The Safety Briefing Card and Church Vision Casting

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The airline safety briefing card…

Doesn’t mean much to a frequent flier.

But to a first time flier…it’s gold.

Church, what can we learn from this?

Let me share a recent situation I witnessed that illustrated this principle for me.

I’ve learned my way around an airport over the years of traveling in business, government amd now ministry. So much so that I don’t listen to the directions very well. It gets me in trouble sometimes. i amost missed a flight recenlty because I didn’t hear a gate change. But, mostly, I pretty much know what they’re gonna say…or think I do.

Flight delay, right? I saw if coming.

Safety talk? I could recite it.

I’m like a steward runner up. If ever they can’t perform their duties I’m in.

“Ladies and gentleman, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the safety features of this Boeing Dc9.There’s a safety card in the seat in front of you…”

“Federal regulations require…blah, blah, blah, right?”

If you’ve traveled much…You know the drill.

But recently I was reminded why they do that every time. The same way. Always.

On our plane was one who had never flown before. Ever. He was in his sixties I would guess, but this was his first flight.

And he paid attention to everything. Everything. I watched him read the card. He looked around to “familiarize yourself with the exit signs”. He clung to every word of the steward. He was the model passenger.

Why? It was all new to him.

You see, everyone might be accustomed to the routine, but there’s always a chance, like for this guy, where it’s someone’s very first time.

It was also a great reminder for me as a church leader.

That’s the way it is for some who come to church…every Sunday.

Some could script things. Some could preach should I not be able to fulfill my duties. Some would probably actually prefer that.

But there’s always one (hopefully) who has never been here before. Perhaps ever.

Perhaps they’ve never been to any church…ever. They don’t speak our language of church.

As a pastor, I’ve always been concerned about that one.

And as I read the Bible,that seems like a Jesus characteristic too. He encouraged leaving the 99 found to seek and assist the 1 who was lost.

That’s why it’s important that we tell our vision. Tell it clearly. It’s why we must explain things well. Very well. It’s why we must communicate basic information. Every week. Every time. 

(Even if it’s boring to the rest of us…to someone…it’s gold!)

Thanks for the reminder U. S. Air. And that random guy who was flying for the first time. I hope it was a great experience for you.

Bonus question: What does your church do EVERY WEEK in case a visitor shows up that Sunday? 

A Letter to the Church, from a Pastor

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I’m blessed with so many pastor friends. I have the opportunity, through my blog and personal ministry, to interact with hundreds of pastors every year. After hearing many of their concerns, I decided to write a letter to the church. Obviously, I can’t and won’t attempt to speak for every pastor, but this will represent many.

I actually held onto this post for a while, because I was concerned it would seem self-serving. Thankfully I have good support around me, so this is designed to speak for others. I’m thankful God has given me abundant support in ministry, but I feel the weight of many pastors and ministers.

Dear church,

I want to be honest with you…on behalf of many pastors I know. You want me to be honest, right?

It’s hard to know who to trust. There, I said it. But, seriously, we’ve been burned so many times. As soon as we think we can trust you, we can’t. Many of us simply don’t trust anyone. We keep to ourselves and never really get to know anyone. It’s not wise, but it feels safe.

We love you, but we love our family too. We enjoy having an uninterrupted meal. We like having a night at home. We want days occasionally that are completely ours, to do what we want, with no church responsibilities. No church texts, no church calls, no church emails, no church visits. I know, sounds selfish right?

Saying “no” is hard, especially with your reaction. We know very well that every decision we make is unpopular with someone. And, sometimes, you make it very uncomfortable for us to disagree. We want to be liked as much as anyone. I know, sometimes that makes us seem shallow, doesn’t it?

We need a few people who are in it for Jesus and others, more than for themselves. When we find those people…wow…it makes our day. We feel like we are accomplishing something. Those people fuel us for ministry.

