April 23, 2016

5 Crucial Social Media Cautions for Pastors

social media pastorsOn Tuesday this week, Mark DeMoss addressed a group of fifty senior pastors on the topic of social media. As a well known Christian public relations guy, I expected a list of pros and cons. But Mark shared 30-minutes worth of cons only, focusing on the unintentional abuse of social media by leaders and the downsides of engagement without reflection. After a few days of ruminating on his insights, the following “cautions” are my re-articulated points of his advice to pastors.

Crucial  Caution #1: Beware of a gradual grip of narcissism 

As someone who studies the brands of ministries and Christian leaders, Mark made a provocative statement. He noted that there is little difference sometimes between the social media of famous Christians and those just “famous for being famous.” While social media doesn’t change the heart or create narcissism, it certainly can be a tool to accelerate an unhealthy focus on self.

Crucial Caution #2: Don’t let immediate emotions get the best of you

The instant access to publishing on social media means that we can start “talking” in public while being frustrated and angry. Recently Perry Noble, the lead pastor of NewSpring Church, tweeted his frustration at American Airlines. His blog and apology for “I freaking hate American Airlines”  is a worthwhile lesson for any pastor on social media.

Crucial Caution #3: Consider whose benefit you are posting for

The question is, “Who is your constituency?” Who really is the designed beneficiary of your social media content. You? Your family? Your peers? Your congregation? Your “followers?”  Is it the people who sit on the front line of your ministry or other pastors in your network? I think it is easy for pastors to post content that is positioning themselves rather than serving the people they lead. 

To help calibrate the social media content for a pastor, Mark suggested asking this question: “Would an unemployed person in your church, whose spouse is battling cancer, appreciate your post?” 

Crucial Caution #4: Manage content to minimize “dueling brands”

It’s possible over time that the messaging of your social media feed starts to contradict your mission. What types of content create a disconnect from your true calling among the people in your sphere of social influence? To dramatize the reality that your social media is always emanating a brand, a message and a mission, Mark posed the scenario: “What if the next time your were introduced, they pulled up your instagram feed instead?” Would your most recent pictures and content be a suitable introduction? Would the mission and values of your life and ministry be present?

Crucial Caution #5: Don’t respond to critics in the social media space.

Because Mark deals with crisis management, I thought his black and white advice on responding to critics was helpful: Don’t! Due to the public nature of social media and the inherent lack of accountability and control of people who can attack, manipulate and fabricate, he recommends not responding.

One humorous example Mark gave involved a pastor who was responding back and forth to a critic on twitter. The pastor, with tens of thousands of followers, engaged in what become a social debate with the critic. The pastor soon realized that the critic only had a dozen followers. The critic was criticizing and no one was listening. No one was listening that is, until the pastor starting responding.

February 16, 2016

7 Practices to Make (Much) Better Team Decisions

Will Mancini Team decisions
Most church teams enjoy hanging out together.  The weekly rhythm of doing church brings staff and volunteers together across a broad span of activities– the laughing and praying of our leading and meeting. While no church is perfect, many staff teams enjoy a strong bond and collegial spirit.

But good team spirit doesn’t ensure better team decisions. Did you ever reflect on the fact that healthy fellowship among church leaders by itself doesn’t lead to an effective culture of decision-making? In fact, I have discovered an opposite dynamic. Sometimes the common bond of ministry actually enables weaker decision-making practices, and as a result, poorer decisions. Ironically, a mutual respect can backfire to empower a “you do your thing and I’ll do mine” attitude of disengagement.

What’s at stake if teams don’t make better team decisions? From a long list of potential answers, four stand out:

Lost time: Poor team decision-making simply burns more time. It may be more time in the meeting itself because there were no collaboration guidelines. Perhaps it’s lost time outside of the meeting in hallway conversations because ideas weren’t fully explored or vetted.

Dissipated energy: Poor team decision-making leaves questions unanswered and half-baked solutions in the atmosphere. We don’t know exactly where we stand or what we’ve decided. The thought of revisiting an unfinished conversation itself is an unwelcome burden.

Mediocre ideas: Poor team decision-making fortifies our weakest thinking. Innovation is something we read about but never experience. We cut-n-past the ideas of others because we don’t know how to generate our own. We traffic in good ideas and miss great ones.

