This Fall At Grace Community Church

This week in a message called “Hot Seat” we unveiled some of the vision for Grace Community Church this fall. In this message we introduce new staff members and new assignments. Keep up with what Grace is doing next here… You can watch the first 10 minutes without logging in and then Truthcasting forces you to log in. I hope you will take the effort to watch an interview about what God is doing at Grace.

Never Miss An Opportunity Again

I love being able to respond to opportunities as they present themselves. I am not talking about possibilities. I am referring to legitimate opportunities, things that the organization should and wants to take advantage of when they come available. (Read HERE for a post explaining the difference in possibilities and opportunities.)

The problem for many organizations is that they are not structured in a way that allows them to react quick enough to take advantage of opportunities, before the opportunity window passes.

My advice: Be prepared so you can make quick decisions.

Here are 6 tips to be better prepared for the next great opportunity:

Have margin in the budget for emergency funding, as well as expanse funding. At Grace Community Church we have always operated extremely conservative. Even when cash flow was tight we were never spending all of our resources. We waited to do some things we may have wanted to do so we would have margin for opportunities as they arose.

Network. Some of the best opportunities come quickly and are known to few people before they are gone. Stay connected to others in your particular industry to know when a sweet deal comes available.

Stay current with culture and trends. Many organizations are reactive rather than proactive. Great organizations know the people and society around them and can respond as changes occur.

Have systems and structures in place that welcomes innovation. For example, organizations that have a healthy team environment can more easily shift workloads to accommodate new responsibilities.

Make change a part of the organization’s culture. Resistance is less likely when change is something people are accustomed to experiencing.

Be willing to move by faith. There are times when an organization has to take a risk or it will miss out on the opportunity.

How is your organization taking advantage of opportunities as they come available?

Pre-Planning Your Week For Efficiency

Here’s a quick encouragement to help you have a great week.

Spend the first 30 minutes of your workweek pre-planning for the week.   Follow these steps:

Set goals for the week. – What do you need to and want to accomplish by the week’s end?  Be realistic, but make sure you include some stretch goals.

List the major tasks required to accomplish your goals – Break down each objective into the activities you will need to do to complete them.

Allot time for each activity – Again, be realistic, but determine that you are going to work diligently to meet your goals.

Schedule your week – Calendar each of the activities throughout the week. Be sure and allow for downtime, reflection, prayer and devotion time.  Those times keep you grounded and fresh.  If your schedule fills up before you finish you are probably either planning to do too much or allotting too much time for each activity.

With this pre-planning period you will be better able to enjoy your week with less stress, more productivity, and a better attitude at the end of the week.

Let me know how this works for you.

Spiritual Growth and Maturity Survey

As a part of my Master’s in Organizational Leadership from Eastern University I am to conduct a qualitative research project.  I wrote about the master’s program in yesterday’s post.  Read it HERE.  I decided to survey the spiritual health of our church by asking a cross-section of people questions about their own spiritual maturity and growth.

Specifically this research will attempt to measure:

  • What contributes to a person’s spiritual growth most?
  • What has caused or will cause them to want to take next steps in their spiritual growth?

I am asking people to answer the following questions:

  1. What do you believe is spiritual growth?
  2. Do you feel you are growing spiritually now?  Why?
  3. What has caused your life to improve spiritually in the past?  Were there key events/people/times?  Can you explain?
  4. How has Grace Community Church influenced your spiritual growth since you began attending?
  5. What would help you grow more spiritually mature?
  6. What changes do you need to make to grow more spiritually?
  7. Are there any comments or thoughts you have about the church and what we are doing to spur people to “become growing followers of Jesus Christ”?

I am getting great responses so far.  I will share some of my results in future posts.

Feel free to play along.   How would you answer these questions?

Master’s In Organizational Leadership (WHY?)

81logoI have been asked consistently for the past year why I would subject myself to the discipline of obtaining a second master’s degree.  I have a seminary master’s in counseling, but last year I began work on a master’s in organizational leadership from Eastern University in Philadelphia.  I should finish this degree in early 2010.

The answer is fairly simple.  I am an idiot who loves to torture myself.

Actually, the truth is that I felt the need for more education in a field that I practice most.  As a pastor and church planter I need seminary training.  Honestly though, I went to seminary later in life also and much of what I learned about the Bible I had studied previously as a layperson.  I have been a student of the Bible since I was in my early twenties.  What I have found the need for most in my leadership role in the church is insight on leading an organization.  The more we have grown the more I have sensed the need to grow personally.

