The Most Important Leadership Skill in a Church

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What is the most important leadership skill in a church? For a pastor of students, kids, worship or a lead pastor to have?

Is it vision casting? Strategizing? Team building? Shepherding?

The choices you make in the recruiting process are, in effect, determining your future. -Darren Hardy

The most important leadership skill in any church is recruitingWho you surround yourself with, who you put on a team, who you hire, who you make an elder. Nothing else matters or makes more of an impact on the life of your church than this.

You might wonder, isn’t it prayer? Prayer isn’t a leadership skill. Prayer is a Christian skill. Prayer and the Holy Spirit makes or breaks your ministry.

What I’m talking about are the things you as the leader can control and do.

Why does recruiting matter?

Who you place on a team, in roles will decide your success.

When you look at the culture of your church, the people make up the culture. You can’t decide what your culture will be. You can’t sit in a meeting and decide you will be a welcoming, prayer-filled, evangelistic culture. You have to find people with that and put them on your team.

A company consists of one thing, really. If I buy a plane from Boeing, it’ll be exactly the same plane that BA [British Airways] will buy, which will be exactly the same plane that United [Airlines] will buy, exactly the same plane that Air Canada will buy. So what is a company? A company is the people that are working inside that plane, the people that are working on the ground. They’re the people that make up a company. They either make this company exceptional or average. -Sir Richard Branson

The same is true for your church.

Three problems happen in many churches as it pertains to recruiting and hiring:

  1. Most churches see it as the lead pastors job and only the lead pastors job to recruit. From the stage.
  2. In hiring, many lead pastors give away too much because they’d rather not read resumes, sit in interviews or talk to references.
  3. Churches don’t think they can be great so they don’t hire great people.

Both ideas are rampant in churches and are why many churches are mediocre at best.

If you look at any growing, healthy effective church, do you know what you will find? Talented, hard working people who love Jesus. Somehow, they all ended up at the same church.

Coincidence?

Nope.

The answer to the first problem: recruiting is everybody’s job. Whenever I hear someone at Revolution say, “We need more people serving in ____, can you make an announcement from the stage? I know we have a problem. And that problem is not a lack of people.

In fact, the best people to recruit are the people doing it. Not the person getting paid to do it.

There’s something that happens when someone who works with middle school students tells someone else, “I love the chance I get to influence the lives of students. Its my favorite hours of the week. Hey, why don’t you come with me next week and check it out?”

Recruiting in a church is everyone’s responsibility.

The answer to the second problem: the lead pastor has to be more involved in hiring

In most churches, hiring is done by a committee that the lead pastor might be a part of, but often he has nothing to do with it. This is the biggest mistake churches make and accounts much of the mediocrity in churches.

If you are like me, hiring, reading resumes, doing phone interviews, in person interviews, talking to references, reading personality tests is that last thing you want to do. It is draining, un-exciting and yet the single determinant to what your church will be like. Three years ago we hired a staff member that I didn’t put a lot of effort into. I let others do that and it cost us in people, time, energy, my stress level and money. We lost momentum, families, excitement. This person was on our team for a little over a year and it took us close to 18 months to get back to the level of momentum and size that we were when we hired this person.

Can one person do that?

Yep.

According to Darren Hardy in The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster: Why Now Is the Time to #Join the Ride, a bad hire can cost a company or church six figures. Now, a church is not a business or all about the money, but if that’s true and I think it’s at least close, that’s incredibly poor stewardship. And that is a spiritual issue.

The third problem is one that many pastors don’t talk about in hushed tones. They would never say it on stage, but when pastors grab coffee together, they talk jealously about the big church down the road and the things they can do that they as a smaller church can’t do. And it all boils down to the people they have. While the jealous pastors would say they can’t hire or recruit great people. They can’t find talented musicians, great kids teachers, passionate student workers, off the charts community group leaders. They would say it is a matter of money, but it boils down to what the pastors think they can do. Most churches don’t think they can be great so they don’t hire great people.

Sadly, in many churches the leaders have succumbed to the myth that only large, cutting edge megachurches can get the best people and they are stuck in the 1990’s when it comes to technology and talent.

