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12 Things You Should Do When Something Goes Right

You’ve always heard that the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

Well, many times as leaders, we only try to oil the squeaky things… the things that are going badly. The more badly they go, the more attention we pour into them.

When things go badly, we call meetings, we hold accountable, and we take action.  Many times we kick the cat; knowing that we have to hold someone responsible for something that went terribly wrong (because we know that it’s our butt on the line at the next elder’s meeting).

But maybe we should stop being so stinking reactionary all the time.

Sure… you have to hold accountable; and you have to deal with the bad.

But when was the last time you handled something urgently when it went really, really well?

Ouch.

Dan Rockwell (aka The Leadership Freak) contrasts how leaders handle the failures and the successes; and gives your twelve pretty simple ways that you can actively act on the great things that are happening all around you:

  1. Call “what went right” meetings.
  2. Send emails to higher ups bragging about the team.
  3. Instill urgency.
  4. Identify behaviors that produce achievement and create success.
  5. Make decisions quickly. Action follows decisions. When leaders don’t decide, everyone waits.
  6. Identify expediters, multipliers, and progress makers.
  7. Assign responsibility for useful behaviors. Keep doing…
  8. Devise plans to keep success happening.
  9. Elevate accountability. “Let’s review our success plan next week.”
  10. Reward if it’s happened before.
  11. Have tough conversations. What needs to continue? How could we be better?
  12. Take action quickly and persistently until the next milestone is reached. Don’t ease up.

Read more from Dan here…

A good leader celebrates success just as much as they learn from failures.

How are you doing in this area?

Todd

The Three Minute Dare

I dare you to watch this three minute video. Give it your full attention. Then we’ll discuss.

Well… how hard was it?

While this video may be kind of a parody of our current culture, there is much truth in it.

And how we communicate as leaders.

It is VERY hard for many to concentrate on anything for very long.

For me, it’s not so much hard to concentrate.  I can do that.  I have trouble unplugging and relaxing.

For those of us in the church, we do have to be sensitive to how people communicate today.

While many people are communicating best in snippits (i.e. 140 characters or a single picture); we are asking people to give us their undivided attention for an hour and fifteen minutes on Sunday mornings.

For many people, it’s hard.

In the day and age of short; we still preach, uninterrupted for 30, 40, even 50 minutes, trying to pop the word ‘gospel’ in there as many times as possible.

And that’s all good.

But understand, it’s a stretch for many people.

People with phones buzzing in their pockets.

It’s killing them.  You’re killing them.

What am I suggesting?

I have no idea.

But here are a couple of things, just off the top of my head:

1.  Why not try this week to tweet your sermon.  Take this week’s message, however long it is, and find 20-30 tweetable moments.  Wake-up call:  if you can’t find 20-30 tweetable moments in your sermon… well… that’s not a good omen.

2.  Take 30 minutes and record 3-5 short youtube videos to engage your Sunday attenders throughout the week. Just a webcam and 30 minutes required.  Post them to youtube; and add them to facebook and twitter.

Look.  I’m not suggesting you compromise the gospel.

I’m not even suggesting that you cut the time of your sermon back by 20% (although I hear a roaring crowd from the congregation on that one)  :)  I’m just asking you to consider how your people are communicating and consuming; and try to fit your message into that mold so that you can have a greater impact on their lives.

After all… isn’t that why you got into this job?

Todd

Pastors who are Jerks

Have you ever met a pastor who is a real ‘jerk’?

Professor of Philosophy Eric Schwitzgebel has an actual academic theory about jerkiness. After much study, here is Schwitzgebel’s working definition:

The jerk culpably fails to appreciate the perspectives of others around him, treating them as tools to be manipulated or idiots to be dealt with rather than as moral and epistemic peers.

In other words… try this on for size:  Are you surrounded by fools? Are you the only reasonable person around? Then maybe you’re the one with the jerkitude?

Youch.  I think we all feel like this from time to time.

All drivers are idiots.

All airlines and every single one of their employees are inept.

My board (substitute ‘staff’, ‘elders’ ‘attenders’) just don’t get it.

