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Attitude: The Unspoken Asset of Leadership

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One of the greatest moments in the history of the NASA space program began with the statement, “Houston, we have a problem.” An oxygen tank on the spacecraft Apollo 13, piloted by John Swigert, had just exploded. The Director of NASA quipped that this could be the worst disaster in the history of NASA. Gene Kranz, the Flight Director, quickly interrupted the Director by stating, “With all due respect Sir, I think this is going to be our finest hour.” He then clearly, firmly, yet calmly belted out to the staff that was franticly scurrying around, “Work the problem!”

That room was full of very intelligent, very experienced, and very capable people. But what made the difference that day was attitude. When facing a problem, success or failure has more to do with our attitude than our ability.

The greatest moments of any individual or organization always come through our greatest obstacles. And when those obstacles come along, the best leaders always live on the solution side of every issue.

This isn’t just some cute pithy idea that’s been ripped off from the Business World. This is straight out of God’s Word. The book of Proverbs is littered with comments about attitude and the Apostle Paul hits this topic multiple times in the book of Philippians. In Ephesians he writes…

 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ”
Ephesians 2:1-10

…in other words…
God made your biggest problem His biggest problem, and then He solved it.

4 Ways Church Leaders Approach Problems

1. Victims: Avoid Problems

These leaders focus on the problem not the solution. Instead of dealing with the problem they ignore it hoping it will magically go away. You’ll often find them complaining and venting. They’re pretty sure that the problem they find themselves in is something that happened to them and they can’t do anything about it.

Move from a Victim to an Owner by taking Personal Responsibility

2. Owners: Own the Problem

These leaders not only identify the problem and what’s not working, but they begin to diagnose why it’s not working even taking ownership for what they’ve done to contribute to the problem by intention or neglect. They’re still not coming up with solutions but they understand the problem. By the way if you’ve been in a ministry for more than 3 years and don’t like what you’ve got then look in the mirror. If you’ve been there less than 3 years, go ahead and blame your predecessor.

Move from an Owner to a Solver by Working the Problem

3. Solvers: Solve the Problem

These leaders not only accurately diagnose problems but they come up with great solutions. They’re not afraid to involve others in the process because they believe the team outperforms the individual.

Move from a Solver to a Creative by Viewing Problems as Opportunities.

4. Creatives: Leverage the Problem

These leaders actually leverage problems because they understand that every problem is an opportunity to build and reinforce the culture that they’re trying to build. They know that big problems breed innovation, resourcefulness, and tenacity in a team. The best leaders actually intentionally create crisis (problems) if things are going too well to keep the organization from drifting towards complacency.

Your attitude matters because it catches. Is your attitude worth catching?


Posted in Leadership

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The Difference between a Visionary and a Dreamer

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Churches are notorious for talking about vision at the start of the New Year. In fact, many churches actually come up with a new “Vision Theme” every year that they role out to the church in January. There’s getting ready to be a lot of “vision talk” in churches across America in the next couple of weeks. The problem is there is a lot of confusion in the church about what vision and being a visionary actually is.

Often churches confuse being a good communicator with being a visionary. Just because you can get people to buy into you or your idea doesn’t make you’re a visionary. Other times vision comes packaged as a compelling idea. Just because you have an idea doesn’t mean you’re a visionary.

What I’ve discovered is that most churches are chasing a dream, not following a vision. Here’s the difference:

Cost

Dreamer: Dreams are fun, fantastical, and free. It doesn’t cost anything to dream dreams.
Visionary: Visionaries are willing to pay the price to see their vision become reality.

Focus

Dreamer: Dreamers are full of ideas, bouncing from one dream to the next.
Visionary: Visionaries have a determined laser focus on the vision.

Deadlines

Dreamer: “Someday” and “eventually” are common language for the dreamer.
Visionary: Visionaries build action plans with real deadlines that get them to the vision.

Impact

Dreamer: A combination of chasing ideas with a short attention span rarely leads to a great impact.
Visionary: Focused attention that moves you towards a specific vision coupled with a willingness to pay the price can lead to tremendous impact.

What are some other differences between dreamers and visionaries that you’ve observed? I’d love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment!


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2015 #1: “How Many People should your Church have on Staff?”

I’ve been counting down the top 10 posts from 2015 this past week and you made this the most popular post here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real in 2015!

Before you buy into the idea that you need another staff person at your church, think again. That just may be the worst decision you make at your church this year.

It’s not uncommon in churches that I work with to hear them say, “We need to add more staff.” After all if there are problems or areas where the church is stuck then throwing staff at that problem will surely fix it…right? Well, not always. In fact the opposite may be true. In fact the most effective churches that I see have a tendency to hire fewer staff not more staff. They hire more competent team members who have the ability to turn attenders into volunteers, volunteers into leaders, and build teams. Instead of paying people to do ministry they pay people to lead others to do ministry.

