7 Ways to Respond on Sunday after a Disaster is in the News

Emergency checklist

This was a week (again) where the news was dominated by a natural disaster. Knowing that this blog is read by many pastors and church leaders, I felt led to address the issue many of them (us) will be considering…or at least should be.

How to respond the Sunday after a disaster in the news:

This is often a delicate issue. Unless your church is super large, and probably even then, you won’t be able to respond to every disaster with money and people. Obviously there are disasters every week. Some get more national attention than others. How do you know what to address on Sunday? How do you respond as a church?

Here are some thoughts to consider:

Determine impact on the church – Consider how much this particular disaster is on the minds of the people you pastor and how long it will take to recover from this disaster. That’s not always the same. The tornadoes in Oklahoma have dominated the news. People are saying things like, “Worst I’ve ever seen.” Obviously this one has major impact on people and will be difficult to ignore.

Acknowledge the obvious – After you have discerned the magnitude of the disaster, decide what response you will make. As for this week, considering the Oklahoma tornadoes, it will be difficult not to mention it in a service. It’s on people’s minds. People almost expect you to say or do something. Again, this is not true of every disaster, but when it impacts as many people as this one does, and when the destruction is as devastating, it merits mentioning. We placed something on our website and Facebook almost immediately directing people where they can help. These are times when the church has a specific expectation and calling to respond. Sometimes it will be obvious you need to respond. At other times, follow your heart for people, but if you need confirmation or the discernment of other people, bring a small group together to help you decide if and how to respond.

Lead people to pray – The best thing we can ever do in a disaster…really anytime…is to appeal to the One who holds the answers to the struggles of life. We need to pray. We demonstrate something to people when they see and hear us pray for a situation in the news. They realize the importance of prayer. They are reminded of God’s sovereignty. When the corporate body prays together over something we’ve been thinking about all week we are able to share the burden we’ve been carrying individually. That’s being the Body.

Allow a chance to respond – Again, depending on the magnitude of the disaster, and the way it impacts the particular church where you serve, it might be necessary for you to do more than pray. Depending on the size of your church you may be able to send people (at the appropriate time), but you can always give people an opportunity to give and serve through other organizations. Many churches assume they have to coordinate their own efforts. I choose to rely on reputable groups already on the ground of the disaster with whom we can partner. It eliminates many of the administrative hurdles that get in the way of providing real help.

Preach what God has laid on your heart – I know some who alter their message after a national disaster. When a tornado hit our community, that obviously altered my Sunday message. I knew I needed to address people’s fear and provide hope. I don’t feel I need to respond that every time a disaster happens. If God has already directed my message before the disaster, I know He is sovereign enough to know the timing of the word He placed in my heart and the disaster. I usually preach the message I feel He has already been leading me to deliver. We have to help people move forward after a disaster. While we don’t ignore the pain, we can help them process the fact that there is still much life to be lived.

Have systems in place – This will happen after the Sunday, but if you don’t have them already, use times following a disaster to reevaluate your systems of response you have. If they need improving, use this as an opportunity to do so. Connect with some agencies you can partner with in future disasters. Organize teams to coordinate future efforts. Set written procedures in place that outline how and when you will respond in the future. I have even used a “decision grid” for times like these, which helps us ask questions to determine the best decision to make at the time. It is harder to think rationally when emotions are high after something is in the news all week. Most likely your response will be slightly different every disaster, but it will help make better decisions to have systems already organized.

Keep preaching hope in Jesus – Disasters aren’t going away in this world. If anything, they seem to happen more frequently. I’m not making a prophetic statement (I’m not smart enough for that), but I wouldn’t be surprised if things get worse before they get better. And, one day they will get better. Much better. Until then, we have hope in the One who is hope. Keep reminding people of that truth. We aren’t promised a trouble free world…actually opposite. We are promised we can have faith through any storm, that God is still in control.

Please understand this is an opinion post. In fact, I hope you realize this is an opinion blog. Consider the source. Be intentional. Think through your response. Shepherd the people God has entrusted to your ministry.

