Leadership

Leaders Need a Spirit of Humility

 

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A truly humble man is hard to find, yet God delights to honor such selfless people. Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of this truth. Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady.

The next morning the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. “It’s perfectly all right, Madam,” he replied. “Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend.” She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute.- Our Daily Bread.

A Leaders Greatest Gift

“The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord is wealth, honor, and life.” Proverbs 22:4

As a leader, you learn early on that pride can put up a wall between you and your people.  Servant leaders understand that humility is their greatest gift.  I love the example in the story above.  Booker T. Washington could have puffed up his chest and put this lady in her place.  “Don’t you realize who I am?”  However, his humble spirit led to a lasting relationship and helped to advance his ministry.

Humility Allows for Growth

“When pride comes, so does shame, but wisdom brings humility.” Proverbs 11:2

Tim Hansel tells the story of the famous inventor Samuel Morse who was once asked if he ever encountered situations where he didn’t know what to do. Morse responded, “More than once, and whenever I could not see my way clearly, I knelt down and prayed to God for light and understanding.”

Morse received many honors from his invention of the telegraph but felt undeserving: “I have made a valuable application of electricity not because I was superior to other men but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone and He was pleased to reveal it to me.” Tim Hansel, Eating Problems for Breakfast, Word Publishing, 1988, pp. 33-34.

When leaders are armed with enough humility they are in a position to learn from others; the young leaders in their midst, the seasoned believers, the saints in the pew, even non-believers. To move your church from here to God’s preferred future, you have to listen to the wisdom and ideas of others.  It is challenging when the mantle of leadership falls on your shoulders to realize you don’t have to nor should you shoulder that burden alone.  The journey is much more enjoyable if you share it with the gifted people God has surrounded you within your ministry.  Humility allows you to see those gifts and utilize them. It is not about you anyway, it has been and always will be about God and His will for His Church.

 

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Leadership

Three Key Components of Leadership

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It was July 25th, 1993. The day after I had been installed at my first congregation in Berea Lutheran Church in Detroit, MI.  I remember sitting behind my desk thinking “OK now I am pastor of this congregation.  What do I do now?” It was obvious this congregation expected me to lead them back to their former glory days but, how? What does leadership from a 24-year old look like?  My previous experiences in different organizations and groups made it clear that I was born with some leadership ability, but this was different.  It became obvious quickly I need some additional skills and also some failures and successes.  Leadership in my mind has three components.

  1. Good Leaders Can Be Trained.

Understanding my shortcomings as a leader, I spent four-years going through an intensive leadership development process.  Learning how to lead with compassion.  Developing the skills to manage a school and church staff.  Understanding that a good leader identifies where God is leading his congregation and trusting God to get the congregation where He wants it to be in the end.  This came with a lot of trial, error, and personal pain.  George Barna said this about leadership.

“Leadership is the ability to put the plans into practice and to accomplish the specified objectives through the skillful management of people, time, and tangible resources. A good leader is one who is able to motivate people; one who is capable of making good decisions, even under pressure or in conditions of uncertainty; one who can guide people through actions as well as words.”  How to Find Your Church, pp. 104-105.

2. Good Leaders are Developed with Experience.

Pete Seeger said, “Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.  Pete Seeger, folk singer, quoted in Rolling Stone.

A great natural born leader, Jed Clampett of the 1960’s sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies once said, “Book learning only goes so fur.”  You can read it, study it, and go to workshops, but at some point, you have to put all that learning into practice.  And leadership rarely is as easy as it looks in the books.  One factor that can mess up all that fancy book learning is, people.  Each group of people are different.  There is a better than average chance they will not respond as your test groups in the examples used.  This is where experience guided by intelligence allows you to adapt.  Leadership is about learning from past experiences how to lead your unique group.

3.  Great Leaders are born with something that can’t be taught.

For years I believed that leaders where born, not taught.  But over time I have softened that stance.  I believe some aspects of leadership can be taught and you can raise up effective leaders through training.  But leadership at the highest level contains other key components.