Schwitzgebel writes a fascinating, rather short piece on jerkitude.  It’s worth the read.

But let’s cut to the chase.  Are YOU a jerk? Am I?

Here’s what Eric (I’m tired of typing out his last name) says can help you determine if you’re a real jerk.

(My guess is… you are).  [see what I did there?]

How can you know your own moral character? You can try a label on for size: ‘lazy’, ‘jerk’, ‘unreliable’ – is that really me? As the work of Vazire and other personality psychologists suggests, this might not be a very illuminating approach. More effective, I suspect, is to shift from first-person reflection (what am I like?) to second-person description (tell me, what am I like?). Instead of introspection, try listening. Ideally, you will have a few people in your life who know you intimately, have integrity, and are concerned about your character. They can frankly and lovingly hold your flaws up to the light and insist that you look at them. Give them the space to do this, and prepare to be disappointed in yourself.

Done well enough, this second-person approach could work fairly well for traits such as laziness and unreliability, especially if their scope is restricted: laziness-about-X, unreliability-about-Y. But as I suggested above, jerkitude is not so tractable, since if one is far enough gone, one can’t listen in the right way. Your critics are fools, at least on this particular topic (their critique of you). They can’t appreciate your perspective, you think – though really it’s that you can’t appreciate theirs.

To discover one’s degree of jerkitude, the best approach might be neither (first-person) direct reflection upon yourself nor (second-person) conversation with intimate critics, but rather something more third-person: looking in general at other people. Everywhere you turn, are you surrounded by fools, by boring nonentities, by faceless masses and foes and suckers and, indeed, jerks? Are you the only competent, reasonable person to be found? In other words, how familiar was the vision of the world I described at the beginning of this essay?

If your self-rationalising defences are low enough to feel a little pang of shame at the familiarity of that vision of the world, then you probably aren’t pure diamond-grade jerk. But who is? We’re all somewhere in the middle. That’s what makes the jerk’s vision of the world so instantly recognisable. It’s our own vision. But, thankfully, only sometimes.

It seems to me that jerkiness is really some deviated form of selfishness. And if that’s the case, I am, more often than not, guilty as charged.  :)

What about you?

Todd

 

Who’s Your Newman?

Every church leader has their Newman…

And you know exactly who he/she is.  :)

You know… the person you find annoying.

The person who’s always foiling your plans.

The person you just don’t care for.

Thing is… you have to work with ‘Newmans’ every week.  Maybe they’re on your staff.  Maybe they’re on your board.

Hopefully you’re not married to your ‘Newman’.

Who’s YOUR ‘Newman’?

And more importantly… how do you deal with ‘Newmans’ in a ministry context?

OK… go… tell your story.

Todd

 

How to “Hit a Home Run” in Your Next Sermon Series…

Today’s post is by Dr. Charles Arn.  Charles is a Visiting Professor of Christian Ministry & Outreach at Wesley Seminary.  I think you’ll like his practical tips for your next series…

Here’s how to be guaranteed that listeners will eagerly anticipate your next series of messages, waiting to hear your words—and God’s—on the selected topic.

First, some background…

A few years ago the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps asked me to research the attitudes of incoming 18-, 19-, and 20-year old recruits toward religion and church.  I interviewed young men and women across mainstream America.  One of the questions I asked was, “What is your opinion of church?”  Two words came back over and over: boring andirrelevant.

“Relevance” is one of the hallmarks of an effective, contagious church. Attendees who find their church speaking clearly and creatively to life issues not only return, but bring friends. “Relevance” is found in the words and rhythm of songs…in the style and appearance of facilities…in children’s Sunday School and topics in the adult classes.  But perhaps more than any other area, relevance must be found in the sermon.

In his book, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary, veteran pastor James Emery White talks about how to make preaching relevant: “The most important thing has to do with your sermon topics. They should address people’s life issues and questions about the faith… That means you try to bring as much of the counsel of God as you can to them through the door of their interests.”

How do you learn the interests, concerns, and needs of your congregation so that you can connect God’s Word with their world in a relevant way?  Rather than guess, why not ask them?

