Church planting

Leading at Elevation Part 3

IMG_7330You’ve reached your goal, pulled off that event, launched that initiative and otherwise climbed that mountain as a team. Congratulations! Enjoy the view. Take in the moment. Give God glory and thank those who helped you get there. Now, how do you get down? What do you do with the fact that more than 2/3 of all injuries and deaths on peaks such as Mt. Everest happen on the descent?

Here are 4 suggestions for leading well on the way down…

Plan and prepare for coming down well before going up. Talk as a team about what it will look like after the goal is reached or event is over. What will it mean to the overall organization and the leadership team? What do you hope to accomplish and learn? What about the more practical matters… do we come down the same way we went up? Who will clean-up, tear-down, pack-up and otherwise “leave no trace” in order for the next expedition to launch? Don’t be caught off-guard by over-looking the age-old axiom… “What goes up, must come down.”

Take your time. Gravity has a way of encouraging a rapid descent. Resist the temptation to rush down and move on to the next “big thing.” You went up as a team, now come down as one. Watch your step. Be sure to monitor the descent… how is everyone doing along the way? What was their view from the “top?” How are they feeling as they come off the “high?” Divers know this reality in reverse as they explore the depths of the ocean… you can surface too quickly and become very ill, even die if you don’t take your time, giving your body time to adjust at every change in depth.

Leave no trace. If you packed it in, pack it out. Consider how your success will impact other teams, goals, events or initiatives. Talk about this with your team and other teams. Don’t clutter the route that others will be traveling and spaces others will be using. Do your part to clear the way, leave it as you found it or improve it when possible by cleaning up any other messes that may have been made by you or anyone else.

Unpack (and repack) together. Finally, debrief intentionally. Gather shortly after everyone has made it off the mountain. Ask questions, a lot of questions. Then, gain perspectives. Did we accomplish what we set out to accomplish? What went well? What didn’t? What surprises were there? What caught us off-guard or unprepared? How do we improve? How do all of these lessons help us pack for the next trip together?

Reaching great heights as a team is only half the journey. Come down off that mountain as well or better as you gained it’s summit and enjoyed it’s views.

Leading at Elevation Part 2

images-6What does it mean to lead at elevation? Whether you have made game-changing connections with your community, added staff, merged with another ministry, been given more responsibility, increased your budget, remodeled environments, launched a new ministry, or made any other significant gains or changes… what does it take to lead well in the midst of it all?

Leading at Elevation takes prayer. Prayer is the difference between a good thing, a great thing and a God-thing! A God-thing is something that, unless God shows up, it is doomed to fail. Prayer acknowledges the deeper reality that all our efforts are in vain if not rooted in the will and glory of God. As God said through Zechariah to King Zeruababel, “So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6, NIV)

Leading at Elevation takes honest communication. Create an environment that encourages honesty at every turn and every gain in influence. The truth that should be embraced is that new heights bring new challenges. It is not only normal to be a little nervous about it, it is a good thing to stay humbled by it. Talk about the fears, ask the tough questions and don’t settle for easy answers as you sort through a changing array of emotions that accompany new heights!

Leading at Elevation takes preparation. Plan your route (knowing there will be detours). Scout out the trail and establish clear goals as to where you want to be and by when. However, remember this… the wider your influence, the farther your reach, and the higher your elevation, the more you will need to prepare, plot, pack, encourage, equip, train and keep track of your progress. Remember, this doesn’t mean MORE of everything. Pack light. Don’t pile on. Less is more when it comes to going the distance on any trail, especially those that lead you higher and higher.

Leading at Elevation takes work. You’ve heard the old saying… “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” Clearly, everyone isn’t. The way of greater influence for Christ is rockier, the path narrower, incline steeper, air thinner, commitment greater and the critics louder. Keep hiking, keep climbing and climbing and climbing. The view will be worth it.

