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

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

Three Unanswerable Questions to Ponder When You’re Being Fired

Fired. Separation. Forced resignation. Regardless of how you say it, it means the same thing. You once worked at a church. Now, suddenly, you don’t.

If you find yourself in your supervisor’s office and the HR director unexpectedly joins you, your heart will start to pound, you’ll feel flushed, and you’ll soon realize your time at the church has come to an end.

Typically, reasons are given. You’ll probably disagree with most of them. Other times the much more ambiguous “no longer a good fit” explanation is offered. That’s just confusing.

Being let go from a church is probably one of the most traumatic and painful things a Pastor can go through. If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll undoubtedly wrestle with the financial strain of losing your job. You’ll physically feel the added stress on your marriage. You’ll undoubtedly question your role as a Pastor and your call to ministry.

These things probably will happen. I’ve wrestled with them all. More than I want to admit. Countless hours of therapy and seasons of self-reflection have helped, but by no means are a quick answer. It’s a long process. Real long. And it’s painful. Real painful.

Typically, there are no easy answers. I hope you never have to go through it, but if you do, here are three questions you may need to contemplate, but will not likely find answers for. Continue reading

Book Review: Sticky Leaders

Reviewing Sticky Leaders, by Pastor Larry Osborne was a joy because the insights in this book are inspiring, important, and easy to understand. As a church consultant, I’ve read many wonderful books on church leadership, and Sticky Leaders does not disappoint. I highly recommend you read it. Here are four areas Osborne emphasizes that are worth considering.

Innovation
Osborne introduces the concept of “serial innovators” – leaders who try new things, think outside the box, and take careful, calculated risks. He says, “Healthy organizations…can’t just focus on the past. They must also think about creating the future…” This calls for flexibility and innovation.

He says a genuine innovation must work and be widely accepted. The author gives the example of the Segway – the personal, two-wheeled motorized vehicle. Segway’s work. But they never became widely accepted,…except if you’re a mall cop. He states that if a “better” solution isn’t widely adopted, it’s an invention, but not an innovation. Continue reading

One Word That Will Help Focus Your Ministry

As church leaders, we often hear many good ideas to further the mission of the church. And most of them probably are good ideas. The trick is determining which ideas are the best.

In the church, opinions and options seem endless. Everyone has a brilliant plan or groundbreaking idea that should be implemented right away. However, author Chris McChesney said, “There will always be more good ideas than there is capacity to execute them.”

It’s easy to say yes. But how do you decide when to say no?

Author Larry Osborne gives us a clue. In Sticky Leaders he says, “If something doesn’t take us toward our mission, it takes us away from our mission, even if it’s a great idea.” If we say yes to too many good ideas, we quickly lose focus. Too many options overwhelm people, divide attention, and dilute impact.

Saying no can be the most difficult, yet most critically important part of ministry.

So why don’t more churches say no? Why is saying no so difficult? Below are two reasons church leaders find it difficult to say no.

They don’t want to be the bad guy

Christian leaders are supposed to be nice, right? Yet it somehow seems “unchristian” to deny a person’s sincere request or good idea.

Leaders need to decide if they’re called to be nice and fulfill everyone’s wants, or called to be focused and direct people to what they need. An alcoholic wants a drink. But a drink isn’t what he needs. He needs rehab and should be directed there.

It’s easy to misunderstand the difference between needs and wants, and many churches confuse the two. Continue reading

Three Steps To Motivate People To Action

Excellent communication is a highly desired talent in the American church. Most pastors seek to be great communicators yet unfortunately, many pulpits are void of compelling and effective communication.

Some seek to teach complex concepts and be thoroughly understood. Others simply try hard to entertain their listeners. But the most effective communicators seek to influence their listeners to action. Transmitting information is not difficult. But communicating for life change takes a lot more work.

Transformation and action should be the goal of all Christian communication. But it takes intentionality, hard work and focus. Here are three important elements to motivate people to action.

Tell a compelling story

Stories were the videos of New Testament times. Instead of going to YouTube, people in Jesus’ day would go to the city square and listen to people tell stories.

