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?

February 8, 2014

What is Break-Thru Clarity in Ministry?

Vision and Clarity in Ministry

Break-thru clarity is a simple thing that makes a huge impact in your life.  It’s a powerful thing that will dramatically change your ministry.

Most of our days are filled with the daily stuff. And the daily stuff is always pushing you here and pulling you there.  Sunday is coming. People are needy. There’s never enough time. Church life goes on.

Amidst this daily rhythm—sometimes flow and sometimes grind—we find the beauty and blessing of break-thru clarity. Maybe it’s easiest to describe what it feels like when you have it.

  • It’s the power of seeing the same things in a whole new way.
  • It’s the surge of energy that rushes through you and doesn’t seem to stop.
  • It’s the freedom of perspective that suddenly makes prioritization easy.
  • It’s the satisfaction that comes when the staffing puzzle finally make sense.
  • It’s the confidence of a much more vivid 3-year vision.
  • It’s the thrill of a team that wins, again and again.

When God brings you break-thru clarity, nothing feels better.

But for most of us, too much time has passed since our last break-thru. The funny thing about break-thru is that we forget what it feels like; we forget how bad we need it.

How does this happen? Once we taste a little bit of success in ministry, which is always nice, there is plenty to work on. Something is going well and that is good enough. We stay busy. We start something new. We grow. We start another thing. We hire another staff person.

Or maybe you inherit a church with a legacy or we attain a position with prior influence. There’s a lot to protect, a budget to steward. There are expectations from the past and assumptions about the future built into every conversation.

The end result is the same. While you read this there are a hundred other things to read and a thousand other things to do. And you aren’t the only one person in the equation. Your church has other leaders, lots of volunteers and other staff.  They too have thousand things to do to.

 This collective activity becomes the enemy of break-thru clarity. Just imagine…

  • When a potential member asks a question like “Who are we as a church?” or  “Where is God taking us?” what do you say?
  • If someone throws a curveball into the conversation like,  “Are we really making disciples?”  how do you respond?
  • When an elder asks, with a hint of sarcasm “What is our priority for this year?” What’s the next word out of your mouth?

Break-thru clarity is about living and leading with answers to questions like these.  Break-thru clarity is both something you experience and something you have as a team.

What is break-thru clarity?

It is a God-given idea, well understood and skillfully articulated, that brings notable and immediate progress toward realizing your vision.

A simple conviction drives us on the Auxano team: Life is short enough and ministry is hard enough not to have break-thru clarity.  We exist because break-thru does not; or at least not often enough.

When’s the last time your team experienced break-thru clarity?  Where in your ministry could you use break-thru today?

To connect with me and the team at Auxano about break-thru clarity, fill out this short form below.

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February 7, 2014

One Simple and Powerful Practice to Create Staff Core Values that Perry Noble Forgot

NewSpring Church Core Values

First, I want to clarify that I am a big fan of Perry Noble and NewSpring Church. I  encourage any church to visit them as a benchmarking experience. Yet, when a highly platformed leader models a “missed practice,” friend or not, I am compelled to create a learning experience for the benefit of your vision and your team. I am highlighting Perry because so many churches utilize his church values list for inspiration and I know he won’t mind me teasing him a bit.

Recently, Perry blogged about his “staff core values” a common practice among visionary, creative type of pastors. Years ago, I worked through this with Chuck Swindoll who had list of  “church core values” and “ministry values” at Stonebriar.  At Faithbridge, where I serve as a leadership coach, we also had a separate list of values for the church and for the staff in the early days.  The impulse to do this is essence of leadership; guiding, shaping and directing the team! But one simple and powerful principle is often overlooked in the process of creating a tool for your staff.

Let’s unpack it so you can put it to work!

YOU DON’T NEED “LIST NUMBER TWO”

When it comes to creating “staff core values” or “guiding team principles” or whatever else you want to call them, don’t take the misstep of creating “list number two.” Don’t fragment your communication. Don’t create more complexity.  Don’t forget that your organization is a unified whole by creating a totally separate list of ideas. 

The good news is that you didn’t really need “list number two” for your staff.  You need better understanding of “list number one.” By creating “list number two,” you inadvertently do more work for less traction with your staff.

Minor thing, you say? Not really. Let me remind you that your followers don’t need more ideas; they need deeper ownership of the best ideas that you bring to the table – the biggest ideas that God has given you to lead with.

Put another way, your church does not need “staff core values,” your church needs “church core values” that the staff can live, model and operationalize. 

The key principle today: It’s hard enough to shape culture, so don’t dilute your efforts by segmenting cultures in your organization. There are lots of good things you need to segment, but your culture is not one of them.

REVISITING NEWSPRING – WHAT PERRY’S STAFF VALUES COULD HAVE LOOKED LIKE

Here are the five core values of NewSpring Church.

  • Found People Find People 
  • Saved People Serve People
  • Growing People Change
  • You Can’t Do Life Alone
  • You Can’t Outgive God

When Perry articulates his “staff core values” the list includes

  • 3 Imperatives (Listen to Jesus, Commit to CHANGE, and the Best is Yet to Come)
  • One imperative has 5 sub-points
  • One imperative has 9 sub-questions

It doesn’t take much to see how these values are related. So let’s see how one simple and powerful practice keeps Perry focused on leading one culture, not two:

Use staff “demonstrated by” statements for your church core values to explain, clarify and model how the staff uses them.