At the Unstuck Group we encourage churches to staff to a ratio of 100:1. As you can see in the chart above the average ratio of attendance to staff in most churches is 86:1. In other words for every 86 people in attendance at the church (including adults and kids), there’s typically one full-time staff person.

This number includes all paid staff at the church. That means administrative staff, support staff, ministry staff and pastors. This number also includes both full-time and part-time staff. We calculate the full-time equivalent (FTE) number by adding the total average number of hours part-time staff work and then dividing by 40. That number is added to the number of full-time staff to get the FTEs. For example, if there are 5 full-time employees and 10 part-time employees working a combined average of 200 hours per week, that makes for a total of 10 FTE’s.

Over staffing is a big deal in churches because it’s usually an indicator that:

1. The church has become Insider Focused

Typically an overstaffed church is paying people to do ministry and run programs to keep long-time people in the church happy.

2. The church has a Poor Culture of Volunteerism

There is a direct connection between staffing and volunteerism at churches. Generally the more a church spends on staffing the less likely attenders are to serve.

3. The church has Stopped Growing

There is also a direct connection between staffing and church growth. What we’ve discovered in our research at the Unstuck Group is that the more a church spends on staff the more the rate of attendance growth slows.

In other words the more staff your church has the more likely your church is to become insider focused, have a low level of buy-in and volunteerism by attenders, and to be plateaued or in decline.

Interested in learning more? Download the ebook “Vital Signs: Meaningful Metrics That Keep a Pulse on Your Church’s Health” or consider engaging the Unstuck Group to do a Ministry Health Assessment with your church.


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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Top Posts for 2015 #2: “5 Core Behaviors of Churches that get Unstuck”

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Five years ago when I started writing this blog the primary driver was to help churches make vision real. To help churches bridge the gap between ideas and reality. This post will help your church avoid getting stuck and get on the path to making vision real!

Churches all across America are stuck. Large churches, small churches, old churches, new churches, Baptist churches, Methodist churches, Nazarene churches, Presbyterian church and even non-denominational churches are stuck. Stuckness is no respecter of the “brand” or “flavor” of the church. It happens to all kinds of churches. Lead long enough in a church and it will happen to you.  In fact Thom Rainer, President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources has stated in his research that:

“Eight out of ten of the approximately 400,000 churches in the United States are declining or have plateaued.”

Churches get stuck for all kinds of reasons but there are a handful of core behaviors that I see over and over again in churches get unstuck.

1. They’re Outsider Focused

They’re consumed with the idea that the need for the Gospel in their community is greater than their capacity to meet it. And so they’re willing to go to extraordinary measures to bring people far from Jesus close to Him. So much so that their posture is towards those outside of the faith rather than those inside of the faith. They consistently make choices based on who they’re going to reach rather than who they’re going to keep.

2. They have a Strong Organizational Culture

They are clear about their vision, they know where they’re going. But it’s not just that they have some aspirational idea about where they think God wants them to be one day they actually have a clear plan to get where they’re going and they methodically work the plan. They’ve done the hard work of defining their leadership culture, and values, and aligning every ministry of the church to move in one singular direction.

3. They Develop People

They don’t pay everyone in the church to do ministry, instead they typically have a pretty lean staff (a ratio of 1:100+) and pay those staff to invest in and develop volunteers. They identify young leaders and give them real responsibility to make real decisions and own the ministry. Actually be the church instead of just come to church.

4. They view Spiritual Maturity Differently than most

They don’t view spiritual maturity as something that happens in a classroom. It’s not about content but rather your behavior. In other words it’s not so much what you know, it’s what you do with what you know. Ironically enough, that’s the same way Jesus defined it. They’ve also mapped out a clear pathway for people to run on. The moment they say yes to following Jesus there is a series of clear next steps for them to take to move forward with Jesus.

5. They’re Courageously Humble

The posture of their leadership is a humble confidence. They’re life long learners and incessant tinkerers. Willing to learn from anyone from any industry and any size organization. They’re not afraid to ask for help, even outsiders. They lead in their area of brilliance and submit in areas of weakness. They’re willing to confront the brutal facts and listen to the truth, even when it’s not pretty.

Does your church need help getting unstuck in 2015?  The Unstuck Group can help, follow this link to learn how.

Photo Credit: Lachlan Hardy via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2015 #3: “10 Signs your Church is Headed for Decline”

sign

I’m counting down the top 10 posts on my blog from 2015 and we’ve finally hit the top 3! This one will help you understand indicators that show that your church may be headed for decline.

