From Strategy

bias for action

Why Leaders Who Hold THIS Bias Are The Most Effective Leaders

You probably have something exciting that you’ve been thinking about doing for a long time.

Every leader has dreams, goals and hopes.

The challenge is you haven’t done anything about it…yet.

And as a result, so few leaders end up with a track record of accomplishment.

Why?

Because almost all of us struggle with something the most effective leaders in their field don’t struggle with.

What is it?

It’s a bias so few leaders have. But the great ones all possess.

bias for action

Three Friends — One Bias

A few years ago, I began to notice a trend among some friends that were accomplishing a lot.

One good friend was launching a business and was frustrated with the lack of traction he was seeing that week. So he decided to host a webinar…ten days later. Believe it or not, 600 people joined him for it.

I had another friend launched a weekly podcast eighteen months ago, as a side-line to his full time job. This was at a time when I was still thinking about launching a leadership podcast. At the time I was thinking a monthly podcast was a huge commitment. But he launched…weekly. Convicting.

Now to a third friend.  He’s a prolific reader (40-50 books a year) and a super smart thinker and speaker. I told him he needs to write a book. He said he had thought about.

I urged him to do it and so did another friend. Within a few weeks he had sent me draft chapters to review. Amazing.

What do all three leaders have in common?

A bias for action.

Maybe You’re Hallucinating

This challenges me because I tend to think about things a lot before acting.

For example, I thought about hosting a podcast for two years before I launched this one (and, yes, I ended up going weekly in the end).  To date, I’ve only thought about hosting a webinar.

And my next book has been three years in the making (it releases in 2015…thanks for your patience…stay tuned).

Shipping is more important than dreaming. If you don’t act, you’ve got nothing. All you’ve got is a desire.

As Thomas Edison famously said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

 Action is Stunning

Action is stunning because so few people actually do it. So few people act on their dreams.

Often the difference between you and the leaders you admire is they acted. You didn’t.

And you know what a desire becomes when it’s never acted on, don’t you? It becomes a regret.

Far too many people waste their potential, squander their vision and languish in mediocrity because they just don’t act.

So why don’t you stun someone this week? Act.

I’ll bet you even stun yourself when you do.

Press Start

Here’s my hunch. You know exactly what you need to do. 

Come on…you know what it is:

That change you need to make in your church

The project you need to launch.

That book you need to write.

The blog you need to get started on.

That team member you need to deal with.

That unchurched neighbour you need to have over for dinner.

That series you need to find the courage to preach.

So what’s holding you back?

Be honest.

Maybe it’s fear.

Or a lack of confidence

Or the belief you might fail.

Well….

The only way to get past fear is to move through it.

The brave aren’t the brave because they don’t feel fear. They’re brave because they pushed through it.

The only way to gain confidence is to do something. So go do it.

Truthfully, your dream is failing right now. You have nothing to lose by acting on your dream except the 100% guarantee of failure that comes from not acting on it.

Now…before you leave a comment (scroll down to add to the conversation), decide what you need to act on.

Then act.

A bias toward action is a bias every effective leader has. So get moving.

fear; lose their nerve

5 Reasons Leaders Lose Their Nerve When They Need It Most

Every leader battles their nerves.

By nature, leadership is going to require you to do things that push you past your comfort zone pretty much every day.

And in seasons leadership will push you further than you’ve ever gone. You’re a leader, so you have to make decisions few others ever have to make.

And-frankly—sometimes leaders lose their nerve.

You know you’ve lost your nerve as a leader when you just can’t find the courage to do what you know needs to be done. Your head tells you one thing, but your emotions disable your ability to do it.

Why does this happen to so many leaders? Why aren’t we more carefree, more risk-ready and more willing to try something? And what can we do about it?

Here are 5 reasons I’ve seen leaders lose their nerve. I also realize these are the factors at work in me when I’m tempted to pull back from doing what I know needs to be done.

fear; loss of nerve

1. Over-focusing on the possibility of failure

We all fear failure, but leaders who lose their nerve develop tunnel vision: they only see fear.

Leaders who successfully keep their nerve see the potential for failure (only fools don’t). But they go further. They pray. They strategize around it (and good strategy is immensely helpful in ensuring success).

But then they do one more thing: they muster up the courage to push through that fear. If fear’s a big thing for you, here’s a recent post that outlines 5 signs fear is getting the best of you as a leader.

Leadership – and especially ministry – attracts its share of people pleasers. The problem with leading change is that you end up disappointing people.

If you are unwilling to be unpopular – even for a season – you will lose your nerve and fail to lead change effectively.

2. A belief they don’t have what it takes

This is a hard one. Somewhere along the line you develop a belief about yourself. And fundamentally, you believe you have what it takes, or you don’t.

Believing you have what it takes is not a cocky arrogance or the naive belief that everything you touch turns to gold, but a (hopefully) quiet confidence that you can do this with God’s help.

Many leaders struggle with insecurity (I blogged about that here and again in this post.)

The truth is, if you can push past your fear, and you lead with some deep faith and some wisdom around how to lead people, you do have what it takes.

If you can get past your insecurity, you’ll be surprised at how much courage, wisdom and ability God will provide you.

I love the way Henry Ford put it: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

3. An obsession with disappointing people 

Nobody likes to disappoint people, but a surprising number of leaders, especially church leaders, struggle with wanting to be liked.

I won’t say a lot more about it here because I wrote about the problems with likability and leadership in this post, but people-pleasing leaders will rarely lead with the courage the situation requires.

If you can make one shift in this area, make this one: instead of worrying about disappointing people, worry about disappointing God.

I realize, theologically, that God is not disappointed with you. But if you struggle with disappointment, directing your disappointment somewhere healthy is a good thing.

So what’s the best way to ensure you stay faithful to your calling and avoid disappointing God? Stay on target with your mission; do what it takes to accomplish it.

4. A forced comfort with the status quo

Another way leaders lose their nerve is to convince themselves that the status quo isn’t that bad.

We’re doing better than some other churches, you tell yourself. I can live with this, you think.

Ever heard yourself say these things? Ask yourself if you really believe them. You probably don’t.

Saying I can live with this over and over again may be a sign you’re dying as a leader.

So don’t lose your nerve. Navigate the change you are called to bring about.

5. The inability to get past the pain of past failures

Once bitten, twice shy. Everyone’s got their scars from past battles. But failure once doesn’t mean failure forever.

Maybe your idea wasn’t bad at all. Maybe your strategy just needs rethinking.

Or maybe you did colossally fail.

So what? Get over it. Get on with it.

So many leaders lose their nerve because they remember how much failure cost them in the past.

Keep thinking like this and you are one step away from becoming that person who says We tried that once…doesn’t work around here.

Talk to a friend, see a counselor, pray through it. Get past the pain and on with the future.

Which of the five reasons leaders lose their nerve resonate most with you?

What other reasons do you see? I’d love to hear from you!

