February 24, 2015

The Top 10 Ways Pastors Spend Time that Doesn’t Make Disciples

What gets in our way when it comes to the church’s mission to make disciples? Let’s look at the things we do at church and they way we spend our time as pastors:

  1. Preparing a sermon or teaching message in a given week without spending time in disciple-making relationships.
  2. Spending time meeting with staff and church leaders in a given week in lieu of spending time in personal disciple-making relationships.
  3. Designing a worship experience in a given week without a prior design of a clear disciple-making strategy.
  4. Managing a weekly money gathering process from people without having a clear disciple-making vision that will be used to steward the money.
  5. Recruiting people to volunteer in ministry environments without any knowledge of their involvement in disciple-making relationships.
  6. Providing for the care needs of others in the church without a system for care to take place in the context of disciple-making relationships.
  7. Creating any content (worship guides, newsletters, social media, curriculum) without a prior definition of disciple-making outcomes.
  8. Training any small group or Bible study leaders without a prior training in the church’s disciple-making strategy and outcomes.
  9. Developing and launching programs that do not fit into a clear and cohesive disciple-making strategy.
  10. Putting out fires with or for people who could care less whether they have or you have any disciple-making relationships in life. 

What would you add? What do you think pastors do that does not make disciples?  Help me write the next 10!

January 1, 2015

The Most Important Trend of Church Trends in 2015 And What To Do About It

Church trends 2015 by Will Mancini

I like reading about trends and I like thinking about the long lists of church trends. Two of my most widely read posts on church trends include:

This year I want to do something different by focusing on one important church trend. By calling it the most important trend, I want to state up front that I am not building my case with stats. What I do have is 14 years of weekly meetings with church leaders across the country talking about what’s happening in the church.

Specifically, in the last two years, I have see one common thread become a common rope. Its presence is now ubiquitous; every church I talk with mentions this problem when we discuss the Local Predicament in our Kingdom Concept work (challenges and opportunities expressed in the local culture). I have never seen a problem discussed this commonly amidst a diversity of church sizes and denominational affiliations.

WHAT IS THE ONE TREND?

Your Most Committed People Will Attend Worship Services Less Frequently than Ever in 2015

What does this mean? Simply that people who once attended four times a month may only attend three times a month. Members who once attended twice a month will only come once a month.

Now I could build a case with stats, but you are probably a little curious. Let me say a few things and then move on.

There are some stats that validate the slow continual decline of church attendance. However, this doesn’t get at what I am seeing, mainly because it’s diluted by a mass of non-evangelical data and halo-effect responses (people answering more positively than reality would suggest).

In addition, Auxano has produced hundreds of primary research congregational surveys that do reference worship frequency data decline that would support my observation. However, I have not aggregated the data yet. If you want more info on this, you can read my post on the 20 Most Important Measurables of a church.

Finally, in 2013, Thom Rainer stated that decreasing frequency of church attendance is the number one reason for church decline.

The bottom line is that the data doesn’t reveal the significance of the increasing reality among the COMMITTED members of evangelical churches and the massive opportunity this presents for us as leaders.

WHAT IS CAUSING THIS TREND?

There are several reasons why people attend church less frequently. The first and most obvious place, (and the only place Thom Rainer goes) is waning commitment. People attend less when spiritual priorities are less important. Let’s consider some reasons:

  • Increasing involvement with kid’s activities including more “multiple activity” commitments (sports, music, etc.) for longer durations with greater competitiveness. The growth of club sports and the intensity of competition creates a market for kids to get started earlier and be involved longer. This is literally eating our families alive when it comes to time.
  • Greater mobility in general and the rise of virtual work places. 25% of white collar Americans travel as a part of making a living. People with discretionary time are more likely to be traveling. People are working virtually and changing their habits and expectations about living on-the-go or in remote places.
  • Access to church online. Now it’s easier to stay connected to the church if you must travel or if you’re just having problems at home getting ready for church in the morning. Within two minutes, I can be streaming one of many great worship services from across the country with my entire family, from my laptop to my widescreen via Apple TV.

 WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT THIS TREND?

Again, the knee-jerk response is to lament the decreasing commitment. Remember, people are always committed to some thing. How do we help people become all God wants them to be given these cultural limitations? Or dare I say cultural opportunities.

#1 – Add value not venues 

Rather than just creating more things for people to do “at church” how can you add more value to people through fewer ministry venues? For example, rather than starting a class on prayer, how can you create more value for people’s prayer lives 24/7? Perhaps you could adapt the material for the class and provide it in existing small groups. Or, maybe you could provide that content online rather than requiring someone to drive to church?

#2 – Think training over teaching

If you attend an effective online worship service, it is actually more intimate than an average mega-church worship experience. Chat rooms, follow-up, and engagement take place with great ease. My point is that intimate community doesn’t take place in many worship environments.

Think about it: The more that worship at your church is about teaching and inspiration only, the more people will be able to substitute your church offering with digital ones. The best way to address this is to think like a trainer not a teacher. Teaching is now ubiquitous and free. Training is not. What does that look like? Instead of just preaching on prayer, give them actual tools and ways to practice. Give them back door links on your website with additional training. Hand them a book, show them how to make a prayer journal, or create a daily devotional to follow on Twitter or Facebook.

