The Quickest Way to Spur Change

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Do you want to know the fastest way to encourage change?

Expose leaders to new ideas.

In a team environment, where people are empowered to lead, new ideas produce change.

Often faster than any other way.

I’ve tried to practice this as a leader. That’s why I encourage attending conferences when possible. I pass along blogs and podcasts. We often read books together as a staff.

As long as people are allowed to dream…and the leader doesn’t have to control everything…when the team is introduced to new ideas…ideas produce energy and momentum. As team members attempt something new, change happens. Quickly. It doesn’t have to be monumental change to create excitement. Tweaks. Slight improvements. Small adjustments. Those can create an atmosphere and an appetite for change on a team. There is always less resistance to major change when change is a part of the culture.

Recently, our staff took this principle to a new level. We used training budget and our ministerial staff and spouses traveled to Asheville, NC. We went to learn from Biltmore Baptist Church. Pastor Bruce Frank is leading an exceptional team at a church several times larger than our church. Like Immanuel, they are an older established church, but they have figured out some things we are still learning. We toured the church and then each staff member at Immanuel met with their counterpart staff member at Biltmore. We asked questions and explored their story. It was insightful.

It is an experiment. Honestly, I’m not sure how it will work yet, but I’m sure of one thing. It exposed us to some new ideas. We have some immediate changes we are considering. Our team bonded. And, there is new energy and momentum developing. That has to produce some good.

And, that’s a win for me.

Do you want to encourage to encourage change quickly? Expose your team to some new ideas.

How does your team encourage change?

How Do You Find So Many Great Restaurants?

restaurant

I’ll be honest…I like to eat. It’s become somewhat of a habit, in fact.

Our boys used to make fun of Cheryl and me because we would often drive long distances to eat.

Since, we’ve moved to Lexington, KY, we’ve determined that there are nearly 100 locally owned restaurants…and we are half way into exploring them all. We’ve uncovered some gems too.

People keep asking us…they always have:

How do you find so many good restaurants?

People who have lived here for years are learning restaurants from us. I kind of like that.

But, it’s a great question…and by the way…the answer serves as a great leadership and life principle as well. (If you knew me…you already knew that…right?)

Here is the answer:

We don’t limit ourselves to what we already know.

  • We take risks
  • We explore
  • We listen and ask questions of others
  • We venture off the path everyone around us has paved
  • We occasionally even get lost along the way
  • We aren’t afraid to be the first ones (in our circle of influence) who try something new

We will often Google reviews and we are impacted by them somewhat, but mostly we just take chances. That’s where we discover some of the greatest places.

Recently, we were in Maryland. We took the road less traveled, ended up on a dead end at the ocean in Virginia. It was a dive. It didn’t look like much on the outside, but it was great. Another gem.

You see, for us…
Being stuck with the same short list of restaurants…with the same menu items…

Boring…boring…very, very boring. (That’s actually a song in my head…wish you could hear the tune…)

That’s our secret. How do you find good restaurants?

And, just curious, does that represent how you do life?

By the way, it’s how I often do leadership too.

3 Steps to Reproduce Church Leadership

Man copying his colleague

Sometimes we complicate things in leadership. Take reproducing leaders, for example. In every church I’ve been in, people want to reproduce leaders, but few think they know how.

Yet, in my opinion, it may be one of the easier leadership issues to solve. The fact is that there are almost always leaders to be found if one is looking. The key is having a strategy of leadership reproduction in place and actually working it.

Let me help you create such a strategy.

Here are three easy steps to reproduce leaders:

Recruit – The best leaders will almost always have to be recruited. They are already busy leading elsewhere. They don’t have huge egos that make them think they have to be leading in your organization. Be observant. Get to know people and their interests. Discover the hidden talent in your church. If someone is a leader with Boy Scouts, they have potential to lead at church. If someone leads in the workplace, they have beneficial skills for the church.

