Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The eight hurdles to innovation in the church


Most churches that are seeing significant growth and ministry effectiveness are also churches that practice regular innovation. They have a culture of looking for new and better ways of accomplishing their mission and pursue those opportunities regularly.

However, developing a culture of innovation is not as easy as it sounds. There are always significant hurdles to moving from a culture of status quo to a culture of innovation in a church. Obviously those churches who see regular growth have overcome these hurdles but understanding what they are is an important step in overcoming them.

Hurdle One: You have to want a culture of innovation
Do you embrace innovation, seek it and value it? If this is not a value at the leadership level it will not happen. If your leaders operate out of fear (what if something goes wrong? We've never done it before! Someone might object) innovation will not happen. Organizations that see regular innovation do so because they want it to happen and know how it helps them move forward and stay fresh.

Hurdle Two: You must be willing to fail and even celebrate failure
Truth be told, most leaders won't go toward innovation for the simple reason that it may fail. They would rather be safe than suffer the embarrassment of failure. Here is a simple truth: Innovation requires risk. That risk pays off in multiple ways but not all ideas work. Ministries that make innovation a part of their culture know this and will celebrate that people tried a new idea even if it failed. In fact, it is often after the learnings of a few failures that the right solution is found.

Hurdle Three: You must focus on the future rather than the present or past
If one wants to focus on the past or present, innovation is not for you. If your focus is on the future, innovation is the key to that future. Times change, opportunities around you change, generations change and unless we also change we become irrelevant and stale. If you are happy where you are, doing things differently will not be a value. If you live in fear of failure, innovation will not be a value. If you want to reach the next generation or new opportunities, innovation is your friend.

Hurdle Four: You must be willing to push through the naysayers
It is a sad reality that the majority of church leaders (staff and boards) live in fear of those that object when new ideas are suggested. Think about that: The most conservative and change unfriendly folks in your congregation hold the congregation hostage from moving forward because their voices are loud and intimidating and leaders are unwilling to challenge those voices. Lets be candid. New ideas face opposition. We have the choice of allowing naysayers to run our ministries or for us to lead well and push through the opposition. Every good idea that is different will face opposition.

Hurdle Five: You need to we willing to spend money when necessary
Innovation does not mean that it must be expensive but there are times when investments need to be made in order to try new things. If your leadership is unwilling to spend money to try something new you will never have a culture of innovation. No business prospers long term without making investments in R & D and nor do ministries. Such investments are investments in the future success of your ministry. Make no investments and you live with what is and not what could be. 

Hurdle Six. You cannot be too proud to steal good ideas
Cultures of pride say, "I won't do what others are doing, it has to be my idea." Cultures of humility say, "I am willing to learn from others any time I can and keep my "dumb tax" to a minimum. Proud leaders don't value learnings from others but humble leaders do. Learn from others and rip off their ideas. This is not about you but about maximizing the impact of your ministry.

Hurdle Seven. You must have a leader who promotes innovation
If the senior leader does not value innovation and you are an idea person, you may be on the wrong team. A senior leader must champion innovation and new ways of doing things if there is going to be a culture of innovation. Otherwise you are pushing a boulder uphill and it is likely to come back down and flatten you.

Hurdle Eight. The church board must value innovation
It is unfortunate that church boards can be the largest impediment to innovation in the church. I have watched this happen time and time again. This is where the influence and skill of the senior leader is important. Can they convince the board to take the same risk for the future that the staff is willing to take? 

Think about the level of innovation in your church or ministry. Which of these hurdles are keeping you from embracing a culture of innovation and what can you do about it?




Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Why regular innovation is so important to an organization


Innovation is absolutely critical for a healthy organization. Without it, decline will set in but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. 

Innovation is first and foremost a means of helping people think outside of their current paradigms. It is our paradigms of the way life is and the way we do things that gives us a sense of stability. It is also what keeps us from growing because things don't stay the way they are, our world changes around us and there is always someone who is bent on doing what we do better than we do it. 

