Tag Archive - 2013


Top Posts of 2013 #3: “6 Indicators You’re Leading an Insider Focused Church”

By far the most popular topic I blogged on this year was the tension between being an insider-focused or an outsider-focused church. It’s a tough tension to manage. Do we focus on reaching those outside the faith or helping those inside the faith go “deeper.” Can a church do both? Most churches in America tend to lean towards becoming insider-focused. It’s natural because after all, what comes natural to us, is well us.

How do you know if you’re leading an insider-focused church? Here are 6 indicators that you and your team can use to evaluate your church:

#1 Language

The language you choose to use is important because it both reflects and builds culture at the same time. There are all kinds of ways this goes wrong in churches. Coming up with cool names and brands for ministries that mean nothing to people outside the church, sub-branding things to death, and mentioning people from stage by name without explaining who they are just a couple of them. Two big principles to keep in mind when it comes to the language you choose to use in your church are: clear always trumps cute or cool and you’re always better off just calling things what they are.

#2 High giving-per-head

It may sound counter-intuitive but in growing outsider focused churches I consistently see giving-per-head numbers around $20-$30 per person. In churches that are stuck and insider focused it’s not uncommon to see giving-per-head numbers between $30-$50 per person.

#3 No Way-finding

At one church I visited I had no idea where to take my children. Everyone else seemed to know where to go but us. When we asked for help we were told to go to the “B-Building.” While the person who helped us was polite and came off as genuinely interested in helping us I had no idea what or where the “B-Building” was. Even worse there was no signage directing us to the “B-Building” or anything else for that matter. You’d be amazed how well placed, clear, directional signage and calling things what they are (i.e. Children’s Center, Student Center, Office, Worship Center) can help guests find their way on your campus.

#4 No clear Spiritual Maturity Pathway

Most churches are hoping that people outside of the faith will somehow miraculously jump in on what the church is already doing for existing members of the church. The problem is that just doesn’t happen. Have you clearly defined what you want people to look like who are walking with Jesus and created clear steps for them to get there?

#5 Few Baptisms/Conversions

Insider focused churches have a tendency to criticize growing churches, as if to say “They are doing something wrong and aren’t preaching the Word.” Essentially saying that if they were doing things “right” and “preaching the Word” they wouldn’t be growing.

#6 Poor Guest Services

My first week attending a church that I had recently gone on staff at we showed up trying to discover where to take my children for the Children’s Ministry (are you sensing a theme here?). A Children’s Staff Member shouted and pointed from down the hallway. There was no one to help us get where we needed to go, including that staff member who kept walking the other direction after they had yelled at us. The ironic thing is they had a great children’s ministry. Developing a culture of guest services in your church begins with developing a culture of guest services among your staff.

If none of those ideas resonate with you, here’s something that should push you towards taking a serious look at evaluating the church you’re leading. Don’t forget that you can still be growing and be insider focused; it’s called being the best Christian show in town.

Posted in Leadership


Top Posts of 2013 #4: “What the Church can Learn from SouthWest Airlines About Volunteers”

One of the most popular topics that I blogged about this past year was volunteers. Churches run on volunteers, and I’ve never met a church that has told me they have enough.

I was recently on a Southwest Airlines flight and witnessed one of the most amazing volunteer moments I’ve ever seen. When it came time for the midflight snack of pretzels and peanuts a woman on the flight stepped up and volunteered to pass out the snack. And here’s the amazing thing…they let her! No application, no waiver, and no complex training classes. They simply handed over the basket of snacks and said go for it! Watching this whole thing go down I couldn’t help but think about how difficult we make it for people in the church to volunteer. Here are a couple of observations from that moment that I think are worth the church considering.

1. Create Entry Level Volunteer Opportunities

Handing out snacks isn’t the most complicated job on the planet. Just about anyone can do it, right? That’s kinda the point. Creating simple opportunities for people to jump in on allows them to safely test the waters and take another step at their own pace. Don’t worry; leaders will always rise to the top. And it’s important to keep in mind that volunteering is different than leading. Who knows, that woman may end up as the next great flight attendant at Southwest Airlines.

2. On the Job Training

It took very little to no training for this woman to perform the role of handing out snacks on that flight. Realistically she’s probably seen it done a hundred times before. Modeling and coaching in real time is a great way to train, and it doesn’t take hours of time out of the lives of your volunteers and take them away from their families.

