From Mission

7 Kinds of People You Can’t Afford to Keep

In leadership, you always face your share of critics.

Everyone has an opinion, and if you’re like me, you can get focused on keeping people happy, which is always a critical leadership mistake. Your church or your organization isn’t for everyone (here’s why).

Usually, the discussion at the leadership table will end up with someone saying:

Look, we can’t afford to lose people. 

Sometimes that’s true.

Often, it’s simply not.

In fact, often the opposite is true.

The people you are most afraid of losing are the people you most need to lose.

Truthfully, you can’t afford to keep them.

Who You Can’t Afford to Keep

So who can you not afford to keep if you want your mission to move forward?

1. You can’t afford to keep perpetual critics.

2. You can’t afford to keep people who are opposed to everything.

3. You can’t afford to keep people who drain the energy and health out of a church or organization.

4. You can’t afford to keep people who contribute nothing and criticize everything.

5. You can’t afford to keep people who have no vision of what the future should be, only a vision for what the future shouldn’t be.

6. You can’t afford to keep people who put their own preferences ahead of your organization’s principles.

7. You can’t afford to keep people who always resist change.

Your mission is just too important.

So next time you face critics who are threatening to walk out the door, don’t ask yourself if you can afford to lose them.

Ask if you can afford to keep them.

It might completely change your approach…and your decisions.

Any other kind of person you can’t afford to keep? Scroll down and leave a comment!

attitude

5 Significant Attitude Differences That Separate Growing and Declining Churches

So what’s the difference between a growing church and a declining church?

Well there are many, but one of the biggest differences I see is the attitude of the leaders.

The leaders of growing churches almost always share a common attitude.

So do the leaders of declining churches.

And the attitude has a huge influence over the results each church sees.

Attitude may or may not be everything, but it’s close.

 attitude

Here are 5 attitude differences I see again and again in growing churches and declining churches.

1. We Can v. We Can’t

Perhaps the biggest differences I see between growing churches and declining churches is the attitude around what’s possible.

Growing churches believe they can.

Declining churches believe they can’t.

They’re both right.

One of my all time favourite quotes is Henry Ford’s “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right.”  He’s correct.

Growing churches make a way when there’s no way, which seems to be what God specializes in if you read the Bible.

When you sit around your leadership table, do you come up with 20 ways to make it happen, or 20 reasons why it won’t work? That tells you far more about your church than you probably want it to.

Growing churches believe they can. It’s that simple. And even if they’re wrong, at least they tried. The mission is important enough to take significant risk.

2. Them v. Us

Declining churches focus on themselves.

Growing churches focus on the people they’re trying to reach.

If your leadership table conversations are all about the needs and wants of your members, it’s a sign that your church is insider focused.

The mission of the church is to reach the world. Growing churches not only know that; they live it.

Besides, who likes to hang out with selfish people?

And ironically, selfish people almost always end up in a very surprising place: alone. Because a life devoted to self ultimately leaves you alone. That’s also true for selfish churches.

If you’re becoming smaller and smaller, is it because you’re selfish?

3. Principles v. Preferences

Declining churches focus on their member’s preferences.

Todd didn’t like the music. 

Allison thinks we’re not deep enough. 

Bill wants to start a new program.

And so the leaders respond, trying to please everybody.

In reality, declining churches bend to the preferences of its members.

Growing churches don’t.

Instead, they focus on the principles (even strategies) that will help them reach new people.

Is your leadership team principle driven or preference driven? There’s a world of difference between the two.

4. Proactive v. Reactive

This is a close cousin of points 2 and 3 above, but the difference is deadly or life-giving depending on where you land.

Growing churches are proactive. They choose their agenda and immediately get on issues that can impact their future.

Declining churches are reactive, letting members determine the agenda and reacting to problems as they arise.

In fact, most declining churches are so busy reacting to problems other people raise that they never get around to charting a course for the future.

If you never get around to charting a course for the future, you will have no future.

Growing churches have a strong bias for setting their own agendas, not in the selfish sense, but in a way that determined leaders see what the mission requires and decide to deal with it.

The leaders in a growing church simply refuse to yield to the agenda of others that would take them off mission.

And as a result, they are far more effective.

5. Now v. Eventually

Growing churches act. And they act now.

Declining churches don’t.

Declining churches don’t actually say they won’t act, they’ll just say they’ll get to it ‘eventually’, or someday, or ‘when the time is right’—which means never.

By contrast, as I outlined here, great leaders and great teams banish the word ‘someday’ and other words from their vocabulary.

If you want to be effective, you act.

If you want to be ineffective, you don’t.

Talk without action has little value. And too many church leaders specialize in talk.

In addition, too many church teams meet for the sake of meeting.

If you can’t remember a the last time you made a major decision that changed the course of your church, your leaders are wasting their time.

If you talk about the same issues meeting after meeting with no resolution, you’re spinning your wheels.

Does that mean you have to act on everything? Well, yes and no.

