February 20, 2016

Only 4 Types of Pastors Excel at Vision – Are You One of Them?

Pastors that Excel at Vision

I was having a conversation with Bryan Rose on the Auxano team recently. We broached the topic of “pastors who get it.” That is, we discussed the kinds of pastors who really press through the vision process to gain great clarity. These pastors lead with humility and tenacity. These pastors build great churches. These pastors see the kingdom grow right in front of their eyes. These are the true visionaries.

We believe these leaders fit almost perfectly into one of four categories or four types of pastors.

These are four types of pastors that are willing to learn, discern and do the hard work of visionary leadership. Another way to say it is that these pastors are leading today what will be the great churches ten and twenty years from now.


#1 – The relevant rookie pastor: “I don’t know what I don’t know”

These pastors are sharp younger leaders (20s and 30s) who are in tune with their personal calling and dialed in to the prevailing issues of popular culture. They are probably in a new role that brings new responsibility; or they may be launching out on their own as a church planter. jason webbThey are naturally hungry to learn. They are culture savvy and they are connected to the people they are leading. 

They understand that they don’t know everything about organizational leadership. They are humble enough to invite a coach to the table. But their humility does not dilute their tenacity. They are the new breed of visionaries. They are tired of the old scorecards and will do whatever it takes to communicate the substance of the culture and vision of the church. 

Client profile: Jason Webb at ElmBrook Church recently completed a 9-month vision framing process.  “Rookie” doesn’t reflect Jason’s stellar church planting track record. But as a 30-something leader walking into a 5,000 plus attendance church, others might assign that adjective. (Especially when following in the footsteps of Stuart Briscoe and Mel Lawrenz, two former senior pastors.) Jason did an amazing job stewarding a vision process with a highly tenured team. They are 8 months into their vision roll-out. The completely new sense of team is felt and focus on the future is extraordinarily clear. Their passion is to help spiritually adrift people become rooted and released in Jesus Christ.

#2 – The legacy minded pastor: “I want to leave something valuable”

On the opposite end of the “rookie” spectrum is the legacy minded pastor. These pastors have likely led for decades in the same church. They have a lifetime of trust building and faithful service creating solid and influential ministries.

But they know that times are changing. They are now aware of the generational pattern of failed successions of senior pastors.  They are not quite ready to pass the baton or even make any long-term succession announcements, but they want to start putting the house in order. They are probably 3-7 years away from leaving their position.  They want to be more relevant. They want to re-clarify what their church can do best and re-align ministries to strengthen impact. They are tired of just doing more and want to prune ineffective ministries. They want to leave a strong and self-aware church to their eventual successor.

Client Profile: Pastor Clint has been leading his church for 25 years. At age 62, he feels that he has at least five more years left. He has built one of the best megachurches in North America. The church is getting older than people want to admit. Even though younger leaders are present, they are not present with serious responsibility yet. Pastor Clint has raised the money to do a 12-month vision process and it has reinvigorated his life and ministry like nothing before. As each month brings increasingly clarity, he is leading better, allowing others to lead better and is gaining confidence toward the long-range future.

#3 – The newly stuck pastor: “I have barrier that I now realize is not going away and I am not exactly sure how to fix it.”

The newly stuck pastor has a very simple story. You keep growing until you don’t. After five or 10 years of year-over-year growth, the church just stops growing. Giving is not going up; or at least not as much. By the way, you know you are in this place when you push really hard to “feel like you are growing” even though, deep inside, you know you are not. For example, attendance may be flat, but you put your hope in the fact that the church had slightly more attendance at Easter. Or you keep focusing on a few months where giving is slightly higher. You take momentary relief in the trend that your most faithful members attend church less. 

To make matters worse, if you look around the church, everything is going fine. All cylinders are hitting. Buildings are great, staff is relatively healthy. It’s hard to know why the growth is not just happening any longer.

The truth is that the organization is perfectly designed to get the results that it’s getting. Something about the structure, the culture, or the complexity of the church is holding it back. But because all of the successful years, the answer is not obvious or automatic. Finally something happens: you realize you need some perspective from the outside. You’ll do whatever it takes to break that glass ceiling.