Competing visions: Poor team decision-making invites an unhealthy drift toward independence. No one has the conscious thought that they have a competing vision. But in reality, there are differences to each person’s picture of there future. It’s impossible for this divergence not to happen if there is no dialogue.

So, how do you start to create a dynamic of collaborative decision-making?  Try these seven practices for making better team decisions.

1. Define how the decision will be made.
There are several ways to decide something together. The same team could even use multiple decision-making methods in the same meeting, as long as the team is clear about the method being used for each decision. Here are some questions that will clarify which type of discussion you are having.

  • Are we giving input to the decision maker? (executive decision)
  • Will we discuss and then vote? (majority rules)
  • Will we discuss until we all agree? (consensus)
  • Will two people bring a solution under another leader’s authority (compromise)

Of course, there are variations to all of these. For example, in our collaborative visioning work we use the 100/80 principle: “Do 100% of us feel 80% good about the decision?” We consider that a truly collaborative decision.

How many hours of team time has been wasted trying to get consensus on something that is really an executive decision that will be made by the lead pastor? Don’t waste that time.  Let everyone know up front how the decision will be made and then begin the discussion.

2. Listen.
You might think this goes without saying, but it’s so crucial to good team dynamics. Many people—especially leaders—come into a conversation with their minds already made up. All they’re doing is waiting for everyone else to be quiet so they can say what they think.

Instead, listen to what the team is saying. Ask clarifying questions. Listen to understand, not to respond. Try your best to understand not only what each team member is saying, but their driving passions and underlying concerns and built in assumptions that they’re not voicing. You will make much better decisions as a team if you all learn to listen well.

3. Share with an appropriate level of honesty.
Every member of the team should feel free to honestly say what they think. But how many times has a discussion been derailed by what a team member defensively calls brutal honesty? If you have to preface your comment with something like, “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but…” is usually a clue that you should rethink and reword what you were about to say.

Honesty is good. Brutal honesty is brutal. You don’t need to be brutal in order to be honest. By sharing thoughts and opinions with an appropriate level of transparency, you can will both share openly and honor your team members.

4. Say it in the room.
If you have something to say, especially if you disagree with the direction being considered, you must voice your thoughts in the room, not in the hallway afterward. This is one of the most destructive things a team can experience. It can bring division and strife, wrecking unity and blocking momentum.

If you think of something after the meeting is over, let the whole team know that you’d like to revisit the conversation. Side conversations and adjusting the decision after a team discussion devalues every person on the team. “Why did we have to sit through that whole discussion if they were just going to change it after the fact?” If you have something to say, say it in the room.

5. Ask the question, “Is there anyone else should speak into this decision that isn’t here?”
Many times there other people on the team, no matter where they sit in the organizational chart, that have experience, insight, or such a stake in the decision that their input should be included before a final decision is reached. At the very least, it’s always important to think about the people that will be directly impacted by the decision and communicate with them as much information as possible. No one likes to be blindsided. I’ve seen too many church leaders rail about the “immaturity” of a team member that could have more to do with the way decisions are communicated than it does with the maturity level of the team member in question.

6. Make a decision.
You’ve heard this before: “Not making a decision is still making a decision.” That’s true. And there are going to be times when this is the right thing to do. But at least acknowledge that you’re making a decision to table the issue or include other people in the conversation. No matter what, make a decision and be clear about it.

With our Auxano team, we use the phrase “Decide/Commit” to signal to the team that I think we’ve had enough discussion about a topic and it’s time for us to make a decision. To learn more about the different stages of a collaborative discussion, check out the Collaboration Cube. It’s a great tool to help your team collaborate more effectively.

7. Stick to the decision after the meeting.
This might sound obvious but it’s violated so often that it’s worth repeating. Once you’ve made a decision, stick with it! Changing the decision after the team has agreed on a direction basically communicates that you didn’t really need the rest of the team’s input anyway and you’re just going to do what you want to do. Guard the long-term effectiveness of your team by sticking with the decisions you make together. If you do need to change a decision, get the team back together to discuss it again first. Yes, even if that means missing the deadline or pushing back the timeline. Your team is more important.

