Four Things That Dilute Your Mission

As pastors and Christian leaders, we strive to lead ministries that are pleasing to God and accomplish the mission for which they are intended. We work hard at it. But sometimes, in our effort to make it “just right”, we can overdo it. We can include non-crucial details, add cumbersome verbiage and reemphasize already-made points. While we think we are making it better, we’re actually muddying the water. We’re diluting our mission.

Pastor and author Andy Stanley speaks of narrowing the ministry focus. He says, “There is a natural tendency to drift toward complexity…Resist complexity and pursue simplicity.”     

That’s why it’s important to streamline and simplify. If we’re always adding elements to existing programs, and not eliminating ineffective ones, our attenders will experience ministry overload that will paralyze their thought making process. Too many announcements, too many service elements, too much of anything can become white noise to our audience.

White noise is defined as the sound of every frequency that can be heard by the human ear. And since you hear all of them at once, you really can’t hear any.

This applies to the things we communicate and the programs we offer. Let’s look at four things we often think are helping accomplish our mission, but are not. Continue reading

Three Preaching Essentials to Reach Today’s Culture

Preaching is important. The Apostle Paul encourages his young friend Timothy to preach the word, in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). As pastors and Christian leaders, this means we must always be prepared to preach and effectively communicate the transforming power of new life in Christ.

Most pastors aspire to be good preachers and we’ve all heard our share of sermons. Some great, many good, and some not so good. Effective preaching can be tricky. You must discern what God is saying, put it down on paper (or your laptop), and turn it into a sermon. Then you need to deliver that sermon to a crowd of people with different backgrounds, diverse needs and varying levels of spiritual maturity. And, of course, your goal isn’t that people will just hear your message, but that it goes beyond their ears and penetrates their hearts so that their lives, priorities and actions are changed. Every week!

That’s no small task and we deeply rely of God’s help and the Holy Spirit’s anointing to get that accomplished. While our culture and methods change, the word of God does not. And as preachers, we need to take this to heart as we are entrusted with communicating the gospel to the people of our day. Here are three preaching essentials to effectively reach people of today’s culture.

Word
In the first chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus is referred to as the Word (logos, in Greek). Jesus is the central person of the gospels. So, pointing people to Jesus should be one foundational component of our preaching. Whether you preach verse by verse or talk about different Biblical themes or contemporary topics, the basis of the words must be rooted in the truth of scripture and the reality of the person of Jesus. Doing anything less would be a sad disservice to your people.

But we’ve probably all heard sermons that spoke truth but somehow missed the mark at connecting with people. And while the Old Testament prophet Isaiah said that his words will certainly accomplish their purposes (Isaiah 55:11), we can help our listeners connect with our words by using a few, simple techniques.   Continue reading

Relating Well to Four Types of Church Attendees

Over the centuries, the church has been compared to many things. Some have likened it to a hospital or a boot camp. The Apostle Paul wrote that it was like a building, a body, a bride and a family.

The analogy of a ship can also be helpful when describing the church. Scott Ridout, president of Converge Worldwide, says the people on a ship can be compared to the people in your church. This analogy assumes the Pastor is the captain and there are four different kinds of people on board. Let’s look closer at each one.

The Crew
On a ship, the captain can depend on the crew to get the job done. They work alongside the captain and take ownership of every aspect of the ship and its passengers. They agree with all policies, procedures and practices on the ship to create a wonderful experience for everyone aboard.

The crew in your church are the people who are working with you to accomplish the mission of the church. They are your key volunteers and buy into the values, direction and destination of the church. They work hard to bring everyone who attends to maturity in Christ.

The Passengers
The passengers on a ship differ from the crew in one major area. They also love the destination and want to get there, but they don’t pitch in to help. Passengers are just along for the ride. They enjoy the experience of the cruise, but don’t offer assistance or support.

Most churches are full of passengers. They fill the pews every Sunday. They enjoy the worship, listen to the messages and love the fellowship. They partake in the midweek programs, but they don’t get involved in serving. They are the ultimate “church consumer”, taking advantage of the ministry of the church but not offering any help. Passengers buy into where the church is going, but don’t get involved to help anyone get there. Continue reading

Stats & Stories: Using Both for Maximum Impact

It’s been said that facts are your friends. This is true in business, relationships, education and faith. Even though facing facts can sometimes be hurtful, truth needs to be exposed and embraced to make headway in all areas of life.