IMG_7323Leading at Elevation takes evaluation. You’ve heard it said, “You cannot manage what you cannot measure.” Take time to take stock in where you are at and how well you are reaching your goals along the way. Task someone, perhaps an outside coach, with keeping you on track as you go. Consider them your “Sherpa…” an indispensable guide for your expanding expedition!

Leading at Elevation deserves celebration. Whenever you have reached and exceeded a goal, it’s worth rejoicing with all of those who helped the team get there. Acknowledge the effort and the organizational win. Take the time to enjoy the view. This, in itself, is a form of worship and God is worthy of it!

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You can lead well at elevation. Determine to grow together in Christ as you gain influence and reach new heights for His glory and the good of others. Let me know how I can help you and your team reach new heights in healthy ways. I would love to partner with you!

 

CONNECT 1-2-3

UnknownConnecting with people rarely just “happens.” The best of relationships take purpose and practice!

Use the CONNECT 1-2-3 worksheet to help focus you (and your small group’s) desire to connect with others for Jesus Christ. The concept is simple…

Connect with 1 person who isn’t connected to Jesus. People who are searching for Jesus are all around us. They may or may not know it yet, but He is the answer. Fortunately, we know He is the way, truth and life. Begin to pray for and purpose to connect with them for Christ. Show a genuine interest in them, their families, their hobbies, hopes and hurts. Invite them to join you in a small group, maybe even worship or other event soon. Most importantly, tell them about your own journey of faith in Jesus.

Reconnect with 2 people you have lost contact with. There is no “auto pilot” for healthy relationships. Life happens and, when it does, things aren’t the first things to suffer. Relationships must be purposed. It may be a little awkward at first. However, they may be waiting and wondering themselves, “What happened?” Be honest. Keep it simple. Call them. Text them… get together soon for coffee to catch up. Whatever you do, be intentional about reconnecting with them and encouraging them in Christ.

Encourage 3 people who need it. People have either just been, are, or are about to go through something that will leave them in need of a friend. Be that friend! We are reminded in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

Finally, pray for those “divine appointments” and be as ready as you are grateful for every opportunity God brings you to build relationships that connect people with the Lord Jesus Christ! There are no “chance meetings” for the follower of Jesus.

Get your free pdf here Connect123

Check out the Free Resources page for more downloads including the CONNECT Guide example for guiding people from guest to engaged member!

6 Ways to Help Your Pastor Preach

images-3Do you want your pastor to preach better, deeper, more relevant, maybe even faster? Good luck with that last one! And, who even knows what “better” means? Still, you can be sure that most pastors genuinely hope to continue to grow as a communicator of God’s Word. This is where you come in! Consider 6 things you can do to help your pastor grow as an effective preacher and teacher of God’s Word…

Give them time. While pastors should be disciplined not to rely on the old “Saturday night special” (and blaming the Holy Spirit for it!), they should also be given ample time to prepare daily. Partner with them to carve out some specific time, preferably early in the week (maybe Monday-Wednesday, 8am-noon), for sermon prep. Make sure this is understood by the congregation and that exceptions are truly the exception. Great sermons aren’t simply downloadable or come via inspiration in between hospital and home visits.

Give them space. Is the church pastor’s office really conducive to hearing from God, going deep in His Word, and weaving in real-world application? It very well may be. Still, consider encouraging them to get out (local coffee shop, park, etc) to avoid what can be the “rut” of weekly study. Inspire creativity and even collaboration by encouraging them to get out there.

Give them resources. Do they have a “book allowance” or “professional expense?” Staying up and well-read on what God is doing and saying in the world (both secular and sacred) is vital to communicating well. Two great resources are LOGOS Bible software and Right Now Media. These are both amazing resources for insight and inspiration for all of your church leadership. Consider them as investments, not as expenses.

