The 4th “C” of Adding Healthy Team Members

Handshake and teamwork

There is a fourth “C” to finding good team members.

I have discovered it the hard way.

You’ve possibly heard of the 3 C’s of finding the best team members. I think Bill Hybels is often credited with them. I agree with all three.

Character
Competence
Chemistry

Bill Hybels is a genius leader. I agree with all of them.

But, I believe there is a fourth “C”.

It may be semantics. Some may say it’s covered in chemistry. But, I think it’s unique.

The fourth “C for me is Culture.”

That’s right.

Culture

I’ve hired people I like personally — we had good chemistry — they were even friends — but we found out we didn’t belong on the same team. We see things differently. Our culture preference is different.

One of my close pastor friends leads so much differently than I lead. He’s a good leader. He leads a healthy church, but his style is different. It creates a different culture.

I hope he would say the same for me. I strive to be a good leader. I attempt to lead a healthy church. But, I’m different. It creates a different culture.

Some people will fit better under the culture my friend’s leadership creates. Some people will fit better under the culture my leadership creates.

That’s not even to mention the cultural individuality of the churches we both lead that have existed long before either of us became pastors. Or the unique settings and community of the churches.

Culture matters.

And, so what’s the purpose of this post?

Hopefully the application of this speaks for itself, but just to be clear.

When you hire — consider character, competence and chemistry.

But also consider culture. Is it a good fit?

When you consider where to work — consider character, competence and chemistry.

But also consider culture. Is it a good fit?

In a future post, I’ll try to consider some ways to discern the culture and help others do the same.

The Four Seasons of Leadership

tree at four seasons

There are four seasons of leadership. Misunderstanding this can lead to frustration.

Four seasons:

Some plant – Some leaders sow seeds. They are used to start something new. As a church planter of two churches, we planted a lot of seeds. I love knowing those churches are still thriving, Kingdom-building churches. God allowed me to be there in the beginning, but others are leading them now.

Some water – Some leaders are used to create systems that allow progress to continue. They build healthy teams. They create good structure. They help things grow.

Some pull weeds – Some leaders identify problems and provide solutions to address them. They make the hard changes. They restructure. They clear the path to progress.

Some harvest – Some leaders get to see the fruition of the harvest. There is a skill to capitalizing on the foundation of planning and working others have invested. They celebrate well.

Granted we plant within every season. We have to in order to ensure future growth, but we must, again, in my opinion, spend considerable and concentrated energies in the middle two seasons if we hope to sustain a healthy, long-term harvest.

(In my current role, in an established, older church, I’m finding myself watering and pulling weeds as some of my primary leadership season. It’s not that we aren’t seeing a harvest — we are seeing huge growth — but the real harvest is still months away, in my opinion.)

It’s great when you get to do all of these in one season of leadership, but my experience has been we only get to enjoy one — and at most a couple — at one time. Sometimes they run concurrently, back-to-back to each other, but it’s rare — and difficult — to lead all four at one time.

Don’t be afraid of your season. All our necessary.

What season are you currently in these days?

Four Reasons the Great Commission Becomes the Great Omission in a Church

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This is a Guest Post by Thom S. Rainer. Dr. Rainer is president of Lifeway Christian Resources. His blog is fast becoming a “go to” resource for church leaders. I respect him as a leader, pastor, father and fellow introverted friend.

Four Reasons the Great Commission Becomes the Great Omission in a Church

In my latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, I highlight several symptoms that can lead to the death of a church. These symptoms can become sicknesses themselves, sicknesses that lead to death. Some churches begin with a great heart and a great effort toward the Great Commission. But the methods used become the focus rather than the Great Commission itself. As a consequence, the Great Commission becomes the great omission.

There are a number of New Testament passages where Jesus sends out His followers. The text that is used most often to refer to the Great Commission is Matthew 28:19–20: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The imperative in those verses is “go.” But as we go, there are several sub-commands. We are to make disciples. We are to baptize. We are to teach.

Those are a lot of action words.