3. Throw Away your Complex Volunteer Application

The flight crew didn’t make this woman fill out an application to work at Southwest prior to letting her hand out snacks. I know you think that having a multipage thorough application is responsible, places a high value on volunteering and is helpful. But it’s actually creating an obstacle to people volunteering in your church. While there may be a few volunteer roles that require a background check, for example working with minors. In actuality there’s only a very limited amount of information that you need from potential volunteers, which can be quickly collected in the on ramping process. Especially if you’re intentional about creating easy access entry level volunteer opportunities (like handing out snacks).

4. Make it Fun

Southwest is notorious for being a fun place to work. And when the Staff has fun the people on the flight will have fun too. And hint, hint…they’ll want to join in. If your Church isn’t a fun place to work and your Staff isn’t having fun, chances are you’re going to have a difficult time attracting volunteers.


Dear Southwest Airlines,

If you’re out there and reading this, and I just got the flight crew who allowed this woman the opportunity to volunteer in trouble by outing them, I apologize. Really I guess I should apologize to the flight crew. But I think what they did was stellar!

Posted in Leadership, Volunteers


Top Posts of 2013 #6: “Engaging the Givers in Your Church”

Money can be a touchy subject in churches, but it doesn’t have to be. This post includes the first 3 of 6 ideas that I’ve seen be effective in engaging with the givers in churches.

When it comes to engaging major givers in the church a majority pastors feel uncomfortable at best. Many pastors don’t know how to approach the subject and are afraid of saying the wrong thing. While churches have often built elaborate strategies to help people take steps in their spiritual journey and grow in their relationship with Jesus; they usually resort to a “just preach the Word and hope things work out” approach to giving. The problem is hope isn’t a strategy. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Here are first 3 of 6 ideas and principles to keep in mind when engaging the givers in your church.

1. Keep Track of Givers

I’ve heard it said in churches that the pastor shouldn’t know who is giving what. After all, didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 6:3, When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Well yes He did…but it had more to do with the motive of the giver than anything else. What we have a tendency to forget is Jesus also clearly observed (along with everyone else), and went so far as to point out the actual dollar amount that a widow gave in Mark chapter 12. Now I’m not saying we should parade givers in front of the church to let everyone know what everyone else is giving but someone should know. After all if you don’t know who is giving, then it’s going to be pretty difficult to engage them at any level.

2. Say Thank You

You’d be surprised how far a simple thank you will get you, and sadly how few churches ever say it. A simple way for pastors to engage the givers in their church is to have a list of givers generated each week and write a hand written thank you note. The list can be of the top 10 or 20 givers that week, the top 20% each week, or simply set a dollar amount and each person who gives over that amount gets a note.

3. Give them Inside Information

Another simple way to engage givers at your church is to occasionally do small, intimate, invite only gatherings. Moments like this give you the opportunity to share wins and success stories (stories like this build culture by the way), have personal face-to-face conversations, share vision, and share inside information about steps that are being taken in the near future to accomplish the vision.

Here’s the other 3 ideas from the second part of the post if you’re interested.

Posted in Leadership


Top Posts of 2013 #9: “Defining the Leadership Culture at Your Church”

A lot of man hours, conversations and work went into building this post before it ever hit the internet. One of the reasons this post was so popular is because it provided a great example for churches. Building a leadership culture is something that is talked about a lot, but rarely clearly defined in churches. My hope in sharing this was not for it to be copied, but for it to provide an example of what could be. Hope it’s helpful!

Organizational Culture is the squishy stuff that is often difficult for even the most experienced leaders to clearly articulate. But just because it’s difficult and forces you to have uncomfortable conversations, face the brutal facts, and do the hard work of mining out the best ideas doesn’t mean it should be avoided. In fact the best leaders have a crystal clear picture of the behavioral norms that both reflect and build the desired culture in an organization. If you plan on perpetuating your culture you’d better be able to clearly articulate it and get others to see it…after all as Peter Drucker famously said…

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker

Every organization has a culture – attitudes they want adopted, values they want championed, beliefs they want instilled and behaviors they want reproduced. Leaders are the cultural architects of any organization.  Eventually every organization takes on the character and priorities of its leaders.  As a result, leaders need to become intentional in creating culture.