If you’re not going to act, strike the item off the agenda and move on.

If you are going to act, act. Now.

Just make a decision and move on with it. Don’t get stuck in the no man’s land of believing the lie that talking about things solves things.

As my friend Casey Graham says, action produces traction. So act.

Want More?

If you’re passionate about the kind of leadership conversations your team is having, or you simply want to have better ones, I’m releasing a new book in a few months called Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.

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The book is designed to facilitate team discussion around 7 of the most important issues facing churches today. And it has action steps for every team to take as a result of the conversation.

We released several hundred advance copies of the book last week at the Orange Conference (see above) and they’re all gone.

But the good news is the full book launch is coming this summer.

To get on the inside track of the full book release, just sign up here.

Then you won’t miss a thing.

What Do You See?

What are the attitude differences you’ve seen between growing and declining churches?

Scroll down the leave a comment!

 

Carey Orange 2014

Anticipating the Change You’re Not Expecting (Orange Conference 2015 Talk Notes)

This week I’m excited to be speaking at the Orange Conference in Atlanta Georgia.

As a way of serving those who attend my talks (and couldn’t be there but want to track with what’s happening) I’ll be posting the outline to each talk I give here on the blog.

Even if you don’t attend the conference, I hope you can glean a few insights from them that might help you lead better now.  And if you’re in the session, you won’t have to guess what that pesky blank you forgot to fill in was all about.

Here’s my talk outline for my Anticipating The Change You’re Not Expecting session, along with some additional posts and references if you want to go deeper.

Carey Orange 2014

Overview

Anticipating the change you’re not expecting.

Yes, we know that’s contradictory. But think back through the past few years: how many times did something blindside you when you should have seen it coming? The key to navigating personal and professional change lies in studying the people and organizations who’ve traveled further down your road.

Discover ways to learn from their lessons by doing your homework and looking ahead.

Introduction

1. At some point along the journey, most of us get blindsided.

 a. Leaders who see the future are in a better position to seize the future.

b. Knowing what’s coming is most of the battle.

4 Changes Most Leaders Aren’t Expecting

1. Growing Cynicism

a. Knowledge brings sorrow.

 b. You project past failures onto new situations.

c. You decide to stop trusting, hoping and believing.

d. The antidote to cynicism is curiosity.

2. Burnout

a. Most people don’t burnout overnight.

b. Passion fades.

c. Your heart grows hard.

d. Rest no longer refuels you.

e. You simply can’t function any more.

f. The antidote to self-medication is self-care.

3. Irrelevance

a. Irrelevance happens when the speed of change outside an organization is greater than the speed of change inside an organization. – Rick Warren

b. When you’re young, the current cultural dialogue is your native tongue.

c.  Culture never asks permissionto change. It just changes.

d. The older you get the harder this gets.

e.  Organizations that don’t change becomes museums to another era.

f. The antidote to irrelevance is change.

4. Ineffectiveness

a. Churches become ineffective when, over a long period of time, leaders begin to love the method more than they love the mission.

b. Leaders become ineffective when they fail to grow both their character and their competency.

c. Reinvention and renewal are the antidotes to ineffectiveness.

Two Questions to Help You See the Future So You Can Seize the Future

1. What am I not seeing that I should be seeing?

2. Who can help me see what I’m not seeing?

 Want More?

Here are some related posts that can help you dig deeper on this subject.

6 Reasons Leaders Grow Cynical (And How to Fight the Trend)

How Perry Noble Hit Rock Bottom While Pastoring One of America’s Largest Churches (Episode 2 of the CNLP)

9 Surefire Ways to Make Your Church Completely Ineffective

For further resources, access the free archive of thought-provoking, practical interviews with today’s top church leaders on The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast.

carey-nieuwhof-orange-tour

7 Keys to Leading High Capacity Volunteers (Orange Conference 2015 Talk Notes)

This week I’m excited to be speaking at the Orange Conference in Atlanta Georgia.

As a way of serving those who attend my talks (and couldn’t be there but want to track with what’s happening) I’ll be posting the outline to each talk I give here on the blog.

Even if you don’t attend the conference, I hope you can glean a few insights from them that might help you lead better now.  And if you’re in the session, you won’t have to guess what that pesky blank you forgot to fill in was all about.

Here’s my talk outline for my 7 Keys to Leading High Capacity Volunteers session.

carey-nieuwhof-orange-tour

Introduction

As a leader, you aspire to attract, keep and grow a team of high-capacity volunteers. But are you dreaming the impossible dream? Learn to keep your vision grounded by starting with a look at the flipside: where and why you’re losing your top volunteers.

Then take a guided tour through the 7 key ways to get your best people on board… and keep them there.

7 Keys To Leading High Capacity Volunteers

1. Give them a significant challenge.

a. People with significant leadership gifting respond best to significant challenges.

2. Continually communicate your mission, vision and strategy.

a. Mission and vision unite.

b. Strategy begins as divisive, but ultimately aligns a church.