There is something deeper that top leaders have, that something extra.  For example, I am a huge football fan.  I was blessed to spend time in Wisconsin and watch the remarkable play of Brett Farve and then Aaron Rodgers.  Then I moved to the Chicago area and got a chance to watch Jay Cutler quarterback the Chicago Bears.  All those players named above have the physical ability to play quarterback in the NFL at a very high level.  But Farve and Rodgers have that something extra that made them potential Hall of Fame players.  Great leaders have that something extra.  They have intangibles that can’t be taught, it is just instinctive.  Some leaders know just when to take risks others would shy away from.  Those leaders know how to say just the right words in the midst of crisis.  I would say they are maybe more in tune with God, maybe it is the spiritual gift of discernment.  Whatever it is you recognize it when you are around those kinds of leaders.

No matter where you are in life you can be a better leader.  You can take the time to get training on leadership skills or find a coach to help develop your God-given skills.  And you have experiences that if you take time to process past mistakes and dissect why certain things went well, those events could prove invaluable.  I will leave you with this quote, “A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them.”–M. D. Arnold

Discipleship, Leadership

God Ain’t Done with Me Yet!

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“God ain’t done with me yet” was my grandmother’s favorite saying as she got older.  She lived her life like the old man in this illustration.

The great evangelist George Whitefield was relating the difficulties of the gospel ministry to some friends. He said that he was weary of the burdens and was glad that his work would soon be over and that he would depart this earthly scene to be with Christ. The others admitted having similar feelings — all except one, a Mr. Tennant. Noting this, Whitefield tapped him on the knee and said, “Well, Brother Tennant, you are the oldest among us; do you not rejoice to think that your time is so near at hand when you will be called Home?”

The old man answered bluntly that he had no wish about it. When pressed for something more definite, he added, “I have nothing to do with death. My business is to live as long as I can, and as well as I can, and serve my Savior as faithfully as I can, until He thinks it’s time to call me Home.” Whitefield accepted that word as a gentle rebuke from the Lord, and it helped him go on with his work calmly and patiently.  – Our Daily Bread.

For my older, wiser readers, don’t give up being a blessing to the kingdom.  The church needs you.  The mission of God needs you.  Young believers need you.  Finish the race marked out for you.

How Will You Finish Your Race?

In Hebrews 12 it says, “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders.” Paul is using the metaphor of running. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance.” There’s that “P” word I know that I don’t enjoy very much.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

A cross-country team ran on a golf course. In order to do this, officials had to go out and place flags on the course to show the runners where they were supposed to run. One color indicated “left turn.” Another color meant “right turn.” Another indicated to the runners to go “straight ahead.”

That was the race marked out in advance for the runners; if they wanted to win a medal, they had to follow the course marked out.

In this Christian life, God has gone before us laying out the flags for our journey.  The faith given to us by God himself allows us to run the race God has marked out.  Faith in the God who knows your end from your beginning. The God who knows all the days of your life. In his great foreknowledge, he has gone ahead of you and planted these flags ahead of you. And the Scripture says, “Run with perseverance the race marked out for you.”

Each race is unique.

This is one of the most difficult parts of the life of faith.  The Christian life at times seems unfair.  There are times in your race when you will wrestle with thoughts like, “Why does my race seem so tough?”  You want to feel sorry for yourself.  It will become easy to look at someone else and say, “Boy if I had his or her race to run, no problem. I could handle that. If I had their bank account, I could do that “p-thing”, persevere.  What If God had given me a better partner then I could complete this race?   For those traveling this journey alone, you may wish God gave you a partner to run alongside you.

When the race gets tough Satan tends to whisper in your ear “It’s okay for you to quit. You don’t have to run with perseverance because God gave you a raw deal.  Your course is so much harder than that of other people’s. It ok, just quit.” Have you ever felt that way?  I know I have.  When the going got tough I wanted to just quit going.

