Friday, April 29, 2011

The Dangers of Self-Righteousness

OK, all of us have been guilty of self-righteousness at one time or another – and it is a poison that we need to avoid at all costs. It is an attitude that I am better than you, my sin is less egregious than your sin, my way is better than your way, accompanied by a smugness of personal righteousness because of it.

Why is it so dangerous? First because it is based on a subjective standard (ours) which allows us to categorize our righteousness as higher than another’s and our sin as less egregious than another’s sin. Because it is a self determined subjective standard, it is also hypocrisy at its shining best. We, not God have declared ourselves to be more righteous than someone else and we can always find someone who makes us look good by their lifestyle or behavior.

Second, it is nothing less than pure pride and self exaltation as I am able in my self-righteousness to elevate myself, my spirituality, my conduct above that of others. This attitude is 180 degrees different than the attitude of humility that Jesus teaches. It is candidly the attitude of the Pharisees, smug in their righteousness, rather than that of the tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes who knew their need for God. Jesus condemned the former and embraced the latter.

Third, it is dangerous because it blinds us to our own sin. When I focus on the sin of another, I don’t pay attention to my own sin. Not one of us is holy because of our lifestyle but only through the grace God has bestowed. Not one of us is more worthy of God than another. My sin may be different from your sin and it may be less or more obvious than your sin but we are all sinners to the core, all needing the amazing grace of Jesus and all coming to the same place of equality of sin and grace at the foot of the cross. Anything that takes my eyes off of my own sin and need of God’s grace is dangerous and self deceiving.

Fourth, it keeps me from growing. When I have focused on the faults of others rather than on the faults of my own life, I stunt my own growth. In my attitude of self-righteousness I am far less likely to push into the evil resident in my own lower nature and pay attention to my own issues.

Finally it builds walls either directly or indirectly.  It builds walls directly, when I put down others for their faults when I should be focused on my own rather than theirs. It builds walls indirectly even if I say nothing because the attitude of my heart will be conveyed by my treatment of others, my body language, the subtleties of my communication or the lack of engagement because of my own self-righteous arrogance.

There is nothing pleasing to God about self-righteousness. In fact, this is how Jesus saw the self righteous. “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up at heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 18:9-14).”

We need to guard against self-righteousness. We also need to remember that whole groups, congregations, theological movements, seminaries and denominations can bear the marks of self righteousness in their attitudes toward others. None of it smells good to God and all of it is arrogant, prideful, sinful, and self-delusional.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


It is an amazing TV program – Hoarding – about individuals whose homes turn into massive junk piles of hoarded stuff, new (shopping issues), old (garbage) and interesting collections totally out of control. It often takes trucks to clean the pile out.

My purpose is not to criticize those who suffer from this condition as there are usually underlying psychological and neurological issues at play. Rather it occurred to me as I watched that the same thing easily happens in our own lives – hidden inside – just like the homes of hoarders look pretty normal from the outside.

It is the accumulation of stuff in our lives that start to distract us from our calling and a healthy life. It can be the accumulation of the expectations of others, out of control schedules, and distractions that keep us from time with God and living out our calling. It can be relational disconnects, attitudes, sinful tendencies, addictions or simply issues that we know we should address but have not. Over time, the accumulation of this stuff in our lives becomes a burden, a distraction, and we long for the simplicity of a life without the junk – good junk and bad junk that we ought to shed. The truth is that like hoarders, we often do not even realize that we are accumulating stuff in our lives that is unhealthy – it just creeps up on us.

How do we clean out the rooms of our lives and shed that is distracting? Periodically, we ought to ask ourselves some reflective questions:
  • Is there anything in my life that the Holy Spirit has been talking to me about?
  • Are there any relationships that are broken where I could seek reconciliation?
  • Do I have anyone that I need to forgive?
  • Are there things in my schedule that are good but that distract me from the best?
  • Are there some key commitments I need to make that I currently don’t have time for?
  • How am I doing with spending time with God?
  • Is my relationship with my spouse and children healthy, vibrant and growing?
  • What one thing could I change today that would make a major difference in my life?

Dealing with the accumulated stuff in our personal lives can be a liberating and deeply freeing experience. Living with the stuff we hang on to but that we don’t need or don’t want keeps us from being everything we want to be.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Humble Church

When you think of your church would you characterize it as humble or prideful? Congregations, like people can live with either pride or humility.

