From Strategy

The Impending Death (and Rebirth) of Cool Church

Everything has its season.

And the season of the cool church is, in many ways, coming to an end.

There was an era when simply being a cooler church than the church down the road helped churches reach unchurched people.

There was a day when all you had to do was improve the church you led to gain traction.

Trade in the choir for a band. Turn the chancel into a platform. Add some lights, some sound, some haze. Get some great teaching in the room. And voila, you had a growing church.

But we’re quickly moving into a season where having a cool church is like having the best choir in town: it’s wonderful for the handful of people who still listen to choral music.

Somethings changing. And a hundreds of thousands of dollars in lights and great sound gear are probably not going to impact your community like they used to.

So what’s changing? Plenty.

 

Cool Isn’t Enough (Anymore)

You might think I’m against churches have bands, lights, and creating a great environment. Not at all. In fact, as we speak, our team is building a facility for the church at which I serve that facilitates all of that.

If you are going to gather people, gather well.

My point is not that you shouldn’t.  My point is that it’s no longer enough.

And maybe it never was.

The mega-churches many of us watch today didn’t get to be as effective as they are simply by being cool.

If you really study how most large churches have become effective in leading people to Jesus (and yes—haters step aside—many large churches are effective in leading people into a real relationship with Jesus Christ), they have always been about more than just lights, sound and show. There’s substance. More substance than critics would ever give them credit for.

Are mega-churches universally healthy? No.

But neither are many small churches. In fact, sometimes the dysfunction in small churches eclipses that of medium sized or large churches.

As Geoff Surratt has so helpfully pointed out, you can’t say that just because a few mega-churches have collapsed that they are all the same. Churches like North Point, New Spring, Cross Point,  SeaCoast and Life Church, to name a few, have developed great leaders on their local campuses and across their teams. They’ve moved far beyond a structure based on one ‘famous’ name.

So why would cool church be fading into the sunset?

3 Reasons Cool Church Isn’t What It Used To Be

Decades ago as cool church started to take root among very large, rapidly growing churches, many other, smaller churches and church plants followed suit.

And for a season, it ‘worked’.

Getting some awesome lights, better sound, better music, and a slightly more hip communicator grew churches.

Sure, some of the growth was transfer growth, but a big percentage of what many churches experienced was not transfer growth. People invited their friends and their friends came back.

So what’s changing?

But now most cities have a great selection of cool churches. Many towns have at least one.

It’s no longer unusual to have a band in church. It’s not even that novel to have lights and great sound or to play all the cool songs.

And…in the process of all this imitation, three things happened:

1. Cutting edge keeps changing…fast

What was novel isn’t novel as novel for long anymore.

The rise of technology and social media means that you now hold access to pretty much anything you want in your hand whenever you want to.

You used to have to hire experts or do some exploring to find cool things.  Sometimes you even had to travel. Now you just download an app, watch a video, stream a song or follow whatever trend you’re passionate about in the moment—whenever you want to. Instantly. Usually for free.

Consequently, there’s kind of a trend-fatigue or indifference happening. Trends are shorter, less interesting, and we’re all growing oh-so-bored with what’s novel.

Which means that it’s harder than ever for churches to be cutting edge because cutting edge keeps changing.

2. Indifference to church has grown 

As this helpful Barna research points out, even in the US, people are increasingly indifferent to church.  That’s certainly been true in Canada, Europe and in places like Australia and New Zealand for a while.

So a decade ago having a cool church would have gotten you more traction than it does today.

If people aren’t into church, it doesn’t matter how cool, hip or trendy your church is, people won’t be that interested.

You behave this way. If you’re on a health kick, you’re not going to order the burger and fries, even if they are the best in town. And if you’re not on a healthy kick, the spinach, arugula, kale salad with tuna isn’t going to capture your imagination, no matter how healthy it is.

3. Imitation killed innovation

Of all three points, this one probably bothers me the most.

To begin with, when churches imitate each other, we rarely borrow all the best practices—we just borrow the ones that are easy to see or seem obvious.

But what’s made growing churches grow is deeper than the cool factor. Consequently, leaders who finally get what they were longing for—a cool church—are often shocked to discover they don’t deliver what they promised.

And in the process of all that imitation something even more important is lost: innovation.

What’s needed now more than ever is church leaders willing to pioneer….to go deep into a culture that keeps changing to reach people who are increasingly resistant.

What’s needed most as we look at what’s ahead is innovation. And it’s sorely lacking among many church leaders.

Should you never imitate? No…that’s not wise either. To refuse to borrow best practices from others is arrogant and, to a large extent, futile thinking.

The point is simply this: don’t let imitation kill innovation at your church.

Irrelevance Isn’t the Answer Either

So should you run from all things cool, trendy or hip?

No.

Relevance is better than irrelevance.

The answer to the challenge of keeping up with relevance is not to return to irrelevance.

Relevant church has many critics, but to not bridge the cultural gap is even more ludicrous (in my view) than trying to bridge it and maybe failing.

To agree to be irrelevant, ineffective and bad at what you do is a terrible option.

So what do we do as we head into the future?

5 Keys to Rebirth

The church can take many forms. But for all those leaders who, like me, believe in gathering people together for the sake of a larger mission, what does the future look like?

I think you stay relevant (and maybe even a bit cool), but you go beyond that. Dig deeper.

Here are 5 keys I see to a future of greater impact. In many ways, they are the new cool. Authenticity is the new cool. The mission is the new cool. Hope is the new cool. Community is the new cool. And so is experimentation.

1.  Authenticity

Sometimes under cool is an inauthenticity. Dump that.

Authentic resonates. People are looking for what’s real, what’s true and what’s authentic.

Here’s a post on how to be an appropriately transparent leader without oversharing.

2. Prioritize the Mission

The church has always been about something bigger than itself. At the centre of our mission is Christ.

A church that is focused on a larger mission will never become self-obsessed. Cool can carry with it a sense of narcissism.

You lose your narcissism when you lose yourself in a bigger mission.

And that, by the way, is something Millennials are longing to give their lives to.

3. Deal Hope

We leaders are dealers in hope.

And Christianity provides more hope than anything.

I’m 100% behind making messages practical, applicable and helpful. I think the Gospel is that. But it is also much more than that.

If all we have is this life, we’re to be pitied more than anyone (pretty sure the Bible says something about that).

In an age where all most people see is that which is imminent, people need to be ushered into the presence of Someone who is transcendent.

Christianity at it’s best has always been about both imminence and transcendence.

4. Elevate Community

I’m all for lights, sound, relevance and even video walls if they help the mission.

But as my friend Reggie Joiner says, the church will never be able to out-Disney Disney.

And that’s true, we will never have the budget or resources to entertain or engage the best. But even if we did…what would be the point?

While we can’t out-Disney Disney, no one should be able to out-community the local church.

God is in the people business. He loves us. And the goal is to connect people with Christ and with each other.

As your church grows bigger, it also needs to grow smaller by connecting people relationally. I know we’ve said this for years, but it’s never been more urgent.

5. Experiment

Experimenting is the key to innovation.