But God says, “I want you to run this race. This is what I hold you accountable for. Don’t think about others. You just look at me. And together, we’ll run your race.”  I am writing this to encourage each of us regardless of age, stage, or situation to run your race.  Persevere because God ain’t done with you yet!

Leadership, Transitions

Our Time Is Now!

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Every person and organization goes through a period of transition. We are facing one in the organization I serve.  As part of that pending transition, I have been nominated as one of three candidates to lead the next chapter in our district’s story.  What is different about our election process is that it is nothing like the last presidential campaign, thank goodness.  There may be a temptation to go out and campaign and gather a following.   We don’t get to design yard signs and cool campaign buttons. Nor do we come up with catchy campaign slogans like, “In your Heart, you Know he’s Right.” – Barry Goldwater.  Or Jimmy Carter’s, “Not just Peanuts.”

But that is not how our process works. It is not about catchy slogans or impossible promises of prosperity, nor is it a popularity contest.

Like a congregation calling its next Shepherd, it is a process bathed in prayer.  Prayer by the nominees asking for God’s will and the insight to discover His direction for His Church.  Prayer by the congregations seeking God’s will in determining His choice to shepherd our district.  The only thing that resembles the presidential campaign is that in March votes will be cast and a nominee will be elected.  It is not about shifting power from one side of our divided church body so that one gains an upper hand because it is not our church anyway, it’s God’s.  It is a time of spiritual discernment.  We have five months to spend time in prayer and seek God’s will for this little corner of His kingdom.  While our future leader is uncertain, it is secure, because God is directing it.

It is a time to celebrate what God has done while we look to the future.

Our leader, President Dan P. Gilbert will complete his time of service, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the grassroots missional movement that God has started under his leadership. However, as the old saying goes, “All good things come to an end.” With that transition comes uncertainty.

Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion applies well here: “Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it.”

Our district has had twelve years of steady and consistent leadership.  With this pending change, we could be feeling this law in very uncomfortable ways right now. The world around the church is changing at a rapid pace, and it is pressing hard on the church. Those forces have the body of Christ on edge and trying to decide what direction to go next. When a transition is forced upon you there are two natural roads to choose:

1) Cautious and fearful:

hunker down in the bunker and wait for the threat to go away or get tired of fighting.

Or

2) Confident and hopeful:

adapt and come up with a big, bold new approach to address the changes that the organization needs to take.

The church needs to find an improved way to do things to better connect with the society around them that has no intention of just going away. Over the next few weeks, I will share my observations about what the church can do to adapt. The message remains the same, but the approach and delivery system for that word can and does need to adjust.

Bunker Thinking

On June 4, 1783, at the market square of a French village of Annonay, not far from Paris, a smoky bonfire on a raised platform was fed by wet straw and old wool rages. Tethered above, straining its lines, was a balloon 33 feet in diameter. In the presence of “a respectable assembly and a great many other people,” and accompanied by great cheering, the aircraft was cut from its moorings and set free to rise majestically into the noon sky. Six thousand feet into the air it went — the first public ascent of a balloon, the first step in the history of human flight. It came to earth several miles away in a field, where it was promptly attacked by pitchfork-waving peasants and torn to pieces as an instrument of evil! – Today in the Word, July 15, 1993.

This story above illustrates just how hard it is for people to accept things that are new and foreign to them. I often get the sense this is where the church is today. We see the world around us changing, and we want to get sticks and attack the strange new things we see around us and label them as an “instruments of evil.” Now while there is plenty of stuff to be concerned about, everything is not evil. What makes things evil is the way they are used. Hiding in a bunker does not address the real issue.  It may make you feel safe, but the threat is still there, and the danger is real.

