Learning to Love Church Planting

I was part of a live interview yesterday with Innovate 4 Jesus on the topic of church planting, calling and the difficulty of planting. If you weren’t able to watch it, you can watch it below.

It was a ton of fun and I hope it is helpful to you.

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Join Me Today on Innovate 4 Jesus

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Join me this Today, June 24 at 2 pm EDT / 11 am PDT live on Innovate 4 Jesus as I join Holly Snell and Justin Blaney as we talk about church planting and surviving as a church planter and leader.

Have questions about this topic? Tweet your questions with #I4JLIVE or comment in the blog post here.

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.

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.

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.

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 Get Essential Leaders on Board with Change

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Last week, 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. This is simple change theory and applies to any change a leader is thinking about making, but it is incredibly important as we talk about transitioning a church from small groups to missional communities.

The reason is: groups and MC’s are so different that it will change everything about your church. It is not simply adding “missional” to your church, but changes everything. 

When you make any change or transition you need to be able to answer these questions: Who needs to know? When do they need to know it?

A few other things to ask: What leaders will be the most crucial to making this transition happen? Who are the people in this church (leadership by title or leadership by influence) who can keep this transition from happening that I need to get on board early?

Too many leaders when they make a change think they can bulldoze through it because “they’ve heard from God” or “are the leader.”

When we transitioned from groups to MC’s, we made a list of everyone we thought who could be an MC leader and I met with them to cast the vision, invite them into the process and join in being a part of this. By the time we announced the change to our church, almost 30% of our church knew about the change, why we were making it and were on board with it.

This is the moment the change becomes real because you invite people into it. 

Up until this moment, the change or transition is simply a dream, a hope, a prayer in your mind. This moment is when you put the flag in the ground and bring others into it.

To get the leaders on board that you need, you will have to make sure the change is clear, thought out and you can answer questions.

In short: be as clear as possible. 

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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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Help Me Write my Exponential Talk

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I’m speaking at Exponential East in a couple weeks on the topic: Transitioning your church from small groups to missional communities

The goal of my talk is to share the story of Revolution and our transition and help churches understand:

  1. Why they should transition from small groups to missional communities.
  2. How to make this transition (or any leadership transition).
  3. What are the steps in this transition that must be made.
  4. And help them have a plan on what to expect personally from this transition.

If you were sitting in this seminar or have questions about it, what would they be? If you’ve made this transition or are in this transition, what would you tell leaders thinking about making this transition?

Leave me a comment here, on twitter or facebook or shoot me an email. I’d love your feedback.

 

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How Many Times a Year Should a Pastor Preach

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The other day a church planter I coach asked me. “How many times a year should I preach?”

The answer to this question depends on the person, church, philosophy and what the person can handle. While most churches have one person who preaches the majority of the time (ie. 40-48 times a year), some churches have a team where people preach an equal amount of split in some fashion.

When we started Revolution Church, I preached 98 times in the first 2 years. This was partly because we didn’t have anyone else to preach, my desire to get better as a preacher, but also I felt the need to help set the tone of what our church would be like. This was tiring.

Now, the elders have set a goal for me to preach at least 40 times a year. This allows me to preach the most (which is important for the church, which I’ll talk about in a minute) and still develop other communicators. As I get older, I could see this number going down so others can be preaching and developing their gift.

I think it is important for a church to know the person who communicates regularly. This creates a normalcy to church, people know what to expect and they feel connected to a communicator.

The other question a pastor has to ask is how he will break his weeks up.

I’ve learned, my limit for preaching in a row is 10 weeks. Other guys it might be 8 or 13. Around week 10 I start to get incredibly run down mentally and spiritually and feel like my tank is low. I shoot to make sure I have a week off from preaching at least every 10 weeks. Some times I’m able to make that happen and other times because of the season of our church, I can’t.

One question a lot of young planters wrestle with is: when to take a break. 

Each year, before I put together my preaching calendar of topics, I pull out the school calendar (district in my area and the university of Arizona) and see when the breaks are. We run on a year round school system here so we get 6 weeks of summer instead of 3 months. This means we have random breaks in October and March when Tucson seems to shut down. These breaks are great times to have another person preach. The sunday after thanksgiving and the 4th of July, the Sunday of Memorial Day and Labor Day and the last Sunday of the year and the first Sunday of the year are great weeks to take off from preaching and have someone else do it (that’s 6 right there).

I also shoot for a 3 week break from preaching at some point in the summer. The benefits to this are enormous for you personally and your church. This is when I plan the next year of sermons, work ahead, work on my own soul and take a vacation with my family.

But what do you do on a week off?

For many pastors or people in their church, the idea of the pastor having a week off from preaching sounds like he is taking a week off from everything. This is an opportunity for you as a pastor to work ahead on sermons, think through a series coming up, meet with leaders to plan ahead or evaluate a ministry, go to a conference, take an extended spiritual retreat to be with Jesus.

If you aren’t proactive, you will waste these weeks off.

So, why do pastor’s preach too much and burnout?

For some, it is a pride issue. They don’t want to give up control of the pulpit. They think if they aren’t at church, it will cease to exist and fall apart. This gets to the heart of who is building your church, you or Jesus.

For some pastor’s, they truly don’t have anyone else who can handle it. This is a tough spot to be in. You can use a video sermon from a pastor of a large church like Craig Groeschel or Andy Stanley (we do that once a year simply to expose our church to some great speakers and authors that I think would benefit them).

The bottom line is, you get to choose this as a pastor. The choice you make though has an enormous affect on your health and the health of your church.

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Links for Your Weekend Reading

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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The 10 best & worst communicators of 2013.

Speaking out against the status quo – and actually creating change – is hard. The challenge and testament of a true communicator is to lead and influence action. The Top Ten Best Communicators of 2013 created change, caused us to think and act differently and powerfully moved us in the process.

Joshua Shaw on 7 actions to engage men in your church.

One would think that with the rise of church planting and prolific pastors and authors advocating for a type of “strong man” Christianity, we would see a difference in the membership of young fast-growing churches. But from mine and many others’ experiences, this trend of a manless Christianity has not only continued, but gotten worse.

Practice may not be the key to success.

The study concluded that only one-third of variation in success (chess or musical) can be explained by practice — the bulk of variation comes from other factors. Other variables that might explain success (at chess or music) include intelligence, starting age, genetics and personality.

Jonathan Howe on 10 important discoveries concerning multi-site churches.

Other churches use a multisite model as a way of church planting. They identify areas of the city in which a church is needed, start a campus, then launch it as an autonomous church later on.

Chap Bettis on How a church can care for its pastor’s kids.

Too many children of pastors are casualties in the spiritual battle. After seeing the inner workings of the church, many do not want anything to do with the Lord or his people.

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