Not true.

How do you find and hire great people?

First, know what you are looking for. If you don’t, you will never find it. If you want someone great, pray for it, look for it, believe you can find that person and you can vision cast that person into your team. Most people make recruiting and hiring mistakes with staff and volunteer positions because they’ll take anybody. Often, this means you will wait to do things as a church because you don’t have the leader yet. That’s okay.

Second, look for talented people. If you are afraid of talented people (and many pastors are because they’re control freaks) then that’s a sin issue on your part. If you have to micro-manage someone, you didn’t find a talented leader, you found a lackey to do your bidding and you don’t want that.

Third, they have great character. You can’t teach character, what someone’s character is, is what it is. Yes, the Holy Spirit can change people, but don’t hire or recruit someone to a key role with that hope and prayer in mind. Character is not a given in a church interview process, don’t assume it.

The best way to check for character is to hire from within your church. When this happens, you know exactly what you are getting. What their marriage is like, how they treat people, their giving and generosity, if they fit, if you like them.

The last thing that matters and this comes best from people within your church, they love your city and your church. Not everyone loves your city or loves the people in your church. You want people who do. There are unique things that make up your city and church and it doesn’t fit everyone. That’s okay. I get nervous when I get the spam email of guys looking for a job anywhere God will send them. My question is, “Where do you feel like God has called you?” Most of the people in the Bible had a place God called them to, not a paycheck, but a people, a city, a place, a neighborhood. Are people looking for that when they send out 100 emails? Yes, but often and I can speak from experience when I was in my 20’s, they are often looking for someone else to the heart and calling work for them.

If God has called you to a city and a people, he will provide for you there.

The reality is great people find other great people and great people want to work with other great people. 

Once you find someone great, others follow along. It can be slow and sometimes feels like you are moving backwards or letting momentum slip through your fingers as you try to rebuild a team or restart a culture. But you as the lead hold the keys to building it.

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When Your Spouse Disappoints You

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People disappoint us on a daily basis.

You disappoint people.

For most people, we look past it, shrug and keep moving.

Something different happens though when it is our spouse.

Maybe it is the high expectation we have of them, our hope that they won’t disappoint us, it might be because they are closer to us than anyone us that it hurts more or simply that we are jaded and hurt because of “all the disappointments.”

When it happens (and it will happen), you have some choices to make and the choices you make will have an enormous impact on your marriage, your kids and your view of your spouse.

Here are some things to keep in mind when your spouse disappoints you:

1. Protect your heart. It is easy when you are hurt or disappointed to become bitter and cold towards your spouse. If they’ve hurt you, cheated or made a poor decision that has led to financially hardship, it is easy to hold this over their head. Are you justified to be angry? Yes. Do you need to automatically trust them if they apologize? No. You don’t need to keep them at arms length (you may need to depending on what happened), but if you aren’t careful you will become bitter and resentful which makes reconciliation almost impossible. Protect your heart from this.

2. Look at your sin. When you are disappointed, it is easy to think it is 100% the fault of the other person. Very rarely is an issue in a marriage 100% the sin of one person. Both people have a part. Yes, one is more to blame than the other, but both made the issue happen or allowed the issue to keep going because of not having a hard conversation or looking at the issue. When you are disappointed, look at what you did to cause the issue.

3. Understand why you are disappointed. As you think about your disappointment, be sure to ask why you are disappointed. Often, our disappointments come from an unsaid expectation, how our spouse reminds us of a parent who hurt us, or an ex. This doesn’t mean we let our spouse off the hook, but until you identify why you are disappointed, you may be putting your spouse up against a standard they can never reach or judging them on something you never told them about.

4. Is your expectation realistic? As you think about your fault in something and why you are disappointed, it is important to ask if you have communicated your expectations to your spouse and if they are realistic. Often, our anger, hurt and disappointment comes from an unrealistic expectations. The only people who can honestly answer if your expectation is realistic or if your disappointment is justified is you and your spouse. Your friends can’t. It’s just you two.