HERE’S HOW… 

Insert a 3×5 card in each church bulletin or program for the next several weeks, and point it out during the service.  Explain that one of your goals, as pastor, is to help the Word of God to be understood and applied in people’s daily lives so that it is relevant to both those in the church, and those in the community.  Describe the purpose of the card—to list key life issues they are facing at the moment.

Give listeners time to think about their responses to three questions, and then write them down on the card. At the end of the service attendees should drop their completed “answer cards” in one of several marked boxes on their way out. The cards should, of course, be anonymous.

THE QUESTIONS ?

  1. What do you wonder about?  What do you just not understand—or wish you did understand—about how life works?  Is it “Why bad things happen to good people?”  Or, maybe “Does prayer really work?”  Perhaps you wonder about “What happens when you die?” or “Why do innocent children suffer?”  If more than one thing comes to mind, write them all down.
  2. What do you worry about?  What keeps you up at night; causes your heart to beat faster, your anxiety to rise?  Perhaps it’s a financial issue.  Maybe a relationship gone bad.  Is there realistic hope in your worse case scenario?
  3. What do you wish for?  If money were no obstacle, time or other commitments could not stop you, what is your dream?  What would you love to see, or do?  Maybe travel somewhere. Have lots of money.  A particular job, or a special relationship?  Dreams are powerful motivators.  What’s yours?

After the service, collect the cards.  Repeat the process for the next two weeks so that people can add additional items, and those who did not attend the previous week can contribute.

On your computer create three different documents (one for each question) and transcribe the responses.  (Asking a secretary or volunteer to help may be a better use of your time.)

Then, review the responses to each question and look for common themes.  Identify general response categories for each question and make tic marks (IIII) for similar answers.  Finally, identify the most frequent responses to each question.  Once you have identified what people wonder about…worry about…wish for… you have tapped into relevance.

Your congregation will be interested in the results.  On the Sunday after your last survey, share the list and frequency of the responses.  A visual illustration or printed document will add interest.

Explain that you will be taking these responses seriously, doing research, and sharing messages in the coming months that speak to these issues.  If you are organized enough, print a list of upcoming dates in which the service will address these topics.  Encourage members to bring a friend or relative on the day(s) which may be relevant to them.

AND THEN…

Ask a group of creative people to help you plan the services.  Use the entire service to focus on the issue.  Consider drama, a panel discussion, personal testimonies, video clips.  You have an hour to address the issue.  Remember that the sermon is not the message…the service is the message.  Make it a comprehensive and engaging growth experience.

Use the series as an opportunity to invite past visitors, parents of VBS kids, inactive members, and other groups with whom you have a connection.  And in this context, communicate to all who come that Christ’s “…grace is sufficient for all your needs”  (2nd Cor. 12:9).  That’s another name for relevance!

Read some more great thoughts from Charles here…

Stupid Things Leaders Say When They’re Trying to Initiate Change in Churches

I love this.

It’s from Carey Nieuwhof (who write some great things, by the way… follow him).

These are seven stupid things that leaders say when their trying to lead change.  These hurt your cause, not help it.

I’ll list them here… head over to Carey’s site for some additional commentary and insight.

Here we go:

1.  These changes are great. I can’t understand why you don’t like them.

2.  God told me this is what we should do.

3.  We’ve got this all figured out.  Just trust me.

4.  What happened in the past is completely irrelevant… focus on the future.

5.  Everyone just needs to get on board right now.

6.  I know people are leaving… who cares?

7.  This is a bullet-proof plan.

I’ve heard all of these at one time or another.  Sometimes they are not public, but are rather batted around at the staff/leadership level.

But word gets out.

And your attitude shines much louder than what you are or are not saying publicly.

Have YOU said any of these stupid things before when leading change?

How’d that work out for you?

:)

Would love to hear your comments!

Todd

Monday Mornings are prime-time for wimpy pastors

Do you love Mondays?

If you’re like most leaders, you either love them or loathe them. Either you can’t wait to get in the office, or you wish you could stay in bed for a few more hours.

