Culture Trumps Strategy

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One of the reasons that churches fail to change or be effective is the leaders change the wrong things.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. -Peter Drucker

In their book Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and ChurchesPeter Greer and Chris Horst point out corporate culture is tough to pin down. It’s difficult to define. But it sure is easy to feel. Culture is just “what happens.”

Every church says their strategy is to welcome new people, help people meet Jesus, grow in their relationship with Jesus, develop leaders and plant churches. Yet, for a very few churches is this reality.

Most churches do not see guests, new believers, baptism’s or disciples.

Why?

Their culture fights it.

So what do you do? How does a pastor change a church?

Go for the culture. Define the culture you want. Then go for that.

Don’t tell me that your strategy is the great commission if you aren’t seeing anyone start following Jesus.

Peter Greer said, “Leaders cultivate corporate culture within faith-based organizations just like they cultivate their own spiritual lives.”

You must create boundaries, policies, rules (whatever you want to call them) to keep the culture you are going for clear and on track.

You must celebrate the things that matter most, that help you accomplish your culture.

If your culture that you are going for has new Christians in it, celebrate when that happens. If it is baptism’s, celebrate when they happen. Tell stories. Show videos. Preach sermons.

Don’t leave it to chance. Too many pastors seem content to leave their desired culture to chance and hope that a strategy will enable to accomplish their vision.

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Leaders and the Unknown

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Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown. They rush toward the danger. They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future. Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours. And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs. This is what it means to be a leader. It means they choose to go first into danger, headfirst toward the unknown. And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers. -Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

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Why You Aren’t a Leader

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I meet a lot of people in their 20′s and 30′s who are really smart. The reason I know they are smart is because they tell me. Typically, in your 20′s, you are always the smartest person in the room, especially as it relates to churches. I get it. I was the same way. I’ve had to since apologize to some people I worked under for my arrogance.

If you are in your 20′s and 30′s, there is also a sense of people should just hand things to you.

I remember a couple of years ago being asked by some people at Revolution why we weren’t supporting a church plant in Tucson (sadly, this church plant no longer exists). My response was, “they never asked.” Now, the people asking knew the planter and asked why we didn’t just give money to them without them asking.

Answer: leaders cast a vision. Leaders make the ask. Leaders make it known what is needed. Leaders sit across the table from influencers, givers, and others leaders, cast a vision and say, “I want you to be involved and here’s how _____.”

Leaders do not wait for someone to give them something.

If you are a church planter or pastor and don’t have the volunteers you need, the money you need, the people you need. You have either not asked or you are not casting a compelling vision for people to join.

Don’t miss this: people are not looking for something else to give to or something else to do. 

They are looking for something worth their time, money and effort.

This is hard to do and this one reason is why so few dreamers ever reach their full potential. Here are 3 ways to ask:

  1. Don’t say no for someone. You have a need and you know the perfect person to fill that need, except they are really busy. Many pastors will not ask that person, they will ask someone less qualified. Don’t. Don’t say no for someone. Let them say no for themselves. They might be too busy. They might cut something out of their life to do what you ask them to do.
  2. Know what you are asking for. If you are asking them to give to something, know how much you are asking for. If it is serving, know for how long and how much time it will take. The more specific you are in what you are asking for, the higher the chance they will say yes.
  3. Know why you are asking. This is where many leaders miss the boat. They know “what” and “how” for their church plant, team, ministry, etc. but they don’t know why. Why should this person do this? What will it gain? Why is it worth their time or money? I once talked to a campus minister and all he told me in our hour meeting was what he would do on campus. I already knew that. I wanted to know why, I wanted to hear his heart, I wanted to hear his passion and why it drove him to give his life to it.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Carey Nieuwhof on If you’re the leader, you are the lid.

Over time, the team and organization you lead will never grow past where you’ve grown. If you stop growing in an area, people who want to grow past that point will simply find another leader to follow.

Did Jesus have a wife?