Give them a break! This an “insider’s tip.” Anytime before or immediately after preaching is NOT the time to bring up the leak in the nursery bathroom or ask them if they can remember to visit your neighbor’s bankers aunt with a hang nail. Are these really pastoral duties, anyway… or duties you and others are just as “called” and maybe even better skilled to perform? Regardless, your pastor needs to be focused solely on communicating God’s Word when it’s time to do so. If they find themselves in conversation with anyone, may I recommend first-time guests? Keep your pastor in “the zone” before and after they preach or teach.

Give them grace. It isn’t easy to hit a home run every week. If your pastor is being true to God’s Word and doing their best to communicate it well… then encourage, encourage, encourage! Besides, what is was a “swing and miss” to you, may have been a “home run” to someone else. That’s just how the Spirit works. Besides, not every message is all about us.

Finally, pray for them. We saved the best for last. If you want your pastor to preach more effectively, pray for them more fervently! Pray for them emotionally, physically, relationally… for their spouse, kids, etc. Pray they will hear from the Lord, gain greater insight into God’s will and Word. How about praying for them to grow as a Christ-follower themselves? The enemy does all he can to distract and discourage your pastor and lead team. Guard them with the power of your prayers! Gather others to pray over them with you throughout the week and before/after they deliver a message to you and others.

Help your pastor preach, teach and lead in the example of God’s Word!

When the “Big Deal” is done…

Unknown-4What do you and your teams do when that “Big Deal” event or ministry initiative is over? Whether it’s the craziness of Christmas or the rush of the Resurrection, a lot goes into the praying, planning, preparing and promoting of times like these. Now what? What’s next for you and your teams?

Here are 3 suggestions for when the latest “Big Deal” in your ministry or organization is done…

Follow-up. The reality is, it’s not over… yet. Whatever it was, it was about moving and motivating people. In my world, it’s about moving them towards and motivating them in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ… kind of a big deal! Ask yourself and your teams… “Who is it that we need to follow-up on and touch base with?” Follow-up on those guests that came for the first time or those extended family members that came because a relative wouldn’t take “No!” for an answer. Send that text, email, letter… maybe a “pop-by” visit to make sure they know how valuable they are to you and how much you appreciate them being with you. Face it, as a good leader, you won’t really be able to relax until you do.

Oh… and who needs an extra “Atta boy!” or show of appreciation? A lot of people had to go the extra mile with you to pull it all off. They came early, stayed late and were fine with being “behind the scenes.” Thank them! Gratitude is pure momentum and just plain nice.

Follow-through. How did it go? What went great that you can celebrate and use as an example for the future? What went good that you can improve on so that next time, it goes great? What was cringe-worthy? Where did you “drop the ball” or otherwise “swing and miss?” Gather your teams and don’t miss out on moving forward in an informed way.

“Fall-out!” Paid or volunteer, you and your recruits need a break. If you don’t, something’s gonna give and someone may just fall apart. You may not be able to take a week off, but you can be strategic about slowing things down. Jesus employs this strategy time and again throughout the Gospels after teaching the masses, working miracles or dealing with critics. He got away to the garden or mountain to get re-centered with the Heavenly Father and/or follow-up up with His team of disciples. A strategic retreat in pace and programming is just what your team needs for everyone to recharge and regain drive and creativity towards your greater vision and in preparation for the next “Big Deal!”

Finally, plan in advance for all the above. See it as part of the process, the bigger picture. The “Big Deal” was never really the point. It was a means to a greater end of making disciples and growing influence for Jesus Christ and the expanse of His kingdom. That was and will always be the “Big Deal.”

When They Just Don’t Get It

imagesWhat do you do when people don’t get it? You’ve prayed, visioned, planned, packaged and promoted it as a team, but still people aren’t getting the message, let alone getting on board. What’s your next move?

Here are 7 Questions to ask when they don’t get it…

1 – Did we say it simply enough? We may have gathered next-level leaders and detailed a strategic plan for whatever our next big thing is. However, if we can’t communicate it in simple terms, people won’t get behind it. How can they? Complicated is not what people need more of. Less is more when it comes to most visions, messages, and the best-laid plans. Don’t dumb it down. Just keep it simple.