As a pastor, it’s easy to base your Monday morning on what happened yesterday.  Did you have a good Sunday? Did God show up at your services?  Did you get an anonymous note that pummeled you into a bad mood?

Well, it’s Monday… time to get going. I hope you’re excited.

My friend Brad Lomenick gives some great advice for getting started on a Monday morning, or any time really.  He says these are ways that you can stop being a wimpy leader.  I would add that these are great ways to kick-start your motivation level as you start the week.

You see… Monday is an easy day for wimpy pastors.  In fact, a wimpy Monday morning leader will accomplish little, and probably go home at the end of the day no better off than when they unlocked their office door.

Don’t be a wimpy leader today.

Let’s get going:

1.  Set some scary standards. Brad suggests you set a goal that is nearly unattainable.  It should scare you just a little.  Maybe it’s a few phone calls you need to make that you’ve been putting off.  You know what it is (primarily BECAUSE it scares you).  Set that goal.  Accomplish that thing today or this week. Grab it by the (insert whatever you want here) and take it down.

2.  Allow for failure.  Sometimes you will fail… even on Monday mornings.  That’s ok.  In fact, allow for it.  Failure is sometimes the only road to success.  Sometimes you have to find out what doesn’t work before you can find out what does.

3.  Make some decisions. Today. Get off the fence and make some kind of decision today. Start small if you need to.  But wimpy leaders don’t make decisions.  Especially this morning.

4. Reward innovation.  This comes out of #2 to be honest.  Much innovation comes out of persistent failure.  When you or someone on your staff pushes through and innovations, have a little party.

5.  Pursue the right opportunities.  Right now.  Should you read another blog (after this one) or make a lunch appointment with a key leader?  Should you do something comfortable and fun, or write a thank you note?  Do something today that will make a difference tomorrow.

6. Learn to delegate.  You can’t do it all.  You have to trust others to help carry on the vision.  If you don’t, you’re the ultimate wimpy leader… you’ll be stuck where you are for a long while, spinning your wheels, wondering why you’re not going anywhere.

So… will you be a BOLD or WIMPY leader today?

How are you doing so far?

Todd

PS – Read more from Brad here

When sons and daughters come out of the closet…

I have four kids. None of which are gay.

But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought throughout the years what I would do if one of my children sat my wife and I down one day and gave us the news that they were gay.

How would I respond?

More and more pastors and church leaders are having children ‘come out of the closet’.  In fact, I’ve heard more and more stories of this happening in just the last few weeks.

Of  course the biggest story came right as the SBC got ready for their annual meeting. Pastor Danny Cortez leads a Southern Baptist Church in La Mirada, CA. The table was a little turned for Cortez.  He actually changed his views on homosexuality and told his church the he no longer believed in the ‘traditional teachings regarding homosexuality.” Shortly thereafter, his 15 year-old son declared that he is gay.

Other pastors have also had to deal with how to deal with a gay son or daughter, brother or sister, friend, family member, or even staff member.

John MacArthur has his advice for all of us if this should ever happen to us:

(Ironically, the “Grace to You” logo is over his shoulder while he gives his advice)

In another article hitting the interwebs the same day, Larry Tomczak encourages a little softer approach that doesn’t include disassociating yourself with them (although I’m not sure how this script he gives would go over… it may have the same effect):

“My son/daughter, we love you more than you can imagine, and God allowed us as a couple to unite in a procreative act that brought you into this world. Your thinking is totally unacceptable to God and us. It dishonors our Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save us from our sins. It is contradictory to His eternal plan for marriage, which has been upheld for over 5,000 years of human history. Therefore this ‘coming out’ needs to be a coming out of deception and, like the prodigal son, returning to the God and Father who created you, loves you and has a wonderful destiny for your life. Have we made ourselves perfectly clear?” (link here)

So… how would you deal with a son or daughter who comes out as gay?

Or… how did you respond when your child came out as gay?

Would you Matthew 18 them? Would it cause you to change your thinking about gays? Would it make you reconsider your theology?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Oh, they tell me of an unclouded day…

Two of my essential internet services have suffered outages this past week.