Take a congregation that has been highly successful in its day but is now struggling. They desperately need to change the way they do leadership, they need new organizational structures and they need to trade out a tired staff who are locked into paradigms that are twenty years old. Yet, leaders cannot make the radical shifts necessary or admit that there is a need for change. The reason? Pride! It means accepting the fact that they are in trouble, accepting the fact that they are not who they once were, accepting the fact that they actually need help. Accepting the fact that they cannot rest on their past success but must radically reinvent the future.

This raises an important issue. Ministry success for a church often brings with it a level of pride that hinders the future effectiveness of the church. Pride is by nature a self-sufficient attitude along with the belief that we have ministry figured out and we are good at it. That pride takes our eyes off of Christ, focuses it on us, prevents us from seeing what we need to see and prevents us from learning from others. It may "work" for a season but it will "hurt" in the end.

In my experience, churches like the ones I have described above don't get their act together until they have been humbled and realize that they need help. Some never do and simply fade into an obscure future, living on the shadows of the past, believing all is well.

Humble congregations are forged by humble leaders (both lay and professional) who know they are dependent on God for any lasting spiritual fruit, are learners by nature and live with the awareness that they never have it all together. They are always willing to learn from others and guard their hearts against the pride that will sabotage their success.

Is your church a humble church or proud church?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Grace, Transparency and the Church

One of the advantages of my work is that I get to visit many different churches each year - both in the US and globally. What is interesting to me is the continuum between churches with great personal transparency and those where such transparency is both lacking and most likely not safe. For some reason it is OK to struggle with sin and the issues of life prior to salvation but once saved, most evangelicals feel that they need to live up to some standard or culture that prevents honest transparency on issues that would actually aid in the process of sanctification.

It has often been said that if you want to get honesty go to the local bar rather than the local church. That is a sad commentary where it is true.

What we are left with are individuals who secretly struggle with all the baggage of life including addictions, sexual sin, temptations, attitudes, or basic identity issues and the very place where these struggles should be worked out - is often an unsafe place to reveal them. There are some wonderful exceptions to this where transparency and realness is practiced in a culture of grace and it is in those settings that I believe the most life change takes place because there is not a need to hide. Rather there is a shared journey toward wholeness, healing and Christ's character.

What sets such churches apart from the norm? I would suggest that there are several key factors. 

First, these churches have pastors and staff who value transparency and model it themselves. There is nothing more powerful than honest transparency from the pulpit. Like all organizational culture, this starts with a leader who communicates grace, acknowledges their own place in their spiritual journey and examples from their own lives. The more appropriate transparency there is from the pulpit the more transparent the culture of the congregation.

Second, transparent congregations tell many honest stories of life transformation. It takes one story, for instance from a couple who have struggled in their marriage and found healing and restoration to make it permissible for others who are struggling to admit their need for healing as well. Multiply those stories across the wide range of struggles people face and the healing that Christ brings. All of us, after all are on a journey of healing and spiritual formation. Telling stories of God's grace makes that journey from brokenness to wholeness normative and expected. People need to be know and encouraged that God can take their brokenness and redeem it no matter how broken they are.

Finally, these are congregations that understand and major on grace. We often focus on the need for grace to come to Christ. The truth is we need as much grace after salvation as before. We need grace every moment of every day. We cannot live up to God's expectations - or our own - unless we are living in the power of God's Spirit and daily appropriating His grace. The church is a place for broken people, those who are broken and need Christ and those who know Christ and need wholeness. 

Grace filled congregations are also humble congregations. They do not pretend to have it all together. They have leaders who admit their sin and live in dependence on God rather than in pride or self sufficiency. 

Church cultures like all organizational cultures are either accidental or deliberately created. A culture of grace and transparency can be deliberately developed. Grace and transparency encourage vulnerability and vulnerability is the first step toward growth. The church should be the premier place where we can journey from brokenness to wholeness.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On this Day

On this day:
  • Satan was defeated
  • The Father's face was no longer turned away
  • Sadness turned to joy
  • People could be reconciled to God
  • The Holy Spirit would become available to each of us
  • All distinctions between individuals were erased at the cross
  • The church was the logical outcome as His bride
  • It became possible through the Holy Spirit to walk in the Spirit rather than in the flesh
  • Despair turned to amazed hope
  • The empty cross became the mark of the church
  • Reconciliation between brothers could mirror the reconciliation between God and us
  • All sin had been paid for
  • Jesus' scars would remain forever in testimony to the cross
  • God's D-Day had been won. Now it is just a matter of time before evil is put away for good.
  • A thief was already in heaven
  • Jesus honored all women by appearing to Mary Magdalene first
  • A cosmic spiritual shift took place in creation
  • We could now also look forward to resurrection
  • Every principality and power was defeated
  • Satan realized that his apparent victory was a colossal defeat
  • We live with resurrection hope
  • The law was eradicated and completed
  • The tomb was empty
  • Because His tomb was empty, our tomb will one day be empty
  • "He is Risen" changes everything!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Day After