To make any wise decision, it’s important to have the right information. But you need more than information to get results. You also need motivation. Information and motivation are two key elements in getting things done.

But not all data is important. And not all data is interesting. Yet combining important and interesting data can compel people towards action. I call these two types of data, Hard Data and Soft Data. Let’s take a closer look at both.

Hard Data
Hard data are statistics. And statistics engage the mind. If you like charts, graphs, numbers and Excel spreadsheets, you love hard data. Stats give us needed information by which we can judge situations, develop ideas and solve problems. They are a foundational building block to any problem that has ever been solved. Some people can just look at statistics, figure out the problem and pose a solution. While it’s seldom that simple, that’s the general idea. Continue reading

The Key to Improving Boss / Employee Relations

Have you ever been in a work environment where you’ve had issues with your supervisor? Ever had disagreements with your boss? If you’re like most people, you probably have. Many factors can contribute to an uneasy work environment, but the most common is the employee / boss relationship.

In his book, The Truth About Employee Engagement, author and consultant Patrick Lencioni says there are three signs of a miserable job. 1. Anonymity – People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. 2. Irrelevance – Everyone needs to know that their job matters. 3. Immeasurement – Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and their level of contribution to the organization.

These three factors all relate to the employee / boss relationship. If your boss doesn’t really know you, if he doesn’t let you know you matter, if she doesn’t give you goals and guidelines by which to measure your work, you’ll most likely end up miserable.

Striving for a good relationship with your boss is vital if you’re going to be successful at work. And maintaining that relationship is directly related to how long you will stay employed.

Having worked for lots of bosses in my ministry career, I’ve found the key to keeping a great relationship with your boss. It’s just one word. “Distance.”

Physical Distance
The key question is, how close is your office to your bosses? I have a friend whose boss works in a different state, 400 miles away. Needless to say, this causes issues. I’ve worked in a large, church facility that had four different office locations in four different parts of the building. Again, this led to issues. If you’re in a multisite environment, your boss may be in a different building in a different part of town. While some of these issues can be worked through, suffice it to say the less physical distance between your office and your bosses, the better. Continue reading

Three Simple Tips to Improve Workplace Efficiency

When Jesus sent out his disciples to minister, he told them to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). To put it another way, he told them to be smart, efficient and quick to learn, but also to be gentle and humble in their approach.

Working with wisdom, integrity and passion are always worth striving for, regardless of one’s work environment. These qualities are especially true in a church or a kingdom focused business or ministry. From working in the local church for 30+ years, I’ve come across some smart working practices that improve office productivity. Here are three simple tips to improve workplace efficiency.

Synchronize Communication Systems
I once worked in an environment where people used all kinds of different systems to organize email, calendars and tasks. Some used Outlook, others preferred Goggle. Some used Franklin planners while others used nothing at all. None of these systems worked together and our office lacked efficiency because we spent too much time trying to communicate with each other.

My suggestion is to get everyone on the same system. Regardless of which one you choose, synchronizing your communication systems will save time, lower frustration and increase productivity.  

Use Email R-Codes
I borrowed this idea from author and consultant Juliet Funt, but adapted it to make it my own. Ever send an email expecting to get a response, but don’t get it? Or you get the response a month later when the issue is already resolved? It’s frustrating.
Continue reading

What Hedgehogs Teach Us About Ministry

In Jim Collin’s classic book, Good to Great, he introduces readers to the idea of a Hedgehog Concept. Collins says the idea came from a famous essay by Isaiah Berlin called “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” It’s based on the ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The fox uses multiple ideas and numerous strategies in its battles with the hedgehog. But, says Collins, the hedgehog always wins by using one simple, surefire approach – curling up into a ball. When the hedgehog employs this defensive position, it exposes his sharp spikes to deter attacks from predators. Despite the many and varied tactics the fox uses, the hedgehog always emerges victorious by using his one, focused strategy.