General Motors learned this well after Toyota had eaten their lunch. Churches learn this when they lag behind and find that their people have moved on. Non-profits learn this when others find better and more cost effective ways of doing what they do and their donors move to the more efficient way. 

Those left behind have many ways of explaining their loss but usually their explanation points to external forces rather than where the true reason lies - themselves and their old paradigms that have been eclipsed. 

How do you keep this from happening? You create a culture of innovation where new ways of doing old things can keep your staff from becoming rigid, inflexible and content with what was but not what will be. 

Innovation fosters thinking that is outside the traditional box. It fosters better and new and less costly ways of accomplishing what your mission says you are about. It literally changes the mindset and thinking of your staff. They become more flexible, ask better questions, never assume that the way they have done things is the way to do them today and continuously create new ways of doing what they do. It fosters better and more strategic thinking!

Organizations that don't innovate regularly become lazy and their paradigms stultified. Those that do stay on the edge of opportunity and and success.







Tuesday, January 21, 2020

So is this a Jesus moment????


                                     Facebook Video




Relational EQ is one of the most important skills for believers to excel in



The Christian life is one of becoming more like Jesus and in this arena perhaps one of the most important skills is that of relating to other people. When you think of the numerous interactions of Christ in the Gospels one is struck by His ability to draw people in, relate to their needs, speak to their issues and connect with both the poor and the rich. This skill was directly linked to His ability to draw people to Himself and then to the Father. 

We all have imperfect relational EQ. I have individuals that I am estranged from even though that causes me great sadness. The issues of life often can disrupt relationships and of course it takes two parties to solve disruptions. But all of us can focus on growing our ability to relate well to others which is critical if we want to influence them for Jesus. Since we may be the only version of Jesus they know, what do they think of Him when they relate to those who follow Him?

This is where the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives really shows up as each element has a direct relational component: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control. People are drawn to those characteristics which is why they were drawn to Jesus. Add to this qualities such as respect, truth telling, being non-judgmental, and full of grace and mercy and you have the wonderful combination of grace and truth that characterized Jesus. 

None of this means that we cannot say hard things when necessary but how we say them and why we say them is an important piece of the equation. Truth be told, some of the harder things we say to others often does not come from a righteous place in our hearts. 

While there are great books on Relational EQ, Scripture itself is full of teaching on the subject. For a believer it is a great place to start. To the extent that people do not see Jesus in us and in how we relate to them, they are unlikely to listen to what we might have to say about Him.

Perhaps the most discouraging for me are the many Christian leaders who do not treat their staff with dignity and respect and create cultures of fear and intimidation. These are people who claim to tell others about what it means to be transformed but their own treatment of people is harsh and unkind. As an organizational consultant many of the situations I encounter are dysfunctional staff cultures because of a leader at the top who does not model Godly relationships. When there is staff dysfunction it almost always starts at the top.

Just as I published this, the following video showed up on Facebook. Now ask yourself - was this a Jesus moment?

https://www.facebook.com/redwine72/videos/2487464221514422/

Here is our challenge. As we read Scripture we ought to be constantly aware of God's relational principles that we find there. As we read the Gospels we get a good idea of how God actually puts those relational principles into practice. The better our relational EQ the more like Jesus we become especially as we allow the Holy Spirit to help us grow in these areas. 



Monday, January 20, 2020

Evangelicals should stop complaining about where society is headed and start doing something about it


One of the most frequent conversations among evangelicals is the sad state of society today. Truth is that we are good complainers and there is plenty to complain about as there is in any society. What is less common are active efforts by the church to change those things that we are concerned about on a local level. Evidently that is someone else's business - maybe the politicians we elect or the judges they appoint.