The church is threatened by the changes happening all around it. The church and mainline denominations are unsure how to relate to society in this strange new post-Christian world. One popular option is just to have a “this too shall pass” approach to the changes. “If we just wait this out, we will be ok.” If we just cut ministry down to the barebones and ration out the gifts of God, we can weather the storm. Is that really what God called us to do? Or does Jesus point us to trust in Him for the needs of tomorrow? Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on? Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:25ff

 God did not give us a Spirit of Timidity

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…” 2 Timothy 1:7-9

Transitions are scary.  They create anxiety.  These times cause us to want to run and retreat, but God calls the Church to be bold in its witness to the world. We hold the keys to the kingdom. We don’t face the threats and uncertainty of tomorrow alone, we have behind us the power of Almighty God. Now is the time for church leaders to lead our people into the mission field which is right at the doors of our churches. It is time for the church to love those who are broken right outside our walls. It is time for the church to be bold in its witness, and hopeful in regards to carrying out the mission God has entrusted to His people.  We should be energized by the challenge ahead because the world has never needed the church more than now.   At the same time, we are uncompromising in the purity of our confessions because that is the foundation of the life-saving message of Jesus Christ.  The world is ripe for the harvest.

 

Congregational Life and Ministry, Leadership

Two Ways to Engage The People in The Pew

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One of the most vital challenges congregations face now are how do you involve the people in the pew and motivate them to use their gifts in service to God and His kingdom.  Pastor’s sometimes are their own worst enemy in this undertaking.  If we are honest, we prefer the notion of being the professional leading from the front.  After all, we are highly trained professionals and have the student debt as a constant reminder. It is easy if we are not careful to take on the star quarterback mentality.  While leading from the front requires less time and effort it is not the most efficient form of ministry and discipleship.  Members get left behind and left out of ministry in this approach. This concept of ministry and discipleship is not what Jesus modeled nor advocated. Jesus fostered an environment where the disciples were fully engaged in ministry.  Modern disciples are called to do ministry in both far off distant lands and in the communities God has planted His Church.  And that call to ministry is not an occasional service here and there but consistent.   We get the honor to serve God and His kingdom in our community, in our vocations, at school, on the bus, at home, and even at church.  How do we make the mental mind shift to do this?

Connect people young and old to a greater purpose.

Your members will not be engaged because you as leader say they should. Lord knows that would be great. People need more.  Give your people a definite purpose “how” they can make a difference. Then give them the clear mission.  That is the “why.” Identify their unique calling.  That is the “what.” People care about the cause. Often in our congregations, we think we have communicated our purpose, mission, and calling, but if you forced churches to articulate those three questions many struggle to explain the reason they exist. Test this in your church.  Take a straw poll of the congregation’s mission you will get answers that are all over the map. If your purpose and mission are fuzzy, clarify them.  If you have no idea where you are leading people, take the time to gain clarity.  Then communicate that higher purpose to your flock when you seek to mobilize a team to go into the mission field with you make the mission about more than filling a position for an hour on Sunday.  Answer the questions of how their service impacts the overall ministry and purpose of the church. Before people give up their free time, they need to see tangible evidence of fruitfulness and a clear line between what they do and what moves the needle.

Give members the opportunity to serve.

Advice from Ross Perot about how to treat your people: “Never ask anyone to do what you haven’t done before and wouldn’t do again. That’s a pretty fundamental rule in leadership… treat them like you treat yourself. Things you don’t like, they don’t like. You don’t like to be jerked around; they don’t either. You don’t like to be talked down to, and they don’t either. You would rather work with somebody than for somebody. So, would they. You hate people who pound on your head after you gave everything you had and failed…It’s that simple.”

Christians are seeking a more prominent role to play in the Gospel story than merely sitting in the pews.They have heard countless sermons on all the various parts of the body of Christ and the many spiritual gifts given to the people of God.  Now they are looking for a way to put their talents and passions to work as a vital part of the church’s ministry.  To engage your flock in your church’s ministry, you’ll need to create opportunities or a path to leadership.Pastor’s here is the hard part for you look to give away leadership not just volunteer positions.

