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Top Posts of 2017 #8 “When to Invest in a Young Leader and when to Ignore them”

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A lot of people in church world are trying to figure out millennials. How do reach them, motivate them, develop them, and of course how do we hand of leadership of the Church to them? So it’s no surprise that this topic was a popular one on my blog this year.

Like it or not, millennials are making their way into leadership roles in churches across America. As they take their newfound place in church leadership many of them are looking for someone to invest in them and help develop them as young emerging leaders.

Experienced leaders are always going to have more opportunities available to say yes to than capacity to meet them. This is true in leadership and this is true in developing young talent. You have to make a choice. So, choose wisely. How do you know who to invest in and who to ignore?

Young, naïve, and inexperienced talent doesn’t bother me. But young talent that is void of the following four intangibles scares me to death.

Talent

Skills can be trained but talent is developed. Talent is something you have or you don’t have. It’s something you’re born with or is gifted to you by the Holy Spirit. You get the gifts you’re given. For instance, if someone has been given the spiritual gift of leadership, it can be developed and that art can be perfected over time through study and practice. Others without the spiritual gift of leadership may learn leadership skills but they’ll never have the talent to lead at the same level as someone with a leadership gift. I’m looking for young leaders who are very talented.

Capacity

In a world where everyone gets a participation trophy and kids are taught that they can do anything and be anything they want to be in life; what I’m about to say isn’t going to be very popular. But it will be true. While different people may have similar talents, they may have different capacities. The Bible is clear that while many people may get similar or even the same gifts, that they are given in different measure. So, no you can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be the best you that you’re designed to be. That being said, I’m looking for young leaders who have a high capacity.

Teachable

In the book of James, he Bible teaches us that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  You can’t give something to someone who doesn’t want to or isn’t ready to receive it. (both matter by the way). You can’t teach someone who isn’t teachable. I’m looking for young leaders who demonstrate a teachable spirit.

Effort

It’s okay for a young leader not to have an answer, but it’s not okay for that same young leader to not go find the answer. It’s okay for a young leader to fail and not get everything right the first time. It’s not okay for a young leader to not try as hard as they possibly can to succeed. I’m looking for young leaders who demonstrate tremendous effort.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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Top Posts of 2017 #9 “5 Proficiencies of Great Church Staff Teams”

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Hiring and building the right teams was a popular topic on my blog this year. This one was one of the most read and shared.

Great Church Staff Teams are full of team members who not only care deeply about people and are passionate about the ministry; they’re actually proficient in what they are doing. I actually believe you can fake passion for a while until your heart catches up. But you can’t fake proficiency. You’re either proficient or you’re not. That being said, I’ve been a part of Church Staff Teams for more than 20 years and the ones I’ve been on that are the best are always proficient in these 5 core areas:

#1 Team Player

Great Church Staff Team Members care more about the team than they do about themselves or their own standout performance. They’d rather the team win than get personal recognition for their individual contribution to the win.

#2 Specialty

Great Church Staff Teams are full of role players. They know what they’re brilliant at and they lead in those areas and they know what other team members at brilliant at and they submit in those areas. They play their specialized role well.

#3 Modeling

Great Church Staff Teams are built with people who lead with moral authority. They don’t just say, “Do as I say,” they model behaviors that they want replicated throughout the entire organization. They go first and inspire others to follow through their actions, not just through their words. 

#4 Follow Through

This may sound simple, but it’s actually unfortunately rare. Great Church Staff Teams are made up of people who do what they say they’re going to do. They deliver on time over, and over, and over again. They can be trusted to do what they say they’re going to do. They follow through.

#5 Communication

Great Church Staff Team Members communicate early and often with each other. Instead of surprising one another they manage expectations through communication. Everyone doesn’t have to know everything on great teams when great teams communicate with one another.


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2017 #10 “What makes a Great Executive Pastor Great?”

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For the next couple of days I’m going to be counting down the top 10 posts from 2017 here on Helping Churches Make Vision Real. These are the posts that generated the most traffic, comments, and were the most shared on social media. The most popular topics this year had to do with developing young leaders, hiring, building great teams, church growth, and church decline. We start off with a post about Executive Pastors, a role that often means a lot of different things in a lot of different churches and a role that I’ve served in for the last 10+ years.

When I was starting out in full-time ministry more than twenty years ago if you had told me that I would one day serve as an Executive Pastor of a multi-mega church I would have asked you, “What’s that?”

More and more I’m running into young church leaders that aspire to be an Executive Pastor and I’m fielding more and more questions about what young leaders can do to prepare for the role. With that in mind, while this is not an exhaustive list, here are a couple of recommendations I’d make to any young church leader who thinks they may serve as an Executive Pastor (XP) one day.

1. Sober-mindedness

Understand who you are, come to terms with who you are, and then be who you are. It’s not uncommon for young church leaders to think big and want something bigger than they’re able to handle sooner than they’re ready for it. It takes a deep well of experience built over time to serve well in the XP role, not just talent.

2. Submission to Authority

In Matthew 8:5-13 the Roman Centurion demonstrates an incredible XP mindset (seriously click the link and read it). He understands what it’s like to be in authority so he has no problem submitting to authority. Great XP’s submit to the authority of the Lead Pastor. They challenge appropriately, they lead up and ultimately understand what it means to both be in authority and under authority at the same time.

3. Recruit, Place & Develop People

The church is ultimately about people development. The theological term is sanctification, the every day church term is discipleship. Whatever label you want to put on it great Executive Pastors are great at recruiting the right people, putting them in the right seat to succeed and developing them.

