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 Leadership
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?
Right now, you may think you’ve got a huge church problem. You probably do…but it may not be the problem you think you have. We humans are notorious for thinking, “If they would only…” or “If I could stop…” Sometimes, what we fill in that blank with is the problem. Often it isn’t.
In the church world, the problem is invariably leadership. Is your church stagnant or in constant tumult? It’s a leadership problem. Does the church need to change? That’s a leadership problem. Most, if not all church problems are leadership problems, which is why we ought to focus on the change of heart, mind, or system of leadership rather than the specific change itself. For, until that change happens, tinkering with what is may lead to worse conclusions than the status quo.
If you find yourself saying, “we’ve tried for years and they won’t change,” realize you probably can’t do anything about it. So, ask yourself if you can settle for what is, whether you need to change personally, or whether you need to graciously go somewhere else. That last one is a last resort–for when the environment is truly spiritually toxic or leadership is sinning and will not repent–that sort of thing.
HOW WE CONTRIBUTE TO THE PROBLEM
Sometimes, we contribute to the leadership problem from the pew or the preacher’s office by assuming only they can change, and our job is to tolerate whatever they do or decide. This isn’t true. In fact, we often help sustain an unhealthy system through quiet subservience. So, sometimes, our problem is us.
Some would call it being like Jesus to quietly endure dysfunctional leadership in silence. In fact, I heard someone I greatly respect teach this last week.
The problem is, that’s barely Jesus at all.
Nothing about it resembles Jesus’ intolerance of vain religiosity or abuses of power. When one reviews Jesus’ encounters with the religious leaders of His day, it’s hard to make the case for silent tolerance of sin or hypocrisy in church leaders. So, why do His followers put up with it? Because we are taught that’s what it means to be like Christ. Sometimes, it’s good old-fashioned fear. Or, we’re taught that we’re outranked and have no right to speak up.
Being like Christ means being for truth, for justice, for mercy, for what’s courageous–and doing so for the sake of others without pride or malice. Remember you don’t have all the answers, and be willing to admit when you’re wrong. Don’t expect everything to go your way, and be steadfast in loving the church. Communicate in biblical ways that are seasoned with the fruit of God’s Spirit.
But, don’t be the problem. Don’t be the leadership problem in your church, or sustain such a sickness in the Body.
Here are ten ministry axioms I received from Larry Osborne. I recently ran across notes from a talk by Larry Osborne, Senior Pastor of North Coast Church, entitled, “10 MINISTRY PLUMB LINES” (PRINCIPLES) FOR MINISTRY.”
In my opinion, Larry is the smartest ministry “nuts and bolts” pastor on earth. His books are terrific (especially Sticky Church and Sticky Teams), and if he’s ever speaking near you, especially on leadership, you owe it to yourself to attend. Here are the principles by themselves–the content in between was even better. I’ve added some of my comments in italics after them.
- Health over growth. Every time.
- Seek disciples, not decisions. This is hard for results-oriented Americans. Perhaps we need to seek a better result.
- Programs and preaching attract people. Relationships keep them. I’ve found this to be so true. Growth Groups is a huge part of what we do.
- People like it small. Leaders like it big. True, but people’s opinions of “big” and “small” may vary. North Coast has mastered the “small” feel as a big church better than any church I know of.
- Build on islands of strength. Don’t orient your ministry around making up for your weaknesses. Focus on your strengths.
- Plan in pencil. Be willing to follow if God wants to do something big and/or unexpected.
- Weigh, don’t count opinions. Not all opinions are created equal.
- If you can’t live with a worst case, don’t do it. The worst case happens more than we think.
- Aim to be believer targeted/seeker friendly. Much better and faithful than completely seeker-oriented. I refer to our church as “believer-oriented, seeker aware.” Part of maturing disciples is teaching them to care about the outsider.
- The best training is “on the job” training. Books can only teach so much.
“The single most important thing great companies did that good companies didn’t was make superb people decisions.” That was from Jim Collins at the Catalyst West conference last week. Collins is one of my favorite…OK, my favorite, author on leadership from a business perspective. The research his team has done over the years has changed even the everyday language of leadership for many.
While not everything Collins says from a business perspective should be used in churches, that statement can. At a strategic level, nothing matters more than using good judgment in people decisions. So, I’ve compiled a list of five huge staffing mistakes either I or people I know have made. Avoiding these will help your church immensely:Continue Reading...