We have to wear many hats. Some we are skilled at and some we are not. You thought seminary taught us everything, didn’t you? No, in fact, we feel very inadequate at much of the things required of us. We need your help, but sometimes it’s hard to ask…because we don’t know who to trust…remember?

We want you to love us in spite of our limitations. That makes sense to us, because you want us to love you that way, but sometimes we feel you love us only as long as we are “performing” as you’d have us to perform. (Wow, did I just say that?)

We feel so responsible…for everything. Church growth. Church discipline. Church health. And, your spiritual growth and personal happiness. I know, ultimately Jesus is in charge of all things, but we feel the weight of our role to see that each of these are completed. That’s a lot of self-induced pressure, isn’t it?

We love you. We really do.

Pastor

Thanks pastors, for all you do. My 93-year-old mentor pastor says it is harder today than ever in his ministry to pastor a church…and he just took another interim pastorate. The pressures are great. People are distracted by many things. The church is often not the revered and loved place in our communities that it used to be.

Personally, I’m thankful for good leadership and staff around me at each of the churches where I’ve served, but my heart goes out to the pastor who doesn’t feel the support of the church and is the only staff member. Remember, you are doing noble work and you are part of something bigger than today, you and even your church! The local church…the body of Christ…is still in God’s plan today…and nothing will overcome that. Praying for you today!

Leaders Book Summaries

This is a guest post by Dave Frederick, Lead Pastor of the Vineyard of DuPage in Carol Stream, Illinois. In addition to being pastor, he has a service designed to assist pastors who, like me, struggle to keep up with the reading we should do. Dave explains that service in this post. My hope is that this is helpful. (Just so you know, this is not an advertisement. I didn’t charge anything for this post. I simply believe in the product.)

Here is a post from Dave Frederick:

Most of my life I’ve heard that “Leaders are Readers,” and I believe that. I also believe that if I was going to put a bumper sticker on my car it would say, “so many books, so little time.” I love to read, and know I should, but life is busy and it can be challenging to find the time. But—it is essential if I am going to keep growing.

One option is to read book summaries instead of whole books. They allow you to invest in your own development, and the leaders around you, easily and economically. Here are 6 benefits to reading summaries:

  1. Book Summaries are roughly 12 pages vs. 200-300 for the average book. The average reader will take 5-6 hours to read a book, but only 15-20 minutes to read a summary. And “the Nutshell,” a summary of the summary, is only two pages!
  2. Book summaries cost less. A monthly subscription to LBS is $6.95/month, or $.23/day. Even buying used books at Amazon costs a lot more than that. LBS publishes 30 summaries/year…you do the math.
  3. I get access to both Christian and secular authors, and get to read more broadly than I would otherwise have time for.
  4. Book summaries are a great way to resource your leaders. I can seldom get my leaders to read a whole book; it’s easy to get them to read a short summary.
  5. Book summaries help you learn more. A Carnegie Mellon study showed that people who read good summaries actually retain more of what they read than people who read the whole book. And isn’t that the point?
  6. Summaries allow me to screen the actual books I do read, so I make sure I am using my reading time for maximum benefit.

In a nutshell, I can learn more, in less time, for a lower cost, by reading summaries, and I can resource my leaders in a way that actually works.

If you’re interested, go to www.studyleadership.com and check it out. Readers of this blog can get their first month free when they subscribe (use Promo Code “Grace”). (Note: there is now a church subscription that allows you to put as many leaders on your subscription as you want for one low price).

Recruiting Warm Bodies

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When I was in retail, we sometimes hired people at Christmas just to have more employee presence on the sales floor. I was in retail when customer service really meant something, so we wanted the customer to always see someone willing to help them. Admittedly, during especially busy times, we often hired people quickly and placed them on the sales floor with little or no training. The term frequently used was we just needed some “warm bodies” to make a statement to our customers.

As I’ve continued to grow in leadership, I have learned the term “warm body” is relative to context.

Let me explain.