Scroll down and leave a comment.

5 Things People Blame The Church For…But Shouldn’t

There’s a lot of church bashing that happens these days. I get that. Some of it is deserved.

Like me, maybe you’ve noticed that a lot of people feel justified in dismissing the church as anything between a complete disappointment and otherwise useless.

Doubtless people have been hurt in the church and hurt by the church, and for that I feel terrible.

But it’s one thing to have a bad experience or a series of bad experiences. It’s another to hang on to them for far longer than you should, especially when you have a role in them that you refuse to see.

So in the hopes of clarifying a few things and helping us all move through whatever hang ups might be lingering, here are 5 things people blame their church for…but shouldn’t.

1. The church didn’t stop you from growing spiritually

Most church leaders have heard this before from someone who’s new at your church. I went to X church for 2 years but I just didn’t grow there. Now I’ve come here. Hopefully I’ll grow!

I’ve heard this so many times at one point I believed the logic. Until I realized that we were this person’s fifth church in 6 years, and they didn’t grow at any of them. Which makes you ask the question…is it really the church, or could it be them?

I came to the realization years ago that I’m responsible for my spiritual growth. Nobody can make me grow. And honestly, no one can keep me from growing because no one can actually control my thoughts, my heart and my mind. I can offer them to God in free surrender whenever I want.

Understand, the church can help, but it’s not responsible for your spiritual growth. You are.

2. The church didn’t burn you out

You meet a lot of people in ministry, both paid and volunteer, who will tell you the church burned them out. As someone who has burned out while leading a church, it would be tempting for me to say “For sure…my church burned me out. You should see the demands people made on me as a pastor and leader!”

But I would never say that.

You know who burned me out?

I did. 

I am responsible for my burnout. I pushed too hard for too long. I didn’t deal with underlying issues. I burned myself out.

Now, granted, I think ministry can be confusing, and I think it’s easier to burn out in ministry than in other vocations (for the reasons why that is, read this post).

But I’m responsible. And so, honestly, are you. For more on burnout, start with this post.

3. The church didn’t make you cynical

I’ve heard many Christians say “I’m so cynical after working at/attending several churches.”

And for sure, any student of human nature can become cynical.

But the church didn’t make you cynical. You let your heart grow hard. You chose to believe certain things about people, about God, about life, and it built a crust around something that used to be alive and vibrant.

The biggest challenge in life is to see life for what it really is but keeping your heart fully engaged. God loves to help people do that.

I fight cynicism daily. And if anyone makes me cynical, it’s me…not you, not God, not culture, not the church. I want my heart to be alive and celebrating each day. That’s a choice I make with God’s help.

4. The church didn’t cause your unforgiveness

It’s easy to hold a grudge. Get hurt (and yes, I’ve been hurt by people in the church too) and hang onto it long enough, and grudges will form.

Soon you’ll not want to hear someone’s name, let alone run into them in the supermarket.

Too many people in the church or who walked away from the church carry unforgiveness and blame the church for it.

What are you hanging onto from a bad church experience that you need to let go of?

Forgiveness is the one of most Christian things people can do. Yet it’s what far too many Christians withhold from one another.

I love how Mark Twain phrased it: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

5. The church didn’t make you lose your faith

I hesitate to write this one. I’m a church leader. I do everything I can to help people find faith in Jesus Christ.

I also realize I’m far from perfect, that our church is not perfect, and that there never will be perfection on this side of heaven.

It breaks my heart when I hear people say “I went to church but it was so bad/so hypocritical/so shallow I lost my faith.” I realize we don’t always do a good job. In fact, sometimes churches do a terrible job. Sometimes I do a terrible job.

But as you’ve seen throughout this piece, nobody else makes you lose your faith. That was or is a choice you made. It is.

And it’s a choice I make every day. To believe when there are more than a few reasons not to. To love when people don’t love me back. To forgive when it’s easier to hang on to the hurt. To trust when there’s probably a few reasons to stop trusting.

So if you want to believe again…believe again.

A Challenge

Now let me give you a challenge. I realize many of you have been hurt by the church. I realize many of you have grown cynical. And that’s true of people who have left the church and who are in the church.

Here’s the challenge: Be part of the solution. And the solution is not to walk away or be endlessly critical.

The reason I lead a church is because I believe Jesus designed the church to be the hope of the world. Churches are imperfect organizations, but they’re also chosen organizations. We’re on a mission given by Christ. We’re his chosen instrument.

I just want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The world has enough cynics and critics.

We need people and we need leaders who deal hope.

Would you be one of them? Maybe get involved again? Or join a church and decide to work toward a better future? Or start a church of your own? That would be incredible. Really…it would! We need more optimists and more people ready to make the world a better place.

I’d love to hear what you’re taking responsibility for in your life, and how you’ve decided to make a difference.

Scroll down and leave a comment!

cynics; trolls; leadership

Take Back the Internet: How Good People Can Beat the Cynics and the Trolls

You ever read the comment section on a blog or on your favourite news site?

I’m not a ranter, but I have to tell you, sometimes I find the comments section of many sites discouraging…even depressing. It’s like the mean people took over the internet. I’d link to some that bother me, but then I’d just be taking us all down and I really don’t want to do that.

I guess I’m a little attuned to this right now because of the massive response to this post recently that spawned hundreds of comments on my site in a few days. I heard some incredible encouragement from many commenters, but the cynics and the trolls also showed up in good number.

The trolls and cynics have gotten bad enough on the internet that several well known bloggers have discontinued comments altogether on their blogs. They have various reasons, and as someone who has to wade through hundreds of comments a month on this site, I completely understand that.

If I ever cut comments here, it would be because the quality discussion is too often hijacked by the trolls and cynics.

But I don’t want to close my comments section, even though it means I have to take extra time on the comments when addressing sensitive issues like this. Why?

Because I really value dialogue from good people.  Because I learn from readers like you. Because I actually value different perspectives, not just my own. And I should say, so many of you have been SO encouraging. Thanks for being awesome like that. In fact, when I sent out a short version of this article to my email subscribers last week, the reaction was SO positive many said “please turn this into a blog post”. So I did.

So here we go: I don’t want the cynics and the trolls to win. I trust you don’t either, right?

Of course this is all bigger than just blogging. My guess is the cynics and trolls have gotten you down more than a few times in life and leadership.

What do you do?

cynics; trolls; leadership

How Instant Access to Everything has Empowered Cynics and Trolls

Remember the days where cynics and trolls had to interact in front of real people? They’d have to say something in the lunch room in the presence of their co-workers, or line up at the microphone at a meeting to be heard?

Or remember when, pre-chat rooms and social media, when they had to use email to complain, which means they pretty much had to use their real name and expect a real response by a real person?

Ah, those were the days. There was a social check in that…the idea that you were part of a community where people actually interacted with each other.

But now, emboldened by a keyboard and seemingly endless amounts of time, they seem quite dedicated to spreading hopelessness and misery.