But the deceased church, somewhere in its history, forgot to act upon the Great Commission. So they stopped going. And making disciples. And baptizing them. And teaching them.

It stopped depending on Christ. Why? Here are four common reasons.

1. “Going” in Christ’s power requires effort. Certainly the results are dependent upon Him, but obedience is work. And obedience in His power means that we are praying to Jesus so we can reach others. That requires an “others” focus. That requires us to look beyond ourselves. That requires us to get uncomfortable. That requires us to go. The deceased churches simply gave up on going.

2. Obedience to the Great Commission faded. It usually faded gradually. It’s not like one day the church was sending out dozens of members in the community and it suddenly stopped. Instead the decline in the outward focus was gradual, almost imperceptibly gradual.

3. The church had “Great Commission amnesia.” That really may be too kind. Perhaps that description implies that the members were not at fault, that they no longer had the ability to recall or know what they were supposed to do. But they really knew better. They just used amnesia as an excuse.

4. Most of these dying churches had “Great Commission disobedience.” They chose not to remember what to do. They chose their own comfort over reaching others with the gospel. That is why the autopsy results concluded that the Great Commission became the great omission.

I am an obnoxious optimist about churches in America. I know many are struggling. Indeed, some are dying; about ten churches in the United States die every day. But I still remain an optimist because I see God’s work in so many congregations across our nation.

The essence of a “great omission” church is that the congregation has lost its passion to reach people. Typically, the efforts of those churches are pointed toward taking care of the members’ preferences. When the preferences of church members are greater than their passion for the gospel, the church is dying.

Churches can reverse the painful decline toward death. They can avoid becoming another casualty subject to an autopsy. Indeed, church members can decide to stop asking how the church can meet their own preferences, but ask how they might serve Jesus no matter what the cost.

Then the church is no longer a great omission church. She is then a Great Commission church.

12 Ways to Make Marriage Fun Again

Elderly couple

I previously posted this several years ago, before we were empty-nesters. I believe more in it today than I did then. Sadly, as someone who studies marriages, I see more and more marriages that are just going through the routines of marriage without really enjoying the journey. At the same time, I do know couples who have learned how to make their marriage work for the good of both spouses and are truly enjoying life together. My wife and I want to be included in the latter group.

What does it take to put or keep fun in a marriage?

I first shared these tips at a pastor’s retreat, so that was the original audience, but I believe they work for all of us.

Here are a 12 ways to make marriage fun again:

Prioritize your marriage – If you want to have fun in your marriage, you have to make your marriage a priority in your life; above your hobbies, work and even your children. All of us would say that our marriage is a priority, but do we practice what we say we believe? Our marriage should take precedence over every other human relationship and every other activity. My wife knows when I am putting her first and when something else has my greatest attention.

Schedule time for fun – We should schedule time to simply enjoy life with our spouse. Everyone I know is busy, but we should make sure our schedule never gets so crowded that we cannot enjoy time with the love of our life. As a pastor, I am never really off work, but I try to be home when I am home. Still, I will often hear my wife, and my boys when they were home, ask me something like, “Are you really listening to me or are you thinking about your next appointment?” We must set boundaries between our home and our work or other activities. Add to your calendar opportunities to have fun together. When is the last time you and your wife went on a date? You can be wise with your expenses and still plan for date nights.

Let worry go – Struggles will never completely disappear, so we should learn how to balance the need for control in our lives and the desire to live at peace and trust God through the hard times of life. It is important that we not allow struggles that come into the marriage to tear the marriage apart, but instead we should let our trials draw us closer to each other.

Expect surprises – Stuff happens! We know that; we see bad things happen everyday, but for some reason we are caught off guard when they happen to us. We should not be surprised when our marriage needs a little extra help because of the struggles of life. Cheryl and I have discovered the tough times bring us closer together if we allow them to work for us rather than against us.

Celebrate along the way – I have been told that it takes three or four positive life occurrences to offset every negative. If this is true then each of us need to look for opportunities to celebrate the good things of life. When times are especially stressful, Cheryl and I try to make sure we are remembering the positives in life. They are always there, but we have to sometimes look for them. Have you ever just taken time to reflect together how many things you have for which you are thankful? You may even have a better life than you thought you did; once you take time to celebrate.