Once King David was old and cold. (1 Kings 1) They brought in a young virgin to lay with him and keep him warm.

I’ll be honest, that passage has confused me at times. Knowing the history of King David, I could read this story and think improper thoughts about the arrangement. Before you let your mind wander, we are told King David “knew her not”. This arrangement was for practicality not sexual relations.

That girl was more than a warm body. That girl had a purpose. And, regardless of what you’re thinking, it apparently wasn’t sexual. It was practical. They didn’t have electric blankets back then, so she kept the aging king warm. She wasn’t just a “warm body”. Her purpose was to keep the king alive and well.

I recently heard a ministry leader say he would settle for a “warm body”. It was said in reference to the children’s ministry, which is one of the hardest areas in most churches for which to recruit. When trying to recruit so many volunteers per room, it can be tempting just to settle for the first warm body who volunteers.

I’ll admit though…his statement bothered me. It made me wonder if we need to reconsider our standards in recruiting volunteers.

Many churches would be willing to settle for a “warm body”, just to say they’ve filled the position. I must be honest, I’ve had similar thoughts about our parking lot ministry and in the hallways after church. I want more greeters. I want more people who are a presence when visitors come to church. So, I’ve even thought, “just give me a warm body”. Whether they smile or not, just fill the position.

Sometimes, because of the demands of ministry, we know we need help, so we are willing to settle for any warm body.

But, think about it. That’s not really what we want, is it?

Perhaps I’m unrealistic…maybe I expect too much from people. I’ve been told that before, but I think we need more than just warm bodies. Even in volunteer positions. In fact, may I push the issue a little further. I think we need warm bodies who are passionate about living out their purpose and willing to fill their positions with vigor.

We don’t just need a warm body in our preschool ministry. We need a warm body who loves preschoolers to the glory of God.

We need a warm body in our parking lot who sees their job as critical to a visitors first experience with a church.

We need warm bodies who will share the love of Christ during the week, at the coffee shop and in the work place, just as well as they warm the sanctuary chair on Sunday mornings.

We need warm bodies who will lead small groups and teach Sunday schools that are committed, enthusiastic and well-prepared each week to disciple people to become growing followers of Jesus Christ.

You get my point. We need warm bodies…but not warm bodies who are simply warm bodies.

Who knows? Perhaps if we raise the bar of expectations we will get people who better meet our expectations.

By the way…I’m thinking of retitling our volunteer ministry. Maybe calling it the “Warm Body Coalition”. Or the “Not Just Warm Bodies Team”.

I don’t know…just thinking.

Actually, I think I just confused myself. But, hopefully you’ve already gotten my point.

What do you think?

7 Common Energy and Time Wasters for Leaders

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Wasting time and energy may be one of my biggest pet peeves as a leader. Some days I leave work and feel I never got off the treadmill. It’s physically and mentally draining.

Does that ever happen to you?

I firmly believe if we get rid of common energy wasters we can dramatically improve our performance as leaders. With that in mind, I’ve spent time in my personal development finding ways to eliminate time and energy wasters.

Here are 7 common wastes of energy in leadership:

Focussing attention on the naysayers – I have found that worrying over what the critics are saying, especially the ones I will never make happy, delays progress and takes time from and frustrates the positive people who believe in the vision and are ready to move forward.

Refusing to delegate – When I make every decision, or become too controlling as a leader, I rob myself and the team of valuable energy and talent and I feel overwhelmed more quickly.

Second guessing decisions – I find it is better to work to make better decisions moving forward rather than live in a pity party of bad ones already made.

Trying to have all the ideas – Many leaders feel they have to be the originator of all the creative energy of a team. They waste time brainstorming alone rather than expanding the creative process. Consequently, the best ideas often never surface. Original thoughts, better than ours, are usually in the room or the organization if we will welcome them to the table and it preserves my time for more efficient use.

