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!

October 18, 2014

Using Social Media as a Christ Follower: One Principle and Three Questions

social media enough book

After taking LifeWay Christian Stores through a vision process, I not only shop there often, I go with a different mindset. Their mission is passionately engaging believers on their journey of faith. The big idea is to be an oasis-outfitter. A place that feels at the same time like a refreshing oasis and an REI outfitter, for your spiritual life.

Because I’m a father to Abby, my 15-year old daughter, I recently  picked up a new piece of equipment: a book by Kate Conner titled,  Enough: 10 Things we Should be Telling our Teenage Girls.

Here is a takeaway that I think brings immediate value to any Christian using social media.

ONE PRINCIPLE

Conner argues that the answer to problems with social media don’t center around removing social media itself. Rather it involves the commitment to:

Take the good, leave the rest.

She cites 1 Thess. 5:21: “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” Here is where her words grabbed me:

  • Take the enjoyment, leave the addiction
  • Take the communication, leave the isolation
  • Take the inspiration and leave the jealously

Good stuff. And remember what Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

THREE QUESTIONS

1. What story am I telling?

If you look at the ongoing communication of social media what is the dominant theme and meaning of your life. What are you all about? Travel? Parenting? Sports? Work? Criticism? Food?

2. If I went back and read all of my social media statuses, would I recognize me?

Conner emphasizes that our heat-of-the-moment selves are not our best selves.

3. If I want back and read all of my social media statuses would I know I was a Christian? 

Great questions to bring clarity to your life. What questions would you add?

October 10, 2014

10 Compelling Church Mission Statements (from the Last 10 that I Facilitated)

church mission as compassIt’s exciting to lead a growing team of navigators at Auxano these days. Thirteen years ago I dreamed about the idea that I could actually spend a 40-hour work week just helping church leaders work on things like mission, vision and values. Now we have 8 staff navigators, and a dozen part-time guys who have served over 150 churches in 2014.

As a player-coach, I still lead a few processes myself for training purposes or to work with churches specifically that I feel called to. Here are 10 that I have recently worked with in facilitating the mission articulation.

1.  Making much of Jesus, because Jesus changes everything (in process)

Austin Stone, Austin, TX (Kevin Peck, lead pastor)

2.  Connecting people with God, through authentic relationships to serve communities (in process)

- Newbreak Church, San Diego, CA (Mike Quinn, lead pastor)

3.  Passionately engaging believers on their journey of faith 

LifeWay Christian Stores, Nashville, TN (Tim Vineyard, president)

4.  Inviting the striving to something really real (in process)

- The Bridge Bible Church, Bakersfield, CS (Jeff Gowling, senior pastor)

5.  Rescuing one another from cultural Christianity to follow Jesus every day

- Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas, TX. (Jeff Warren, senior pastor)

6. Promoting the discovery of Jesus through sports

Upward Sports, Spartanburg, SC (Caz McCaslin, president)

7. Helping one another trade a checklist faith for real life with Jesus

First Baptist Concord, Knoxville, TN (John Avant, lead pastor)

8. Equipping multiplying leaders with reproducible systems to plant more healthy churches

Launch Group, Atlanta, GA (Mac Lake, lead architect)

9. Imperfect people, risking it all to make Jesus real one life at a time

- Salem Lutheran, Tomball, TX (Tim Niekerk, senior pastor)

10. Inviting the distracted and disinterested to realize their role in God’s story

- Mountain Park Community Church, Phoenix, AZ (Allan Fuller, lead pastor)