December 25, 2013

#7 on the Ministry Vision and Planning 2014 Countdown: 7 Practices for Keeping Jesus at the Center of Church Staff

Will Mancini's Gospel Centered Church vision and planning

Merry Christmas everyone! This post is about keeping baby Jesus in the middle of our “daily mangers” all year long.

Before my ministry path took me down the consulting road, I served as a pastor of spiritual formation. My first love, theologically speaking, is sanctification. Most of my motivation for going to seminary was to learn how to walk with God (I know, maybe not the best place to learn that). I often couldn’t wait to get my coursework done, in order to devour the “spiritual reading” of the scores of mystics and saints from centuries past.

As a guy that most people put in the “organizational box” the roots of my org-based work come from my passion for gospel-centered spiritual formation. For example, I  assert that there is no church vision that is not a discipleship vision first, and there is no discipleship vision that is not a Gospel vision first. With the recent popular emphasis on Gospel centrality, i.e, the need for “the explicit Gospel” to use Matt Chandler’s phrase, I thought it would be helpful to look at vision and planning this year through the lens of strengthening our emotional connection to the Gospel. How do we rely more substantially on Jesus and the power of His Good News as we do our planning as a church?

#1 Model more prayer time for the adoration of Jesus

How you pray reveals much. And how you pray is an act of leadership. If you are like me, prayer time can naturally drift toward pragmatic stuff of the organization or the unceasing needs of our people. Why not mark your planning time, and team gathering moments early this year with a more lavish experience of praise and exaltation of Jesus. Make sure to prepare your heart first and model this with genuine passion.

#2 Identity and take responsibility for the organizational-cultural idols within your church

It’s easily to rely on ourselves when it comes to “feeling good about church” and being satisfied with our job performance. In each culture there are unique expressions of what the leaders may rely on. For example:

  • Creativity and recent attendance momentum
  • Flagship standing in the denomination
  • Hitting  a point of financial sustainability as a young church
  • Success of a new service or program or campus
  • Your prior reputation at a previous church
  • Financial security as a church

What are you tempted to add to the Gospel in order to make your church work? What could you be trying to substitute for the Gospel as the functional driver of life-change? Please be assured that there is some answer to these questions. Your opportunity as the leader is to identify them, take responsibility for your role in sustaining them and then encouraging personal and group repentance.

#3 Repent more often and more visibly as a leader with your leaders

This is a tricky one as many leaders have no category for this kind of leadership. It is very freeing once you give it a try. Simply put, you want to find opportunities, at the appropriate “levels” and places to reveal your struggles as a leader and confess your sins as a human being. Remember its not about you or even your leadership- its about the Gospel. One obstacle to taking the Gospel more seriously is taking ourselves too seriously. And the Gospel will have no life and vitality in the organization if the leadership is not letting it expose and restore and give hope amidst the daily grind.

#4 Recalibrate your leadership language

Whatever we love will show itself through the sophistication of our language. I love to mountain bike and I love to fish for smallmouth bass in rivers. I would be glad to unpack the vocabulary of cadence, 29″ wheels or head tube angles. I can go all day talking about Rapala and Tiny Torpedo lures, 6-poind test or  the pound-for-pound thrill of landing a fish after a topwater hit.

So how is your Gospel fluency? More importantly how do practice using gospel images and phrases each day? How often do you make the Gospel explicit? Here is a powerful reference called “Atonement Grammars” from Tim Keller to get you started. Here is a free book summary from our SUMS tool for Keller’s Center Church. 

#5 Cultivate urgency

Where the Gospel is clear and strong, urgency will be felt. How can you call your staff or volunteer leaders to respond? How can you mark planning retreats or staff meetings not only with hope but with a sense courage? For example, instead of just talking about a partnership with a local ministry, why not go there, pray for them and give to them and THEN discuss a potential partnership with your staff. As the leader you can create and model a Gospel-centered bias for action.

#6 Invite new accountability

I am amazed and encouraged by the common thread of interest in Gospel-centrality among staff throughout the country. Why not find a buddy to check in with once a month for ideas and encouragement? I bet everyone reading this post has a friend or two at another church or ministry who would enjoy a twelve-month partnership to this end.

 #7 Read together as leaders

This year you may want to allocate more time to reading through the gospels. The YouVersion Bible App has a reading plan for this.  A great recent book to use (that actually discusses gospel-centered culture in church) is Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Eric Geiger and Josh Patterson. Here is a link to some free tools our SUMS free book summary.

December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2014 Ministry Friends!

