Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Healthy staff cultures

In my work with churches and Christian organizations I see more unhealthy than healthy staff cultures. I would love to reverse that order. It is truly a gift to work in a healthy environment and can be a curse to work in an unhealthy one. Here are some of the components of a truly healthy staff culture.

1. A leader who is open, humble, non-defensive and collaborative.

2. An environment where robust dialogue is welcomed and encouraged along with unity once decisions have been made.

3. Having the right people in the right seats.

4. High EQ (Emotional Intelligence) among staff members and leaders.

5. Clarity of direction as to where the organization is headed.

6. Having clarity in one's role and the necessary tools to accomplish one's job.

7. A collegial open atmosphere from the leader on down.

8. The ability to speak into things that impact one's job.

9. Candid, honest dialogue and conversation in an atmosphere of respect.

10. High in both empowerment and accountability.

My new book, Deep Influence: Unseen Practices That Will Revolutionize Your Leadership, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Gag orders in the church. It is responsible for much toxic staff culture.

It is not unusual for me to hear about gag orders by senior leaders or their Executive pastors, effectively telling elders that they cannot talk to church staff and staff that they cannot talk to elders. Usually it is in the name of policy governance which states that the elders have one employee, and that is the senior leader who can manage his staff as he pleases. This is both a misreading of policy governance, an unwise thing to do and often reflects the personal insecurity of the leader.

First lets clear up the policy governance issue. Under this board management tool, what is clear is that elders cannot tell staff what to do. That is the prerogative of the senior leader. They cannot manage staff. And it is also true that staff should not go around their leader to the elders as an end run to get what they want. 

What it does not say is that elders and staff should not talk. In fact I think it foolish for a leadership board to not know the temperature of the staff. Consider this: if staff cannot talk to the board in any fashion, what do they do when they have problems that are not getting solved by their leader? 

My experience is that such gag orders are usually a sign of insecurity on the part of leaders more than anything else. This was part of the massive dysfunction Mark Driscoll created at Mars Hill Church where there were major dysfunctions on staff but staff were not permitted to talk to others about it. In a large church I did crisis management in a long string of staff had been mistreated. The board suspected but had not inquired because they were not supposed to talk to staff.

Healthy organizations are not afraid of conversation around whatever issues they face. Healthy leaders are not afraid of alternate opinions or push-back. We have intentionally created an open culture in ReachGlobal where all issues can be put on the table with the exception of hidden agendas or robust dialogue. We welcome the conversation even if it challenges our current thinking. 

I am always deeply wary of what is actually going on when gag orders appear rather than the invitation to open dialogue.

My new book, Deep Influence: Unseen Practices That Will Revolutionize Your Leadership, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Generational Inclusiveness in the church

One of my great passions is to see all generations in the church valued and appreciated. Most of us would say we do this and some churches do indeed do it wonderfully. However, this only really happens with great intentionality because our natural tendency as pastors is to gear our ministry toward those we we know best - our own generation. And when we do that, we often miss those who went before us and those who will come after us.

It is interesting to me that we are told in the Scriptures to honor the elderly. Growing up in Hong Kong I saw how much the Asian culture does this and even now with my grey hair I receive honor when in Asia. Often, however, in our pragmatic culture we do just the opposite by marginalizing those older than us. Their time has been and we need the younger generation. The second statement is indeed true but the first is not. Our time has not been until we see Jesus.

Here are some ways the church dishonors the generations above us. First, when we don't see their opinions as equally valid as we do those of our generation. Actually there is a great deal of wisdom that comes with age and even though our perspectives may differ between generations, all perspectives are needed in the church. My experience in working with hundreds of churches is that pastors listen to their seniors but do not really hear them. And, many don't truly honor them except in their public persona. In other words, it is often disingenuous. 

Second, when we take away worship options that are meaningful to a prior generation. I think it is the height of insensitivity not to accommodate worship styles of those who have gone before us. This is not an argument about music but about how different people connect with God in worship, or don't. When we take something that is precious and could have found a way to accommodate, we have made a statement that we don't really care. This is especially true when our congregation has multiple services and can therefore offer options.

Before our mission candidates can go overseas they must take courses in cross cultural ministry. I often think that pastors ought to take a course in cross generational ministry because ministering to my generation is not the same as the generations before me or after me. It takes wisdom, sensitivity, humility and a very open mind to understand and minister to generations that are not my own. Why do I assume that my paradigm is the right one for other generations in the church?   

Often, when we disempower a generation by removing worship that they appreciate, we position this as a matter of what we must do to reach the next generation and label alternate opinions as sin or gossip or not getting it. What if the issues are in fact real? What if it truly does matter? We should not spiritualize decisions that we are making out of our own preferences especially when we can give people options. I wish pastors understood what it feels like to be disenfranchised and marginalized. One day they may and I hope will remember decisions they made in the past that did just that.

A third area is that of ministry. Personally I don't relish being put into some seniors group that meets for coffee and trips to Branson Missouri. I want to be active in ministry, mentoring the younger generations, caring for those with needs, and simply using my gifts as I have all along. But we must work hard to find meaningful ways to engage older generations as we do younger.

I think it comes down to a deep sensitivity that we need one another, that we cannot marginalize anyone and that means that we need to listen, dialogue with and work hard to be inclusive rather than exclusive. We need to seek to understand the values, concerns and perspectives of generations different from our own and do all that we can to honor them. My generation is no more special than those that come after me or go before me. It is simply the generation I understand the best. 

