Leadership Paradox: Going Slow is Often Better Than Speed

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If there is one thing leaders love it is speed. They want to see things get done, churches and teams be more effective.

If there is one thing that followers love, it is the opposite of speed. It is sameness, normalcy, sometimes status quo, but something they are familiar with.

Here’s a leadership paradox I’ve been learning recently: going slow is often better than speed. 

This hard for leaders, especially church planters or younger leaders when they lead a change.

The reason is simple. Leaders see the preferred future, they have an idea where things are going and they want to get there.

They also have spent so much time researching it, thinking about it, praying about it, reading books that by the time they announce something, they have some times been thinking about a change for weeks, months or years.

The problem?

All your followers, team members, or employees just heard about it.

Part of the reason many young leaders aren’t willing to take changes slower is they aren’t planning to be there for a long time.

When you make a commitment to an organization or a church for more than 3 years, you have more of a willingness to take the long view on the speed of new things.

As the leader, you struggle with patience. I get it. It is one thing that makes you a strong leader. Yet, if you aren’t able to slow down, keep everyone with you, you will end up at your destination alone.

Are there times to speed up? Yes. Sometimes things are taking too long.

Sometimes, a decision simply has to be made. A lot of times we are moving slow not out of wisdom, but fear of what will happen if we decide, if people will be mad or leave. If that’s the case, be a leader and make a choice.

Just because people don’t seem like they are on board, doesn’t mean they are being divisive or unhelpful. Sometimes they don’t understand or you are moving too fast.

How do you know the difference in all these situations?

You don’t.

That’s what makes you the leader.

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The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

bookBen Horowitz’s new book The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers is quite possibly one of the best church planting books I’ve ever read and it has nothing to do with church planting.

Horowitz shares so many insights from starting businesses, which is very similar to church planting. The hard road of raising funds, building teams, keeping great people and how to handle the high’s and low’s of being a CEO. The insights for lead planters are incredible. I found myself nodding over and over with all the lessons for pastor’s.

The whole book is great. If you are a church planter, thinking about planting or leading a church right now, this is the next book you need to read. It is that good.

Here are a few insights from it:

  • If there is one skill that stands out, it’s the ability to focus and make the best move when there are no good moves.
  • A healthy company culture encourages people to share bad news.
  • Build a culture that rewards—not punishes—people for getting problems into the open where they can be solved.
  • You don’t make yourself look good by trashing someone who worked for you.
  • Hire for strength rather than lack of weakness.
  • If your company is a good place to work, you too may live long enough to find your glory.
  • Being a good company doesn’t matter when things go well, but it can be the difference between life and death when things go wrong.   Things always go wrong.
  • There are only two ways for a manager to improve the output of an employee: motivation and training.
  • The most important difference between big and small companies is the amount of time running versus creating. A desire to do more creating is the right reason to want to join your company.
  • If you don’t know what you want, the chances that you’ll get it are extremely low.
  • The right kind of ambition is ambition for the company’s success with the executive’s own success only coming as a by-product of the company’s victory. The wrong kind of ambition is ambition for the executive’s personal success regardless of the company’s outcome.
  • While I’ve seen executives improve their performance and skill sets, I’ve never seen one lose the support of the organization and then regain it.
  • A company will be most successful if the senior managers optimize for the company’s success (think of this as a global optimization) as opposed to their own personal success (local optimization).
  • Nothing motivates a great employee more than a mission that’s so important that it supersedes everyone’s personal ambition.
  • The CEO job as knowing what to do and getting the company to do what you want.
  • When an organization grows in size, things that were previously easy become difficult.
  • The further away people are in the organizational chart, the less they will communicate.
  • Evaluating people against the future needs of the company based on a theoretical view of how they will perform is counterproductive.
  • There is no such thing as a great executive. There is only a great executive for a specific company at a specific point in time.
  • Everybody learns to be a CEO by being a CEO.
  • If you don’t like choosing between horrible and cataclysmic, don’t become CEO.
  • When my partners and I meet with entrepreneurs, the two key characteristics that we look for are brilliance and courage.
  • Some employees make products, some make sales; the CEO makes decisions.

To see other book notes, go here.