And, as we’ve seen, in an age of imitation in the church, innovation has been sidelined.

Bring that back.

Do what you do now, but start experimenting on the side to see what’s really going to make the biggest impact in the future.

The truth is I don’t think anyone knows what that is right now.

But that shouldn’t stop us from trying.

If you’re looking for more, here are 11 traits of churches that will impact the future.

What Do You Think?

What are you seeing in the church today.

It’s easy to criticize, but what can you add in terms of contribution?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

what to change when you can't change things

7 Things You Can Do If You Want Things to Change…and No One Else Does

So what do you do if you want things to change and pretty much no one else does?

Your team doesn’t appear to be listening. 

The leaders or board above you are opposed.

The culture in your organization is stale 

That’s a tough situation in which almost every leader finds themselves from time to time.

Clearly, you should pray. God uses our circumstances to push us closer to him.  But what practical responses should you formulate?

Many natural instincts are unhelpful in situations like this. Being impatient, critical and blaming others is counterproductive.

So what do you do?

There are at least 7 things you can do if you want to things to change and no one else does.

what to change when you can't change things

1. Cast Vision

Nothing attracts people and resources like vision. And vision always precedes people and resources.

If you’re having trouble attracting people and resources to a better vision of the future, it might be because you simply haven’t cast a clear enough vision of a preferred future.

It eventually becomes difficult not to follow a visionary leader. And if your vision is faithful to scripture and a sensible interpretation of where to head in the future, it will likely be compelling.

Will it always work? No. (See below for that.)

But far too many leaders quit before their vision is even articulated in any kind of compelling way.

You shouldn’t get angry at people for not following a vision you never told them about.

2. List All The Reasons You See For Change

Maybe change you want to make is obvious to you, but that doesn’t mean others see it.

So list every reason you see for the change. In writing.

You don’t have to show it to anyone. Just write it out for yourself.

This will do two things:

1. You’ll become privately convinced of the strength of your argument. Note: this cuts both ways. If there are few good reasons for the change, you could also talk yourself out of it (which would, of course, relieve your angst).

2. You’ll be more convincing when you talk about the change you’d love to see. Not that you’d walk around saying “And here’s another reason….” But if you’re cogent and make sense in conversation after conversation, you might change the tide of the discussion.

So grab a piece of paper or your Evernote, and make a list.

3. Change Yourself

You’re human. You’ll be tempted to focus only on the changes you’d like to see.

But the best leaders also see a great opportunity in a stalemate. They focus on changing themselves.

A stalemate is a great opportunity to grow in character and skill. If you become the healthiest, most self-aware, kindest member of the team, people will be attracted to you and what you have to say.

And you won’t be as busy trying to change them. Which might be a nice turn of events in some cases.

4. Change What You Can

So you can change yourself. And the best leaders will do that.

But there are probably some things you can also change. And yes, you’ll be tempted to rail against the things you can’t change. But again, why focus on that?

Ask yourself this: What can I change?

You’re in charge of something. Change it.

You might argue that you don’t have permission to change anything.

Sure you do. You can change the culture. Even if you’re in charge of a volunteer team of 5, make them the 5 best loved people in the church or organization. Create a super healthy team. Accomplish all you can accomplish. Do everything you’re capable of doing. Even a little more.

Others might sit up and take notice, realizing everyone would be better off if they did what you’re doing.

And even if no one notices, the 5 people you work with will notice. And they’ll be so thankful for it.

5. Publicly and Privately Support the Team

So you’ve got some personal growth happening and you’ve changed whatever is within your control.

You’ll still be tempted to rail against the leadership that just doesn’t get it.

Or you’ll be publicly loyal but privately critical—all smiles during the meeting but venomous over coffee.

Big mistake.

Integrity would demand that you be the same in public and in private.

Plus it’s a decent strategy. As Andy Stanley says, public loyalty buys you private leverage. When a leader knows you’ve been supportive, they’re more likely to listen to you, even if what you have to say (to their face) is critical.

If you’ve got an issue with someone, share it with that person directly. Otherwise, keep quiet.

6.  Weigh Your Options

Does this always turn out well? No, it doesn’t.

But churches (and every organization) would be so much healthier if people followed the course above.

So what happens if you’ve done all this and more and, still, nothing changes?

At this point I think you weigh your options. You need to decide whether you can live within a glass ceiling (things above you will likely not change), or whether it’s time to move on.

This is the time to prayerfully weigh your options, call in wise counsel and get them to give you advice and look at the pros and cons of staying v going.

When things don’t change, it might be time for you to make a change.

If it helps, I outlined 5 signs it’s time to move on in this post.

7. Make a Decision

Too many leaders I know get stuck in perpetual discontent because they refuse to make a decision.

When I ask them how long they’ve been disgruntled they’ll often tell me ‘for years’ or ‘since the beginning’. Really? Then why are you still there?

Either make peace with the limits you see, or move on.

The key is to make a decision. Decide to stay or decide to leave.

If you stay, accept the limits and play within them. Do all you can with all you are able to influence and control but know you’ve settled for something less than you once hoped for.

Or you might head into the brave frontier of the unknown.

Either way, decide. Because either way, you’ll be happier than you would be if you simply stay perpetually frustrated.

What Do You Think?

What have you learned about what do you if you want things to change but no one else does?

Scroll down and leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

What gives pastors a bad name

5 Things That Give Pastors A Bad Name With Unchurched People

I’ve been a pastor since I was 30 years old, but even now, I still don’t really like telling people what I do.

I have a heart for unchurched people and am always trying to find a way to build bridges and tear down barriers. But I feel like telling people I’m a pastor or lead a church almost automatically creates a barrier—a barrier that seems to grow with every passing year.

Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel there’s a funk associated with the idea of being a pastor that might be a combination of

ConfusionI’ve never actually met anyone who works at a church (that’s especially true in an unchurched country like Canada, where I live).

SuspicionSo what’s the deal with all those church scandals and are you in any way related to them?

IrrelevanceSo what exactly would you do all day or why on earth would your organization exist?

Pity..You really couldn’t do anything else with your life?

It’s easy to point your finger at high profile pastors who fell or who have given the church a bad name, but that lets the rest of us off the hook too easily.

Sure, we can use the negative association to vision cast and correct assumptions (and I try to do that), but what if pastors had a good name in most communities?

So let me ask a pointed question: Is there anything you or I do–as regular, average pastors–that hurts rather than helps the cause of the local church?

I think so. This matters because the more we become aware of them and address them, the better we’ll become at fulfilling our mission.

 What gives pastors a bad name

5 Things That Give Pastors a Bad Name

Please hear that I love the local church. And I love local church pastors.

The vast majority are hard working, mostly underpaid, sincere people who really love Jesus and want to make a difference.

But our blind spots can be our worst enemies. Identify them, and suddenly you can be more effective.

So here are 5 traps I try to avoid as a local pastor who loves the church and loves the people we’re trying to reach.

1. Speaking weird

I started to fall into this trap early in my ministry, and realized I had to correct it right away.

If you speak in code, you’ll have a hard time connecting with unchurched people.