There are many churches who love on those around them and that is both laudable and God honoring. However, no one church can make a significant dent a city or a region. For that you need the Big C Church - God's people working together to made a difference across denominational lines. God's people don't belong to my church, they belong to all Bible teaching churches in our city. It is The Church that can make the biggest difference. It is only then that we move from building our many little kingdoms to building His Kingdom.

In Jesus' powerful prayer in John 17:20-23, Jesus prays this for those who believe in Him. "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

Jesus envisioned a Church characterized by oneness and unity and it was in this oneness and unity that the world will recognize that Christ  was sent by God. Our oneness was a sign of Christ's divinity. Our division would likewise be a sign that Christ was not divine - to a watching world. 

The big C Church is a powerful entity to be reckoned with but only when they are speaking with one voice to issues within our society. This is why there is a growing movement around the world to form City Transformation Movements where the Big C Church can put aside their differences and work as one in unity to influence the city for Christ.

One such movement is 4Tucson that in a broad coalition with churches across the spectrum is seeking to see Biblical transformation come to their city.

There are some impediments to such ministries which is why they are too few. First, you have to believe that God wants to transform your city and that He has the power to do so. Second, you have to commit to working with the Big C Church, setting aside minor differences for the unity of the Gospel. Third, one has to stop building one's little kingdom for the opportunity to build Christ's Kingdom. And finally we must give up our small and insignificant dreams for a large God sized dream worthy of our attention.






Saturday, January 18, 2020

Evaluate the board you serve on. You may be surprised!


One of the most frequent conversations among evangelicals is the sad state of society today. Truth is that we are good complainers and there is plenty to complain about as there is in any society. What is less common are active efforts by the church to change those things that we are concerned about on a local level. Evidently that is someone else's business - maybe the politicians we elect or the judges they appoint.

There are many churches who love on those around them and that is both laudable and God honoring. However, no one church can make a significant dent a city or a region. For that you need the Big C Church - God's people working together to made a difference across denominational lines. God's people don't belong to my church, they belong to all Bible teaching churches in our city. It is The Church that can make the biggest difference. It is only then that we move from building our many little kingdoms to building His Kingdom.

In Jesus' powerful prayer in John 17:20-23, Jesus prays this for those who believe in Him. "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

Jesus envisioned a Church characterized by oneness and unity and it was in this oneness and unity that the world will recognize that Christ  was sent by God. Our oneness was a sign of Christ's divinity. Our division would likewise be a sign that Christ was not divine - to a watching world. 

The big C Church is a powerful entity to be reckoned with but only when they are speaking with one voice to issues within our society. This is why there is a growing movement around the world to form City Transformation Movements where the Big C Church can put aside their differences and work as one in unity to influence the city for Christ.

One such movement is 4Tucson that in a broad coalition with churches across the spectrum is seeking to see Biblical transformation come to their city.

There are some impediments to such ministries which is why they are too few. First, you have to believe that God wants to transform your city and that He has the power to do so. Second, you have to commit to working with the Big C Church, setting aside minor differences for the unity of the Gospel. Third, one has to stop building one's little kingdom for the opportunity to build Christ's Kingdom. And finally we must give up our small and insignificant dreams for a large God sized dream worthy of our attention.






Monday, January 13, 2020

The dangers of "representative" church leadership


It sounds like a good idea. The church has six or seven major ministries so why not have the leader of each of those ministries on the church leadership team - whether it is a council or board of elders or some other name. After all, we don't want any of these ministries not represented at the leadership level!

What sounds like a good idea can actually be a bad idea and in this case cause negative consequences that can linger for years. Let me explain.

Let's start with the mission and vision thing. In representative church government there are by definition multiple missions and visions - each ministry has one. It is challenging enough to drive one central mission in any church and to stay focused on that. It is impossible to focus on multiple missions and visions. What you end up with is an incoherent mission that is being pulled in various directions as each leader and team seek to exert their authority and advocate for their piece of the pie. 