I realize there are many seasoned pastors who read this blog. Let us learn from you.

How do you respond following a disaster in the news?

How to Pray for and Respond to Oklahoma

disaster_theater

(I borrowed this picture from the Salvation Army website. Since I mentioned them below I hope they won’t mind.)

Yet another tragedy.

There are no words to describe the scenes we are seeing from the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma. No words.

So don’t say anything. Just pray.

Please, don’t try to provide answers when people ask why. Don’t pretend you know why. Don’t find some “righteous” sounding reason for the devastation. It’s not helpful.

So don’t say anything. Just pray.

Years ago, when I served as vice mayor of my community, we were hit with a devastating tornado that destroyed much of our downtown. I learned that what we needed most was prayer and resources.

How do you pray?

Pray for emergency workers and relief efforts.
Pray for survivors as they recover.
Pray for those without homes.
Pray for those who have lost loved ones.
Pray for community, state and national leaders who will need to respond.
Pray for donations and resources needed to survive and eventually rebuild.
Pray for the vision that will develop as a result of this tragedy.
Pray for the children who will be afraid at school every time it storms for a while.
Pray for opportunities to share hope with people, in the midst of tragedy.
Pray for the churches and pastors in the areas impacted who will be called upon for hope and help.
Pray for a spirit of cooperation among people who have lost so much.

How do you respond?

Unless you are trained in disaster relief, there’s probably no reason to go now. You won’t be much help. Stay tuned for the calls for help when they come…and there will be many in the days, weeks and months to come. Today you can give. Money. That’s what they need.

Here are a few places you can give now:

Red Cross

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief

Salvation Army

Those are usually three of the largest groups who offer support in disasters. There are obviously many others, but make sure you are giving to a reputable group.

Some friends in ministry I trust greatly have started a relief fund for Oklahoma. They are doing it in an easy to track way. Check it out HERE.

Pray and give. It’s the best way to respond to a natural disaster.

Make Sure Your Marketing Matches Your Market

image

A friend and I went to a Reds game recently. It was a cold night for baseball. It had been raining for several days and thankfully stopped in time for the game. But, it made for a very chilly night.

It didn’t stop the stadium vendors from doing their job though. The only problem…I’m not sure their marketing matched their market.

Especially one guy.

It was almost funny. It was obvious he had a routine. A common cheer. A pitch.

“Ice cold beer….BRRRR….Ice cold beer….BRRRR…”.

It was his trademark. He would shake his head everytime he said “BRRR“…

He was good at it too. Convicting. He had the routine well rehearsed.

I got colder listening to him. Every time he did his cheer, I pulled my jacket a little tighter around my neck. I’m getting colder now, just thinking about his performance.

Now, here’s the problem. I wasn’t in the beer market anyway, but his marketing approach probably wouldn’t have motivated me if I was. I didn’t need anything to make me colder than I already was that night. I needed something to make me warmer. If it had been 90 humid degrees in the shade, he would have had a winning approach with beer drinkers. This would have been your best salesperson of the night.

But, as it appeared, he wasn’t selling much that night. Almost nothing. He even seemed discouraged. (Although now I may be reading into this because it fits the illustration.) Either way…sales were certainly down.

I wondered if it were more than the weather…if in fact part of the reason was his cheer.

Anything “BRRR…ice cold…” doesn’t grab my attention as much when I’m already cold.

I don’t know what the warm beer cheer is, but that would almost seem to have been a better one this night. :) Maybe even a cheer for hot chocolate.

It reminded me though of how we “market” sometimes…even in the church.

Sometimes our marketing doesn’t match our market

Okay, I’ll get pushback that the church shouldn’t market. (I love hearing from those guys.) Call it what you want, but we have a message we are trying to tell. We hopefully think about how we tell it. If you don’t then you can ignore this post and I will catch you next time. Marketing is the process of packaging a story in a way that others become interested in it. I think we attempt that every week.

Jesus seemed to share His message in a way the audience He was speaking to could more easily understand. That’s why He used parables. It seems to be why He used a lot of farming illustrations. (They were plentiful in His audience.)