5. Be honest with your spouse. When someone vents to me about their spouse, my first question is, “have you told them this?” Almost always, the answer is no. Or, “they don’t listen.” Or, “they wouldn’t listen.” Until you’ve told your spouse honestly how you are feeling, you shouldn’t be spouting it to anyone else or all over Facebook. You don’t know what they’ll do with the information you’ll give them. You might be right and they’ll completely blow it off. They may surprise you. They may have no idea how they are hurting you or not showing you love. When I’ve asked Katie what she needs as our kids have gotten older, her answers have often surprised me. Very rarely what shows her love is what I thought would show her love. So tell them. Your spouse is not a mind reader, just tell them.

One thing that many couples struggle with is the wife wants to share about something and have her husband just listen. The husband wants to give her feedback and how to fix it. This often leaves couples frustrated. A few years ago a woman asked Katie what she does in this situation. Her response: “I tell Josh what I want before I tell him. I’ll say ‘I just need you to listen right now.’ Or ‘I want your help in figuring this out.'” This gives me a clear expectation of what she wants in this situation. I know, I know. That isn’t romantic or I should just know many women might say. But it avoids unnecessary hurt and fights.

6. Give your spouse a chance to respond & change. Once you’ve been honest with your spouse, give them a chance to make some changes. I often think a good rule of thumb when it comes to how many chances you give your spouse to change is how many you’d like to get if the roles were reversed. Again, this is the hard choice you’ll have to make, not your friends or Facebook.

At the end of it all, the most important thing to remember with this or any other issue in your marriage is to always fight for and pursue oneness. You will get hurt and disappointed, that’s one thing you signed up for in marriage or any relationship. The ones who survive are the ones who fight for oneness.

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Monday Morning Mind Dump…

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  • This is one of those Monday’s that pastors love.
  • The middle of a good but challenging season in your church.
  • God is moving, we’re seeing lives changed and people getting saved.
  • But that brings challenges, good challenges.
  • Mike DeAlto did an awesome job yesterday continuing our Prayer series.
  • He took on the hard topic of prayer and spiritual warfare and did great.
  • It was also cool to announce his new job and how he will help us engage the city of Tucson more in practical ways.
  • Can’t wait for that to happen.
  • I’m thankful we have a team that is willing to admit what their passions are so they can best serve the church and the city instead of worrying about what that means for them personally.
  • Mike has shown that heart in some incredible ways over the last month.
  • Can’t wait for our next series: You & Me: Being Single, Falling in Love & Staying Married.
  • Always love talking about relationships, identity, loneliness and everything that goes into dating and marriage.
  • I let Gavin fill out a march madness bracket.
  • It’s been fun watching basketball with him.
  • Ironically, he’s in 2nd place and I’m in 10th.
  • He’s loving that too.
  • Awesome to see Arizona doing so good.
  • We announced that for the sake of clarity we are changing the names of our ministries at Revolution.
  • They will be RevCommunities (RC’s), RevKids, RevStudents.
  • We had a staff party last night with everyone on staff at Revolution and their spouses.
  • I’m reminded after being a part of some unhealthy teams (that never hung out together) how cool it is to be a part of a team that spends time together, enjoys it and laughs together.
  • I don’t think enough church staffs do that.
  • I’m not sure pastors and church planters know how to build teams or be a part of teams.
  • Not sure which it is.
  • Our church, along with Pantano and Christian family care is putting together the Empowered to Connect simulcast in Tucson on April 10-11.
  • In my opinion, this is the best parenting advice and information out there.
  • The best.
  • Stay tuned for details.
  • Watched Birdman over the weekend.
  • It was good but now I have no idea what makes a movie win best picture of the year.
  • Started reading a book over the weekend that every church planter should read: The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster: Why Now Is the Time to #Join the Ride
  • So good.
  • We have an RC leader meeting tonight.
  • We’re talking about how to develop leaders in our RevCommunities.
  • Love these leaders and their passion for our church and the people they lead.
  • Time to get back to it…

Links for Your Weekend Enjoyment

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Here are some interesting posts I found this week that I thought you’d find interesting:

Parenting well in a digital world.

