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

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

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

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.
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3 Keys to Managing Momentum in Ministry

3 keys to managing momentum in ministryOne of the most valuable forces in any organization is momentum. When a local church is energized by prayer, the power of the Holy Spirit, and momentum, it becomes a great force that the gates of Hell cannot withstand.

Webster defines momentum as the “strength or force gained by motion or by a set of events.” In other words, momentum is powerful. Physics tells us that momentum is the product of an objects’ mass and velocity. The heavier the object and the faster it moves, the more momentum it creates.

Think of momentum as a person standing at the top of a hill and kicking a ball. With one small kick the ball starts rolling…and keeps going. That’s momentum. Not having momentum is like standing at the bottom of that same hill, and kicking the ball up. If you don’t chase after it and kick it again quickly, it will stop rolling and begin to tumble back to where you started.

In Paul’s ministry, there were times when things rolled really well. He’d touch a handkerchief and someone would bring it to a sick person. And the person got well! But there were also times momentum seemed absent. People openly rejected him, opposed him and became abusive.

If you have momentum on your side, you know it. If you don’t have it, you undoubtedly wish you did. Since momentum is a critical contributing factor in a successful church, here are three keys to managing momentum in ministry.

Building It
First of all, how do you build momentum? Sadly, it doesn’t come easily or quickly. In his #1 best seller, Good to Great, author and researcher Jim Collins describes building momentum in an organization. He tells readers to imagine pushing a big, heavy metal flywheel. Lots of energy is exerted, yet because of its great weight, the flywheel only moves a few inches. But with repeated, consistent pushing, the flywheel slowly begins to move, and gain momentum. “Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding…invested effort,” says Collins. “Then at some point – breakthrough!” He says that momentum will finally kick in, in your favor. The heavy weight now begins working for you.
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3 Categories of Beliefs, and Why Separating Them is Important

Beliefs. We all have them. They came from somewhere. They probably started forming in us as young children and have been strengthened through time. Or maybe they’ve changed over the years. Changing a belief or a belief system is a big deal because our minds are wired to think that our beliefs are the correct ones. It’s been said we are creatures of habit. That’s because we believe the way we do things, the way we think, is right.

3 categories of beliefs and why separating them is important GRAPHICObviously, beliefs are very significant in the church. Beliefs are the foundation of our faith. What we believe about God, Jesus, people, the Bible and the Church are of utmost importance. And, as noted, beliefs rarely change. As in the political world, our Christian beliefs, or differences in our beliefs, can be the topic of many disagreements, arguments, and even church splits. That’s why it’s wise to separate our beliefs into three different groups based on their importance. Here are three different categories of beliefs.

Die For
There are several beliefs we should be willing to die for. These are the things that are crystal clear in scripture that are of greatest significance. The nature of God. The work of Christ. The significance of the cross. Beliefs about people, sin and repentance. Beliefs about the Church and the Bible. These are the “die for” beliefs that make us Christians.
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5 Things To Ruthlessly Eliminate From Your Services

In his book, Soul Keeping, author John Ortberg tells of his mentor, Dallas Willard, encouraging him to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from his life. I love the term “ruthlessly eliminate” because it’s so needed and because it’s so difficult to do. Pastors and creative teams often come up with new and exciting elements to add to worship services without giving equal attention to what to subtract. A key strategy in creating an amazing worship service is not what’s added, but what’s eliminated. Here are five things to ruthlessly eliminate from your worship services.

ruthlessly eliminate dont-symbolAwkward Pauses
I’ve visited churches where awkward pauses seemed to be the norm. They’d wait for the scripture reader to get on stage, or the choir director to get the choir on and off the platform. Often people would look to the back of the Worship Center to try to figure who was supposed to be on stage and why they weren’t there.

Make sure you have a plan. A typical Order of Service is only the first step. Prepare and follow a detailed Service Planning Sheet to eliminate awkward pauses. Make certain the key players in the service know where they’re to be, what they’re to do, and when they’re to do it.

Uncomfortable Elements
The biggest offender here is the “stand and greet your neighbor” time. Churches have been using this service element in an effort to feel like they have a “friendly” church. If your service runs over 500 attendees, it’s very uncomfortable, especially for introverted and new people. When the Pastor or Worship Leader stands up and says, “Ok everyone, please turn to your neighbor, introduce yourself and say ‘You look great today,’” he might as well say, “Stand up, turn to a complete stranger and say something awkward.”

If you’re currently using the “greet your neighbor” time, please consider new people who probably want to go unnoticed, and introverted people who like to keep to themselves. The negative aspects of this element far out-weigh the positive. Continue reading

Got Clarity? (part 2)

Clarity_3In my last post – Got Clarity? (part 1), – I talked about the need for clarity and gaining an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstance. Today I will address clarity of systems. Ministry systems can get bogged down due to lack of precision, so today I will focus on 3 key areas of ministry that truly need clarity.

You have a piece of important information you need to run by your superior before a monthly meeting. But it took longer than expected for you to complete. Now you find your supervisor is out of the office until after the meeting. So your project is on hold for a month until your whole team can communicate on this one item.

Sound familiar? In my 29 years of ministry, I’ve often seen poor communication systems slowing ministry progress. Solution: Intentionally formalize your communication strategy. Don’t rely on hallway conversations or last-minute emails to confirm important information. Set up a system to organize your inner-office communications. But everyone needs to participate, or it won’t work.
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Got Clarity? (part 1)

2020-vision-logo-glassesA few weeks ago I got new glasses. I like the way they look. But that’s not why I bought them. My last pair was several years old and my vision had changed a lot. I was constantly taking off my old pair of glasses to see things close up. Even then, my vision was blurry at best. My new glasses have given me better than 20/20 vision. Everything is much clearer now.

Clarity is important in life too. We measure the clarity of water and we carefully examine the clarity of diamonds before we buy. Seeing clearly is important and it seems that wise leaders are always seeking greater clarity. But it’s not always easy. The Apostle Paul said that comprehending reality in this life is like seeing a blurred image in a mirror (1 Corinthians 13:12 GW).

I’ve always felt that it’s very important to have an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstance. So I want to look at these three areas and offer one simple suggestion to gain greater clarity for each.

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The Power of Focus

Today I’ll look at probably the most difficult aspect of implementing a simple strategy for church health. It’s called focus. Focus is difficult because if you focus on one thing, you have to say “no” to something else. And we don’t like to say “no.” We don’t want to hurt feelings, reject ideas, or crush dreams. But many churches will remain largely ineffective until we embrace the concept of focus. So take a look at the idea of focus, by considering this simple acrostic, F.O.C.U.S.

The power of focus is not just in what you focus on, but on what you don’t. The object of your focus should be the only thing you pay attention to. When couples pledge themselves to the other in marriage, they promise to “forsake all others,” and let their spouse be the focal point of their attention. In order to focus on someone or something, you have to forsake everyone, or everything else.

Focus is a vision word. It deals with optics, the scientific study of sight. Try this quick experiment. Hold up your finger six inches in front of your nose. Focus on it for five seconds. Now, keeping your finger there and without turning your head, focus on an object on a wall directly across the room. Now focus on your finger again.

focus_1When you were focusing on your finger, the wall on the other side of the room was technically in your field of vision, you just didn’t see it. Likewise, when you focused on the wall, you didn’t notice your finger. The point is, you see what you focus on. If you want to see clearly, focus is a non-negotiable.

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