Even scarier invite opinions from those who are not seminary trained. To improve the overall feel and effectiveness of your congregation welcome feedback and push down decision-making to include your flock.  By giving your people a greater involvement in leadership and ministry, you create an environment of collaboration and improved ministry buy-in.

Leadership, Lesson From The Global Leadership Summit

The Power of Passionate Leadership

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Is there a place for passion in the Christian life?  That is an interesting question.  I love this illustration.

There is a tale told of that great English actor Macready. An eminent preacher once said to him: “I wish you would explain to me something.” “Well, what is it? I don’t know that I can explain anything to a preacher.”

“What is the reason for the difference between you and me? You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all.”

Macready’s answer was this: “This is quite simple. I can tell you the difference between us. I present my fiction as though it were the truth; you present your truth as though it were fiction.”  Campbell Morgan, Preaching, p. 36.

Is it possible that in not giving into emotionalism we have lost our passion for ministry?  In this post, I want to explore the role of passion in leadership.

  1. Passionate leaders can lead people to a preferred future. 

We have all been around or know people who don’t get too high or too low.  They are nice level-headed leaders.  We call them steady, consistent, dependable.  There is something to be said for consistency.  Usually, that kind of leadership isn’t inspiring.  It creates a sense of comfort, but it doesn’t inspire you to take the ministry hill ahead of you.  If you want to get your people from here to that God-driven future, you need passion.  Passion will fuel your people to go the extra mile.  A study showed that there is a 40% difference between a motivated worker vs an unmotivated worker.

  1. How do you get passion?

Passion can come from several sources.  Passion can grow out of outrage.  You can be so upset by something or an event it moves you to want to make a difference.

Passion can grow out from a sense of calling.  But no matter where the passion comes from it can become an unstoppable force.

  1. How do you fill your passion bucket?

As a leader, it is your job to fill your passion bucket.  Some fill that passion bucket by a vibrant prayer life, or through the study of God’s word.  For me, it is a combination of studying God’s word, music, and writing.  In the arena of ideas is where my passion comes.  Then seeing those ideas take flight is exciting. God was passionate about dealing with sin and wickedness.   “The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.” Psalm 11:5

So, here is your assignment, discover your passion.  What is that thing the energizes you?

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Congregational Life and Ministry, Leadership

It Not Retirement it is Repositioning

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Stop me if you have heard this: “We are a dying church.  The average age of our congregation is in the sixty plus range. We need young families.  We have put in our time; it is time for us to pass the baton to younger folks.”

There are two ways to view this.  The glass half empty view is: we are a dying church.  Our members are old and tired, and the end is near for them and us.

The glass half full view is: “Yes we have older saints in our congregation and boy are we blessed.  These seasoned saints have time and knowledge that the church can enjoy.  And what Millennials are seeking most in the church is relationship and someone to act as a spiritual guide through the dark maze of this amoral society.”

An Attitude Shift is Required

In order for the church to make use of the gifts of God sitting in the pews, we need to rethink our view of older adults.  Maybe this illustration will help.

Old age is dreaded by almost everyone because it usually means loneliness, physical decline, and a retreat to inactivity. Some people tend to lose their enthusiasm for life and spend too much time in fruitless reminiscing and self-pity. They feel like “Old Jimmy”, an elderly gentleman George Mueller often told about. When this man was asked what he did all day since he had retired, he replied, “I just sit and think, and sit and think, and sometimes I just sit!” That’s getting old in the worst way — ceasing to live before we die.

History records that many people made some of their greatest contributions to society after the age of 65. The Earl of Halsburg, for example, was 90 when he began preparing a 20- volume revision of English law. Goethe wrote Faust at 82. Galileo made his greatest discovery when he was 73. At 69, Hudson Taylor was still vigorously working on the mission field, opening up new territories in Indochina. And when Caleb was 85, he took the stronghold of the giants (Josh. 14:10-15).

