September 26, 2009

Two Things I'm Learning About Church-Part 2

A pastor going to church on the other side of the equation is one of the best teaching tools out there. I would encourage church leaders to attend a few other churches every year to learn from them both good & bad. The bad is easier to learn because it's the easier thing to spot.

#2-If you tell a guest about something, it better be right

This is the one that can kill you. I met with a local pastor just to hang out & learn about what was going on in his church. He informed me that they would be extending their children's worship ministry into their early worship service on a given date. That was great because it worked perfectly for our family. Sure the church was a longer drive than we would like, but I felt like this church had some potential. We show up on that Sunday morning & yes you guessed it; they didn't have that kids program going. They had decided not to start the program because they were still waiting for more families to attend that particular service. Three things happened in that moment: 1) My wife was totally turned off. We were made to feel like we were in a way imposing ourselves on this church. 2) I'm thinking, "Well, that's not what your pastor told me" 3) I go into pastor/leader mode & immediately begin critiquing the decision & the rationale behind the whole situation. Whether those were the right responses or not is another discussion, but the fact remains that those were the responses, & those are the kind of responses we risk when those of us in leadership lead people, especially guests, to have one set of expectations & reality gives them something totally different.

These situations are going to happens from time to time, but first, we can't let it happen with newcomers or guests. Secondly, we have to minimize these occurrences in general. If you tell someone that the church is going to provide something, then you have to be able to deliver. Again you might expect that this happened in some little country church that just "gets by", but you'd be wrong. This is a church plant that is connected to one of the most successful churches in America, yet it still screwed up big time. Churches, no matter the size or success, have to watch out for these two big things that I've noticed as I've visited in a few churches during my transition.

Two Things I'm Learning About Church

As our family has been in this time of transition in ministry, we've had the opportunity to visit a few churches. Along the way, I've learned some things about church ministry. All of this is for me from a new perspective. I've been in ministry for so long that I only see it from the pastor side of it. Now that I'm simply going to church & going to church where we don't really have a connection to anyone or anything, I'm seeing & feeling things that many of the people who walk in & out of our churches see & feel everytime they are there.

#1-It's harder to seal the deal with newcomers than we think it is.

Maybe it's because I'm from a ministry background, but I have pretty high expectations for churches, especially in the area of childcare & children's ministry. However, I suspect that even the most unchurched guests we have share those expectations. I have a 3 year old & an 18 month old, & I expect churches to provide secure environments for both & an environment for my 3 year old that gives teaches her something about God. When I come into your church & you act like I should know the routine-Strike One. When you realize I don't know the routine, & you reveal you don't know the routine very well either-Strike Two. When I give you another chance a week later, & you fail again to clearly communicate the process & a church member has to show my wife how things go-Strike Three. While I applaud the church member for recognizing the need to help a guest, the paid staff member has to be on top of that. In fact, I'm coming more & more to the conclusion that in the area of our children's ministries, we should almost assume that people don't know how things work in our systems. Sure, some people may not like that, but wouldn't you rather re-hash things with an insider than leave an outsider standing there thinking, "What do we do next, where do we go now?" You may be tempted to think this happened at some clueless little country church or a new, understaffed & untrained church plant. You'd be wrong. This happened at a church that's considered a mega-church that is doing things right. After visiting there a few more times, the good teaching & good music got trumped by the things I mentioned above.

We may think our systems & programs are going great. Those of us in ministry in places where we see some success will be tempted to really think this way, but if we don't constantly ask tough questions & honestly evaluate those systems, we'll slip into an insider mentality. And that's ok if that's your focus, but if you actually want to reach people far from God, it's not ok. We may think everything is ok but it's harder to seal the deal with people than we think it is. Cool classrooms, the newest music, & relevant teaching probably won't be enough if within the first 5 minutes an outsider has been made to feel like an outsider. That's why we have to spend time working on it rather than working in it.

September 23, 2009


A couple of months ago, I wrote about uncertainty & how I was in the process of transitioning out of my current place of ministry as I began to seek what God had next for my family, my ministry, & me. I've had several people asking how things are going & if I've got any serious prospects for my next place of ministry. So I thought I'd write a little bit of an update to bring everybody up to speed.

Things are going well for us. Right when I transitioned out of my ministry position, I began work on my Master's Degree in Christian Leadership, so I've been able to get back into a school routine after being out of school for 8 years. So far, so good with school. The way Liberty structures their classes works well for me. I'd definitely recommend it to anybody looking to pursue their graduate degree.

I'm also spending A LOT more time at home with my wife & kids. Some days it's great; on other days I have to go somewhere to get alone & work on projects for seminary. After being away at work everyday for hours, being at home everyday is a major adjustment, but most of the time it's fun. We've had more meals around the table together in the last month than we'll probably every be able to have again, & I get to hang out with my little girls for more than like 3 hours a day.