If your team will use these seven practices, you’ll experience a dramatic synergy. What will better decisions do? You will:

  • Save time. 
  • Add energy. 
  • Generate great ideas.
  • And play on the same page with the same vision.
February 13, 2016

Transform Every Ministry Meeting with One Big Idea (#SUMS Edition 1.8)

Ministry MeetingsBlog readers please note: Starting in 2016, I will be routinely posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders.  SUMS takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 editions per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

>>> You can purchase a subscription to SUMS Remix here >>>

So how can you transform every ministry meeting with one big idea? It starts with understanding that every organization and every team experiences drift to see meetings as the work, rather than as a support tool for the work Here is the way we unpacked it last year in SUMS Remix edition 1.8.

Solution #3: Design meetings for one purpose: to support decisions.


How many times have you dreaded going to a meeting either because you viewed it as a waste of time or because you weren’t prepared?

Read This Before Our Next Meeting not only explains what’s wrong with “the meeting,” and meeting culture, but suggests how to make meetings more effective, efficient, and worthy of attending. It assesses when it’s necessary to skip the meeting and get right to work.

Read This Before Our Next Meeting is the call to action you (or your boss) need to create the organization that does the meaningful work it was created to do.


The profound tragedy of meetings is that everyone feels a benefit from calling a meeting but few of us benefit from attending.

Church leaders know in a real and visceral way that they have too many meetings, and too many of those meetings are bad! The resulting broken meeting culture is changing how teams focus, what they focus on, and most important, what decisions are made.

Ministry is a complex beast, and meetings can help tame the beast – but only meetings that insure intelligent decisions are made and to confirm that our teams are collaborating together in carrying out those decisions.

Church ministry teams don’t need standard, mediocre meetings that are all about making excuses and engaging in internal politics. It’s those types of meetings that keep leaders from doing the real ministry work they were called to do.

Traditional meetings are treated as just another form of communication. They’re just another item to be included in the same category as e-mail, memos, and phone calls. Meetings are too expensive and disruptive to justify using them for the most common types of communication, like making announcements, clarifying issues, or even gathering intelligence.

Seven Principles of the Modern Meeting

  1. The Modern Meeting convenes to support a decision that has already been made. The Modern Meeting focuses on the only two activities worth convening for: conflict and coordination.
  1. The Modern Meeting moves fast and ends on schedule. Traditional meetings seem to go on forever, with no end in sight. Strong deadlines force parties to resolve the hard decisions necessary for progress.
  1. The Modern Meeting limits the number of attendees. If you have no strong opinion, have no interest in the outcome, and are not instrumental for any coordination that needs to take place, you aren’t needed in the meeting.
  1. The Modern Meeting rejects the unprepared. The agenda should clearly state the problem, the alternatives, and the decision. It should outline exactly the sort of feedback requested, and it should end with a statement of what this meeting will deliver if it’s successful. Anything that’s not on the agenda doesn’t belong in the meeting.
  1. The Modern Meeting produces committed action plans. These plans should include at least the following: 1) What actions are we committing to? 2) Who is responsible for each action? 3) When will these actions be completed?
  1. The Modern Meeting refuses to be informational. Reading memos is mandatory. Teams must share complete thoughts that are actually worth reading and responding to – and everyone must read it all in advance.
  1. The Modern Meeting works only alongside a culture of brainstorming. These sessions are dedicated to the creation of possibilities, a place where the imagination is allowed to run free and generate a plethora of ideas, from which innovation can be born.

Al Pittampalli, Read This Before Our Next Meeting


Management genius Peter Drucker said that meetings were by definition a concession to deficient organization. Teams can either meet or work, but they can’t do both at the same time.

It’s time for your ministry team to do real work through a revised meeting structure by taking the following actions:

  • Distribute the Seven Principles of the Modern Meeting listed above and ask your team members to review and reflect on them for the purpose of supporting the decision to establish a Modern Meeting process.
  • Schedule a one-hour time in which each member of your team will prepare concerns and solutions to implementing the Modern Meeting process in ministry setting.
  • Following this meeting, develop a set of action plans to implement the Modern Meeting process for a three-month trial period.
  • Throughout the trial period, constantly reinforce progress and concerns via information shared among all team members.
  • As a part of the trial, schedule weekly brainstorming sessions to help support the Modern Meeting process (see #7 above).
  • At the conclusion of the trial period, decide and commit on following – or not following – the Modern Meeting process.