I’m not advocating you don’t screen them, but I’m not thinking they’re going to preach the first week either. How much of a litmus test is needed for the parking ministry? Yet, you need leaders there too. It’s the first place a visitor makes an impression about your church. If they can lead a little league baseball team, you think they can be e chief parking lot cheerleader? I think so.

Develop – You will need to acclimate people to your organization. Train them to know your church culture. Make sure they know what you are seeking for the position. Give them some freedom to create their own way, but most likely they’ll want your help getting started. The best way is usually by apprenticeship. Partner them with other leaders. Help them find examples in other churches of ministries that are working well. Answer their questions. Be intentional to make sure they feel prepared.

Release – Let them lead. You’ve asked them to lead. You’ve trained them. Now get out of the way and let them lead. They’ll make mistakes. They won’t always do it your way. That’s okay…they’re leading. Despite the picture with this post…which is funny don’t you think?…you aren’t trying to produce leaders just like you. You are trying to produce disciples. They follow Christ, not you, so don’t be surprised when they come up with new…even better ideas. Follow up with them as needed, but let them be a leader. The best leaders won’t last long if you’re looking over their shoulder too closely. (This is probably the biggest mistake I see churches make in reproducing leaders. They control too closely.)

Now I realize none of these steps are necessarily easy, but I’m confident if you’re doing each of them well you’ll be reproducing more leaders. And, isn’t that what your church needs?

You may want to read 10 Steps in Having a Leader Replacement Culture.

How does your church reproduce leadership?

Three Steps to Setting Achievable Goals

calendar, blue target

In my previous post, I talked about resolutions in a light-hearted manner. Many say they don’t make them, because they don’t work. The news media doesn’t help. Every year I see the same reports telling us how many people don’t keep the resolutions they make. No encouragement there. So, I shared some broad resolutions that are more life directions than actual resolutions. (Read that post HERE.)

I know this, however, seldom do we hit a target we haven’t yet identified or located. So, if you want to improve in certain areas of your life, you need some new direction to get you there. You’ll have to make some changes in what you are currently doing.

Call them goals if you want. That seems to be a more popular word these days, but decide a few areas in which you want to see improvement, then put some goals in place to help you get there. Making positive lifestyle changes isn’t easy, but it really does start with that simple of a process.

To help you get started, here are…

Three guidelines I use for choosing achievable goals:

Quantifiable – Make sure you can make the goal measurable. Don’t say you want to lose weight. Decide how many pounds you want to lose. Don’t say you want to read more. Say you want to read one book a month…something like that. You want to read your Bible more? Then set a goal to read one chapter per day. Not…save more money…but save $50 per pay period…etc.

Reasonable – Set a goal you can actually attain. Otherwise you’ll give up easily. If saving $50 per pay period is completely unreasonable, then decide the reasonable number. It probably should be some stretch to make it worth celebrating later (which is a key component in goal setting), but make sure you can do it. Losing 10 pounds per week is going to be tough…perhaps even unhealthy…but two pounds per week…pretty much anyone can do that with a little discipline.

Motivated – Pick goals you are passionate enough about to put the energy and discipline in it to achieve success. Do you REALLY want to lose weight? Do you TRULY want to do better with your finances? Is reading your Bible ABSOLUTELY a goal worth pursuing? Your degree of motivation will likely determine how committed to achieving the goal you remain.

If you think through setting quantifiable, reasonable and motivated goals, and then you consistently practice them for a month, or two, or better yet three…you’ll be we’ll on your way to successfully completing them. And, the satisfaction from that will be worth celebrating.

If you are really serious about this process and want more, read THIS POST on writing a Life Plan.

Do you set goals (or resolutions) for the new year?

An Organizational Growth Cap Theory

When I consider companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon, the one constant I think of is change. Interestingly, after I typed that first sentence, I Googled “Most Innovative Companies” and found Fast’s list for 2012. How close do you think I got to their list? See for yourself HERE. But, don’t be impressed with my guesswork. You could have done the same thing, because it’s obvious to us that these companies are all about change.