I wonder if we, as a church, need to get better at telling our story…marketing our message.

So, with that in mind, here’s my advice:

Make sure your marketing matches your market.

Make sure your story-telling matches your audience.

To do that, ask yourself:

Who are the people you are trying to reach?

Who are the people with whom you want to share your message?

Who are the people needing to know what you know?

Who are the people needing to believe what you believe?

What do they think like? What are they interested in? What motivates them? What inspires them?

What do they need most? What are their greatest fears? With what do they struggle most?

How can you tell the story in a way that they hear and are motivated to respond?

Again…

Does your “marketing” match your market?

5 Principles of Making Disciples and Enabling Spiritual Growth

growing team

Spiritual growth of believers should be the goal of any church. We are to reach unbelievers and introduce them to Christ, but the end goal according to the command of Jesus is making disciples. It would even make sense then, that as much as we count the offering or attendance on Sundays, if we want to know we are being successful as a church, we have to somehow “count” our success at making disciples.

Yet spiritual growth is a difficult subject and can be hard to measure, because a church can offer the same ministries and attention to the same group of people and get extremely different results.

Right now there are people in my church at 3 stages of spiritual growth:

  • Those that need to mature and are not maturing.
  • Those that need to mature and have stalled.
  • Those that need to mature and are maturing.

I suggest the same is true of your church. We rejoice in the last one. We all need to mature. We love when it happens. If we are not careful, however, we can allow the first two groups of people to discourage us and make us believe we are not doing what God has called us to do as a church.

How can we know we are growing people spiritually?

I don’t know that we can ever know as clearly numerically as we do with attendance or contributions. But, I think there are principles that can help us know we are on the right track to building disciples, for each of the three groups mentioned above. These principles, when understood, can bring a sense of clarity as to whether we are truly realizing the mission of the church.

Here are 5 principles to understanding the process of spiritual growth.

Growth is possible. Every believer has an opportunity and potential to experience spiritual growth. God wants to mature all believers. No one is left out of that plan. If someone is not growing spiritually, there is a reason. Either they haven’t been discipled or they haven’t responded to the opportunities they’ve been given to grow, but opportunity exists for all believers.

People are responsible for their spiritual growth. I am responsible to lead a church that shepherds them, encourages them, instructs and teaches them, but ultimately the believer holds the responsibility of their own growth. That’s a freeing principle, because it keeps me responsible for what I can do, but releases me of the burden of what I can’t do. I can create environments that help people grow, but I can’t make them grow.

Growth occurs best in community. The best spiritual growth in my life and in the life of others I have observed occurs when people are in committed, healthy and intentional relationships with other believers wanting to mature. Iron does sharpen iron. Disciples make disciples. It was the method Jesus used to create disciples. He spent time with His disciples. (At the same time, I have been in groups where some are growing and some are not, but that goes back to principle number two. Remember Judas?) As much as I can, I need to help people who want to grow spiritually spend time with others who want to grow and are growing spiritually. I can then give them tools to use where there time together is suitable for discipleship.

Developing a person’s desire for spiritual growth is key. When a person gets excited about his or her personal walk with Christ, they will want to get to know Christ better. The more they know Christ the more they will want to be like Him. The more people want to be like Christ the more likely they will be to assume ownership of their spiritual growth. So motivating people for the desire to grow becomes a key element in discipleship. This may be done by sharing stories of others who have grown, helping people understand their potential, or continually casting the vision for spiritual growth and maturity, but creating a desire to grow becomes a key goal in disciple-making.

The goal of the teacher/leader of spiritual growth should be to enable people to achieve spiritual growth. Knowing that people are responsible for their growth, and that I can only create environments where that can best happen, helps shape where I spend my efforts in discipleship. Our goal as spiritual leaders should be to introduce people to Christ and God’s Spirit, teach them the truths of faith, and then release them to serve, mature and grow in their spiritual life.

Please understand this is not a formula and principles are not foolproof. I believe, however, that understanding these principles can help us see the process of discipleship as something doable, even “measurable”, if we continually strive to create environments conducive for spiritual growth to occur.