If you find yourself saying brother, sister, amen, fellowship, tribulation and the like, it tends to bring less credibility to what you do.

Sure, that might work in your church circles, but if you’re trying to reach your community, it’s a barrier.

I also think the more titles you have, the weirder it gets. People ask all the time what to call me. I say Carey. I don’t even list my degrees anywhere (although I have three of them). I realize traditions differ, but I’m trying to connect with people who don’t go to church.

Here’s my rule. If you can’t talk to someone on the street the way you talk in church, you have a problem with the way you talk.

So don’t speak weird.

2. Pretending to be something we’re not

Unchurched people are tired of the hypocrisy. And, honestly, church people are weary of thinking of their pastor as someone who has it all together.

A pastor’s prayers don’t go directly to heaven. You struggle as a pastor spiritually. So do I. Sometimes we feel close to God. Sometimes we don’t.

Few of us have perfect marriages. And we need to say sorry as often as the next person.

What would happen if pastors were simply more authentic? Not as in super-raw authentic, but appropriately transparent. (I wrote about my personal rules about what to share and what not to share publicly in this post.)

Churches spent the ’90s and 2000s trying to be relevant.

Authenticity is the new relevance. Cool church isn’t nearly as powerful as authentic church.

So be honest. Talk about your struggles (appropriately).

3. Being known for what we’re against, not what we’re for

Many pastors—famous and not famous— have become known for ranting against the world.

Yes, there’s much to wring our hands over.

But I believe the general thrust of the of the Gospel is that Jesus loves the world and died for the world as an outpouring of that love.

You can think through that theologically, but also practically (most theology is practical in the end anyway).

Who would you rather hang out with? Someone who hates you, or someone who loves you, (even if they disagree with you)?

That’s a no brainer for all of us.

People gravitate toward love. You do. I do.

So…what if instead of being known for what we’re against, the local church was known for what we’re for?

I am tremendously inspired by what Jeff Henderson and the people of Gwinnett Church have done with their #ForGwinnett campaign.

They want to make significant inroads into their community, and they want to be known for what they’re for as a local church, not what they’re against.

You can check out their Facebook page to see the highlights of their #ForGwinnett campaign.

4. Being Experts on Things We’re Not Experts On

Local pastors are always being asked “What’s your opinion on [fill in the blank]?”

Many of us are scared to say “I’m not sure”. So we’re tempted to offer an ill-considered viewpoint on something we don’t fully understand. Even worse, some of us can gain social media traction through those ill-considered opinions.

I may have spent thousands of hours reading the scripture and studying theology, but that doesn’t make me an expert on everything except maybe coming to faith and growing in faith. I think I can speak into that.

I’ve also spent lots of personal time studying leadership, change and parenting. While I’ve got a lot left to learn, I can speak with a bit of expertise into those areas.

But I’m not an expert on the vast majority of issues. Do I have opinions? Sure.

But I’m not sure those opinions are helpful to the average person.

Increasingly before speaking into any issue I ask myself “Will this help move a person closer to Jesus or further away from Jesus?”

Many of our half-thought-through and even deeply held ‘opinions’ in all likelihood move Christians and non-Christians further away from Jesus.

So why offer them at all if they’re not core to the scripture or the Gospel?

Instead, why don’t we all get comfortable saying “I’m not sure” or even better, “What do you think?”

Then just listen.

You’ll be amazed at what you learn, and how you listening might actually help move someone closer to Jesus.

5. Claiming Privilege

Sometimes there’s a really good reason you need a reserved parking spot. But often there’s not.

You just want it.

Or worse, you think you deserve it.

Right now I have the smallest office of any staff who have an office. In the new facility we’re building, I have an office but it’s not the biggest one.

Jesus came to serve, not to be served. The more I claim privilege, the less I’m like Jesus.

The challenge of course, is that many of us are privileged economically or socially. So it will be a daily struggle.

But sharing what you have with others, taking the low place and serving alongside others can make a big difference, even if after it’s over, you retreat to an office to write your message in silence.

What Would You Add?

These are 5 things I see that give local pastors a bad name with unchurched people.

What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear what you’re learning.

Scroll down and leave a comment.

gifting

The Top 2 Ways Most Leaders Misuse Their Gifting (And How to Fix It)

We’re all gifted at something.

Sometimes in the name of false modesty we pretend we’re not really that gifted. But that’s just not true.

You’re gifted at something:

Communication

Leadership

Coaching people

Mercy

Serving

Writing

Discernment

Music

Editing

Encouragement

Giving

Your gift is your greatest asset.

And chances are, you’re misusing it.

gifting

Misuse #1. False Humility

Does acknowledging your gifting—or developing it—make you egotistical?

Not necessarily.

Many Christian leaders are awkward when it comes to even admitting they might be gifted at something. We slough it off. We pretend we’re not good at it.

And when we do it, we lie. That kind of humility is a false humility.

Get your theology right.

Your gift is the very thing God gave you to help you accomplish what he wants to do through you.

In other words, your gift isn’t just about you. It’s about you learning to serve God and to serve others.

Consequently, embracing your gift isn’t inherently selfish. It can be selfless. You can go on an ego trip. But it’s not inevitable.

Your gift, developed and used well, will help, encourage and even change the lives of others.

Finally—don’t miss this— your gifting says more about the Giver than it does about you.

Your gifting is a reflection of God’s handiwork.

So why wouldn’t you embrace it and use it to serve him and serve others?

Misuse #2: Underdevelopment

Being truly gifted at something can be your principal strength, but it can also become your chief weakness.

How does that happen?

It happens as soon as you begin to neglect your gifting precisely because you’re so naturally good at it.

And as a result, the most heartbreaking way I see leaders misuse their gift is simply through their failure to develop it.

Let’s say your gift is communication.

You might be able to ‘cheat’ by spending 5 hours developing a weekend message, whereas someone else might have to put in 20.

What’s unfair is that sometimes, your message will be better than their message even though you put in 5 hours and they put in 4 times the effort.

The loss in this, of course, is not that people won’t like your communication. They’ll like it. You’re gifted.

The problem is you will never realize your potential.

Regardless of what your gifting consists of, you’re just always going to be a little bit better than the average person in the area of your gifting.

You’ll even receive kudos along the way for being so relational, compelling, clear, inspiring, visionary, strong, merciful, encouraging, helpful or generous.

But you’ll never develop your gifting fully.

You’ll only scratch the surface. If that.

And you’ll never know what you could have been capable of.

Doesn’t matter what your gift is.

It could be spreadsheets, managing people, working with kids, serving the poor, or even the gift of giving—simply spend more time developing it and you will realize the full potential of your gifting.

So what’s the alternative?

Match Your Gifting With Skill

The people who really realize the potential of the gift God has given them are the people who match gifting and skill to become truly great at what God has called them to do.

Here’s how to do that:

1. Spend time on your greatest strength as though you weren’t gifted at it. 

I know that’s a strange way to say it, but here’s what you’ll do if you’re not careful. You’ll cheat. You’ll turn 20 hours of prep into 5 because you can get away with it. So just don’t let yourself do that.