Healthy and effective churches have one central mission that every ministry contributes to. In representative governance the situation is reversed as the church is to serve multiple missions. In healthy church governance the leadership group puts the mission of the church first, sees the whole rather than the parts and makes decisions that are best for the church as a whole.

There are politics in the church just as there are in other organizations. Representative governance will by its very nature become political. If you doubt this, try to change your governance to a healthier paradigm and you face the difficulty of trying to convince those who represent a ministry, have power in their sphere to give that power and fiefdom up. 

I was asked to meet with the leaders of a church in the Midwest who had this kind of a system. They called because the pastor and several leaders of the church were experiencing huge frustration in getting decisions made and moving the church to a healthier place. The church was stuck in a rut and getting anything done was frustrating.

In or conversation two things became clear. No one thought the current system worked well and no one was willing to give up their respective authority in their area to make it work better. Even though they would have denied it, this was church politics and personal power at its worst - but not uncommon.

In representative government:

  • There is not a true central missional focus
  • Decisions are hard to make because they need to be negotiated with too many parties
  • Politics and turf wars are built into the system
  • The health of the church as a whole suffers
  • Pastors cannot lead as there are multiple leaders doing their own thing
  • Meetings are long and unproductive
  • No one truly gets served well in the end
  • Your best volunteers see the above and often opt out after experiencing the system that provides inertia rather than progress.



Friday, January 10, 2020

Four commitments that healthy church staffs keep with one another


Working on a church staff can be a challenge. There is always more to do than it seems there is time. Working with volunteers can be challenging and congregants can be critical and sometimes difficult. We can be overwhelmed with ministry demands that can sap our own spiritual engagement. Work for Jesus can replace our own love for Jesus. Our busyness can take our eyes away from our mission. Activity can become confused with outcomes and ministry teams can become siloed from one another causing conflict and lack of alignment.

All of this requires intentional focus on four commitments that healthy church staffs keep with one another - if they are going to overcome the "dark side" of ministry. These four commitments or promises can ensure health and engagement on staff teams. These commitments work best when the entire staff is committed to them.

Commitment One: We keep Jesus central.
It is easy to forget in the press of ministry "stuff" that the church is all about Jesus. Our lives are all about Jesus as well. As the church grows it is easy to allow professionalism and programs to become our focus rather than Jesus Himself.

How do we keep Jesus central? Staffs that make prayer central rather than the obligatory meeting opener (after all we are a church) are reminded constantly that our success has everything to do with our own dependency on Christ. Praying together, worshiping together and sharing with one another what God is doing in our own lives creates an environment where we intentionally place Christ in the center of our lives and our work. 

No staff can lead a congregation closer to Christ if they are not also walking the same path. Much staff burnout can be attributed to hard work without the requisite discipline of keeping Jesus central in our own lives and in everything we do. 

Commitment two: We keep our missional focus central
There are few thing more powerful than ministry teams that keep the mission of the organization central. There are many things that can take us off focus from our main mission (however you define that). Initiatives, no matter how good they are that are not directly connected to our mission dilutes our overall effectiveness. To many ministries do many good things that do not directly contribute to the mission of the organization. 

Asking the question constantly, "Is this mission critical?" can help us sift the chaff from the wheat. In fact, if a program cannot specifically show how it directly contributes to the mission of the organization it should not be pursued. This is where the good can take the place of the best. When all teams focus on a common mission, there is alignment and synergy. When they don't, they are simply disparate groups doing disparate things.

Commitment three: We keep relationships healthy
Healthy relationships make for healthy teamwork, cooperation, good dialogue, better ideas and greater results. When we allow unhealthy relationships to fester it destroys all of these outcomes. We know when staff relationships are healthy or unhealthy. We also often avoid dealing with unhealthy relationships because it requires humility and sometimes hard conversations. 

Don't allow unhealthy relationships to torpedo the work you are doing. Develop a staff wide commitment that when there is an issue between individuals or teams that you will resolve it quickly in a healthy manner. All staff members are responsible for healthy relationships. 

