Would Regionalism Work for the Church?

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I was in a community program recently talking about regionalism. 

Websters defines regionalism as: 

1 a: consciousness of and loyalty to a distinct region with a homogeneous population 
b: development of a political or social system based on one or more such areas

2: emphasis on regional locale and characteristics

This particular gathering was a regional leadership development program sponsored by regional economic development groups. We were representative of several adjoining counties trying to decide how we could work together better to promote the greater interests of everyone in the region.

We could promote each others activities for tourism. We could share information that helps each of us better compete globally. If one company is a better fit for another county than for ours, we could suggest the other county. We could realize that what is good for one county is good for the entire region. 

Simple stuff but huge realities were shared. 

People in economic development are thinking regionalism and it was fun to put my business and former political hat back on again. 

But I couldn’t help but think, if people in economic development are thinking regionalism…

Should churches?

Would it even work?

Could churches do a better job in their regions if they came together for a common good?

I recognize some of the fears and hesitancy towards regionalism. The mixing and perhaps confusion of messages. The conflict of styles and traditions. The threat of a loss of individuality or control. The uniqueness of cultures.

I’m not suggesting it would be easy. Nothing really good ever is easy.

But, is regionalism something the church should consider?

That’s all I’m asking.

Maybe we could start by asking questions such as…

What are our shared values?

What are common goals?

What are initiatives we can do together?
 
How can your church help my church?

How can my church help your church? 

Regionalism. 

Worth considering for the church?

Or am I bringing too much of my business background into the church again? 

Just wondering.

7 of the Hardest Paradigms I Had to Learn to be an Effective Leader

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One of the hardest parts of leading for me has been the things I’ve had to learn or do that may have been contrary to the way I would have naturally done them.

For example, I like to be in control of my surroundings. I don’t like the feeling of being out of control. There have been several incidents in my personal life which have shaped that in me as a person. Yet as a leader there are many times I don’t have the privilege of being in control. To some that may sound like the opposite of being a good leader. Learning to empower people, however, has proven to actually be a better leadership model for me.

So I decided to share some of the hardest paradigms I have had to learn in order to be effective as a leader.

Here are 7 hard paradigms I had to learn to be an effective leader:

I had to develop the ability to say no more than I get to say yes. I love to say yes. It’s easier. It makes people happier. It’s such a more positive word. And, I’m a positive person — the glass is always half full for me — three-fourths even. But, I’ve learned that always saying yes makes me very ineffective as a leader and eventually leads to my burnout. How healthy is that for our team?

I have to live with sometimes being unpopular. The natural tendency is to believe that the leader is well known and, frankly, well liked. I’ve learned however that every decision I make seems to make some people happy and some not so happy. I’ve even made some people angry — with some of the decisions I have made — even some that in time proved to be the best decision.

I have to move forward sometimes in uncertainty. I’ve never been able to have all the answers before a decision has to be made. That would totally remove the faith factor and it would stagnate us. I’ve learned to be an effective leader I have to be willing to go into the unknown.

I had to get comfortable challenging mediocrity. If you don’t know, you can ruffle someone’s feathers if you challenge the way they’ve been doing something. That includes if what they are doing isn’t working and they’ve “always done it that way”. But, I’ve learned that as a leader it’s part of my job to challenge us to improve — in all areas. Granted, sometimes we can push too hard or too fast, but it’s incredibly difficult to recover from complacency.

I had to lower my pride and admit I can often be wrong. I came into leadership, as most leaders do, believing I had some answers to offer. And sometimes I do. But I’ve also learned that my team often knows more than me. In fact, if I surround myself with the right team — that statement would be — my team always knows more than me. At least in the individual areas they lead. I have to yield to them and empower them for us to achieve our maximum potential.

I had to come to a reality that I couldn’t be everywhere or do everything. As a creative, my mind has a tendency to wander. If I’m not careful, I’ll try to be too involved in everyone else’s work and the work I’m supposed to do suffers. I want to help the discipleship ministry, the mission ministry, the music ministry, and the administrative ministry of the church, and every other ministry — in an in depth way. Granted, I need to be involved at some level, and part of my job as leader is casting vision for the entire church, but micromanaging never produces healthy or the best results. Disciplining myself not to always have an opinion has proven to be a more effective form of leadership.