Prepare as hard as you would for something you have to do that you fear failing at. And in the process, you will stop being just good at what you do–you will begin to uncover what you could be excellent at.

2. Focus the majority of your time working on your principal gifting.

Performance reviews don’t help us much when they focus on ‘3 weaknesses you can improve on’.Marcus Buckingham and the strengths movement have helped us see that clearly.

Sure, there are some things you have to do that you’re not good at.

But imagine what would happen if you could spend 80% of your time doing what you’re best at–and what likely produces 80% of your ‘results’ or best moments. Delegate, eliminate and reposition as much as you possibly can to play to your strengths. When you focus on your gift, great things can happen.

So what will you do this week with the gift God has given you?

Anyone Can Get Better

As Malcolm Gladwell has persuasively argued in his book, Outliers, the key to becoming best in your field at something is not simply raw gifting, it’s the combination of gifting and 10,000 hours of practice. (If you haven’t read Gladwell’s work on this, this interview clip is a great 2 minute summary of his thesis.)

The easiest way to become the best you can be at something is to practice it every single week, maybe every day.

I’m still working on this myself.

The reason I can communicate easily is because I’ve been speaking publicly since I was 16 when I walked into a radio station and asked them to hire me (strangely, they did).

But even 30 years into my life as a speaker, I can’t rely on my gifting to take me through my next 20 years. Even now, I am constantly rearranging my calendar constantly to get more study time and more prep time and more thinking time so I can get better.

Similarly with writing. Blogging several times a week has made me a better writer, so when I write my next book, I’ll hopefully be a better writer than I was the last time I wrote. And better writing makes me a better preacher and better speaker.

I’ve still got a long ways to go as a communicator and writer, but I’m trying to set aside increasing amounts of time to develop those gifts further.

You–and the rest of the people you love and lead–might never know what you’re missing if you do.

So go…work on your gifting.

What are you learning about developing a skill set to match your gifting? Why do you not spend more time working in the area of your gifting?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

Why You Need to Play Favorites In Leadership (And Even In Ministry)

One of the biggest challenges you will face as a leader is figuring out how to treat people.

So what do you do?

Most of us decide we’ll simply treat everyone the same.

After all, it seems like the right thing to do. Anything else is just…wrong, elitist or even unChristian.

But treating everyone the same is one of the biggest leadership mistakes you can make.

The most effective leaders play favorites. They

Don’t treat everyone the same.

Won’t give access to everybody.

Spend very little time with low performers or problem people.

Most of us want to do the opposite. We long to

Treat everyone the same.

Give access to everyone who asks.

Spend much of our time trying to help problem people or low performers because, well, it’s the right thing to do.

So why are these bad practices as leader?

There are at least 3 ways NOT playing favorites harms your leadership and 3 ways to start doing it effectively.

 why leaders should play favourites

3 Ways NOT Playing Favorites Harms Your Leadership

So how does not playing favorites harm your leadership?

It harms your leadership (and ultimately your organization or church) in several key ways:

1. It creates time pressure you can’t manage.

Most of us leaders like to think we have super human stamina, but we don’t.

After all, it doesn’t take long before you have more demands on your time than you have time. You’re probably already there.

So what do most people instinctively do? We work more hours to fit it all in.

Bad strategy.

Time is fixed. It’s finite. You only get 168 hours a week.  And you should probably not work more than 60 of them if you’re going to be in this for the long haul.

Working more hours to meet all the demands on your time will fail you fast as a strategy.

Here’s what’s true.

When you give access to everyone you end up serving no one effectively.

You get stretched too far. And when you get stretched too far, you eventually break. You burn out (here are 9 signs you might be burning out).

So trying to meet all the needs around you in a growing ministry is a perfect strategy for personal burnout.

2. It limits the growth of your church (or organization) to 200-300 people.

Not playing favorites is also a perfect strategy for stunting the growth of your church or organization.

You simply can’t lead a larger church the same way you lead a smaller church. Yet many people insist on trying by doing all the pastoral care themselves, giving everyone access, helping to make every decision and trying to be all things to all people. After all, it’s only right to treat everyone the same.

In my view, this is the chief reason why the vast majority of churches never grow beyond 200 people. (I outline the other 7 reasons churches don’t grow past 200 in this post).

A gifted leader can grow a church to 200 people based on his or her personality and personal span of care, but that’s it. Then they burn out or the church gets frustrated because, now larger, the pastor isn’t keeping up with the demands anymore, and things implode or the church retreats back to a smaller size.

The same dynamic happens when you’re running a small business. Most businesses stay small because their founder doesn’t know how to build, empower and release a team.

The problem with treating everyone the same and giving access to everyone is that your church or organization doesn’t scale.

And if anything is designed to scale bigger, it should be the church, given our mission to bring Christ’s love to the world.

3. It makes you unfaithful.

Here’s the irony.

My guess is the main reason Christians struggle with playing favorites is that we instinctively think it’s not biblical.

Just the opposite. Not playing favorites makes you unfaithful.

I know, I know….what?????

We are not the first leaders to struggle with scaling our leadership and treating different people differently.

Moses tried to treat everyone the same, and and it almost killed him and it wore out the people he led (just read Exodus 18).

The solution? Moses had to learn not to treat everyone the same.

He appointed leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties and ten. The result was that the people’s needs were met and Moses got to lead for the rest of his life. His leadership (finally) scaled.

If you start to look for it as you read, you’ll see organizational principles throughout Scripture (how did Israel become a great nation after all?)

For example, even in the New Testament, Jesus and early Christian leaders didn’t treat everyone alike.

Jesus actually walked away from people who need to be healed in order to get food and rest.

Jesus organized his disciples into circles according to potential impact…groups of 70, 12, 3 (Peter, James and John) and 1 (Peter) and intentionally spent the most time with those inner circles.

The early church reorganized, moving their key teachers and preachers away from daily tasks and appointing new leaders, which fuelled new growth.

Loving everyone does not mean treating everyone the same way.

So if you want to be more biblically faithful, start treating different people differently.

3 Ways to Play Favorites Effectively

I realize this is completely counterintuitive for most Christians.

But before you dismiss it, at least consider it.

So how should you start to play favorites?

Approach the shift with humility, with grace, and with prayer. But realize that to steward your gift of leadership effectively, you’re going to have to make the same tough calls that Moses, Jesus and the early church leaders made.

Here are three ways to play favorites in a way that helps everyone:

1. Spend the most time with your best leaders.

If you never think about how you spend your time, you’ll spend most of your time fighting fires.

You’ll ignore your best leaders (because they’re low maintenance) and spend all your time trying to prop up your weakest leaders or with people who simply always have problems (you know who I’m talking about).

The people you spend the most time with don’t have to be the smartest people or the richest people by any stretch (see below), but you should spend most of your time with the key people you’ve trusted most deeply to carry the mission forward.

Chances are they won’t ask for more of your time because they manage and lead themselves well. But they should get it anyway.

Like Jesus, spend most of your time with the people you are trusting to lead the mission and cause forward.

2. Release others to help others.

So do you just ignore everyone else, heartlessly?

Of course not.

