Tag Archive - policy

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7 Ways Church Leaders Unknowingly Lead their Churches to be Stuck

Churches get stuck for all kinds of reasons. Typically, when growth slows, and things begin to stall the first inclination many church leaders have is to look at external forces acting upon them to figure out why things are moving the wrong direction.

While there are external reasons that churches begin to move the wrong direction the majority of time it’s much closer to home. Often “stuckness” is self-induced by intention or neglect on the part of the leaders of the church. So in no order, here are some things I’ve seen church leaders do to unknowingly lead their churches towards being stuck.

#1 Keeping Christians Happy

Many churches have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the church is for. Instead of being for people who have not yet said yes to following Jesus, many churches fall into the trap of believing they exist to provide nice safe programing for Christians for the purpose of biblical education. They eventually become insider focused and begin making decisions based on who they want to keep instead of who they want to reach.

#2 Hiring too Fast

Quick hires are usually hires based on convenience not vision. Every new hire you make either moves you closer to your vision or further away. It either helps you become more of who God wants you to be and further galvanizes your culture or erodes it. Sure, fire quickly. But hire slowly, because you put your culture at stake every time you make a new hire.

#3 Hiring Staff 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 average attenders), and you’re hiring staff to do ministry instead of lead ministry your church will end up in decline.

#4 Allergic to Strategy

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.

#5 Choosing Policies Over 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

#6 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.

#7 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.

 


Posted in Leadership

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Church Leadership and the Illusion of Control

Church leaders are supposed to be the best kind of leaders, right? Caring, humble, courageous, strong, and selfless. The term controlling probably wouldn’t make a top-10-list of attributes to describe the ideal church leader. Now I know you’re not a control freak, I mean you’re way to godly for that. But if you’re on a church staff I’m sure you’ve served with a control freak at some point. And control freaks are dangerous, especially in the church.

The other day my 11-year-old daughter was asking me about a group of people she perceived to be controlling. With the innocent insight that only a child seems to have she said, “In the books I read people who are controlling are usually the bad guys.”

So here’s to hoping that you never turn out to be a “bad guy.”

Control is an Illusion

I’m about to say something that’s going to be difficult for some of you to hear. You’re not in control. I know you think you are…but…you’re not. Control is an illusion. I know all of you’re calendaring, budgeting, planning, organizational charts, and administrating tell you that I’m wrong. But I’m right. Those things lull you into thinking you’re in control and provide the illusion of control. It’s comfortable, like a warm blanket. But don’t be seduced into becoming a control freak. You’ll be in for a very rude awakening one day.

Jesus isn’t a Control Freak

Jesus is a gentleman. If you want to go down a path that isn’t good for you or others around you, He’ll actually let you do that. He may be sad for you because the choice isn’t the best for you, but He’s not going to freak out or fret about your choice. He most likely isn’t going to rescue you from the consequences of your decisions but He’ll let you make them. Even when He knows how life is designed to work and you choose your own way.

Your Policies can’t Control Outcomes

I know that you think your policies will make everybody behave the way you want them to and make everything run like a predictable well-oiled machine but unfortunately they won’t. I know that statement is hard for some of you to read, I’m sorry. I really am. I wish it weren’t true, it be easier if it weren’t true. But it is. Your policies might help you mitigate some risk, they may help you institutionalize the culture you’re trying to build, but they won’t control outcomes. No matter what policy you have in place, if someone wants to do something stupid, they will. Oh, and when you do try to control everything with over policying (I don’t think that’s a word) things, you’ll actually drive your most talented team members away.

Your Team needs to be Unleashed not Controlled

I know you think you’re pretty special, truth is you are. But Jesus has gifted your team with some pretty incredible gifts too. In fact I bet they have gifts that you don’t have. Controlling leaders stifle fun, innovation, and ultimately production. Your team needs to be empowered and unleashed to be who Jesus has created them to be. That’s when they’ll have the most fun and you’ll get the greatest results. The sad, and very dangerous, thing is controlling church leaders actually stifle personal growth in others and the expansion of the Gospel.

The Only thing you can Control is your Attitude and your Effort

The good news is there is something you can control, and that’s you. You are responsible for what happens inside of you, how you respond to life, and the actions you take. Every moment of every day you have the incredible opportunity to control your attitude and your effort. There’s not much that you can actually control and change, but you can control and change you. Truth is, that’s probably enough. Much more and it would probably be a bit overwhelming.