Then I think of churches I know…some of the most growing, Kingdom-impacting churches I know are also the most innovative…the most open to continual change. I think of LifeChurch.tv, for example. Not only have they impacted many with their vision for multi-site/video venues, but they’ve also helped us discover or been a part of YouVersion and Open, a resource website for churches and ministries. I also think of Andy Stanley’s North Point and how their version of doing church and Andy’s preaching style has impacted so many others. Both LifeChurch and North Point appear to be a culture of change. From what I read about their culture, change is continually being introduced.

Let me be clear. I’m not advocating that either of the church models is the right one for every church. Neither are they the exact right model for the church I pastor. I am interested in church growth. I do like to see progress. I do want to avoid capping Kingdom growth.

I am suggesting that there may be something about growth we can learn from the two examples…business and church. My personal experience, and watching other organizations succeed, has led me to believe that there is something about continual change that produces continual growth.

In fact, I wonder if:

The level of growth an organization can experience may be determined by its level of tolerance or resistance to change.

I’m still processing that thought.

What do you think?

Some of my best work…

Is done when I can’t understand all that I’m doing…

  • When things are messy…
  • When my head is cloudy…
  • When I have more questions than answers…
  • When my faith is being stretched…
  • When I am unsure of my position…

If you wait until you have all the answers…where doubt is removed completely…

You’ll often find yourself stagnant on making decisions…

You’ll seldom achieve “the best you can do”…

And the rewards you receive will be less than monumental…

Part of living the Christian faith is actually using it!

How are you currently having to walk by faith?

One who watches the wind will not sow, and the one who looks at the clouds will not reap. (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

Attempting to Eliminate Risk in Leadership

If you want to eliminate risk from leadership…

Here’s what you have to accept:

It will be expensive – You’ll have to eliminate every thing which could go wrong. That will not be cheap to accomplish.

It will be time consuming – You will have to research all scenarios and answer all questions. That will take considerable time.

It may seem impractical – Getting to zero risk may never actually happen regardless of how hard you try. Risk seems to find its way back into the equation, in my experience.

It may be unrealistic- Life is a risk. Risk is all around us. If it involves people, time or circumstances, risk seems more realistic than no risk…to me. I’m not saying it won’t, I’m just questioning how practical that really is and really whether or not that’s even leadership. Leadership by application involves risk.

I’m not trying to stop you from trying to eliminate risk in leadership. Study. Evaluate. Question. Critique. Make practical plans as much as possible. That certainly sounds like good stewardship. I try to do each of those. You can certainly keep doing so until you are comfortable the risk is eliminated. Go for it!

My personal thought, however, is that when eliminating risk is a primary motivation you may lose opportunity. Try to eliminate risk and the world and the best ideas may pass you by.

Eliminating risk certainly doesn’t mesh with my understand of faith, nor does it mesh with the passion or adventure God seems to have given to the people He created. We seem to be by nature seekers of adventure, discovery…risk.

But, if that’s your goal…to eliminate risk…don’t let me stand in your way. Zero risk on the way…right?

Bonus question: What is the biggest risk you are currently attempting?

The Value of a Long-Term Plan

I read a blog post recently that indicated the death of long-term planning was imminent. Their point was that we need to be so flexible in a fast changing world that we should no longer make 5, 10, or 20 year plans. Even a one year plan was diminished in importance for this writer.

I understand. I agree with the writer in principle.

In the age of short-term, instant everything, long-range planning gets a bad rap.

We want everything now. We want (and in most cases need) to remain flexible.

The adaptable plan…

The quick change plan…

I'm actually for it. I love the flexibility to alter our plans. I enjoy change. I like to remain adaptable.

I have a concern though.

My fear is if you don’t look further down the road, you’ll wake up surprised someday.

