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

My team and I want to connect with you. Fill out the short form below and one of our Navigator’s will contact you.

February 20, 2014

Values or V-Necks? – 3 Simple Techniques to Hire for a Cultural Fit

Hiring for Cultural fit at your churchHiring the next staff member is one of the biggest decisions a church planter or campus pastor will make. As each team member comes on board, they will either greatly help or greatly hinder the vision of the team. So how do you maximize your skill in discernment? What techniques are easy to employ at the most critical step in employment? 

I have asked one of my team members, Bryan Rose, to share his thoughts. Before becoming an Auxano navigator Bryan was a coach to campus pastors and church planters as a successful campus pastor himself.

 Mistakes are most often made when hiring is based on surface characteristics like stage ability, resume experience or fashion sense, rather than on the foundation of church culture. Your values define your church’s culture. Therefore, values should form the basis of your staffing logic, whether the prospective leader is paid or unpaid. Well thought-through interview questions, based on values, could be the difference between a perfect match and the perfect storm.

The best values-based interview questions are those that do three things: 1) Hide the “right” response, 2) Reveal practice not thinking and 3) Mine for specifics. Let’s take a look at each technique and provide a simple illustration for each one.

#1 Hide the “Right” Response

Let’s imagine one of your church values is “Risk-Taking Faith.”

  • Ask…  If you knew that God would meet or exceed one goal you have right now, what would you ask for?
  • Not… What was the last faith risk you took?

Why? Because the natural tendency when being interviewed for a position you want is to frame the answer to what you think the interviewer wants to hear. Questions that state the value up front, don’t allow the candidate to reveal how the value is present – or not present – in their life and ministry.

#2 Reveal Culture in Practice, Not Thinking

Let’s imagine one of your church values is “Evangelistic Ethos.”

  • Ask… What do you know about your 5 closest neighbors (geographically) ?
  • Not… How important is evangelism to you?

Why? Because it is easy to talk about how things should be, and avoid talking about how things are. Questions that allow the potential staff member to speak to a value from experience not ideas, separate mere affinity from life application.

#3 Mine for Specifics, Not Answers

Let’s imagine one of your church values is “Doing Life Together.”

  • Ask… What was the last tough conversation a close friend had with you?
  • Not… Who are you doing life with?

Why? Because simple answers that are easily given leave little room for follow-up and become fairly useless in determining cultural alignment. Questions that generate responses with multiple follow-up possibilities (why don’t you have close friends? how did you respond to their criticism?) can produce a multi-dimensional understanding of the person in context of the church value at hand. So remember, experience is important, but programs will change. Stage skills are huge, but presentation can be developed. Fashion is fleeting, but skinny jeans will eventually go out of style… we pray. When you hire by values, culture becomes the glue that holds your staff together.

Bryan Rose, Auxano NavigatorCheck out Bryan’s blog Launch Clarity and his great content on the intersection of being church planter/campus pastor and leading with clear vision. (Also, don’t miss the post that made him famous.)

February 9, 2014

What’s More Important: A Culture of Mission, A Culture of Discipleship or a Culture of Leadership?

Culture of Mission

It’s amazing how “a culture of” lingo has been trending over the last couple of years. And for good reasons. The understanding of culture, especially with regard to congregational leadership, is very helpful. In fact when I pitched Church Unique in 2007, there were no popular leadership books with the title “church and culture” in the title. My working title for the book’s contract was:

OOZE VISION: How to Shape Church Culture to Guide Church Growth.

Since Church Unique, there have been at least five significant book titles (there are several others)  that have tried to leverage the idea of “culture” in the title:

So, the natural question seems to be, what kind of culture is most important? Does a culture of leadership trump a culture of discipleship? If I am working on a culture of mission, do I need to work separately on a culture of generosity? How many “cultures” am I supposed to be working on anyway?

Let’s start by eliminating the easy ones. As much as I believe in a culture of leadership and a culture of generosity, these are clearly subordinate to the biggest ideas of the church’s identity. Simply put God does not command us to go into the world and make leaders or centers of generosity. (More on Jesus use of leadership terminology.)

That leaves us with a culture of discipleship or a culture of mission. What is more important?

I don’t think there is an objectively correct answer to this question as much as there is a practically useful answer depending on your context. In the current context of North America in 2014, I believe the more useful answer is a culture of mission.

Why? There are four primary reasons:

  1. Most churches can easily mistake a programmatic culture for a culture of discipleship. Therefore the terminology doesn’t wake them up to their problem. A culture of mission has more teeth.
  2. The term discipleship tends to connote contextually, although not biblically, an inward or internal church focus. A culture of mission forces you to grapple with the people far from God whom you are poised to reach.
  3. A culture of mission subsumes a culture of discipleship so directly and clearly, but gives broader application to the nuances of each church’s application of mission. Mission is a bigger idea than discipleship in this regard.
  4. A culture of mission more clearly integrates all of the functions of the church better than a culture of discipleship. Again, this is not necessarily true at all times and places, but I believe there is a slight advantage to seeing it this way today.

Clearly a culture of mission and a culture of discipleship should take us to the same place. But I think it is more possible for a church to think of themselves as good at making disciples and be unclear on mission, than for church to be crystal clear on mission and not be focused on making disciples.

Another way I would support this point, is to ask the question, “What was in Jesus’ mind when he selected his first disciples. Mission or discipleship?” I did a fun post on this looking at three disciple-making catalysts in the life of Jesus. 

I am dying to hear your thoughts. What do you think?