Social media and comments threads now gives cynics instant access to anyone who will let them rant, groan and show the rest of the world how much they think they know.

Apparently they have the time, doing little productive with their lives.

As a result of all this, the collective dialogue is suffering:

We know more but think less.

We’ve convinced ourselves that opinion beats dialogue.

Rudeness has become a substitute for disagreement.

That can’t win. Personally, I am addicted to hope, as I know many of you are, awesome people.

The Antidote to Trolls and Cynics

So what can you and I do?

Naturally, you can edit and even ban the cynics and trolls. I try to ban as few people as possible, but every month I end up banning a few people from commenting on my site who honestly just want to pick fights (while I do it reluctantly, it’s my blog and I don’t apologize. It’s like life: you can be rude in my house, but do it a few times and you won’t be invited back.) And sometimes I delete comments from naysayers who have nothing constructive to add.

But you and I can do much better than that. Much better.

I believe there are far more good leaders and good people than there are cynics and trolls.

Here’s the tension: our silence is killing us and fuelling them.

The antidote to cynics and trolls is intelligent, hope-filled conversation by good people.

So, I’m asking you to be a force of good this week by doing two things:

1. Leave an intelligent, helpful, constructive comment to a blog or website this week

It doesn’t have to be on my site (although I’d welcome that, of course), but just leave one somewhere to let humanity know all hope is not lost. Okay?

None of this means you have to agree with the writer (discussion and debate help us all learn), but courteous, grace-filled thoughtful debate moves the dialogue and the mission forward. I KNOW that’s what you bring to the conversation.

Chances are you just think your voice doesn’t matter much. I promise you, it does.

2. Say something helpful and constructive in face to face conversations

Conversations go south in real life all the time. What do many good people and even good leaders do in moments like that? We simply shut down.

Don’t.

Say something helpful, something intelligent, something heartfelt, something constructive. Look to leave the dialogue and the world a better place.

And if you encounter a cynic or troll who says something like “X are just useless places run by selfish people”, look them straight in the eye and ask this question: Really? And just sound surprised.

Most cynics and trolls don’t know what to do with a real person who lives with hope. And if they get rude, just say “I’m sorry, you can’t talk to me that way” and then go on with your intelligent conversation with the other good people in the room.

So would you speak up today?

Your voice is exactly what this world needs right now. And there are far more of you than there are of them.

What are you learning about trolls and cynics?

Scroll down and leave an (intelligent) comment. :)

6 Signs That Your Team Chemistry is Crumbling

This is a guest post from Mark Riggins. Mark is the Community Life Pastor at ENCOUNTER | Bible Fellowship Church in Ventura, CA. His new book STUCK When You Want to Forgive but Don’t Know How is available now on Amazon. Sign-up HERE for a FREE 30-Day Online Forgiveness Devotional. You can follow Mark on his blog: www.markriggins.org.

________

How healthy is your team . . . really?

I enjoyed an unusually close relationship with my pastor for 12 years. Unfortunately, it completely severed and we didn’t talk for several years despite being close friends.

My former pastor and I later reconciled. I’m so grateful because I love this man. In retrospect, we both agreed that there were warning signs we missed that indicated our chemistry was declining. (That broken relationship and my struggle to forgive, led me to write STUCK When You Want to Forgive but Don’t Know How.)

As you evaluate your team, here are 6 warning signs that your team chemistry is crumbling.

Warning Sign #1: You stop dreaming together

A vision is enlivening, it’s spirit giving, it’s the guiding force behind all great human endeavors. Vision is about shared energy, a sense of awe, a sense of possibility. –Benjamin Zander, Conductor, Boston Philharmonic Orchestra

During our first several years together, my former pastor and I dreamed of revitalizing a traditional church. Our dream came true and the church’s growth required us to move to a new location, increase staff, and church services. That shared dream galvanized all of us!

My former pastor recently told me, “When a team agrees on the dream and the path to achieve that dream, chemistry is a natural by-product.”

We never said, “Let’s stop dreaming together.” But as we focused more and more on our daily ministry our galvanizing dreams faded into the background. When there’s not a mutual dream, the team lacks energy and is no longer fueled by a sense of awe, a sense of possibility.

Question: What mutual dream is your team pursuing together right now?

Warning Sign #2: You stop sharing your individual dreams

You have professional dreams (pursue an advanced degree, improve your leadership, write a book, grow your ministry, etc.) and personal dreams (improve your marriage, run a marathon, learn to play the guitar, etc.)

Great team chemistry gives you the confidence to share your individual dreams!

Visions thrive in an environment of unity; they die in an environment of division. –Andy Stanley

When you stop sharing your individual dreams, it’s a warning sign that team chemistry needs attention.

Question: Are you sharing your entire individual dream with your team? When was the last time a team member shared an individual dream with you?

Warning Sign #3: You stop doing life together

My former pastor describes our chemistry when we were clicking, “In a real sense, it was merely existing friends seeing each other everyday and getting paid for it.”

The team that plays together stays together. Team that don’t…don’t.

For years we went to countless sporting events, concerts, ministry conferences, and ate way too much Mexican food together.

We never made a conscious decision to stop doing life together. Somewhere along the way, our schedules became too full.

Your team is made up of people who love to laugh, play, and connect. Staff meetings are limited in their ability to allow people to laugh, play, and connect.

Question: When was the last time you and your team had fun together?

Warning Sign #4: You complain more than you celebrate

We all bring life or death to every team meeting with our words. (Prov 18:21)

How do your staff conversations sound?

Does your team complain about the insufficient parking or celebrate the growing attendance? Do you complain about the need for more volunteers or celebrate the volunteers who are serving?

Shawn Achor says, “Happiness is a work ethic.”

In the same way, “Celebration is a work ethic.” You must intentionally look for the wins and stories you can celebrate.

However, when a team member feels the freedom to complain more than they celebrate, chemistry is crumbling.

Question: Do your meetings consist of more celebrating or complaining?

Warning Sign #5: You let others complain to you about a team member

You know better than to criticize your team members. But when you let someone else complain to you about a team member, your chemistry crumbles slowly eroding trust and unity.

Just as hypocritical parenting (do what I say, not what I do) produces children without convictions or a clear moral compass, creating a work environment that includes inconsistency and dishonesty results in a team that lacks confidence, is insecure, and is divided. –Jack Monroe (my Executive Pastor)

Question: Does anyone feel comfortable complaining to you about a team member?

Warning Sign #6: You start complaining to others about them

This may be the fastest way to destroy your team chemistry. After violating Warning Sign #5, it becomes easier to share your own criticism of a team member with others.

God tells us to use our words to build up (Eph. 4:29) and that one day we will be held accountable for every word we’ve spoken (Matt. 12:36-37).

Caution: Guard your words because “a great forest is set on fire by a small spark”. –James 3:5b

A quick filter before speaking is to ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say necessary and helpful?”