God never intends for us to retire from spiritual activity. The Bible says we can “still bring forth fruit in old age.” Even as Jesus kept the “best wine” for the last at the wedding in Cana (John 2:10), so He seeks to gather the most luscious clusters of the fruit of the Spirit from the fully ripened harvest of our lives. You may be sure God wouldn’t keep you on this earth if He didn’t have a worthwhile ministry for you to accomplish. So, keep on serving the Lord!  Our Daily Bread.

Older, wiser saints; the Lord and the Church still has a need for the gifts you bring.  Don’t check out on ministry when you have so much to offer, so deep an impact to make.  Next week I will explore ways for the church to unleash the wealth of talents sitting idle in our pews.

Culture Change, Leadership

Four Steps to Shift Your Culture

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What is culture? It is the ways of thinking, living, and behaving that define a people and underlie its achievements. It is a nation’s collective mind, its sense of right and wrong, the way it perceives reality, and its definition of self. Culture is the morals and habits a mother strives to instill in her children. It is the obligations we acknowledge toward our neighbors, our community, and our government. It is the worker’s dedication to craftsmanship and the owner’s acceptance of the responsibilities of stewardship. It is the standards we set and enforce for ourselves and for others: our definitions of duty, honor, and character. It is our collective conscience.  – Robert P. Dugan, Jr., Winning the New Civil War, p. 169.

One of the biggest barriers to organizational change is culture.  You have a big, bold, new vision for your group but until you solve the culture issue, nothing will ever change.  In this post, I will give you four key steps you can implement to shift the culture of your team and members.

  1. Describe your God-given vision repeatedly.

Vision is an elusive concept.  A God-given vision is one that flows from intense time with God in prayer and study.  It is always larger than ourselves. You can only accomplish the vision with the power of God driving it.  That being said, here is a great quote about vision. “All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to the day to find it was all vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for the many act out their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible…” – T.E. Lawrence.  To move your people forward you must help them see their future selves in the vision you are communicating.

  1. Set up a structured training system.

Where most churches fall short is training its members for service.  If you want to observe this first hand at your next large gathering ask former elected officers, “What orientation and training did you receive when you were elected?” To add to the conversation share the results with us in the comment section.

  1. Model Transformation.

Paul’s counsel to young Timothy, “Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”- 1 Timothy 4:11-13 (ESV)

My mom’s favorite saying was, “You can talk until you are blue in the face.”  As you attempt to get people to follow your vision, know that people will follow what you are modeling.

One Sunday morning in 1865, a black man entered a fashionable church in Richmond, Virginia. When communion was served, he walked down the aisle and knelt at the altar. A rustle of resentment swept the congregation. How dare he! After all, believers in that church used the common cup. Suddenly a distinguished layman stood up, stepped forward to the altar, and knelt beside the black man. With Robert E. Lee setting the example, the rest of the congregation soon followed his lead. – Today in the Word, September 1991, p. 15.

People need to see the standard you are trying to achieve lived out in you first before they will follow.

  1. Reinvest in People.

Finally, to change your culture you must be willing to die to self over and over again as you invest in the lives of those around you.  When the vision becomes about you and not God, you are reaching a danger zone.  At every level you and your organization climb, a piece of the old you dies to allow you to reach the next level.  Let me give you an example.

I am not the same pastor I was when I graduated from the Seminary.  In 1993, I was a “wide-eyed, transforming the world, rookie pastor.”  Now some twenty-four years later I still desire to change the world, but armed with bruises from battle, I know change comes at a high cost. The cost of the death of past failures, broken relationships based on overzealous passion, and the death of a rookie’s enthusiasm, yet better positioned with a balanced view of my role in transformation.

You must not take this journey alone.  No one should hang around you for an extended period of time and not experience transformation.  They could be transformed by the God-given vision, or the training system to equip them for service.  Some will be transformed by the ministry itself, regardless if this is from God.  Lives will be changed.  Go, change the world with the unique vision God has implanted in your heart.