Enjoy each others interests – It’s okay to have outside interests, but one of the goals of marriage is to enjoy life together. That usually involves enjoying each others activities together. I don’t like to shop necessarily, and there are certain stores where I refuse to shop, but I go shopping regularly with Cheryl because I love her and she loves shopping. It has always amazed me that when I invest the time to shop with Cheryl she always tries to give back to me by allowing me to enjoy one of my interests — with no guilt.

Get away – We all need time away from all the demands of life. On a pastor’s income, I can’t always take fancy vacations, but I am not afraid to invest in my marriage. My wife and I love to travel. One of our more fun things to do together is to plan inexpensive day trips. There is something about physically leaving the environment in which we are comfortable that pushes us closer to the ones we love. For years, while my boys were younger, I gave Cheryl a trip for Christmas to be used sometime during the year. She looked forward to the gift and the trip every year. On bad days during the year, the thoughts of the gift or trip to come fueled her positive emotions.

Serve Together – We have discovered that the more we serve other people together the more fun we have in our marriage. It gives us more common ground with each other. Taking mission trips have become a fun way to spend time together. Serving our church together brings us closer to each other. Sharing ministry stories and experiences helps us draw from each others strength.

Little things matter – Moments in a marriage that may seem to be minor details have the potential for major impact on the marriage relationship. It is important to handle little issues or conflict before they become big things. If a husband and wife have a minor disagreement it can easily escalate into a major division in the relationship if left unattended. Keep the relationship fresh and free from minor drama.

We should also allow little pleasures to bring happiness to the marriage. One of my favorite times of day is the walk Cheryl and I take at night. That few minutes each day keeps us close relationally, allows us to catch up from our day away from each other, and helps me to enjoy Cheryl in a fun setting.

Laugh at life – I read a statistic once that preschoolers laugh an average of 300 times a laugh an average of 17 times a day. The older we get the less we laugh. Laughter is good for our health and laughing together builds stronger relationships. Couples need to learn to laugh through life together. Cheryl and I laugh much!

Dream together – When couples are dating they seem to have fun discussing their future plans. Once we get married we tend to lose the art of dreaming. Dreaming inspires and encourages the heart. Dreaming together as a couple keeps the relationship fueled with new passions and desires. (I wrote a whole post about that HERE.)

Spread the pain – I am trying to model my pastoral responsibilities like the Acts 6 model in the Bible. I am learning that I cannot do everything. I must be a good at delegation. Don’t be afraid to say “no” in order to protect your marriage. (I wrote about the this in THIS POST recently.) Many couples I know are so busy they never have time just for the two of them.

It is also important, however, to have some close friends with whom we can share life’s burdens. None of us were meant to live on an island to ourselves and the same is true for married couples. Cheryl and I intentionally build relationships with other couples we can trust. (Yes, pastors, you can do this too. I wrote some tips on that HERE.)

Try these steps and see if the fun comes back into your marriage. Marriage is supposed to be fun!

What tips do you have for making marriage fun again?

5 Suggestions When You Find Yourself in a Miserable Work Environment

frustration

About once a week I talk with a minister — usually a younger minister — who is miserable in their current context. It isn’t always because the workplace is miserable. Sometimes it’s a misfit for them personally. Sometimes it is an unhealthy culture or a controlling leader.

Many times, even if they’ve only been there a short time, they seem ready to quit. Most of us have been there at some point in our career.

There are many things I love about the youngest generation in the workplace. They are intent on making a difference. They are family-oriented. They want to do meaningful work. I love all that.

One difference, in my observation, is how they respond when they find themselves in one if these miserable situations. Many seem to check out too quickly. They are ready to quit — give up — even before something else comes along, as soon as they discover they are miserable.

I’m sure that is true of other generations, but there were generations who endured an entire career in less than ideal situations. They saw work as — well — work.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not advising that either. Why spend 40 years in a miserable environment? Life is too short. Work doesn’t have to be miserable. And, there are healthy places that understand and appreciate the change in workplace attitude, especially being introduced by younger generations. That’s a positive.