You’ll drift off course…

You’ll lose your way…

You’ll get distracted…

You don’t have to be rigid with your plan. I don’t even like the sound of that. You don’t have to legislate the methods of reaching the plan. That could keep you from embracing current trends. You don’t have to resist change because you have a plan. That seems counter-productive to me.

I just think you may still need a long-term plan.

Knowing where you want to end up is one key to long-term success. To me, that requires a longer term plan.

I know this:

You seldom hit a target you haven’t positioned in front of you.

How do you feel about long-term planning?

Promoting Your Church on Facebook

This is a guest post from Michael Cornett, the founder of Church Website Design .Co, a Christian web design company that helps churches share the Gospel through websites and free social media training. Michael can be reached at support@churchwebsitedesign.co or on Twitter @Website4Church.

I believe in using social media for Kingdom purposes, having done online ministry for over 15 years. I’m thankful for the intentionality of ministries and Christian-based businesses helping us to do that well.

Here is how to Promote Your Church on Facebook:

Your church is having a great new band visit in a few weeks and you want to let everyone in your community on Facebook know about it. The problem: your Facebook Page only has 200 “likes.” The solution: create a Facebook page post ad—yes it’s a mouthful to say, but not too difficult to do.

Why should your church create a Facebook page post ad?

1) Share your post with thousands users
2) Target specific demographics with your ad
3) Gain new “likes”
4) Increase awareness of events, mission trips, etc.
5) Inexpensive way to advertise your church’s events

How can my church setup a Facebook page post ad?

First, sign into the Facebook account that is the administrator of your church’s Facebook page.

Once you have logged in, post a short, eye-catching post about the event your church would like to promote. This first step is very important because this post is what everyone will see, so spend some time creating a post that will entice users to click it.
Once you have made a post that you would like to promote, you can begin creating your ad. To get started, go to your home page and click Ads (left hand column).

 

Next Click Create an Ad (top right).

 

Under “Destination” choose the appropriate Page. Type->Facebook Ads, Story Type->Page Post Ad, Page Post Selection-> “the post you just created.” Under preview it will show your logo, church name, post, and allow users to like, comment, and share your post.

 

Know Your Church’s Target Audience

Facebook allows you to control exactly who sees your ads, which is an essential part of targeting the right users and controlling your church’s ad spend. For example: If your church is hosting a new Christian rock band, targeting church members and others within the community 60+ probably isn’t the best use of your money. Choose appropriate ages, gender, location, or even select to only show the ad to fans or friends of current fans.

Summary

Creating a Facebook Page Post Ad can be a great way to share your church’s message with a larger audience and if setup properly, will help gain new “likes” for your church Facebook Page. Setting up an ad is a fairly painless process, and if your ads are targeted to the correct demographic, can be very cost efficient. I would encourage all churches to try out a new Facebook Page Post Ad for your next event, mission trip, or even to promote your pastor’s latest sermon on podcast.

“Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow”

Recently I received my copy of “Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow” written by my friends Eric Geiger, Philip Nation and Michael Kelley. I was curious about their work, because I believe discipleship is a current weakness overall in the church. How can we do it better? I decided to interview the three Kingdom builders.

Here is my interview on Transformational Discipleship:


Why do you feel strongly about this particular discipleship message?

(Eric) First and foremost, because “making disciples” is the calling laid on the life of the Christian. It’s what we are all supposed to be about, both as a disciple and as one participating in the process of discipling others. Of all the things Jesus might have said when He ascended into heaven, His marching orders to the church involved making disciples. But many of us choose to settle for behavioral modification or the transfer of intellectual knowledge rather than seeking and trusting the Holy Spirit to change people at their core.

(Philip) The charge of making disciples isn’t a passive one. God has called us in the church to take an active role in both our own discipleship and in the discipleship of those around us. It’s a process that we’re all on – as Billie Hanks has said, “I’ve never met a mature Christian, only maturing Christians.” We want to help people move into that journey for their own sake and for the sake of those around them.