First, Google Drive went down for nearly an hour last week.  It was like a sign of the apocalypse if you read the tweets during the outage. Never mind that the service if totally free for most users, the fact that you could not access your documents was maddening even to the most mild-mannered interwebs users (that would be me).

Today, Feedly is down… supposedly due to a mass DDoS attack, and that the perpetrators are saying they won’t stop the attack unless Feedly pays them a ton of money (ransom, I think they call it). Feedly has said no, and the site is still down this morning (keeping me from all the great content I wanted to blog about… that’s why you’re reading this!)

But my thoughts have turned to this.

When parts of the ‘cloud’ go down, even for a few minutes, people start to panic.  They start biting their nails and jumping off buildings.

But what would happen if your church stopped existing?  And we’ll give you the luxury of closing down for a week.

Let’s be honest.  It’s Wednesday.  If your church closed up shop, how many people would even know about it before Sunday (unless you posted it on Facebook)?

What kind of uproar would there be in your town, city, region if you just closed up shop and called it a day?

Would people be sad? upset?  Would people even notice?

Is your church making enough of a difference in people’s lives that they would notice?

Here’s what I think would happen in many churches (though probably not yours) if they shut down today… Wednesday, June 11, 2014.

No one would notice.

And when people arrive at the building on Sunday morning (four days from now) and find a sign on the door that there would be no services this week, many people would lament that they could have slept in longer.

Question is… how is your church helping transform the lives of people TODAY?

Tell the truth… if your church went offline, if your cloud failed, who would notice today? Who would be sad?  Who would be outraged?

The moral of the story:  Make them notice.  Make a difference.

I’m so thankful for thousands of churches that do this each and every day. You are doing God’s work… and you are appreciated. You are making a difference.  You are winning the game.  Heaven is a bigger place because of you.

Don’t lose your focus today. Keep on, my friend.

Todd

The 6 Hour Staff Meeting That Turned into 12 Years

Yesterday, I wrote a post about overconfident church leaders.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 9.48.14 AMI cannot think of a better example (please excuse me for naming names) than Jack Schaap.

Schaap is the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, IN… a HUGE church grown over the years by his father-in-law (the also cocky) Jack Hyles.

Both of these leaders never had their ‘kabaragoya’ moment.

Jack can be a poster child for what happens when a church leader gets overconfident.  (I said yesterday, that over-confidence’s twin siblings are manipulation and intimidation.  Both are at play here as well).

Overconfidence leads to arrogance and sin.

Schaap was sentenced last year to twelve years in jail for transporting an underage girl across state lines to have sex with her.

Now, Schaap’s attorney’s are asking for the sentence to be lightened or thrown out.  Their reasoning: They think the sentence is harsh; and that, if the truth be told, the young girl did have ‘extensive sexual experience’ and was ‘sexually aggressive’ toward the pastor.  I mean… who could resist?

When sentenced, the judge gave Schaap more than the minimum sentence.  And here’s why:

Schaap called a staff meeting at the church after word leaked of his relationship with the girl.  The meeting lasted SIX HOURS. During the meeting, Schaap denied any wrongdoing and talked to his staff about loyalty. Schaap also fired a staff member who brought some of the initial information to light.

That six hour confidence, manipulation, and intimidation meeting turned into a 12 year sentence for Schaap.

What was going on in Schaap’s head in that meeting?  Firing someone he knew was telling the truth.  Manipulating his staff.  Lying overtly and categorically. And pointing the finger questioning loyalty, when he knew all along he was the one being disloyal to his family, church, and Lord.

This is very powerful lesson in the power of sin; and lack of accountability.

When was the last time someone disagreed with you?  Did you automatically question their loyalty?  Did you make them feel like they were not a part of the team because of the disagreement? Watch out.

Have you found yourself telling little fibs here and there to make yourself look better?

Do you engage or distance people that are in legitimate places to hold you accountable?

Be very careful.

Overconfidence is a killer. While your sentence may not be 12 years, it will be significant if you don’t take steps now to correct it.

Todd

Read more here…

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