Are You Planning For Your Church’s Future?

Where is your church going in the next five years? What will it look like it ten years? If nothing changes, will it still be as equipped to reach the community around you?

If we aren’t careful, church becomes a Sunday-to-Sunday routine process and we look up someday from the weekly grind and realize we never reached our potential. For most churches, when one Sunday is over they are planning for the next Sunday. The church addresses the ministry needs of the week, but little time is spent planning for the months and years to come for the church. The monotony of a repeating schedule can often replace long-term planning.

(Because every time I do a post like this I hear this comment I know that at this point one of my readers (maybe two) is thinking, “God is in charge of us reaching our potential”, and it is at this point that I have to remind said reader that planning exists throughout the Bible and in fact, God seems critical of those who fail to plan.)

This post is just a simple reminder to steal some time from the weekly grind to plan a few steps ahead in the life of the church. Think through issues such as worship, discipleship, staffing, space needs, volunteer recruitment, and community and world involvement. In addition to weekly impromptu meetings and our bi-weekly all staff meetings, our staff gets together three times a year in an extended staff retreat. We have found this process to be where major initiatives and ideas originate and gain energy.

At our most recent staff retreat at Grace Community Church, after we went looked again at the Growth/Maintenance/Development issue again (Read a post about that process HERE), we considered these three questions to help us think through some critical planning issues for our church:

  1. Missing Holes
    What needs developing?
  2. Dying Momentum
    What needs tweaking or killing?
  3. Gaining Momentum
    What needs energy/additional resources right now?

You may consider trying this with your staff. If you are the only staff member, recruit a few key people in your church to help you plan.

Tomorrow I will post some of the bullet point that came as a result of these three discussions. If you need more help with these issues, email me at

Let us learn from you.  How does your church plan for the future?

Strengths Finder 2.0 a Great Team-Building Tool

strengths-finder-2-200Strengths Finder 2.0 has proven already to be a great tool for my leadership. We are going to use this instrument with our staff in the coming months.  I have been using Myers-Briggs Type Instrument for years and still plan to, but this is now another tool I plan to use to help build a healthy team.

Once you take the online assessment you are emailed your strengths.  The following are a summary of my strengths according to this indicator are:

Relator describes your attitude toward your relationships. In simple terms, the Relator theme pulls you toward people you already know. You do not necessarily shy away from meeting new people—in fact, you may have other themes that cause you to enjoy the thrill of turning strangers into friends—but you do derive a great deal of pleasure and strength from being around your close friends. You are comfortable with intimacy.

Command leads you to take charge. Unlike some people, you feel no discomfort with imposing your views on others. On the contrary, once your opinion is formed, you need to share it with others.

The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity.

Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by “every day” you mean every single day—workdays, weekends, vacations.

Your Analytical theme challenges other people: “Prove it. Show me why what you are claiming is true.” In the face of this kind of questioning some will find that their brilliant theories wither and die. For you, this is precisely the point. You do not necessarily want to destroy other people’s ideas, but you do insist that their theories be sound.

Have you taken the Strengths Finder assessment?  Feel free to share your strengths here.

The Caution of Working with Friends

I believe in being friends with the people with whom I work.  I consider the people on our staff to be friends. I hope we never hire anyone I could not also claim as a friend.  Part of building a healthy team environment is getting to know team members and building close relationships…friends.

That is the disclaimer statement, because this post is not about working with friends.  Actually this post is the opposite. This post is a warning against working with friends; especially close friends.  Well maybe not a warning, but definitely a caution.

Here are a few cautions when working with or supervising friends:

  • Sometimes leaders allow the vision to be sacrificed to protect a friend, but that approach is never good for the organization or the friend. Relationships should not get in the way of accomplishing vision.
  • Friendships create a fine line between what is fair for the organization and what is fair for the friend.
  • Close friendships within an organization can sometimes cause others in the organization to feel left out of private conversations or inside jokes, creating tension in the working environment.
  • When a friend is disciplined or fired it can be difficult for the friend who stays with the organization to continue respecting leadership.
  • When a friend is under performing many leaders have a harder time addressing the problem if that worker is a friend.
  • Friends sometimes assume unqualified job security.  Some leaders are afraid to fire a person if that person is a friend, but again that approach is never good for the organization or the friend.  There are times when a friend is no longer a good fit for the position or even for the organization.
  • If a friend no longer is a fit for the organization and is asked to leave, it can become more difficult to maintain the friendship.

As I said at the start, I love working with friends.  I would not want it any other way.  It is important, however, that friends recognize the risk of working together, knowing that the vision of the organization, at least in the work environment, trumps the friendship.  The bottom line is that doing the best thing for the organization often involves making hard decisions. Leaders should not be held back because of the level of difficulty.

I realize that even this post will create division among readers. Some readers will say that friendships are more important than the vision, but I would disagree.  If the vision is a worthy goal then the vision is worth protecting and friendships should not get in the way.

Have you seen close friendships affect the work environment in a negative way?  Would you rather you did or did not work with friends?

