Alignment & the Art of Saying “No”

Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea. And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” -Steve Jobs

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Just read Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. After reading it, if are leading change of any kind or will at any time in the future, you need to read this book.

The Heath brothers look at the idea of an elephant and a rider to show how change happens, how it is reacted to and why it is reacted to that way. The rider represents our analytical side or analytical people. They are interested in data, the why behind change and how it will play out, the plan. The elephant is the emotional side, the feelings, the impulsiveness to a change. The elephant asks, “How will this change affect me?”

What they pointed out that was really interesting was the idea that people often react to change and the problem is not a people problem but a situation problem, an environment problem. What they showed through a variety of studies and examples is that often to make change happen, you need to change the environment that  people reside in.

One of the leadership principles that often gets overlooked that they talked about was looking for bright spots. Often leaders, especially in churches, we look for what is not working and try to change that, and that is the focus of our change. What if instead, we looked for what is working, the bright spots and look at how to replicate that. As the Heath brothers said, “Anytime you have a bright spot, your mission is to clone it.”

In the midst of change, uncertainty will arise at some point. In those moments, that is when the people in your church or organization will retreat to what they know. That is why clarity is so important. That is why you need to appeal to the head (the rider) and the heart (the elephant) to keep them on track, to keep them on the path as the writers point out.

What was probably the most helpful was the idea of scripting moves. When making a change, changing a culture, adding something to a church, tell people what is expected, what will the new world look like once the change is complete. The authors pointed out, “The details is where people get hung up and fall off track.” Ambiguity is the enemy of change. Or the flip side, “Clarity dissolves resistance.” Describe for people what your church will be like when the change is complete. Paint a picture. Tell them how you will get there, what it will feel like on the way. Sometimes, prepare them for failure or what will seem like failure. Often, change efforts use the sequence of analyze-think-change, which rarely works. Instead, use see-feel-change.

Often what trips up leaders in making changes is the herd, the crowd. If you get the crowd, you win the change because people follow the crowd, as behavior is contagious. The authors point out “We imitate the behaviors of others, whether consciously or not.”

Here are a few other things that jumped out:

  • For anything to change, someone has to start acting differently.
  • What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.
  • If you want people to change, you must provide crystal clear direction.
  • The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people, and behavior change happens in highly successful situations mostly by speaking to people’s feelings.
  • To keep the elephant motivated, people must get a sense of progress. Without progress, people will get demoralized.
  • The rider needs direction, the elephant needs motivation.

As I said, this is a book definitely worth picking up. I was able to read it on the plane the other day, so a fast read with a ton of nuggets in it.

10 Characteristics of Growing Churches

Came across this today on Perry Noble’s blog. Great stuff for us to keep in mind at Revolution as we see God using us and continue to use us.

  1. They have leaders who lead.
  2. A desperation for God’s power.
  3. They believe that greater things are in store.
  4. They are full of ordinary people.
  5. They leverage technology.
  6. The church is full of passion.
  7. They take ownership of the great commission.
  8. There is a willingness to change and adapt, even when it means they have to go against the very “innovative” ideas that they themselves once established.
  9. Generosity is embraced.
  10. The people in the church are OWNERS, not merely “members.”

For the full article go here.

Links of the Week

  1. Michael Hyatt on The one thing you need to create WOW experiences.
  2. Five major trends for churches in America.
  3. Wired Magazine on how Facebook is going rogue with their privacy settings. Ed Stetzer weighs in on what this means for leaders and Christians.
  4. Two great articles on what growing leaders need to “know”:  letting go of the need to know and what a leader doesn’t know. This is definitely what I am learning at Revolution.
  5. Scott Williams on 10 reasons why people will follow a leader anywhere.
  6. Ben Arment on The gift of rejection. This is a great thought for leaders, to keep in mind. Don’t say no for someone, let them say no.

Growth is Hard

Revolution is growing. I’ll be honest, I have always dreamed, talked and prayed that Revolution would be a church that would affect the lives of those around Tucson. And God has answerd that prayer. But, it would be a lot easier if we didn’t grow. Because, growth hurts. Growth is hard.