Release others to help others.

The other shadow side of not playing favorites when you’re the leader is that your insistence on being the centre of everything disempowers other gifted people.

As you build a team, release others to help others. Moses did this. By organizing around leaders who could lead thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens, everyone was cared for. Including Moses.

Think about that.

If you want to personally help everybody, you will eventually help nobody.

3. Make Time For Anyone, Just Not Everyone

Probably the biggest objection to playing favorites is that it will lead you to favoritism. As in well now you only hang out with rich and powerful people, right? 

And that would be a mistake. James 2 could not be clearer that we should not favor the rich over the poor.

So how do you handle this if you’re restricting access and deciding to play favorites?

Make time for anyone, even if you are not going to make time for everyone.

I keep some open appointments on my calendar for people who don’t fit my ‘closest’ leader categories.

It will help you stay in touch and help people realize this isn’t an elitist thing at all.

And for sure, you will likely get more requests than you can accommodate (I do), but it means you will stay in touch with a wide variety of people even if you can’t do it all the time.

So even when you play favorites, you can still make time for anyone, even if you don’t make time for everyone.

I Realize This is Counter-Intuitive

I realize this is counter-intuitive. If you want to drill down further,

I wrote a little more about the skill set leaders need to manage their time and leadership well in these posts.

A 6 Step Strategy on How to Say No Nicely

Why You Can’t Have 5 Minutes of My Time

The Top 10 Ways Leaders Waste Time (And 10 Time Hacks to Help You) 

In the meantime, what are you learning in this area? What’s difficult for you in making tough calls like this? What have you learned that can help other leaders?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Why Most Churches Greet You Like It’s 1999

So your church has a website and a Facebook page. The adventurous have perhaps added Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Or maybe you’ve gone all out, even podcasting your messages or building an app for iOS or Android. (The links are to Connexus Church sites, where I get the chance to serve!)

We’re still in the early days of social media and everyone’s trying to figure out what ministry online means.

Whatever your church might be doing, my guess is you’re trying to connect with people online in some way, which is awesome.

Here’s the question though.

When you welcome people to your church, do you still behave like it’s 1999?

Strangely, most churches do.

I’ve been to very large, high budget churches who have a digital presence everywhere and—for whatever reason—still welcome people like it was back in the day when the cassette ministry was booming.

I even caught myself doing this earlier this year.

The good news, the fix is quick simple and free for all of us.

Is My Glaring Omission Yours Too?

So what do you say when you welcome people to your church?

For years, our hosts (including me) have said something like:

Welcome to Connexus! We’re so glad you’re here. If you’re new here, we’d love to connect! Drop by our guest services desk. We’d love to connect with you there.

Today, we’ll be here for about 70 minutes, sing some songs together, open up the bible to see what it means to us today and pray together. (Then we share one or two announcements we want everyone to know.)

See what I missed there?

Did you catch it?

I said ZERO (as in nothing at all) about our online presence.

Nothing about our social media. Nothing about our app. Zippo about our podcast. Nothing.

Yet 80% of the people (or more) are sitting there with their phones in their pocket.

During the week, we try to behave like it’s 2014. But Sunday morning, I was behaving like it was 1999.

This is the Opportunity You’re Missing

If it was actually 1999, people would have to drive to your church or to someone’s home to connect with someone else from the church.

Or they would have to buy (or pick up) a cassette or CD to listen to a message or series.

For the most part, in ministry you would show up in peoples’ lives occasionally at best.

Now, you can show up in a person’s life every time someone checks their phone courtesy of social media, email, your app, your podcast and more.

I realize that’s a double edged sword. There are definitely people you don’t want showing up in your life every day.

But I’m guessing there are some people you’d really appreciate hearing from regularly.

What if your church became one of them?

What if people were genuinely thankful to hear from you during the week?

See…you and I have moved from a world in which we had the ability to encourage people once or twice a week, to a world in which we can connect daily.

This isn’t just a promotional thing (don’t miss our big cheesy dinner Tuesday night!), it’s a discipleship thing.

Seriously, you can gain permission to speak into people’s spiritual journey regularly.

Publish helpful, useful content, and people will sign up to follow you. Don’t, and of course, they’ll unfollow you. The online world gives you instant feedback on whether you’re helping people or not. Just check your stats.

The Fix is So Simple

So don’t miss this simple fix.

If you’re publishing helpful, online content (and I realize we’re all growing in this and trying to figure out what that means), then just make sure you mention it Sunday morning.

Behave on Sunday morning like you can help someone during the week.

And the easiest way to help them, encourage them, inspire them and inform people during the week is via social media and your online presence.

So talk about that.

This is what we say now when we welcome people at Connexus:

Welcome to Connexus! We’re so glad you’re here. If you’re new here, we’d love to connect! Drop by our guest services desk. We’d love to connect with you there. Today, we’ll be here for about 70 minutes, sing some songs together, open up the bible to see what it means to us today and pray together.

We’d love to stay connected with you this week. The easiest way to do that is by following us on social media. You’re welcome to take out your phones right now and follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (we show the links on the screen as we say them). We also love hearing from you and this is great way to keep up the conversation.

Then, during the week…help people. Encourage, inspire and occasionally inform.

If you hand out a program or bulletin, make sure you include how to connect with you online.

And if you have a website, have a prominent place to follow your church on social media. People will connect with you 100x more on your social media platforms today than they ever will on your website.

Bottom line?

If you’ve got any online presence, talk about it on Sunday morning. Strangely, so many churches still don’t.

The change is free, easy, instant and everyone can do it. Just change what you say when you welcome people.

We’re All Learning

Want more? I’m not sure anyone has cracked the code on how to optimally use social media. But here are some resources that have helped me and some churches I like to follow online:

Cross Point Church

North Point Church 

Lifechurch.tv

New Spring Church

Elevation Church

Casey Graham and I also talked about how to connect with people using email marketing in Episode 3 of my leadership podcast.  (Subscribe for free here to hear feature length interviews with Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Casey Graham, Kara Powell, Jon Acuff and more.)

Finally, nobody writes better stuff on church announcements than Rich Birch. Make sure you mine his site at Unseminary.com for posts like this that will change your announcements from a few minutes people tolerate to a few minutes people will anticipate.

So…what are you learning about connecting with people online during the week?

How do you highlight your social media on weekends?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

7 Questions Every Volunteer Asks But Never Says Out Loud

So you’d love to see more volunteers serve in your church or organization.

Who wouldn’t?

And yet when it come to volunteers, a surprising number of leaders struggle. Many leaders suffer from:

A chronic shortage

High turnover

Mediocre or poor morale

Ask most leaders why this is, and they can’t tell you.

And yet the reasons are not that difficult to figure out. Often you just need to shift perspectives.

questions volunteers askStart With This One

Here’s a simple place to start. If you’re always short on volunteers, ask yourself

Would you volunteer for you?

Answer honestly. The response can be very telling.

If the answer’s no (or you think the answer is yes, but almost everyone else would answer it for you differently), then the next step is to figure out why. Why aren’t people stepping up or sticking around?

That’s where the next 7 questions can help.