3. Be organized

a. Few things are more demotivating to a volunteer than discovering the staff person didn’t set you up to succeed.

b. Some people will put with disorganization, but high capacity leaders will ultimately give up.

4. Refuse to let people off the hook

a. Your organization will drift to the level of accountability the team leader establishes.

b. Ask yourself, whom would I rather lose: highly motivated volunteers or poorly motivated volunteers?

5. Play favorites

a. Spend 80% of your time with the people who give you 80% of your results.

6. Surround high capacity people with high capacity people.

Like attracts like and like keeps like.

7. Pay them in nonfinancial currencies.

a. People gravitate most toward where they are valued most.

b. 5 non-financial currencies:

 I. Gratitude

II. Attention

III. Trust

IV. Empowerment

V. Respect

Want More?

Here are some related posts that can help you dig deeper on this subject.

7 Questions Every Volunteer Asks But Never Says Out Loud

How to Get Your Volunteers to Own Your Mission Like Staff (CNLP 020 With Frank Bealer)

6 Very Avoidable Reasons You’re Losing High Capacity Volunteers

For further resources, access the free archive of thought-provoking, practical interviews with today’s top church leaders on The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast.

Leadership Hacks

5 Ultra Simple Leadership Hacks That Can Help Anyone

Sometimes leadership can seem so overwhelming.

In reality, though, leadership is simpler than it first appears.

In many ways, great leaders master some very basic things that other people miss. The advice in this post is so simple you might be thinking “well, my mother used to tell me to do that”.

Maybe that’s the point.

You can have a PhD in leadership and read everything there is on leadership and still not be effective.

And yet there are leaders who have little formal education but who lead powerfully and effectively every day.

Often, these leaders gain influence because they’ve mastered a few basic skills others miss.

Here are 5 of my absolute favourite basic leadership skills that are far too easy to overlook.

Own them, and you’ll become a much more effective leader. Leadership Hacks

1. Make someone else the hero

Few of us have a healthy relationship with ourselves.

The narcissists make it all about them.

Insecure people focus on themselves because they can’t bear to give anyone else air time.

And even people who lack confidence can end up being selfish because their lack of self-esteem means no one else gets attention.

How do you escape the trap of narcissism, insecurity or low self-confidence?

Just make someone else the hero.

If you’re a preacher, like me, make sure you point to God, not to yourself when you speak. Worry more about whether people connect with God than whether they connect with you.

What else does this principle look like?

Well, if you’re a writer, make your reader the hero. The filter through which I try to run every post I write on this blog is what I call a “helpful” filter. I want the post to help you as a reader. I want you to win.

Think about it. You and I love leaders who point beyond themselves to someone else. Why not be that leader?

So when you struggle with narcissism, insecurity or low self-confidence (and we all do…me too), step aside and make someone else the hero.

It works. Every time.

2. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it

If there’s one piece of advice I want my sons to remember, other than everything I taught them about Jesus, it’s this:

Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.

It puts you ahead of about 99% of the planet.

Think back on your last week. Who frustrated you most? Probably the people who didn’t do what they said they were going to do when they said they were going to do it.

Now picture the people you lead. Who are you most likely to promote, reward or even want to hang out with? The people who do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it.

Doing what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it is the basis of trust. It’s also the basis for confidence.

Hey…sometimes I’m still the guy who didn’t do what he said he was going to do when he said he was going to do it. But I try so hard not to be that guy.

So what do you do if you struggle in this area? Just stop promising and start delivering.

When your walk catches up to what your talk would have been, reintroduce your talk.

3. Focus on outcomes

Also in the ‘please stop driving me nuts’ category are people who focus on process, not outcomes.

I realize it’s axiomatic these days to say the journey is more important than the destination. But not always. Really. Come on. What fun is the journey if you end up nowhere with any meaning?

It’s frustrating when you ask someone if something is done and they tell you

Well I emailed him.

She never got back to me.

I’ve called 5 times.

I think they must have changed their address or something.

And they feel like the project is complete because they tried.

Trying isn’t the same as doing.

Often, I feel like saying “You didn’t hear the question. The questions is Is it done?

A few years ago, I started encouraging the leaders I work with to stop focusing on process, and start focusing on outcomes.

When you focus on outcomes, you eventually stop emailing someone who never returns emails and you text them instead, or call them, or go to their office, or release them and find someone who will help you get the project done.

If you focus on outcomes, you’ll also have a shot at mastering #2. If you don’t, you never will.

And getting things done actually makes the journey more enjoyable, at least in my view.

4. Look people in the eye

Sure, this is an “I don’t need a blog post to remind me of this”. (So is the next point, by the way.)

But do you ever notice how hard it is to actually look someone in the eye—to make them the sole focus on your attention?

I’m pretty sure I’m ADD and it’s so hard for me not to focus on shiny objects, moving parts or anything else in the room. Or my phone for that matter.

But the most effective leaders always look someone in the eye.

