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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