7 Questions Every Volunteer Asks

Almost every volunteer at some point probably asks variations of these 7 questions, whether they ever say them out loud or not. If you’ve volunteered for someone else, you’ve probably asked them whether you realize it or not.

Develop great, healthy answers to these 7 questions, and volunteers are far more likely to stick around.

Better, yet, they’re likely to grow and flourish under your leadership.

1. Is this really about the mission?

Most people want to give themselves to a cause that’s bigger than themselves. In my view, no cause is greater or more worthy than the mission of the local church.

Yet many churches lose focus on the mission.

Volunteering ends up being about

Filling a slot

Meeting a need

Doing your duty

Or, in the worst case scenario, volunteering can become more about serving the ego of the leader than it does about serving Christ.

When you keep the true mission of the church or your organization central, people rally.    For example, in addition to leading a local church, I sit on the Board of Directors for an extremely well run local food bank. Their mission? A city in which no one is hungry. That’s inspiring.

When you lose focus on the mission, volunteers lose heart.

Every volunteer wants to give their time to something bigger than us or bigger than themselves. So give them that opportunity.

2. Are the relationships around here healthy?

No community should have better relationships than the local church.

After all, our faith is based on a saviour who reconciled the world to himself, forgiving our sin. What could we possibly hold against one another?

And yet often the local church has some of the most fractious, passive-aggressive relationships out there.

We have a saviour who came full of grace and truth, yet often church leaders will often swing to either extreme: all grace, so issues are never dealt with, or all truth, so people get hurt.

Even if you don’t lead a church (leaders from a variety of backgrounds read this blog), realize that many people love the mission of the organization they work for, they just can’t stand the personal politics and dysfunction.

One of the greatest gifts church leadership can give to a congregation is healthy relationships. So be healthy.

Not sure what that means?

Start by changing one thing. Talk to people you disagree with, not about them. That will change far more than you think.

Additionally, almost every organization has toxic people in it. Here’s a primer on how to spot and deal with toxic people.

3. Will serving help me grow spiritually?

It’s ironic that in many churches and organizations, people equate serving with burning out, not being renewed.

And yet Christian service should be a paradox of renewal: when we give our lives away, we find them. When we serve, we grow.

Part of growing is providing a healthy environment. Pay attention to the issues addressed by the other six questions and you’ll have an environment that favours growth.

But you also need to care for volunteers spiritually, or at least provide an environment in which spiritual growth flourishes.

Pray for them.

Pray with them.

Share your journey.

Encourage theirs.

Mentor your key leaders.

You can’t guarantee spiritual growth will happen, but you can provide the conditions in which it can easily happen.

4. Am I just a means to an end?

I wish I could get some of my early years of leadership back. As much as I would have denied it at the time, I think I naturally saw people as a means to an end.

The end was (and is) a great one: fulfilling the mission of Christ’s church.

But people matter. A lot.

Nobody likes feeling used, but that’s often how churches and other organizations treat people.

Care about them. Encourage them. Ask questions. Listen to their stories. Pray for them.

When you have a healthy, Christ-centered, energized team that knows they’re valued, the mission advances further and faster anyway.

 5. Will you help me develop the skills I need?

I have a friend who has visited a lot of churches and non-profits tell me recently that—as well intentioned as leaders are—the vast majority of organizations are, in his view, poorly run.

That’s a tragedy.

Why is the local Walmart better run than the local church?  Seriously. One is selling products that last a day, a month or a year. The other is brokering life change that lasts forever. The church should be the best in the world at recruiting, training and releasing people into ministry and their calling.

Many volunteers who come your way are highly capable people who just need a little training to know how to master the specific task you’re giving them.

A good heart just needs to be supplemented with a good skill set. Set aside an evening or a Saturday to properly train volunteers as they start serving, and then top up their training from time to time to help them get better at what they do.

6. Are you organized, or are you going to waste my time?

Disorganization is epidemic among church leaders and non-profits.

Too many volunteers show up to do their job only to discover that they also  have to do yours because once again, you’ve dropped some balls.

The more organized you are (on time, prepared, other holes plugged), the more your volunteers will be able to excel at what you’ve asked them to do.

As I first outlined in this post, disorganization is one of the six reasons many leaders lose high capacity volunteers. Here are 5 more.

7. So, am I signing up for life?

In many churches, serving is like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

You’re a Christian for life, but that doesn’t mean you have to serve in one role for life. But many churches just assume people will.

What if you start putting a time line on every role? What if your conversation sounded more like:

Why don’t you try this for a season?

Can you serve with us for this semester/year?

People in this position typically serve for a 3 year term. You can try it out for a month before you commit to that term.

We definitely have some long term serving roles at Connexus (for example, we ask our high school small group leader to serve for four years), but we’re clear on the term from the outset.

Most other roles can easily be shortened to a few months to a year.

If you start providing end dates for roles, you’ll notice something surprising. Many people stay after their term has ended. They sign up for more.

Surprisingly, when you give volunteers an out, many lean in.

Want More?

In churches and non-profit world, leading and managing volunteers is one of the most important tasks you’ll have.

If you’re looking for more tangible resources, my friends at Volunteer Rocket will help take you in depth. It’s a year’s worth of resources to help you gain, train and retain volunteers that can help you completely change your volunteer culture. And they have a free seven day trial on now.

And you work in pre-school or children’s ministry, Live to Serve, with Adam Duckworth and Sue Miller, is a new practical, hands on training day for you as a leader that’s coming to four cities in 2015.

Hope this helps!

So what would you add to this list?

What questions do you ask when you volunteer somewhere? What other unarticulated questions do you think volunteers are asking?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

How To Know Whether You’re Trusting God…or Just Being Stupid

One of the most perplexing questions a Christian and, to be sure, a Christian leader will face when it comes to risk is this:

Am I trusting God, or am I simply being foolish?

The question isn’t as dumb as it seems.

There’s a fine line between faith and irresponsibility, and at times it’s almost impossible to see.

You know that big leadership risk you’re thinking about?

your new role

the massively daunting project

the big mission trip

that new campus

your start up

hiring a team

a new facility

the big move?

So…is it a step of faith, or is it just stupid?

Is it trust…or is it irresponsibility?

How would you know?

risk

Real Risk Lives on the Edge of Spectacular

Recently I had a call from a pastor friend who wanted to get his church out of a portable situation and into a new facility.

We had talked about the move several times, and on this particular day he was down the wire. His church had given at unbelievably sacrificial levels, but he was still at least 6 figures short of his goal. Yet they had a building deal in front of them that they could move on now before costs escalated beyond what they could afford.

He asked me what I thought. I asked more questions. The answers really didn’t help me get much clarity at all, despite my friend’s best intentions.

I asked him what other wise people he and I both knew were saying. He said everyone thought it was pushing the known limits.

I said I tended to agree.

We talked some more.

So what advice did I end up giving him?

I told him:

I think this will be spectacular. It will either be spectacularly wonderful or a spectacular failure. And I don’t know which.

That’s quite literally what I told him. (Bet you don’t want to call me for advice anymore….)