Question: Are you finding it easier to criticize anyone on your team?

In the last moments of Jesus’ life, he was burdened for unity. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed, “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be one in us, so the world may believe you sent me.” (John 17:21)

Are there any other warning signs that you would add?

10 Predictions About the Future Church and Shifting Attendance Patterns

Every generation experiences change.

But sometimes you sense you’re in the midst of truly radical change, the kind that happens only every few centuries. Increasingly, I think we’re in such a moment now.

Those of us in in Western culture who are over age 30 were born into a culture that could conceivably still be called Christian. Now, as David Kinnaman at the Barna Group has shown, even in America, people who are churchless (having no church affiliation) will soon eclipse the churched.

In addition, 48% of Millennials (born between 1984-2002) can be called post-Christian in their beliefs, thinking and worldview.

This post is part 4 of a 5 part series on why people are attending church less often. Here are the other parts of the series (including two in-depth leadership podcast interviews):

Part 1: 10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Less Often

Part 2: CNLP Episode 23: Why People Are Attending Church Less Often—An Interview with Will Mancini.

Part 3: 5 Ways to Embrace Infrequent Church Attenders

Part 5: CNLP Episode 24: Churchless: Why and How America is Learning to Live Without The Church—An Interview with David Kinnaman

If you want to access the podcast interviews easily on your phone or other device, the best way is to subscribe to my leadership podcast for free on iTunes or Stitcher

I think the change we’re seeing around us might one day be viewed on the same level as what happened to the church after Constantine’s conversion or after the invention of the printing press. Whatever the change looks like when it’s done, it will register as a seismic shift from what we’ve known.

So what will the future church be like? And how should you and I respond?

Predictions…Really?

Okay, before we get going, a few things.

I realize making predictions can be a dangerous thing. Maybe even a bit ridiculous . But I want to offer a few thoughts because I’m passionate about the mission of the church.

So, borne out of a love for the gathered church, I offer a few thoughts. Consider it thinking in pencil, not ink.

While no one’s really sure of what’s ahead, talking about it at least allows us to position our churches for impact in a changing world.

10 Predictions About the Future Church

So what’s likely for the future church? Here are 10 things I see.

1. The potential to gain is still greater than the potential to lose

Every time there is a change in history, there’s potential to gain and potential to lose.

I believe the potential to gain is greater than the potential to lose. Why?

As despairing or as cynical as some might be (sometimes understandably) over the church’s future, we have to remind ourselves that the church was Jesus’ idea, not ours.

It will survive our missteps and whatever cultural trends happen around us. We certainly don’t always get things right, but Christ has an incredible history of pulling together Christians in every generation to share his love for a broken world.

As a result, the reports of the church’s death are greatly exaggerated.

2. Churches that love their model more than the mission will die

That said, many individual congregations and some entire denominations won’t make it. The difference will be between those who cling to the mission and those who cling to the model.

When the car was invented, it quick took over from the horse and buggy. Horse and buggy manufacturers were relegated to boutique status and many went under, but human transportation actually exploded. Suddenly average people could travel at a level they never could before.

The mission is travel. The model is a buggy, or car, or motorcycle, or jet.

Look at the changes in the publishing, music and even photography industry in the last few years.

See a trend? The mission is reading. It’s music. It’s photography. The model always shifts….moving from things like 8 tracks, cassettes and CDs to MP3s and now streaming audio and video.

Companies that show innovation around the mission (Apple, Samsung) will always beat companies that remain devoted to the method (Kodak).

Churches need to stay focused on the mission (leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus) and be exceptionally innovative in our model.

3. The gathered church is here to stay

Read the comments on this blog or any other church leader blog and you would think that some Christians believe the best thing to do is to give up on Christian gatherings of any kind.

This is naive.

While some will leave, it does not change the fact that the church has always gathered because the church is inherently communal. Additionally, what we can do gathered together far surpasses what we can do alone. Which is why there will always be an organized church of some form.

So while our gatherings might shift and look different than they do today, Christians will always gather together to do more than we ever could on our own.

4. Consumer Christianity will die and a more selfless discipleship will emerge

Consumer Christianity asks What can I get from God? It asks, What’s in it for me?

That leads us to evaluate our church, our faith, our experience and each other according to our preferences and whims. In many respects, even many critics of the church who have left have done so under the pull of consumer Christianity because ‘nothing’ meets their needs.

All of this is antithetical to the Gospel, which calls us to die to ourselves—to lose ourselves for the sake of Christ.

As the church reformats and repents, a more authentic, more selfless church will emerge. Sure, we will still have to make decisions about music, gathering times and even some distinctions about what we believe, but the tone will be different.  When you’re no longer focused on yourself and your viewpoint, a new tone emerges.

5. Sundays will become more about what we give than what we get

The death of consumer Christianity will change our gatherings.

Our gatherings will become less about us and more about Jesus and the world he loves.  Rather than a gathering of the already-convinced, the churches that remain will be decidedly outsider-focused. And word will be supplemented with deeds.

In the future church, being right will be less important than doing right. Sure, that involves social justice and meeting physical needs, but it also involves treating people with kindness, compassion in every day life and attending to their spiritual well being.

This is the kind of outward focus that drove the rapid expansion of the first century church

That’s why I’m very excited to be part of a group of churches that has, at its heart, the desire to create churches unchurched people love to attend. While the expression of what that looks like may change, the intent will not.

6. Attendance will no longer drive engagement; engagement will drive attendance

Currently, many churches try to get people to attend, hoping it drives engagement.

In the future, that will flip. The engaged will attend, in large measure because only the engaged will remain.

If you really think about this…engagement driving attendance is exactly what has fuelled the church at its best moments throughout history. It’s an exciting shift.

7. Simplified ministries will complement people’s lives, not compete with people’s lives

For years, the assumption has been that the more a church grew, the more activity it would offer.

The challenge, of course, is that church can easily end up burning people out. In some cases, people end up with no life except church life. Some churches offer so many programs for families that families don’t even have a chance to be families.

The church at its best has always equipped people to live out their faith in the world. But you have to be in the world to influence the world.

Churches that focus their energies on the few things the church can uniquely do best will emerge as the most effective churches moving forward. Simplified churches will complement people’s witness, not compete with people’s witness.

8. Online church will supplement the journey but not become the journey

There’s a big discussion right now around online church. I think in certain niches online church might become the church for some who simply have no other access to church.

But there is something about human relationship that requires presence. Because the church at its fullest will always gather, online church will supplement the journey. I believe that online relationships are real relationships, but they are not the greatest relationships people can have.

Think of it like meeting someone online. You can have a fantastic relationship. But if you fall in love, you ultimately want to meet and spend your life together.

So it is with Jesus, people and the church.

9. Online church will become more of a front door than a back door

There’s no question that today online church has become a back door for Christians who are done with attending church.