Client Profile: Pastor Dan is 55 and has been leading a church for 10 years. Five years ago the attendance plateaued at around 1,600 in weekend services. He has kept hoping for the best and has become increasing bothered by their lack of growth. In fact, they built seating capacity to handle double their current attendance.  Every Sunday, Dan feels the pain of the empty seats   On Sabbatical two summers ago, he read Church Unique and began to think about both his vision and his organization dynamics. Recently he finished a 12-month vision framing process. He is more excited than ever to be in ministry. He is seeing people excited as he creates and models a culture of mission. He is leading with vision like never before. Attendance is already on the rise and giving has dramatically picked up.

#4 – The rapid growth pastor: “I don’t want to grow bigger, unless bigger is better.”

There are two types of rapid-growth pastors: those who fixate on attendance only and those with a passion for disciple-making in a growing church context. I work primarily with the latter and that is the profile I am now describing. David SaathoffThese pastors understand that all growth is not good growth. They understand that growth out of alignment in the human body is called cancer. What then, do you call growth in the body of Christ that is out of alignment with the DNA of Jesus?

The rapid growth pastor sees a growing attendance as a critical stewardship. It’s a starting point not an end point. Are there clear next steps not just to “get involved but” to really grow as disciple-making disciples? Is leadership development and people development taking place? Is growing attendance happening under the banner of a vivid sense of the church’s impact for the next 5-10 years? Are we sending as well as we are attracting? Are we managing our culture or letting the growth manage us? 

Client Profile: David Saathoff leads City Church in San Antonio. Dave has engaged the Vision Framing process several times since he launched the church 20 years ago. He continually manages clarity in the complexity of growth and the messiness of reaching people far from God. He has literally reached thousands with the passion to become catalysts of spiritual and social change in the city. He has one of my favorite mission measures which codifies the practices of “how we live” across a large church community. Even if new people are added at a fast rate, the expectation of disciple-making is delivered at concurrent speed. How do they articulate it? How we live: We listen to God, be the church, share a meal, downsize to maximize, peel the onion, keep our passport current and lean towards green.

These are the four types of pastors that excel at vision. Which one are you?

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 9, 2016

God Dreams Executive Pastor Certification for Church Vision and Execution

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 12.20.55 AM

Join me and 15 other like-minded executive pastor leaders this August in Colorado.  The four-day certification experience is designed for executive pastors, network leaders and denominational coaches. Slots are open on a limited basis to for-profit consultants. There is a limit of 15 people.

Why You Should Come

  • You love seeing teams come together around clear vision
  • You want to increase the positive accountability for your team
  • You want to give your short life to laser focused, kingdom priorities
  • You like to think well and be sharpened by other world-class leaders

Okay you’d expect me to say that… Why else should you come

  • While Auxano has certified a few dozen people in a highly relational, invite only format, this is my first formal opportunity to do so publicly. I have waited 15 years to take this step. Now that God Dreams is published, its time to multiply the work of visionary planning.
  • The tools and training you will receive are unlike any other on the planet. The subjects will range from creating your church’s unique execution dashboard to training staff how to vision cast every day to “leading up” to your senior pastor.
  • I am shifting how I spend my time to invest more in others. I really look forward to getting to know you and supporting your life and ministry.

God Dreams ThumbnailWhat You Receive

  • A certification notebook that will walk you through how to facilitate your own visionary planning sessions in a church environment.
  • Reproducible templates, PDFs, and tools for weekly team management in the church
  • Best practice examples and how-to’s from the front lines of America’s strongest ministries
  • Incredible community and dynamic learning on church vision, culture and growth
  • Stretched imagination and refreshed vision with your own calling
  • Great destination location
  • Training from 1 p.m. Monday to 11 a.m. Thursday during the certification week
  • Optional evening events

2016 Certification Week

  • August 22-25, Colorado destination (TBA)

What You Invest: $2,950.00 (does not include travel and lodging)

Next Step

Please fill out the form at http://goddrea.ms/certification to indicate your interest and sign up.