But that was the truth. I just didn’t know which. I told him I’d be watching with prayerful anticipation, which I did.

So what did my friend do?

He put out one last call for giving and people…responded.

They signed the deal. And recently I saw his amazing new facility that’s nearing completion.

I’m glad I kept my mouth shut. He was right. It looks like it was a spectacularly great decision for his congregation and all those they’ll reach in the coming years.

The Bible Sometimes Makes Things…Complicated

Ever really read the Bible?

So when you read it…what do you see? Faith or foolishness?

What was Abraham thinking when we set out with his entire family to go to a land he’d never been to, risking everything for a voice he thought he’d heard?

Who was Moses to think he could stand up to the most powerful king in the land, or to even attempt it after he had so much doubt about his calling?

The prophets were….not very typical suburban people. Ezekiel lay on his side for 390 days and all eating a specific diet cooked over excrement and played with a scale model of Jerusalem to show its pending destruction…wow!)

Imagine how Daniel felt being thrown into the lion’s den. Had he lived his life faithfully, or foolishly? He was about to find out.

Would you have advised your kids to do what Peter James and John did, leaving it all (including you, mom and dad!) to follow a man that had just burst onto the scene and some are starting to think is God?

How about Paul, who went from place to place, prison to prison, painfully misunderstood but absolutely committed to proclaiming this Jesus so many people rejected?

We say we want our kids to lead faithful lives, but do we even have a clue what that means?

None of our biblical heroes were exactly on the top college/stunning career track.

If you were advising any of these biblical figures, what would you have told them to do?

What is a Godly decision?

Is it always wise, prudent, restrained, responsible?
Or is it always risky, edgy, out-there, half-crazed?
Or neither?
Or both?

That’s a tough one, isn’t it?

Two Helpful Questions

For the record, I don’t believe there’s an easy way, five step, bullet proof way to resolve the tension between faith and foolishness.

Pivotal decision making should be navigated through prayer, through pouring over scripture (prayer and scripture should always be married) and through seeking advice of trusted, Christian mature people around you (click here for how to develop an inner circle like that). But sometimes that even lands in a place of uncertainty.

Here are two questions I’ve started asking myself to help when things aren’t clear:

1. Is ‘wisdom’ killing my trust in God?

2. Does my ‘trust’ in God disregard all wisdom?

Q 1:  Wisdom Killing My Trust?

I think the first question—is wisdom killing my trust in God—is more disturbing for me.

I’ve led for 20 years and learned a lot of lessons. I’m wiser than I was decades ago (hopefully that’s true for all of us who have led for a while).

And that can lead me to choose what I know, can see and can predict without honestly going for broke and trusting God wholeheartedly.

More over, the more successful you become—the more money you have, the more people you’ve reached, the more influence you have—the more conservative you tend to become. I’m not talking politics here, I’m simply saying you tend to not want to lose what you’ve got, so you naturally conserve more and risk less.

You know what’s underneath that? Fear.

Fear is clever. And fear can hide behind wisdom.

You can get to a certain season in leadership in which you no longer want to take risks in the name of being ‘wise’, ‘prudent’ or ‘ responsible.”

But the truth is you don’t want to rock the boat. If you examined your motives, you’d be honest and say you don’t want to lose what you’ve already gained. You simply don’t want to sacrifice what is for the sake of what could be.

You’d be forced to admit that having is more comforting than trusting.

And you’ve allowed ‘wisdom’ to become a substitute for trust.

And that’s bad.

That’s why young leaders are often better risk takers than seasoned leaders—they have less to lose so they risk more.

And that can lead some leaders to stop trusting God because ‘risk’ looks unwise.

When was the last time you had to trust God for the outcome of something? I mean really trust God?

If you can’t remember, it might be a sign you’ve let wisdom kill your trust in God.

Q 2: Does My Trust in God Disregard All Wisdom?

The opposite of course, can also be true. You have so much faith that you’re…well, reckless.

What people claim to be ‘trust’ can easily be:

their ego
their insecurity
a cruel disregard for other people
deep disobedience
irresponsibility

Just because you label it ‘faithful’ doesn’t mean it’s faithful.

If you are disregarding wisdom entirely and likely to hurt a bunch of people you’re likely not being faithful.

Trust still looks like Jesus…and it should have outcomes consistent with his character and with scripture.

If your decision makes you and the people you lead look nothing like Christ, it’s not from Christ.

The Final Call

So…you can go through all of these steps and still not be clear. You knew that, didn’t you?

So what happens if all of this (prayer, scripture, wise counsel and questions like the two questions above) doesn’t lead you to a conclusion?

Here’s what I do.

I just make a decision. So should you.

So many dreams have died because people were terrified to make the wrong decision. Don’t be.

Whatever decision you make, offer it up in faith. Make it faith. Dedicate the decision and the outcome to God, like Paul suggests in Romans 14:23.

A prayer like that can sound something like this:

God I”m doing this (or not doing this) because I trust you. If it’s wrong, I trust you will show me. If it’s right, I trust you will show me. I’m trusting you with the outcome.

Then go for it. With confidence and faith. Don’t hold back.

For as Augustine said:

Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

So…what do you think? What are you learning?

What would you add to this discussion?

And maybe even tell me what big decision you’re weighing right now.

Scroll down and leave a comment!

6 Very Avoidable Reasons You’re Losing High Capacity Volunteers

The following is a best-of post that I hope helps you lead your volunteer teams better than ever before. It’s a reprint of the most popular volunteer post I’ve written on my blog.

If you’re interested in taking your volunteer development to a new level, don’t miss the Get More Volunteers Online Training Event, Tuesday November 4th beginning at 1:00 EST.  I’ll be participating along with other leaders, and best of all it’s completely free. Just click on this link to register now for free.

My guess is you could use a few more high capacity volunteers.

You know—the kind of volunteer who:

Can attract other capable leaders

Doesn’t drop balls

Loves a challenge

Constantly overperforms

I mean, who doesn’t want more of those people on their team?

But today in many churches, and in many not-for-profits, staff leaders are wondering where the high capacity leaders have gone.

The paradox is they’re probably in your organization. They might be attending, and some are helping to fund it.

But so many aren’t serving, and even if they step up, far too many high capacity people walk away way too soon.?

Why?

 

6 Reasons You’re Losing High Capacity Volunteers

I know this is a bit of a tough post. But you need to know I’ve made every single of of these mistakes over my time in leadership.

So if your response to reading this is “oh no”…just know that if you make some changes you’ll find yourself in a very different (and better) place.

There are at least 6 reasons high capacity volunteers never join a team or leave it early.

 

1. The challenge isn’t big enough

It’s really quite simple. People with significant leadership gifting respond best to significant challenges.

Under challenge them and they won’t stay engaged for long.

So many church staff and non-profit staff I talk to are worried about giving their volunteers too much responsibility. Newsflash: that might be exactly why you don’t have enough high capacity volunteers (not to mention a thousand other problems on your team.)

2. Your vision, mission and strategy are fuzzy

People want to serve a cause bigger than themselves. And actually, that’s what the church (and most non-profits) are all about: causes bigger than ourselves.