Mancini family pic

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior today, I wanted to send a special thank you for swinging by the blog this past year. It is great privilege to serve Jesus through the unique ministry of consulting and writing. None of it would be possible without you.

For His Glory, Will

December 24, 2013

#8 on the 2014 Ministry Vision and Planning Ideas Countdown: Beware of These Worst Practices

Worst Practice for Churches

As you look ahead to the new year avoid these missteps and mistakes I see all of the time:

Worst Practice #1:  Mantra Madness

Some pastors have a mission statement they are passionate about and that is it as far as vision and planning is concerned. So we’ll call that mission a “mantra”. Everyone knows it and there are always enough banners and written references for people to get it.  But trying having a strategic conversation and it sounds something like this:

 What’s your mission? A. Radical love of God, total love people and relentless pursuit of the world. Okay, great, well what is your strategy? A. Radical love of God, total love of people and relentless pursuit of the world. Nice, okay, well how do you measure success? A. Radical love of  God, total love of people, relentless pursuit of the world. Great, What’s your vision? A.  Radical love of God, total love of people, relentless  the world.

You now get the idea. A great mantra is important, but if that’s all you got, it isn’t much. What drives things in the end in a ministry like this? Either the whims of the people or the ADD of the pastor, all justified and under the broad and un-defined mantra.

Worst Practice #2: “Yessiness”

Many churches thrive on the an unusual fuel- the approval addiction of the pastor or staff combined with the mini-visions and pet agendas of the congregation.  What happens from there is  pretty simple. Busyness is considered successful in and of itself. And we all feel good saying yes to one another while ignoring a real lack of progress. No one has bad motives or anything, in fact its just the opposite. Yet a random, messy, all-things-to-all-people approach shoots the mission and vision  in the foot over time.

Worst Practice #3: Microwave Planning

Many folks who do move into the intentional planning space are too fond of instant results. Achieving great clarity has a likeness to the formation of a diamond- it takes heat plus time plus pressure. You simply can’t get great results from a afternoon strategy meeting alone or a one-day planning retreat.

Depending on the size and culture of your ministry you need some kind of process where perspective, meaning, convictions and priorities, can be discussed and shared to be implemented with excellence. Remember most pastors spend more time in sermon prep in one month they do on vision and planning in five years!

Worst Practice #4: Cut-n-Paste Strategy

Do you have any idea how many church leaders flock to conferences year after year? Who doesn’t love a great conference? Not only can you connect with friends and be challenged in your learning, you can flat out photocopy whatever ministry model you find there. Did you hear Perry Nobles sweet core values? Just use his! Wow, Did you hear about Jeff Vanderstelt’s Gospel rhythms? Let’s borrow that! What about Andy Stanley’s strategy? Don’t reinvent the wheel- just plug and play!

What’s the problem with cut-n-paste in the end? Not only do you not have to reinvent the wheel, you won’t reinvent the results either. Someone else’s strategy solves a problem in their place at their time with their perspective, passions and gifts. Yours are unique.

Worst Practice #5: Compelling Page Dump

I just ran into this again last week. A pastor or a group of leaders in the church are waiting for one person to “get it.” Usually we send the pastor away for a few days hoping he will come back with a word from God. We all hope that the “Moses-moment-on-the-mountain-top” will be repeated. And sometimes it happens! Sometimes it doesn’t. What always happens is some one-time download of what the visionary is thinking next. And usually its in the form a one to two page “I have a dream speech.” (the new stone tablets!)

Getting away is a great idea. Writing your ideas down is a good idea to. What messes up the compelling page dump is an over-reliance on both one person and a one time event. Vision is rarely owned, distributed or implemented after the dump trunk as reversed and unloaded.



December 23, 2013

#9 on the 2014 Ministry Vision and Planning Ideas Countdown: The Four Helpful Lists by Tom Paterson

Auxano's Jim Randall and Austin Stone's Kevin Peck doing StratOp

How would you like an incredibly simple and simply powerful planning tool for 2014? Let me introduce you to Tom Paterson, a strategy and planning guru. Tom is in his 80s and living outside of Denver (and not doing much consulting these days.)  He is the architect of a process called “StratOp,” an intense 3-day strategic execution process with planning tools. Pictured below, his legacy is now continued by the Paterson Center.

Tom Paterson and the Fountain of Youth Tool

One of Tom’s mantras is “Perspective before Planning.” During planning event, the team spends over a day increasing and enhancing perspective together through a set of guided experiences. One of those experiences, that anyone can immediately use, is called the 4 Helpful Lists. Here is how it works.