But, what should you do when you find yourself in a miserable situation? How should you respond? Rather than quit, what other options do you have?

Here are 5 suggestions when a work environment is miserable:

Soak up all you can. You’re learning valuable lessons, even when you don’t enjoy the place where you’re working. I’m not sure you can see that at the time, but it’s true. It won’t be a wasted experience if you learn from it. Some if my best leadership skills came from watching leaders do leadership the wrong way. I once had a boss throw a huge sales book at my head because of disappointing numbers. I learned from that. Throwing things doesn’t work. :) (And, many other principles were learned from that leader.)

Dream your next big dream. Don’t quit dreaming. Invest your energies somewhere you enjoy outside of work. Create something inside or outside the place where you work that you can get excited about. Start your own ministry or company in a garage on your days off. Some of the best we know started that way. These extra energies will keep your heart filled, which is critical. (Above all else guard the heart. Proverbs 4:23)

Work to make life better. You may be the one positive voice that encourages others on your team. Chances are others are miserable too. Some people have better game faces. Even if that’s your only purpose in being there, that’s a worthy cause.

Strengthen your patience muscle. Sometimes the staying power takes more strength than leaving. It builds character. It builds tenacity. You may be the senior leader someday and find yourself miserable again. Leading at the top level brings that sometimes. The captain of a sinking ship isn’t supposed to jump ship. (We just have to watch recent news to know that.)

Pray and watch. Pray for discernment. For change. For delivery. For relief. For small moments of encouragement. And watch. For doors to open or things to change. God is doing something — working a plan — even when you can’t see His hand.

Are you miserable?

I’m not suggesting you stay forever. That doesn’t seem wise to me. I’m also not suggesting you quit — at least not immediately.

I am strongly suggesting you not waste the opportunities this time is presenting.

5 Ways a Leader Responds at the Outset of a Crisis

wonderful life bank scare

How do you respond when crisis comes to the team you lead?

I love the leadership displayed during a scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where George Bailey is about to leave for his honeymoon and panic struck the Building and Loan. As the president, he was forced to avert his plan, go back and save the company. He kept the Building and Loan open with a couple of dollars to spare. It was a tense moment. Everything they had worked for was at risk, but the crisis was solved — at least until the next crisis came.

That’s the kind of time I’m referring to as a leader.

How do you respond?

There have been several times where it appeared everything was a loss on the team I was leading. I’ve experienced it in planning a single project, as well as with the entire company felt in jeopardy when I was a small business owner.

Crisis.

At the outset of a crisis, how should the leader respond?

I must admit, I haven’t always handled these times as well as George Bailey, but experience has taught me a few things.

Here are 5 ways to respond at the outset of a crisis:

Slow down – The general tendency is to speed up, but “haste makes waste”. You need to move quickly, and sometimes you have to put out some initial flames, but as much as you can, slow down long enough to think before you react.

Don’t panic – You may indeed be in a panic on the inside, but your outer composure as a leader will set the thermostat of your team. The team’s emotions will almost always be an exaggerated version of the leader’s emotions. If you appear hopeless, the teams emotions will appear even more hopeless.

Get a plan – After you’ve addressed the most pressing needs — brought more of a sense of calm to the team — back away long enough to create a plan of recovery. It could be the best exit plan you can develop, but either way you need a plan. In crisis mode, this sometimes seems like a waste of time. The thought is that if the ship is sinking, you just need to bail water. In my experience, however, getting a plan in place makes the difference in the quality of your leadership through the crisis.

Navigate carefully – Once a plan is in place, you need to become an implementer of the plan. You’re the coach, cheerleader, captain of the ship at this point. You keep the team on task towards the end goal.

Help the team recover – After the dust settles from the crisis, the leader’s job isn’t complete until you help the team recover. That involves learning from what happened, making readjustments as needed, and helping the team begin again. In the best scenarios, this thought process begins to happen even during the crisis mode, giving the team some hope of better days to come.