What do you think it was like the day after the crucifixion of Christ? Did Pilot wake up with a guilty conscience and wonder if he had done the right thing? Did the guards who had mocked Jesus and then seen Him on the cross, wonder if an innocent man had died? Did the crowds who had called for His life keep an embarrassed silence in a quiet Jerusalem? Someone was nervous for they asked the Roman garrison to post guards at His tomb. On the day after, Jesus' friends mourned, the Romans were nervous and some who had watched the execution were sure He was the Son of God.

It had to be like a day like no other in Jerusalem. It had to be a day of quiet and consideration. It had to be a day of sober doubt after a day of impetuous action. I'll bet there were many disturbed consciences that day. The day between death and resurrection. A day of uncertainty and guilt. A day of hopelessness and sadness. 

We have days like that! I have experienced whole periods of life that hang between hope and despair. Uncertainty reigns. Sadness is prevalent, maybe dominant. It us the time in between life as it was and life as it will be - but not yet knowing what will be. It is the dark night of the soul with all the questions, uncertainties and unknowns.

It is the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is real and it hurts and all of us experience it just as the disciples did, only in different ways. But there is another day coming...we know and we look forward to that day of hope. Always remember in the day of despair. The morning comes, and it comes with hope and resurrection power and salvation. In the in-between times, we need the words of Habakkuk, "Be still and know that I am God." Easter comes and so does Hope.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Seven Marks of Faithful Friends

Friendships obviously exist at many different levels but it is the deepest friendships that mold us, shape us and encourage us in our walk with Christ. Those friendships, that have stood the test of time are one of the most precious and important gifts we can ever experience. In many ways, they mirror the faithfulness of Jesus to us because they reflect His friendship with us.

What are the marks of such friendships?

They have withstood the test of time. How many friendships that you thought were deep went by the wayside in some church conflict or over some small event? Faithful friends are those who have proven themselves faithful in good times and dark times and over a long period of years. Like Jesus, you just know they will be there for you.

They motivate us to be more like Jesus. Their commitment to followership of Christ is an ever present reminder to us to follow well. All of us need that kind of encouragement in a world that is rushing to please self rather than follow Jesus.

They always encourage. There are plenty of people and circumstances ready to discourage and take shots. Faithful friends, like Jesus are patient, kind, and always encouraging. They are a refuge from the disappointments that life and others cause us.

They speak truth into our lives with the gentleness of Christ. I am always amazed at how gentle Jesus is with us. So are faithful friends. They give us perspective, help us think through issues, probe our lives but in gentle and kind ways that always communicate their love. Perspective communicated with love and kindness by people who have earned our trust is a wonderful gift. 

They share their lives. Faithful friends are openhanded and open books. They allow us to know them and encourage us to be known. 
In that mutual sharing, we are understood and we understand and iron begins to sharpen iron. Being known and understood by another is a great comfort because we know we are worthy and valued and loved.

They love us unconditionally. How many of us are fearful that if someone knew the real us - with all our scars and woundedness that they would not really love us? With faithful friends, like with Christ, we don't have to prove ourselves but can just be ourselves. In fact, it is these friends who show us what the Father's love is like because they know us really well and still love us really deeply.

They make an investment in relationships. Faithful friendships, like marriage must be nurtured and tended to. Faithful friends make an investment in our relationship with time, attention, care, love, prayer and practical ways. They value the relationship and invest in the relationship.

I am so thankful for faithful friends in our lives. Of all the investments we could make with our time and energy, these friendships, like our relationship with Christ are critically important because these fellow pilgrims walk the road with us in good times and hard times - encouraging us to keep going and keep trusting. Such relationships are priceless.

I thank God for my faithful friends and I want to be a faithful friend.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Church leaders who don't give

I had an interesting email recently from a financial secretary in a local church. His dilemma was that several of the nominees for the leadership board do not give financially to the church and he wondered if he should confidentially tell the pastor. As the financial secretary with knowledge of congregants giving, he is in a delicate position but He astutely understands an important issue: Those who are not generous to their church should not be in leadership positions!

