Leadership, Lesson From The Global Leadership Summit

Five Ways to Expand Your Ministry Capacity

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Looking back in time I remember vividly embarking on my professional career.  Newly armed from all the training to debate theology with my younger counterparts I thought I was prepared.  But when I attended that first leadership meeting I realized just how ill-prepared I was to lead this seasoned leadership team. All eyes turned to me as the new young rookie out of Seminary to solve the church’s problems of declining school enrollment, revitalize a Sunday School program that had more teachers than students, and a church with six years of declining worship attendance.  At that point, I knew that the churches future depended in some small part on my leadership capacity along with the Holy Spirit who plays the dominant role in actual congregational growth.

What this post will provide for leaders are the Five C’s to expand your leadership capacity.  Craig Groeschel shared these five points at Willow Creeks Leadership Summit in 2015.  He also shared this quote, “You are the leadership lid on your organization.” I felt that weight as I sat in that first meeting facing those three ministry challenges, armed with a Master’s level theological education but an elementary level leadership capacity.  So, let’s dive into this discussion.

  1. Build Your Confidence.

The first lesson I had to learn is to change my self-talk.  The journey to reaching your greatest potential is through your greatest fear.  To avoid getting stuck as a leader you have to turn the volume to mute on those who attempt to define who God has made you and created you to be and do. You are who God says you are, not the critics.  Think of Job responding to his critics in Job 12:1-5:

 Job said to his friends:

You think you are so great,
with all the answers.
But I know as much as you do,
and so does everyone else.
I have always lived right,
and God answered my prayers;
now friends make fun of me.
It’s easy to condemn
those who are suffering,
when you have no troubles.

2.   Expand your Connections.

In 1269 Kublai Khan sent a request from Peking to Rome for “a hundred wise men of the Christian religion…And so I shall be baptized, and when I shall be baptized all my baron and great men will be baptized, and their subjects baptized, and so there will be more Christian here than there are in your parts.” The Mongols were then wavering in the choice of a religion. It might have been, as Kublai forecast, the greatest mass religious movement the world has ever seen. The history of all Asia would have been changed.

But what actually happened? Pope Gregory X answered by sending two Dominican friars. They got as far as Armenia, could endure no longer and returned home. So, passed the greatest missionary opportunity in the history of the church. -Dunkerly, inResource, No. 2.

You may be one connection away from changing your destiny.

3.   Improve Your Competence.

 

As I sat in that first meeting, I had to make a tough choice.  Do I let the fear of working to improve hinder my ministry from that day forward or do I do the hard work of improving my competency and raise my leadership lid?  Here is a great illustration. “Complacency is a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and causes a drain on the brain. The first symptom is satisfaction with things as they are. The second is rejection of things as they might be. “Good enough” becomes today’s watchword and tomorrow’s standard. Complacency makes people fear the unknown, mistrust the untried, and abhor the new. Like water, complacent people follow the easiest course — downhill. They draw false strength from looking back.” Bits & Pieces, May 28, 1992, p. 15.

4.    Strengthen Your Character.

When faced with leading an organization character is a central quality that can easily be sacrificed on the altar of success.  I love this quote. “Character is much better kept than recovered.”  Thomas Paine.  When leading do so with a strong sense of right and wrong.  The character is forged on the rocks of adversity.  Paul has two insight verses on that in Romans.

 “God’s eternal power and character cannot be seen. But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are like by all he has made. That’s why those people don’t have any excuse.” Romans 1:20

But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5

5.  Increase Your Commitment.

The final “C” is commitment.  How willing are you to give your all to the ministry?   That is a question that only you can answer.  You can do an adequate job without ever being wholly committed to the Great Commission.  But imagine if this illustration was placed before you.

Forget about the concept of a town hall meeting to decide public policy. How about this instead? In Ancient Greece, to prevent idiotic statesmen from passing idiotic laws upon the people, lawmakers–legend has it–were asked to introduce all new laws while standing on a platform with a rope around their neck. If the law passed, the rope was removed. If it failed, the platform was removed.  Quality Press, August 1992.