Last week, the Harvard Theological Review released a much-delayed series of articles on the fragment. After a series of investigations undertaken by diverse scholars, the general judgment claimed by Professor King is that the fragment probably is not a forgery — or at least that it dates back to ancient times. The analysis suggested that the fragment dated from about four centuries later than Professor King had first suggested. This would place the fragment, if authentic, in the context of eighth-century Egypt — hundreds of years after the New Testament was written and completed…In her major article released last week, Professor King defended the fragment’s authenticity, but acknowledged that — all previous sensationalism aside — “It is not entirely clear, however, how many women are referred to [in the fragment], who they are, precisely what is being said about them, or what larger issues are under consideration.”

Thom Rainer on The narcissistic Christian leader.

Narcissism should not be said in the same breath as Christian. The former is love of self; the latter is love of God in Jesus Christ. The world of narcissistic Christian leaders is complicated by the fact that these leaders rarely recognize their problem. And the disorder may not be readily apparent to those who see them from a distance. They can appear, at least on the surface, to be brilliant and charismatic.

Tim Challies on Help my kids are looking at porn.

By looking at pornography your children have violated your trust and shown themselves unworthy of it. That trust will need to be earned and regained over a period of time as they prove themselves responsible and obedient. You will need to be actively involved in training your children to use their privileges well and to use the Internet and their digital devices without this kind of behavior. You need a plan that will account for their devices and their lack of Christian character. 

Brian Howard on How to avoid burnout.

 Burnout might seem to come out of nowhere, but it really doesn’t. Burnout is often the by-product of poor choices on the part of a leader. There are patterns that lead to Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Collapses. These patterns involve not paying attention to what your body and soul really need.

Three kinds of shame.

Sin is muddy. When it splashes, we rightly want to clean it up. But sometimes our zeal to clean causes us to oversimplify sin’s muddiness by seeking trite answers for complex situations.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Trevin Wax on The uselessness of twitter battles.

Twitter is a place for conversation, but once we go into battle mode, I think the legitimate conversation is already over. Twitter battles are like putting on a spectacle for the perverse pleasure (or dismay) of the Twitter audience. Has anyone watching one of these debacles ever said, “You know what? You convinced me! I’m wrong and you’re right.” No one. Ever.

21 ways to perk up your productivity.

Chuck Lawless on 10 ideas from wise leaders.

Give your family veto power over your schedule.  He’s an incredibly busy man, but he somehow manages his schedule well. Here’s what he taught me: involve your wife before you make a commitment that requires you to be away from home after work hours. Be prepared to change your schedule if your family says, “We need you at home.” You’ll be less likely to lose your family in the midst of busyness if they have opportunity to help you plan your schedule.

Denny Burk on How to deal with false teachers.

Not every purveyor of false teaching is a lackey of the Devil. We have examples in scripture where bona fide believers are the source of error in the church. Apollos was a man mighty in the scriptures who taught accurately about Jesus but who nevertheless was only familiar with John’s baptism. In Apollos’ case, his deficient teaching was an error of omission. He simply did not yet know the full apostolic message. Priscilla and Aquila came alongside Apollos and explained to him the way of God “more accurately” (Acts 18:26). Presumably, Apollos responded favorably to their correction such that Paul would later identify Apollos as a co-laborer in preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 3:5-9).

3 tips on being a friend of sinners.

If Jesus was a friend of sinners, we should be too, it seems — somehow, someway. And instantly, this discussion can drift into a much bigger one about Christians and culture and all that. But instead of going there, let’s just talk friendship for a minute. Friendship, which is not without its implications, is more practical and relevant than a primer on the church’s posture in society. So in that light, here are three tips on being a friend of sinners.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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6 ways to stay off the emotional roller coaster of ministry.

Ministry is an emotional roller coaster. Much of leadership is for that matter. One day you’re on top of the world,. The next day you want to bury yourself in a deep cave. You probably think only the way to get off the emotional roller coaster of ministry is to quit. To leave it for a more normal life. It’s not. In fact, I don’t recommend it.

Thom Rainer on 10 fears of church leaders.

Leading a church means the leader will have critics. Sometimes the criticisms become so frequent that it seems easier not to lead. For pastors and other church leaders, the steady inflow of negative comments becomes emotionally, spiritually, and physically draining.