Any thoughts?

5 Steps When You’ve Offended Someone

foot-in-mouth

All of us say things we wish we hadn’t said. We all offend people at times. Everyone knows what it is like to put foot in mouth.

Doing so is common, but what do we do afterwards?

Here are 5 Steps When You’ve Offended Someone:

Recognize that you will offend some people. – Actually, that should come before the incident. Even the most gentile-minded, peace-pursuing people are occasionally offensive. Sometimes the person on the other side of the offense has issues that make them easily offended. Sometimes we just say or do the wrong thing. It’s working to do so less often and never intentionally that should be our goal.

Pursue peace – Our goal should be to be at peace with others, as much as it depends on us. This too should be set, as a goal, before it’s needed, so you’ll respond accordingly when it is needed. Strive not to say or do things which are offensive. This often means learning to think before you speak.

Ask forgiveness and seek to rebuild trust. – Sometimes the best thing a person can do is to say they are sorry. Many times people want to pass blame, make excuses, or wait for the other person to make the first move towards reconciliation. If you know a perceived offense has occurred, put your “big boy pants” on and break the ice of forgiveness. Don’t be afraid to take the blame if it will bring peace in the end. Remember though that trust is built over time, so don’t be “offended” if it is not given to you instantly. You can release your own guilt once you’ve sought forgiveness.

Examine your life. – If you seem to consistently find yourself in situations where others feel offended by you; maybe the problem is you. Don’t be afraid to look at the “speck” in your own eye. Examine areas of your life where you are consistently offending others.

Stay true to God’s plan for your life. – While we should attempt to live at peace with everyone, we should never avoid offending people at the sacrifice of God’s plan for our life. Jesus’ best work was offensive to many. If you are being obedient to God, you will find it offends some (maybe many.) Don’t let that distract you from doing God’s will. And, don’t hide in the offense you made. Move forward.

What do you do when you’ve offended someone?

7 Ways to Help an Introvert Engage in Meetings

power meeting from above

I am asked frequently how to engage introverts on a team in meetings. I guess because I am an introvert, and have written extensively about the subject, people assume I know how to engage someone completely different from me, but who also happens to be an introvert. We aren’t all alike…you know. :) Although it is a common perception that all introverts are reserved, constantly quiet, and unsocial, introverts are a diverse group, with varying degrees of introversion. My best advice for leaders about engaging people into meetings would be to consider everyone different. When it comes to meeting dynamics, everyone has something to add and does so in their own way. It takes me time to understand the team. Part of my job, if I’m leading a meeting, is to analyze the people in the room, as much as I can, before the meeting begins.

But, I understand. Many introverts don’t engage in meetings. They keep to themselves, especially in large group settings. They aren’t as easy to get to know. And, yes, I can even be that way, especially if I’m not in a leadership position where I have to force myself out of my introversion.

So, here’s my attempt to answer some of the questions about engaging introverts in meetings. Keep in mind, we aren’t all alike, even though we share the introvert characteristic, but try a few of these and see if they improve your meeting dynamics. And, just to be clear, some of these can help extroverts make better in meeting decisions too.

Here are 7 suggestions to help introverts engage more:

Give them time to respond – This is huge. Introverts typically reflect inward, so they respond only after they have thought through their answer. This is a great characteristic if used well, because it usually means their answer has already been tested in their own mind. They are likely to be some of the most valid options on the table if you give the process time to work.

Ask specific questions…ahead of time – Give them a problem and time to solve it and most introverts, if left alone, will enjoy the challenge. If you want them to brainstorm effectively, tell them exactly what you are going to brainstorm about prior to beginning.

Let them respond in writing – When I know there are numerous introverts in a group, I will usually find a way to let them put something in writing. I have even allowed them to text or email me during the meeting. It’s amazing some of the suggestions I’ve received when an introvert doesn’t have to say it aloud.