On the ministry front, I've got my resume' out to several places & had an interview last week with one church, but there's a lot of waiting involved in this process. I know from experience that churches rarely do anything quickly. So I'm being patient, & besides, I'm not a worrier by nature anyway. We do ask that you pray for God to lead us to the right place of ministry, not just a place of ministry.

So that's sort of where we are right now. I have more free time than I've had since I was in high school. In fact, I may have more free time than I had in high school. So if any of you guys in ministry who read this need a Sunday or Wednesday off, I'd be happy to fill in for you! Preaching & teaching is a passion of mine, & my wife is not loving the fact that she's my captive audience!

Next time, I'll share a little bit about what I'm learning about church & ministry from the other side of the stage: the churchgoer's side.

September 14, 2009

Top Posts Of The Summer

Here's a list of the top 5 posts from this summer. If you missed one of these, check it out. Thanks to those of you who frequent my little blog to see what random thoughts I'm having this week. And of course if you read something that clicks with you, comment on it here & let somebody else know about it so that they can check it out too.

5. Time Keeps On Slippin, Slippin...

4. In The Eye Of The Uncertainty Storm

3. Strategic?...Really?

2. Uncertainty

And far and away the number 1 post of the summer....

1. Leadership Lessons From Hannah Montana

September 10, 2009

Your Leadership Timelines-Pt. 2

Yesterday I stated that we as leaders have two timelines that we must be aware of: our positional timeline & our legacy timeline. As we lead we must understand both of these timelines, & we must make a decision as to which one is more important. Now most every one of us would say, "My legacy timeline is the one that matters." All of us want to leave an impact that outlasts our time in positional leadership, but what does that really mean & how do we do it?

As I was taking part in The Nines online conference yesterday. I heard something awesome from a guy I have never heard of; his name is Bill Easum. This statement is priceless to those of us in leadership. Write this down: "Your legacy is not what you leave behind; your legacy is who you leave behind." Here is the breakdown for many of us in leadership. It's so easy to get caught up in what we are trying to accomplish that we don't really develop other leaders around us. If we want to stretch our leadership legacy timeline, we have to develop people not programs. After all, deep down we know that a lot of our programs & accomplishments will be wiped away by whoever follows us in the positional leadership role. If you want to leave a legacy, it has to be about growing other leaders. For those of us in ministry, that means discipling others & preparing them for ministry.

The second thing we think about is the "how". How do we stretch that legacy timeline out so that it outlives our positional timeline? The answer to that flows out of the statement above. You start by developing others. That means you & I don't have to be the ones with all the answers or ideas. Our job as the leader means that we make sure those ideas align with the vision & direction of our organization or ministry, but they don't have to be our ideas. Again quoting from yesterday & something I've heard Craig Groeschel say more than once: "When you delegate tasks, you're recruiting volunteers. When you delegate authority, you're raising up & releasing leaders."

That means, Senior Pastor, every time you hold that Associate Pastor back from tackling a project or you reject that other leader's idea, not because it's out of alignment with the vision, but because you didn't come up with it, you are sacrificing your legacy timeline for the sake of your positional timeline. Managers & business leaders, when you micromanage an employee rather than releasing her to do a job, maybe better than you could, you are stifling her potential, & again your leveraging your positional timeline at the expense of you legacy timeline.

The ironic thing is that if you leverage you positional timeline at the expense of your legacy timeline long enough, your positional timeline will get cut off because no one will follow you anymore. I think very few of us intend to do this to ourselves & to those we lead. I really believe that if we embrace the idea that our legacy is a who not a what, we can begin to solve a lot of our problems & dysfunctions as leaders.

What do you think?

September 9, 2009

Your Leadership Timelines

Lately I've been thinking about the concept of our timeline as leaders. Typically we think of that in terms of how long we are in one particular place of leadership. However, I think there are two leadership timelines that we have to be aware of.

First, is our positional timeline. This is the traditional way of looking at leadership. This is 4 or 5 years that you actually spent on the ground directly leading a ministry or organization. This is your time as the Senior Pastor or the Manager. This timeline is very concrete. It is fixed in time. One day you will move on to another arena of leadership. It's unavoidable.

Yet there is another timeline to consider. It's our legacy timeline. This timeline is not as easy to define. In fact, your legacy timeline, in large part, will be determined by you & how you lead. This is not an either/or proposition. All of us will have both a positional & a legacy timeline. The question we have to ask is, "Which timeline do I want to be longer?"

Next time we'll look in a little more detail at how we can impact these timelines in our leadership.