I had to realize that sometimes the best thing to put on my calendar is rest. I’m from a generation and a family history of work. Rest doesn’t come without discipline for me. How can doing nothing be a good thing? I am wired for it to seem counter-productive to me. I’ve learned, however, that without proper rest, I’m eventually very ineffective as a leader. There have been days — extremely busy days — where the best decision of my day was to stop take a nap and started again. Needing proper rest is true of days, weeks, and seasons in order for my leadership to remain effective.

Those are some that come to my mind. I’m sure there are others.

What paradigms have you learned that have helped you be a more effective leader?

2 Things We Don’t Talk About That Leaders Desperately Need

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This is a guest post by my friend Jonathan Pearson. Jonathan is the Orangeburg Campus Pastor at Cornerstone Community Church and Assistant Director of The Sticks Network. He is the co-creator of MillennialLeader.com, an online community for young leaders. His book Next Up releases today!

2 Things We Don’t Talk About That Leaders Desperately Need

One of the things we hear about everywhere right now is dieting and exercise. Turn on any info commercial or look at any magazine and you’re going to see a variety of different programs, products, and fads designed to get you “shredded” or “ripped” in just a few weeks or months.

If you’ve ever tried any of these brilliant, cure-all inventions, you’re probably like me and you’ve been left disappointed and slightly mad at yourself that you spent your hard earned money on that pill or that book or that program (again).

Several years ago a hot new weight loss pill came out that promised (at least in the commercial and the larger letters on the bottle) that it would help anyone who tried it to lose weight and look better without changing their diet or exercising. Being someone that’s always looking to try new things, I gave it a shot. Thirty days later, I gained 3 pounds because I had quit thinking any about what I was eating because I didn’t want to “change” anything.

I failed at that weight loss venture and people fail at fad diets and exercise routines because there is no short cut. Any thing worth having requires 2 things in order to get it…

Conviction and Consistency

I said it like this in my book, Next Up,

Consistency requires conviction. In order for us to do something consistently, we have to have a conviction that the end result is worth it.

The reason that many leaders fail to make the necessary changes in their lives and in their organizations isnt because they lack good ideas, but because they lack conviction and consistency. They lack the conviction that what they think needs to be done HAS to get done. Making changes in our lives and in our leadership requires that we are consistent with our actions and that consistency comes from a conviction from within.

Solid changes don’t happen from fad diets or the latest leadership book, they happen from people and leaders that are consistent in their actions and help bring about that change.

Leader, people are watching you to see if you have the conviction that the vision is worth the process. They’re watching to see if you’re consistent in your effort to make lasting change.

There’s no fad. We just have to do it the hard way. Little by little. Victory by victory.

Read more about topics like this in Jonathan’s book Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make. To find out more about the book, go to nextupbook.com. To find out more about Jonathan go to JonP.me.

Good leaders sometimes allow a little chaos and confusion to prevail: Here’s Why?

Teamwork crossword

I was in a meeting recently and someone defined a leader as one who provides answers and direction to a team. 

I understood their concept. I disagreed with the application. 

In fact, I have a different theory.

Good leaders sometimes allow a little chaos and confusion to prevail…

In fact…

It can be best for everyone.

It often provides the best discoveries.

It promotes buy in.

It fuels creativity.

It fosters teamwork.

As the team wrestles together for answers great discoveries are made — about the team and the individuals on the team. 

If the leader always has everything clearly defined — is always ready with an answer — then why does he or she need a team?

The Biggest Stumbling Block in Sustaining Growth

Proud

It’s the biggest stumbling block to sustaining growth.

In my opinion.

It often happens during times of success.

You can have all the right systems, momentum and motivation — won’t matter.

You can have the best vision — still can happen.

You can surround yourself with the greatest team — just as likely to occur.

I’ve seen it far too many times.

The biggest stumbling block in sustaining growth…

Is foolish pride.

