December 11, 2014

10 Ways We Get in the Way of God Building His Church

God Builds the Church Will Mancini

Scriptures clearly remind us that God is building his church. But the reality of church can seem so contradictory to this truth. Reggie McNeal once wrote, “We have the best churches men can build, but we are still waiting for the church that only God can get the credit for.”  When things don’t go well at church, is it possible that we are getting in God’s way?

The quote from Reggie  has been retweeted quite a bit this last week. It got me thinking about theses question:

  • How am I unintentionally trying to build a church without God?
  • How I do become an obstacle to the Spirit’s work, without realizing it?
  • I am making ministry harder than it should be?

As I reflected on the possible answers I become all too aware of my own failures and mistakes along the way. While tempted to do a short paragraph on each point,  I believe the single statements alone say enough!

10 Ways We Get in Way of God Building His Church:

Way #1: We rely on human wisdom, not God’s, by copying what we see in other churches. 

Way #2: We misdirect our energies by confusing the ends and means of ministry.

Way #3: We use our ministry platform to display our gifts more than to develop the gifts of others.

Way #4: We avoid transparency thus making ourselves more than we really are. 

Way #5: We decide to stop growing thereby limiting  the growth of others around us. 

Way #6: We settle for ministry assignments that are disconnected from the entire rescue mission of redemptive history. 

Way #7: We choose denial instead of facing the answers to difficult questions.

Way #8: We use our influence to stay in a ministry position longer than we should.

Way #9:  We loose our love for people but pretend we don’t.

Way #10: We take ourselves too seriously by not resting in weekly sabbath. 

Dear Father,

Please rescue us from ourselves. Forgive us when we unintentionally get in the way. We acknowledge that we can operate out of pride and self-strength as easily as we can be tempted by comfort and inaction. Thank your for the privilege of participation in your church-building, kingdom-expanding work on earth. We want to see you get all of the credit and work more than we could possibly dream!

December 6, 2014

The Top 10 Reasons to Advance Church Goals One Big Goal at a Time

Church Goals by Will Mancini

Most church leaders never experience what it feels like to have one big goal for their entire church. (Unless of course they are raising funds in a traditional capital campaign.) Yet, to be a part of a church culture that sets and achieves big goals time and time again is as God honoring as much as it is exhilarating!

What do most churches do instead of having one big goal? Its pretty simple. They either have no clear and stated aspirations at all or they have too many goals in an overwhelming strategic plan or cumbersome dashboard. The sweet spot is a rare yet priceless in-between: one highly visible, broadly supported goal. At Auxano we call this a “missional milestone” and it usually is based on a time horizon of 6 to 12 months out.

One key to understanding the value of having one goal, is that you have one goal at a time. That is, you keep resetting the next big goal to advance the longer-term vision of your congregation. (Learn more about the different horizons of planning.)

 So what are the top ten reasons to set church goals one at a time?

#1  One goal at a time focuses the attention of staff and leaders.

No goal = little focus. Too many goals = playing for different teams.

#2  One goal at a time creates greater energy among the congregation.

No goal = unactivated potential. Too many goals = depleted energy.

#3  One goal at a time directs everyone’s prayers as a concert of dependence on God.

No goal = random prayers. Too many goals = low likelihood of any goal-directed prayers at all.

#4  One goal at a time helps leaders think bigger about what God might be doing.

No goal = smaller thinking. Too many goals = fragmented thinking.

#5  One goal at time means we will set goals for disciple-making outcomes not just for raising money.

No goal = you only set goals when raising funds. Too many goals = people never see the importance of  disciple-making goals.

#6  One goal at a time generates a sense of momentum.

No goal = people define success any way they want. Too many goals = splintered momentum.

#7  One goal at a time helps us build toward bigger and bigger goals.

No goals = no “ramp” to bigger goals. Too many goals = each goal stays smaller.

#8  One goal at a time fosters healthy risk-taking.

No goal = no reason to risk. Too many goals = much lower risk threshold.