While online church is an amazing supplement for people who can’t get to a service, it’s still an off ramp for Christian whose commitment to faith is perhaps less than it might have been at an earlier point.

Within a few years, the dust will settle and a new role for online church and online ministry will emerge. Online church has the potential to become a massive front door for the curious, the unconvinced and for those who want to know what Christianity is all about.

In the same way you purchase almost nothing without reading online reviews or rarely visit a restaurant without checking it out online first, a church’s online presence will be a first home for people which for many, will lead to a personal connection with Christ and ultimately the gathered church.

10. Gatherings will be smaller and larger at the same time

While many might think the mega-church is dead, it’s not. And while others think mega-churches are awful, there’s nothing inherently bad about them. Size is somewhat irrelevant to a church’s effectiveness.

There are bad mega-churches and bad small churches. And there are wonderfully effective mega-churches and wonderfully effective small churches.

We will likely see large churches get larger. Multisite will continue to explode, as churches that are effective expand their mission.

At the same time, churches will also establish smaller, more intimate gatherings as millennials and others seek tighter connections and groups. Paradoxically, future large churches will likely become large not because they necessarily gather thousands in one space, but because they gather thousands through dozens of smaller gatherings under some form of shared leadership. Some of those gatherings might be as simple as coffee shop and even home venues under a simple structure.

We will see the emergence of bigger churches and smaller churches at the same time as the gathered church continues to change.

What Do You See?

Ultimately, I have a lot of hope for the future church. I hope you do too. The mission is too important to feel otherwise.

If you want some even more specific changes I think will characterize the future church (including a few not covered here), check out this post.

In the meantime, what do you see?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

5 Ways To Embrace Infrequent Church Attenders

There’s an urgent question many church leaders are asking , as we all try to figure out how to respond as people who attend church now attend less often.

The question is this:

How do you interact with infrequent church attenders who don’t seem to be embracing the mission of your church the way you hoped they would?

I think it’s simple.

You embrace them anyway.

I chose the word ‘embrace’ on purpose. Because I know there’s something deep seated in many of us that wants to reject people if we sense they’re rejecting us. And people who don’t come out to church much on Sunday can feel like rejection if you’re an insecure church leader. (Which, by the way, is many of us on this side of heaven. Here are 5 signs that will tell you whether you’re an insecure leader.)

When I started in ministry in the mid 90s, if someone didn’t attend church for awhile, it was almost always was because they left.

Today, I don’t actually sense that the people who haven’t been at our church for a few weeks or a few months are rejecting us. In fact, when I run into them, they tell me they love our church. And that they can’t wait to get back at some point.

So no, they haven’t left. They just haven’t been lately.

So what do you do?

There are at least 5 things you can do.

Before we go there, post is the third part of a 5 part series on why people are attending church less often.

Part 1: 10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Less Often

Part 2: CNLP Episode 23: Why People Are Attending Church Less Often—An Interview with Will Mancini.

Part 3: 5 Ways to Embrace Infrequent Church Attenders

Part 4: 10 Predictions About the Future Church And Shifting Attendance Patterns

Part 5: CNLP Episode 24: Churchless: Why and How America is Learning to Live Without The Church—An Interview with David Kinnaman

If you want to access the podcast interviews easily on your phone or other device, the best way is to subscribe to my leadership podcast for free on iTunes or Stitcher

Now to the 5 things.

1. Develop some empathy

Many of today’s church leaders grew up in church. We remember a time when church attendance was simply the thing you did every Sunday. And as church leaders or volunteers, it’s what we still do every Sunday.

So at times it can be a little hard to empathize with people who don’t see things the way we see them.

Personally, I think participating in the mission of a great church weekly (including Sundays) is one of the best things a Christian can do. Unless I’m fooling myself, I think this is a personal conviction, not just a vocational conviction. If I stopped doing vocational ministry tomorrow, I would still want to participate weekly in the mission of a local church, including the Sunday ministry.

But just because I see it that way doesn’t mean everyone sees it that way.

And…here’s the danger…if you start judging people for not seeing it your way, you almost certainly turn them off. People—especially teens and young adults—can smell judgment a mile away. Judgment creates barriers.

So what do you do instead?

Empathize.

It’s not that hard to do if you realize you probably have an attitude about other organizations similar to their attitude toward your church.

Take going to the gym for example.

I have a gym membership. Truthfully, I haven’t been there in two months. But I spin on my bike trainer at home, do push ups and hike. I watch what I eat and I do other exercise. To me, my goal is fitness and health. It’s not going to the gym. The gym is a means to an end, and it’s not the only means for me.

Am I going to make the cover of next month’s Muscle Magazine? Nope. But that’s not my goal.

Many people think the same way about church. Especially if you’re reaching unchurched people. If a formerly unchurched person shows up 12 times a year, that’s far more than they’ve ever been in church! They might think they’re doing great, and maybe they are compared to how they used to feel spiritually.

So rather than judging them for it, tell them they’re doing great. And invite them in to a deeper conversation about faith and life.

I realize the gym analogy breaks down because I don’t think the Christian faith is an individual pursuit like fitness can be (more on that in part 4 of this blog series). And clearly, I would be in better shape if I went to the gym three times a week and had a personal trainer.

But if you stand there with a scowl on your face every Sunday angry about empty seats, why would anyone want to sit in one?

2. Separate the mission from the method

Somewhere along the way a lot of us end up confusing the mission and the method.

Your mission is to lead people into a relationship with Jesus, not to get people to show up for an hour in a box every Sunday.

Please hear me…I value our time together on Sundays as a church. And I think it’s presently one of our very best vehicles through which to advance the mission of the church (more on that in Part 4 of the series).

But our mission is not to fill seats on a Sunday. It’s to lead people to Jesus.

You should be obsessed with your mission, not with filling seats.

Truthfully, some of us are more in love with the method than the mission. If that’s you, repent. I have. I am.

That shift will create a whole new mindset in your team.

As Will Mancini said, that will help you run offence, not just defence on the issue of declining church attendance.

You’ll start to think of fresh ways to help people on their journey toward Jesus.

And—don’t miss this—if you really help people move into an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ, they might show up more regularly in your church on Sunday. Ironic, isn’t it?

3. Use technology to help people every day

Church leaders today have an advantage that we simply didn’t have a decade ago.

Social media and even email are great ways to help people deepen their journey with Christ, not just sell your latest program.

What if you started viewing your social media channels and email list as an opportunity to come alongside people and help them grow in their faith?

You have to be careful how you approach this, because if you’re just trying to drive attendance, people will notice.

But if you encourage them, inspire them, challenge them and help them, they’ll welcome your presence.

I wrote a post on how to write email people actually want to read here, and Casey Graham and I touched on using email and technology as a way to reach out to your church in this podcast.  I also outlined 9 great ways to use social media in this post, along with 3 common mistakes many leaders make.