We all hope to avoid those days of crisis on the team, but it helps to have a paradigm of how we should respond if or when they ever come.

Any thoughts you would add from your experience?

One Simple, But HUGE Way to Better Empower a Team

Elegant leader

Leader, let me share one of the best things you can do to better empower your team.

And, in full disclosure, I’m the worst at this, but it’s something I’m striving to do better.

You want to fully empower your team?

Here’s what you do:

Release them from responsibility.

Whenever you can…

Often as leaders we handle a lot of information. Sometimes we do that with our team. Sometimes we dispense a lot of new ideas. If we are growing and learning personally, the team is often where we process our thoughts.

If it’s not their responsibility — let them know it’s not.

It sounds simple — but it’s huge.

You see, the team is always wondering.

What is the leader thinking here — as it relates to me?

What do you want me to do with that new idea?

How do you want me to help?

What’s my role going to be in this?

Are you going to hold me accountable for this?

Do you expect something from me here?

As leaders, we often process and present a lot of ideas, but sometimes we are just “thinking.” Sometimes we aren’t assigning anything — we are just exploring.

The more we can release the people trying to follow us the more they can focus on things for which they are being held accountable. And, the more willing they will be to process new ideas with us.

Just tell them what you expect — or don’t expect. Say the words, “You are not responsible for this.” “I don’t expect anything from you on this.” “This is just for information.” And, mean it.

Sounds simple. It’s huge.

It’s Never Too Late to Intentionally Date Your Spouse: 15 Questions to Get You Started

Romantic Chinese Couple Enjoying a Coffee together.

I want to encourage you to plan an intentional date night. Make the reservations. Get a babysitter. (Trade with another couple so they can do this another night.) And, date.

Not just a normal date. That’s not what I mean by intentional. Date. Like you did when you were — well — dating!

Get to know each other. Sure, I know, you’re married now. You already “know” each other. But, great couples never stop learning one another. It’s part of becoming one.

And, With two unique people — as unique as you — yes you — it will take a lifetime together to fully accomplish.

Don’t assume you already know. Explore new territory with each other. Ask questions.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • What do you like best about me?
  • When do you feel most loved in our relationship?
  • If there was only one day you could capture, and repeat again in our marriage, which day would you choose?
  • If you had a “do over” of any day in our marriage, which one would you choose?
  • What is the best way your husband/wife encourages you?
  • Tell me (again if you’ve told me before) about your favorite childhood memory.
  • What was the first thing that attracted you to me (tell me again)?
  • What do you think is the hardest part about being a man/woman? (Each answer for their gender and the other)
  • What is the greatest fear you have about growing old together?
  • What did you admire about the way your mother and father treated each other?
  • What would you do differently?
  • What is the best way for me to communicate difficult feelings about you so that you are not offended?
  • Do you remember what we talked about on our first date?
  • When you meet a new friend, and they ask you to describe me to them, what do you say?
  • Who do you think was the most influential person/couple in your life in shaping who you are as a husband/wife? How did they influence you?
  • Who is one couple we both know that you’d like to have a marriage like theirs? Why?
  • If there were no limitations in life, what dream would you pursue?

Make this post better. Add some more questions.

Then comment and tell me how the date goes.

The more intentional we are with our marriage, the greater results we can expect. 

Quick Leadership Tip: Shotgun Your Day

iStock_000005225430XSmall

Here’s a quick leadership tip. Nothing earth shattering. Just a reminder.

Many times we try to accomplish too many tasks in one day and it makes us feel ineffective in all our tasks. I call that the shotgun approach.

Here’s a leadership tip:

Use the rifle approach.

Carefully plan a realistic list of activities for each day, with specific objectives, and rank them from the most important to the least important. Then check off each item as you work through the list, accomplishing as many as you feasibly can per day.

When you’re facing a major project (such as preaching each week), schedule one entire day for nothing but that project. Let nothing interfere unless its absolutely unavoidable. (And, those really are few if we are disciplined.)

You will be surprised how much more you can accomplish when you use the rifle approach to planning instead of the shotgun.