Sometimes I’m in a conversation with someone and I’ll create a voice in my head that just keeps repeating “Look them in the eye…look them in the eye.” It helps.

I’ll even position myself in a restaurant or coffee shop so I face a blank wall, not the door or a TV. Otherwise, I just instinctively look at whatever is moving.

Watch for it…the very best leaders look you in the eye and make you the sole focus of their attention.

Practice that this week.

5. Smile

Everyone has a default expression. It’s hard to know what yours is because you never see yourself as others see you.

I learned years ago that my default facial expression is…uptight. If I’m having a good time, I apparently forgot to tell my face.  I’m also a fast walker, so I tend to look uptight and annoyed.

How’s that for a guy who’s leading you?

People have given me very helpful advice like walk slowly across the room and smile. 

I know that’s so basic, but remember, you’re programming against your default here, so it’s not easy.

I have to remind myself to smile when I teach, to smile when I greet people and to smile in conversations.

It makes a huge difference.

Apparently Michael Hyatt has a similar issue and in this post outlined 5 positive impacts of smiling more as a leader.

So smile. :)

What Would You Add?

So that’s my short list of ultra simple leadership hacks. What are some you’d add to the list?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

pray

Why “Just Pray About It” Won’t Solve Your Church Problems

Every once in a while I hear from a leader who says “We don’t any need more ideas/strategies/conferences…all we need to do is pray.”

Well actually, writing this blog, quite often I hear from people like that.

Maybe you have people like that at your church.

You even know the conversation.  Every time you suggest “Why don’t we try reformatting our services/changing our kids ministry/reaching out into the community” they shoot back with “what we really need to do is just pray” (or “what we really need to do is get back to the Bible…”) as though that settled the discussion.

It puts you in a horribly awkward position.

If you disagree, you sound like you’re coming out against prayer.

If you agree, you’ve just mothballed any productive strategy conversations.

I mean who really wants to come out against prayer?

Not me. Not you.

And so, not sure what to do, we shut down the leadership conversation and all the potential that comes with it.

Can it be that something that sounds so spiritual can actually stop some very spiritual work?

In the name of God, some leaders might end up opposing the work of God.

And it’s all done in the most holy-sounding way.

Who’s right? How should you respond?

 pray

We Need To Pray

So before you freak out, I haven’t become an atheist.

Far from it. It’s not an exaggeration to say I pray every day. I also read the scripture daily and love it deeply.

I also believe I need to pray more. I agree that the church needs more prayer.

Finally, I believe all authentic, effective ministry is rooted in prayer.

But saying “All we need to do is pray” really misses how God actually works.

If all we needed to do was pray, we could lock ourselves in a closet and never come out. But I’m not sure that’s how God has moved historically.

What begins in prayer should usually end in some kind of action.

 

And We Need To Do More Than Pray

While prayer is foundational, God almost always moves people to do something.

The walls of Jericho ultimately fell down because having heard from God, people obeyed God, marching around the city for a week, blasting trumpets and shouting.

Come to think of it, that kind of sounds like a strategy doesn’t it?

Interestingly enough, the scripture is filled with strategy if you look for it.

 

Strategy Is Not the Enemy

Sometimes church people behave like strategy is the enemy.

It’s not. It never has been.

Strategy is not the enemy.

Apathy is.

Overly simplistic thinking is.

But strategy isn’t. A great strategy is actually a companion to a great prayer life.

Strategy is inherently biblical. For example, God noticed that Moses had a bad leadership strategy that was ultimately going to wear out both him and the people. So God used Moses’ father-in-law (of all people) to give him a new strategy that required tremendous reorganization.

Jesus intentionally organized his community of disciples into concentric circles of 70, 12, 3 and then 1. His prayer resulted in action…thoughtful action.

Finally, the early church continually rethought its strategy as the church grew and the mission expanded (see Acts 6Acts 13 and Acts 15 as examples).

We’re Supposed To Love God With More Than Our Hearts

So what’s the point?

Strategy should be a good word in the church. And it should be a good word in your church.

That means you should have the tough conversations.

You should surface disagreements (even pray through them).

You shouldn’t skirt tough issues.

It also means you need to lead.

Leadership requires your heart but it doesn’t stop there. It requires  your soul, your strength AND your mind.

So use your mind. And your strength. And your soul.

So Next Time

So next time someone interrupts the conversation and says “What we really need to do is pray”…what should you do?

I think you might agree…and say “I agree. We should pray.”

But then add.

“And after we pray, let’s get working on the most important issues facing us. The mission is just too important to ignore them.”

Great prayer can and should lead to great action.

It’s time for the church to act. And to get the best strategy we can find to accomplish the mission God has given us.

Have you ever run into leaders who block action in a holy-sounding way?

What’s been effective as you’ve navigated this?

5 Important Ways Evangelism is Shifting In Our Post-Christian World

Almost every Christian leader I talk to has a passion for reaching people who don’t know Christ.