Lessons from General Motors for the Church?

gm_logoThis morning, thanks to my Google Reader, I landed on an editorial story by Ed Wallace of Business Week Online. You can read the story HERE. Ed writes from an insider’s perspective about the reasons for the fall of General Motors. His insight is of a company who faced problems of arrogance and indifference, failing to meet the changing needs of its consumers. He saw a company that allowed the quality of their product to suffer while refusing to listen to concerns of insiders who were suggesting improvements.

I obviously have no personal insight into General Motors and their demise. Mr. Wallace is one man with an opinion, although certainly far closer to the issue than most of us, with his 10 years working for the company. I wonder, however, if there are lessons for all organizations in his story and General Motor’s current predicament. Is there something here from which we can learn?

Could there be similarities in Wallace’s description of GM’s major problems from his perspective, with other organizations in trouble, such as maybe some churches and denominations today? Could arrogance, failure to accept change and failure to recognize the needs of their constituents be causing injury to the organization of the church? Is there room for improvement in the quality of the product churches use to tell the world about the unchanging message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

I think we must ask ourselves tough questions, unless we are too proud to admit our own mistakes.

What are your thoughts? Do you see common lessons to be learned from General Motors with your organization?

Altering My Personal Leadership Style

I am trying to do a better job of adding structure and management to my leadership style. Honestly my preferred approach is to hire the right people and trust them to do the job they were hired to do with limited interaction from me.  I want to be a resource for the people I lead, I try to be approachable, I believe in investment and teaching, but ultimately I want to lead, as I like to be led, and that is with limited direct oversight.

I have learned that this approach is not always effective and honestly it is not even always fair.  I realize, especially in the birthing stage of our church, that people are looking to me for accountability and structure. They want and need to be managed as much as be led.  (I personally believe there is a difference.  To read more about this concept read this POST.)

In my pursuit for consistent improvement in my own life I am opening myself up to a new approach. I will attempt to ask more questions to keep people accountable.  I will visit people’s offices more frequently.  I will eat more lunches with my staff.  I will do a better job of tracking individual progress. It is not a matter of trust but a matter of recognizing the responsibility that I have been given and the individuality of the people I lead.

Leaders, do you need to consider a different approach to your leadership style?  Are you willing to change your approach if the organization or the people you lead require something different than you are accustomed to giving?

Fostering an Attitude of Team Spirit (Whatever it Takes)

team_building_ringOne of the most damaging expressions in a team environment is the phrase “that’s not my job” or “that’s not my area of responsibility”.  Thankfully I have never heard that said at Grace Community Church.  Sadly it is far too common in organizations that claim to be a team environment.  I talk with people on staffs frequently who feel they are on an island by themselves within the organization and no one ever helps them think through a problem, recruit volunteers for their area, or lend a hand during crunch times.

While I agree with the equally modern concept these days of job specialization, working from one’s strengths and having clear expectations of a job’s responsibility, the very concept of a team is one of shared resources and shared responsibilities.  For a team to thrive it’s members must be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission of the team.

Team leaders must foster a spirit of cooperation within the team.  Leading by example, team leaders demonstrate this concept best by willingly participating in whatever is necessary to help the team, even if that task is way out of their comfort level or interest.

Does your team need a dose of a “whatever it takes” attitude?  How does your team foster team spirit?

Elements of a Healthy Team

I have written all week about team idleness. Check out more of the posts on the home page of this blog.  I thought it was equally important to share some thoughts about what makes up a healthy team. Obviously that is our goal. Here are some quick elements of healthy teams:

Agreed upon mission: everyone knows where the organization wants to go and what a win looks like.

Right people: The people on the team are the correct fit for the role they have been assigned and have the proper training to complete their assignment.

Ample resources: Regardless of the awesomeness of a team, if the team lacks adequate resources it will never achieve its full potential. (Take it from a former small business owner…no matter how good your employees are cash is king!)

Consistent pace: Healthy teams can’t move too fast or they burnout. If they move to slow they stagnate. There will always be highs and lows with any team, but healthy teams find the right balance for the team and find ways to continue to grow.

Accountability: Teams fail when no one holds the members accountable for success. There are very few people who can continue to function well without a structure in place to insure consistent progress.

Healthy teams reach their full potential and guard against team idleness. Here’s my challenge for you and I to build healthy teams.

What suggestions do you have for building healthy teams?

Will The Real Leader Please Stand Up?

I am writing some posts this week on the concept of team idleness. Check out other posts on the blog.

I believe and practice the concept of team leadership.  I want people in our organization that will assume ownership of an individual task and follow through with the responsibility of seeing projects completed well.  We have a shared leadership philosophy at Grace Community Church and I have posted about the need for a leader to “give their vision away” to people he or she trust to make it better.

That being said, there is usually a balancing statement needed for most principles to work in the real world.  When considering team leadership, for example, one thing that must be equally understood is that there comes a time when one person has to stand up and assume responsibility for the project or task. Someone has to lead.    The leader doesn’t always have to be the same person, depending on the task, but one person needs to be accountable for completion and success of the project.  If not, team members are left staring at each other and nothing moves forward.

Does your organization practice team leadership?  How do you assign ultimate responsibility for successful completion?