So far in my studies we have looked at organizational leadership, strategic planning, organizational efficiency, human resources, strategic thinking and change management and financial management.  All of these are vital to what I do at Grace Community Church and the training has been directly transferable to my work.

There are a few other reasons I am pursuing this degree.

  • Our church has grown faster than my ability to keep up with it at times.  I recently wrote about leadership capacity and, as with many posts, this one had personal implications.
  • I want to make the organization of the church better.  One of the reasons I blog is to help others grow in their leadership with principles I have learned in business, church and through my education.
  • I am a Kingdom-builder. When God called me into ministry, He called me for who I am.  I am not a sit still, detailed, or single-minded person.  I think big!
  • I never want to stop learning.  Ever!

It has been a fun, but stretching and expensive venture for Cheryl and me, but I am thankful God has given me the opportunity.  I am also thankful to Cheryl for allowing me the time and to spend our money to do this.  As an added benefit, I have learned to love Philly cheesesteak.  I even have a favorite.

How are you learning and keeping up these days?

Warning Markers – Danger!

This passage spoke to me this morning…perhaps it will speak to you also:

Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life. They all ate and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God’s fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ. But just experiencing God’s wonder and grace didn’t seem to mean much—most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.

The same thing could happen to us. We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did. And we must not turn our religion into a circus as they did—”First the people partied, then they threw a dance.” We must not be sexually promiscuous—they paid for that, remember, with 23,000 deaths in one day! We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes. We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them.

These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. So, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can. 1 Corinthians 10:1-14 (The Message Version…emphasis mine.)

I consider the world we live in today and it was much like those days in Corinth.  There are many options for immoral failure.  Finding trouble these days is not hard to do.  We must be on guard, because history teaches us that we can easily fall prey to temptation if we allow ourselves to become desensitized. I think Paul is saying to the Corinthians, “You see the immoral culture around you.  You don’t have to participate.  You can choose to be different.  You have the ability to flee temptation.”  I believe we can love the people of the culture without falling into the sins of the day.  It’s a challenge, one that I struggle with daily, but one that is made possible by Christ’s power working in us.

What do you think?

4 Tasks of the Senior Pastor / CEO

1171403_86953445In an earlier post I wrote about the loneliness of leadership.  One reason leadership can make a person feel isolated is the weight of responsibility on the one who claims to be the senior leader in an organization.  Whether in the business world, in non-profits or churches, there are some things in any organization that must involve the top leadership.

Here are four things the senior pastor or, in a business sense, the “CEO” (Chief Executive Officer) must personally lead or play a major role in accomplishing:

Vision – The senior leader  is the ordained caretaker of the organization’s vision.   The vision may be pre-determined by a board, or in the church’s sense, by Jesus, but all leaders place his or her spin on implementing the vision.  At the end of the day the senior leader is held responsible for seeing that the organization’s vision is attained.

Values – The senior leader must carry out, protect, or shape the culture of the organization. Much of the character of the organization will be determined or maintained by the way this person leads and lives his or her life.

Victories- Senior leader determine what matters to an organization. He or she ultimately defines a win by setting end goals.  An organization cannot do everything and this individual’s leadership determines priorities, initiatives and major objectives to be accomplished.

Velocity –The Senior leader sets the speed by which the organization will operate.  The lead person is in the role of balancing present tasks and future opportunities.  His or her individual pace and expectations of others determines how fast the organization functions, changes, adapts, and responds.

Most organizations will have a board of directors, stakeholders or elders to oversee the organization, hire the senior pastor or CEO and hold title to the organization, but it is ultimately that person’s who daily carries out these four functions.   A senior leader can delegate, form a great team environment, seek wise counsel, or even shirk his or her responsibility, but to fulfill the role of the senior leader effectively there are some responsibilities that rest solely with this position.  Whether or not the senior leader consciously recognizes his or her role in accomplishing these tasks, by sheer position he or she is determining the way the organization performs in these four areas.

Are you a senior leader in your organization?  Do you feel the weight of these responsibilities?  Do you understand your important role in setting these four principles of the organization?

What other responsibilities rest with this position?

What Is Your Leadership Capacity?

What is your leadership capacity?  Do you know when you are in over your head?

I am using the term leadership capacity to describe a leader’s ability to effectively lead his or her organization to accomplish the vision of the organization.  Consequently a leader exceeds his or her leadership capacity when he or she no longer has the ability to effectively manage or lead the organization to reach its potential.  If the organization is growing there will most likely be a time in the leader’s tenure where he or she feels they have reached or exceeded this capacity.