Growth means change. We need to make room for new people, the leadership base expands, roles change, relationships change. Not everybody likes change and sometimes, people feel left behind when change happens. And that hurts.

Growth means more responsibility. God is entrusting more and more people to Revolution. All of the guests that walk through our front door are gifts from God, entrusted to us as a church. We are held accountable to our part in their journey back to God.

Growth is expensive. We need to hire and expand to be prepared for growth. I’ve said this before, “I believe God sends people to churches that are ready to receive them and do something with them.”

Growth is much harder than the status quo. It is easy to be a church that sits on the sidelines and complains about how secular the world is and how everybody is going to hell and we need to sit back and wait for the rapture. But, God calls us and expects His church to grow and He empowers (with the help of the Holy Spirit) the church to grow (Matthew 16:18).

So, I/we will keep changing, accepting the responsibility and paying the price to reach as many people as possible.

#5 of 09: Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing

book-cover2Geoff Surratt’s new books Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing is essentially a look at how stupid pastors and churches can be and how we think people will just come to church.

One of the great things about this book is how fast it moves. I actually read it in about 2 days.

Oftentimes, whether we realize it or not, churches shoot themselves in the foot. They do the little things wrong which hurt them in the long run. Whether it is having a dirty facility, bad children’s ministry, bad signage, starting late, it is the little things that make a big difference.

Geoff points out 10 things that most churches do without even thinking and they are 10 things if done differently would make a huge difference in helping people find their way back to God.

These things matter, because if the little things are done wrong, people don’t hear the gospel. Now, they may be in your church, hearing the gospel, but they don’t hear the gospel.

He gives a great example of churches that don’t start on time. It communicates to guests, we don’t value your time. We’ve started a service at Revolution when the only people in the auditorium was the band, a/v team and me. The band led worship for me, it was awesome.

For me, the first two chapters were worth the price of the book: “Trying to do it all” and “Establishing the wrong role for the pastor’s family.” These are two things I’ve been working on recently and coming to some helpful conclusions on. (Read more about that here) Geoff said, “Trying to do all (or most) of the work themselves is the number one stupid thing pastors and leaders do that inhibits their church from growing.” One of the most amazing things about handing things off to other leaders is that many of the things I hate to do, are not gifted to do, suck the life out me, there is a leader in my church who is salivating at the prospect of doing that very thing and would give their right arm just for the chance to do it. Weird, but that is how God created us and intended for the church to work.

But shouldn’t the pastor pastor everybody? Shouldn’t they care for everybody? Isn’t that what we pay him for? If my small group leader shows up at the hospital instead of the pastor, did I get ripped off? Shouldn’t the pastor visit everybody?

This is how many people think about pastors and churches. Perry Noble said, “We fail to teach people that the church is not effective when the pastors ministers to the people, but rather when the body ministers to the body. Many of us feel that if we teach people that God expects them to actually do ministry rather than critique it, they may leave the church.” Ephesians 4:11 says that a pastors job is to train the church (the body) to do the work of the church (the body) and then release them to do it. At Revolution, I visit people and pastor people, but some of the things traditionally associated with a pastor, we have leaders who are more gifted than I am in those areas. And they are dying to do those things because God created them to do those things. If I keep those things to myself and don’t allow them to do what God has wired them to do, I am actually sinning because I am keeping them from fulfilling God’s call on their life, which is them sinning.

At the end of each chapter, Geoff interviews a different pastor to get their perspective on the topic from the chapter. This was incredibly helpful, to get another point of view, as well as to have another application point and ideas to take with you.

Here are a few other things that jumped out:

  • Americans don’t do boring. They will put up with heresy, lies, and deception; but if you bore them, they will check out immediately.
  • Do not beg people to volunteer in children’s ministry. You need to know that your potential team members’ need to volunteer is bigger than your need to have a warm body in the room.
  • If we are going to keep our focus on gathering more and more sheep into our sheep pen by collecting as many sheep as possible from other meadows around town, there is no reason to maintain so many buildings, pay so many pastors, and support so many bloated ministries. If, however, we stop worrying about whose meadow the sheep are eating in this weekend and start worrying about all of the sheep who have no shepherd, then we will never have too many churches.
  • The key to effective team-based ministry is to remember that leaders lead and teams follow. When teams lead, you have chaos; when leaders follow, you have confusion.