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Monday Morning Mind Dump…

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    • Yesterday was an exhausting but exciting day in the life of Revolution Church, and for Katie and I.
    • It was sad because we announced that Paul and Jennifer Ingram are moving to a church in Alabama.
    • I have worked with Paul longer than anyone else in my life and we have been through so much with their family over the past 5 years of planting together.
    • His last day will be on June 15th.
    • I always thought Paul and I would work together for decades, but 5 years is pretty incredible.
    • As I told our church yesterday, we are moving into a crucial season as a church as we grow from 300 to 500.
    • God always has a way of making things happen at the right time on his timetable.
    • This is no different.
    • I’ll be posting tomorrow about some of the details of what our transition plan looks like over the summer.
    • It’s been nice having the last 2 weeks off from preaching, but I’m excited about preaching this coming Sunday.
    • I’m talking about how to trust God when trusting God or others is hard to do.
    • Joe did a great job yesterday preaching his first sermon at our church.
    • Love seeing new communicators and leaders rise up in Revolution and get trained.
    • If you missed it, you can listen to it here.
    • I spent much of last week finishing up the rough draft of my book.
    • It’s due on August 1st and I’ve been trying to work ahead of my deadline.
    • So far, so good.
    • I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like my summer weeks are busier than my non-summer weeks.
    • How does that happen?
    • Makes me really excited for my summer preaching break coming up.
    • I’m starting a new training program today with a new trainer.
    • Excited about continuing to grow in that area of my life.
    • I’m reminded more and more how important physical health is to longevity in ministry.
    • Too many leaders and pastors don’t take this seriously enough.
    • I’m reading what might be the best church planting book ever and it not a church planting book.
    • It’s called The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers.
    • Planters, buy this book.
    • You’re welcome.
    • Time to get back to it…

My blog will be moving in a few weeks and I don’t want you to miss anything. Simply click here to subscribe via email so that I can serve you better and continue to help you grow to become who God created you to be.

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Pick a Church

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When I spoke at Exponential on the topic of how to transition a church from small groups to missional communities, the question of attending two churches came up. This happens a lot in church planting circles. It goes like this, “Can I or someone attend a church on Sunday, but then attend a small group or missional community at another church?”

The reasons people do this are many, but the answer to the question is simple.

No.

Many times, someone will attend a larger church on Sunday or a service they like and then attend a group at a smaller church because “it is easier to get connected and cared for at the smaller church.”

This creates a weird tension for people in the group or MC.

At a church like Revolution, where we discuss the sermon, if you don’t hear the sermon you won’t be able to add to the discussion. So, now you are silent attendee. The other aspect that is incredibly important and this is the real reason people do this (even though they would never tell you this). Attending a church and an MC at another church keeps a person from having accountability in their life or having to submit to authority. They are able to skirt it at both churches, get what they want and go home.

No one holds them accountable, gives them pushback for not serving (because they aren’t), not giving (because they usually aren’t because their heart isn’t at either church) and ultimately, they are simply being a consumer at two places and taking it all in instead of giving to anyone through care and serving.

On a larger level, this keeps the church who has the MC they attend from growing their church. The consumer getting the best of both churches is taking up a needed seat for someone to get connected at the church.

I know what you will say, “But they want to be there. They need to be connected. This is uncaring.”

I would say, “It is uncaring to say no to someone who wants to be in an MC at the church they attend that you can’t because we don’t have room because of this person who doesn’t attend our church, doesn’t want to attend our church but wants to be in an MC.” It is uncaring to the person waffling because they are missing the crucial element of accountability that is so important to relationships and community because they go to this place on Sunday and then to our place on Thursday.

You can’t have it all and by trying to have it all (attending a church service and an MC at a different church), you actually end up missing the thing you are trying to get.

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Why Missional Communities Should Take a Summer Break

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Recently, I spoke at the Exponential church planting conference. One day at lunch I was talking with some other leaders about how we do missional communities and what others were learning and I mentioned in passing (because it is so much a part of our culture now) that the MC’s at Revolution change their rhythm in the summer (June and July).

Everything at lunch stopped moving.

One of the problems I have with missional communities is that they never stop meeting. They do this, because they want to live out the identity of being a family, and families never stop meeting together. And, the mission never ends.

Revolution used to be this way. Having our MC’s meet til they multiplied or until Jesus came back.

Then something happened.