Congregational Life and Ministry, Leadership, Lesson From The Global Leadership Summit

Two Ways to Create a Culture of Creativity

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When we think of creativity, we picture a composer or an artist at work on a masterpiece. But creativity is a new approach to anything. Earle Dickson, an employee of Johnson & Johnson, married a young woman who was accident-prone. Johnson & Johnson sold large surgical dressings in individual packages, but these were not practical for small cuts and burns. Dickson put a small wad of sterile cotton and gauze in the center of an adhesive strip to hold it in place. Finally, tired of making up these little bandages every time one was needed, he got the idea of making them in quantity and using crinoline fabric to temporarily cover the adhesive strip. When the bandage was needed, the two pieces of crinoline could easily be peeled off, producing a small, ready-to-use bandage.

The firm’s president, James Johnson, saw Dickson put one of his homemade bandages on his finger. Impressed by its convenience, he decided to start mass-producing them under the name Band-Aids. Dickson had been looking for a way to handle a small problem, and in the process, he invented a useful new product.  – Three Minutes a Day, Vol. 27, Christopher Books.

I recognized about two seasons ago that I was stuck in a rut and trying harder was not dealing with my feeling of desolation.  After taking the time to do introspection, I spotted what was missing was creativity.  How do you protect creativity in your organization?  Do you welcome new ideas with a sense of “Wow, let’s explore that further.”  Or do you kill creativity with “how” questions?  “How can we do that?  It will cost too much, and we don’t have the people resources to pull this off.”

Creativity Quiz:

1)    How many people in the US would describe themselves as creative?

a.    20%

b.   40%

c.   52%

 

2)    How many people in the US are living up to their creative potential?

 

3)    Does your company or organization promote creativity? About 2% of the respondents would agree with this statement.

And the results:

  • In the U.S., 52% of respondents described themselves as creative, the highest of all the regions. It was significantly higher than France, which was 36 %, and much higher than Japan’s 19%.

 

  • Overall, Japan rose to the top as the most creative country, but Japanese respondents themselves didn’t view Japan as the most creative. Tokyo was deemed the most creative city — cited by 30% of people — followed by NYC.

 

  • Six in 10 people felt that being creative is valuable to their country’s economy, while in the U.S. that number was seven in 10. France was the country with the lowest number of people thinking creativity is very important to its economy — 13%. [1]

After taking this quiz are you ready leaders to release the creative nature in your people? If so let’s get at it.  The process is simple but also complex.  It requires leaders letting outsiders shape the future direction of the organization.  Are you ready for the next generation to lead change?  If you are not then you may miss the innovative ideas your organization needs to adapt to the changing world you are serving.

  1. You need to be a constant learner, not a critic. 
“Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice.” Ecclesiastes 4:13

Andy Stanley makes the point that when his church was attempting to study the reason his congregation multiplied one main factor was an openness to new ideas.  “I will never criticize something I don’t understand,” he says.  Our natural inclination is to resist anything that is new and different and label it as evil because it is foreign to our way of thinking.  The moment we stop growing, developing and learning as leaders we stop leading.

Application: What is your plan to continue to grow and learn as a leader?

 

  1. Keep your eyes and your mind wide open.
“A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.” Proverbs 14:6

In the opening illustration, there is a valuable lesson to be learned.  Often the solution to our problems is developed out of our need to solve a problem.  Multi-site ministries grew out of a space problem.  Churches were growing faster than their physical campuses could grow to meet the demands.  The solution, find another location to meet.  It was cheaper than a building campaign and could be a quicker solution to a two or three-year building program.

As you are looking for solutions to an organization that may be stuck in a rut, listen to outsiders.  The benefits of outsiders are that they are not bound by our commonly held constraints.  Outsiders can see beyond our assumptions.  Their ignorance could be your ticket to innovation.  Close-minded leaders lead to close minded organizations.