Joshua Shaw on 7 ways to engage men in church.

One would think that with the rise of church planting and prolific pastors and authors advocating for a type of “strong man” Christianity, we would see a difference in the membership of young fast-growing churches. But from mine and many others’ experiences, this trend of a manless Christianity has not only continued, but gotten worse. We have done everything we can to open the doors for their acceptance and involvement, but when push comes to shove, the idea of staying at home watching ESPN, designing a logo for a new company, finishing a work project, or merely sleeping in, becomes top priority.

Eric Geiger on Your leadership shelf life.

Leadership is always a temporary assignment—always. It is a temporary assignment because leaders do not ultimately own the teams, ministries, or organizations that they lead. They simply steward what the Lord has entrusted to their care for a season. Wise leaders embrace the temporal reality of leading, and they prepare the ministry for the future. Because the assignment is fleeting, developing others for leadership is an essential responsibility of a leader.

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Make a Decision (Leadership Reflections on World Vision)

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Last week, the Christian blog world exploded with the news that World Vision would change their hiring policy and hire Christians in same sex relationships. The reaction was swift and expected. Then, a day later they changed their policy back to what it was and announced they had made a mistake. Right wing Christians everywhere rejoiced and said that World Vision had gotten it right.

Church planters are faced with vision and financial decisions all the time. This situation is ripe with leadership wisdom for us as pastors and leaders. This blog is not about the decision or what the decision was about, only what leaders can learn about decisions.

In all this, I want to bring out a leadership principles.

One: When you make a decision, make sure it is the right one and stick to it. 

Did World Vision make the right decision changing their policy or changing it back? That’s not my decision or concern of this blog. I think if they are going to be a Christian organization, they should stick to what the Bible teaches on issues.

The leadership move in this was very weak. To announce a decision, one that apparently had been in the making for months and then go back on it the next day showed little backbone.

Two: Know that some decisions you make as a leader will go unnoticed and others will cause a storm. 

Leaders guess wrong on this all the time. We think we are making some monumental decision that will cause people to picket, we are going to say some controversial thing in a sermon that will make people flood our email inbox and nothing happens. Then, we say something off hand, make a small change and we are in meetings for a week. At a moments notice, a decision can create a storm. Be ready.

Three: When you make a decision, finances will be the thing that will make you want to turn back. 

Church planters know this to be true. 3 weeks after we started Revolution Church, I had a meeting with our top 4 givers and they gave me a list of things they would like to see happen at Revolution or else they were leaving and taking their tithe with them. Their giving made up almost 50% of our budget. They knew this and I knew this. I looked at the list and knew I couldn’t do what they were asking and keep the vision God had called us to. So, I handed them the list and thanked them for being a part of our church and left. They never came back.

At some point, you will have the financial test as a leader. You will make a decision that will cause you to lose donors, customers, or church members. A decision will cause tithes to go down. This is why you must make sure you are making the right choice and be willing to lose that for the greater goal.

Four: Choose wisely the hills you will die on because you will die on those hills. 

Every leader has things they will die for as a leader: it might be theology, a leadership principle, philosophy of ministry, a style of preaching or music. Everyone has them. Choose the hills you will die on carefully because you will spill blood on those hills. I’m not sure if this was a hill for World Vision. If it wasn’t, they wasted a lot of blood. The fact that they went back on their decision seems to tell me that it isn’t a hill they want to die on.

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Why a Leader Should Blog

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I often get asked by other pastors if they should have a blog. After all, it seems like any pastor who is doing anything has a blog. Whether that is true or not, it feels that way. Also, many pastors hope to write a book one day and a blog is a natural first step.