2 – Did we say it long enough? Just because we said it once, doesn’t mean everyone heard it, won’t make it go viral, and won’t automatically spark mass revival. It takes time for most visions and messages to sink in. They may not have gotten the message… yet!

3 – Did we say it often enough? Sometimes even when we know where the fish are, we still have to cast and recast to get them to bite. People are busy and, believe it or not, aren’t focused solely on your agenda. Shocking, I know. Communicate what’s important to your organization through multiple platforms on a consistent basis for greater impact.

4 – Did we say it creative enough? Keep your bait fresh, maybe change the color of your lure or depth of your line? Let others join you in saying it with you or even say it for you. Gather creative people and draw from the successful strategies of others as you seek to motivate people to get the same message, at the same time and move towards a shared goal.

5 – Our we leading by example? Sometimes people can’t hear our message because our actions (or inactions) are speaking too loud. If we aren’t living it, we can forget it. No one can join us in something we are merely talking about. Actions speak louder than words. Lead it by living it.

6 – Is it the right thing? Could we have gotten to this point and, yet, overlooked this little detail? Yes. We simply don’t always get it right. Perhaps we put on blinders and we are the ones not getting the message? Sometimes we “swing and miss” when it comes to everything from a point in a message or speech, a principle for leadership practice, an event or initiative, maybe our methodology or even target audience? Consider that, from time to time, we need to be the one to change not merely what is said and how we say it, but what we are doing or where we are going with it. Maybe it was the right thing at one time, but here and now, it isn’t? Be as willing to change as you challenge others to be.

7 – Maybe they simply don’t want it? We should never jump to this conclusion quickly. Still, after patiently and passionately attempting all of the above, only to find that the fish just aren’t biting and your fellow anglers aren’t really into fishing with you… it may be time to change locations. Please, whatever you do, don’t stop fishing! Perhaps you may need to find another spot, fish a different way and/or go after a different kind of fish? You won’t know until you try. However, make sure you have “fished out” the hole you are in first and that the One who called you to be “fishers of men” is leading the way.

The most important message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. More than “getting it,” people need to give up and be gotten by it, by Him. Above all, let’s make sure we live and lead this message as Christian leaders.

 

Lead like there is no “it.”

images-13“If I could just find it, that one thing that will turn this thing around!” We’ve all wished this, maybe even dropped everything and focused on finding “it” or “pulling it off” in hopes that “it” will be the thing that helps us break through and take things to the next level, never to return. Here’s a reality check for all of us, there is no “it.”

Here are 4 ways to Lead like there is no “it…”

1) Get “it” out of your own head. Life and leadership are a process. It is faith, hard work, risk, creativity, passion and perseverance… all wrapped up in the amazing grace of the Lord. Stop with the tunnel vision that has you hanging your hopes on any one thing to create success for you and your organization.

2) Stop saying “it.” Be careful over-promising and under-delivering when it comes to that “next big thing” you’ve got going. By all means, plan, pray and promote it with enthusiasm. However, be careful not to give the impression that any one event or initiative will make or break your vision. This is rarely the case.

3) Get passionate about it. Embrace the process with great excitement. Enjoy the journey and celebrate the little wins along the way with others. Talk about your ongoing goals, your mistakes and outright blunders, as well as areas you hope to grow in together over the next quarter or year.

4) Find another and another “it”. Always be planning on and for something that will help you BE better as a team at realizing your vision. As John Maxwell has challenged, “Leaders see first and see farther.” 

The real “it” is the culture that you are creating and the lives you are transforming. For ministry leaders this is all about making disciples who make disciples of Jesus Christ, and this is anything but a “one and done” proposition. It is a process of learning, growing, believing, trying, failing, resting, trying again, and again and again.

Let’s do this! Let’s lead like there is no “it.”

