The Transition of a Founder: Handing off the Reigns

Meeting handshake

Starbucks Howard Schultz had to return to the helm at Starbucks. Apparently, according to numerous reports, he tried to leave, but came back to attempt to reverse the suffering the company experienced. Dell’s Michael returned to help steer Dell back to health. Steve Jobs once returned to Apple. Other companies, who have founder with lesser known names, have seen their founding fathers return to the helm of leadership. Companies like Sun Microsystems, Novell, and Vonage saw founders return. They all returned to help the company succeed again. In some of these cases things were never the same after the return, but my point is they were forced to return to the companies they founded.

I have a theory.

Companies today will face this dilemma more than companies founded in years past.

Could it be that because companies today begin with such an imprint of their founder in their DNA that it is becoming more difficult to pass the reigns of the top spot to another person? Study Starbucks and you have to study Howard Schultz. (He even wrote a book about it.) Look at Dell computers and you see Michael Dell all over the company philosophy. Even today, as he is trying to rebrand the company that holds his name with a newer identity, his personality appears to drive the process. Companies today are very much an impression of their founders. Google’s corporate “fun” environment apparently IS Larry Page. Every time I’ve heard Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, interviewed he describes the social network with a passion that only a founder could exhibit.

Companies are launching into their niche faster than ever before. The information age and technology allows for growth at a pace unknown in previous generations. Much of that growth is a direct reflection on the personality and passions of the founder who is seen in the public as the chief representative of the company. Social media fuels that even faster. I’m not sure building around a personality has been the case as extreme as it seems to be today.

As I view this phenomenon within corporate America, I can’t help but wonder if there are implications for churches as well.

Doesn’t Northpoint have the personality of Andy Stanley? Lifepoint certainly embodies the imprint of Craig Groeschel.

What will happen when these leaders attempt to retire? The answer to that question remains to be seen. I have no doubt these two mentioned are thinking about those issues, but are their lesser known counterparts? We certainly are planting lots of churches. And, that’s a good thing.

But, certainly also, we are planting many churches today that share their DNA with the founding pastor. The world of social media elevates the role of the founder in churches too. People follow leaders…personalities. We can agree Jesus is to be that personality…it is Him we are to follow…but even still, society tends to look for individual leadership to follow these days. Hopefully, those churches are preparing to be churches that will last for years to come.

This thought process encourages a few things churches (and organizations) may want to consider in their beginning years:

  • We must be thinking transition of the founder from the founding.
  • We must be careful not to elevate people or personalities over a vision.
  • Whenever possible, we may want to consider easing a leader out gradually, rather than allowing a fast exit of the founder.
  • We must make sure our visions are easily transferable, if we want the church (or organization) to exist long-term.

As with most posts, I don’t have all the answers. I’m, hopefully, just triggering thoughts.

What are yours?

Growing Up Book, By Robby Gallaty

growing up

A pastor friend, Robby Gallaty, releases a new book this month on making disciples. I’m impressed with Robby’s story and want you to know about his work. Here’s a quick interview with Robby about Growing Up Book:

Robby, why you are so passionate about making disciples?

In 2002, I experienced a Paul-like conversion after surrendering my life to Christ. The Lord set me free from a three-year battle with drugs. For several months, I wandered aimlessly in my Christian life, uncertain of how to proceed. My upbringing did not promote Scripture reading, memorization, or unrehearsed prayer.

Then one day my life changed forever.

What was the turning point?

Two men took the time to invest in my life: David Platt—author of Radical and Follow Me, as well as the Foreword of my book—and Tim Lafleur. Since then, I have read nearly every book on discipleship, searching for answers to my questions. Although I have read a lot of great books that describe the philosophy and theory of making disciples, I have often been left wondering after reading, “Now what?”

After being discipled, I thought to myself, “If I had a manual for making disciples that was easy to understand and simple to implement, I would not have wandered for so long.” After a decade of research, I wrote Growing Up: How to Be A Disciple Who Makes Disciples as a way of sharing my findings. The information in the book has been tried and tested in a church setting. At Brainerd Baptist, the church I pastor, we have seen the amount of people involved in discipleship groups grow from a handful in 2008 to over 1,000 expected this January.

My book takes the guesswork out of growing closer to the Lord and equipping others to do the same.

Why is Growing Up different than other books on discipleship?

The book contains a step-by-step process for growing in your faith and leading others to do the same. Here are some of the topics covered in the book:

  • Three essential relationships every believer must be fostering;
  • How to begin, lead, and reproduce a D-Group (i.e., discipleship group);
  • Why a D-Group of 3-to-5 is more effective than an 1-on-1 relationship;
  • A proven method for HEARing from God;
  • One spiritual discipline that every disciple should be practicing;
  • The single, fastest way to end laziness in your discipleship group once and for all;
  • The difference between an addition and multiplication strategy, and how it applies to your context;
  • How to begin a simple discipleship ministry in your church without adding another program;
  • Answers to commonly asked questions about disciple-making.