At Sun Valley Community Church, there are a few things that make our staff culture unique.  There is a way of operating and a way of treating others that we expect from those who are in leadership.  We have been working diligently to try to capture them in a few memorable, clear statements. We’ve gotten it down to 7 clear and concise statements (with further explanation that’s been added in) that we believe capture the essence of our culture. Don’t be confused, these are not the same thing as organizational values. These are staff norms, distinctives, and behaviors that both reflect and build a desired culture. I’m not posting these here to copy or to mimic. You have to discover and be true to your unique identity as a leader and organization. However I am posting these here as an example and to hopefully encourage others to do the hard work of clearly defining and articulating your own culture.

#1 LeadershipWe choose to love first and lead second, but always do both.

The Bible describes Jesus as “full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).  He knew when to be compassionate and when to be bold and he used the perfect mixture of both for any/every situation.  Jesus was the perfect man and the perfect leader.

We are not so fortunate.  Most of us lean to one side or the other.  Some are primarily grace givers, while others are truth tellers.  Grace givers believe the best about everyone.  They take people at their word and believe in a God of “second chances.”  However their weakness is that their trust is sometimes unfounded and at other times they don’t delve into problems and get to the root issue.  As a result, people may feel accepted but because of an unwillingness to confront obstacles to growth, they never become the leader God meant them to be.

Truth tellers have a different perspective.  They believe that “the truth will set you free” and so they willingly and consistently point out opportunities for improvement and change.  You never have to worry about knowing what is on the mind of a truth teller.  They are forthright and honest in conversation, whether confrontational or friendly.  However, very often truth tellers miss the relational side of ministry and as a result are seen as insensitive, abrupt and harsh.

At Sun Valley we expect our leaders to learn how to lead others with both grace and truth.  We believe that truth is best received when there is a strong foundational context that “we want something for you, not from you.”  We train leaders how to say the hard things in caring ways. Relationship is a key to receptivity. High trust paves the way for high challenge.

In our culture, the order of grace and truth matters.  Truth is spoken in the context of relationship.  When people know they are loved, accepted and respected, they will be more receptive to much needed change.  We also choose never to stop with only love.  It is never loving to leave out the truth. Love does what is best for the other person no matter what they get in return.  We love first, lead second, but always do both.

#2 RiskWe have a big God, so we take big risks and trust Him for big results.

Nothing is impossible for God.  He has commissioned His church to reach the world with the Gospel.  Therefore, God designed the church to be on the offensive in its dealings with the world.  In Mt. 16:18 Jesus states, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The only thing that can stop the church is the church.

And yet many churches take very few risks to reach those who are far from God.  Instead they house themselves in comfortable buildings and focus their resources on making the already convinced more comfortable.

This is not God’s plan for the church.  At Sun Valley, we encourage our staff to try big things to reach more people.  The world is rapidly changing which means methods need to change.   Leaders in the Sun Valley culture will experiment.  We are not afraid to try things and make mistakes.  We also understand that “new” is not necessarily better, “effective” is better.  We have high trust in our leaders.  This high trust leads to high expectations.  So we expect our leaders to key in on results.

Therefore when resources are limited and results are expected, evaluation becomes vital.  We evaluate everything, consistently trying to improve “what is,” to make it what “it could be” and “should be.”  We hire leaders who are willing to try new things and expect them to become “masters of midcourse correction.”  We have a big God, so we take big risks and trust Him for big results.

Yes…I know this is a long post…skim the highlights if you’d like. But I’ve put it all on here to help provide some kind of model for those interested in intentionally building a culture at their church. Keep reading if you want to learn more.


#3 EffortWe work hard, give our best and put family first.

Christians should work harder than anyone else on the planet.  The Bible teaches that the ability to work is a gift from God and that ministry is a privilege. Therefore work ethic should never be an issue for the believer.  At Sun Valley, we expect our staff to work hard.

We also give our best.  The ability to be “all here” at work is vital.  Focus, attentiveness and professionalism are expected attributes of all or leaders.  Prompt communication, collaboration and continual growth and improvement of ministry are norms for our culture.  We hire staff to get a job done.  We expect them to set goals, devise strategies, implement tactics, raise up volunteers and reproduce leaders so that greater impact can result.

We hire self-starters who are willing to report progress in a timely manner and are willing to receive coaching.  We look for self-motivated people who feel responsible for their ministry portion as well as their own personal growth (the person primarily responsible for your professional growth is you) but can work very well within the context of a team.  We look for leaders who not only work harder but smarter and who lead with moral authority – your effort should be an example to the person who works full-time and then gives significant effort to ministry.  The speed of the leader determines the speed of the team.  We expect your best.

