Giving Birth to an Idea

education, elementary school, learning and people concept - grouOur world has no shortage of ideas. People dream up ways to change the world—or at least their small corner of it—ever day. But ideas are just ideas until someone gives them life. The problem is that bringing an idea to life takes time, resources, people, and risk. So how do ou give birth to an idea?

Write it down

Ideas seem much less real when they just bounce around in your head. If there’s a dream, a nagging idea, or just a “We really should…” that won’t go away, write it down and share it with someone. It’s risky, but ideas that stay in your head never become reality.

Ask yourself, “Why?”

Ideas are only good ideas if they have a purpose. If your idea doesn’t fit the direction your organization is going, it may not work or even be counter-productive—even if it is a good idea. And if your idea represents a new direction for your organization, be ready to make a case for it; change isn’t something people readily accept.

Ask for advice

Even if you feel like you have a completely revolutionary idea, chances are that someone, somewhere has at least some experience with what you want to try. Seek someone out who can offer you some direction or at least let you know which land mines to avoid.

Try it on a small scale

Not every idea is all-or-nothing. The implications might be big if it succeeds, but that doesn’t mean that you have to go all in before you know if the idea will work. Find a way to try it out in a way that will let you know whether it will work while minimizing the risk.

Jump in

If you want to give birth to an idea, you do have make the leap at some point. It may be a tired basketball cliché, but it’s true: you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. You’ve done your homework, you’ve tried it on a small scale, and you think it’s what you’re supposed to do. If you want something to work, you need to jump in with both feet.

I’d love to hear from you! What else does it take to give birth to an idea?

Leadership Values that Need to Be a Part of Your Team

SunsetWhether you know it or not, the team you’re a part of has a set of values that determine how things get done and how the team members treat one another. When you think about teams you’ve been on or are currently on, chances are you either like or dislike what being on that team feels like. That’s because each team is different, and a team’s values—spoken or unspoken—affect how team members act, get things done, and treat each other. Great teams seem to get a lot done, and unhealthy teams seem to stall or not go anywhere at all. Talent certainly has something to do with it, but generally teams that are healthy accomplish more. If you’re a leader of a team, these values need to be a part of your team:

1) Stewardship over ownership

Whomever you lead and whatever your team does, this much is true: it wasn’t yours before you got it, and it will be someone else’s when you’re done. Any hint of “I built this” is dangerous to your team. Instead, this attitude needs to be part of your team: “We didn’t build it; we received it. We will hand it over to someone else one day, so let’s do that well.”

2) Risk over perfection

Nothing kills creativity and courage like an expectation of perfection. Your team should be free to take risks, and free to fail. If you’ve got a big vision, you’ll take big risks. Leaders who aren’t allowed to fail will either wither or leave.

3) We over me

If you’re a team, be a team. Win as a team, lose as a team, and never throw someone else under the bus. Teams that get this will always accomplish more than teams whose members are looking out for number one. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

4) Long term over short term

Great leaders have a knack for dreaming about what could be beyond the next few months. But it’s not just up to the senior leader to dream. It’s not that focusing on present issues isn’t important, but when a team dreams together and is in it for the long haul rather than just this Sunday or the next event, big things can happen.

5) Mercy over judgment

Yeah, I stole that one from James. Your team is full of people who are a mess. Some days that’s probably more evident than others. How you handle it when a team member messes up sets the tone for how your team works together. Everyone screws up sometimes, so injecting a good amount of grace into those moments will tell your team they should treat one another that way. This doesn’t mean you can’t hold people accountable, but there’s a way to do that without making people feel about two inches tall.

What values would you add?

Five Ways to Move People from Consumer to Investor

6016776991_5c897b16db_bA major complaint I hear from church leaders is that many people in their churches are consumers—that is, people often are at church more for what they can get than what they can give. This certainly isn’t a new complaint, and most assume that it’s simply a product of our culture. The trouble is many leaders complain about the issue as though being a consumer is a permanent state of being. We’d all like to have more people in our churches who are investors in your church rather than consumers of it, so how do we stop complaining and start making it happen?

