Tag Archive - problem

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How to Build a Problem-Solving Culture at your Church

The best ideas don’t always come from where you think they come from.

In the Church we tend to hire professional pastors who are supposed have all of the answers. After all pastors go to seminary to learn theology and all kinds of good stuff about the Bible and how to teach it. The very nature of the structure lends itself to people thinking pastors have the answers. But guess what? We don’t. We may have some of the answers and even a few good ideas from time to time, but we don’t have all of the answers and we certainly don’t have the best ideas in the room.

The best ideas typically come from people who are closest to the problem.

So, for all of you who want to lead in a big church here’s one of the unfortunate implications of that statement. The larger the church is that you serve at and the more removed you are from day to day interaction with volunteers and people who attend your church, the more likely it is you have no idea what the best ideas are, in fact you probably don’t even know what the biggest problems are.

But your culture needs to allow ideas to flow up, input to be given and problems to be solved. Many churches never come to close to identifying or solving their biggest problems because their culture won’t allow it.

Here’s a few ideas about how you can start changing that.

1. Ask Good Questions

Asking instead of telling can quickly shift the culture of a team. Telling people what to do actually keeps them from learning to problem solve and think for themselves. Even if you have a strong opinion and you think your idea is the right idea, exercise restraint and start asking questions like, “What do you think we should do?,” “What do you think is best for our church?,” and “Is what we’re doing actually working?”

2. Push Decisions Down

If low level decisions consistently get escalated to high levels, then you’ve got a culture that is preventing you from solving problems. People are afraid to do the wrong thing, so they are escalating everything for input. Start to refuse to make decisions on things that you know others should be deciding on (otherwise you’ll train everyone to come to you for every decision). Do you have to make this decision?

3. Do Something About It

If you ask for input and then don’t actually do anything about it, you are training people not to answer you. If all you ever do is listen to problems, identify problems or talk about problems, the biggest problem you may have is a lack of courage to act.

4. Allow People to Make Mistakes

Each of my four kids can walk. I know that may not impress many of you, but there was a time when they were younger they could only crawl. When they got old enough and strong enough they would pull themselves up using a piece of furniture and attempt to take a step or two. They always failed. Every single one of them failed. There were some bumps and bruises and painful crash landings. But they’d get back up and try again. My wife and I would sit a few feed away from them and literally cheer them on. We’d tell them how proud of them we were for taking one lousy little step. You get where this is going. If you want to build a problem-solving culture in your church, you’ve got to cheer on little steps, little failures, and all of the moments they get back up and try again. Demeaning them won’t help them walk.


Posted in Leadership

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5 Ways Successful Church Leaders Think Differently

Successful church leaders naturally think differently than the majority of church leaders. It’s one of the things that set them apart. The good news is you can learn to think just like them.

#1 They think about who they’re trying to Reach instead of who they’re trying to Keep

Another way to say this, is that they’re consumed with the mission that Jesus gave the church. To reach the nations. They make decisions based on who they are trying to reach not who they’re trying to keep.

#2 They think about Solutions instead of Problems

They don’t focus on problems and everything that could or does go wrong. Instead they focus on solutions and figuring things out. You could even say they’re optimistic in their thinking (either by nature or by choice).

#3 They’re Strategic Thinkers

They’re not just satisfied with having a clear picture of the future (vision), they want to act on it and build a roadmap to get there (strategy). They plan their work and work their plan. Which consequently their preparation allows them to be flexible when new opportunity arrives, or they meet unforeseen roadblocks.

#4 They Involve the Team

They’re not obsessed with coming up with the best idea. They’d rather be able to execute the best idea than get credit for it. They know the team out performs the individual, so they involve their team in great thinking.

#5 They Don’t Dwell on Failure

It’s not that they completely ignore failure, they don’t. They learn from failure. It’s just they don’t dwell on it. They pivot away from what didn’t work and move on quickly to the next thing.


Posted in Leadership

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Are You the Type of Person that can Work at a Fast-Growing Church?

Not everyone gets to work at a fast-growing church. Yes, I know a list comes out every year that identifies America’s top 100 fastest growing churches and there’s a lot of staff members represented in those top 100 churches. But in context to the more than 400,000 churches in America that’s a pretty small percentage of church staff members.

In fact, most people in ministry will go their entire ministry career and not get the opportunity to be a part of a fast-growing church. That’s one reason, by the way, if you’re serving at a fast-growing church you should thank Jesus, soak it in, and enjoy it while you can. You’re sitting in a seat that few will ever get to.

There are all kinds of contributing factors to a church going through a period of fast growth, and at the top of the list is the Holy Spirit. In today’s booming market of church leadership and church growth strategy we would be making a mistake not to give credit where it is due. Jesus said He would be the one to build His Church.

That being said, I’ve had the unique blessing of serving at 3 very fast-growing churches. One went from 1,000 to more than 3,000, another went from 2,500 to 6,000 and the church I currently serve at I’ve had a front row seat to see it grow from 3,000 to 8,000.

While there are a lot of factors that contributed to those seasons of incredible growth one of the things I’ve observed in all of them is that the staff that work at fast-growing churches are different. Here’s what I mean…

1. Agile

They’re able to adapt to changing circumstances quickly and they don’t mind changing directions on projects. They become, “masters of midcourse corrections.” They love being on the team and they’re willing play different roles at different times based on what’s needed for the team to win. Ambiguity doesn’t bother them all that much because they trust and believe in the team and they know that together they’ll, “figure it out.”

2. Sober minded

They are self-aware enough to know what they’re good at and they play to their strengths and they play their part on the team. They’re also humble enough to do what’s best for the church and not for themselves or their career. They’re willing to change roles or have someone hired in over top of them so they don’t become the lid to growth.

3. Low Control

In a fast-growing church, you can’t have a staff member that is high control. There’s not time or bandwidth for micromanagement or perfectionism. In a fast-growing church, high control prevents you from generating new ideas and getting those ideas implemented and keeping up with the pace of growth because by the time the idea or new “product” is good enough to release you’ve missed the opportunity. Remember, the Gospel wasn’t meant to be controlled but unleashed.

4. Solution Oriented

Instead of focusing on problems and the past they’re focused on solutions and the future. Instead of talking to their supervisors about all of the reasons they can’t do something they’re bringing ideas of all the things they could do. They’re not as concerned about constraints as they are about what must be figured out. While there may be a lack of resources these team members are resourceful and they find a way.

5. Resilient

These church staff members have an unusually high pain tolerance. They’re typically leading through change and with change comes criticism. They know how to listen to the right people and ignore the rest. They’re laser focused on the vision of where they’re going and they’re willing to endure pain to get there, because it’s worth it to them.

6. Approach to Credit

These church staff members would rather the team win than worry about if they get any of the credit for it. They’re quick to accept responsibility and take credit when things go poorly and they’re equally quick to give away credit to others when they go well.

I’m sure there’s some characteristics that I’ve missed. If you’ve served in a fast-growing church what are some characteristics of the team members that made them different than other teams you’ve served on? Leave a comment!


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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Attitude: The Unspoken Asset of Leadership

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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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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