December 11, 2014

10 Ways We Get in the Way of God Building His Church

God Builds the Church Will Mancini

Scriptures clearly remind us that God is building his church. But the reality of church can seem so contradictory to this truth. Reggie McNeal once wrote, “We have the best churches men can build, but we are still waiting for the church that only God can get the credit for.”  When things don’t go well at church, is it possible that we are getting in God’s way?

The quote from Reggie  has been retweeted quite a bit this last week. It got me thinking about theses question:

  • How am I unintentionally trying to build a church without God?
  • How I do become an obstacle to the Spirit’s work, without realizing it?
  • I am making ministry harder than it should be?

As I reflected on the possible answers I become all too aware of my own failures and mistakes along the way. While tempted to do a short paragraph on each point,  I believe the single statements alone say enough!

10 Ways We Get in Way of God Building His Church:

Way #1: We rely on human wisdom, not God’s, by copying what we see in other churches. 

Way #2: We misdirect our energies by confusing the ends and means of ministry.

Way #3: We use our ministry platform to display our gifts more than to develop the gifts of others.

Way #4: We avoid transparency thus making ourselves more than we really are. 

Way #5: We decide to stop growing thereby limiting  the growth of others around us. 

Way #6: We settle for ministry assignments that are disconnected from the entire rescue mission of redemptive history. 

Way #7: We choose denial instead of facing the answers to difficult questions.

Way #8: We use our influence to stay in a ministry position longer than we should.

Way #9:  We loose our love for people but pretend we don’t.

Way #10: We take ourselves too seriously by not resting in weekly sabbath. 

Dear Father,

Please rescue us from ourselves. Forgive us when we unintentionally get in the way. We acknowledge that we can operate out of pride and self-strength as easily as we can be tempted by comfort and inaction. Thank your for the privilege of participation in your church-building, kingdom-expanding work on earth. We want to see you get all of the credit and work more than we could possibly dream!

December 6, 2014

The Top 10 Reasons to Advance Church Goals One Big Goal at a Time

Church Goals by Will Mancini

Most church leaders never experience what it feels like to have one big goal for their entire church. (Unless of course they are raising funds in a traditional capital campaign.) Yet, to be a part of a church culture that sets and achieves big goals time and time again is as God honoring as much as it is exhilarating!

What do most churches do instead of having one big goal? Its pretty simple. They either have no clear and stated aspirations at all or they have too many goals in an overwhelming strategic plan or cumbersome dashboard. The sweet spot is a rare yet priceless in-between: one highly visible, broadly supported goal. At Auxano we call this a “missional milestone” and it usually is based on a time horizon of 6 to 12 months out.

One key to understanding the value of having one goal, is that you have one goal at a time. That is, you keep resetting the next big goal to advance the longer-term vision of your congregation. (Learn more about the different horizons of planning.)

 So what are the top ten reasons to set church goals one at a time?

#1  One goal at a time focuses the attention of staff and leaders.

No goal = little focus. Too many goals = playing for different teams.

#2  One goal at a time creates greater energy among the congregation.

No goal = unactivated potential. Too many goals = depleted energy.

#3  One goal at a time directs everyone’s prayers as a concert of dependence on God.

No goal = random prayers. Too many goals = low likelihood of any goal-directed prayers at all.

#4  One goal at a time helps leaders think bigger about what God might be doing.

No goal = smaller thinking. Too many goals = fragmented thinking.

#5  One goal at time means we will set goals for disciple-making outcomes not just for raising money.

No goal = you only set goals when raising funds. Too many goals = people never see the importance of  disciple-making goals.

#6  One goal at a time generates a sense of momentum.

No goal = people define success any way they want. Too many goals = splintered momentum.

#7  One goal at a time helps us build toward bigger and bigger goals.

No goals = no “ramp” to bigger goals. Too many goals = each goal stays smaller.

#8  One goal at a time fosters healthy risk-taking.

No goal = no reason to risk. Too many goals = much lower risk threshold.

#9  One goal at a time connects people to the larger story of God’s redemptive history.

No goal = live in a smaller story.  Too many goals = disconnect people.

 #10  One goal at a time demonstrates God-honoring unity.

No goal = missed opportunity to show people our “togetherness.” Too many goals = shows people our different agendas.

December 5, 2014

Why You Need More than Church Capital Campaign to Fund Your Ministry

Church Capital Campaigns Why does your church need more than a church capital campaign? Because pastors and church leaders and good-hearted church attenders are tired of the “campaign fatigue” brought upon by the traditional approach to raising funds.

Stop Campaigning and Start Discipling

The potential abuse of the traditional campaign companies comes by focusing on fundraising cycles, back to back (typically in 3-year cycles) designed to raise money without adequate vision, leadership development or disciple-making strategies in place.  Two years ago, the Auxano team felt led by God to address the sticky issues of this industry. I personally felt called to be a part of the solution and not just a naysayer regarding the old-school approaches. Our process is far from perfect, but I can say we are getting some extraordinary results from taking a different path; a better and more holistic approach. Here is one of our stories by Todd McMichen:

The Story of Mainstreet Church 

Recently, Auxano was engaged by Mainstreet Church in the greater Toledo, Ohio area to help rethink how they would continue to fund their vision. Mainstreet logo_originalUnder the leadership of Lead Pastor, Marty Pennington, the church had taken a leap of faith, constructed a new campus, and relocated to the new facilities enabling them to build relationships that move more people to full devotion to Christ. However, this new level brought about new resourcing challenges. The church had a healthy debt load that needed to be addressed and an ever-increasing cycle of one campaign after another. Each campaign resulted in lower participation percentages, a reduction in cash offerings, and smaller financial commitments by their members. Mainstreet was experiencing “campaign fatigue.” Campaign fatigue sets in when members of the church become weary of the repetitive cycle of campaign after campaign with no apparent end in sight. For both leaders and members, fatigue quickly grows into frustration and weariness. The church was at a resourcing crossroads and had several challenges that needed to be overcome.

  • How do we continue to fund the vision?
  • How do we stop the campaign cycle?
  • How do we re-energize leaders?
  • How do we disciple believers in the area of generosity?
  • How do we increase the number of people who are financially contributing to the vision of the church?

So what did Campaigns by Auxano recommend? Stop Campaigning and Start Discipling! The church courageously hit the pause button on their next campaign and developed a comprehensive discipleship plan around their “give fully” spiritual mark. They identified four stages of “giving fully” for Christ followers: emerging, engaged, growing, and generous. Members were challenged to assess their stage and take the essential steps to go to the next stage. The clear challenge was to “grow up” in the area of generosity. For some that meant to start tithing. For others it meant that God was calling them to become generous “above and beyond” givers. Mainstreet’s prayer was to create a culture of generosity among a broader base of their membership and provide a break in the campaign cycle. growing1 So what happened? Despite enduring the worst weather on record and its impact on their Sunday morning attendance, the church had amazing spiritual and numerical results:

  • 38% immediate giving increase for the first 12 weeks of the generosity initiative
  • 16% sustainable increase in budget giving beyond the first 12 weeks of the generosity initiative
  • more people contributing financially to the work of the church than ever before
  • a new generosity culture language that is empowering discipleship and making the mission transferable
  • a clearly designed and supported growth pathway from being an emerging giver to a generous disciple

When you bring the entire staff together, articulate a clear vision, and create a comprehensive discipleship strategy, churches can grow a generous culture that will produce immediate and sustainable results. Of course, you can keep campaigning if that is more fun!

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.