4 “Non-Sin” Sermon Practices

images-7This perspective on preaching is meant to help a few pastors out there breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to effective preaching. Given the amount of attention given and training dedicated to some of these and other preaching methodologies, you would think it was a sin to not practice them. Call it a little mild push-back… here are 4 “Non-Sin” Sermon Practices:

1) Preaching with notes. It’s hard not to sound whiney & pathetic on this one. Here it goes… having 20+ uninterrupted office hours per week, a book allowance, team of researchers, graphic designers, teaching screen, green room & amazing worship team to help prepare, memorize and position you to deliver a 20-30 minute message with solid, relevant content are all very good things! The reality is most pastors, especially marketplace, bi-vocational and small church leaders, don’t have resources like these at their disposal on a weekly basis.

If this is you, stop comparing yourself to those who do (and stop resenting them while you’re at it). Develop a great team of talented volunteers. Use some notes and don’t feel inadequate about it. Don’t preach to your notes, either. Prepare well. There is no excuse not to… none. Know the audience you are trying to reach, connect with them in intentional ways and be true to God’s Word.

2) Not using “buzz” words. I remember about 10 years ago the word “paradigm” was the word of the day. Preachers and speakers seemed to fall all over themselves looking for ways to use it without appearing to try. Today, words and phrases like, “community,” “journey” and “track with me” are favorites as we sit down to preach at a cafe table, sipping coffee so as to be “real, relaxed and relevant.”

Don’t try so hard. People can usually see right through this. Avoid using and abusing terminology simply to sound folksy, professional, country, gospel, hipster, gangster, intellectual or any other way other than you… sharing Jesus with real people.

3) Not showing a video. “Check this out…” we say, as the lights fade and a touching, inspiring, hilarious or otherwise gut-wrenching movie clip or you-tube video seamlessly rolls. (I actually used the phrase, “Roll that beautiful bean footage…” one time. Sad, I know.) While people learn more visually than ever, and videos can help drive some points home, it really is okay if people don’t see a video during every sermon.

4) Getting emotional! The spiritualized “Ted Talk” style of preaching became the “norm,” maybe even the unspoken benchmark for preaching the Gospel to the 21st century audience about ten years ago. I get it… frothing at the mouth and yelling at people for an hour has long since proven less than effective.

Still, if the fate of lost souls, the hope of heaven, and the amazing grace of Jesus isn’t enough to move us a little emotionally, how can we expect others to be moved to any kind of action? (I know, Jonathan Edwards didn’t need emotional hype…) While stopping well short of winning an Oscar for Best Dramatic Performance, we shouldn’t be afraid to display some genuine emotion in the course of a message. 

Bonus material: Don’t get me started on anyone over 30 wearing, let alone preaching in “skinny” anything. 

Preaching has become more of an “art” than ever. This is a good thing. By all means, glean from the latest and most ancient sermon prep training and instruction. After all, the greatest story ever told is worth the effort. At the end of the day, being true to Jesus and His Gospel should be among our top preaching priorities as we seek to warn the lost (and the found) and awaken hope in this age of uncertainty.

What are your thoughts and suggestions when it comes to effective preaching?

31 Tips for 2016 – #22

Unknown-1Here is Tip #22 for Ministry Leaders in 2016…

Dare to delegate.

Most leaders don’t realize their potential because they don’t realize the potential in people all around them. Pastors can be especially prone to this as they unintentionally limit the scope of their ministries as they are slow to grant influence/authority to others. However, with equal parts humility and trust, you can both expand the reach and the influence of your team without sacrificing unity.

Here are 6 Steps to Delegating Well…

1) Choose wisely. The most talented may not be the best choice. By all means, find someone who can do the job well. However, be sure they are someone who, more than simply “good at it,” is all-in with your vision, passionate about what they will be doing, and who is a teachable team player.

Consider Jesus’ choice in disciples. See Acts 4:13.

2) Explain simply. Write it down and spell it out. It may be as simple as a checklist or one page job description. Less is more. Be specific about the goal, the requirements (day, time, length of term or task), their team members and who they report to. In other words, delegate outcomes, not just tasks. Show them an example or paint a clear picture of the finished project or “win” when it comes to what they have been asked to do.