Taken from SUMS Remix Edition 1.8, March 2015

>>> You can purchase a subscription to SUMS Remix here >>>

February 12, 2016

How Jon Tyson at Trinity Grace Church Masterfully Models a Vision Sunday Message

Trinity Grace Church Vision SundayI’ve enjoyed a few interactions with Jon Tyson over the years, who I met for the first time at Discovery Church in Orlando. Ten years ago he planted Trinity Grace Church in New York City. He tweeted a quote from Church Unique today which led to an audio I discovered of his recent vision Sunday message. If you want to improve your vision casting or plan your own vision Sunday this year, it’s worth the time to listen.

Vision Sunday is not Jon’s term, but it is the most common way church leaders talk about a special preaching weekend dedicated to addressing the identity and direction of the church. It always signals a pivotal moment: the turning  page in the church’s history, the re-invogorating of a core ideal or value, an assessment of recent ministry efforts or the dramatic unveiling of a new initiative or dream. For Jon and the people of Trinity Grace, this vision Sunday was a gathering of several multisites or missional community “parishes” to celebrate and recalibrate at the 10-year mark.

Why is it a masterful model of preaching vision on a vision Sunday? 

In Church Unique, published in 2008, I teach the six elements of a compelling vision casting moment with a tool called the Vision Casting Spider Diagram. Two of the six the elements are consistently missing when church leaders cast vision: the “burning platform” and the “mind stretch.” And, it just so happens, that these two elements are the most critical to achieving the powerful influence of the vision itself.

It’s worth listing to the message, to see how Jon injects burning platform content and mind stretching perspective for his congregation at the 10-year mark. Below, you will find a few nuggets. For a full training experience, I suggest that you download the Vision Casting Spider Diagram and listen to Jon’s message with your team.

Element #1: Burning Platform – Do I frame the larger need and speak to the fear of loss?

My favorite part of the message is when Jon shares that they have uncovered 49 true conversion stories in a church of 2400 attenders. He boldly declares that a 2% conversion does not reveal the full measure of what the Holy Spirit can do. He says that he is “amazed but not satisfied.” Here are some phrases that help paint a picture of need. He could have easily celebrated their success only, but uses the the strong results of a 10-year run to set up the need for revival.

“It’s too hard and too much work to do programs for more Christians.”

“We have dribs, drabs and a slow grind. We need more of the Spirit not less.”

“Our dreams can’t be determined by the plausibility structures of our culture but by the purposes of God in our time.”

“What is our response at 10 years in? Repentance. We spend our lives in busy activism, we need to repent of this, we need to repent of the typical New York Christian life.”

“We are not satisfied with success in evangelical Christianity.”

Element #2: Mind Stretch –  Do I enlarge faith and challenge the imagination with audacious God-size goals?

As Jon looks into the future he uses the primary template of what I call  “Presence Manifestation” in God Dreams, my most recent book on visionary planning. This is a classic reformed vision of renewal and revival. Jon expresses this beautifully, with power and impact for his time and place. He uses Scripture to paint a picture of the Spirit’s role in unifying the body to give us a shared heartbeat (aligning our desires) and a shared mindset (aligning our vision). He uses history to help our minds stretch to see the possible impossibility of “the acceleration of the Spirit’s natural work.”  Specifically, he recounts the Moravian stories as “historical mentors of the church.” Listen to some of his mind-stretching ideas (quotes are not exact):

“The motivation for our founding was a longing to see the fame and deeds of God renewed and known in our time.”

“When I read my Bible, I realized that this is not the Lord of the Rings, this is TRUE.”

“It’s the Spirit’s role to keep us together, to unify us. The Spirit melts us together. It’s the Spirit’s role to convict the world. The Spirit has a capacity to internally convince us.”

“The Spirit glorifies Jesus who shows us an alternative way and alternative world. He confounds our understanding of who God is and what he wants to do.”

“God wants to do something so spiritually provocative in our time that others will grab the hem of our garments in order to be a part.”

I hope you take the time to listen to the message. Remember: most pastors spend more time on preaching in one month than they do on visionary planning in 5 years. Your calling and your people, deserve more.