But as we’ve seen before, our culture is changing so rapidly before our eyes that many of the methods we’ve used to tell people about Christ become less effective with every passing month.

If you keep using methods that worked decades ago to talk to people outside the Christian faith about Jesus, you might see some fruit. But I’m quite certain you’ll lose the vast majority of people you’re trying to influence, and I’m positive you’ll lose the vast majority of people under age 35.

In the post-Christian, post-modern age in which we live, the methods of evangelism have to change in order to keep the mission alive.

By the way, if you’re wondering what the post-Christian mind looks like, this study from the Barna Group outlines 15 criteria that delineate the trend.

So what’s changing in evangelism? More than you might think.

While there are many things that are shifting in how we should approach evangelism in a post-Christian, post-modern world, these 5 stand out to me as shifts I’m seeing not just in the ministry I lead, but across many churches:

1. Embracing the question is as important as giving an answer

For me, evangelism used to be mostly about helping people find answers. In fact, I’ve been very anxious to get people to answers. I still am.

But, often, in the process of getting people to an answer, I would fail to really embrace or honour their question. Increasingly, that’s a massive mistake.

Almost no one likes going into a store and asking a question only to have a customer service person blow past your question or make you feel stupid. In fact, your most positive experiences have likely been those in which someone listens to your question, takes it seriously, appreciates it, and then tries to respond to it thoughtfully and helpfully.

Too often, Christian apologists rush past the question to get to an answer.

Church leaders who embrace people’s questions will be far more effective in the future than leaders who don’t.

Listen to the difference:

“So when I die, will be in reincarnated?”

Answer: Christians don’t believe in reincarnation. So no, not at all. You’ll be resurrected in Christ. 

or

Answer: That’s a great question. Thanks for asking it. Actually, the Christian experience focuses on resurrection. Would you like to talk about that? 

Which answer would you rather hear?

 

2. Steering the conversation is better than pushing for a conclusion

One of my favourite environments at our church is Starting Point. It’s an eight week small group experience for people who are new to Christianity, new to faith or returning to church after an absence.

Our best Starting Point leaders are not the people with all the answers or the leaders who are always trying to ‘close the deal’.

If you have 12 people in a conversation, you’re likely to have 12 different world views, many of which might seem “Christian” but in truth aren’t.

Our best Starting Point leaders are people who can steer a conversation.

They don’t freak out at people’s questions, no matter how strange they might be.

They listen without judgment.

They affirm a person’s intentions.

Our best leaders listen, don’t judge, thank people for their input, and then gently steer the conversation back toward truth.

Listening, empathizing, and then steering the conversation back toward truth will often get you much further with post-moderns than slamming on the brakes and telling them they’re wrong.

3. Being open is more effective than being certain

Don’t get me wrong, Christians can be certain. Ultimately, Christians must be certain because our faith is certain. Our faith stands on a sure and certain ground.

But, when talking to post-moderns, coming across as certain is far less effective than coming across as open.

I mean, people will be able to tell that you have a depth of conviction if they spend more than a few minutes talking to you.

But leading with that conviction all the time can be counter-productive.

The person who is always certain thinks they’re being convincing when the opposite is often true. You’re less convincing because being perpetually certain makes you appear anti-intellectual, closed and a bit arrogant (see below).

If you’re open to people and their views, they’ll be more open to you. Even if underneath all that, you’re certain. Because you likely are.

4. Arrogance, smugness and superiority are dead

For too long, Christian apologetics has carried with a tone of arrogance, smugness and superiority.

If you want to repel anyone under 40, lead with that.

Arrogance is so ingrained in many Christian cultures that Christians don’t even see it or hear it anymore.

Humility is attractive. Humility is what makes Jesus so much more attractive to people than the Pharisees who lack it.

Arrogance is only ever attractive to the arrogant.

Arrogance also a sin. So repent. Get over your smugness and superiority.

Humbly love your God, love your community, and love the people who don’t know him. God does.

5. The timeline is longer

I’m so A-Type I’d love to conclude everything in about 35 seconds.

Increasingly, evangelism doesn’t work that way.

Ever notice that people who come to faith when pressured often leave it after a few years? And that, conversely, the people who come to faith on their own timeline tend to be flourishing years down the road?

Jesus said he would draw all people to himself, and he will. But he didn’t promise to do it in 3 minutes, or during a 90 minute service or even an eight week class.

You need people and leaders who will take the time to go on a journey with people.

It kind of took the disciples 3 years to figure out who Jesus was, didn’t it? Why do you think your church will be any different?

Don’t get me wrong, we can’t lose our sense of urgency in the mission. I feel that urgency every day. Sometimes I think I feel it more every day. But we need to give people space and we need to give the Holy Spirit space to do His work.

So give people time and space to come to faith. Apparently, God does this too.

How About Your Context?

I’m not saying high-pressure evangelism never works or that God has stopped using it entirely.

I’m just saying I’m seeing it becoming increasingly less effective and that another methodology that shares the same end appears to be even more effective.