Hands down, the best line in this book had to do with raising up leaders and finding the best leaders for something:  “Usually the best person to lead an area of ministry you want to give away is already too busy to volunteer. Effective leaders are seldom sitting around looking for something to do with their time.” This is so true. If someone is a leader worth having, they are using their gifts somewhere. I have learned, if someone is not a competent leader at work or in their home, there is a reason. That reason will often keep them from leading at a church. If their employer doesn’t promote them to leadership (and then spend more hours with them than I do), why should they be in leadership at church? We are talking about people’s eternities, the stakes are higher, the bar should be higher for leaders.

All in all, this is a book definitely worth picking up.

Zero to Sixty: 60 Principles and Practices for Leading a Growing Church

book coverJust finished Bob Franquiz’s book Zero to Sixty. Bottom line, every church leader, pastor or elder needs to read this book. It was so practical and helpful. It is one of those books with a nugget on every page.

This book really tracks well with the coaching network I am in with Nelson Searcy (as Bob went through the same network).

The book is broken up into 4 sections:  Leadership strategies, staffing strategies, ministry strategies and personal development strategies. Much like Axiom.

Bob covers everything from vision casting, marketing, creating and sustaining a small group culture, rest and sabbath, how to plan a preaching calendar, hiring and firing staff and volunteers, what a pastor’s wife does and does not do (really important chapter), giving, goal setting and my personal favorite the “stop doing” list (worth the price of the book).

Here are a few things I highlighted:

  • You are always communicating vision. Everything you do inside and outside of your church, everything you say and don’t say communicates vision. How you spend your time, what gets announced, communicates vision.
  • If you’re not engaged in growing your leadership, you’re not engaged in leadership becauase at its core, leadership implies growth and change.
  • It doesn’t matter how important you say small groups are. What matters is eliminating the competition to small groups.
  • The sign of a healthy membership system is that not everyone will join. When your vision is clear, there will be those who aren’t going in that direction and will want to find another church to attend.
  • Every great leader knows that his time is his life.
  • When you challenge people, you invite them to go to a higher level.
  • Servanthood is about being servant hearted, not simply doing everything.

This is a must read book for every church leader. I got so much out of this book.

Planning a Preaching Calendar

Ironically, how we plan our preaching calendar at Revolution is one of the most common questions I get from other pastors. In fact, in the last 2 weeks I’ve been asked about it almost a dozen times that I thought I would share how we decide what we preach on and how far out we plan and why we do it this way.

First off, plan ahead. I am stunned by how little planning goes into some churches. You would think that pastors don’t care what is happening in their churches. Naturally, I am a planner, so this is easier for me and actually more comforting when it is done. For example, the other day I talked to a pastor that said, “It’s Thursday and all I have is a title.” That’s like saying, “All I need is a chip and a chair.” We need better odds than that when it comes to preaching. Now, before you get on my case, God does speak at the end of the week, God does change what we are to see while we are walking up to the stage. It has happened to me and it is exciting and scary all at the same time, but this cannot be our normal practice.

At Revolution, we have decided that the best way for us to reach our mission and target is to preach through books of the Bible. This does not mean we are against topical (that’s a bad discussion in my opinion), we just like doing it this way.

We split series up into two categories:  attractional and missional. Attractional will feel more topical, felt needs, but are based on a book of the Bible. Some examples:  Song of Solomon, 30 Days to Live (which was topical, see we aren’t against it), The Sermon on the Mount. The other category is missional which tends to be more formation, doctrine, theology. Some examples:  Becoming, Jonah, and Hebrews.

We also try to alternate between Old and New Testament books of the Bible. What we are trying to do is to make sure we are giving our church a healthy balance not only of books of the Bible, but also styles and feel.

After the sermon on the mount, we are planning to kick 2010 off by preaching through Nehemiah which is a very mission/leadership focused book.

One thing that we preach on every year is marriage, dating and relationships. For our target and culture, this makes sense. You can check out the series we are starting in 2 weeks here:

What about length?

