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Why I’m the Lid to Growth at my Church

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One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that it’s usually the Sr. Leadership Team of a church that is the ultimate lid to growth. Many of them don’t see it and most of them wouldn’t agree with what I’m saying, but it’s true. Whether or not the Sr. Leadership Team of a church is willing to let go of authority, ministry decision making, and truly empower and lead through others can make or break a church.

Early in our multisite journey at Sun Valley we hadn’t developed the Campus Pastor role or team yet. So, like in most growing organizations, that meant double duty. I was serving as the Campus Pastor at our original location and serving as the Executive Pastor at the same time. I love leading teams and coaching church staff members, so it was really a fun season. But before long it became apparent that if I didn’t let go of leading the Lead Team on our original campus I would become the lid to growth at Sun Valley. I wouldn’t have the bandwidth to provide the church what it needed. So as much as I loved leading with that team, I had to let go of that team and build a Team of Campus Pastors to lead the campuses through.

Over time as we added more campuses and we expanded our Executive Team another point of tension came along. Again, I had to let go of leading a team that I loved leading with. I had to let someone else lead the Campus Pastors so I could provide leadership to the Executive Team and Central Service Team at the church. I had to give up something I loved, leading with a great team of Campus Pastors, for something else that I loved even more, seeing the whole church continue to take ground and move forward.

I failed to mention that along the way I also had to let go of teaching. For years I was on the Teaching Team at Sun Valley and taught about 20% of the time at our weekend worship services. I’m more of a leader that can communicate than I am a communicator that can lead if that makes any sense and we have some absolutely fantastic communicators on the team. For the church to grow what was needed from me was more strategic leadership and less teaching. And so once again I found myself letting go of something that I love for something else that I love even more.

This same scenario has played its way out in different ways over and over again the past 20 years of ministry. The secret of leadership that no one ever tells you is that the higher you go in leadership the more you lose. There’s no going up without giving up. But if you’re made for it, it’s worth it.

Every time I’ve given up my personal preference for what’s best for the church instead of what’s best for me the church has grown. And every time I’ve been reluctant to do the same, the church has been held back. When I do what I do best, the one thing where I bring the greatest value to the church, the church takes ground and I find fulfillment. When I do what’s best for the church not only does the church win, but I win too. When I don’t, I’m embarrassed to say it, but I hold the church back from everything Jesus has dreamed up for it to be.

And I imagine the same is true of you.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing, Testimonial

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What to do when you find yourself Doing Everything

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Have you ever felt like you were working as hard as you possibly could and still at the end of the day were left with a pile of work that didn’t get done? Ever feel like everyone was coming to you for you to weigh in on every decision that needed to be made? Ever feel like what you thought was just going to be a busy season has turned into a normal way of work?

Pain points like this can be a gift because pain is an indicator that something is wrong and needs to change. The good news is things can change. When you experience this kind of pain it’s time to ask yourself the following questions:

Have I Hit a Capacity Lid?

The first question to ask is, “What am I doing that is contributing to this?” Great leaders always start with themselves, not others. They take personal ownership for where they are and how they got there. Is there a new skill you need to learn or a new approach you need to take? Do you need to increase your capacity and break through that lid?

What Needs to Change?

Do you need to learn to delegate more tasks to others? Do you need to empower others to make decisions and build strategies that get the team to designed outcomes? Are you doing too much as a high level generalist and it’s time to narrow your focus and allow other specialists to do a better job at what you were doing an okay job at? In other words, often times this kind of ongoing experience can be an indicator that it’s time for a growing church to restructure.

What Does the Church Need from Me?

Where do you bring the most value to the church? Where do your gifts, abilities, and experiences advance the vision the most? Are you contributing greatly in that area? The thing that most people don’t realize is that as the church grows the church actually needs something different from its leaders along the way, not all that dissimilar to parenting.

What Do I Want to Do?

Of all the things you find yourself doing right now, what do you want to keep doing? What would you give away to others to do if you could? Is what you’re doing right now moving you closer to the vision or further away? And do you want to go where that vision is leading you?


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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Why Your Church Should Consider a Merger

merge sign

A year ago I wrote that the thought of a church merging with another church had never crossed my mind 20 years ago when I started full time ministry.

Mergers were something that companies did, not churches. But if you’re paying attention to what’s happening in church-world, mergers are becoming more and more common. And for a lot of reasons it’s a movement that I believe we’ll actually see more of in the future not less.

There are a lot of reasons your church may consider merging with another church in the future but apart from the obvious calling of God there are a couple of reasons that are at the top of the list.

Revitalization

New churches are started to reach new people with the Gospel. But as churches go through their lifecycle they’ll one day find themselves with a few people hanging on at the end if they don’t reinvent themselves, and most don’t. Many of these Kingdom assets are in real estate locations that a church planter will never have the opportunity to be in due to financial barriers. If these declining churches don’t choose to merge with another church their buildings will eventually be sold, leveled, and someone will make a bunch of money developing that location for commercial purposes.

