Can churches grow in the summer? Of course they can. In fact, churches should grow in the summer. However, they rarely do for one simple reason: their leaders let down too much.Continue Reading...
Archives For 2013
Here are some things on my mind this Friday morning:
- Among sporting events, choose a baseball game if you want to spend quality time with someone else. Last night, I took Anna to a game, and it was one of the best father-daughter experiences I’ve ever had.
- I’m really, really sad for the churches led by the three megachurch pastors who resigned due to adultery this week. I won’t throw any rocks at those guys, but the damage this brings to their families, churches, and Christ’s name in Orlando is significant. Let all Christians (and pastors especially) watch out for the enemy, who prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
- These three things are beautiful, and as rare as unicorns: an honest, quality, good-value mechanic; a happy and efficient DMV worker, and politicians taking responsibility for mistakes and giving credit to others.
- I saw the Great Gatsby. Compared to the book, I thought they made it more of a love story than commentary on greed and excess. However, it’s superbly acted and beautifully filmed. It’ll probably be nominated for three or four artsy Oscars. It’s one you’ll want to see on the big screen.
- It’s surprising how much some non-Calvinists hate Calvinism. Some of the blogs this week were unbelievable.
- I’ve never tried guacamole. As a native Californian, this is blasphemy…but a blasphemy I plan to continue.
- I never tried salsa until I was 30 years old.
- Congratulations to Bill Gates for once again becoming the world’s richest man. At least he gives a lot of it away–90%.
- Other than the obvious problems, the IRS’s biggest problem in their current malaise is that most people hate them. They have few friends, and the masses are cheering for their defeat. Thus, it’s good for politicians on both sides of the aisle to appear upset and push for serious carnage here. They perform a necessary function in our society, but in the eyes of the masses they have gone from being those who protect against fraud to the fraudulent abusers of power. Whether that’s fair or not will be born out as we see what actually happened. If they were forced to do it by the White House, trust may be partially restored.
- Going back to my post on accountability this week–let’s apply it to the current White House scandals. In each case, the Justice Department is being asked to investigate the issue. Hah!
- Remember when the Justice Department was asked to investigate the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious scandal?
- In each case, there will be an underling sacrificed. In Washington, it’s never the fault of those on top. Good leaders accept responsibility for the actions of those under their management.
- I’m sorry to rant on the subject…but it’s one of the most stark examples of failed leadership I’ve seen in my lifetime. This isn’t to say the President hasn’t had some shining moments as well. I’m saying this is clearly not one of them–and you can often see a leader’s true leadership qualities when they’ve failed.
- It feels like the NBA playoffs started a year ago. They really should make the format a little more concise.
- There is a fitness-Nazi trend among pastors these days. I think this is pleasant reversal from the days of pear-shaped pastors–and I’m jumping in.
- However, I hope we don’t get vain or judgmental about it.
- The only book I prefer in paper form is the Bible. I can’t do devotional reading of the Bible on my phone or screen. It just feels too weird. Give me a good leather Bible.
- According to the ECPA, the best-selling Bible translation in May is still the NIV–though some of this might be the scooping up of NIV ’84 bibles (now out of print) in response to the 2011 update. The New Living translation comes in at number two. They are followed by the KJV, NKJV, and ESV.
- A study released this week says those who tithe have healthier personal finances than those who don’t. It reminds me of the old Dave Ramsey quote: “If you can’t live on 90% of your income, you can’t live on 100% either.”
- It’s a shame what’s happened to Detroit. I think it’s a great city–and I hope it can get back on the right track.
- Suddenly, California is running a surplus. How about that?
What’s on your mind this Friday?
However, we’ve really messed up this concept. We don’t hold people accountable in ways we should, and hold people “accountable” in counterproductive ways. Here are six ways to insure accountability is a blessing rather than too sparse or merely a different word for control.
1. Recognize and the “intrinsic” accountability already present–and align ministry there. For instance, when hiring a new staff member, there is intrinsic accountability built into the results of the hire that insure the “hirer” will do a thorough job–if the “hirer” is the Senior Pastor. They will need to work with that person on a daily basis, manage them, and be responsible for transitioning that person if they don’t work out. Any egg on the face will be theirs. They will have to do with fewer financial resources because of the hire. So, there are a lot of built-in reasons for them to do a thorough job with the hire. Accountability is intrinsic.
Not so with a committee. They have no stake at all in the hire, and tend to underestimate the true damage a bad hire can cause because they’ve never suffered the results first-hand. This is why, in my opinion, committees are helpful in an advisory capacity, but not a “voting” capacity in the hiring process. They aren’t accountable, and have no real skin in the hire. Ministry hires are nuanced in ways business hires aren’t–and vice-versa.
