Some time ago I read Andy Stanley’s book Deep and Wide. It’s a must-read for every ministry leader. In one chapter he poses 5 questions that are deeply telling about a church’s direction and impact. At your next staff meeting, pose these five questions and give your staff the freedom to answer honestly. Better yet, email them a few days prior to the meeting and ask each staffer to record his or her answers. Then, bring the answers to your meeting.
Below I’ve slightly modified each since you don’t have the context where they appeared unless you’ve read the book.
- As a church are we moving Kingdom priorities forward or are we simply meeting?
- Are we making a measurable difference in our local community or simply conducting services?
- Are we organized around a mission or are we organized around an antiquated ministry model inherited from a previous generation?
- Are we allocating resources as if Jesus is the hope of the world or are the squeaky wheels of church culture driving our budget decisions?
- If we ceased to exist as a church, would the community miss us (my question)?
What other key questions do you think we should regularly ask about our ministry’s effectiveness?
“I just learned 5 probing questions to ask key leaders in my church.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)
Every pastor needs what I call “true north” values, core convictions we refuse to compromise even when external pressures tempt us to do so. Such values are like the difference between a compass and a gyrocompass. A simple compass points to true north because it relies on magnetic north. Unless, that is, you bring a magnet close to it. This post will help you clarify your true north values.
Photo by dtwash
Even a small magnet can cause the compass to give wrong directions. Something external to it, the magnet, affects the north arrow so that it gives a false reading. Metaphorically, the magnet made it ‘compromise.’ For some so called ‘values,’ all it takes is criticism or the oppositional voice of a significant board member (an external force) to cause a leader to compromise.
In contrast to a compass, a gyrocompass best models core values. For navigation, ships use gyrocompasses, devices that combine a compass with a gyroscope. They find true north from the earth’s rotation which is navigationally more useful than magnetic north. Additionally, a gyrocompass’s strength lies in its ability to keep true north even if magnetic material is placed near it. In a parallel way, these deeply imbedded values are not those we glibly speak about. Rather, they are ones that stand up under severe external or internal circumstances that would tempt us to compromise. Daniel and his three friends best exemplify these values.
I love dogs. We’ve owned as many as four at one time. One currently makes her home with us. Lulu (in the picture on the left) is a combination of a cat, a rat, and a dog. She’s as quick as a cat and looks like a hybrid rat-dog. She was a stray when we took her in “for just a few days until we find her owner.” We became the owners. On the other hand, P-nut was our registered Chihuahua. I had the agonizing job of taking him to the vet last year to have him put to sleep. But he was a funny doggie. He was missing most of his teeth. And sometimes his lip got stuck on his remaining molars so that he sported an Elvis look (no kidding). When I reflect about our relationship with our dogs, I’ve learned these five lessons from them that apply to me as a pastor or to any leader.
Leadership lessons from dogs.
- Consistent: They are pretty much the same day in and day out. They don’t get moody. They’re not angry one minute and kind the next. They “show up” the same way every time I come home: they are glad to see me.
- Leaders should be consistent with their followers. Your followers and/or staff shouldn’t have to wonder who’s going to show up each day. They shouldn’t have to wonder if you’ll be in a good mood or a bad mood.
- Grateful: When I give them a treat, they are always glad to get it. Their tails wag, their body shakes with glee, and they truly appreciate that chicken sliver or doggie biscuit I toss them.
- Leaders should be the most grateful people in every church, ministry, or organization. After all, we get the privilege of leading and influencing others toward a cause greater than ourselves. God puts leaders in places of leadership and when He does, gratefulness to Him should fill our hearts.
- Baggage laden: This one may seem odd, but it’s true. When we picked up Lulu off the streets when we lived in California, we had no idea when or where she was born. All we knew was that she was skittish and skinny. We loved her, yet if I raise my hand too quickly, she cowers. Apparently her prior owners beat her.
- Every leader carries his or her own baggage. We don’t emerge from childhood without some broken places. Healthy leaders aren’t afraid to discover their broken places. When leaders become self-aware of them, they seek help to repair them and realize that God can redeem them for good.
- Content: Both P-nut and Lulu modeled contentment. I don’t believe they had a worry in the world. I believe they knew that all their needs would be met. So, they didn’t fret about where their next meal or comfy blanket would come from (they have several).
- Leaders trust the Lord that He will provide, care for, and guide them in any circumstance. Hebrews 13.5 reminds us that … “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
- Restful: Both dogs knew how to rest. In fact, they took multiple naps every day. When they got tired, they slept.
- Good leaders know and practice Sabbath rhythms. While they certainly work hard, they also get enough sleep, take days off, take vacations, and quiet their souls before the Lord daily. As one friend often said, ” We must Divert daily… Withdraw weekly… Abandon annually.”