Think about these questions. What does it mean to honor generations different than mine? What does it mean to understand their concerns? What does it mean to care as much for them as I do for others? What would it mean for me to care for other generations as much as I do my own. If we get the answers to those questions right we will move toward true generational inclusiveness.

My new book, Deep Influence: Unseen Practices That Will Revolutionize Your Leadership, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Just received the full cover design for Deep Influence

"In an age of superficiality T.J. will guide you to the deeper places of influence and change"
John Ortberg

Deep Influence: Unseen Practices That Will Revolutionize Your Leadership, is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Available January 1, 2015.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Great leadership advice from Rudyard Kipling's "If."

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son! 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Real life in Liberia under Ebola: Please pray

Guest post from David Kiamu in Liberia

On Sunday morning, as I drove off to church, I stopped by the home of my pastor friend who had lost his wife to Ebola just in the last one week. My friend sat outside his house with his head in his hands as if he was praying. He was actually weeping instead. I knew then that things were not that good. 

Naturally, my habit had been, jump out of the car, come to my brother, and hold him for a time of prayer. This time, I stopped my car, opened the door, but never had the strength to get out of the car. My friend realized I could not come near to him for a touch, and prayer, but I said a prayer for him sitting in my car.

Up to this point, my friend had lost to Ebola, his mother in law, his sister in law, the husband of his sister in law, and in the last one week, his own dear wife. My friend knew I love him, for we have been a great partner in ministry for for a while, but at this point, holding him for prayer was not something I could do.

Everyone in our neighborhood was aware that Ebola was now living with this family.  I knew this was not a good time to hug my friend for some powerful Pentecostal prayer. I wanted to, but it was difficult. My friend began to feel abandoned, and he cried the more. He said to me " Dave, I know we cannot touch each other now, but just pray. I am a servant of God, I am now 52, and I have preached his word for most part of my life. Just pray, and call an ambulance to take me to an Ebola treatment center, I think, I am ill".  I called an ambulance, prayed a silent prayer, never got out to hug my friend, and I drove to church. I was scheduled to preach at our new church plant called Life Chapel. 

Throughout the sermon, I cried, and so did the congregation. We cried because we all had experiences of seeing loved ones dying without the power to do something about it. In a culture where shaking hands, hugging, and kissing are ways  to show love and care, not being able to do so is painful. 

This is life in Liberia. We watch love ones die with no power to show them we love them. Then when we think of the burials in mass graves of loved ones we would have loved to bury in a culturally acceptable way, the idea of burning the bodies before throwing them in a mass grave is even more disheartening. But this is life in Liberia now. Pray for Liberia.


To help in this crisis click here!

My new book, Deep Influence: Unseen Practices That Will Revolutionize Your Leadership, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

One of the largest mistakes pastors make when they come into a new church. It can be fatal

One of the largest mistakes pastors make when they come into a new church is to make too many changes too quickly and without adequate process. In doing so, the coinage they started out with due to high expectations of the congregation diminishes greatly and may even be fatal. It also reveals a deep lack of sensitivity to congregants who feel their church was hijacked by the vision of one at the expense of the vision of the whole.

In most cases, changes are needed when a congregation reinvisions itself with a new leader. That is not the issue. The issue is how it is done and at what expense and with what process.

Think of the message congregants hear when a new leader brings major change quickly. They hear that the past was of no value, that their efforts and energy over the years has been discounted and devalued and this is compounded when new pastors publicly say things like "I wouldn't want to come to church in a facility like this." Or "we need vision." All that and more might be true but the message it sends is that the past has not accounted for much of anything. 

Think of the feeling of congregants when services are suddenly changed, ABF's taken away or other major changes to staff and programming seemingly unilaterally made. Their church has been stolen! It is how it feels. And it is all the more painful when adequate discussion and process has not been run but it just happens. Note to new pastors: feelings and perceptions matter both because we are in the people business and because we will lose our followers and ability to lead if we unnecessarily disenfranchise our people.  Another note to new pastors: This is not your church, it is our church so can we have a conversation about this together?

Here are key principles that pastors should pay attention to when coming into a new ministry setting.
  • If you envision the future at the expense of the past you have just devalued those who were responsible for making the church what it is today.
  • It is not your church but our church so it is not just your vision that matters but a common vision that we can all buy into.
  • Wait at least a year to make major changes. You might learn a few things along the way and earn some relational credits that will allow you to manage change better. Why the huge hurry? It is not about you but about the church as a whole.
  • When you do make changes, ensure that you run process, process, process. This will include conversation, dialogue, and more conversation and dialogue. People in general are change adverse and need to be brought with you.
  • Be gracious. Understand the feelings of people, empathize with the pain of change, shepherd them through the change.
  • Just because something is not organized the way your would organize it does not mean it is not working. Find out what is working and how to make it better and pace the change so that people can keep up.
  • The people who are in the church when you come matter. One needs to be as concerned for them as for the "target audience" that many new pastors have in mind. Another way to devalue those who are there is to talk about the target audience to the exclusion of those already in the congregation.
To many new pastors think it is their job to fix all the broken things in the congregation they come to. First we need to love people and see what needs fixing. If we fix and change at the expense of loving and shepherding we go the sequence wrong. And likely what it means to pastor a church.

My new book, Deep Influence: Unseen Practices That Will Revolutionize Your Leadership, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.