Monday, March 18, 2019

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Before you act,
consider the
your action might bring.

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

                                            Creating cultures of excellence

Sunday, March 17, 2019

ECFA suspends Harvest Bible Chapel's accreditation - from Christianity Today

See this article from Christianity Today - and I am curious with all the information that was swirling around why it took the ECFA so long to act. 

ECFA Suspends Harvest Bible Chapel’s Accreditation 

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at
                                            Creating cultures of excellence

How to kill the passion of your staff

Why do some ministry staff have a high and contagious level of passion for what they do and other staffs have low and non contagious levels of passion?

Certainly some of it has to do with how individuals are wired personally. But, much of it has to do with the ministry environment in which they work - for environments and culture will either fuel or kill passion in those who work in them.

Passion killers are those things that will diminish rather than fuel ministry passion.

There is the passion killer of ambiguous missional purpose. Organizations that do not have a compelling reason for existence that everyone understands and shares will diminish rather than fuel passion for ministry. General ministry purpose yields general ministry efforts with general ministry results. Lack of focus and clear definition of what we are all about will not generate much passion. No wonder such a high percentage of churches in our world exist without much excitement or energy around them.

There is the passion killer of control and micromanagement. Good people want to be developed, empowered and released rather than controlled or micromanaged. Control diminishes passion because it devalues people and essentially says "I can't trust you to do your job by yourself." It disempowers and discourages and over time diminishes enthusiasm for one's work. Leaders who control or micromanage by definition kill passion.

There is the passion killer of poor leadership. Leaders set the pace for the missional focus, health, level of energy and commitment and the synergistic working of a team. Where leaders don't provide that kind of directional leadership and cohesion passion begins to diminish. Poor leadership yields poor followership and teams will rarely rise above the passion and commitment and example of their leader. For passion to remain high it must start with the leader of the team.

There is the passion killer of living with the status quo rather than being willing to take a risk for ministry leverage. Organizations that will not take a risk diminish the passion of those who long to do something different in order to get greater ministry results. When the answer is "no" we don't do that here, passion leads from discouragement! Trying new things always fuels passion while living safely does not. Safety over innovation kills passion!

There is the passion killer of unresolved conflict and lack of team cohesion. Teams, congregations, and organizations often live with high levels of negative stuff that is not resolved. Everyone knows that it is present but no one has the courage to face and resolve it. Over time, that diminishes the passion of good people whose desire to see something happen for Christ is discouraged by the dis health they are surrounded by'

Then there is the passion killer of leaders who are coasting toward the end of their ministry life, who don't really know where to go anymore but who are determined to hang on till the end, leaving staff without direction or real purpose. This is a real problem among pastors who have lost their ability to lead but who don't know what to do next and simply hang on. They may be great people but they are no longer leading and their lack of leadership diminishes passion among those they should be leading.

There is also the passion killer of leaders who are more about building their own success and legacy than working as a team. These leaders may have narcissistic tendencies and it is all about them. Their narcissism diminishes passion in others quickly as team member realize that they are simply being used rather than part of a cohesive, unified ministry team. It is about the leader and not about the mission. Some very large organizations, and churches, suffer from this passion killer.

There is the passion killer of politics and turf wars. Politics kills passion because the energy of turf wars takes away from team spirit, common direction and pits groups against one another. It also fuels cynicism as good people wonder why their leaders put up with such silliness. 

Organizational culture and its leadership will either fuel or diminish passion. I would love to hear from readers on passion killers they have observed in their ministries.

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

                                            Creating cultures of excellence

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

This simple practice will boost the morale of your staff significantly

It is not unusual for me to conduct staff audits in churches, non-profits or businesses. One of the most common complaints is also one of the easiest to solve: Leadership does not listen to us! Now think about that. It takes no money or resources to listen and dialogue. It does not affect your bottom line or your budget. But it does have a huge impact on morale.