#3 Design for ministry ends not means

Most churches are already over-programmed and under-discipled. Perhaps this “negative” trend is a positive way to awake from the myth that more activity at church means greater spiritual vitality. It does not. Use the challenge to rediscover the difference between ministry ends and ministry means. Start by articulating the kind of disciple that your church is trying to produce. The win was never to get people to come to church a lot in the first place, but to follow Jesus better. You don’t need a ton of church activities to be a follower of Jesus. Think about it: Is Jesus going to give you a scorecard in heaven asking you how many times people came to your worship services, Bible studies and service projects? Or, is He going to consider what kind of thinking, being, and doing those times produced in the lives of our people?

If typical church attendance isn’t the ultimate goal to begin with, how can this trend become an opportunity?

 

>> Read more from Will.

December 15, 2014

Take the Nice IS Naughty Quiz for Pastors this Christmas

naughty or nice pastors - will mancini

You’ve heard of the naughty or nice quiz before. We put people on one side of the behavior equation this time of the year. And if that doesn’t cross your mind, then someone at North Pole Central is finalizing the tally before Santa’s globe-trotting, Christmas Eve sleigh ride.

This year, however,  I want to put these terms on the same side of the equation. I think pastors need to consider “niceness” from an entirely different point of view.

That’s right, I have a growing fear that we, as ministry leaders,  too often do the wrong thing in the name of “nice.” So allow me to suggest that there are times when nice IS naughty. What if being nice is not always a ministry hallmark? Is it possible that being nice can be stumbling block that excuses poor leadership habits and personal flaws?

Before we get to the quiz, let’s consider Jesus as our leadership model. The more I read the gospel’s the more I see the love of Jesus working hand-in-hand with a certain intensity and not a certain “niceness.” As we go through the quiz, I’ll make some references to Jesus.

 

THE QUIZ

 

Question #1:  I can give time to people in way that causes me to neglect the primary people that God is calling me to serve. (Y/N)

Jesus walked away from people all of the time. Giving time to the wrong people is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #2: I allow my enjoyment of approval to lead me to flatter others. (Y/N)

Jesus didn’t puff people up. Giving false edification to make people—and you— feel better, is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #3: I have created a new ministry, disregarding the vision of the church, because of an influential church leader. (Y/N)

Jesus passed on most ministry “opportunities.” Starting new programs to please others is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #4: I am tempted to NOT make timely decisions because some people won’t like the decision. (Y/N)

Jesus didn’t delay. Waiting another day to live in false peace another day is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #5: I can keep someone on the team despite a mediocre ministry performance. (Y/N)

Jesus chose people carefully and let people walk away. Avoiding a tough call is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #6: I overcommit myself because I can’t say “no.” (Y/N)

Jesus gave himself but didn’t overcommit himself. Taking yourself too seriously and never saying “no” is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #7: I have never exhibited righteous anger out of a preference for “harmony.” (Y/N)

Jesus turned over tables. Never displaying anger at the things that anger God is naughty kind of nice.

Question #8: I have refused to face some facts head on, because of the difficulty of the truth behind it. (Y/N)

Jesus faced the truth, head on. Living in temporary harmony with intentional ignorance is a naughty kind of nice.

Questions #9: I have never rebuked or corrected someone on my team. (Y/N)

Jesus rebuked his team regularly. Unwillingness to correct or confront is not a sign of love and is a naughty kind of nice.

 

THE CONFESSION

 

The origination of this quiz comes from my personal experience as a leader. I have to confess that in 2014, I must answer yes to 7 of these 9 questions. Somehow, by God’s grace, I don’t think I will get coal in my stocking this Christmas.

A Prayer to Stop Being Nice

Lord, I want to live full of love with the same intensity you exhibited. I know there are times, where I fail to love in the name of being “nice.” Father, help me to know my identity in Christ. Lord Jesus, help me to lead others the same way you did. Precious Spirit, guide my thoughts and reveal my sin when I seek false harmony or long for the approval of men. Shape me and make me a leader who will serve you well. Amen.

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 17, 2014

Smiling is Not Enough: The Top Ten Mistakes Your Volunteers Make Welcoming Guests at Church

Guest at Church, Will Mancini & AuxanoThe team at Auxano enjoys playing the role of “secret worshipper” when we take a church through our visioning process called the Vision Pathway.  We call it a guest perspective evaluation. As I prepare to debrief a church again tomorrow, I want to share some general insights on welcoming ministry and hospitality for guests.

Here are the top ten mistakes I see when volunteers are helping me as a first time guest:

#1   Volunteers have not thought in advance about my next step as a guest so they don’t know how to guide the conversation with me. 

#2   Volunteers  are talking with friends and don’t notice me.

#3   Volunteers are doing task work and are not available or responsive the moment I show up.

#4   Volunteers generally hesitate when I initiate with a question. 

#5   Volunteers don’t know where the most pertinent information is located.

#6   Volunteers  tell me what to do with no information or tools or other people to help me.  

#7   Volunteers generally look preoccupied, distracted or unsure of themselves in their non-verbals even when being friendly.

#8   Volunteers are unaware of the basic “how to” questions for checking-in children of every age.

#9   Volunteers don’t introduce me to others at the church.

#10 Volunteers gave me written information that is not important, pertinent or strategic (sending me on a bee-line to the trash can). 

If you want more resources on welcoming ministry and church guest services, check out VisionRoom.com and follow Bob Adams who works as Auxano’s Vision Room curator and guest services maven. Here is a list of resources on his blog

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