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 16, 2014

Three Sources of Original Ministry Vision in a Cut-n-Paste Church World

Church Vision and Santa Fe

I spent yesterday afternoon with my wife, Romina on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. It is one of the most concentrated art gallery areas in the world with over one hundred and fifty galleries in a mile stretch.

At one of the galleries, named the Gaugy Gallery, I met Michelle Gaugy who runs a nice shop and consults with artists. She caught our attention with one of her statements:

Most artists are just tweaking someone else’s work.

It became clear that  aspires to help artists to move toward originality of expression (in a similar way that I do with church leaders and church vision). And her gallery was a clear testimony to her life pursuit. As her robust intellectual style drew me in, I knew I could learn something on behalf of church leaders. What follows is my simple question and her responses. I will let you make the connection to ministry.

I asked, “So how does an artist develop originality?”

Michele replied with three answers:

#1: You must have a deep inner life. 

She emphasized the role of reflection for the artist emphasizing the ideas of personal surrender. She explained that the role of visual art is to be a conduit or language of the things that are most valuable to human beings, like the stuff that matters on your death bed. If the artist is not aware on that level, its easy to be tempted by technique and duplicating the style of others. 

#2: You must have a vibrant outer life.

The idea Michele unpacked here is that visual expression is most dynamic when the artist is not just focused on art. She explained how many great artists have occupations that defined their life that gave uniqueness and grounding to their work. The more that an artist can cross different life spheres including vocation, hobbies, and relationships, the better and more original the art will become.

#3 You must have a kindling mechanism

Finally Michele emphasizes the great artists must define and perfect a what she called a kindling mechanism; a way to jumpstart their best creative energy. She explained that for some it might be as simple as starting first thing in the morning to stay closer to a dream state. One famous artist would begin by putting his feet in cold water, while another would stay in prayer and meditation before painting.

It reminded me of why I love coming to Santa Fe to begin with as visiting here is a kindling mechanism for my writing. In fact, I wrote most of Church Unique while visiting Santa Fe.

So, what else would you add?

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.

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