I met with a great leader recently in a new venture that admitted he is overwhelmed with what is happening around him.  He is feeling the weight of leading out of his normal capacity and concerned the organization could get away from him unless he does something now.  I know the feeling and I appreciate this leader recognizing this about his leadership.  That realization is like an insurance policy against his leadership failing.

If you are leading an organization and you feel you are reaching your leadership capacity, consider these steps:

Recognize and admit – Do not be afraid to admit you are over your head. Humility is actually an attractive leadership quality.

Re-evaluate – Are you trying to do too much? Are you standards for yourself too high?  Do you need to reorganize your role or the organization?

Ask for help – Seek wisdom from those who have led longer than you. Find a mentor. Take a class.  Join a network.  One of the values of social media for me has been the insight I have learned from other leaders.

Delegate – Ask yourself what responsibility you could give away or what areas others on your team would be better able to handle. If you are the only team member, seek volunteers to help you bridge the gaps between your leadership ability and the demands of the organization.

Quit if needed
– If you value the organization’s vision enough then be willing to step aside if you are no longer a good fit to lead it. This is not a sign of failure or an indication that you are a bad leader.  Sometimes the organization simply grows in another direction from our passion, skills or strengths as a leader.  (I wrote a similar post about this subject HERE.)

Leaders, is your leadership capacity being stretched?  What are you going to do about it?

Accommodating Versus Ignoring Criticism

In any leadership position the leader will receive criticism at some point.  It is virtually impossible to do everything in a way that pleases everyone.  Even Jesus had critics.  It comes with the territory of leadership.

As a leader, I have learned that there are times with the criticism is dead-on and something I need to hear and other times when I need to dismiss it and continue in the direction I feel God has led me to go.  Knowing when to accommodate the critic and when to ignore the criticism is a careful balance leaders face often.  If I give into every critic I will never complete the mission God has called me to do.  If I never listen to critics I will become arrogant and prideful.

Here are some principles I try to remember so I can balance the two extremes:

Learn something from everything – There is usually something that can be learned even from the harshest criticism, if nothing more than better understanding people.

My ultimate calling is to honor and obey Christ – I try to make sure I am pleasing Him above everyone else.

Find my affirmation in the people to whom God has called me to minister – This is a new principle for me, but one I wrote about HERE.

Consider the person offering criticism – A person with a sincere heart for the Kingdom, my ministry and me personally carries a lot more weight with me.

Be willing to humble myself – The fact is I could be wrong and others could be right.  If criticism is warranted I must be willing to alter my position.

Leaders, how do you handle criticism?

Coming Home To God (Thoughts for a Prodigal)

iStock_000003359196XSmallSo he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20 NIV

One of the finest word pictures in the Bible: God running to His children! Can you say Godspeed?

Jesus told this parable, not so much about a boy, foolish in his youth who squanders away all his wealth and then comes cowering back to an expectant father. Even though that is what occurs in the story, this story is about you and me.

Jesus is describing for us how God feels about His children. If you are a child of God, bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus, through your faith in Him and Him alone to save you, then God will always be ready to welcome you home! God will never give up on His children.  God may discipline you, but you can rest assured He will never forsake you. You are His, and He will wait for you as His own.

Stop for a moment and picture this story as Jesus meant for you to see it. Imagine you are the prodigal child. You have wandered away from the comfort and protection of your Father God. You have wasted your life on wild living. It was fun at first, but then the new wore off and you were homesick. You realized what you had given up. What you wouldn’t give to go home, but how could you? You had traveled so far and your pride was at stake. People would say, “I told you so”. Your friends might even make fun of you. And what about your Father?  How could He ever forgive you for what you have done? Plus, does He really want you to come home anyway?  Would anyone?

Still, anything is better than where you are at now, so you head for home. Before you can even see the front porch…while your head was still hanging low…you hear a sound. It sounds like footsteps. Heavy footsteps. You look up, almost afraid to for fear of what you may see, and you the sight is something you have never seen before!

YOUR FATHER GOD IS RUNNING TO MEET YOU! God, the Creator of stars, is running to greet you, a sinner, and welcome you home. He isn’t coming with a frown or a smirk of anger on His face. He has His arms open wide! He has on a great big smile! He has a loving twinkle in His eye, the kind He always had when He was proud of something you did!

He reaches you and instead of shouting insults at you, He tells you how pleased He is to have you home. There are tears in His eyes! He lets out a shout of joy. He orders a party to be held in your honor! He tells the angels to get the band playing! Gabriel starts up the gas grill! GOD IS GLAD YOU HAVE COME HOME!

Maybe you need to go home today! God is waiting! He’s probably over half way towards you right now! All you have to do is turn around, and head for home!
I hope you’ll invite me to the party!