I also have included eleven appendices outlining the entire discipleship process.

For anyone who orders the book before November 15th, I am giving away $250 of discipleship resources:

  • Digital copies of the manuscript in Kindle, iPad, and .pdf formats;
  • My new e-book: Subtle Threats that May Devastate your Discipleship Ministry and Three Immediate Solutions;
  • Three live online training sessions (one hour each). My Replicate Team will disciple you as you disciple your people;
  • Growing Up Almanac e-book, a leader’s guide that will outline the weekly meeting time;
  • 25% off the Discipleship University Course (Spring 2014);
  • All eleven printable appendices.

You can visit growingupbook.com for more information.

Thanks Robby, for challenging us to make disciples, and giving us great tools to do so!

5 Suggestions When People Leave a Church

church crowd

One tough reality of being a pastor is when people you thought were supportive leave the church. For a variety of reasons, people will leave.

Make any change and someone is not going to like it. Life changes and relationships often impact a person’s church attendance. Misunderstanding and unmet expectations cause some people to leave. There are a variety of reasons. I wrote about some of them HERE.

The point of this post is addressing how we respond as pastors and church leaders.

How do you respond when people leave?

Here are 5 suggestions:

Accept it happens – It actually happens in churches where everything seems to be working at the time. Regardless of the reason…people leave. We shouldn’t be surprised simply because they do or think it can’t or won’t happen in the church in which we minister.

Admit it hurts – God is in charge of numbers. I get that. People are responsible to God and not the church. I get that too. People may leave because it’s the best thing for them spiritually. I totally get that also. The bigger issue is whether or not a person leaves “the” Church or “a” church. If they are attending another church we should take comfort in that, but pretending it doesn’t still sting a little is like saying you didn’t feel the bandaid being ripped off your arm. You are human. It hurts. It is difficult not to take personally. Depending on the circumstances or way it happens it may hurt more sometimes than others but it always hurts.

Analyze the reason – This requires asking the hard questions, and admittedly, this too can hurt, but it’s helpful to know even if the answer is you. It requires humility to admit you’re not the church for everyone nor the minister everyone wants to shepherd them. But, you can’t address what you don’t know and there are often valuable lessons to be learned from why a person chooses to leave a church.

Adjust if necessary – Don’t be afraid to admit you could be wrong. If people feel the church wasn’t meeting their needs try to discern if it’s them or the church. If it was a matter of style they didn’t appreciate that’s one issue, but if it’s something lacking from the church’s offerings…that you should have…you may need to make some adjustments. Be willing to learn.

Attune your vision – Okay, it was obvious I was looking for an “A” word, but this is actually a good one. Attune means “to bring into harmony”. And that’s often necessary when people disappear from the church. Most likely their absence will affect others. You may need to realign people to the vision, especially when those leaving were previously and visibly committed. Assure people you are listening, and genuinely be listening, but in the end stay true to the God-given vision God has called you to lead.

Again, no one wants people to leave, especially if they are leaving upset with you or the church. But, it is a part of church leadership. Learning to process it will make us better equipped to minister to the ones who stay…and the new people God will bring.

Pastor, help me out with this post. What tips do you have for addressing this issue of what people leave the church?

(Update: the comments are already making this post better.)

Cast Your Net…A devotional

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“Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” He told them, “and you’ll find some.” So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:6)

Cast your net on the right side!

The disciples had struggled all night and caught nothing.

Suddenly a voice cried out to them, “throw the nets on the right side”. When they did…they were unable to haul in the catch.

The disciples were given a visual reminder.

They should never forget that on the right side of the boat is where the fish are….

And…where is the “right side” in life?

The right side is where Jesus is!

The right side is where the Creator and Sustainer of all is located. The right side is where you and I find the hope of the world. The right side is the place of grace.

Are you casting the net of your life on the right side of the boat?

If you’re having a though time right now with life…could it be your casting your net on the wrong side of the boat?

Throw your net on the right side today!

Choose Jesus! Choose His way. Choose to obey.

Don’t Look Back! Lessons from Lot’s Wife

Remember Lot’s wife! Luke 17:32 NIV

Remember Lot’s wife?

Lot’s wife looked back. She took her eyes off the path of the Lord. She looked back to the world instead of forward to God’s plan for her life.

Prior to God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham pleaded with Him on the people’s behalf. Abraham bargained with God until it was clear there was no one righteous.

In God’s mercy, He allowed Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family to escape, but He gave strict instruction to them not to look back. Lot’s wife, consumed perhaps with the sin in the city she was leaving behind, looked back and was instantly turned into a pillar of salt.

Jesus told us to remember Lot’s wife.

When we look back, when we fail to see Jesus. We are taken from the blessings and protection that comes from following God exclusively and left to our own defense. Our independence causes us to miss the mercy of God.

Have you been drifting from the truths you know? Have you been wandering in your faith? Have you been neglecting your obedience to God? Have you taken your eyes off Christ?

Remember Lot’s wife today!