I once had a prominent pastor tell me he had survived every power struggle in the church. He looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve faced my biggest opponents. There is not one person in this church who can oppose me now.”

A few years later he was voted out of the church.

When a leader starts to think…

I’ve got this.

Look what I’ve achieved.

I’m in control.

Look at me.

Nothing can stop me now.

Watch out!

The day of destruction is drawing near. It’s just a matter of time.

Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord. (Obadiah 1:4 ESV)

Guard your heart leaders. Guard your heart.

Remember Where You Came From : One key to leading organizational change

History

There was a saying when I was growing up an older generation used often — I don’t hear it as much anymore.

“Don’t forget where you came from.”

And, if you were one of my relatives — talking to me — you might have said it with emphasis.

“Don’t forget where you came from — boy!”

I think there’s a good leadership principle there too.

“Don’t forget where you came from.”

An organization will have different leaders. Different styles. Different approaches.

But, it should never forget where it came from.

The church where I pastor has a 105 years of history. Most of those were before me. :) (103 of those years.)

We’ve seen tremendous changes and tremendous growth in the two years I’ve been here. I’m honored. Pumped. Encouraged.

I’m convinced, however, that one of the reasons we’ve grown is that we’ve tried not to forget this principle.

We have held numerous celebrations of the past. We hung banners in our halls celebrating the decades long gone. We invited past leaders back to celebrate milestones with us. I consistently remind people this didn’t start with me.

If you are attempting to grow in an established environment and culture, you need to celebrate from where you came.

Celebrate the past.

Celebrate the past leadership.

Celebrate the triumphs.

Celebrate the pain.

Okay, maybe celebrate is a tough word for the painful times, but certainly remember what the church was able to overcome.

I watch too many leaders who think they can turn change on a dime ignoring all that happened in the past. That’s especially true if the most previous leader left in more difficult times. It’s sometimes easier to create new energy if you can ignore the past. I’m not convinced, however, that it’s the healthiest or best way.

Leadership may be able to move that quickly, but people usually can’t. They need closure. They need time. They need to remember — and for their leaders to remember — from where they came. Those times were important monuments in their life.

Not only has living this principle worked well for my leadership, I’m personally convicted it’s the right thing to do.

Remember where you came from — boy. (Or girl)

The 4th “C” of Adding Healthy Team Members

Handshake and teamwork

There is a fourth “C” to finding good team members.

I have discovered it the hard way.

You’ve possibly heard of the 3 C’s of finding the best team members. I think Bill Hybels is often credited with them. I agree with all three.

Character
Competence
Chemistry

Bill Hybels is a genius leader. I agree with all of them.

But, I believe there is a fourth “C”.

It may be semantics. Some may say it’s covered in chemistry. But, I think it’s unique.

The fourth “C for me is Culture.”

That’s right.

Culture

I’ve hired people I like personally — we had good chemistry — they were even friends — but we found out we didn’t belong on the same team. We see things differently. Our culture preference is different.

One of my close pastor friends leads so much differently than I lead. He’s a good leader. He leads a healthy church, but his style is different. It creates a different culture.

I hope he would say the same for me. I strive to be a good leader. I attempt to lead a healthy church. But, I’m different. It creates a different culture.

Some people will fit better under the culture my friend’s leadership creates. Some people will fit better under the culture my leadership creates.

That’s not even to mention the cultural individuality of the churches we both lead that have existed long before either of us became pastors. Or the unique settings and community of the churches.

Culture matters.

And, so what’s the purpose of this post?

Hopefully the application of this speaks for itself, but just to be clear.

When you hire — consider character, competence and chemistry.

But also consider culture. Is it a good fit?

When you consider where to work — consider character, competence and chemistry.

But also consider culture. Is it a good fit?

In a future post, I’ll try to consider some ways to discern the culture and help others do the same.

The Four Seasons of Leadership

tree at four seasons

There are four seasons of leadership. Misunderstanding this can lead to frustration.