1) Recognize that we are all in need

The reason people consume anything is because they don’t have everything. People make their way to your church usually because they know that there is something there that they need. Of course, much of our consuming is misguided, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are in need—specifically, in need of what only Jesus can provide. Most who come to your church for the first time—especially those who don’t yet know Jesus—is there because they hope they’ll get something out of it. Everyone is a consumer, and everyone needs Jesus. That includes church leaders, which means we can’t hold it against anyone when they approach a church based on what they need instead of what they can offer.

2) Serve people well—even if they are consumers

Most people who lead lives characterized by generosity and service do so because they saw it modeled somewhere. You won’t help people stop being consumers if you’re stingy in serving them. Lead a first-class children’s ministry, even when parents won’t serve there or anywhere else. Have a generous home repair or financial assistance ministry without making past giving or service a consideration in who gets helped. If you build a generous culture within your church, chances are people will eventually catch on.

3) Cast the vision that we give because God gave first

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Any church that hopes for people to move from consumers to investors should begin with the fact that we should serve in give because God did so first. For us. Desperate pleas in the bulletin and from the platform that we need more people in the nursery don’t work—at least in the long run—because such pleas try to guilt people rather than painting a picture of a God who loved us first. When people understand that their Savior came to serve, they’re more likely to step up and serve.

4) Tell people you want them to serve and give

Church leaders often feel guilty about asking for people to serve and give from the platform. But in reality, if followers of Jesus are expected in Scripture to serve and give, why would we not make that ask? Many people in our churches don’t give or serve because they have no idea that they’re supposed to invest in their local church.

5) Celebrate and thank people who serve and give

Every church has people who give sacrificially of their time and resources in order to help their local church accomplish its mission. Thank your volunteers publicly. Throw them a party each year. Send people who give a lot of their time a nice gift card. Thanking people who give is important as well, so find a way to do so in a way that makes sense in your context.

Photo Credit: haemengine via Compfight cc

5 Ways You Can Lead Up

SAM_0111Leaders want to lead, and most leadership advice is geared toward influencing and leading those who report to you. But how do you influence leaders in your organization who are above you in the organizational chart? A few days ago, I gave five ways NOT to “lead up” if you’re a second-chair leader (or any other leader who happens not to be the senior leader in your organization). Now, for the flip side; here are five ways to lead up and support your senior leader:

1) Support publicly

Nothing undermines a senior leader’s ability to influence others quicker than a teammate who publicly airs disagreements or criticism her. You don’t have to agree with your senior leader all the time to support them publicly, but conversations with people outside your relationship with your senior leader will give others pause about following her.Continue Reading

5 Ways NOT to Lead Up

MonkeyIf you’re a leader by nature, then it’s in your DNA to influence your organization in some way to make it better and help it accomplish your mission. But not every leader—in fact, the minority of leaders—are the senior leader in their organization. So how do you “lead up,” that is influence your organization and the leaders you work for and be the best leader you can be, even when you’re not the one in charge? Well, we’ll get to that in the next post. For now, here are five things you don’t want to do if you’d like to “lead up” effectively.

1) Be the idea fairy

I first heard the term “The Idea Fairy” from our missions pastor. On just about every short-term mission trip he leads, one of the participants has an idea for how to do every task and project better. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with bringing ideas to your senior leader for how to make things better—most leaders have great ideas and a knack for making them a reality. The problem happens when a leader has a “better” idea for every single program, event, or sermon series (or a better idea for an event after the fact).Continue Reading

Gravity, Insiders, and Reaching People Who Aren’t Here Yet

WelcomeBlueClouds636363-1It’s not uncommon to hear from people who have been a part of our church for a long time that when it comes to reaching people who are far from God and caring for those who are already here, there needs to be a balance.

I respectfully disagree.

Consider this: When something goes wrong on a Sunday morning in children’s ministry or in the worship service, who do you hear from, guests or insiders? (Let me save us some time by giving you the answer: the insiders.)

Okay, what about this: Imagine you get a complaint that a ninth-grade boys small group spends too much time hanging out around a bonfire or playing soccer and not enough time in “deep” Bible study. Is it more likely that it’s coming from a family who has never been connected to a church or parents who are insiders? (Hint: see answer to the previous question.)