You need to put off ignorance and in its place put on knowledge. Whenever a new technology invades society, we see a consistent pattern: the older people tend to reject it while the younger people embrace it. The older people are perfectly content with the technologies they have always known, while the younger people are excited to try something new. The younger generation surges forward and the older is left behind. This is true of parents. Parents often feel intimidated by new technologies, so do not bother to investigate them. Instead, they hand their children devices without really understanding their power and capabilities, and that leaves the children as the ones who bear all the risk.

9 marks of an unhealthy church.

In one sense the nine marks of an unhealthy church could simply be the opposite of all that makes for a healthy church, so that unhealthy churches ignore membership and discipline and expository preaching and all the rest. But the signs of church sickness are not always so obvious. It’s possible for your church to teach and understand all the right things and still be a terribly unhealthy place. No doubt, there are dozens of indicators that a church has become dysfunctional and diseased. But let’s limit ourselves to nine.

6 essential ingredients to repenting for pornography.

Recently a new survey commissioned by a nonprofit organization called Proven Men Ministries and conducted by the Barna Group took a national representative sample of 388 self-identified Christian adult men. The statistics are alarming and paint a picture of the serious problem of pornography. The statistics for Christian men between 18 and 30 years old are particularly striking:

  • 77 percent look at pornography at least monthly.
  • 36 percent view pornography on a daily basis.
  • 32 percent admit being addicted to pornography (and another 12 percent think they may be).

A pastor’s struggle with guilt.

I think all pastors live with low-grade guilt. I know I do. I’ve searched in vain for a fellow pastor who has written on this sort of thing. So, I figured I’d take a swing at it. I have low-grade guilt because I want to always be there for all people—especially all the people in the church I pastor. But I can’t. I want to attend every event, reply to every e-mail, return every call, visit every hospital, do every funeral, officiate every wedding, counsel all who struggle, meet with all who want to meet… but I can’t. Funny thing is, no one is pressuring me to do so (okay, maybe a few). It’s almost purely self-inflicted guilt.

6 reasons sexual predators target the church.

Some sexual offenders state it outright—they go after churches because Christians tend to be naïve. Anna Salter says, “If children can be silenced and the average person is easy to fool, many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.” Reju says, “Christian are, generally speaking, trusting folks. Child abusers recognize this fact and want to take full advantage of it.” He quotes a former prosecutor who lays it out: “For a variety of reasons, we naively tend to automatically lower our guard when we are amongst professing Christians. This same naïveté is why offenders flock to the faith community; no other environment provides them such quick and easy access to children without fear of raising concerns.”

Great Leaders Navigate Conflict & Personalities

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There are a lot of books and articles that talk about the difference between a leader and a follower. The same can be said for the difference between a mediocre, good and great leader.

Things like vision, strategy, recruiting, decision making are all things that make the list.

But I think there is a skill that sets certain leaders apart.

The ability to navigate personalities. 

For a pastor, the personalities they encounter in committee or staff meetings is just like a meeting at any company. You have people who are older, younger, want the church to reach more families, more singles, more empty nesters. There are people who have been in a number of churches, have only been to this church.

One of the dynamics I’ve seen in churches is that the passion level goes up because people give to the church; are married to someone who leads an area that needs more money, time or attention; or you encounter the person who started the ministry that you are talking about killing or cutting the budget of.

When trying to resolve conflict or working towards a decision, a great leader understands the dynamics in the room. Things like:

  1. What does each person hope to accomplish?
  2. What will each person try to get in the result: comfort, control, approval or power?
  3. Why are they advocating for something?

Let’s look at each one:

1. What does each person hope to accomplish? Each person, including the leader is trying to accomplish something in a conversation, conflict resolution or decision making process. Some times they are good things and some times they are selfish things. It is important to understand what they are. Once you know a person’s goal, you are able to either help get there or at least understand why they are advocating for something.

2. What will each person try to get in the result: comfort, control, approval or power? These are the four idol of the hearts that Tim Chester says we are all prone to have (usually one is dominant). This idol will pop its head up in conversations and cause people to either push for something too quickly, make people fearful and hesitant or cause people to be compliant to avoid more conflict.