Both listening or not listening to staff has a magnifying effect on morale. When leaders do not make this a regular practice, even small things become magnified because that small irritation is compounded by the perception that leaders don't care. What might be a minor issue becomes a larger issue when leaders don't listen. That is further compounded by the fact that in the absence of listening, staff talk to one another and the gossip circuit further magnifies whatever it is that created an issue in the first place.

The magnifying impact of listening or not listening works the other way as well. What staff want to know is that their leaders are aware of issues that exist, that leadership cares about their opinion and that they are willing to ask for feedback on a regular basis. Listening means I care. It also means I value your input and I respect you. It means that I have time for you. Even if you cannot solve the issues that are shared with you (some are easier than others) the fact that you cared enough to listen changes the attitude of staff. They know that you care! Often, leaders can resolve an issue which creates a great deal of good will. Not only did you listen but you did something about it.

There is one cost to listening - but it is a wise investment: Your time as a leader. A common complaint about leaders is that they live in a bubble, spending their time with other leaders and oblivious to what is happening at lower staff levels. I know this to be true from interviewing hundreds of staff members over the years. This is often a valid complaint. It is often the case that leadership teams are in fact oblivious to issues because they are not talking to people that they would not normally encounter in their leadership suites.

What does listening look like? First it means that leaders do management by walking around. Don't stay in the leadership suites. Go where your staff are and ask them what their concerns are. Ask what their happiness factor is and what would make it higher. Ask what they would change in your culture if they had the chance. As you listen, follow up with questions of clarification. Because you are a leader you will be treated with some deference. So you will have to work harder at pulling candid answers out of those you talk to.

Do the same thing in small groups. Let them know that you want candid feedback and ask questions that are designed to elicit thoughtful responses. Take a small group to lunch without their supervisors so they don't feel constrained in their responses. Take notes and dialogue. Thank them for their input and let them know that you will be thinking about their comments and suggestions. If there is low hanging fruit that you can respond to in the short term, do so and they will know that you heard them. And remember, you are listening, not talking!

Most leaders overestimate how much time they spend listening to staff. Keep a record and become disciplined regarding this discipline and you will be amazed at the benefits to the organization. And, you will learn a whole lot that you didn't know before.

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

                                            Creating cultures of excellence

Monday, March 11, 2019

Unspoken discussions

Church boards as well as work teams are notorious for their unspoken discussions! Those unspoken discussions are the issues that are present, that people know are present, but that either individual board members or the board itself does not have the courage to discuss as a board. The elephant in the room - often key issues for the church that require being named and dealt with but the culture of the board mitigates against it.

Many individuals do not like conflict and their definition of conflict is anything that might cause individual or group discomfort. So there is subtle pressure put on board or team members to be nice and not rock the boat by naming issues that are out there and need discussion. (The same dynamics can be had on almost any team.) You know that you have breached a topic that makes people uncomfortable when you put an issue on the table and there is either silence, or someone jumps in to quickly deflect the issue from discussion.

I recently read an article about Patrick Lencioni suggesting that one of the reasons that major financial institutions have found themselves in so much trouble recently is the prevailing culture on company governance boards to not deal with issues that would make others uncomfortable. So the culture of nice sabotages a culture of truth and effectiveness.

Pastors, leaders, board members or team members who choose not to speak in the face of real unspoken issues do a disservice to the organization they serve. The irony is that everyone generally knows that there are unspoken issues - they just don't want the discomfort of naming them. The hope is that the issue will just go away!

How we speak to the issues is important. If I approach an unspoken issue and put it on the table it will be best received if: There is not a personal vendetta; my words are not meant to hurt; I don't have a hidden personal agenda; I want the best for the organization; I communicate in a way that invites rather than disinvites dialogue; I say it in love; and I acknowledge that the issue may make others uncomfortable.