Application: How do you respond to staff who make suggestions about ideas to improve the team?  Do you give them a “wow” let me hear more about that?  Or “How” closed door response to creativity?

“Wow” ideas to life don’t “how” them to death! –Andy Stanley

[1] http://adage.com/article/news/study-75-living-creative-potential/234302/

 

Leadership, Transitions

Three Steps to Lessen the Pain of Change

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“Any change, at any time, for any reason, is to be deplored.” The Duke of Cambridge (late 1800s)

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians passed on from generation to generation, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. Our modern bureaucrats, however, have a whole range of far more advanced strategies such as: Buying a stronger whip. Finding lighter riders. Harnessing several dead horses together to improve performance. Arranging an overseas visit to study dead horses. Reclassifying the horse as living impaired. Rewriting the performance requirements for dead horses. Providing additional funding to improve the performance of dead horses. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position. What a shame when churches behave like that! – “How to Flog a Dead Horse.” Author Unknown.

Change for churches is problematic.  When considering any change, you want to be prepared for the opposition, even flat out hostility and insurrection.  One solution to overcoming change is to invest more time and energy into strengthening relationships during the period of the transition. For any organization, stakeholders would soon fix a dead horse than admit the horse is living impaired and it is time to replace the old horse.  The old horse is comfortable. Stakeholders have become attached to the old mare.  Yes, it may not work like it used to or at all but dang nab, it is our dead horse. The goal of this post is to help you minimize the pain of change in your organization.

 

Lesson One: Circumstances will get sicker before they get better

First, know that any change to an organization is like death for many impacted by the change. No matter how well you try and prepare people with realistic expectations, major change means that life for the group will be different.  Even if you have planned for all the possible bumps in the transition road things will get worse before they get better.  During this transition, you will lose some of your best and most dedicated people.  You will fray friendships and strain relations.   This change will cost you, but do it because it’s an investment in the health and effectiveness of your organization.  Nothing worth doing is ever easy, it comes at a high cost, with the potential for high rewards.

Lesson Two: Change will require buy-in by the entire ministry team.

With my first congregation, I came out of Seminary with guns a blazing.  I was young, energetic and a visionary.   In the last six months I had prayed, studied, done research and I knew without a doubt just what direction this urban church needed to go.  So, at the council meeting, I laid out this bold new agenda.  And it went over like a black, lead balloon.  I forgot one critical step in the vision implantation process, I expected this change to happen but failed to gain buy-in by my volunteer ministry team.  Unless you like being the Lone Ranger any change requires collaboration from the entire ministry team. If all stakeholders aren’t in, they will either become disengaged or undermine the preferred future you are leading the organization to.  It is possible that you can effectively change some ministry programs without this buy-in, but the change will not be a lasting one. In three years the organization will be in the same place, however, the leader may not be. Frustrations will grow and any future changes will be more difficult as the trust in the leadership would have eroded.  Start with the end in mind. Lock arms with your ministry team and plan for the long change road ahead together. Transition begins with building deep trust with all stakeholders. Guard relationships during this phase.

 

Lesson Three: To Make Lasting Change you must change the Culture.

Thomas W. Lloyd said, “Culture beats strategy.” Some attribute the quote “Culture eats strategy for dinner,” to Peter Drucker, but experts say that doesn’t sound like Peter Drucker. None-the- less the point of both quotes is that if you don’t address the culture of the organization, nothing you attempt will survive.  Culture will always win in the end. Changing culture takes at least three to five years.  Leaders, you are the primary culture creators by the values you hold, the stories you lift up, and the behaviors you model. When attempting to change the culture there may not be much fruit for at least 18-24 months.  Hang in there.  It may take at least three to four years before you uncover lasting fruit.  Once culture change occurs you will experience transformed programs, a revitalized organization, and people with a clearly defined sense of purpose. All in all the change is worth it.