3. Why are they advocating for something? What happens in many churches is that people in a decision making meeting see themselves not as leaders but as advocates. That is not leadership. No one in a meeting should be advocating for kids ministry, student ministry, women’s ministry, traditional worship or anything else. The moment you notice advocates, you need to coach them to understand their role or remove them. This often happens in a budget meeting. Once you know why someone is advocating for something, you are able to navigate through the conversation.

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A Special Day

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Today is a special day on my blog. Today I started blogging 9 years ago. My blog has grown from just my mom reading it to people all over the world, which is incredibly humbling.

Thanks for subscribing, sharing the content, giving feedback and leaving comments to make this blog and my life better.

To catch you up, here are the top 10 posts ever on my blog:

  1. The One Thing Destroying Your Marriage That You Don’t Realize
  2. Pastors Can Make the Worst Friends
  3. Thoughts from a White Dad of a Black Son on Ferguson
  4. 11 Ways to Know You’ve Settled for a Mediocre Marriage
  5. Vague Pastors
  6. How You Know You are Being Divisive (And Sinning)
  7. How to Win Men
  8. 10 Books Every Christian Leader Should Read
  9. Dear Worship Leader
  10. How to Build a Team

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Your Marriage Matters More than You Think

Two hands creating a heart

It is easy to read a book on marriage, teach a class, preach a sermon series on marriage. Chide the men, challenge the women and then go home and be in a miserable or at best, mediocre marriage.

In fact, lots of pastors do this.

Every time I teach on marriage at a pastor’s conference I’ll talk with countless leaders who confess their marriage isn’t working and don’t know what to do about it. They struggle in silence because, “how can a pastor admit weakness in marriage? How can a pastor struggle? If I get divorced I’ll lose my job.”

This is so sad to me.

I was asked after posting this why I care so much about marriages.

The reason is simple: you spend a lot of time in your marriage, the impact of your marriage is felt for generations (ask a child of divorced parents how it has affected their adult lives), and it is a picture of the gospel (Ephesians 5). A lot is riding on it.

Right before we got married, my mentor who did our wedding pulled me aside one day after class and told me something that has stuck with me:

The longer you pastor a church the more the marriages in that church will begin to look like yours. So, if you look around and see divorces, infidelity, miserable couples, you only have to look in the mirror to figure out why. But, if you pour time, energy and effort into your marriage, you will see the benefits in the people who attend your church.

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Links for Your Weekend Enjoyment

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Here are some interesting posts I found this week that I thought you’d find interesting:

Living well in a digital world.

Put off the distraction that pollutes this digital world and instead embrace deep focus. It is no great secret that this digital world brings all kinds of new ways to be distracted. Our technologies seem to evolve toward distraction, so that every new generation of device finds new ways to call us away from one thing and toward another. Our devices beep, buzz, flash, and chirp—whatever they need to do to gain our attention. Over time we have trained ourselves to obey them, which makes me wonder: If we need to respond to our phones every time they beep or buzz, do we own them, or do they own us?

The mistake that stunts church growth.

The truth is: I’ve met very few successful leaders who don’t give significant time to reading. The formula for growth is that the rate of the leader’s growth determines the rate of the church’s growth. So, if I want my church to grow, I have to grow first.

15 keys to growing a small or mid-sized church.

In the March 2014 edition of Inc. magazine, economist Gary Kunkle studied 100,000 United States businesses. He was looking for two criteria.  First, it must be a small or mid-sized businesses (85 to 999 employees).  Second, the business must have shown annual growth from 2007 to 2012.  Only 1.5% met the parameters.  I immediately felt these growing businesses would be an excellent case study for growing small or mid-sized churches (85 to 999 average weekly attenders).  As I reviewed Kunkle’s data, the similarities were striking!

5 reasons people don’t sing in your church.

I’ve been hearing a lot of concern about the fact that people are singing less and not engaging in the corporate time of worship at church. Most of the talk I hear seems to be finger pointing and critiquing the current culture of American churches rather than providing solutions that are within our control. We all want people engaging in worship, but what is really in our control and how can we help people connect through the music?