Almost three years ago I found myself at two events with a lot of pastors whose churches were organized around missional communities. In total, there were probably 75 pastors at each of these events. At each one, over 50% of the pastors were either on sabbatical, going on sabbatical or just coming off of sabbatical. As I pressed into this, I learned they were all tired. I also started to hear stories of burnout among missional community leaders at churches as a leader approached year 3 of leading an MC.

This was frightening to me as our church had just done the hard work of transitioning from small groups to MC’s.

So, we made a choice.

One that would alter our church and the health and longevity of our leaders.

We instituted a summer break for our MC’s. Required it.

When we brought this change up 3 years ago, many of the MC leaders at Revolution reacted as leaders do when you propose a change to something they love. They pushed back.

Yet, after the first break, every leader who was hesitant about it told me, “That was the best thing we could’ve done.”

Here’s why:

  1. Understanding the city you are in. Tucson is on a year round school calendar, which means one of the main school districts our families come from have a 6 week summer break and the other one has 7. This means, in those 6-7 weeks, people are at camps, on trips, escaping the heat in California, visiting families, etc. It is different if you have a 3 month summer break, but for us we had to understand what the rhythm of our city is, which is what good missionaries do.
  2. Leadership is tiring. The leaders who become MC leaders work tirelessly. They love their MC, serve them, disciple them, develop leaders, host them in their home, lead them in studies, open their lives to them. This is all encompassing and can be exhausting. A break helps leaders stay fresh. I know people will say that MC leaders should take breaks with their MC during the season. I’m not sure how realistic that is. Taking a break is a way we as a church serve our MC leaders and help them stay healthy.
  3. A break gives you a kick off. We launch new MC’s in August and January. We make everyone in our church sign-up again. You have the freedom to switch MC’s if your schedule has changed. This creates a sense of excitement in our church as MC’s launch. New people feel more comfortable joining because everyone is starting on week 1.
  4. A break gives you an end date. Our culture, and men in particular, like end dates. We want to know how long a semester is, how long soccer season is. We want to know this before committing. This is a good thing and one that churches often miss. I think one of the main reasons people aren’t engaged in community in their church is because they don’t know the end date for that group. Many will say this is an idol that we need to confront and that may be true, it also might be true that we are used to things have a start and an end and that is how it works.
  5. A change of pace. During the summer, our MC’s still get together but they spend more time playing together and resting together. They don’t meet every week and each MC is different depending on the needs. One summer my MC didn’t meet at all because almost all of them were college students and they all left Tucson. This is a reminder that life is a series of seasons, our lives were meant to live in those seasons and when we work against them, it leads to burnout and disaster.

Ultimately, this is a choice for health. Health for the church, MC’s and the leaders. Recently a new guy at Revolution who has attended church most of his life told me this when he heard we change our rhythm in the summer, “I’ve never heard of a church caring about their leaders and volunteers not burning out.”

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10 Lessons for the Church from Pixar

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I recently read the new book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull on the story of Pixar and the culture of that company. The lessons churches and pastors can learn from them are numerous. There were so many, I’m actually going to share the lessons in multiple blog posts. Here are the first 10:

