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 25, 2014

The Vision Statements of 13 Great Leaders in the Bible

Spiritual Vision

In a previous post, I introduced the powerful concept call the Future Perfect Paradigm. I am continuing this series by looking at the vision statements or the future perfect of 13 biblical leaders. What is the future perfect paradigm?

The Future Perfect Paradigm is simply looking at everything today through the lens of a powerful future perspective. The more clear and powerful the future perspective, the greater the impact it can have on the way you look at today. 

The summary chart below is taken from work by Robert Clinton and only slightly tweaked and expanded.

Vision Statements of Biblical Leaders and Future Perfect Paradigm

We will continue to explore how the idea of a future perfect paradigm add value to the typical notion of a vision statement in the next post.

March 10, 2014

What’s Your Future Perfect Paradigm? Exploring a Powerful Ministry Tool

The future of the church

What if there was a simple way of thinking about your day today, that could radically transform it?

The term “future perfect paradigm” originates from the work of Stanley Davis in the eighties. He used the term as a framework in strategic planning. Even though the term may sound like just another cool way to talk about vision, Davis brought some unique and helpful thoughts to the study of vision and planning.

I will explore a few key ideas from Davis in a series of posts. In addition, I want to expose you to some of Robert Clinton’s adaptation of Davis’s work as the maven of Christian leadership “stages” and timeline thinking.

Awesome stuff- I promise.

But let’s get started right now with a definition:

Paradigm: a controlling perspective which allows one to perceive and understand reality.

The Future Perfect Paradigm is simply looking at everything today through the lens of a powerful future perspective. The more clear and powerful the future perspective, the greater the impact it can have on the way you look at today. 

Let’s unpack that a bit more. Put on your grammatical hat from Greek class and think of the future-perfect tense. From a time perspective, the present is the past of the future. So imagine having such a powerful image of the future that the present is transformed. It is transformed because the present must lead to that future.

One illustration is the world-class athlete that will fully envision the final performance before the event. Clinton explains, “They will actually go through the event twice, once in their mind—a future perfect way of thinking, and then when it actually happens.” It’s not that hard to image how decisions, priorities, practice and discipline are all shaped by a the substance of a necessary future that has been well defined. Now read Hebrews 11 and consider the biblical concept of faith—”the assurance of things hoped for, the convictions of things not seen.”  Pretty strong connect to the future perfect paradigm, wouldn’t you say?

Stay tuned and we will take a look at how this adds some new meaning to the work of vision planning and vision casting.

What are some of the very cool things you can look forward to?

  • How about a summary table of the “future perfect” vision of thirteen biblical leaders to get us started.
  • Then I want to take a look at one of my favorite ideas for the visionary- “beforemath.” Beforemath is the kissin cousin to a term you already know- “aftermath.”
  • Finally we will look at Clinton’s five stages toward developing a future perfect paradigm.
March 7, 2014

Unlocking the Five Motivations for Work in Your Ministry Leadership

We all have motivations that get us out of bed in the morning. And, we all have a wide array of forces that impact our sense of identity as it relates to work.

Work motivations - callingI have found it helpful to identify these and to explore their interrelationship. In doing so there are multiple benefits to fortifying your life as a ministry leader. In fact, great leaders deeply understand these benefits  in their own life. In addition, these motivations and the benefits of understanding them, become very helpful in stewarding the gifts and talents of others. What are the benefits of exploring the five motivations? They include:

  • Building self-awareness
  • Bringing a higher perspective to everyday work 
  • Enhancing a God-focused life
  • Aiding in value-based, directional career decision-making 
  • Finding health and balance in your job. 

Explore these  five motivations for your work. While some of these categories may be defined from a negative point of view, (Careerism is selfish), I consider them from positive perspective.

#1 Work as Job: “I get paid in order to live.”

All of us, with few exceptions, start here. You get a job to put bread on the table and to pay the rent. It’s a baseline and noble motivation- survival.

#2 Work as Career: “I advance my life.” 

In addition to getting paid, its nice to know you will get paid more in the future. Progress is a life impulse biologically and emotionally. When you ad a little testosterone to the equation, watch out.  The impetus to win and to have more influence and to “better your position” becomes a significant, if not dominating motive for most people. While Jesus never rebukes the motivation for progress, he does rebuke the selfish and worldly interpretation of what progress looks like (lording over people verses serving them).