What are you seeing about how evangelism is changing in your community?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

alignment

5 Ways An Aligned Team Is A Better Team (What I’ve Learned From North Point)

Ever wonder what would happen if you got everyone in your church or organization moving in the same direction?

For the last seven years, I’ve led a North Point Strategic Partner Church and have learned so much about the benefit of having an aligned church. One of the key benefits of a simple church model (which North Point and its partners practice) is alignment.

Alignment happens when you have a team of people – from the top leadership right through to the newest volunteer – pulling in the same direction not only around the same goals, but using the same strategy.

Seems simple, but it isn’t.

Everybody I talk to is in favour of aligning their organization (why have hundreds of people working at crossed purposes?), but few people seem to be able to pull it off.

Rarely have I seen an organization more intentional about alignment than North Point.

When people approach us as a partner church, few leaders ever ask us about alignment. But as they are leaving after some time with us, they inevitably remark on the level of ownership the staff and volunteers have.

I agree. Team and organizational alignment is a powerful thing when it happens.

That’s the power of alignment. To get very different people rallied around a common cause is a wonderful thing.

An aligned team, quite simply, is a better team.

alignment

Here are five benefits to working in an aligned organization:

1. Alignment creates a badly needed dividing line 

Being everything to everyone is pretty much the same as being nothing to everyone.

Few organizations struggle with this more than the church. Alignment forces you to be about a few defined things rather than about everything (aka nothing).

Once you choose the things you are going to do and align around it, the people who want you to be about everything will sometimes leave, but that’s okay.

Being aligned almost always means you will accomplish more.

2. Alignment forces out personal agendas 

I learned this early on from Andy Stanley.

When the organization’s agenda becomes clear and the main priority for everyone, it forces out competing personal agendas.

Everything from politics to selfish personal goals get squeezed out.

Why does alignment do this? Well, alignment forces out personal agendas, because leaders commit to something bigger than themselves.

3. Alignment does not mean full agreement; it means full focus 

Critics of alignment say that alignment means you snuff out independent thought and, in its extreme form, create a culture of yes people. I disagree.

Most high capacity leaders actually want to work in an environment that is going to produce results.

Alignment around key objectives does that.

Alignment does not mean full agreement; it means full focus.

4. Alignment removes all excuses

We’ve had several staff join us our team who used to be part of other, less aligned organizations.

Within a year, they had the same experience I did once we got our teams fully aligned: all your excuses for a lack of progress disappear.

You can’t blame anyone else because everyone actually supports you and your agenda—because there is only one agenda.

This allows you to realize your potential, but the excuses you used to use for lack of results are gone. And church leaders can be notorious excuse makers.

5. Alignment allows you to harness more creativity, not less

Counterintuitively, having a common mission and strategy means that your team can harness greater – not lesser – creativity.

Because you agree on direction and priorities, you spend significant time getting creative about implementing your vision.

You no longer waste hours debating what to do. Instead, you can spend hours getting better at what you’ve agreed you’ll do.

What About You?

If you are facing internal or external resistance to alignment, I want to encourage you to move past that resistance. You’ll be so glad you did.

That’s what I’m learning and enjoying about being part of an aligned organization. What are you discovering?

weekend attendance

10 Simple Changes You Can Make to Help Boost Weekend Church Attendance

There’s no doubt the church is undergoing a massive cultural shift as people attend church less often, and even regular attenders show up less frequently than before. (I outlined that trend in detail in this five part blog series.)

As much as everything is changing and we need to respond to that, almost every church still holds weekend services and likely will for years to come.

So, in the meantime, what can you do to help reach more people? What can you do to boost weekend church attendance?

Before you think this is just a numbers game, realize it’s also a spiritual issue.

To me, declining attendance is a spiritual issue because I believe that disconnected people rarely grow spiritually.

Connect people and they grow. Disconnect people, and they don’t.

So, naturally, I’m motivated to connect people.

Can we connect people outside Sunday? Absolutely. By all means connect people through groups, other gatherings, in local mission and so much more.

And yet this truth remains: the weekend service is, functionally, a primary way most people connect with the church and connect with God.

So to ignore Sundays is to ignore a reality that impacts hundreds of millions of people every week.

weekend attendance

10 Changes You Can Make to Boost Weekend Attendance

So if you’re holding weekend services, what can you do to bump weekend attendance positively, knowing that it will help people connect better to God?

Here are 10 ideas that are relatively simple to implement:

1. Invite, don’t assume

I think many leaders still hold the assumption that if you attend church, you’ll be there weekly. As we’ve seen before, that’s just not true anymore.

So instead of just closing the serve and assuming everyone will be back, invite people to come back. Close the service by saying something like “Next week we’ll be (fill in the blank) and we’d love for you to join us.”

When you change your language this way, you raise the anticipation level.

2.  Facilitate an experience more than a show

As worship has changed over the last generation, in many ways it has become as much of a ‘show’ as it has anything else.