When I was young my Aunt purchased a brand new car. I didn’t have a car yet so even though it wasn’t red and it had 4 doors instead of 2 I thought it was really cool. And because she had a car and I didn’t she by default was cool too.

Everything was cool until she forgot to change the oil. Truth be told, she never changed the oil. From the day she drove the car off the lot to the day it died (which was much, much sooner than it should have), that car never experienced a single oil change. Routine maintenance wasn’t her strong suite. And most of us are just like her. We put off going to the doctor for our annual check-up, we postpone going to the dentist for our 6-month check up, and yes we put off routine maintenance on our automobiles.

We just keep going until it hurts enough that we are forced to stop and go in for a check up.

Unfortunately most church leadership teams operate the same way. They put off routine check ups and maintenance until it’s too late and decline starts to set in. What if there were early warning signs (flashing lights on the dashboard) that helped indicate that trouble was ahead? In my experience Coaching Church Leaders and Consulting with Churches across the country I’ve seen the following 10 indicators of an impending decline over and over again.

1. High Staff Turnover

When a church has trouble keeping staff, the church is in trouble. Some attrition is natural over time as the church grows, the staffing structures adjust, leaders hit lids, or vision shifts. But when turnover shifts from being a season to being the norm there is a cultural problem at play.

2. Fuzzy Vision

Without a doubt the single most life-threatening indicator that a church is in trouble is a lack of clarity. Clarity provides a church with the power to make decisions efficiently and align the organizational components of the church to move forward. If you don’t know where you’re going, and can’t state it clearly, you’ve got no chance to get there.

3. Complexity

When the church is growing it’s exciting! Staff members are hired, ministries are started, buildings are built and people are meeting Jesus! But it’s not as exciting when all of that growth and fun naturally lead to complexity. Growth naturally leads to complexity and complexity slows everything down.

4. Inward Focus

I’ve said this many times before, the most dangerous place a church can be in their life cycle is when the ministry they are doing is having a big impact with insiders (people who already know Jesus and are inside the church) but a low impact with outsiders (people who don’t know Jesus yet). It’s dangerous because it’s comfortable. It feels like things are going well and you have momentum because people are happy, they’re regularly attending, and they seem to be “all in” with what you’re doing. But if you aren’t reaching new people, your church or ministry is already moving towards unhealthiness and decline.

5. Defending the Past

When a church is busy defending the past instead of building the future it is headed for decline. When a church becomes risk averse and starts making choices based on who they are going to keep as opposed to who they are going to reach, the church is in trouble. The real danger in playing defense is that it becomes a cultural mindset that actually stands in opposition to the Gospel. You see the Gospel was never meant to be or does it need to be defended it’s intended to be unleashed.

6. No Strategic Plan

Strategy answers the question, “How are we going to get there?” It’s planning for tomorrow today. Little is more demoralizing to a church staff team than a bunch of empty inspirational talk that never materializes into real courageous action.

7. Leadership Void

There are a lot of challenges facing the modern church, but perhaps the greatest challenge is a leadership challenge. The modern church is simply an anti-leadership organization. It doesn’t attract, develop, or keep leaders. Leaders by their very nature are change agents. Because the unstated goal of most churches is to preserve the past, church leaders often times find themselves fighting the family instead of fighting the enemy.

8. No Spiritual Maturity Pathway

I’ve observed that some churches are stuck or declining not because they have a difficult time attracting or introducing new people to Jesus but because they have no plan in place to move people towards spiritual maturity or the plan they’re working is broken.

9. Policy Trumps People

Policies shrink the box of creativity. They set the standard for how we do what we do every time we do it. Policies tell everybody in the organization what they can’t do, and leaders are solution oriented not excuse or problem oriented. A church with a lot of policies will consistently find it difficult to attract and keep good leaders. It’s very possible to policy your way right into decline.

10. Volunteer Scarcity

One of the things we’ve learned through our research at the Unstuck Group is that the average church in America is mobilizing somewhere around 43% of their adult and student population in volunteer opportunities. The reason it is so critical for churches to address this and take steps to move their culture in the right direction is because volunteering is discipleship. It’s not about filling roles and getting ministry done through people. It’s not about what we want from people, but rather what we want for people. It is discipleship. Because volunteering and living an others first life is the very essence of what it means to live like Jesus.

It would probably be worth some time discussing this list with the Sr. Leadership Team at your church and evaluate where your church measures up in each of these 10 areas of health.

What can we do about it? Engage the Unstuck Group in a Ministry Health Assessment. Discover islands of strength to build on and areas of opportunity to work on before they become serious and decline sets in.


Posted in Leadership
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