I have previously addressed the question as to whether I think pastors ought to know what members give and will not repeat that here. What I do believe is that it is foolish to put anyone in church leadership who is not financially committed to the church. If Jesus words are truth, that where our treasure is, our heart is also, it should be clear that those who do not give to their church have their hearts elsewhere. How then can they lead with heart and integrity?

Even if they give generously elsewhere, if they do not give to their local church they have disqualified themselves for leadership in that setting. Often, if they are not giving to their local church they simply are not giving.

Leaders call their congregations to a lifestyle of generosity. Those who are not financially generous - in line with their own ability - cannot with integrity call others to such a life. It really does matter.

One pastor I know of a large church has a rule that if he receives strong criticism about the direction of the church he will look at the individual's giving before responding. In the majority of cases, those most disaffected are giving little or nothing. They may be loud voices in congregational meetings but the truth is they are not vested in the ministry and don't deserve to be taken seriously. Their heart is not there! Which is also why they may be disaffected. What is interesting is that often those who posture themselves as being very generous are in fact the least generous. 

If in your culture, pastors do not have access to giving records, my advice to those putting leaders up for nomination is that they ask the financial secretary whether those individuals are giving in a regular and generous way. If the answer is no, I would not put them on the leadership board. 

I would have the same expectation of pastoral staff. They, along with the leadership board set the tone for the ministry and a lack of generosity at that level robs them of the integrity to lead others toward a life of generosity (in money, time, energy and the use of gifts). If our pocketbook is not in the game, we are not in the game. And certainly not our hearts!

If you checked the giving of your current leaders and pastoral staff, either specifically or through a general question, you may find opportunity to sit down and talk with those who are not giving beyond a token amount. It is a discipleship moment for them.

Are you good enough?

How many of us live with a deep sense of unworthiness afraid that if people knew the real us we would not be loved? I have been there. How many of us have spent our lives trying to please God so that we are worthy of Him? I have been there too. How many of us have felt deep down inside, I am not good enough? I have lived there as well. 

If there is any message in the Easter story it is that God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus has taken unworthy, broken, sinful, undone people and made us worthy and good in His sight by being broken for us. 

Because of His death I no longer need to live with a sense of unworthiness. In fact He paid the ultimate sacrifice for me! When I was unworthy He died for me so that I could be made worthy.

Because of His death I no longer need to try to earn God's favor. Rather He gave me His favor as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8). Since I already have it, it is futile to try to earn it. How can one earn what they already have?

Because of His death, I don't need to be good enough! He took all my not good enough and nailed it to the cross and made me His family and His possession, and gave me a piece of Himself - the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1). My not good enough has been replaced by His making me perfect in His sight - through His blood.

Easter is a reminder that because of His sacrifice, and if we have invited Him into our lives that we are worthy, that we can give up trying to earn His favor and that He has made us holy and family and clean. 

Because of Easter I no longer need to live with shame, fear or pretense. My brokenness, shame, fear, unworthiness have been replaced by wholeness and worthiness - through Him. Now if I could only remember that every day!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

If there had been no Good Friday or Easter Sunday

We take much for granted. As you walk through this week, consider the gift of the death and resurrection of Christ. Because if there had been no Good Friday or Easter Sunday….

You would have no church

There would be no Holy Spirit resident in our hearts

Funerals would be the final farewell

Guilt would last forever

Good News would be absent for all

Life purpose would be absent

Prayer would be futile

Reconciliation with God would be impossible

The evil one would have the final say

Evil would not be mitigated by God’s love – anywhere

There would be no New Testament

The failures of our lives could never be redeemed for a greater good

Suffering would have no meaning

Future hope would be non-existent

The One Friend we can always count on would be absent

Love motivated by Jesus would be non-existent

There would be no final justice

It would be a life without Jesus

There would be no Easter

Take time this week to reflect. Good Friday and Easter Morning are the game changers in human history - and in our own history.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dialogue is fine, division isn't

Dialogue is a great tool for teams and organizations. Dialogue clarifies, brings new ideas, puts ideas and options on the table, allows for multiple viewpoints which frequently results in better outcomes.

Dialogue should always be encouraged! What should not be encouraged is division. Dialogue facilitates understanding while division draws lines. Dialogue encourages options while division says it must be my option. Dialogue brings all points of view while division says it must be my point of view. 