#3 Work as Fulfillment: “I enjoy using my life’s talents and abilities.” 

When people cultivate an awareness and practice of their gifts, new things begin to emerge in the motivational dynamic. “Work as job” and “work as career” motivations begin to shift. For example, I might be willing to trade financial benefit or title of influence for the euphoria of a tightly aligned role match with my passion or talents.

#4 Work as Calling: “God created my life for a unique purpose.” 

The definition of calling may have some nuances depending on your faith background. Here, I mean the term to reflect a personal relationship with God that brings the revelation of a life agenda or purpose or destiny.  It’s the movement from occupation to vocation. This is more specific than a generic, “I follow Jesus” or “God has a wonderful plan for your life.”  And this specificity is very real and concrete to those who discern it or find it or receive it. Luke wrote of Paul in Acts 13:36, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep…”

#5 Work as Convergence: “I enjoy life for God’s glory.” 

I have struggled with the idea of calling being the ultimate “right” motivation. In some ways, that is the obviously answer. In other ways,  I believe in the nobility of every level and the opportunity to engage in as many levels as possible. “Work as convergence” is the answer. Even though one may be clear on calling, isn’t it still natural to desire a sense of fulfillment and advancement? I think so. As the Westminster Confession reminds us, glorifying God isn’t separable from enjoying him. On another practical level, convergence brings the overlap of “work as job” and “work as calling.” Many feel like they have to work a “job” in order to serve God (calling) in some other area of life. In this case there is an opportunity to explore convergence.

 

 

March 4, 2014

Finally, All the Help You Need to Build a Leadership Pipeline in Your Church

Developing Church Leaders

I have known Mac Lake for several years. I am convinced that God has raised Mac up to usher in a leadership development revolution in the church of North America. I am excited to bring this guest post from him:

It’s happened once again. You’ve lost a key leader and find yourself filling in and doing things you know you shouldn’t be doing. So, once again, you promise yourself that this year will be different. You’re going to conquer the challenge of leadership development and build a deep leadership bench- a pipeline for developing leaders – for your ministry.

Why is leadership development a reoccurring problem for so many? In short, it’s a lack of intentionality.  We know leadership development is important, but few leaders integrate it into their weekly routine. And even fewer develop an intentional plan that ensures an ongoing reproduction of leaders. It’s just too easy to be distracted by the urgent and allow the development of leaders to take a back seat to everything else. We feel stuck and we’re too busy to develop leaders, but we need more leaders to get all the work done.

In 2013 I begin working with Will Mancini at Auxano to provide a Leadership Pipeline Development process for churches. The process focuses on building a culture of leadership development and emphasizes four essential components of an intentional leadership development strategy:

STRUCTURE – How is your church structured? 

Just as our spinal structure can dramatically impacts our mobility, our church structure can impact the development of new leaders. Most churches structure for function rather than for development.  An intentional leadership development strategy focuses on both function and development.

SYSTEM – How do potential leaders move to new levels of leadership? 

It’s essential you have a defined system or map for moving leaders from one level to the next. The absence of such a system makes the leadership development pathway confusing and inconsistent. It unintentionally blocks the movement of leaders.

CONTENT – What skills are essential for every level of the leadership pipeline?

As leaders move to new levels of leadership it requires new skills. Too often we simply throw them into leadership responsibility without proper preparation. An intentional Leadership Pipeline Development plan has defined exactly what competencies are required for various levels of leadership, and how to get them there.

PEOPLE — Who is responsible for equipping new leaders?

If that responsibility falls solely on the shoulders of one person, you will never build a culture of leadership development. The focus must be on raising an abundant harvest of reproducing leaders in your church. That’s when you will begin to fill your leadership pipeline.

Throughout 2014 I will be working with individual churches in six month iterations. During the six months you will get…

  •  20 Principles for creating a culture of Leadership Pipeline Development
  • Tools and techniques for developing leaders
  • A template to guide you in building your own systems
  • Development of a learning path for every level of your pipeline
  • An action planning guide for use between sessions

If you’re interested in participating in a six-month process for building an intentional Leadership Pipeline Development strategy, fill out the form below and I’ll connect with you.