>> Download the Vision Casting Spider Diagram >>>

>>> Listen to Jon’s message with your team >>>

February 4, 2016

Vision Statement Case Study: Calvary Baptist Church “Speaking the Peace of God into the Brokenness of Life”

calvary WS vivid description

Restarting the Conversation for Long-range Vision

When it comes to vision statements, many church leaders have lost interest. And for good reason–most vision statements are generic and useless. I like to say that your church really doesn’t need a vision statement, it needs a visionary state of mind. Yet, there needs to be a way to cultivate that state of mind. Your team does need some ideas on paper to become a sort of “mental charging station” for themselves and other leaders.  Think of a vivid vision statement as “base camp” for the team to assemble around, in order to take “vision casting treks” and “meaning excursions” all day long; that is the daily work of ministry.

So how do you get this vision thing right? What does success look like?  I answer the question for you in my new book God Dreams. More than that, I created a step-by-step guide for church teams.

To inspire you along the way, here is a case study from Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC, led by Rob Peters. Before we jump into their “Speaking the Peace of God into the Brokenness of Life” vision, let’s clarify what it is we are looking at.

First, it is a vivid description example of a long-range vision or what I call a “beyond-the-horizon” vision. Many have abandoned thinking long as discipline as a result of the constant changes of culture and technology. But for the church, there are many foundational reasons why leadership should think long-range. Here are twelve of them.

Second, it is only one fourth of what you need to have a complete visionary plan. This is the start – the long-range context to visionary plan. There are three other horizons to develop and the plan is eventually anchored in four immediate action initiatives in the next 90 days. To see the model for visionary planning check out how the Horizon Storyline works.

Calvary Baptist Vision: Speaking the Peace of God into the Brokenness of Life

Calvary has a rich heritage as a church that is nearing its centennial anniversary.

For this heritage we are grateful and humbled. Yet over time our efforts have splintered, and our impact has diffused. Despite our active ministries a penetrating assessment recently revealed significant challenges in evangelism, discipleship, and leadership—issues that can and must change.

How will Calvary make these changes? We will come together as one and engage our One Mission “Vision Pyramid Strategy.” Imagine a giant pyramid with one stone on the top and ten thousand stones on the bottom, with layers in between: one, ten, one hundred, one thousand, and ten thousand. At the top is our one mission, pointing up to Jesus’ Great Commission. This is our ultimate guide. At the bottom is our lives—you and me, the people of Calvary—five thousand members connecting each week with ten thousand lives in our community. We are the grassroots. We are the church. We are the living stones of God’s house, and the movement must begin with us.

The layers of our pyramid strategy look like this: one mission, ten initiatives, one hundred plants, one thousand salvation stories, and ten thousand lives touched.

Our ten initiatives will be the ten-piston engine powering a spiritual renaissance.

A renaissance is a renewal of life, vigor, and interest. Our community is experiencing more vigor today in the arts, medicine, and technology than ever. We must bring the power of the gospel to this cultural renewal. It’s not simple, but God can do it through us, His church. Some initiatives will focus on the “inside” of the church: from clearing room for a discipleship pathway and a leadership pipeline, to igniting generational mentoring, to refreshing our campus, to building a pastoral school of ministry. Other initiatives will focus on blessing the city: from alleviating childhood hunger and poor reading, from addressing racial tension to economic development, from spurring community health to spiritual health. With this engine and the limitless power of gospel fuel, we will speak the peace of God into the brokenness of our world.

From our ten initiatives we will plant or revitalize one hundred churches over the next ten years.

In turn we will witness one thousand stories of life transformation through salvation: people rescued by Jesus, men and women made whole again, boys and girls freshly redeemed, tears of joy at every celebrative baptism.

Finally, we will see God touching ten thousand people each week through intentional initiatives of our church body. Imagine five thousand worshippers each engaging at least two people outside of Calvary with a smile, prayer, hug, gesture of generosity, unexpected blessing, or total availability at an inconvenient time. We will do this. We can speak the peace of God into the brokenness of the people and the world around us. We will see a renaissance of reconciliation in our lifetime.

Church: Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, NC

Pastor: Rob Peters

Vision Template: Institutional renovation that leads to geographic saturation


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