When brands take a stand.

In a study we ran using Qualtrics, we found that Americans are 8.1% more likely to purchase from a company that shares their opinions and are 8.4% less likely to purchase from a company that doesn’t. In other words, it’s no longer just about whether a person likes the product or service, it’s about whether they like the company’s stance on certain pertinent issues.

4 types of sermons to avoid.

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There is no man nor church in the world that can come to God in prayer, but by assistance of the Holy Spirit . . . If men did see their sins, yet without the help of the Spirit they would not pray . . . There is nothing but the Spirit that can lift up the soul or heart to God in prayer . . . The soul that rightly prays, it must be in and with the help and strength of the Spirit; because it is impossible that a man should express himself in prayer without it. He explains, O how great a task it is, for a poor soul that becomes sensible of sin and the wrath of God, to say in faith but this one word, “Father!” . . . O! says he, I dare not call him Father; and hence it is that the Spirit must be sent into the hearts of God’s people for this very thing, to cry Abba, Father: it being too great a work for any man to do knowingly and believingly without it.

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John Bunyan
Prayer
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7 Leadership Lessons from Extreme Adventurers

What can leaders learn from athletes and adventurers that push themselves to the limit and beyond? Who climb the highest peaks on the planet and ski to the furthest reaches of the globe?

A lot.

Enter Alison Levine and her book On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership.

Here are a few things I think pastors can learn from extreme adventurers:

1. Waiting on the fixed lines for too long can be dangerous and can jeopardize a summit bid. While climbing, you can run into traffic jams of other climbers and get stuck. Frostbite, loss of oxygen, tiredness, running out of food and water while you wait. All of these things can be a disaster while waiting. Churches often find themselves waiting to make a decision and miss an opportunity. Too many committees, teams, voices, people who need to say “yes” can all lead to a missed opportunity. While maybe not physical death like on Everest, it can lead to the death of your church.

2. People often forget that the top is only the halfway point. The majority of deaths on big peaks occur after people have reached the summit, because they have used every ounce of energy they have to get to the top and have nothing left to get themselves back down. It is easy for churches and leaders to run hard through a season (say Christmas, Easter or the fall kick-0ff) and then immediately roll into the next season without catching their breath. You need to make sure you either break, slow down or leave something in the tank for the next season. It was mind blowing to me when I read this part of the book, that more people die on the way down because they pour everything into getting there.

3. A great fallacy regarding progress is that it is defined by constant forward motion in the same direction. We assume that any steps in the opposite direction take us further from our goal. Not true, sometimes we have to go backward in order to make progress. Leaders can get impatient and want to push through when their followers, churches or cultures are not ready to move forward. Sometimes, what seems like a waste of time or slowing down can actually be a good thing.

4. On the subject of recruiting talent: “Screen for aptitude, then hire for attitude.” Churches are horrible when it comes to hiring. The turnover of pastors is astounding, volunteers quit and burnout, people serve in the wrong roles. People take jobs at churches they don’t like, working for pastors they can’t stand. Building teams is something many pastors can do better at, because the team determines where the church ends up.

5. Leaders should never expect the people on their teams to take any risks that they would not be willing to take themselves. This is a basic leadership principle, but one that many forget. Leaders set the pace. They set what is okay, what is acceptable and what is not. Leaders should not have different rules. While there are some benefits and things that come with seniority, being the boss as opposed to being an intern, everyone pulls the weight.

6. People are more willing to risk their lives and well-being for people they know. Pastors struggle with friendships and building strong teams, but your effectiveness as a leader will come from how well you do both of these things. As a leader, your best friends don’t have to be the staff you work with, but you should spend time with them. You should know them and they should know you.

7. Landscapes can change in an instant. In extreme adventures like climbing Mt. Everest, this is incredibly true. The same is true for a church. A culture can change, you can get thrown out of the place you meet in, you can lose a number of members, the economy can tank and giving goes down. You can lose a staff member on short notice and in an instant, everything is different. While you don’t need solutions for every worst case scenario, you do need to be prepared for things changing without notice.

For more from her adventures, check out Alison’s Ted Talk below.