4. Organizational Alignment

The best XP’s I’ve ever been around have an uncanny sense of alignment. They’re playing chess not checkers. They’re constantly working and reworking the organizational alignment (staff, finances, facilities, communication, and ministries) of the church so it doesn’t become a lid to growth.

5. Fill the Gap between Vision and Reality

Great Executive Pastors fill the gap between vision and reality. In other words, they’re strategic in nature. They think “how” are we going to get “there”? But they’re not negative about that “how.” They’re solution oriented.

6. Get Theological and Business Training

It takes a heart for theology and a head for business to be a great XP. If you’ve got more of a business background then get some solid theological training. If you got a theological background then go get your MBA.

 7.The Church isn’t a Business

The Church isn’t a business. It has a clear mission from Jesus about why it exists, the best ones have clear vision regarding where they’re going, and they have strategies to align staff and other resources around. There are a lot of things that “smell” like a business in the church (after all the book of Proverbs in the Bible too), but it’s not a business. The church is the Body of Christ, it’s the family of God. The goal is not to make shareholders happy by having a strong bottom line, it’s life change.


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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4 Questions to Shift your Thinking about Church Mergers

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Through my experience working with churches I’ve discovered that the idea of “Church Mergers” is met with a variety of emotions, many which are negative. I’ve found that some view it as a cannibalistic way for growing churches to gobble up smaller struggling churches to enlarge their own footprint and grow their brand, not the Kingdom of God. I’ve even seen some churches that would rather die and close their doors than merge with or gift their property to another church.

With all of this negative emotion around the idea of church mergers I thought I’d throw out a couple of questions that may open a more helpful conversation about mergers and maybe even shift some thinking.

What are you going to do with those Kingdom Assets?

There are churches that have a great story of growing and reaching people in the past but have declined and are on “life-support” today. Many of these Kingdom assets are in places like L.A., New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. and other areas where the cost of real-estate is a barrier to starting new churches. Why not gift those assets to a thriving and growing church in your state that has a proven and successful multisite model and turn that location into a campus?

Would a Merger Yield Greater Kingdom Results?

If you merged with another church would you experience a greater Kingdom impact together than you would individually? If each church would take more Kingdom ground as an individual autonomous church then by all means they should stay that way. But, if greater ground would be taken together it’s worth a serious conversation.

Do you want this person to be your Sr. Pastor?

Language is important. In a church merger, you’re often leading through a highly emotionally charged situation. Poorly wording things can stop things before they really get going. I’ve found one helpful way to discuss it is to ask the church that is potentially joining your church if they would want your Pastor to be their Pastor? This reframes the conversation and makes it a lot less threatening.

Would you want to adopt the Vision and Practices of the church you’re merging with?

It’s difficult to generate much traction in a church merger conversation if you lead early on with all of the stuff that the joining church is going to have to change. For instance, adopting a new vision, approach to ministry and different practices. That can feel overwhelming and threatening to the joining church. A more palatable way to get into that conversation may be to start with the stories of life-change, momentum and all of the great stuff that God is doing in and through the ministry of your church. Would the potentially joining church like to have that kind of a story and those kinds of results?


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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Why Visionaries Paint Pictures not Wordsmith Statements

clearvision

Right now, there are churches across the country that are working on their “ministry theme” for the new year. They’ve gotten their Senior Leadership Team together to come up with a pithy statement that they can build a sermon series around and many have even built a campaign around this statement to make sure all of their key volunteers know the new statement for the new year. They may have even put it in a print piece, on their website, or even branded and purchased some swag to give away to support the theme.

You’ve probably seen churches do this. They build themes around baptizing a certain number of people, social justice and serving their community, “going deep” together through bible studies, building community through small groups, or some kind of generosity initiative to name a few.

Many churches even go so far as to call this their vision for the next year. Unfortunately, it’s not. It may be a ministry emphasis, a goal, or even a slogan but it’s not a vision.

“Make America Great Again” and “Stronger Together” were campaign slogans. Neither was a vision. Unfortunately, churches get stuck building and using “campaign slogans” instead of vision casting.

Vision isn’t a Statement it’s a Picture

Vision is a picture of the future, not a statement. Many churches spend an incredible amount of time wordsmithing vision statements instead of providing a clear picture of where they’re going.

Vision isn’t a Goal it’s a Destination

Goals are simply vision with a timeline. They are the actionable and attainable steps or objectives to be met that move the organization in the direction of the vision. You know you’re winning and moving in the direction of and reaching the vision when you are meeting your goals!

Mission Answers the Question: Why do we exist?
This is the timeless answer to why your church is on the planet in the first place. We don’t get to pick our mission Jesus did that for us. That’s the whole, “go and make disciples,” part. But we do get to pick language that contextualizes it for our culture.

Vision Answers the Question: Where are we going?
This is the next hill that needs to be taken. Vision typically changes every 3-5 years. Vision changes because once you get there and have taken then hill, there’s always the next hill to take.

Most church staff can’t articulate the next hill their church is taking. They don’t’ know the target on the wall they’re shooting for. One way to begin to bring clarity to the vision at your church is to simply ask the question,

“Where would we be in 3-5 years if our church faithfully lived out the mission Jesus has given us in the context of our community, unique culture of our church, gifting and passions of our Sr. Leadership, and resources that God has given us?”

Doing the serious work to answer this question will help you put a target on the wall to hit. Getting crystal clear on this will have a “trickle down” effect on every decision made in your church over the next 3-5 years. It will allow you to:

  • Set goals and measure results.
  • Determine how to allocate resources and budget.
  • Help you understand how you need to structure your staffing model.
  • Bring alignment to ministries.

Posted in Leadership