But often our mission, vision and strategy are fuzzy.

Mission is the what.

Vision is the why.

Strategy is the how.

Even if they’re written on a piece of paper most people functionally can’t tell you what they are.

That’s a tragedy. The motivation for volunteers IS the vision. It’s the why behind the what.

And—get this—the church has the best vision and mission on planet earth. So why on earth do we hide it?

Quite seriously, helping people discover the God who created them and the Saviour is the most rewarding work volunteers will do in their lives, regardless of what they get paid to do their day jobs.

3. You’re disorganized

Few things are more demotivating than giving up your time as a volunteer only to discover the staff person responsible didn’t set you up to succeed.

The tools they need to do the job are missing or incomplete. The rest of the team is late.

Or maybe—worse—they’re not even 100% sure what they are supposed to do or how they are supposed to do it.

You can always find people who will put up with disorganization, but many more will simply give up.

And high capacity people will make a beeline for the door.

4. You let people off the hook too easily

I know I know.

They’re volunteers. And you can’t hold a volunteer accountable can you?

Wrong. You most certainly can. And should. For everyone’s sake.

If a volunteer is late, it’s really no different than if a staff member is late. Sure, you want to address it kindly, but you need to address it.

Again, few things are more disheartening for a motivated volunteer than if they did their homework and showed up early only to find that others didn’t, and then, to top it all off, have a staff person excuse the behaviour of the people who didn’t pull their weight with lines like “it’s okay, we’re just glad you’re here”.

The high capacity leader dies a thousand deaths every time he or she hears a staff person utter those words. And then, almost 100% of the time, the organized, highly motivated exactly-the-kind-of-leader-you-were-hoping-to-keep will leave, and the slackers will stay.

5. You’re not giving them enough personal attention

Another big challenge for church leaders and non-profit staff is the innate desire most of us feel to treat all people ‘equally’.

You don’t want to play favourites, so everyone should be treated the same.

Again, wrong.

The church should always be a loving organization. But certain people require more of your time and attention.

Unless you’re intentional, you’ll end up spending most of your time with your most problematic people and the least amount of time with your highest performing people.

Flip that.

Cut ties with the low performers and spend most of your time walking alongside and developing your best leaders.

And before you think that’s completely unfair, just know your entire team will thank you for it because you’ll end up with a strong team.

By the way, Jesus did this too. He had crowds of disciples, but then a group of 72, an inner group of 12, an inner circle of 3 and placed his greatest investment in 1 (Peter).

6.  You don’t have enough other high capacity volunteers around them

It’s never fun to lead alone.

As soon as you find a high capacity volunteer, your next step should be to recruit more and move others alongside them.

Nurture this team. Build into them. Take them for lunch. Take them with you when you travel. Do life with them (again, I think Jesus modeled this pattern).

Sadly, many leaders don’t do this, and high capacity leaders once again walk away, demotivated.

Those are 6 reasons I see in the church and organizations around me

Want more? Sign up for the Get More Volunteers Online Training Event, Tuesday November 4th beginning at 1:00 EST now for free!

How to Lead Change When You’re NOT The Senior Leader

If you were in charge, everything would be different, wouldn’t it?

But you’re not. At least not yet.

So how do you effect change when you’re NOT the senior leader? How do you lead change when you’re a staff member or simply a volunteer?

Because I’ve written on change, I get that question all the time. That shouldn’t be a surprise, really. Far more people are NOT the senior leader than are the senior leader.

It’s easy to think you’re powerless, or to try to work around a leader you disagree with. But neither is a great strategy.

So what do you do if you want to bring about change but you’re not the key decision maker?

Not the leader

If you do a little homework and learn to think differently, you can be exceptionally effective at leading change well, even when you’re not the senior leader. Even if you’re ‘just’ a staff member or ‘just’ a volunteer.

How?

Here are five ways you can ‘lead up’ to your senior leader when you want to broker change:

1. Think like a senior leader.

So you’re not a senior leader, but try to imagine that you were. Imagine the pressures and issues facing your senior leader and approach the conversation accordingly.

Think through how it impacts the entire organization.

Understand that your senior leader may have budget restraints and many other interests to balance, like a board of directors or elder board. Show him or her that you understand that and you’re willing to be flexible on some points.

Showing your senior leader you understand the bigger picture is huge.

I’m a senior leader and I’ll disclose a bias here.

When someone on my team comes to me with any idea and I realize they have thought it through cross-organizationally (that is, they’ve thought through how it impacts the entire organization), I am far more open to it than otherwise.

Why? Because

They’re thinking about more than just themselves.

They did their homework.

They helped me do my homework.

They showed me they’re leading at the next level.

I always try to be open to new ideas, but here’s the truth. Often before the person is done their presentation or we’re done the discussion, I’ve already thought through 15 implications of their idea.

If they show me theyve thought through the 15 implications before they got to my office, I’m completely impressed and very open.

I’m not saying that’s a good thing, I’m just saying it’s a true thing.

And I think it’s true of most senior leaders.

When you think like a senior leader, you’re more likely to persuade a senior leader.

2. Express desires, not demands.

No one likes a demanding person.

In fact, when someone demands something there’s something inside me that wants to not give them what they asked for.

I don’t always follow that impulse, but expressing demands damages relationships. Instead, talk about what you desire.

Show respect and tell him how you feel – don’t tell him how you think he should feel. And above all, don’t be demanding.

3. Explain the why behind the what.

As Simon Sinek has so rightly pointed out, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Your best argument is not the what (we need to completely transform our church) or  the how (here’s how you should do it).

It’s the why (I think I’ve discovered a more effective way to reach families in our community and help parents win at home…can I talk to you about that?)

The more you explain the why, the more people will be open to the what and the how.

Lead with why. Season your conversation with why. And close with why.

4. Stay publicly loyal.

Andy Stanley has said it this way: public loyalty buys you private leverage.

It’s so true. If you start complaining about how resistant your senior leader is, not only does that compromise your personal integrity, he’s not dumb.

He’ll probably hear about it and he will lose respect for you.

In my mind as a senior leader, the team members who conduct themselves like a cohesive team always have the greatest private influence.

Your public loyalty will buy you private leverage.

5. Be a part of the solution. 

If you’re discontent (which you should be, as I wrote about here), it’s not that difficult to drift into the category of critic. Unless – that is – you decide to be part of the solution.

Offer help. Don’t end-run your leader, run with your leader on the project.

Be the most helpful you can be.

Offer to do the leg work.

Bring your best ideas to the table every day.

Offer to help in any way you can.

If you won’t be part of the solution, you’ll eventually become part of the problem.

So be part of the solution.

Those are five ideas on how to lead change when you’re not the senior leader.

Do they always work? No…human dynamics are more complicated than that.

But they often work, and if they don’t, you will know you gave it everything you had and then you can weigh your options. (Click here for 5 signs it’s time to move on.)

If you want more on change, I wrote about effectively leading change in my best-selling book Leading Change Without Losing It.

Non-senior leaders, what would you add?

Senior leaders, what other advice would you give?

Scroll down and leave a comment!