As both David Kinnaman and John Stickl have pointed out on recent leadership podcast episodes (episode 24 and 29 respectively), millennials are far less attracted to ‘the show’ (highly produced, highly generic services) than their boomer parents and grandparents.

If you’re in a large church, the show will be the experience killer. People don’t want to attend something that they can access just as easily via podcast.

If you’re a small church, mediocrity (poorly produced, poorly executed services) will be the experience killer. It’s hard to draw people back to something that’s consistently underwhelming or poorly done.

I think the future will belong to leaders who can facilitate compelling gatherings (large or small) that usher people into the presence of God.

John Stickl provides great insight on how to usher millennials into the presence of God in a megachurch setting. It’s worth the listen.

3. Employ more than one or two senses

I’m a verbal, logical learner, so my default it always just to talk or write.

But I realized a long time ago I need to engage visual learners and other learning styles.

Increasingly, our team is using media like this in our services to help people connect with the full message and impact of the Gospel. In my teaching, I’m using more infographics and images in addition to words to communicate points.

This goes far beyond music, images and words.

Even communion is sensory, something that can’t just be reduced to a few words or yet another bottom line.

Lighting levels, haze and even incense can add to an experience.  You can’t podcast any of those things.

4. Make the next step beyond Sunday clear

Many leaders don’t point to anything beyond the next Sunday’s message (if they do that).

I’m increasingly passionate about helping people find their next step.

Recently at Connexus Church, where I lead, we introduced a Next Steps kiosk at our locations. We staff it with some of our best volunteers who understand our mission and love connecting with people.

We train them to read where people are at and make recommendations on which next step is best for them. For some it may be baptism, for others it might be Starting Point or group, for still others it could be serving or inviting a friend.

The goal is to get people to engage by taking a step. Why? Engaged people grow faster. It’s as simple as that.

They also tend to show up more (but that’s a by-product of their growth).

5. Teach in series

Many preachers now teach in series, but there’s a surprising number who don’t. Next Sunday still consists of whatever the preacher thought up on Monday afternoon (or Saturday night). Bad idea on about a hundred levels.

Teaching in 3 to 10 week message series gives people something to look forward to. Plus, it gives you something new to feature every month or two.

Additionally, series are memorable. I am amazed at how many times people tell me about a series we did years ago that impacted them. They remember the name, the bottom line and even the artwork.

Plus, a new series gives everyone a fresh chance to invite a friend.

6. Angle your messages as connected parts (think ‘episodes’)

If you teach in series, it means you won’t be as tempted to ‘cover all the bases’ in one sermon. You have a series for that.

I try to cover ONE idea per message. No more, no less.

That means you can pick up where you left off the week before after a brief recap of where the series has gone so far.

Rather than pushing people away, that draws people in. It’s why series like Suits, Downton Abbey or House of Cards are so successful. You can’t easily jump into the middle of a season—you need to watch from the beginning.

I’m not suggesting you make your message hard to access for first time attenders. Not at all. Just let them know there’s more that addresses the questions they’re asking.

It will drive people to your podcasts or website to catch up on what they missed, and make them want to come back.

You can still make the message ‘work’ as a standalone, but building continuity with other parts of the series makes it an experience people want to come back to.

And because you’re changing series every 3-8 weeks, you have lots of opportunity to start fresh throughout the year.

7. Give people homework

One aspect of teaching so many preachers miss is application. We give too much information and not nearly enough application.

Preachers, ask yourself, what are people going to do with this message on a Tuesday? If you can’t answer that, don’t preach it.

Sometimes I work harder on the application than I do on other areas of the message. Why? Because people remember what they apply. And because application is everything.

Don’t just ask what people need to know. Ask what people need to do. Then answer that, clearly.

8. Encourage everybody to bring somebody

People who invite people to church with them tend to not miss church.

I would strongly encourage you to elevate the value of inviting and bringing friends. Forget the weekend attendance that might bring.

It’s also one of the best ways for people to grow spiritually. Sharing your faith grows your faith.

Finally, it moves your church far closer to accomplishing its mission; sharing the hope of Christ with the world. Why wouldn’t everybody bring somebody?

9. Specifically invite people to follow you on social media

If your church has a social media presence on Sundays (most do), talk about it!

As I outlined in this post, most of us don’t. What a mistake. Stop greeting people like it’s 1999.

By encouraging people to connect with you via social media, you can connect with them all week long.

10. Make volunteering a great experience

If your volunteers hate serving, they’ll be looking to escape from your church any time they don’t have to be there.

Here’s a post that explains why many churches lose high capacity volunteers.  Here’s another one that outlines 7 questions every volunteer asks but never says out loud.

You want your volunteers to love serving so much that it creates a contagious environment.  In Episode 20 of my leadership podcastFrank Bealer from Elevation Church explains how what Elevation Church does to get thousands of volunteers as passionate about their mission as staff.

Turn around your volunteer culture, and you will have a far more irresistible weekend gathering.

What About You?