Living with broken structure – Let’s face reality. Over time, rules take on a life of their own. What was once created to improve structure actually begins to slow progress and waste valuable time. Change the rules…or even drop them… and you often free up valuable space for people to breathe and enjoy their work.

Disorganization – Need I expand? Many leaders feel overwhelmed because they don’t have good organizational skills. Learning how to better handle routine tasks such as processing emails, calendaring, and scheduling work flow each week will drastically improve time efficiency.

Completing tasks not designed for me – This could be any number of things. Even reading a book. For example, perhaps a silly example, but I have discovered that sometimes I read too much. That sounds strange…I know…but really it’s because I read things I didn’t need to read. I start a book and within the first chapter I know it’s not helpful or even enjoyable…my sense of completion wants to finish. but, better is to put it aside and pick up another book. The novel length email…I try to determine first if I’m the one who should respond. Many times I’m not. It could be attending a meeting…or supervising a project. Whatever it is that I am not the best person for the job or it is just a time waster, the sooner I stop it or hand off the task, the more energy I preserve.

What energy wasters have you seen in leadership?

A Word to the Small Town Pastor

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Over the last 10 years or so I’ve had the privilege of ministering with dozens of pastors in other churches. Many of these were in person. Others were virtual. I’ve been in large and small churches. I’ve been to big cities and small towns with only one stop light. (Or none at all.).

In the process, I’ve learned a few things about pastors and churches. In fact, much of what I write this blog about comes from those experiences.

Recently I had back to back weeks in small cities dealing with, by some standards, smaller churches. They were shy about sharing their success.

I led a leadership retreat for a church with 150 leaders in the room. I was amazed they could attract that size crowd in a small city. But, talking to the pastor, it was as if they had no success at all…at least when compared to my perceived “success”. (I’ve realized, too, that if you have a decently read blog and you’re from out of town…people credit you with more success than you deserve. I’m sometimes seen as the “expert”. If only they knew, right?)

It wasn’t humility on this pastor’s part. I’m not saying he wasn’t a humble person, but I don’t think that was keeping him from talking about the good things God was doing through his church. It was more. I think it almost always is.

That’s when it occurred to me something I’ve observed numerous times, but never put into words.

Sometimes they don’t know how well they are doing.

It’s true.

Take my good friend Artie Davis as an example. His church is mega impacting Orangeburg, SC. I would love to see the church I pastor have half the influence in the community where I live. Artie also leads The Sticks Network of churches ministering in small towns. The impact of those church is amazing every year when I attend their conference.

Many times the small city pastors compare themselves to the big city churches. They compare numbers rather than progress. They compare size rather than context. They compare notoriety rather than influence.

And, because of that, many times, they don’t know how well they are really doing.

I see the connections, networking and influence the small town pastor has and I wish I could have that kind of Kingdom influence in my city. I see the respect they command in their community and know, in my context, they are miles ahead of me.

Small city pastor. God is using you. You are making a Kingdom difference. You just don’t know how well you are doing.

Do you know a small town pastor doing great Kingdom work?

7 times the speed of change can change…faster

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Change takes time. There are no “quick fixes” in the world of change leadership. I’ve seen many leaders try to rush change through only to destroy themselves, the organization they are trying to change, or the change they are trying to make.

There are occasions, however, when the speed of change can change. There are unique opportunities where change can be introduced and implemented quicker than other times. The leader should be careful to strategically plan each change, but taking advantage of these times can help facilitate change faster.

Here are 7 times the speed of change can change…faster:

When the leader is new – The honeymoon period is real. Honestly, from recent experience, I believe that period is becoming shorter than it may have once been. I don’t know how long this period will last, perhaps a few months or up to a year, but change seems almost expected in the beginning days.

When the change is imminent – There are times when everyone agrees something must be done. When a needed leader unexpectedly resigns, for example, no one likely questions the change in staffing to hire someone new. When “it is what it is” there is an expectation to make a change.

When the organization is new – In the early days of an organization, time can move quickly. Everything is new and so change may come rapidly.