2. Build in accountability for everyone, and especially those in power. I said in my class on leadership at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures (affiliated with Churches of Christ) something that stung, but got a lot of nods. “Churches of Christ are built to protect against the autocratic minister. However, they have little or no immune system to protect them against autocratic or unhealthy elders.”
I’ve never seen a true autocratic minister in a Church of Christ. However, autocratic elderships are quite common. One reason is there is no accountability mechanism for those who hold the most power. This is so dangerous. In other tribes, it’s a Deacon Board or Senior Pastor for whom there is zero accountability. In every case, in every tribe, it’s a bad thing. Whether it’s a rotating elder system, a differentiated ministry system, a by-law or policy governance accountability system–choose wisely and make sure there is some accountability for those with the most power. This is especially true for matters of character.
3. Make sure accountability and responsibility match. People should have responsibility for that which they will be held accountable for…and be held accountable for decision they actually make. If the elders, for instance, make a poor decision and fire the preacher for the results–this is both unfair and assurance of future mistakes. After all, the pastor has changed, but those who made the mistake haven’t–and there’s an invincibility quotient that is likely to factor into future decisions. If the elders grant freedom to the minister and they abuse the power given, they must be held accountable for responsible use of the power granted.
4. Don’t allow accountability to disguise attempts at control. Or, we should just call it “control.” Accountability is a good word that carries with it the connotation of doing what’s best for those involved. Accountability is something healthy people seek rather than avoid. Control is a different concept–and loves to wear the banner of “accountability” in dysfunctional situations. One of the worst things a church can do is give people legitimate reason to fear “accountability” by asserting inappropriate or unnecessary control.
5. Pay Attention to the “Shots on Goal Principle.” In baseball, a .300 batting average is considered quite good. This is in part due to the fact most advantages belong to the pitcher and it’s graded over 162 games and 600 at-bats. In basketball, shooting 30% from the free-throw line is terrible. Why? Because you’re shooting with no one guarding you, standing still, from a short distance. A good free-throw shooter needs to hit at least 75% of their free-throws. The percentage of “misses” one is allowed by a coach depends on the shot taken and the number of shots taken.
Here’s the point: The harsher your “accountability” processes are, the less risk your staff is likely to take. Fewer mistakes don’t make someone a better minister. It means they make fewer mistakes–though they are likely making the key mistake of never stretching their ministry. Highly “accountable” ministry means fewer catastrophic mistakes, but it means you’ll score fewer points as well. Your most effective minister isn’t necessarily the one making the fewest mistakes. It might be the one who misses more because of the kind of shots they take and how often they shoot. Make sure you’re clear about how many and what kind of shots you want people to take–and hold them accountable for results based on that “style of offense.”
As a rule, we at New Vintage save our highest accountability for character matters.
6. Remember grace. “Accountability” isn’t best when it’s punitive. People are going to make mistakes, and we serve a gracious Savior who is the only true Head of the Church. So, while upholding His standard, we must remember grace. Elders, pastors, committees, volunteers–they all make mistakes. Coaching, correcting, adjusting and forgiving is usually the best approach.
Thoughts? What else might you add?
Some leadership teams believe a new staff hire needs to spend time “earning trust” before they are given significant freedom to lead. I addressed the reasons I believe such is usually (not always) a counterproductive posture to take at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures. When I asked the class how long it took to “earn trust,” the consensus was, five years.
Churches are willing to get less out of a minister for five years so they can protect against them doing the church harm either practically or spiritually? Why hire such a person if they deserve such suspicion? Who would jump at the opportunity to serve in such a system? Does this all make sense?
At one level, it makes none at all–given the average pastoral tenure is less than that. In addition, new elder selection processes reset the trust clock with at least some. Furthermore, frustrations relating to freedom to do ministry usually run toward the top of the list. In addition, how is a minister supposed to earn trust based on competency when they aren’t allowed to do what they’re capable of?
Ironically, churches choose people as elders they believe are trustworthy. In most cases, full regard for their input and authority is granted from day one. However, this doesn’t happen at the staff level–which is why both systems–elders and staff–struggle to work together.
I obviously believe absolutely EVERY minister should be trustworthy. However, I also believe the infamous “earning trust” phase is self-defeating–leading to lower productivity and higher turnover than would otherwise.
Why not just hire people you trust?
Don’t spend five years paying someone to be, largely, a professional trust earner. Besides, every elder and church member may have different criteria for what earns their trust. For some, it will be competency. For others, it will be not rocking the boat. Others will have totally different “trust earning” criteria.
This system doesn’t work.
Hire people you trust, and trust them until there is some reason not to–remembering grace if/when they make mistakes. Let’s not choose five years of suspicion and caution instead of five years of ministry together based on trust. The best way to do that is to hire well, with a clear picture of “trustworthy” looks like as you hire.