Don’t put them on the spot – If you call on them for an immediate response you might get an answer if you do, but it won’t be their best answer and it will often keep them from ever sharing again. Introverts are often not huge fans of being singled out to answer a question. They may be better prepared if you ask a question, let people respond who have instant answers (usually the extroverts), then call on the introverts later in the process.

Separate them from the most extroverted – If there are too many extroverts in the group, introverts and even more likely to shut down communication. Try putting a group of introverts together, give them plenty of time and thought provokers to stimulate conversation, then allow the process to work on their time. You may be amazed.

Give them an assignment they can control – Many introverts (this one included) can perform to task if we are put in the seat of responsibility. It could be speaking to a group or working the crowd at a banquet, but when it’s purposeful and I have an assigned responsibility, and can control how I do it, I’m more likely to perform like an extrovert.

Express genuine and specific interest in their ideas – Introverts, like all of us, love to be respected for our thoughts and ideas. If you want an introvert to share more, remind him or her how valuable they are to the team and how much their thoughts are needed. This is best done before the meeting starts.

Some of these suggestions might help with your church Sunday school or small group meetings also.

As already stated, this isn’t an exact science. We are all different. Knowing introversion, however, as I do, it’s a little easier for me to land on these points. Don’t overlook the introverts on your team as if they have nothing to add to the discussions. They do. They will simply share that information differently. They may not talk as much as some or seem to have as many opinions, but when they do, it will often be golden.

Are you introverted? What tips could you share?

You might read THIS POST and THIS POST for more posts on introversion.

7 Ways to Offer Criticism that Actually Gets Heard

CRITICISM. Magnifying glass over different association terms.

I’ve written numerous posts on criticism previously. Two of the more popular are 5 Right Ways to Respond to Criticism and 5 Wrong Ways to Respond to Criticism. All of these have been written from the perspective of the leader receiving criticism.

There are times, however, where someone needs to offer criticism. In fact, the best leaders and the best organizations are made better by learning to receive, process and respond to criticism. No one particularly likes criticism, but when it is offered properly it can actually improve life for everyone. You see things others don’t see. You have experiences others don’t have. As a leader, I personally value healthy criticism, even when it is initially hard to hear.

The problem is often getting that needed criticism heard. Working with dozens of leaders each year, I can testify that much of the criticism received is never taken as seriously as it probably should be. We all know there are times someone shares criticism simply to “blow off steam”. They are angry and want to express their displeasure. Some people are only known for their criticism. Some people share criticism simply out of selfishness; considering no one else in their complaint. In my experience, when it is determined that one of these is the case, the criticism received is rarely considered as useful or valued by leaders.

How do you keep criticism that may be helpful from being drowned out by a perception that it is non-helpful criticism? That’s what this post is about. You can have the best advice for someone, but if it’s delivered poorly, it will almost never be heard.

Here are 7 ways to offer criticism that actually gets heard:

Recognize and compliment the good – My mother used to say, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Make sure you take a bigger picture approach when offering criticism. Most likely you are criticizing something small in the overall scheme of the organization, so think of the good things that are happening or have happened in the organization. Think of the good qualities of the leader. Start there. Compliment first. Some even recommend the “sandwich approach”. You start with praise and end with praise with a little criticism in the middle.

Be specific – If you are going to criticize, at least make sure the recipient knows exactly what you are talking about. Guessing almost always leads to misunderstandings. Don’t hint at your problem or cover it over with ambiguities.

Offer suggestions for improvement – If you are thinking there is a better way, share it. If you haven’t thought of how to improve the area of your criticism, spend some time thinking about it before you criticize. When you think, do so from the perspective of the organization’s vision and the individual vision of the leader. It’s going to be hard for a leader to accept criticism that doesn’t mesh with the vision he or she feels called to achieve.

Choose words carefully – Kindness goes a long way. If the person you are offering criticism to feels you don’t even like them or support them, they are not likely to hear what you have to say. Be nice. That’s a good standard anytime, but becomes a strategic move when offering criticism. Also, don’t criticize people or make the criticism personal. Criticism will almost always be rejected if the person receiving it feels they (or the team they lead) are being attacked. Talk less about the who and more about the what.