#9  One goal at a time connects people to the larger story of God’s redemptive history.

No goal = live in a smaller story.  Too many goals = disconnect people.

 #10  One goal at a time demonstrates God-honoring unity.

No goal = missed opportunity to show people our “togetherness.” Too many goals = shows people our different agendas.

December 5, 2014

Why You Need More than Church Capital Campaign to Fund Your Ministry

Church Capital Campaigns Why does your church need more than a church capital campaign? Because pastors and church leaders and good-hearted church attenders are tired of the “campaign fatigue” brought upon by the repetitive traditional approach to raising funds.

Stop Campaigning and Start Discipling

When church leaders are unaware of better alternatives, they get stuck in the traditional fundraising cycles, back to back (typically in 3-year cycles) designed to raise money without adequate vision, leadership development or disciple-making strategies in place.  Two years ago, the Auxano team felt led by God to address the sticky issues of this industry. I personally felt called to be a part of the solution and not just a naysayer regarding the old-school approaches. We are getting some extraordinary results from taking a different path; a better and more holistic approach. Here is one of our stories by Todd McMichen:

The Story of Mainstreet Church 

Recently, Auxano was engaged by Mainstreet Church in the greater Toledo, Ohio area to help rethink how they would continue to fund their vision. Mainstreet logo_originalUnder the leadership of Lead Pastor, Marty Pennington, the church had taken a leap of faith, constructed a new campus, and relocated to the new facilities enabling them to build relationships that move more people to full devotion to Christ. However, this new level brought about new resourcing challenges. The church had a healthy debt load that needed to be addressed and an ever-increasing cycle of one campaign after another. Each campaign resulted in lower participation percentages, a reduction in cash offerings, and smaller financial commitments by their members. Mainstreet was experiencing “campaign fatigue.” Campaign fatigue sets in when members of the church become weary of the repetitive cycle of campaign after campaign with no apparent end in sight. For both leaders and members, fatigue quickly grows into frustration and weariness. The church was at a resourcing crossroads and had several challenges that needed to be overcome.

  • How do we continue to fund the vision?
  • How do we stop the campaign cycle?
  • How do we re-energize leaders?
  • How do we disciple believers in the area of generosity?
  • How do we increase the number of people who are financially contributing to the vision of the church?

So what did Campaigns by Auxano recommend? Stop Campaigning and Start Discipling! The church courageously hit the pause button on their next campaign and developed a comprehensive discipleship plan around their “give fully” spiritual mark. They identified four stages of “giving fully” for Christ followers: emerging, engaged, growing, and generous. Members were challenged to assess their stage and take the essential steps to go to the next stage. The clear challenge was to “grow up” in the area of generosity. For some that meant to start tithing. For others it meant that God was calling them to become generous “above and beyond” givers. Mainstreet’s prayer was to create a culture of generosity among a broader base of their membership and provide a break in the campaign cycle. growing1 So what happened? Despite enduring the worst weather on record and its impact on their Sunday morning attendance, the church had amazing spiritual and numerical results:

  • 38% immediate giving increase for the first 12 weeks of the generosity initiative
  • 16% sustainable increase in budget giving beyond the first 12 weeks of the generosity initiative
  • more people contributing financially to the work of the church than ever before
  • a new generosity culture language that is empowering discipleship and making the mission transferable
  • a clearly designed and supported growth pathway from being an emerging giver to a generous disciple

When you bring the entire staff together, articulate a clear vision, and create a comprehensive discipleship strategy, churches can grow a generous culture that will produce immediate and sustainable results. Of course, you can keep campaigning if that is more fun!

November 26, 2014

The Four Deadly Sins of Emerging Church Leaders

4 Deadly Sins of Emerging Church Leaders by Steve Saccone

The following four sins is an excerpt from a TeamUp tool that helps your team engage key concepts for emerging church leaders around Steve Saccone’s book, Protege. You can download the TeamUp tool here.

Character is doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do, no matter the cost. That is the essence of true heroism, and the defining mark of a Christ-centered leader. Unfortunately, character is not required to be an effective leader. On the other hand, character is what makes a leader worth following—and it’s what gives people a compelling life to follow.