I’ve been blogging for 8 years now and I believe that a pastor should blog. Here are 4 ways to know if you should:

  1. You feel like you have something to say. If you don’t feel like you have something to say or you are starting a blog because every other pastor in your network has a blog, you shouldn’t start one. Don’t look to fill a void in the blog world, there probably isn’t one. Just write about the things you are passionate about. When I write something, I ask myself, “Do I want to know about this?” That for me is the question. If I’m interested in a topic, I assume others will be as well. This is why my blog has leadership topics, preaching, theology, family, marriage, NFL, fantasy football, health and crossfit and random Dilbert comics. Don’t try to talk about something you don’t care about or aren’t passionate about.
  2. You like to write. I’ve asked writers about their rhythm and schedule and many writers love to write. I’ve met some that have told me, “I write because someone pays me and I have a deadline.” If that’s you, don’t blog. Stick to books. I tried to make on of our leaders blog because I thought it would be helpful and it was a disaster. He hated it and I stopped trying to force him. It has to be something you want to do.
  3. It is a great way to shepherd and lead your church or organization. This is the reason I have continued blogging. I love to preach, read books, prep sermons and develop leaders. Blogging is an opportunity for me to shepherd and lead my church outside of Sunday morning. I can post more ideas about my sermon, talk about things I didn’t have time for in my sermon, pass on great articles and helpful resources. This is why pastors should blog. If you don’t, I believe you are missing a great leadership and shepherding opportunity.
  4. It is work. But it is work. Keeping up a blog takes time. A friend of mine recently told me that he had his highest traffic ever and said it was because he posted regularly. If you want to grow a blog, you have to write regularly. If you don’t, your readers won’t know when there is new content and won’t come back. The best way to grow a blog is to be helpful and write good content. Look at any of the blogs with the most traffic and usually those 2 things are true. Get into some kind of rhythm that works for you in terms of writing and stick to it.

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Will You Mentor Me?

The word Mentor in magazine letters on a notice board

Since Revolution Church is filled with people in college and their 20′s and because we’re part of Acts 29, myself and the other leaders at Revolution will often get requests to mentor someone. Either in our church or a church planter or worship leader.

This has caused me to think through, what makes an effective mentor. They are important, but I think we often set ourselves and the person we are seeking help from up for disaster.

A mentor is someone further ahead of you in an area you want to grow in. 

No one person can mentor you in every part of your life.

This is the problem we run into. We look for someone to be the end all be all for us.

When someone asks for a mentor, I explain this to them and then ask a series of questions:

  1. What is the 1 or 2 areas you want to grow in as you think about your life in the next 3, 6, 12 months? This could be finances, prayer, marriage, boundaries, health, etc.
  2. Why do you think I can help you? I want to know why they think I can help them. Not because I want to pump up my ego, but I want to know they’ve done their homework on me not just threw a dart at the wall and picked the closest person.
  3. What are you doing or have you tried to grow in this area? Often, not always, but often people seek a mentor because they are lazy. I want to know what books or blogs this person has looked at in this area. Are they actively seeking to grow in this area or just hoping to rub off success from someone. Which leads to the last part.
  4. How much time are you willing to put into this? Anything worth doing will take time. You won’t grow in your handling of finances, health, marriage, career, preaching, etc. without putting in time and effort. This is a commitment you are as the person getting mentored is making, the mentor is coming along for the ride and if I as the mentor am not convinced you are into the ride, I’m getting off.

If you are worth your salt as a leader, person or pastor, you will be asked often to mentor people. You must be selectively in who you mentor because you are giving up one of your most precious commodities as a leader, your time. If you are asking to be mentored, to succeed and have it be worthwhile for you, you need to do your homework and be willing to put in the work. There is nothing more exciting than working with a person who wants to grow in an area and helping them to grow in that area. Love seeing that happen.

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I’m Watching You, Always Watching

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If you are a leader or a pastor, the people who follow you, attend your church, work on your team or in your ministry are always watching you. Your actions, reactions and words matter greatly and have an enormous impact.

If you get up from your desk, people watch to see where you’re going. Someone always knows when you’re in the bathroom. They watch your face when the VP of Production leaves your office, and make guesses about what your expression means. They watch to see if you smile more at Sally than you do at Tom, and make guesses about what that means too. They learn to read your tells—the way you drum your fingers when you’re impatient, or the eyebrow you raise just before you cut off someone’s explanation. They talk about your behavior when you’re not around, and they assign meaning to everything. You are constantly on your team’s radar. They hear and see everything you do. -Robert Sutton, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst

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