As New Vintage Church, we look for these four things.* (The first three are from Bill Hybels in Courageous Leadership.)
- Character. They pursue a growing relationship with Christ and live a life of integrity.
- Competency. They are able to lead their area of ministry with excellence.
- Chemistry. They get along well with others in leadership and the congregation as a whole.
- Fit. They fit our staff culture–creative, excellence-oriented, flexible, fun-loving, and buy into our ministry philosophy.
If we know (as best we can) they have these four things, it’s not hard to trust such a person.
Question: What does it take for you to grant trust to someone you work with?
Here are some things on my mind this Friday morning:
- My spiritual hero, Dallas Willard, died this week of cancer. I grieve for his family, and for those who’ve been shaped by his writings as I have. No other Christian author has impacted me as much as Dallas Willard. He is so much more than an author, though. Using the term “author” to describe him is a gross understatement.
- I could post Dallas Willard quotes on this blog for a year and never run out. But, here’s one that came to mind as I was studying for this week’s message. It’s from The Great Omission: “Christians who do read their Bibles often don’t know their Bibles. The reason why they don’t know their Bibles is because they don’t really read their Bible as a treatise on reality, as something that brings change and transformation of our lives.”
- Here’s another: “But, someone will say, can I not be “saved”—that is, get into heaven when I die—without any of this? Perhaps you can. God’s goodness is so great, I am sure that He will let you in if He can find any basis at all to do so. But you might wish to think about what your life amounts to before you die, about what kind of person you are becoming, and about whether you really would be comfortable for eternity in the presence of One whose company you have not found especially desirable for the few hours and days of your earthly existence.”
- I was thrilled to hear my utility rates are going up again. I was just thinking they were far too low
- So all four American Idol judges are supposedly gone after this year. It’s been a good run, but it’s over. I think the best years were those when just Simon, Randy and Paula hosted–and it stayed really clean.
- Glad to hear someone is in talks with Kiefer Sutherland to have 24 come back. However, it isn’t fair to play with my emotions this way. They must get it done. Jack needs to be back…Jack!
- The Padres are on a roll. This is occupying my thinking to some level because of its rarity. When the Space Shuttle first landed on the moon…it was a big deal.
- I’ve noticed people have a lot of opinions on doctrinal issues these days which are not grounded in Scripture. What I mean is that even for Christians, Scripture isn’t necessarily the starting point for shaping one’s worldview and opinions any more. Increasingly, it’s our own sense of what is right and wrong in our own eyes. Dangerous and sad.
- Ask someone where the biblical root of their position is on a contemporary issue or doctrinal position. Fewer and fewer Christians can do so–or are interested in doing so. This of course doesn’t make their position unbiblical. However, doing/thinking was is simply right in one’s own eyes without considering God’s desires takes whatever position one takes off the mark–from a Christian perspective.
- When I consult with churches, I’ll often ask to interview a few members of the congregation, the staff and elders. One of the questions I’ll ask them is, “If you were forced to choose one, is your congregation more loving or spiritual?” While these are obviously not mutually exclusive, I’ve never seen a church in decline where the dominant answer was “spiritual.”
- Love is fruit of God’s Spirit. We need God to love others well.
- Whatever happened to OJ Simpson?
- I spent three days with the good people of the Solomon Foundation and learned some incredible stuff at the leadership conference. I got to know a lot more about two churches you ought to check out: Real Life Ministries (Post Falls, Idaho), and The Crossing (Quincy, Illinois). Both are extremely large churches that are multi-site and in, relatively, the middle of nowhere. If your church is in the country or located near “micropolis” communities, you ought to check these churches out. I’d add that Real Life is doing some amazing work in the area of discipleship, and the Crossing is doing some of the most ambitious and innovative multi-site stuff out there.
- While at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures last week, I was thrilled to hear so many people talking about starting new churches. This is certainly a good thing.
- Summer is stinking expensive when you have kids. And long. And awesome. And one month too long.
- Let me encourage your church not to surrender the summer, entirely. It’s a time when people do a lot of transitioning, and we’ve noticed the summer provides one of our highest growth seasons.
- So, if you are going to use the summer to water the horses, rotate people like a hockey team–regularly and somewhat briefly. Don’t play like it’s off-season. It’s not.
- How can you not like the Golden State Warriors right now?
- Dennis Bratton and Don Wilson (CCV) did a great and convicting session on Sabbath at the Solomon Foundation conference. I need to process that one and do something with it.
- I got to play golf at Torrey Pines this past week. I’m still smiling.
- The more time goes by, the more I love my Windows Phone.
What’s on your mind this Friday morning?