If you run your social media and email content through a helpful filter, people will be thrilled to hear from you. And it will deepen the bond you have with infrequent attenders. They’ll come to see you as a friend, not just one more person trying to sell them something.

Be the favourite person in their inbox, and their favourite thing to see on their newsfeed.

Never underestimate what being helpful does for everyone involved.

4. Start measuring outputs

Perhaps the biggest takeaway for me personally from my interview with Will Mancini was Will’s insight that church leaders are programmed to measure inputs, not outputs.

We measure how many people showed up, what they gave, who they brought and even online traffic. But rarely do we measure outputs.

What if the church became as much a sending organization as a receiving organization?

What if you developed ways to measure spiritual growth? Like how much time people spend with God personally each day reading scripture and praying? The stats are surprisingly low. According to a recent study, 57% of Americans read their bible four times a year or less. Only 26% read it more than 4 times a week.

What if you helped the people around your church change that?

And what if you got innovate and started thinking through whether people were better off five years after joining your church than were before? Or whether they feel closer to Christ? Or whether they’re making a difference in their workplaces and neighbourhoods? What if you helped them be the church, not just go to church?

Leaders get passionate about what they measure. So measure thoughtfully.

5. Celebrate wins

It’s strange that when a child takes their first steps, we applaud wildly, but when a Christian takes their first steps, we call them immature.

Sure, so a new Christian doesn’t read their bible every day or attend every week or give the way you want. I get that. Many long time Christians don’t either.

Rather than judging them, why not love them?

Why not celebrate when they take a step?

Send a handwritten thank you note to each first time attender.  Welcome them when they come back. Throw a party when they show up again 3 months later. Celebrate like crazy when someone gives their first $5 gift. Jump for joy when someone decides to serve or high five them when they decide to get in a group.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a big. The point isn’t to get weird.

The point is to celebrate. As Andy Stanley says, what you celebrate gets repeated.

Want to know how to celebrate? Follow my friend Bob Goff.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with a bigger heart than Bob, or who take more delight in things others might ignore or despise. Read his book. Stalk him (okay…don’t stalk him, but do follow him). Let some of his Kingdom of God joy rub off on you. If the church approached ministry the way people like Bob approach life, the church would be a far more attractive and contagious place.

Wait…Can’t You Be More Practical?

What about more practical ideas? Most of what’s above seems so…intangible.

Two years ago, I wrote about 7 more practical ways to respond as people attend church less often in this post. All 7 ideas are still relevant.

But I wanted to focus on the bigger picture…which is really getting all of us to admit that a new day is here.

The trend is not going away.

You can fight it or you can fund it.

History tends to be on the side of people who fund innovation, not on those who fight it.

Why not innovate for the kingdom? (More on that in Part 4 next week.)

The irony in all of this, of course, is that if you really do shift your mindset on this and start helping people, they’ll want to be around you more. In fact…although this might not be your direct goal…your attendance might actually increase.

So…what are you learning?

What’s the hardest part of this discussion for you?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Church Less Often

It comes up in a surprising number of conversations these days. And no one’s quite sure how to respond to it.

The issue? Even committed church attenders are attending church less often.

Sure, the trend has been happening for years (gone are the days when people attended 50 out of 52 Sundays), but the issue is reaching a tipping point in the church today.

I first wrote about this two years ago in a post called 7 Ways to Respond as People Attend Church Less Often. In the last 24 months, the conversation has come up far more often and, to many leaders, feels much more urgent.

This isn’t a post about why people have left the church (that’s a different subject.) This is the first in a series of posts about church attenders who love God, appreciate the local church and are even involved in the local church, but who simply attend less often.

This post is the first part of a 5 part series on why people are attending church less often:

Part 2: CNLP Episode 23: Why People Are Attending Church Less Often—An Interview with Will Mancini.

Part 3: 5 Ways to Embrace Infrequent Church Attenders

Part 4: 10 Predictions About the Future Church And Shifting Attendance Patterns

Part 5: CNLP Episode 24: Churchless: Why and How America is Learning to Live Without The Church—An Interview with David Kinnaman

If you want to access the podcast interviews easily on your phone or other device, the best way is to subscribe to my leadership podcast for free on iTunes or Stitcher

So why all this attention?

This trend isn’t going away…in fact (as the podcasts will show) it’s accelerating,

It impacts almost every church regardless of size, denomination or even location.

It probably marks a seismic shift in how the church will do ministry in the future.

Of course, church attendance is never the goal. But attendance a sign of something deeper that every church leader is going to have to wrestle with over the next few years.

The first key to addressing what’s happening is to understand what’s happening.

So…why are even committed attenders attending less often? There are at least 10 reasons.

1. Greater affluence

Money gives people options.

If your church is at all engaging the middle class, the upper middle class, or a suburban demographic, an interesting trend is developing. The middle class is shrinking, but as this New York Times report shows,  it’s shrinking (in part) because more of the middle class is becoming upper class. Both US and Canadian personal disposable incomes are at all time highs.

There are simply more affluent people than there were decades ago, which may in part explain why so many “average’ people indulge their obsessions with granite counter tops, designer homes and decent cars, even without being mega-wealthy.

Naturally, this leaves a huge theological void about ministry to and with the poor, but it helps explain what’s actually happening in the suburbs and increasingly with the re-urbanization of many cities as the affluent move back downtown. Please…I’m not arguing things should be this way. I’m simply showing that this seems to be what’s happening.

And again…people with money have options. Technology options. Travel options. Options for their kids. And, arguably, that affluence may be one of the factors moving them further away from a committed engagement to the mission of the local church. It’s perhaps fuelling some of the reasons outlined below.

2. Higher focus on kids’ activities

A growing number of kids are playing sports. And a growing number of kids are playing on teams that require travel.

Many of those sports happen on weekends. And affluent parents are choosing sports over church.

It’s as simple as that.

3. More travel

Despite a wobbly economy, travel is on the rise, both for business and pleasure.

More and more families of various ages travel for leisure, even if it’s just out of town to go camping or to a friend’s place for the weekend or a weekend at the lake.

And when people are out of town, they tend to not be in church.

4. Blended and single parent families

Fortunately, more and more blended families and single parent families are finding a home in church.

So how does this translate into attendance patterns?

Church leaders need to remember that when custody is shared in a family situation, ‘perfect’ attendance for a kid or teen might be 26 Sundays a year.

Similarly, while the affluent might not be in church because of access to reliable transportation, single parents (who, not always, but often, struggle more financially) might not be in church because they lack access to reliable transportation.

So here’s the strange twist. People who have a car are often not in church because they have a car. People who want to be in church are often not in church because they don’t have a car or because it’s not their ‘weekend’ for church.

Sadly, people who want to get to church simply can’t.

By the way, I lead a church that virtually requires a vehicle to get there. I love how we often see people with reliable transportation helping out those who don’t have a vehicle. That’s at least a partial remedy to this problem.