#1 – The Sin of Imitation: Envy

Envy is not only a deadly sin, but probably one of the most uncomfortable sins, especially for emerging leaders as they strive to distinguish themselves from everyone else. And sometimes it’s immensely difficult to distinguish the difference from personal development and imitation development. The pathway toward overcoming the sin of imitation involves the pursuit of living an original life, a pursuit all can attain, one we were in fact created to attain.

#2 –  The Sin of Performance: Self-Reliance

Every leader faces the challenge to produce or perform. Although this ambitious pursuit and intentional focus isn’t inherently wrong, I’m convinced that what ought to motivate us and what actually does motivate us gets all too blurry. The mindset of productivity is so pervasive in our culture that it can result in a subtle but critical shift in our approach to how we view and do ministry leadership and understand what great performance is really about.

#3 – The Sin of Overconfidence: Foolishness

Where do we draw the line between healthy confidence and unhealthy overconfidence? Where does the balance lie between knowing you have specific gifts to offer, and thinking you are better than you are? And how does knowing the difference actually make a difference? My experience shows me that ministry leaders don’t always seek the right kind of wisdom, thus maintaining characteristics of what the Scriptures call, “a fool,” which is where the sin of overconfidence leads us.

#4 – The Sin of Entitlement: Greed

Greed is a deadly sin because it takes more than it gives. It consumes rather than creates. It is never satisfied. What makes it worse is that greed is difficult to recognize and then acknowledge within yourself. As a result of going unchecked, greed begins to fuel and pollute our ambitions, the very ones that look good on the outside but wreck havoc in our leadership, marriage, ministry, and personal lives.

November 24, 2014

3 Ways to Develop Your Church Leaders Without Having More Events

Leadership has become the hottest topic among growing church leaders these days. And I think for good reason. There is a healthy and ever-increasing awakening to the reality that programs don’t grow people, people do. And the more you are in the business of really making disciples, the more leadership development moves from periphery to central; it becomes a real need AND a felt need issue!

But the first problem in execution is again the over-reliance on events and programming. Churches quickly start leadership development classes or events only to overwhelm further, the busiest people they serve. Many first takes at leadership development become a recipe for insanity!

What then are some alternative solutions? What are ways to develop leaders IN church without creating more events AT church?

SOLUTION #1: Use a special story-telling technique to help leaders teach other leaders in realtime

I learned this teaching-via-story tool from Noel Tichy which he introduces in his book, Leadership Engine as a  “Teachable Point of View.” It takes some effort to get going but can become a powerful part of a leadership development culture. One of the most significant steps I have ever taken as a leader is to write down ten, 2-minute testimonies of my life’s most significant leadership lessons. Try it and learn more in the download below.

SOLUTION #2: Implement self-led venues for people to learn at any time, any place and any pace

With access to digital content today, its easier than ever to provide learning and development opportunities virtually. One caution: Don’t let leadership development drift into a information-transfer opportunity only. Watching a video doesn’t make you a better leader. But watching a video can be a significant step in a relational development pathway. Aubrey Malphurs and I wrote a chapter in Building Leaders about 16 different venues including this self-led type. Also, check out the Ministry Grid for a great online tool for church leaders.

SOLUTION #3: Embed apprenticeship as a norm in ministry environments

While many people have written on apprenticeship, few have practiced it as well as Dave and Jon Ferguson. Check out their thoughts in the download below. One huge and obvious benefit  of apprenticing is that you don’t have to recreate a training environment because every ministry environment is a training environment. Apprenticing can be challenging but it is doable. It is the primary method Auxano uses for training Navigators.

Download the SUMS reMix 12-page PDF, on Leadership Development 

In our first issue of our SUMS reMix we tackled this post’s problem. SUMS  reMix is a brand new tool that brings you three simple solutions to practical challenges for church leaders. Each solution comes via book summary of a book relevant to church leadership. Sign-up here.