If you have a dog, what lessons have you learned from it?
“I just learned 5 leadership lessons that a dog can teach us.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)
Familiarity blindness is a malady that infects us all. It happens when we become so familiar with something that we no longer consciously see it. In fact, the brain does this all the time so it doesn’t have to work as hard. If you drive to church or work the same route each time, you no longer pay attention to familiar buildings, signs, and other landmarks along the way. Although our eyes still see them, they’ve become so familiar that the brain doesn’t pay conscious attention to them. However, when something is out of place on your drive, a detour, for example, you immediately pay attention. Familiarity blindness is common in many churches today. In this post I give 7 ways to cure it.
Familiarity blindness afflicts many church ministries. We get accustomed to doing things a certain way, become so familiar with our surroundings, or slip into a ministry rut that we become oblivious to their staleness or their need for change. It happens in marriage as well. We can become so familiar with our spouses that we can take then for granted and not treat them as kindly as we once did.
Jesus described this phenomenon in his response to people who knew Mary and Joseph and couldn’t believe that He was a carpenter’s son. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” (Luke 4.24, NIV) Those from His hometown had become so familiar with Him that they missed seeing Him as the Messiah.
Since this problem easily carries into our ministries, how can we cure it? Consider these ideas.
- Invite someone with fresh eyes to visit your church service. Perhaps a fellow pastor, a consultant, or a neighbor. Afterwards ask them to give you honest feedback about their experience, both good and bad.
- Evaluate the order in which you present the various parts of your worship service. Do you do the same thing in the same order each week? Could someone who has gone to your church for a while tell you the order without even thinking about it? If so, you may want to consider changing up the order. Surprise and novelty helps people pay better attention.
- Go and visit another church. What do you experience that feels disconcerting, unclear, or unnecessary? Do you see similar barriers in your own church? Go back to your church with the same evaluative eyes and make necessary changes.
- Spend time with new people in your church. Ask them what they liked. Ask them what they would change. Ask them to be honest. Pay attention to what you learn. Build on the good. Modify the not-so-good.
- Evaluate your annual church calendar. Does your church or its ministries do the exact same events and ministries year after year? Certainly repeating events that work is good. But, do you do some events just because you’ve always done them? Do they have the same spiritual impact they once did? Do you need to drop or modify them?
- Does your leadership culture invite honest feedback and evaluation about your ministry? Do you regularly evaluate ministry initiatives and events? Or, is the planning process over when the event is over? Learning cultures will ruthlessly evaluate what they do so they can do better next time.
- Pray. Though last in this list it is not least. Ask the Lord to show you what you’ve become blind to.
What would you add to this list to help cure familiarity blindness in a church?
“I just learned 7 helpful ways to cure familiarity blindness in my church.” (to tweet this quote click here)
Every year I attend the Willow Creek Leadership Summit at a local video venue with over 50 of our leaders. This year did not disappoint. It was probably the best Summit for my team and me. In this post I list the top 13 quotes from the speakers. If you’ve not been to a Summit, make plans to attend one. It’s a great investment in leaders.
Top GLS quotes:
- The next generation’s good ideas seldom come from the previous generation.
- Replace ‘how’ with ‘wow.’ (He’s referring to encouraging people with their ideas rather than discouraging them with, “So how in the world could we do that?”)
- My greatest contribution to the world may not be what I do but who I raise.
Lazlo Bock, senior advisor Google:
Juliet Funt, CEO Whitespace at Work:
- We all need white spaces which are strategic pauses between activities
- The four thieves of productivity are drive that leads to compulsion, excellence that leads to perfection, information overload, and activity that leads to frenzy.
- 4 crucial whitespace simplification questions:
- Is there anything I can let go of?
- Where is good enough, good enough?
- What do I truly need to know?
- What deserves my attention?
Markus Buckingham, author and consultant:
- The two biggest areas that motivate employees:
- At work I know what is expected of me.
- At work I have a chance to use my strengths.
Sam Adeyemi, senior pastor Daystar Christian Center, Nigeria
- Great leaders change other people’s view of themselves.
- Leaders don’t attract people they want but people like them.
Angela Duckworth, author of GRIT
- The Definition of GRIT: sustained passion and perseverance for long-term goals.
- Two key indicators you have grit: you are a hard worker and you finish what you begin.
Gary Haugen, CEO International Justice Mission
- Be careful of being more impressed with bad men that our good God. (He’s referring to the temptation to get caught up in all the bad things happening around us while forgetting that God is bigger.)
If you went to the summit, what were your biggest take-aways?