Collins goes on to say that the idea of a Hedgehog Concept has helped successful companies define who they are, focus their energies and become more successful. They do this by answering three critical questions. 1. What are you best at? 2. What are you most passionate about? 3. What drives your economic engine?

Developing a Hedgehog Concept for churches can be extremely valuable. As churches grow, they naturally drift towards complexity. So the need to define and embrace a Hedgehog Concept will help define vision and mission, give a framework around resource allocation and give clarity to critical decision making.

I was part of a church that used the Hedgehog Concept. The senior leaders asked the three questions. After much time, thought and prayer, their answers were incorporated into the culture of the church and helped the church in a major season of growth.

As church leaders who want to bring increased levels of organizational health to your churches, encourage your leaders to wrestle with these three questions.   Continue reading

Book Review: Embracing Followership

Allen Hamlin Jr’s book Embracing Followership – How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture is a fascinating look at the unique nature of followership, its relation to leadership, and the critical way it builds the kingdom and enhances the body of Christ. This work dives into the topics of influence and authority, formal and informal power structures, and is reminiscent of John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership, Mike Bonem & Roger Patterson’s Leading From The Second Chair, and Clay Scroggin’s How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge. However, Hamlin’s approach is unique in that it focuses specifically on the follower. Here are three areas that stood out to me.

High Calling
Hamlin does a masterful job at conveying the idea that followership is a noble calling, worthy of much esteem and great respect. Being a good follower is a good thing! It is an important, vital and noble role. Followers, Hamlin suggests, are courageous, add value and are worthy of admiration.

He clearly contrasts the real character qualities of good followers with the stereotypical ideas about followers – that they are introverted, second-class, unconfident, lemming-like, life sucking, wanna-be leaders. But nothing could be further from the truth. Followers are just as important as leaders. Continue reading

How To Fail Forward

For years I’ve pondered an interesting question. If I wrote a book called How to Fail, and it became a best-seller, would that be a good thing?

In today’s world, there seems to be a subconscious, relentless drive toward being successful. There are countless conferences, books and podcasts on the topic of attaining success in our work, family and social life. But there aren’t a lot of resources on failure. Who wants to be a failure, right?

No one wants to be a failure. But failure is a reality that most people will face at one point in their lives. The truth is, even though I strive for success in all I do, I’ve met just as much failure, if not more. I’ve struggled with the “f” word (failure) in my work, ministry, and relationships. And since labeling oneself a failure can have damaging emotional effects, I want to give some hope and shed some light on the topic. Below are three thoughts to keep in mind about failure.

Failure is an event, not a person

When failure happens, it’s easy to take the blame. I was raised to own up to my responsibilities and take ownership regardless of the results. But when we do that, we can often label ourselves as a failure. We need to remember that failure is an event, not a person.

Being firmly rooted in your identity in Christ is crucial as you work through failure. Your mind can easily tell you, “You’re a loser. You don’t deserve to succeed. You’re a failure.” But contrast those thoughts with the truth of scripture that says you are chosen by God. You are dearly loved. You’re a redeemed child of God (1 Peter 2:9, Colossians 3:12, Ephesians 2:1-5). Continue reading

21 Unforgettable Quotes from the 2017 Leadership Summit

Every year, the two days I spend attending the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit with my fellow staff members is the highlight of my year. The Summit is two amazing days filled with refreshment, recharging, learning and inspiration from top-notch leaders from the realms of business, church, activism, media and government.

I hear so many brilliant and inspiring thoughts each year, I try to tweet them all. But, because I can’t keep up, last year I wrote a blog on the 21 most unforgettable quotes from the Summit. This year is no different. Here are 21 unforgettable quotes from the 2017 Leadership Summit.

“Your organization’s culture will only be as healthy as the top leader wants it to be.” – Bill Hybels

“Leadership development is both the individual and organization’s responsibility.” – Sheryl Sandberg       

“Listen to outsiders. Outsiders aren’t bound by our assumptions.” – Andy Stanley

“Talent x effort = skill. Skill x effort = human achievement. Talent counts, but effort counts twice.” – Angela Duckworth

 “Leadership begins with a dream. Fear silences dreams.” – Gary Haugen

“Sometimes, where you are used to being is not where you belong.” – Sam Adeyemi Continue reading