For example, the value of “growing people change” can have “staff demonstrated by” statements that build out the 5 sub-points. For example:

  • At NewSpring, staff demonstrate the value of “Growing People Change ” by maintaining a genuine posture of CARE for each person, even when the tasks feel overwhelming.
  • At NewsSpring, staff demonstrate the value of “Growing People Change” by practicing AWE; never forgetting where we came from and how far God has brought us.

Imagine, for example, how powerful Perry’s 9 sub-questions as decision-making filters would have been if he placed those under the value of “You can’t do life alone.” If you look at those questions they are all about being in communion with Jesus, the Spirit and the community of other leaders at the church. Now this core value would have some depth and dimension to it rather than just being a hammer to pound people into small groups.

BREAK-THRU CLARITY FOR YOUR TEAM

Why not take an hour as a team and work on some “demonstrated by” statements as a staff? (I actually did this a week ago and will share it in another post.)

  1. Review your values as an organization
  2. Give everyone a chance to individually record how they demonstrate these day to day in their role
  3. Have everyone write down their 3-5 statements
  4. Share these as a team when everyone is done writing
  5. Highlight the ones that resonate with the entire group
  6. Create new “demonstrated by” statements  together through 30 minutes of discussion
  7. Assign a final wordsmith and redistribute to the team
  8. Build the review of these into monthly or quarterly meetings
  9. Use these for staff self-evaluation and review
  10. Read this post as fuel for the conversation
January 17, 2014

What Pastors are Saying About the Book Innovating Discipleship

Innovating Discipleship by Will Mancini

Innovating Discipleship is the first book I have released since Church Unique. It is a read in one hour kind of book at 85 pages,  But my hope is that it will change how you read for a lifetime.

I am grateful for some of the first folks to review the book. Here is what pastors are saying:

  • Truly one of the best books I’ve read on ministry development. – Doug Murphy (read full review)
  • You need books that will grow you and stretch you. You need books that will challenge you and set your heart aflame. Will Mancini’s latest book accomplishes all of this and more. – David Bowman (read full review)
  • Clear, concise, creative insights to guide people through change in the direction of a church. An excellent model for innovation. – Steve Conway
    Innovating Discipleship Cover
  • No matter how you say it…your church’s scorecard, aim, dashboard, metrics, what you count…will be better defined by reading and processing this content as a team. I have shared it with key leaders in my church context and everyone of them—staff, elders, key leaders—agree this is incredibly helpful. – Jason Stewart
  • Will Mancini delivers again on a book to challenge church leaders to think outside the box – Jim Caldwell
  • Will Mancini wrote a definitive work for churches to be clear on their mission, vision, and values when he wrote THE CHURCH UNIQUE. Now, he challenges all churches to engage in true disciple-making in INNOVATING DISCIPLESHIP. A must-read for churches serious about disciple-making! – Cheryl Stouffer
  • I feel it was a great read for any ministry or overseer in the church today. You may find that you don’t want to change anything or need to change a ton, but this short read will ask you questions that will help you understand steps you may need to take. – Ryan Charest
  • My copy is a little bit of a mess.  Underlined.  Starred.  Dog-eared with a broken spine.  My copy looks like I’ve had it much longer than I have.  Packed with keen insights, if you’re looking for the truth about your current situation and more importantly, what and where your next steps could be…I highly recommend that you pick up your own copy. – Mark Howell  (read full review)

The best way to pick up a copy is right here.

If you have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts. What was most helpful? What was unclear? What questions do you still have?

 

January 14, 2014

#1 on the 2014 Ministry Vision and Planning Countdown: Bruce Miller’s Six Rhythm Strategies

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 8.05.51 PMAs I compete the countdown for 2014 I want to give you some gold, that has been hidden deep. Bruce Miller is a friend and pastor of Christ Fellowship in Texas. Years ago he wrote a book called Your Life in Rhythm which he then adapted to church leadership to bring Your Church in Rhythm. I wrote the foreword for the latter.

Bruce, helps us answer a critical question for vision and planning: What time is it at your church?  This book uniquely walks you through a chapter on defining your current life-stage as a church and discerning your current ministry season. These are a part of discerning the Kairos rhythms.

In addition Bruce encourages church leaders to look at the five Chronos rhythms that God has built into the universe.

  • Orbital (annual): based on the earth orbiting the sun, about every 365 days
  • Seasonal (quarterly): based on the tilt of the earth shifting, about every 90 days
  • Lunar (monthly): based on the cycle of the moon, about every 29.5 days
  • Sabbath (weekly): based on the creation pattern of seven days
  • Rotational (daily): based on the rotation of the earth, about every 24 hours

So what does all of this rhythm stuff mean? In short, it means leading with more energy to accomplish the right things in the right time. It means leading with sanity and appropriate expectations. I like how Bruce uses a rhythm approach to contrast the default mode of a “balanced health” approach in church leadership. Here is a comparison from the book:

Church vision planning - 6 rhythm strategies

 

As an effective leader himself, Bruce builds the application of the book around six rhythm strategies; three for kairos and three for chronos.

Kairos Rhythm Strategies

  1. Release Expectations
  2. Seize Opportunities
  3. Anticipate What’s Next

Chronos Rhythm Strategies

  1. Set Your Pace (frequency and flow)
  2. Build Missional Enhancing Rituals (traditions and habits)
  3. Oscillate Intensity and Renewal

I highly encourage you to check out this book and bring these strategies into your thinking as a pastor and team culture as a leader. You won’t be disappointed and it may provide break-thru clarity for 2014.

As this concludes out 2014 countdown, I would love to hear from you. Which post of the ten did you benefit from the most?