(Michael) This particular message about discipleship is helpful, I think, because we are attempting to articulate the balance between doing and believing. We want to embrace that ultimately only the Holy Spirit can transform an individual. It’s His work, and yet we are to play an active role in that work. While we don’t transform ourselves or anyone else, we can try and create an environment, in our lives and our churches, that is ready to embrace the work of the Spirit.

Let’s address the title of the book. Why is the book called Transformational Discipleship?

(Eric) Each of the words in the title is significant. Every person in the world is a disciple because everyone follows someone or something. That’s what a disciple is – a follower. But while every person is a disciple, not every person is transformed.

What we are really after as followers of Christ is transformation. That’s the process in which something actually becomes something else. So growing in Christ isn’t just putting on a new set of habits or behaving differently; it’s deeper than that.

Being a disciple is simply following Jesus to a greater and greater degree. And if we are following Him, then we are through our lives becoming something different. The Holy Spirit and He alone does this transforming work in the hearts of people. What our job is, as church leaders, isn’t to transform; it’s to set the conditions that are most conducive for real transformation to occur.

(Michael) In the book, we liken this kind of partnership to water skiing. The person behind the boat isn’t the one who lifts himself of the water or pulls him across the lake. The boat has all of the power. But the one with the skies on does play a part. He or she must place themselves in the right posture behind the boat, giving the one driving the boat a “thumbs up” sign, and prepare for the ride.

Spiritual transformation is the same. God is the one enabling His people to mature and grow while His people are invited to place themselves in the right posture.

The subtitle is How People Really Grow. So in a nutshell, how does that growth happen?

(Eric) We frame the process of spiritual growth in the book through three circles: Truth, Posture and Leaders. The place where those three circles converge is what we call the transformational sweet spot.

The sweet spot on a bat or a tennis racket is the place that has the most potential impact when you hit the ball. In the same way, when these three factors come together a church is set up to experience transformational discipleship.

Here’s how we articulate those three factors coming together: The transformational sweet spot is the intersection of truth given by healthy leaders when someone is in a vulnerable posture.

Unpack that definition a bit. Each of those words (truth, leaders, posture) are big terms. What specifically do you mean by them?

(Philip) In each of the three areas, we highlight specific ideas that aid transformation to occur. We call them lenses. So for truth, there are three specific lenses that contribute to transformation: the gospel, identity, and the spiritual disciplines.

It’s especially important for leaders to understand these lenses because they influence the way they present God’s truth to the people that have been entrusted to their care. For a leader, then, to present the truth, they focus on the gospel, understand that in the gospel a person’s identity is made new and different in Christ, and equip their people to participate in the spiritual disciplines.

You say that truth should be applied by healthy leaders to people in a vulnerable posture. What makes a person have a vulnerable posture?

(Michael) All kinds of things. It could be a significant life change or a period of loss. It could be a conscious choice on someone’s part to orient life around learning and obedience. In the book, we describe three characteristics of someone in this kind of vulnerable, or teachable, posture: Such a person is aware of their weakness, interdependent on others, and has an outward focus.

This section was really personal for each of us because we all looked back and knew that there were certain parts of our lives when we were most receptive to the truth of God. Most of those times coincided with some tough life event that pushed us into that posture. That’s one of the reasons why healthy leaders are so important; they are able to be a stabilizing influence in the lives of their people, helping them see how God’s truth meets them in their time of need.

Tell us a bit about the research that’s outlined in the book.

(Philip) In 2010, LifeWay Research embarked on an ambitious research project. We surveyed believers about their spiritual lives and level of maturity. We wanted to look into the major arenas of life where spiritual maturity takes place.

The research was done in three phases. First, we did a qualitative survey of experts in the field of discipleship. Members of our research team did interviews with recognized experts from multiple countries including pastors, professors, and church leaders from a variety of backgrounds.

From these experts in the field of discipleship, our research team gained a better understanding of what is taking place in the church both domestically and in other countries (specifically in the Hispanic context).