Consider the disciples job description. See Matthew 28:16-20.

3) Involve actively. Don’t just throw them into it. Introduce them personally to their team. Then, whether it’s with you or another team leader, have them “shadow” someone in the role or task first. Involve them as much as possible with hands-on experience. Discuss and tackle the challenges along the way while they are actually facing them with you or another leader. Do this until they are confident in their role or task and, frankly, you are only in the way.

Consider Jesus’ model of mentoring… a three year apprenticeship.

4) Launch willingly. Now, turn them lose and let them lead! Besides, they will probably do it better than you. Empower them to make the calls necessary, give them the resources needed to succeed, grant them license for creativity and clear out plenty of room to fail without fear. Don’t hover. Let them know you are just a text or call away if they have a question or need any help.

Consider Jesus’ ascension… See Luke 24:50-53

5) Cheer wildly. Encourage them as they grow in their new role and accomplish the tasks they have been assigned. Celebrate the little things as well as the big wins. Make a big deal out of the way they are getting it done as a team as well as making note of individual contributions.

Consider God’s cheering section. See Hebrews 10:25; 12:1-3

6) Follow-up responsibly. “How’s it going?” or “Let’s take a look together…” may work fine for small projects, especially if there was a simple checklist to begin with. Larger roles may work better with a simple evaluation tool. If it’s a new role, seize the opportunity to involve the new leader in the creation of the evaluation itself. Again, less is more. It is too easy to create a micro-mananged culture. If this develops, your better leaders won’t likely bring disunity… they’ll just leave and find another team where the level of accountability is exceeded only by the level of trust.

Consider Paul’s example with Timothy. See 1 Timothy 1:1-8.

Delegation. We see this leadership essential practiced throughout the Bible as the Spirit of God prompts leaders to harness the power of delegation. See Exodus 18 and Acts 6 for two biblical examples of the power and influence created by empowering others!

What roles are you or another leader presently assuming that could be given to others? What tasks might others not only accomplish, but probably do even better than you? Expand your reach and grow the influence of your ministry or organization by delegating well.

 

31 Ministry Tips for 2016 – #21

Here is Tip #21 for Ministry Leaders in 2016…

Live and lead >.

Purpose to partner in something bigger than your team and vision. This may have nothing to do with advancing your agenda. Maybe it’s a partnership with a local charity or school, neighborhood association, serving at a homeless shelter, supporting foreign missionaries or getting away for service projects at a kid’s camp. Here are 4 Things Leading “Greater Than” will do for your lead team…

> Helps others. Again, this won’t move your mission forward but just might for someone else. The value added is in living and giving more like Christ… meeting people at the point, place and time of their need. That’s it. That’s enough.

> Lends perspective. We all need a “reality check.” Sometimes we just get caught up in our own little worlds. Getting away has a way of helping us see our agendas for what they may have become… small, even petty. For example, going with our youth ministry and leadership team to live and work on an Amish farm for 2-3 days. Wow… this is highly recommended! Up while dark and gladly in bed at sundown, these people know the meaning of honest labor. And, let’s just say that drinking farm-fresh milk has a whole new meaning.

> Sparks creativity. Seeing how other people live and lead can create “Aha!” moments.  Simply put, others may be doing it better! Be intentional about looking for these “Aha!” moments and then unpacking them when you get back to the reality of your own world. What did we learn and how does it apply? We need reminded that living and leading only for our visions is not God’s vision for us.

> Encourages unity. The shared experience can both expose a lack of “team spirit” as well as foster it. When we are out of our element we need one another, are sometimes forced to rely on one another in ways we may have gotten out of the habit of doing. Re-ignite the need for and genius of teamwork by getting out of your comfort zones, together.

I often remind my team of the “secret to happiness” that Jesus ultimately modeled through His life, death and resurrection… “Get over yourself and start giving yourself.”