Momentum

If your church doesn’t have momentum, acquiring another campus through a merger won’t infuse momentum into your church. You simply cannot pull off a merger if you don’t have momentum. In a merger the culture of the lead church needs to wash over the culture of the joining church. If you don’t go into a merger with momentum instead of having two thriving locations you’ll be left with two floundering sites.

Want to learn more about church mergers? These previous posts will help you get ready to lead through your next church merger opportunity.


Posted in Leadership

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Trying Harder Won’t Fix Your Church

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Conventional wisdom tells us that when things get difficult we just need to work harder, work smarter or somehow upgrade the quality of our work. But what do you do when trying harder doesn’t work? It may that it’s time for you to stop doing the same old thing with more effort with more efficiency or more quality. It might be time for you to stop trying harder and try different. It’s time to try something entirely new.

#1 New Vision

Vision answers the question, “Where are we going?” It’s simply the “next hill” that you’re taking. It’s the ability to understand the times, know the right direction to move, and involve and inspire people to go there with you. The problem with vision is that it needs to be refreshed every 3-5 years. Because once you’ve taken the hill you have to identify the next hill, or the church loses momentum and get’s stuck.

#2 New Structures

Your church is perfectly structured to get the results you’re getting right now. However it’s not uncommon that a church outgrows a structure that served you well in a particular season and size. That same structure can become a lid to future growth. As a church grows the need to restructure can occur multiple times in the life of a church. The way the church board is structured, the way the staff team is structured, the polity of a church, and the structure of the church budget can all become lids to growth if they don’t change over time as the church changes. Don’t like the results you’re getting? It might be time to build a new structure.

#3 New Systems

Systems help us answer the question, “How are we going to reproduce this?” It could be reproducing disciples, leaders, church plants, new multisite campuses, or a consistent weekend worship experience at your church. Systems are made up of complex independent parts working together to perform a function (for example think skeletal system or solar system). For our purposes building a system is the art of connecting the Core Values, Structures, Strategies, Goals, and Vision to work in alignment that builds a culture that leans towards fulfilling the Mission. It may be the reason your church has become stuck is that you’ve outgrown some of your systems.

#4 New Voices

When things get difficult we usually start with ourselves for the solution, “What can I do to fix it?” If we can’t solve it on our own we usually turn our attention to our coworkers, friends and finally our networks. What if the solutions to your biggest problems are outside of your normal relational web? What if it was time to get new voices at the table, get outside your industry and tribe to look for new solutions? If you’re ready for a new voice to help your church get new new solutions I’d recommend you take a step and connect with the Unstuck Group.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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How Ministry Jealousy can Ruin Easter at your Church

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With Easter just a few days away, churches across the country are working hard to leverage this weekend as an opportunity for attenders to invite their friends who are unfamiliar with Jesus to Church in hopes that they will say yes to following Jesus. A lot of time and energy goes into Easter services at most churches. But next week, when Easter has passed, and everyone in church-world begins talking about what happened at their churches, how will you feel when that other church in town had more people in attendance than your church did? How will you feel when the church down the street had more people say yes to following Jesus than your church did?

While I’ve never met a church staff team that explicitly said they were competing with other churches, I’ve met a lot who have acted like it. In fact, in a previous post about churches that claim they’re not in competition with each other but act like they are, I wrote:

“Competing with other churches only makes sense if you’re going after people who already know Jesus. And there is no shortage of people who don’t know Jesus.”

A couple of weeks ago Matt Willmington, a friend of mine who serves on the Executive Team at Thomas Road Baptist Church located in Lynchburg, Virginia, posted a couple of questions on his social media timeline that got me thinking more about this and should get you thinking more about this as well.

#1 Do you downplay the gifts of other people?

Do you minimize or suppress the gifts of other people on your team and at other churches or do you celebrate them? Do you have the ability to submit to others in their area of brilliance?

#2 Do you question the motives of others?

Do you question the motives of other ministries that are successful? Do you ever think to yourself, “There’s no way they can be this successful and be clearly preaching the Word of God,” or, “They must be watering down the Gospel.” Are you skeptical of others ministry success or can you easily celebrate it?

#3 How do you feel when others experience a win?

How do you feel when other people do a better job and are more successful than you are at what you do?

#4 Do you truly rejoice when others succeed in ministry?

Do you have the ability, as the Scriptures teach us, to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice?

#5 Do you pray for others success?

That other church in town that has momentum, do you pray for their success or secretly hope they’ll implode? That really talented church leader who seems to succeed at everything they do, do you pray for their success or do you secretly hope they’ll self-destruct their ministry?

I want you to know that I’m praying for your church this Easter. I’m praying that people who call your church home take a spiritual step and they invite their friends that don’t Jesus to attend Easter services with them. I’m praying that you and your team do a fantastic job at articulating the Gospel in a clear and compelling manner. I’m praying that many people say yes to following Jesus. And I’m praying that you can celebrate not only the wins that your experience at your church this Easter, but the wins that other churches experience as well. Because when any church wins the “Big C” Church wins.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation
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