Have a vested interest – It’s hard to receive criticism from people who really aren’t interested in the overall vision. For example, if you tell me you’d “never attend a church like the one I pastor in a million years”, I’m less likely to value your criticism about the music we sing. (And, that’s happened…more than once.) If it’s obvious you love the vision, you’ll be more welcomed to critique the methods by which people are trying to attain it.

Be humble enough to admit you may be wrong – You might be, right? Unless it’s a clearly spelled out Biblical principle, then it is subject to interpretation. Yours might be right or it might be wrong. The willingness to admit that fact will go a long way towards your criticism being considered and valued.

Take the personal preference test – Check your heart for why you are sharing the criticism in the first place. Before you offer the criticism, ask yourself if you are really offering this criticism for the good of everyone or if this is simply a personal preference. It’s okay either way, but be honest with yourself and others enough to admit it. In fact, if you do this test appropriately, some of the criticism you think you need to offer…you may decide you don’t need to offer after all. The less you are seen as offering criticism that only benefits you, the better the criticism you do offer will be received.

Do you want criticism to be heard? Here are 7 suggestions.

What would you add?

3 Challenges for the Church Planter

Challenge Defined

When I’ve answered the same questions numerous times, I feel there may be a need for a post. Recently, I’ve spoken with a dozen or so church planters, or those wrestling the call, several each week, and the same issues come up every time. I want to share some thoughts based on my personal experiences planting two churches. These are usually transferable to all church pastorates, but especially planters.

Here are 3 challenges for the church planter:

Finances – I get asked if my established church will be a “strategic partner” in a church plant about once every couple of weeks. I get it. I really do. We don’t have any extra money right now, but church planting takes money. It is great if your mother church can support your budget or you get numerous churches to contribute. Don’t turn down cash. You’ll need it. Lots of it.

But, I always offer a reality check here. The money will always be tight. There will never be enough. It’s in very rare circumstances this is not true.

My strong word of encouragement is to strive to rely less on outside help and more on those God has called you to minister with in the church plant.

When we planted, both times, we challenged the people building the ministry to fund the ministry. And, it is a challenge. It means you’ll often be discipling people to give who aren’t accustomed to giving. But, you’ll need disciplined and fully invested people. If they have their money on the line they’ll do almost anything to make the plant work. As much as possible, build your ministry around the people in the room. Their generosity will often determine your ability to grow a healthy church. Plus, it’s good discipleship to build into the church’s DNA.

I know. That’s a hard word, isn’t it? But, look at it this way, the time you spend jumping through hoops for a few dollars from a denomination that often come with multiple strings attached, you can spend building maturity in your people who will support you financially.

Marriage – Men and women are different and will react differently to the move and to the stress of planting. I’ve found it can be an excellent balance if the two are in sync with each other and communicating well. You should both be equally called, but your initial enthusiasm may not be the same.

One thing I’ve noticed, and cautioned many planters, is that the wife’s emotions may (probably will) respond differently. I’ve always found Cheryl to be slower to acclimate emotionally to the new place of service. She can know it is where we are supposed to be. Her faith is often even stronger than mine. But, her heart is more likely to be tender longer towards the place we left. I have to be careful not to assume she’s as excited everyday as I am.

I’ve observed many planters, especially those with young children, while they are experiencing the thrill of a new calling, their spouse is changing diapers during the day. If the planter isn’t careful, totally unintentionally, he will appear to over-emphasize his role and diminish the wife’s role. (That could be vice-versa depending on the roles in the plant.) This can happen just in language or the things you celebrate each day. Don’t get so distracted by the plant that you aren’t equally excited when your 18 month old learns a new trick.

It is important to remember each spouse’s role is equal in importance and value in the process of planting.

Location – I talk with so many who feel they are called to church planting, but can’t discern where they are supposed to plant. Many are looking for a location. A specific address. The exact right building, in a certain city, on the right side of town. I get that too. You want to know where God wants you to be.