37 If you love your father or mother or even your sons and daughters more than me, you are not fit to be my disciples. 38 And unless you are willing to take up your cross and come with me, you are not fit to be my disciples. 39 If you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you give it up for me, you will surely find it. – Matthew 10:37-39

Leadership is not an easy thing, but the rewards in God’s kingdom are well worth the risk.

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Leadership

Three Essential Stages Every Leader Must Travel

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The role of the leader is not to do it all but instead to prepare others to participate in the ministry.  Every leader goes through three stages in leading his ministry.

  1. Discovering Christ is in charge

Where a Christian leader begins is the cross of Jesus Christ.  Until the leader receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and confesses the fact that it is Jesus who is in authority, you cannot adequately serve God’s people with a shepherd’s heart.  Christian leaders realize that they are not the ones sitting on the throne.  Jesus is, and they acknowledge Him to be the head of the Church and ourselves as caretakers of the ministry.  One of the first things a leader needs to discover is faith in the one who has redeemed the world.  Martin Luther said, “The true, living faith, which the Holy Spirit instills into the heart, simply cannot be idle.” And because our faith is not idle it drives us to endow the saints for service in the ministry of God’s church.

2.   Mining for Leaders

You may never see yourself as a leader until someone taps you on the shoulder and asks you to lead.

At one time Andrew Carnegie was the wealthiest man in America. He came to America from his native Scotland when he was a small boy, did a variety of odd jobs, and eventually ended up as the largest steel manufacturer in the United States. At one time he had forty-three millionaires working for him. In those days a millionaire was a rare person; conservatively speaking, a million dollars in his day would be equivalent to at least twenty million dollars today.

A reporter asked Carnegie how he had hired forty-three millionaires. Carnegie responded that those men had not been millionaires when they started working for him but had become millionaires as a result.

The reporter’s next question was, “How did you develop these men to becomes so valuable to you that you have paid them this much money?” Carnegie replied that men are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold; but one doesn’t go into the mine looking for dirt – one goes in looking for the gold.

That’s exactly the way we pastors need to view our people. Don’t look for the flaws, warts, and blemishes. Look for the gold, not for the dirt; the good, not the bad. Look for the positive aspects of life. Like everything else, the more good qualities we look for in our people, the more good qualities we are going to find.  Source Unknown.

So, how will you pass the baton of leadership?  Who are you pouring into as a leader?  Who have you tapped on the shoulder and said, “Let me come alongside you and mentor you as I also learn from you?”

3.    Establish an Equipping culture.

Andrew Schroer tells this story. My dad once told me the story about a peculiar fisherman from Minnesota. You see, this fisherman was very well prepared. He knew how to fish. He had everything you need to be a good fisherman. He had poles, nets, bait, and even a really nice boat, but this fisherman had a problem. You see, for all his preparation he never caught anything. Not one fish. Not one, not ever. And you know why he never caught a fish? What do you think? The answers easy: He never went fishing. He had all the knowledge and all the equipment, but he never got into the boat, he never left the dock.

As Christians we have all the tools to carry out the mission of God in the world, often the problem is no one has trained us nor equipped us to use the God-given means we have been entrusted.  Our mission is essential and here are three reasons why:

  • We are joined together. The fundamental mission Christ has given us and the kingdom suffer when we try and function independently.  Each of us is a part of the puzzle.  So, plug your piece in and watch how God uses you for kingdom impact.
  • We are bound together.  One of the advantages of community is that we don’t leave a man or woman behind.  When you see a fellow saint, who is weak and falling back go and lift them up, encourage them, offer to walk with them.   At the first sign of conflict don’t run to the elders and complain when you don’t like the direction they’re going, instead hold together!
  • We are all called to doing our part. Don’t wait for others to do the work of the church for you; instead, jump in the ministry water. Serve in a way that proclaims the life-saving message of Jesus Christ to all the world as God has planned.

 

 

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.

 

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

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.