Those are some things we’re thinking about and doing around our leadership table to respond to the trend of declining attendance we’re all seeing.

What are you doing? What has enticed you?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

cynicism

6 Reasons Leaders Grow Cynical (And How to Fight the Trend)

Find yourself becoming a little more cynical every year as a leader?

Few of us decide we’re going to be cynical…we just kind of end up there.

How does that happen?

How does a heart grow hard? How do you end up trusting no one? How does hope die?

Cynicism grows in the hearts of far too many leaders. Not only does it impact how you lead at work or in ministry, eventually your growing cynicism will tear at the fabric of your marriage and even at your relationship with your kids. Nobody likes a cynic.

If you find yourself gradually growing more cynical, you’re not alone.

I think leadership breeds cynicism for several reasons. The good news is you can beat it if you understand how it forms.

cynicism

6 Reasons Leaders Grow Cynical

So why do leaders grow cynical? Here are 6 reasons I’ve seen in myself and in others:

1. You know too much

The more you lead, the more you know. And the more you know, the easier it is to grow cynical.

This shouldn’t surprise us at all. Solomon said it 3000 years ago. The wisest man in his day had to battle cynicism at a very deep level (ever read Ecclesiastes?). In Ecclesiastes 1:18 Solomon make the link between knowledge and sorrow crystal clear:

For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.

Boom. There it is.

Think of all you’ve seen as a leader. The heartbreak, the betrayals, the politics, the people you believed in who kept letting you down.

You know too much. You’ve seen too much.

And not knowing how to handle what you’ve seen and what you know creates an incubator for cynicism.

2. You haven’t grieved your losses

Leadership is a series of wins and losses. If you’re like me, you hardly notice the wins, but you feel every loss.

Years ago, a mentor pointed out to me that most pastors never grieve their losses. Every time someone leaves your church, it’s a loss. Every time you do a funeral, it’s a loss. Every time you can’t do what you hoped you could do as a leader, it’s a loss.

Most of us just stuff the losses; pretending they don’t matter.

When I first realized I’d stuffed a lot of losses over my life, I cried. A lot. I mean like almost for a month kind of crying. That seemed to clear the backlog.

Now, when I sense there’s a loss (even a small one), I grieve it before God.

There’s a reason people in Biblical times would declare 40 days of mourning. I used to read those passages and think “What’s wrong with those people? Why can’t they just go back to work?”

Actually, there’s something healthy about grieving your losses.

What do you need to grieve that you haven’t grieved?

3. You haven’t dealt with your issues

In addition to the losses you experience in life and leadership, we all bring baggage with us from the past.

I ran from dealing with my ‘stuff’ for years. After all, I was a good leader. I didn’t have any baggage. I sent people to counselling. I didn’t go to counselling.

How wrong that attitude was. Apparently, I did have baggage. And it was impacting not only my leadership, but my marriage and parenting. I’m so thankful I found some trained Christian counsellors to help me work through my issues.

If any of this is resonating with you, I want to encourage you to jump over to listen to Perry Noble and I tell our stories of burnout and depression in this post (and interview).

4. You’ve projected past failures onto new situations

When you don’t deal with your issues or grieve your losses, you end up projecting past failures onto new situations.

Here’s how cynicism operates.

Cynicism looks at a new team member and says “I’ll bet it’s just a matter of time until he screws up”.

Cynicism looks at a new class of 9th graders and says “They’re just like the kids who drove me nuts last year.”

Cynicism sees the newlyweds and says “I wonder how long until they hit the rocks?”

Cynicism sees the new church and decides “It will only be a matter of time until they implode too.”

If you want to fight cynicism, stop projecting past failures onto new situations.

5. You’ve decided to stop trusting

As soon as cynicism gets a toehold in your life, you stop trusting.

Because the next person is just like the last person, you decide those kind of people can’t be trusted. Or worse, people can’t be trusted.

Really?

Is that how you want to live? What kind of leader does that make you? What kind of person does that make you?

Or, without inducing a guilt trip, what kind of Christ-follower does that make you (isn’t the heart of our faith forgiveness and hope)?

If you want to kick cynicism in the teeth, trust again. Believe again. Hope again.

6. You’ve lost your curiosity

I think an incredibly effective long term antidote to cynicism is curiosity.

The curious are never cynical.

The curious are always interested, always open to new possibilities, always thinking, always hopeful. I wrote a post about the link between cynicism and how to become more curious here.

Because cynicism tends to creep up with age, you’ll notice there are (sadly) a lot of cynical old people. My favourite elderly people are never the cynical, but the curious. The ones who at 80 are still learning, still open, still hopeful, still passionate about the next generation, still optimistic.

When was the last time you were honestly curious about something? Pursue curiosity, and cynicism will die of a thousand pinpricks.

What Kills Cynicism in You?

If you’ve felt cynicism growing inside you, what’s making it grow? What’s helping you beat it?

I’d love to hear from you. Scroll down and add to the conversation by leaving a comment!