We haven’t bought into doing a 3 – 6 week series only. Hebrews took 18 weeks and Nehemiah will take 22 weeks. For the sermon on the mount, we decided to break it up into 4 smaller series to create more on ramps for our church and guests this fall. The length of the series is not that big of a deal as long as the speaker is up for it. Long series are draining. We try to stay away from doing long series back to back as that is draining on me, our team and our church. After the serious feel of Hebrews, we did a video teaching series with Dave Ramsey which felt completely different.

How far out do we plan?

We look about 12 months ahead when it comes to thinking through topics. This is where so many pastors do themseles a disservice. The other day I was reading a leadership book and the author was quoting and pointing to the book of Nehemiah all over the place. Without knowing that I wanted to preach through this book, I would have missed a ton of great information. Could I have remembered it and gone back to it? Sure, but that is risky.

My point is, plan ahead in some way. By planning ahead we are able to do a lot more creatively as opposed to go week to week.

Are we flexible?

Yes. Just because we are planning something does not mean it is written in stone and unchangable. Over the summer we were actually planning to preach through Habakkuk but decided about 4 weeks out to do the life of Elijah instead, which proved to be the right move. Before making the change though, our creative team let me know we had not gone far enough into the creative process for that series. It is important to not waste your team’s time.

For our creative process, we look 6 – 8 weeks out as we think through atmosphere, visuals, video clips, dramas, cover songs. As we get closer, Paul takes us through a process of honing in on what we will use and how it will flow.

How long would this take? Not very long. In fact, if you sat down right now and made a list of topics you would like to teach on in the next 6 – 12 months you would be well on your way.

When I started preaching through books of the Bible, I picked James to start out with because it was my favorite book of the Bible. Not very spiritual, I know, but it worked and I started to get used to it.

The point is, plan ahead. Way too much is at stake to go week to week.

Now I’ve told you how we do it, how do you plan your series? How do you decide what to preach on?

Top Posts of August ’08

In case you missed them, here are the posts that generated the most traffic this month:

  1. My Notes from the Leadership Summit
  2. Recent Pics of the Kids
  3. Why I Blog & Twitter (And Why Every Pastor Should as Well) 
  4. Going in the Same Direction as the Devil
  5. Why did I Get Married?
  6. Focus:  The Top 10 Things People Want & Need From You & Your Church
  7. God Does Not Waste Pain
  8. Saturday Night Mind Dump…  (8/8/09)
  9. What a Pastor Does When He Doesn’t Preach
  10. Leadership Qualities

Why I Twitter & Blog (and Why Every Pastor Should as Well)

book cover

Recently, many of my friends on Facebook have been giving me a hard time about twitter, how lame they think it is and how often people do it. The Facebook faithful are convinced twitter is somehow more narcistic than Facebook is, but I would venture to say they are tied.

But this isn’t about which is better. This is about why I twitter and blog and why I think every pastor/leader should as well.

These two innovations have made it easier to connect with people and to stay up on what is happening in people’s lives. I am amazed every week when I see someone from Revolution and they will ask me about something I either tweeted or blogged about. It has created a way for me as a pastor to let people into my life. And this allows people to decide how connected they want to be with me. If they don’t want to know, they don’t have to follow along, but if they do, the option is there.

I can share what is happening in our world, with our kids, things we learn in our marriage, how Katie and I date each other, etc. I can share prayer requests, let people in on exciting things happening at Revolution before they are made public. In fact, if you follow my blog, you will know what I am going to be preaching, the books and ideas that are shaping our church and my thinking.

It has also become another way for me to teach, lead and vision cast to our church. I am able to share with our church things I am learning, reading, great blogs/articles/sermons that I come across that I can expose them to without overwhelming them or taking up time on a Saturday night. Again, if they want the connection it is there and available. They can read or listen to what I pass along or not. They are able to do it on their timetable.

What used to be a dream for pastors is now reality.

In case you aren’t connected with me or Revolution on twitter and facebook, you can so here:

Again, if you are a pastor who does not blog or tweet. You need to. This is not a fad but another avenue for ministry and leadership.