Commitment four: We are always trying new things
Here is a truth. What got you to here, got you to here, but it won't get you to there. The lifeblood of energy and engagement is that of trying new things to get better results. Healthy staffs are always encouraging innovation and new ideas. The words "But we've always done it this way" are not words that healthy teams use. In fact, if we've always done it a certain way, that might be an indication it is time to look for a new way.

Innovation matters in any organization. Healthy staffs celebrate it, encourage it and expect it.

Are these commitments that your team lives by?




Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Pipeline Principle in promotions or hiring


The key question leaders must ask when they either hire someone in at a leadership level or promote an individual to a leadership level is simple: Can they do it?

The issue is not whether they were successful in their last position but in promoting them to a new position there is often a different set of values involved and different skills needed. While past performance is a guide to future success, in this case it is not always true.

In fact, most leaders have experienced situations where they hired from the outside or promoted from within and it did not work. While there are several reasons why this can be the case, it is often an issue of ignoring the leadership pipeline.

If you think of every level of leadership in an organization as a bend in a pipe you get the picture. At each bend, new skills are necessary and new priorities must be paid attention to. Let me illustrate.

Self Leadership. At the ground level of an organization, individuals need to understand and live out self leadership. When I started a role in a certain organization I was the assistant to the President - a one person role with an assistant. My main task was to lead myself and ensure that I fulfilled my task. There was not much else I needed to pay attention to.

Self Leadership and a small number of reports. When I found myself with some reports I now had to pay attention to others, help them be successful and continue to fulfill my previous role. Now I was continuing my old role but also helping others be successful in theirs.

Team Leader. At this juncture I was leading a large team. The emphasis was no longer on what I could do as an individual producer but now I needed to act as an organization leader. My success was now through the success of the team. I had to think we, not me. I had to strategize with others rather than calling the plays myself. I had to ensure that the whole team was aligned with its mission and the mission of the organization. In other words the values and focus of my work changed as did the skills needed.

Leader of Teams. Again, things changed. Now it was necessary to focus on the leaders of other teams, ensure they were working in synergy with one another, were aligned with the organization and that each team was healthy and staff happy. I was not leading a team as I had done previously but was leading leaders of teams. Also, I had to think of the organization as a whole, not my slice of the organization. I had to mentor others to do what I used to do when I led a team. Again the values, skills and focus was much different than previously.

Senior Leader. Now the ultimate responsibility for a large organization was on my shoulders. I had to pay attention to stakeholders inside and outside of the organization. The issues of alignment and missional focus along with ensuring the values were always kept central become very important. And, I had to focus on fewer things but the most important things.

Think about this. At each bend:

  • We must focus on new things
  • Learn a new set of skills
  • Give up work that we had done previously
  • Fly at a higher altitude
  • Give more responsibility away
  • Take greater ownership of the organization as a whole
  • Listen, collaborate, strategize and make decisions in a group setting
So why do some hires or promotions not work? First, it rarely works to promote someone from one bend to another in the leadership pipeline if they miss a bend between the two. Why? Because they didn't learn important skills and now they have been promoted two rungs above where they were and the necessary training and skills were not learned.

Second, if there is not adequate training and support to help an individual clearly identify what they should do and should not do at each bend, they will revert to what they did in the past, not realizing that what they did as a leader previously will not suffice in their new role. I had to learn these lessons the hard way because no one tipped me off, mentored me or gave guidance.

If you are hiring from the outside it is critical to ensure that an individual has experienced all of the bends in the pipeline below them even if in a different context. If hiring from within, no matter how brilliant someone is, it is unwise to skip a bend and hope it will work. Not only can it hurt the organization but it can hurt the individual.

For more information on leadership pipelines and helping leaders successfully make the transition, my book, Leading From the Sandbox can be of help. It will point you and the leader you are promoting in the right direction.