At the same time, we also know that our greatest ministry is to our family.  Family is your greatest responsibility.  An unwillingness to focus on family has led many to ministry disqualification.  We want you to have an intimate relationship with your spouse and a healthy relationship with your kids.

As such, staff families need to understand that ministry is very often seasonal in nature.  There are times when ministry will be very intense and you will be working at an unsustainable pace.  There are also down times when ministry is not as intense and much more freedom is provided.  We hire staff that understand that this balance between ministry and family is not a problem to be solved, but a tension to be managed. And we expect our staff to become experts in managing this tension.  We work hard, give our best and put family first.

#4 Team – We want to take the hill, and we want to take it together.

The whole reason we are in ministry is to reach the world.  We have a job to be done, a goal to be accomplished and a dream that one day every person has had an opportunity to say “yes” to Jesus.  This is why we exist.  So we set goals, make plans and move forward.  This is the hill we want to take.

In the midst of trying to take the hill, we have realized that we are better together than we could ever be apart.  Sun Valley functions best as a team effort.  There is a power to collaboration.  There is a synergy that happens when each one of us takes our skills and abilities and combines them with those of the other members of the team.

We ask everyone to organize ministry in teams.  We push each other, sharpen each other, challenge each other and make each other better.  There are no silos at Sun Valley – no one is expected to work alone or go it alone.  Everyone is expected to function with a team of peers on staff and develop a team of leaders in ministry.  No one person has the best ideas all the time. Instead we learn to leverage each other’s strengths.  And together, we become a high performing team.

The pace of our ministry can become intense at times.  If someone falls behind, we will do whatever we can to bring him or her up to speed and keep them moving forward with the team.  However, if we determine that this person is unable to keep pace with the rest of the team, we will first try to reposition that person to a position with a more moderate pace.  If that does not work, our last resort is to replace them on the team, so that we can continue to move forward.  We want to take the hill, and we want to take it together.

#5 AttitudeWe live on the solution side of every issue.

We expect the ministry to grow at Sun Valley.  Growth necessitates change and change always comes with its set of challenges and problems.  It’s easy to see the problems.  Anyone can do that.  The challenge is not seeing the problem but forming the solution.

We expect Sun Valley staff to be proactive when it comes to problem solving, whether you are anticipating problems before they occur or solving them as they happen.  We expect them to engage in interaction with other leaders to solve the issue.  We expect them to behave as if they are owners of every portion of the ministry of Sun Valley.

We expect staff to have a “Can do” mentality.  No matter how difficult the task, we expect staff to try and to have a positive outlook, a cooperative spirit and a willingness to “get dirty” in order to move forward.  When the issue is a performance issue, we ask that staff assume ignorance rather than obstinance.  When training has failed and it is proven to be an attitudinal issue we will address it as a character problem.  We train ignorance and challenge obstinance.

Complaining is contagious.  We expect staff to understand the “bucket principle.”  Any time a problem arises, it is like a fire. When staff becomes aware of an issue they must recognize that they have two buckets – a bucket of water or a bucket of gas.  Getting on the solution side of the issue is like pouring water on the fire while joining in on the complaint side is like pouring gas on it.   We live on the solution side of every issue.

#6 Sober-minded – We know who we are and who we’re not and we do what is best for the whole.

We expect leaders to know what they are great at and what they stink at.

Nothing is more damaging to ministry progress than a leader who is not self-aware.  A lack of self-awareness creates an uncomfortable cringe factor for everyone else on the team.

There is great power to knowing your strengths and weaknesses.  As a result better teams are formed, better decisions are made and better implementation results in bigger results.  Therefore Sun Valley staff seek others input about personal strengths and weaknesses and defer to the team wisdom over personal ambition.

Sober-minded leaders surround themselves with leaders that are better than they are.  They defer decisions to those who will make the best ones.  They choose to lead in areas of strength.  Sun Valley staff thrives on humility and teachability – they are able to take on the posture of a servant and a learner.  They are able to celebrate others strengths and laugh about their own personal weaknesses.

At Sun Valley we expect our leaders to trust in the intentions of the rest of the team when difficult conversations about strengths and weaknesses occur.  We expect them to defer to the team.  Every decision that is made must go through the filter of “What is best for Sun Valley?” not “What do I want to do?”