  1. If we made something that we wanted to see, others would want to see it too. This was the standard in how they decided on when they made Toy Story and has stuck with Pixar as they have made other movies. This is crucial for churches. Pastors need to lead churches they would want to attend and we need to create churches we want to go to. Otherwise, no one will bring anyone. Also, when a guest comes, they will feel our lack of excitement and enthusiasm. It is like going on a trip with someone who doesn’t want to be there.  
  2. Leaders of companies that go off the rails focus on the competition, not looking at themselves. Churches are notorious for this. We complain about culture, how no one cares about church anymore, the culture is shut off and hardened toward the gospel, there is more competing against church attendance today, on and on we go. We try to out market the church down the road. When we put up road signs for our church in front of where we meet, the megachurch 1/4 mile down the road put signs up near ours. Churches tend to fight and target the Christians. Instead of being the best, most healthy church God has called them to be, we settle for something less because of a focus on the wrong things.
  3. Protect the culture of Pixar. One of the most important roles of a leader of a church or ministry is keeping it focused on the main thing. The lead pastor is the primary vision caster and primary vision protector. It cannot be delegated, it cannot be relegated to the back burner. If it is not protected, anything can happen, anything can be important, anything can be the win.
  4. Pixar starts from the presumption that our people are talented and want to contribute. Too many pastors think they are more committed than their people or other leaders. A church planter can easily get distracted and fearful of another talented leader and keep them from leading. A lot changes when a pastor believes everyone is bought in and wants to contribute.
  5. Turn down opportunities that are a diversion from your goal. 
  6. Devote your life to a goal. For Ed Catmull, his life goal was to create an animated movie strictly with computer technology. Too many leaders and churches do not have a goal they are devoted to. They give credence to the great commission, but their budget and actions do not back up their supposed passion for this. For me and Revolution, we dream of planting churches so that everyone in Tucson lives within 10 miles of a church we’ve planted. I pray I see that before I die.
  7. Have total confidence in the people you hire and let them do what you hired them to do. Many pastors are micromanagers, church planters can be even worse. I understand the tension: you started the church, put your livelihood on the line, you have the most skin in the game. Consequently, you don’t trust others, you have a hard time believing someone can do something as well as you can, let alone better than you. This thinking though is shortsighted and keeps a church from growing and keeps people from using their gifts to their full potential.
  8. Fear is groundless. Christians are fearful people. We are afraid of culture, afraid of what politicians are doing, the left-wing lobby, Satan, the economy, you name it. Yet, we serve a God who conquered sin and death. Pastors are fearful of elder boards, powerful lay leaders and influential church members. We don’t say what we should, we don’t preach what we should, we don’t take the risks that we should, all because we fear failure or make a god out of someone else. Fear is groundless, it has not power over you because of the God you serve.
  9. Hire people smarter than you. This is closely related to #7 and if you don’t believe #7, you won’t hire smart people. I am blown away at the caliber of leaders that God has assembled at Revolution. All of them are smarter than me at something. I’m good at a few things, but need others who are great at many things for us to reach the goals God has given to us.
  10. Any hard problem should have many good minds simultaneously trying to solve it. In many Christian circles, the leaders attend conferences, read books, visit churches, follow blogs of people they agree with. This is shortsighted. You should read people who don’t think like you. Read business books, if you preach, read books by vocal coaches. In theology, you should be pushing yourself in your reading. Look outside of your camp for good ideas. Be willing to learn from anybody on how to do church the best way you can.

I’ll share more lessons as I continue working my way through the book. Highly recommend it so far.

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How to Handle Someone who is Not on Board with a Change

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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board.

The moment you begin to get essential leaders on board with any change or transition is the point of no return for a leader, they have now gone public.

I would say this is one of the most crucial moments of a change because of this. It is also when leaders derail themselves without realizing it and it is because they don’t handle someone who is not on board correctly. 

Think of this scenario: a leader has spent weeks, months and some times years thinking about a vision or a dream, a way forward. They begin sharing this dream with leaders and decision makers. Most people are excited because they love the leader or the direction or both.

Then, something happens: they meet someone who is not excited.

They ask questions, give pushback and generally do not seem excited about what the leader is proposing. The leader, because they are the leader starts to get defensive, pushes back even harder and both people sit across the table and dig their heels in.

Who is right in this situation?

Possibly both people.

Leaders will look at this person, whether they met in person or heard through the grapevine that someone isn’t on board and they will see a person who is being divisive or not submitting to authority.

Leaders forget that they have had the opportunity to process a change of direction or new initiative or ministry for a long time, this person just heard about it and has not had as long. It isn’t that they aren’t supportive, wanting to be on mission or not submitting, they are just reacting to a change and almost always are first reaction to a change is to be defensive.

If the leader fails here, most changes get derailed. For the simple reason that the person who seems unsupportive usually wields greater influence than the leader.

As a leader, here are some ways to handle this person:

  1. Stay humble. Do you need this person to make this change? Who knows. But God has placed you as the leader to shepherd this person through this change, so care for them. Stay humble, otherwise, God will oppose you and that will be worse than this person opposing you.
  2. Ask questions. Ask what their fears are, why aren’t they excited about this. Often, it is the loss of something that makes us defensive about a change, not because we don’t love the possibilities of something new, it is that we are mourning what we are losing.
  3. Listen. Don’t get defensive or seek to win. 
  4. Have resources for them to listen to or read. Have something to give them. Pick the thing that pushed you over the edge, the most influential piece to give to them and say, “This helped me. Before you decide, would you listen to this or read this and consider the possibilities?”
  5. Ask them to pray about it. They may or may not actually pray about it, but ask them to. If they do, give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to do what only the Holy Spirit can do, change them.

