision that is not a discipleship vision first, and there is no discipleship vision that is not a Gospel vision first. With the recent popular emphasis on Gospel centrality, i.e, the need for “the explicit Gospel” to use Matt Chandler’s phrase, I thought it would be helpful to look at vision and planning this year through the lens of strengthening our emotional connection to the Gospel. How do we rely more substantially on Jesus and the power of His Good News as we do our planning as a church?

#1 Model more prayer time for the adoration of Jesus

How you pray reveals much. And how you pray is an act of leadership. If you are like me, prayer time can naturally drift toward pragmatic stuff of the organization or the unceasing needs of our people. Why not mark your planning time, and team gathering moments early this year with a more lavish experience of praise and exaltation of Jesus. Make sure to prepare your heart first and model this with genuine passion.

#2 Identity and take responsibility for the organizational-cultural idols within your church

It’s easily to rely on ourselves when it comes to “feeling good about church” and being satisfied with our job performance. In each culture there are unique expressions of what the leaders may rely on. For example:

  • Creativity and recent attendance momentum
  • Flagship standing in the denomination
  • Hitting  a point of financial sustainability as a young church
  • Success of a new service or program or campus
  • Your prior reputation at a previous church
  • Financial security as a church

What are you tempted to add to the Gospel in order to make your church work? What could you be trying to substitute for the Gospel as the functional driver of life-change? Please be assured that there is some answer to these questions. Your opportunity as the leader is to identify them, take responsibility for your role in sustaining them and then encouraging personal and group repentance.

#3 Repent more often and more visibly as a leader with your leaders

This is a tricky one as many leaders have no category for this kind of leadership. It is very freeing once you give it a try. Simply put, you want to find opportunities, at the appropriate “levels” and places to reveal your struggles as a leader and confess your sins as a human being. Remember its not about you or even your leadership- its about the Gospel. One obstacle to taking the Gospel more seriously is taking ourselves too seriously. And the Gospel will have no life and vitality in the organization if the leadership is not letting it expose and restore and give hope amidst the daily grind.

#4 Recalibrate your leadership language

Whatever we love will show itself through the sophistication of our language. I love to mountain bike and I love to fish for smallmouth bass in rivers. I would be glad to unpack the vocabulary of cadence, 29″ wheels or head tube angles. I can go all day talking about Rapala and Tiny Torpedo lures, 6-poind test or  the pound-for-pound thrill of landing a fish after a topwater hit.

So how is your Gospel fluency? More importantly how do practice using gospel images and phrases each day? How often do you make the Gospel explicit? Here is a powerful reference called “Atonement Grammars” from Tim Keller to get you started. Here is a free book summary from our SUMS tool for Keller’s Center Church. 

#5 Cultivate urgency

Where the Gospel is clear and strong, urgency will be felt. How can you call your staff or volunteer leaders to respond? How can you mark planning retreats or staff meetings not only with hope but with a sense courage? For example, instead of just talking about a partnership with a local ministry, why not go there, pray for them and give to them and THEN discuss a potential partnership with your staff. As the leader you can create and model a Gospel-centered bias for action.

#6 Invite new accountability

I am amazed and encouraged by the common thread of interest in Gospel-centrality among staff throughout the country. Why not find a buddy to check in with once a month for ideas and encouragement? I bet everyone reading this post has a friend or two at another church or ministry who would enjoy a twelve-month partnership to this end.

 #7 Read together as leaders

This year you may want to allocate more time to reading through the gospels. The YouVersion Bible App has a reading plan for this.  A great recent book to use (that actually discusses gospel-centered culture in church) is Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Eric Geiger and Josh Patterson. Here is a link to some free tools our SUMS free book summary.