Unless you have clear direction or clear indication not to go somewhere, my advise is simply to plant where you land. Seek opportunities that appear to be open doors, pray for clarity, but if God doesn’t intervene or interrupt, plant. Plant where you land, where you see a great need, where your heart seems to take you. You can follow your gut if you’re following Jesus.

I learned this principle in a very practical way. At one point, I felt my “calling” was to plant a church in New York City. Cheryl and I love the city. We had heard the great need. (The need is great.) We visited the city to pray. I walked the streets of the upper West Side of Manhattan and talked with God. I said, “God, if you want me to plant a church here, give me an overwhelming love for these people.” In a rare time of hearing clearly from God, I sensed God say, “Ron, (I love that He knows my name) as long as you have a heart for me you will have a heart for people; wherever you are.” I believe God released me to plant…plant where there are people who need to be reached.

I think God may call you to an exact location. He may even give you a clear address. He may have one exact building in mind. But, many times, He may give you some latitude in your selection. Certainly in the precise location within your city. People seem to need Jesus everywhere I go.

We actually switched sides of town this way. In both plants. An opportunity for meeting space came available that we didn’t expect. With this previous “New York” encouragement from God, as a planter, I felt freed to follow opportunities as they came rather than wait for God to write something in the sky. We moved quickly. It changed our focus area, some of the church demographics, but both have proved to be definite wise moves in the years that followed.

Are these helpful?

What challenges would you offer in church planting?

7 Leadership Paradigms Needed for Church Growth

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I speak with churches everyday who want to grow again, but nothing they do seems to work. Many say it’s a vision problem, but I disagree. The church may not be living it, but we have the clearest, best defined vision of anyone. (We are to make disciples.) The obvious problem to me of these church is they aren’t really doing anything new. They do the same things they’ve always done, maybe tweaking some minor aspect, but for all practical purposes, it’s the same.

But, honestly, that’s not the primary reason for a lack of growth, in my opinion. I have learned that if you want to have an culture susceptible and open to growth, there are some common paradigms necessary. You have to think certain ways. In most every situation, an absence of certain actions or mindsets on the part of leaders keeps the church from moving forward.

What are some of those paradigms?

Here are 7 paradigms needed for church growth:

Lead with leaders – Of course you need followers too, but most people are looking for leadership, especially about things about which they don’t know. In any group you’ll have a few who are ready to move forward with the changes needed and a few who are opposed to any change you bring. The rest of the people are looking for leadership. Lead with those who are ready to move in a positive direction.

Prioritize your time – You can’t do everything or be everywhere. Let me say that again. You can’t do everything or be everywhere. That doesn’t ignore the expectation placed on you as a leader, but it does recognize your limitations. By the way, the quickest way to burnout and ineffectiveness is to ignore this one.

Never waste energy – When something is working, put fuel into it. All cylinders go. That makes sense, right? Momentum feeds momentum. Yes, in keeping the previous one that means you’ll have to ignore a few things to do the very best things. But, usually the most energy will be in a few key places at a time. Never fail to capitalize on those important moments in time.

Embrace change – You have to live in the tension of change if you want to experience growth. Change is never popular with everyone, but when you resist it, you are resisting the opportunity to grow. More of the same may be comfortable, but it seldom produces the excitement necessary for growth.

Make hard decisions – Don’t be naive. Growth brings change. Change brings momentum. And as exciting as that can be not everyone will be excited about it. If you are going to achieve the vision you’ll have to be willing to stand the test of time. That won’t be easy. With some decisions you make you’ll be choosing who buys into the vision and who doesn’t. Be willing to make the hard decisions and you’ll keep the church open to idea of growth.

Build healthy teams – You can’t do it alone. You can probably control a church that’s not growing. You can control people who don’t think for themselves. But, if you want to grow, especially grow long-term, you’ll need to surround yourself with healthy people who build a healthy team environment.

Refuel often – I find the more we are growing and the more change is occurring, the more I have to get away and gain perspective. Renew. Recharge. Sometimes even re-engage. I can’t lead for growth if I’m drowning in the demands of the present.

I don’t know that this is an exclusive list, but this is a good start. Which are you missing?

What would you add?