5. Online Options

Many churches have created a social media presence and many podcast their messages like we do at Connexus. Churches are also launching online campuses that bring the entire service to you on your phone, tablet or TV.

There are pros and cons to online church (I outline 7 here) and there’s no doubt that churches with a strong online presence have seen it impact physical attendance.

But whether or not your church has online options doesn’t make the issue go away. Anyone who attends your church has free access to any online ministry of any church.

Online church is here to stay, whether you participate or not.

6. The cultural disappearance of guilt

When I grew up, I felt guilty about not being in church on a Sunday.

The number of people who feel guilty about not being in church on Sunday shrinks daily.

I regularly meet people all the time who haven’t been in months but LOVE our church.

If you’re relying on guilt as a motivator, you need a new strategy. (Well, honestly, you’ve always needed a new strategy…)

7. Self-directed spirituality

People are looking less to churches and leaders to help them grow spiritually, and more to other options.

We live in a era in which no parent makes a visit to a doctor’s office without having first googled the symptoms of a child’s illness and a recommended course  of treatment. Just ask any family physician. It drives them nuts. (Google, doctors will tell you, is not a complete replacement for medical school.)

Similarly, when was the last time you bought a car without completely researching it online?

In an age where we have access to everything, more and more people are self-directing their spirituality…for better or for worse.

Similarly, another characteristics of the post-modern mind is a declining trust of and reliance on institutions.

The church in many people’s minds is seen as an institution.

I don’t actually believe that’s what a church is. I think it’s a movement…not an institution. But many churches behave like an institution, and the post-modern mind instinctively moves away from it as a result.

8. Failure to see a direct benefit

People always make time for the things they value most.  If they’re not making time for church, that tells you something.

Even among people who say their love the church and who say they love your church, if declining attendance is an issue, chances are it’s because they don’t see a direct benefit. They don’t see the value in being there week after week.

That could be because there isn’t much value (gut check). Or it could be because there is value that they simply don’t see.

Either way, failure to see a direct benefit always results in declining engagement.

So what are you doing or not doing that leaves people feeling like there’s not that much value?

9. Valuing attendance over engagement

I’ll talk about this more in the podcast interviews and in the next posts, but when someone merely attends church, the likelihood of showing up regularly or even engaging their faith decreases over time.

At our church, I find our most engaged people—people who serve, give, invite and who are in a community group—are our most frequent attenders.

More and more as a leader, I value engagement over attendance.

Ironically, if you value attendance over engagement, you will see declining attendance.

10. A massive culture shift

All of these trends witness to something deeper. Our culture is shifting. Seismically.

Church leaders who fail to recognize this will not be able to change rapidly enough to respond to the shifts that are happening.

If you want more on how the culture is shifting, I outlined 15 Characteristics of Unchurched People Today here and outlined 12 Cultural Trends Church Leaders Can’t Ignore (But Might) in this post.

Change is unkind to the unprepared, so prepare.

That’s why I’m so passionate about this upcoming series of blog posts and podcasts.

What Would You Add?

These are 10 reasons I see for even the committed church attender attending less often.

What do you see?

Really looking forward to the dialogue on this subject over the next two weeks.

Before you leave a comment, remember, we’re talking about why people who love the church aren’t attending as much.

This isn’t the best place to go on a rant about everything that’s wrong with the church. I’ll have other posts about that, and remember, I love the church and am committed to us fulfilling our mission better than ever, even if that means radical change…which it likely does.

So what are you seeing in your church? Leave a comment!

5 Pendulum Swings Almost Every Church Leader Can Relate To

Ever feel like you’re two people?

Sometimes when I reflect on who I am, I think I just swing from one end of the emotional spectrum to another.

I’m not talking about struggling with mental health issues or being bi-polar. I have friends who are bi-polar and who struggle with mental health issues on an ongoing basis. I feel for them and pray for them. And although I burned out at one point in ministry, for the most part, I don’t have any ongoing mental health issues. And that subject—an important one—is a very different topic.

This post is about the daily ups and downs and mood swings we all go through as people and particularly as leaders; ministry leaders.

Been there?

One my favourite quotes from the last year is something Kara Powell told me in a recent interview: “Balance is something you achieve as you swing from one extreme to another.”

I still smile every time I think of that quote. So true isn’t it?

Knowing the pendulum swings of ministry and leadership can help you manage the pendulum swings of ministry and leadership.

If you don’t understand the swings involved in leadership, you’ll be tempted to quit before you should. And you’ll likely be unnecessarily confused by the challenges of ministry.

5 Pendulum Swings

So with all that in mind, here are 5 pendulum swings I’ve experienced in ministry leadership:

1. I’m doing an awesome job <——-> I’m doing an awful job

I realized early on in leadership that I’m really not the best judge of how I’m doing. For that reason, I’ve sought out feedback early and often.

And yet I realize that as a leader, you’re often the last to know how you’re really doing. And your self-perception can be off.

Left unchecked, I will often drift toward thinking I’m doing a better job than I am…or a worse job than I am. Neither is helpful for the team I lead.

If I think I’m doing better than I am, I ignore problems I need to deal with.

If I think I’m doing worse than I actually am, my discouragement can negatively impact the team.

To stay somewhere in the middle is ideal. Getting formal and informal feedback from people who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth is the best way to do this.

So the question is…are you getting that kind of honest, real time feedback? If not, what could you do to solicit it?

2. I’m completely overwhelmed <——-> I’m so bored

Leadership can be overwhelming.

I have a fairly high capacity for work, but I still find myself signing up for more projects and work than I can handle in some seasons. I’m not prone to panic, but every once in a while I get that “What on earth was I thinking??” feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Then…this almost always happens…once I get to the other side of all that work, I feel a let down..and I get bored, wondering whether I’m actually doing everything I should be doing.

I think many A type leaders can relate.

The key, of course, is to keep the challenges in balance…to load up with a healthy amount of challenge and then keep it steady.

Easier said than done. But most days…I’m not bored. :)

3. Things are going great personally <——–> I’m in the ditch

Of all the journeys in ministry, the emotional journey has been the most surprising and the most challenging personally.

It’s hard not to take ministry personally.  Unless you really work at establishing accurate boundaries, when people leave your church, it can feel like they’re leaving you. When people criticize your message or your leadership, it can feel like they’re criticizing you. 

Add to that my drive to take on big challenges, and sometimes keeping emotional balance is a weekly…if not a daily…task. After burning out 9 years ago, I’m more sensitive to it than ever.

If you struggle to keep your personal journey healthy, I wrote this post about how to get off the emotional roller coaster of ministry. Hope it helps!

4. I love the church <——–> I’m so frustrated with the church

I really love the local church. Seriously, I love it.

I hear from the critics all the time (anyone who blogs does…), but they can’t deter my passion for the local church.

And I love the church I serve too…deeply. Most days, I’m thrilled with it.

If you’re leading a church through change, or if your church needs to change, chances are you’ll spend more than a little time feeling frustrated by your church…and about your church. That’s understandable. Keep loving it though.