Jesus was a master storyteller. When he wanted to capture people’s attention, he’d tell a story. “There was once a man who had two sons…” When he wanted to teach a lesson, he’d use an analogy. “The kingdom of Heaven is like…” When he wanted to drive home a point, he’d give an object lesson. “Look at the flowers of the field…”

Jesus used stories to engage his listeners. And you should too. Compelling, well-delivered stories will draw people in, make them more receptive to your message, and help them remember the point you’re trying to make. Continue reading

How Measuring Results Enhances Ministry Effectiveness

Written in pencil on the wall of the closet in my home office are dates and lines that measure the growth rate of my youngest son. You see, my office used to be his bedroom, and from October, 2004 – December, 2008, he periodically measured and recorded his height on that closet wall. When asked why he did it, he replied, “How else would I know if I’m growing?” To him, it seemed like a natural thing to do.

It’s been said you can’t manage what you don’t measure. And while it seems natural to track results, many church leaders don’t measure effectiveness for fear of finding the answers. Cold, hard facts can reveal painful realities which force us to make difficult decisions. We can either courageously lead our churches through transition, or we can keep the status quo, thinking we’re making progress but actually having little impact.

Every number tells a story
Biblical writers counted people. Someone counted 5,000 fed, 3,000 saved, and 9 out of 10 lepers who didn’t say ‘thank you.” Fortunately, today more and more church leaders recognize the importance of counting and measuring ministry effectiveness. If you’re looking to enhance your church’s ministry by beginning to measure progress, here are five things to consider.

Define your purpose
In The Numbers Game, Chris Mavity and Steve Caton, say, “Many churches plan events…(but) they never consider what the outcome should be.” They say that events and programs need to work in tandem with the vision and mission of the church. If the two don’t sync up, the event should be scratched. And pastor and author Andy Stanley, in 7 Practices of Effective Ministry, encourages church leaders to clarify the win, and ask “What’s most important?” Church leaders need to define the purpose of any program or event to be able to determine if the endeavor was successful. Without a clearly stated
goal, any attempt at evaluation will be hazy, yielding unclear conclusions. Continue reading

Top 5 Ministry Blog Posts of 2016

My passion is to bring clarity and focus to ministry and mission. I accomplish this by doing church consulting at Interactive Church Consulting, and by blogging. Here are my top 5 blog posts of 2016 that help churches and ministries both honor God and inspire people.

3 Layers of Ministry
Contemplating the importance of three critical aspects of ministry.

Clarifying Church Growth Terminology
What exactly are we talking about when we talk about church growth?

Categories of Beliefs, and Why Separating Them is Important
Which beliefs will you discuss, defend, and die for?

3 Kinds of Church Staff Members
Maximizing the effectiveness of the experts, managers, and leaders on your ministry staff.

Got Clarity? (Part 2)
How creating clarity in systems increases ministry efficiency.

Riding the Wind of the Spirit

Two summers ago I took up windsurfing. I learned to windsurf about 25 years ago but had not done it since. So when I saw an old, used windsurfer at a garage sale, I decided to buy it. I immediately took my new purchase to the lake, and like riding a bike, it didn’t take long to relearn the basics. Since then I’ve spent many summer hours on the water, enjoying the outdoors, feeling the sun on my back, and riding the wind.  

But I’ve also learned some things about being guided by the Holy Spirit through my exploits windsurfing. The Apostle John described the Holy Spirit like the blowing of a breeze. “The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants” (John 3:8 CEV). Here are three things I’ve learned while windsurfing that directly relate to listening and responding to the Holy Spirit.

You can’t go anywhere without the wind
There are a few basic ingredients needed to windsurf. You first need a board, a sail, a rudder, and a boom (the part you hold on to). A life jacket, sunscreen and some cool sunglasses also come in handy. You need a sufficiently large body of water, some knowledge of the sport, and some skills developed through practice. And of course, you need the wind.
Continue reading

Clarifying Church Growth Terminology

During the past twenty-five years many books have been written, sermons preached, and seminars given about the mission, vision and values of the church. I’ve read, listened to, and attended many of them. And I’ve received practical advice, useful tools and helpful tips that serve to define the mission of the church. The only problem is that no one seems to define things the same way.

Some experts even use the same definition to describe different words, creating confusion rather than clarity. The paragraphs that follow will define several important words that will bring clarity in your efforts to lead your church. Here are seven definitions of critical terms for you to consider.

Foundational Beliefs
Someone once said, “A belief is what you hold. A conviction is what holds you.” Foundational beliefs are stronger than regular beliefs. They are convictions. Some churches have different levels of beliefs. They separate them into discuss, defend, and die for beliefs. Your foundational beliefs are essential to your church paradigm. They define what you believe, and what you’ll die for.
Continue reading