In the end, if God wants whatever change you are making to come to pass, it will. The person who seems the most against something at the beginning can often be the biggest supporter of it by the end if they are led well.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Trevin Wax on The 4 stages of writing.

I recently came across the HBR Guide to Better Business Writing, a book that has a chapter on the four stages of the writing process. Reflecting on my experience writing blogs and non-fiction books, I recognized these stages even if I’d never consciously labeled them this way.

Tim Challies on The porn-free family plan.

The tragedy of Michael Sam.

Michael Sam is so much more than a gay man. He is a man that is made in the image of Almighty God. His sexuality was never meant to hold the weight of his identity. Every time that he is referred to as the first openly gay NFL player what is happening is that his humanity is being robbed.

Things Disney Characters do That Would be Creepy if You did Them

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Why You Aren’t a Leader

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I meet a lot of people in their 20′s and 30′s who are really smart. The reason I know they are smart is because they tell me. Typically, in your 20′s, you are always the smartest person in the room, especially as it relates to churches. I get it. I was the same way. I’ve had to since apologize to some people I worked under for my arrogance.

If you are in your 20′s and 30′s, there is also a sense of people should just hand things to you.

I remember a couple of years ago being asked by some people at Revolution why we weren’t supporting a church plant in Tucson (sadly, this church plant no longer exists). My response was, “they never asked.” Now, the people asking knew the planter and asked why we didn’t just give money to them without them asking.

Answer: leaders cast a vision. Leaders make the ask. Leaders make it known what is needed. Leaders sit across the table from influencers, givers, and others leaders, cast a vision and say, “I want you to be involved and here’s how _____.”

Leaders do not wait for someone to give them something.

If you are a church planter or pastor and don’t have the volunteers you need, the money you need, the people you need. You have either not asked or you are not casting a compelling vision for people to join.

Don’t miss this: people are not looking for something else to give to or something else to do. 

They are looking for something worth their time, money and effort.

This is hard to do and this one reason is why so few dreamers ever reach their full potential. Here are 3 ways to ask:

  1. Don’t say no for someone. You have a need and you know the perfect person to fill that need, except they are really busy. Many pastors will not ask that person, they will ask someone less qualified. Don’t. Don’t say no for someone. Let them say no for themselves. They might be too busy. They might cut something out of their life to do what you ask them to do.
  2. Know what you are asking for. If you are asking them to give to something, know how much you are asking for. If it is serving, know for how long and how much time it will take. The more specific you are in what you are asking for, the higher the chance they will say yes.
  3. Know why you are asking. This is where many leaders miss the boat. They know “what” and “how” for their church plant, team, ministry, etc. but they don’t know why. Why should this person do this? What will it gain? Why is it worth their time or money? I once talked to a campus minister and all he told me in our hour meeting was what he would do on campus. I already knew that. I wanted to know why, I wanted to hear his heart, I wanted to hear his passion and why it drove him to give his life to it.

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One of My Hopes for the Church

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Can I tell you one of my dreams for Revolution Church and your church?

I preached on our vision and some dreams on Sunday. Here’s how I closed:

I want people to know that we stand against sin in our world, that we want to see people rescued from it and live the life God has called them to live.

I also want them to know that we are incredibly broken, more broken than we ever realized. But, that we have been rescued and it is greater than we thought possible and we will not quit until everyone knows.

I also want them to know, that even if we disagree with them, if they have a need we can meet, we will be there. I long for people to look at people who are part of our church and say, “I don’t agree with everything they believe, but when I needed a friend, when I needed a shoulder to cry on, when I needed food, when I needed help financially, when I needed a ride home because I was too drunk to drive, when I needed to be picked up off the ground because my life hit rock bottom, someone from Revolution was there.”

And that through serving, through loving, through walking with them, you will be given an opportunity to talk about Jesus with them and that through your serving and loving, they will be open. Because, they will begin to look around their life and see the brokenness and see that you are the only friend still there and wonder what is so different about you.

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