If you’ve led for a while and you’re still frustrated by your church, you might discover what I’ve discovered. That I’m not frustrated with the church nearly as much as I’m frustrated with myself.

Why? Because I’m the leader. And somehow I contributed to the problem I can’t figure out how to solve.

Frustrated by your church? Change what’s frustrating you and others.

Frustrated by your church after you’ve led it for a long time? Then change yourself…you’re the one with whom you’re probably most frustrated.

5. Micromanagement <———-> Abdication

Of all the pendulums that swing in my leadership, this is the one I have to manage most actively.

Our church is too big for me to manage everything. Frankly, if your church is even 50 people, it should too big for you to manage everything.

And I can be a micromanager, especially in areas in which I’m passionate. I also happen to notice every little detail…not so much in the things I create, but in the things other people create (I need other people to spot the typos in everything I write).

If I decide not to micromanage, I can run to the other side of spectrum and abdicate completely…losing interest.

It’s a horribly perfect storm to create a demotivating work environment.

So I check this every day. I try to make sure I micromanage less in areas of my passion…and abdicate less in areas where I really have no natural passion. That makes for a much better culture…a leader who is engaged, but not controlling. Passionate, but not constantly interfering.

And yes, it’s a work in progress.

What Are Your Pendulum Swings?

Those are 5 of mine. I promise you there are more.

What about you? What are you always trying to manage?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

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The Critics Will Win If You Let Them: 3 Lessons For Church Leaders From Canada’s Love/Hate Relationship With Target

Just under two years ago, Target expanded into Canada, opening 133 stores quickly.

Last month, Target announced they’re pulling out. By May 2015, all their stores will be closed…26 months after opening, having taken a $7 billion USD loss. Over 17,000 jobs are also disappearing. Ouch.

I think church planters and church leaders can learn something from what happened.

Sarah Bessey has already shared some lessons for church planters on Target’s withdrawal from Canada, and her assessment of cause is in line with much of what you read in the media and what I’ve heard from other Canadians about the subject. It’s worth the read (thanks Sarah!).

Do I think Target made some missteps? Absolutely.

But I think there’s another dynamic at work that fewer people are talking about. And it applies to church planters and church leaders too.

What’s the dynamic?

Canadians have a love/hate relationship with Target, and it reveals dynamics almost every leader has to struggle with regularly. Pay attention to these dynamics, and you can lead through them.

Ignore them, and you might succumb to them.

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1. What people say they want…is not always what people want

Many Canadians begged to have Target come to Canada for years. No trip to the US was complete for many Canadians without a visit to Tar-jay and a report back to friends at home about ‘the amazing deals we scored on such awesome stuff.’

When Target showed up, many Canadians had mixed reactions. We claimed the selection wasn’t the same. The prices were higher (see below). People complained that Target was out of stock on many items. And in the end, not enough Canadians bothered shopping there.

It appears that what people say they want is not always what people want.

So what’s the application?

Application

A leader’s job is not to discern want people want…it’s to discern (in prayerful community with other leaders) what people need.

For example. Many people say they don’t want change. They like things the way they are, they just want different results (like growth) (I wrote about what happens when people want their church to grow, just not change, here).

There’s some tension in that, isn’t there? If you keep doing what you’re currently doing, you’ll get the results you’re currently getting.

So how do you handle that?

The truth is MOST people actually want change. They just want well-led change. And the truth is most people need change. They just need well-orchestrated change.

That’s your job as a leader…to take people where they need to go, despite how they initially feel. It’s often a difficult job.

That’s why your job is not always to give people what they want. It is to lovingly, prayerfully lead them where they need to go.

If you want to learn more about how to lead change when facing opposition, I outlined 5 specific strategies for that in my latest book.

2. Rumour > truth.

Another common complaint by Canadians was that Target’s prices were higher than they should be and higher than Walmart.

First reality: it’s Canada. There are 30 million people spread out over half a continent, not 300 million. Prices are always higher here (have you shopped for a car or house recently people?) ALL prices are higher.

Second when Target arrived its prices were in a dead heat with Walmart.  And in fact, by mid-2014 Target had consistently lower prices than Walmart. 4% lower.

I’m not sure most people believe that, but truth often loses to rumours.

Another claim is that Target was constantly out of stock. Maybe I just shopped at the wrong Targets, but I never found that to be the case.  I’m not saying it wasn’t an issue in some stores, but you would think the way some people talked that walking through Target was like walking through a ghost town where nothing was left but a few bare furnishings.

A kind of group-think can take over, and, soon enough, what’s true matters less than what people think is true.

Truth will lose to rumour if you let it. So don’t let it.

Application

It’s a leader’s job to constantly remind people of what’s actually true. I wonder what would have happened if Target ran a campaign that compared prices, or addressed stock issues more intentionally.

What rumours persist in your organization or church that you can intentionally engage? Instead of going on the defensive, just continue to (thoughtfully) remind people what’s true.

3. The critics will win, if you let them

After the initial Canadian love affair with Target ended so abruptly on their arrival, the critics—ranging in tone from hostility to indifference—appear to have won the day.

Which is weird. Ever really analyzed critics?

Sure, sometimes there are well-informed critics. But often people who have accomplished very little with their lives are completely convinced they can run a multibillion dollar business far better than the CEO. Or their favourite pro team better than their coach. Or the nation better than anyone. (To which I always say, then get off your couch and do something with your life.)

Criticism is always easier than contribution. Leadership means contributing, not just criticizing. I’ve quoted this before, but it bears repeating. As the character Anton Ego said so poignantly in the movie Ratatouille:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. 

The other thing every leader need to know about critics is this: critics are almost always in the minority. Although I have no data on this, I’m quite sure there were more people who actually shopped at Target than there were critics. As I argued in Leading Change Without Losing It, the number of critics is usually surprisingly low; maybe 10-20% of any given group.

But critics are loud.

And the mistake most leaders make is that we confuse loud with large. Just because a group is loud doesn’t mean a group is large.

But the loudness of a group can kill a great initiative—if you don’t know how to handle it as a leader.

Application

So how do you handle the critics?

You listen to the critics.

You thank them.

Maybe you even empathize with them (If I were you, I might not like the music at our church either…thanks for letting me know!)

You learn from them.

And then you lead. 

Remember, if the critics are really only 10-20% of the group, it’s irresponsible of you as a leader to sacrifice the future of 80-90% of your group for the sake of a vocal minority. If you have a great vision, proceed.

Far too many God-given dreams have died because leaders grew afraid when they heard the voices of a few critics.

Don’t let the critics kill the future.

 

Any Insights?

At the end of the day…Target is just a retail company (one I liked…but it’s just a store after all).

But, church leaders, what you’re working on lasts into eternity. The stakes are so high.

What are you learning about love/hate relationships in your leadership?

Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. Scroll down…I’d love to hear from you!