Dialogue comes from a place of humility, knowing that we don't have all the answers and desiring the best solution. Division, on the other hand, comes from a place of pride which believes that my way is the right way - period. Dialogue brings others in along with their ideas while division puts others out along with their views.

As you think about the culture of your ministry, is it more about dialogue or division?

Dealing with problematic behaviors

One of the things ministries are fairly deficient at is addressing problematic behaviors that cause havoc to the health of teams and organizations. Many problematic behaviors would be addressed in a business environment that are not addressed in a ministry setting.

Think about the following behaviors and their impact on a ministry. Overt or covert resistance to the missional agenda. Passive aggressive behavior that undermines leaders, teams and ministry direction. Add to the list, outright nasty attitudes, cynicism, criticism, or sniping that again undermine any sense of unity that is so critical to ministry success. Let's be honest: these kinds of behaviors are poison to teams and organizations.

I think the reason we put up with such behaviors in ministry is that with our emphasis on "grace" and our lack of training in dealing with personnel we often allow behaviors that undermine the very results that we want to see. I often talk to pastors about the person on their staff who causes havoc with the whole team. Knowing that these behaviors hurt the ministry but wanting to be redemptive in our leadership, how do we deal with behaviors that undermine ministry?

First, recognize that unhealthy behaviors hurt ministry! Think about the list of problematic behaviors that are listed in the book of Ephesians and Paul's emphatic insistence that we "get rid of such" behavior and put on the character of Christ. Certainly those in full time ministry need to exhibit healthy attitudes and behaviors. Those behaviors that undermine unity, create cynicism, divide people, or overtly or covertly undermine the missional agenda of the organization are destructive and should be declared illegal in any ministry. 

Second, we need to learn to honestly confront such behaviors, explain to those involved why the behaviors are problematic and how they impact others. The good news is that in many instances, those involved do not want to impact others in the ways they do but no one has ever been honest with them about their behaviors and the results of their behaviors. Thus in many cases, with coaching and ongoing feedback, people will understand the issues and seek to change the behaviors. Frankly, the most helpful thing we can do with those with problematic behaviors is simply to be honest.

People do not change quickly so redemptive strategy requires that we give people time to change, the coaching that is needed to help them change and some patience in the process. All with ongoing feedback.

But, if after honest feedback and coaching, attitudes or behaviors do not change, problematic behaviors must be dealt with if the ministry is going to be healthy. That may mean isolating someone where they will do the least damage. Or it may mean transitioning them out of your ministry. Remember that such behaviors are not just irritants, they actually negatively impact other staff, ministry effectiveness, team unity and the very culture of the organization. So, not dealing with these issues is a lack of grace to others who are impacted by the behaviors.

The bottom line is that we need to be redemptive to those with problematic behaviors but also for the organization. Ignoring the issue is the real threat.

Bringing change to your organization

The need for change and greater missional effectiveness is huge both for congregations and ministry organizations. Too many ministries are living in the dusty pages of the past with the illusion that all is well when they are actually one generation from extinction or irrelevance. The greatest gift in these situations is a leader who will take the risk to seriously rock the boat and bring about fundamental change to both the thinking and practices of the ministry. Let's talk about the steps that are necessary for that to happen.

Create a crisis.
Unless people see a compelling need for change they generally will not go there. A change agent's job is first to shake the confidence of the organization by creating a crisis and making the case that unless something changes, there is no compelling future for the ministry. This is often done by being honest about the lack of results, the health of the ministry and the trend lines. Bringing truth to the surface has a way of creating great discomfort if that truth reveals significant fault lines. Because a hallmark of unhealthy ministries is that they live with the illusion that all is well, that illusion must first be publicly punctured with truth.

Bring a new clarity
As the crisis is being created, change agents also start to articulate a new clarity that creates an alternative to the status quo. What is must be balanced by what can and should be so that the truth of today's reality is offset by a hopeful alternative for tomorrow. There is no better way to do this than face to face, in conversation and group dialogue. One is not seeking to change the minds of the change resistant but to win the support of early adopters and reasonable people. You will not convince everyone, nor does one need to. You do have to convince enough people, however, to gain a coalition of the willing to move in a new direction.

Replace leaders
Inevitably deep change will require a new set of leaders. The leaders you have got you to where you are and it is unlikely that most of them will get you to where you need to go. In fact, most ministries that need change do not even value a true leadership culture where leaders lead. Often they value a management culture where nice people manage the status quo. So the challenge is really twofold, replace current leaders with true leaders who are fully aligned with you and create a leadership culture where leadership is valued and encouraged. But remember. Those who got you to here will almost never get you to there if you are bringing significant change.