Four seasons:

Some plant – Some leaders sow seeds. They are used to start something new. As a church planter of two churches, we planted a lot of seeds. I love knowing those churches are still thriving, Kingdom-building churches. God allowed me to be there in the beginning, but others are leading them now.

Some water – Some leaders are used to create systems that allow progress to continue. They build healthy teams. They create good structure. They help things grow.

Some pull weeds – Some leaders identify problems and provide solutions to address them. They make the hard changes. They restructure. They clear the path to progress.

Some harvest – Some leaders get to see the fruition of the harvest. There is a skill to capitalizing on the foundation of planning and working others have invested. They celebrate well.

Granted we plant within every season. We have to in order to ensure future growth, but we must, again, in my opinion, spend considerable and concentrated energies in the middle two seasons if we hope to sustain a healthy, long-term harvest.

(In my current role, in an established, older church, I’m finding myself watering and pulling weeds as some of my primary leadership season. It’s not that we aren’t seeing a harvest — we are seeing huge growth — but the real harvest is still months away, in my opinion.)

It’s great when you get to do all of these in one season of leadership, but my experience has been we only get to enjoy one — and at most a couple — at one time. Sometimes they run concurrently, back-to-back to each other, but it’s rare — and difficult — to lead all four at one time.

Don’t be afraid of your season. All our necessary.

What season are you currently in these days?

Four Reasons the Great Commission Becomes the Great Omission in a Church

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This is a Guest Post by Thom S. Rainer. Dr. Rainer is president of Lifeway Christian Resources. His blog is fast becoming a “go to” resource for church leaders. I respect him as a leader, pastor, father and fellow introverted friend.

Four Reasons the Great Commission Becomes the Great Omission in a Church

In my latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, I highlight several symptoms that can lead to the death of a church. These symptoms can become sicknesses themselves, sicknesses that lead to death. Some churches begin with a great heart and a great effort toward the Great Commission. But the methods used become the focus rather than the Great Commission itself. As a consequence, the Great Commission becomes the great omission.

There are a number of New Testament passages where Jesus sends out His followers. The text that is used most often to refer to the Great Commission is Matthew 28:19–20: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The imperative in those verses is “go.” But as we go, there are several sub-commands. We are to make disciples. We are to baptize. We are to teach.

Those are a lot of action words.

But the deceased church, somewhere in its history, forgot to act upon the Great Commission. So they stopped going. And making disciples. And baptizing them. And teaching them.

It stopped depending on Christ. Why? Here are four common reasons.

1. “Going” in Christ’s power requires effort. Certainly the results are dependent upon Him, but obedience is work. And obedience in His power means that we are praying to Jesus so we can reach others. That requires an “others” focus. That requires us to look beyond ourselves. That requires us to get uncomfortable. That requires us to go. The deceased churches simply gave up on going.

2. Obedience to the Great Commission faded. It usually faded gradually. It’s not like one day the church was sending out dozens of members in the community and it suddenly stopped. Instead the decline in the outward focus was gradual, almost imperceptibly gradual.

3. The church had “Great Commission amnesia.” That really may be too kind. Perhaps that description implies that the members were not at fault, that they no longer had the ability to recall or know what they were supposed to do. But they really knew better. They just used amnesia as an excuse.

4. Most of these dying churches had “Great Commission disobedience.” They chose not to remember what to do. They chose their own comfort over reaching others with the gospel. That is why the autopsy results concluded that the Great Commission became the great omission.

I am an obnoxious optimist about churches in America. I know many are struggling. Indeed, some are dying; about ten churches in the United States die every day. But I still remain an optimist because I see God’s work in so many congregations across our nation.

The essence of a “great omission” church is that the congregation has lost its passion to reach people. Typically, the efforts of those churches are pointed toward taking care of the members’ preferences. When the preferences of church members are greater than their passion for the gospel, the church is dying.

Churches can reverse the painful decline toward death. They can avoid becoming another casualty subject to an autopsy. Indeed, church members can decide to stop asking how the church can meet their own preferences, but ask how they might serve Jesus no matter what the cost.

Then the church is no longer a great omission church. She is then a Great Commission church.