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Top Posts of 2017 #6 “6 Keys to Motivating Millennial Church Leaders”

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As I already mentioned in this countdown, millennials were a popular topic on my blog this year. This is the second post in this year’s countdown that had to do with millennial church leaders.

If you have any millennials on your church staff you know that they’re different. And while many traditional church leaders are quick to equate a different approach with being a wrong approach, wise leaders know that different just means different. Not necessary wrong. In fact it could even be better. Millennials can, will, and are doing some amazing ministry. Like it or not they are coming into their own in church leadership, and they’re the ones that are going to lead the church forward. So instead of complaining about them we might as well help them. Try these 6 approaches to motivate the millennial leaders on your church staff.

1. Help me Avoid Boredom

Millennials have grown up with the constant interruption of smart phones and sound bites. This has conditioned them to be great at multitasking. So don’t expect them to sit down and work the way you did with tremendous focus on one thing for an extended period of time. Help them avoid that monotony and dabble with multiple things at one time. They’ll have more fun and produce more results.

2. Help me Join a Cause

Everyone knows that millennials are cause oriented. But what most churches haven’t come to grips with yet is that one of the key reasons so many millennials are leaving the church is they don’t view the church as a cause worth giving their life to. Is your church an institution or a movement? Have you turned the Gospel into something to be dissected and intellectually understood or something that is powerful and mysterious? Help them see the church as a cause worth giving their life to.

3. Help me Manage my Heart

Feelings are more important than facts to millennials. While it might not make sense to some previous generations they think more with their heart than their head. That’s not to say they aren’t brilliant it’s just to say their motivation is more centered around the question, “Does this feel right?” Church leaders can help millennials by increasing their emotional intelligence and being more thoughtful about how their actions may be perceived and how they may affect the feelings of others rather than just give way to simple facts and plans.

4. Help me See the Win

Millennials have grown up in a world of instant gratification, access, and results. Anybody who has been in ministry for any length of time knows that’s not how it really works. Life just doesn’t work that way. So we’ve got to help celebrate the small wins of life change that happen along the way. Help them celebrate the first downs along the way and help them make the connection between their day-to-day ministry and the vision.

5. Help me be True to Myself

Millennials aren’t going to follow someone or be a part of something that feels inauthentic to them. The best gift that church leaders can give millennials is to exercise real leadership and stop leading through position, title, or power and learn to lead with humility and personhood. They won’t simply respect you for your position but instead for who you are and the value you add. In this way millennials are a gift to challenge many church leaders to lead in a way that they may have forgotten.

6. Help me Understand “Why”

In recent years Simon Sinek made the phrase, “start with why” famous. Millennials don’t just want to know your plan. They don’t want to simply know what you want them to do, they want to know the why behind it. They need to buy into the reason behind the plan of action. Help them buy into the why.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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Top Posts of 2017 #7 “Why Churches Decline and Die”

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Understanding why churches grow and decline is an annual topic of interest on my blog. While this post doesn’t cover all of the reasons a church declines, it’s a great overview of some of the major catalysts to church decline.

Years ago, a church started in the Phoenix east valley. This church plant grew rapidly. Helping new people meet Jesus, they became one of the first mega churches in the east valley. Eventually the pastor, under whose leadership this growth took place, left and the succession didn’t go very well. Neither did the next succession. Or the next. In fact, that church went through 18 straight years of decline until at the end of that decline they ended up merging with another church.

Today the new campus averages more than 1,000 people in weekend attendance and is helping new people meet, know and follow Jesus.

Unfortunately for most churches in decline there’s no great comeback story. Churches decline for all kinds of reasons and it’s usually more complicated than one simple decision that was made somewhere along the way.

However, church decline can be avoided and even turned around. If your church is stuck or in decline I’d encourage you to start a conversation with the Unstuck Group. They have proven track record of helping churches get unstuck. Here are a couple big reasons, in no particular order, why churches decline and die.

1. Fuzzy Vision

Vision answers the question, “Where are we going?” Vision provides everyone clarity and without clarity things slow down, or even worse people start doing what they think is right in their own eyes. One of the single most life-threatening indicators 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.

2. Staff Hired to Do Ministry

When your church has a high staff to attendance ratio (at the Unstuck Group we encourage churches to staff 1:100 – that is 1 full time staff equivalent for every 100 attenders) and you’re hiring staff to do ministry instead of leading ministry by recruiting, developing and empowering volunteers to do and lead ministry your church will end up in decline.

3. No Strategic Plan

Strategy answers the question, “How are we going to get there?” Strategy fills the gap between where you are and where you want to be. 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.

4. Over Reaching

My dad used to call this having, “Wine taste on a beer budget.” Over reaching and overextending the church with unsustainable decisions such as too much debt, offering too many ministry options, or starting too many things at once can cripple a church and set it back years, often times never recovering.  

5. Style Worship

No, not worship style (although those battles can be tough too), style worship. When churches begin to care more about ministry programs or a style and approach to ministry than the results of the ministry they’re on their way to decline.

6. Demographic Drift

Over time it’s not uncommon for the demographics around a church to shift. This can easily be observed most commonly through age and race. Many churches choose to ignore these changes and as a result never change their approach to ministry which leads to decline every time.

7. Insider 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.


Posted in Leadership

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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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