  1.  Create five columns on white board or two white-pad sticky sheets (the latter is shown here).
  2.  At the top of the first four columns put the 4 questions: What’s Right? What’s Wrong? What’s Confused and What’s Missing?
  3. At the top of the 5th column write, “Core Issues.”
  4. Take from 45-90 minutes with a group to discuss any aspect of the organization, from the org as a whole to a single department, program or event.
  5. Start by allowing people to populate any content with regard to the four questions.
  6. After the first four columns have been populated, begin to consider and record core issues in the 5th column.
  7. Keep in mind the four corresponding imperatives to each of the questions. Write these underneath each question: amplify, fix, clarify and add (see the picture below).
  8. Be ready for some breath-thru clarity

In 2014, Auxano will be offering Paterson’s StratOp  process for churches. As a non-profit group, we have the largest team of theologically trained, pastor-experienced  facilitators in the country. If you would like to learn more, you can request info here.

The 4 Helpful Lists

If you like the results you get from this tool, keep in mind that Tom Paterson, connected this to about 25 other tools that your team can experience in several days together. Not a bad staff retreat experience!

December 22, 2013

2014 Ministry Vision and Planning Countdown: #10 – Simple Practices for Change Readiness

Change readiness for church leadersDo you find the back-of-mind wheels turning through the holidays as you think about next year? I know I do. This countdown series will scan some ideas you may want to put in practice right away. Or, you might simply bookmark them for your Spring or Fall staff retreat.

The first idea is an adaptation from Tim Ferris. His influence in the personal productivity space came from the book, The Four Hour Work Week. One practice he encourages is to ask a member of the opposite sex for their phone number every day, in order to build confidence and initiative. This idea works okay for a single person with no moral compass! So, its not exactly a practical tip for ministry leaders. Yet, I really like the concept in theory.

While I write on innovation and change, frankly, there are many areas in life where I just get stuck. My dad used the old Trac II Gillette razors, and I did too. After about fifty razor improvements, I still use the oldest blades I can find (I think they are the ones I used in college!)  Depending on personality and life stage, we all have areas of our life that are change resistant, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes not.

As ministry leaders, we must not only learn to be comfortable with change, we must learn to initiate it. That’s with this post is about.

What if there were low-risk ways to make yourself “change ready.” What if you could build some appetite for doing things differently or flex some easy innovation muscle?

Here are 30 easy and simple practices to increase your change readiness.  If you were to tackle just four or five of these ideas, I bet you’ll start approaching your work differently in 2014. Some of these ideas work great for a week or a month. So, pick the duration and give it a shot.

  1. Change how you shave; blades, shaving cream, etc. (Yes, I finally upgraded.)
  2. Take a different route in and out of your neighborhood or to work for a week.
  3. Order something at Starbucks (or your hangout) that you have never ordered before.
  4. Plan to go to a different church conference this year.
  5. Ask several people to recommend a new album. Buy one and listen to it straight through.
  6. Take a family member or friend to a yogurt shop and order a new flavor or topping.
  7. Grab a newspaper or magazine that you have noticed but never read.
  8. Change the brand of your most regular beverage for a week.
  9. Use a different version of the Bible for a month.
  10. Try an alternative app for one of your regular go-to apps.
  11. Change your toothpaste or toothbrush stiffness for a month.
  12. If you love fiction, read non-fiction or vice-versa for the next book.
  13. Go to a different gas station for month.
  14. Change how or where you store your Christmas decorations.
  15. Try a new box of cereal that you have never tried before.
  16. Buy your spouse a gift that you would typically never buy, “just because.”
  17. Go for a walk around your neighborhood on a different route or path than normal.
  18. Watch a completely new TV show or different news channel for a season.
  19. Listen to a sermon for a pastor you keep hearing about.
  20. Pick a subject to learn about and visit the top 20 pages on Google search.
  21. Change the time you wake up or go to sleep (or how you wake up).
  22. Visit an unfamiliar non-profit in your city and learn a little bit about it.
  23. Look for a need in your sphere of influence and be extravagant in a different way.
  24. Call a pastor from a church you respect and ask about what’s working best for them.
  25. Change the order of a typical pattern in your worship service.
  26. Eat a breakfast food for dinner that you have never eaten before for dinner.
  27. Take your shoes off for a long time in a place you typically wouldn’t.
  28. Change the pencil, pen, stylus or notebook (physical or digital) that you typically use.
  29. Donate everything you have in the closet that you will probably never wear.
  30. Change the days or pattern of your workout.


  1. Wear that crazy Christmas sweater or that gift you couldn’t wait to take back.
  2. Cheer for the Texans for at least one game.

Let me know how you practicing goes!!!