When there is a crisis at hand – I’ve seen this in government, the church and among individuals. When something happens that shakes the core of your being and scares people they’ll be more accepting of any change that may keep it from happening again. (Warning: Sometimes these changes are regretted once emotions heal.)

When there is overwhelming support – There are times you can move swiftly simply because the support is overwhelming. That can be dangerous if the change isn’t good, but public opinion does impact change.

When situations are beyond control – Sometimes you can’t do anything to stop needed change. When government, or other powers, demand change, you can rebel or you can change…quickly.

When you aren’t concerned about the outcome – There are times when the results simply don’t matter much in the scheme of things. We schedule baptisms almost any Sunday. Sometimes we may not have a baptism scheduled, but knowing baptisms help fulfill our key function as a church, we will quickly change our schedule to accommodate.

There are probably equally good illustrations for refusing to make change quickly. (There are probably even 7 of them.) Feel free to share them with me and my readers.

When have you seen the speed of change change?

How Do You Find So Many Great Restaurants?

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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.

5 Common Reasons People Criticize Change

Chalkboard with text Changes

I’ve learned in leading change that there are some common objections. If you know a change is necessary, understanding why someone is objecting may help you respond accordingly.

Here are 5 common reasons for criticism of change:

Confused -These people just don’t understand the change. They lack information. Often they have heard misinformation. Many times, in my experience, once the change is explained, they become supportive or less opposed.

Conflicted – Some people object to change because they are objecting to life. They have past hurts they can’t resolve. They are injured. Frankly, some people can be mean. This category can be the most hurtful as a leader, but understanding them may help you avoid a lot of heartache. These people will likely always be critics until something is addressed with them directly. Understanding their pain can often lead to helping them heal from something in their past. If the change is necessary, you may have to confront these people directly or simply learn to work around them. You can’t allow their personality or emotional injury to hold you back from what you need to do as a leader.

Care – These people simply don’t think you care. They assume, for whatever reason, the changes are being made without considering their position. These are many times changes which appear to favor one particular group of people at the inconvenience of another. I have seen that many times including people in the decision process, acknowledging and attempting to understand their concerns, along with good vision casting can alleviate some of these concerns.

Control – You stepped on someone’s power. You didn’t check with them first. This reason for criticism is probably most frustrating to me, because there’s little you can do about it unless you’re willing to appease them. I have found that many times pride and selfishness is the driving force here. As difficult as this type criticism is to accept, I have observed that patient, honest, transparent conversations, while remaining firm with the change, can sometimes keep these critics from working against you, even if they still don’t agree with the change. (And, then sometimes, you simply have to move forward without their support.)

Comfort – These critics, who are the most common group, simply don’t like change. It’s uncomfortable. Resistance to change is relative to the size of the change. We all resist change at some level. Let me give you an example. Imagine your day off has been Saturday for the last 20 years. Suddenly your employment changes your day off to Tuesday. You now have to work Saturdays. How comfortable is that change? Don’t resonate with that example? Pick an issue where you’re currently comfortable and consider changing it. Try enough scenarios and you’ll find your level of resistance to change. The only solution to this one is to provide clear communication, cast the vision well, and be patient as people adapt.

Criticism is common in leadership and change. The only way to avoid it is to avoid change. I’m not sure that’s leadership, but that’s the only solution to be criticism-free. The fact is, the more change occurs and the more it becomes part of the culture, the less resistance there will be.

I should note, this post is not intended to help you avoid criticism, and certainly not completely dismiss it. As a leader, you must consider whether the criticism is valid, be open to other ideas and even rebuke if needed. Thinking all your ideas are great is an error in judgement and character. This post is intended to help you understand the basis of criticism. Even the best ideas will receive some.

You may want to read 5 Right Ways to Respond to Criticism and 5 Wrong Ways to Respond to Criticism.

Are there any other reasons you have seen for criticism?