Photo Credit: fishbulb1022 via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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Why Your Policies are Killing Your Leadership

I’ve written before that policies are anti-leadership statements. Most people think that due to my role as an Executive Pastor at a large church I would be the guy who embraces and loves policies. Not so much. I’m actually policy adverse. And I’m policy adverse because policies naturally undermine leadership growth.

1. Policies Abdicate Responsibility

It’s never your fault if you’re implementing what a policy tells you to do. It’s safe. It’s safe because the policy is to blame, not you. Leaders take responsibility they don’t abdicate responsibility. By the way leaders don’t play it safe either.

2. Policies Drain Courage

It takes no courage to implement a policy (unless it’s an unpopular or stupid policy). Learning to win as a leader by leading through difficult circumstances builds healthy confidence and courage as a leader. Implementing policies not only robs you of the opportunity to build healthy courage as a leader but it actually drains you of courage at the same time; because you train yourself to rely on policy instead of developing your leadership instinct.

3. Policies Teach your Staff not to Think

Telling people what to do actually makes them stupid. When team members are taught to look in a manual for a policy to direct them how to act instead of learning how to think and act, they miss the opportunity to grow. Difficult moments in leadership are the proving grounds for young leaders to learn how to lead. You don’t become a great leader from executing policies. You become a great leader by leading.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. There are moments when everyone in the organization needs to know what to do and a policy needs to be put in place. Policies can be useful when they reflect and build the culture you’re trying to build and get you closer to your vision. If your policies don’t help you get pass that test then why do you have them?


Posted in Leadership

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10 Signs your Church is 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.

By the way…leave a comment; I’d love to hear about what you’d add to the list!


Posted in Leadership

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5 Articles that will Help Your Church Make Vision Real

Thank you for making October a great month here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real! It’s great staying connected with you through social media and hearing about how helpful different articles have been. So, thank you for connecting with me through the content on this blog! You made these the top 5 Posts from this last month. If you missed out on any of them, here they are all in one place for your convenience!

1. What every Executive Assistant Wishes their Boss Knew

Fortunately I’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredible Executive Assistants through out the years. I recently asked my current Executive Assistant to do a bit of “market research” for me and have some conversations (a lot of conversations) with other administrative staff and come up with a list of top things they wish their bosses knew. Here’s some of the ideas that came back…

2. Top 10 Reasons Churches get Stuck

For more than 18 years I’ve been working full-time in a local church setting. The last 13 of those have been in large mega-church and multi-site settings. I’ve had the unique opportunity to work with an incredible team of people at a the Unstuck Group a successful consulting firm specializing in helping churches get unstuck. Over this span of time I’ve seen churches get and stay stuck for all kinds of reasons but there are 10 catalysts for church stuckness that I see come up over and over again. Here they are in no particular order:

3. 6 Qualities of a Leader I’ve Followed

Over 18 years of full-time ministry I’ve had the opportunity to work some great leaders and my friend Scott Ridout is one of the best. Scott has recently been appointed to be the next President of Converge Worldwide, the movement of churches that Sun Valley (the church I serve at) is a part of. I don’t single out individual leaders as examples very often, and if you knew Scott, he’d be embarrassed by the fact that I’m even writing this, but I believe the best place to learn leadership is from leaders. And I think there is a lot we can learn from the way Scott has led. So here are 6 qualities of a leader that I’ve personally followed…

4. Why Policies are Bad for your Church

No, I don’t have a policy for that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to share a Staff Handbook, the hiring process I’ve built and use, budgeting policies, board policies or a whole host of other policies someone is looking to implement at their church. Because the majority of my experience in church-world has been in the role of Executive Pastor most people automatically think, “policies and administration.” My real job is to bridge the gap between vision and reality…but that conversation is for another time. While some policies can be useful and helpful (by the way if they aren’t helpful you shouldn’t have them), I’m actually a minimalist when it comes to policies. And here’s a couple of reasons why…

5. Why Bringing Problems to a Leader is a Problem

Leaders aren’t looking for problems. They’re looking for solutions. That’s one of things that make leaders…well, leaders. They find solutions, not problems. They lean into the future, not the past. Leaders naturally create chaos and tension in an organization they don’t resolve it. Because they know that every organization needs a certain amount of chaos or it stagnates and dies. And that’s why consistently bringing problems to a leader is a sure way to get your leader frustrated with you.


Posted in Leadership
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