Build healthy teams
All healthy ministry organizations are made up of healthy teams. So the next step is to intentionally build teams of people who will work synthetically with one another under good leadership with accountability for results. The lack of such teams is one of the contributing factors to an unhealthy organization. This is not an easy transition because in unhealthy ministries, people are not used to actually working with each other and what passes as a team is usually not a team at all. A great deal of attention is needed to coach and mentor team leaders who have not had such coaching or training in the past.

Focus everyone on the missional agenda
A lack of missional focus is one of the reasons that ministries flounder. Lack of clarity about what they are about, lack of good leadership to keep people focused, lack of teams to harness different gifts are all part of the equation. Change agents constantly keep staff focused on what really matters with an honest evaluation of results. Again, this is not an easy transition for people who have valued faithfulness above actual ministry fruit. 

Stay the course
Organizational change only comes when there is a dogged conviction that things must change and a leader who will do whatever it takes to see that change happens. Look for some wins along the way and celebrate but know that real change takes years, not months and the larger the organization, the longer it will take. It is not unusual for the change process to take five to ten years and it is not complete until a new DNA is so secure that the leader can leave and the change remains.

It can be a lonely job to be a change agent and it takes great wisdom to rock the boat without sinking the ship. Those who do so, however, are great gifts to the organization they serve. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is your clarity a shared clarity?

A key feature of every successful organization, church, or ministry is absolute clarity about what they are about and how they do what they do. Here is an instructive exercise: Ask your key staff to describe what your ministry is about and see if there is clarity by all on that question. Ask secondly, what are the tangible results you are after that would spell success. And thirdly, what are the key strategies you use to achieve that success.

I find that these kinds of discussions are very helpful to come to greater clarity, ensure that everyone is on the same page and bringing to the surface issues that are not evident. If there is not great shared clarity the chances are that there is significant missional leakage taking place. The greater the clarity, the greater the focus and with focus the greater the chances you will see the results you are after.

Such dialogue surfaces misunderstandings or even disagreements around purpose, results and methods. Unless such differences are surfaced, talked about and clarified, what you think is missional clarity is not actually present. Words matter and even a common definition of those words is critical. Common understanding comes through dialogue and discussion.

Missional clarity and a passionate commitment to that mission is the greatest glue that a team or organization can have. Many teams think they are on the same page but in dialogue and clarification you discover you are not. That discovery gives you the opportunity to actually get on the same page. The greater the clarity and agreement around that clarity, the greater the glue for the team or organization. 

Often we spend staff time dealing with important issues but not the core issues such as purpose, results, and core methodologies. This is true for both teams and whole organizations. Whatever you decide on for clarity should be both understood and easily communicated by all staff members. 

Ask the question and see if there is the kind of clarity you believe there is.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Motivating Young Staff

There is no doubt that there are differences in the work ethics between generations. My father's generation had a work ethic informed by the great depression. 

My generation watched our parents and said, "we want more time to be with family and enjoy life." At the same time, we work hard, keep the rules (well I am bad at that) and do what it takes to get the task done.

My sons generation, twenty somethings, well they are complicated when it comes to work: schedules (I have to come at a certain time?), dress codes (what are those?), work (lets have fun while we're at it), feedback (you are actually going to criticize me?). As I say, it is complicated and books have been written on how to manage the twenty something generation.

At the same time, I have rarely seen a more committed, harder working, team oriented and creative group than the twenty something generation IF they have a cause worth giving their lives to. Given a clear focus, a cause worth giving one's life to and these folks will work all night, put in amazing hours and deliver the best.

The problem for many organizations is that they don't have a clear cause that motivates them. For this generation, small or no cause equals boredom and therefore diminished attention and they will find their cause outside of work.

They also want empowerment to test new ideas and be creative. Put them in a box of micromanagement or "this is the only way" and you have lost them. Give them some freedom and empowerment and you will win them. If you take it one step further and bring them to the table and allow them to participate in strategy and direction - giving them a voice, you get their loyalty!

Missional ministries who are focused, passionate and empowered will find that this generation will infuse it with amazing creativity and energy. Institutional ministries who major on organization to the detriment of mission and passion will not motivate this generation. They actually have something to teach the rest of us!  Missional focus and a cause worth giving one's life to matters.