After the expert interview phase, the research team also conducted survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors in North America. The survey delved into the type of discipleship ministries being used in churches and the satisfaction level that they have with them. The survey revealed a great deal of paradoxes occurring between pastors’ hope that people are maturing and the level of satisfaction they have that believers truly are maturing.

Finally, the team at LifeWay Research did a survey of 4,000 Protestant Christians in North America. Of that number, approximately 1,100 were in Canada and the survey was done in three languages: English, Spanish, and French.

It was a really extensive project, and we’re excited to frame the results in this book.

Is this a research driven project?

(Eric) Yes and no. It’s certainly a project that’s supported by research, but we didn’t want it to read like a pure research book. We wanted it to be accessible for pastors and church leaders of all kinds. So while you’ll clearly see the research in the book, it’s driven more by biblical truth.

What role does the church play in transformational discipleship?

(Michael) If you look at the transformational sweet spot, you’ll see there are three major components: truth, posture, and leaders. Truth comes from God and is brought out in His word. The posture piece relates to the individual disciple. But the leader is the one who brings those two things together. Take out any of those three pieces and you get a deficiency in discipleship.

Transformational discipleship most effectively happens in the context of the local church. The church shouldn’t be an “add on” to someone growing in Christ, but instead the relationships between members of the church are the context in which this transformation happens.

(Philip) While it’s certainly not happening everywhere, the research that led to Transformational Discipleship gave us a lot of hope. Leaders in the church understand that their chief role is to involve themselves deeply in this process. The church can’t be a place where intellectual knowledge is transferred; neither can it be a place where behaviors are merely modified. Neither of those things is transformation. Real transformation is not just doing or knowing something different; it’s being something different. It’s an incredible privilege to be a church leader and be deeply involved in this work of the Holy Spirit.

You emphasize early on in the book that this statement of the transformational sweet spot isn’t a formula or a model but a framework. Why is that?

(Eric) When I co-authored Simple Church, it was meant to challenge leaders to have a process for discipleship, but it was never intended to be a model (the first paragraph of the book read, “this is not a model”). But for the last five years many church leaders treated the book as a “new model” for church ministry.

We love prescription. But you can’t “prescribe” the work of the Holy Spirit. You can describe His work, based on the biblical evidence and the stories we’ve heard, but you can’t simply put in a model and expect the Holy Spirit to just fall in line.

(Michael) We don’t want anyone to treat the transformational framework in the book as a new mission statement; we want it to help people understand to a greater degree how people mature in the church. When we start to see how leaders, truth, and posture intersect, it changes the way we teach, program, develop leaders, and even do pastoral care. But it doesn’t eliminate the need to listen to the voice of the Spirit to see how those things will change in one particular local church.

Again, that’s the divine/human partnership at work.

What are you hoping is accomplished through Transformational Discipleship?

(Philip) I’m praying that Transformational Discipleship will fill the church with hope. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is most definitely at work transforming the hearts of Christians. What we want to do in the book is reaffirm His work and try to give leaders some very helpful footholds – some ways of thinking that can inform and shape their ministries for the years to come.

(Michael) Discipleship is a big word to a lot of people. It’s intimidating, and while there is something mysterious about the way the Spirit works in the hearts of God’s people, discipleship isn’t reserved for some special class of Christians. So my hope is that through the book, the way people really grow in Christ might be de-mystified a bit. Not in the sense that we lessen the emphasis on the work of the Spirit, but in the sense that the way this happens becomes simplified in our minds.

(Eric) I want the church to enter into a day of playing offense rather than defense. The human heart isn’t something pure that needs to be protected; it’s something wicked that needs to be transformed. Jesus wants us to be on the move – to play offense. To take ground for the kingdom in confidence because of who He is. So my prayer is that the book helps us to see how we can be active partners with God to see people truly grow deep in Jesus.

What are your thoughts on discipleship in the church today? How are we doing?