#7 OutsidersWe exist for those who are not here yet.

Everything we do at Sun Valley is to help fulfill the Great Commission – making disciples out of “them.”  This is the “hill” we are taking.  Our greatest focus is to make more of “them” a part of “us” so that they can join us in reaching more of “them.”

To emphasize this priority, we give special attention to tracking new attendees, “Yes” decisions and baptisms.  These metrics are signs of health and mission focus.  We expect all ministry leaders to become keenly aware of these stats in their areas of oversight.

Being outsider focused greatly impacts how we do ministry for “insiders.”  The intentional focus on reaching people is a part of true maturity in Christ – who came to “seek and save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10).  All our ministries that impact insiders are for the express purpose of training them to reach outsiders.  As we are “helping each other move toward authentic Christian living” (our mission statement), the greatest sign of success is that they live out “Authenticity, Community, and Generosity,” (our values) and move through “Come-Grow-Serve-Go” (our pathway).

We expect staff to support unapologetically the design of our weekend services to be guest-friendly.  We expect our leaders to have a plan on how guests will be effectively welcomed in their ministry environments (whether large, medium or small group settings).  We expect ministry trainings to focus on making outsiders insiders and to help insiders make relational room for outsiders in their personal lives.  We expect our leaders to model outreach to neighbors, friends, relatives and co-workers in their personal lives.  Because, we exist for those who are not here yet.

Posted in Leadership


Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit 2013

If you missed the 2013 Global Leadership Summit, then you missed some great content, great speakers, and incredible ideas that have the potential to shift your thinking when it comes to leadership. This really was one of the best Leadership Summits I can remember. But no worries! Now you’ve got all the notes to every session right here at your fingertips for free! Hope you enjoy!

1. Bill Hybels

Willow Creek Community Church Founder and Senior Pastor Bill Hybels opened the Summit addressing the courage that leadership requires.

2. Colin Powell

One of the United States greatest leaders in recent history, General Colin Powell, gave a talk based on his recent book “It Worked for Me, in Life and Leadership.”

3. Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni, is the founder and president of The Table Group and author of 10 best selling books. He gave an incredible talk about “The 3 Signs of a Miserable Job”!

4. Liz Wiseman

Liz Wiseman is the President of the Wiseman Group, a Silicon Valley leadership development firm. She is a former executive at Oracle Corporation, a Fortune 100 company. She is also a Wall Street Journal Best-selling Author. She gave a talk based on her book Multipliers.

5. Chris Brown

Chris Brown serves as one of four Lead Pastors at North Coast Community Church in Southern California. Without question this was one of the best and most challenging talks for Church Leaders this year!

6. Bob Goff

Founder and CEO of Restore International, Attorney, and Author of the incredible book Love Does. In his unique style Bob talked about how love takes action.

7. Mark Burnett

It was incredible to sit and listen to Bill Hybles have a conversation with Mark Burnett, four-time Emmy Award Winner and Executive Producer of Survivor, The Voice and The Bible among other shows.

8. Joseph Grenny

Joseph Grenny is the Co-Founder of VitalSmarts and best-selling author. He spoke on mastering the skill of influence, the topic of his book: Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change.

9.Vijay Govindarajan

Vijay Govindarajan was interviewed by Jim Mellado about getting innovation right. Vijay is ranked #3 on Thinkers 50 and was named one of the Top 10 Business School Professors in the world by Business Week.

10. Dr. Brene Brown

Dr. Brene Brown, Research Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work did an incredible job speaking about the vulnerability of a leader. Dr. Brown is a groundbreaking researcher into the topics of shame, worthiness, and courage. Check out her book Daring Greatly.

11.Oscar Muriu

Oscar Muriu who serves as the Senior Pastor at Nairobi Chapel in Kenya gave an inspiring talk about multiplying your impact exponentially. Under Oscar’s leadership Nairobi Chapel has grown from a 40 person local church to a network of 30 churches with more than 14,000 in weekly attendance!

12. Dr. Henry Cloud

Leadership expert, clinical psychologist, and best selling author Dr. Henry Cloud spoke on “Reversing the Death Spiral of a Leader.”

13. Andy Stanley

The closing session of the 2013 Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit was entrusted to Andy Stanley of North Point Ministries, and he delivered!

Posted in Leadership
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