The funny thing about "elephants" is that once they are named they are no longer elephants. I once worked with a group around a whiteboard and asked them to name every elephant they felt existed in their organization. We filled the white board (a bad thing) but once up there we could talk about all of them (a good thing). Once named an elephant is simply another issue that we are allowed to talk about. Unnamed it is one of the unspoken discussions that we know we need to have but don't have the courage to discuss.

Every board, team and organization is better off with a high level of candor coupled with a high level of trust which mitigates against the candor turning into anger or cynicism.

If you are brave, I would suggest that you ask your team or your board in a relaxed atmosphere to brainstorm on any unspoken board discussions you need to have, on any elephants that need to be named, white board them and then develop a plan to talk through them one by one.

Unspoken discussions are not discussions, just frustrations and they often hide real issues that unresolved will hurt the organization.

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

                                            Creating cultures of excellence

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Christian Lies

Christian ministry should be about truth and honesty. Often it is about spin and dishonesty. In fact, there are often no better politicians than Christian leaders who use Christianese to hide their real feelings.

We often say, God bless you, when in truth we don't want God to bless them at all. It's kind of like the south where I live. If someone says, "Bless their heart," you know that something derogatory is coming.

We say, I am praying for you when in truth we rarely think of the person we are saying that to.

We say, Blessings, when in fact we would rather have God's judgement fall on them.

When things go wrong we spin the situation to pretend that it was God's will that what happened - happened. When in fact, it could more easily be credited to our poor decision making. Often, we credit or blame God for things He had little or anything to do with. I wonder if such comments surprise Him.

When leaders spin dysfunction as they did at places like Mars Hill, Harvest Bible Chapel or Willow Creek to justify behaviors that cannot be justified they are in fact lying to their congregations as they have now acknowledged in all three situations. Spin that is untrue is a lie.

Kind and diplomatic words when not true are not kind. They are lies. How often do we lie when we say, "I am praying for you?" Since Jesus says that all of our words will one day be evaluated for their truthfulness, I wonder how many of our kind and Christianese words are actually untruths or more pointedly lies.

I have been guilty of this and I suspect all of my readers have as well. Lies hidden behind Christian language and "concern" are still lies and maybe worse lies because we put God into the equation.

I am all for kindness and diplomacy as long as they are genuine and truthful. When they are not we are better off keeping quiet or not saying things that are untrue. I know people lie in Washington. But they also lie in the church and that is not good.

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

                  Creating cultures of excellence

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Ten marks of healthy organizational cultures

What makes for a healthy ministry organization? Having worked in a few and led a few I would suggest that there are some clear markers that we should look for when exploring a ministry job – and which we should work toward if we are in leadership of a ministry organization. Each of these markers – their presence or their absence – will make a difference in the health of the ministry and the satisfaction of those who work there. Of course, there are no perfect ministries. There is, however, a wide variation in the health of ministries. Most overrate their health and underrate their dysfunction.

Marker one: we have great ministry clarity. Clarity on why we exist, what our non-negotiables are (guiding principles), what we need to focus on all the time (central ministry focus) and the culture we want to create are all significantly important. Specific answers to these questions are far better than general answers because the clearer we are, the better we know how to best live within the parameters of the ministry. In answering these questions we actually define the culture and ethos of our organization. Ministry organizations that have significant dysfunction usually have not taken the time to proactively determine their culture and ethos by clarifying these questions and then intentionally living them out.

Marker two: we drive a missional agenda all the time. The missional agenda of our organization is the process of living out our mission, guiding principles, central ministry focus and culture through specific ministry plans and initiatives. It is not just about doing ministry but it is doing ministry that is in alignment with our clarity so that what we do on a day to day basis reflects the convictions and aspirations of our ministry. Thus our ministry plans and strategies are designed to help us achieve the clarity we have defined. Our actions (ministry plan) are consistent with our intentions (our clarity).

Marker three: individuals, teams and leaders are in alignment with our clarity. Alignment does not mean we all do the same things or use the same strategies to achieve our desired ends. It does mean that we are committed to achieving the same ends with the same non-negotiables. Many ministries are really only a gathering of nice people who like the days of the judges in the Old Testament, “do what is right in their own eyes.” Alignment around core principles (marker one) allows us to align all the arrows of the organization in the same direction even though we fulfill different responsibilities or pursue different strategies. Non aligned ministries often live with significant conflict because there is not clarity on what set of tracks to drive down. In an aligned ministry there is significant commitment to the same convictions coupled with flexibility on strategies to fulfill those convictions.

Marker four: we have an open and collegial atmosphere. Strongly hierarchical organizations will not attract the best people today. The best staff members want a place at the table and their voice to be heard. Indeed, the best organizations understand that a plethora of voices speaking into the strategy is far better than any one or two of us. Thus they seek to bring multiple voices to the table, encourage a huge degree of interaction and dialogue to find the best ways to deliver on the missional clarity we have determined. This does not mean that leadership is by committee. It does mean that we are open to the views of others and have a culture of collegial cooperation, interaction and collaboration.

Marker five: we encourage robust dialogue. Robust dialogue is the ability to disagree and state one's convictions as long as there is not a hidden agenda or personal attacks. Many would call this healthy conflict. It is in the conflict of ideas that better ideas emerge than either party had before the robust dialogue. Robust dialogue is not a smokescreen for hidden agendas, personal attacks or cynical attitudes. Healthy organizations call those behaviors for what they are – unhealthy. It is the ability to go at issues that need solving with vigor and conviction with an attitude of humility and care for others.

Marker six: we do our best but don’t pretend to be the best. Great ministries have high standards for clarity, ministry results and having the greatest influence for God’s kingdom as possible. At the same time, great ministries don’t fool themselves that they are the best or have a corner on the ministry world. They are humble about their place among God’s many workers, humble about their need to continue to learn, humble enough to collaborate with other ministries (many are not) and humble about what they don’t do well. Arrogant organizations go it alone while humble organizations go it with others.

Marker seven: we are candid about our success and failures. This follows from a humble attitude. How many times do you hear a ministry talk about its failures or weaknesses? How many ministries overstate their success? Healthy organizations are candid about where they are seeing success and where they are struggling. It is that very candidness that allows them to learn from others or collaborate with others from whom they can learn. Ministries are like people, they have strengths and weaknesses. Humble ministries collaborate with others where they are weak and don’t pretend that everything they do is a success.

Marker eight: we encourage innovation. Trying new things, rethinking old strategies, allowing the freedom to fail (some new things will fail) are signs of health. Ministry tiredness has set in when we are afraid to take a risk, afraid to fail, and settle into what is familiar rather than being willing to step into the unfamiliar. There is something deeply refreshing when people try new strategies and break old rules. Just as Jesus broke many of the traditions of the Pharisees, healthy ministries love the break the old rules as to “how it is done.” They encourage innovation, new ideas and give people freedom to try and even fail. They understand that if you always do what you always did you always get what you always got and they don’t settle for that.

Marker nine: we love to get people into their sweet spot where they are using their gifts and are in their right lane. Healthy ministries don’t fill ministry slots with available people. Rather they find the best people and then design ministry lanes that are consistent with the gifting and wiring of those great staff members. When staff are in the right lane, when they are playing to their strengths rather than their weaknesses, morale and productivity are high.

Marker ten: we empower people and hold them accountable. Empowerment means that we are clear about the results we seek and the convictions of the ministry and then set people free to achieve the missional agenda in line with their creative gifting. The other side of empowerment is accountability for results and living within the convictions of the ministry. Great staff love empowerment and are committed to accountability.

It takes the commitment of everyone to build a healthy ministry. It is not simply the job of leaders – they can help set the ethos but making it happen is the responsibility of every staff member all the time. That commitment pays off with a great place to work, colleagues we trust and appreciate and ministry results that give us energy.

If you could use help with your organizational culture, contact me at

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

                  Creating cultures of excellence