Last one: Who is most likely to complain the loudest in your church when you change a service time? (If you answered insiders again, you’re catching on.)

It goes without saying that it’s important to care for and lead the people that are already a part of your church. That’s why you do funerals, make hospital visits, and stay at your office late to meet with a married couple who’s going through a rough patch. But if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that we feel a pull to please the people in our church we see each week at the expense of serving those who have yet to set foot in our building on a Sunday morning. And who can blame us? Insiders are the ones who are most likely to bend a pastor’s ear (or email inbox).

But it’s those who have yet to meet Jesus that we’ve been commanded reach, to serve, and to share the Good News with. The problem is that since we are more likely to hear the complaints of those within our organization, gravity pulls us, our energy, and our resources to be directed towards those who are already there. We don’t accidentally reach people we don’t yet know–we have to push against the gravity that pulls us towards insiders to do it. Here are three things you can do to fight the gravity:
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Building Trust with Volunteers

HandsIf you’re a church or ministry leader, chances are that “volunteer coordinator” is a part of your job description. Churches don’t (or shouldn’t) run without volunteers. If something’s going really well in your church, it’s probably because you have great volunteers in that area.

An important part of leading volunteers is gaining and building trust. If volunteers don’t feel like they can trust you, your decisions, or your intentions, your team will either dwindle in numbers or become very unhealthy. Trust is more than just believing you; when volunteers trust their leader, they are willing to follow that leader and do just about anything he or she asks them to. So how do you build trust with your volunteers?

1) Stay organized.
I’ve learned (the hard way) that one of the easiest way to frustrate volunteers is to be disorganized as a leader. Volunteers who don’t know until the last minute when or where you’d like them to serve will quickly turn on their leader. On the other hand, volunteers who know what’s going on in the ministry they serve in appreciate the fact that their leaders go the extra mile to keep them informed. When you help out your volunteers by getting them schedules and needed materials ahead of time, send reminder emails, and show up for meetings and events prepared, you are letting them know that you value their time and effort enough not to waste them.

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“Attractional” Church and Loving People Who Don’t Yet Know Jesus

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Photo by Aney / CC BY

Here’s a word I’d like to strike from our Christianese dictionary: “Attractional.” The main reason is that for some, attractional is a dirty word. The more I hear arguments against what some call an “attractional” approach to ministry, the more puzzled I become.

Let me fair: when many people use the word “attractional” in a negative sense, they are often criticizing an approach to ministry that downplays conviction of sin and the exclusivity of the Gospel (i.e. the fact that Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God) so as to make new people more comfortable. I agree; that is not a biblical approach to ministry. At best, such an approach merely succeeds in filling seats, but not in changing lives. At worst, it convinces people who have yet to enter a relationship with Jesus that there is no need to humble ourselves to the God of the Universe and give their lives to Jesus.

However, I’ve noticed that there are some who are concerned about any attempt to attract people–especially first-time guests who don’t yet know Jesus–to a church environment. I know I’m over-generalizing here, but it seems to me the primary concern of people worried about attractionalism in churches is this: If we try to get people to actually like church, it will eventually (and necessarily) result in proclaiming a message that is watered down, contrary to Scripture, and ultimately false. In short, if someone who doesn’t know Jesus likes to go to church, it must be because the message isn’t true.

I may be crazy, but my take is this: If we–as churches and as individual followers of Jesus–are doing what we’re supposed to be doing, people who are far from God will enjoy attending church with us. They’ll feel welcome, they’ll like the music, and they might even laugh a little during the sermon, even if they disagree with much of it. So instead of using the word “attractional,” let’s just start saying, “Church that unchurched people might actually enjoy, find helpful, and even find themselves beginning a relationship with Jesus in.”

If that’s the kind of church you’d like to lead or be a part of, here are four values that need to be a part of your church culture:

People who are far from God matter to God
Whether or not you believe that statement dictates what you do on Sunday mornings and whether your church is a comfortable place for first-time guests to visit. If you do believe that statement, then you’ll do everything possible to roll out the red carpet for guests each and every weekend.

The only thing that should offend unchurched first-time guests is the Gospel
Confession: I stole this one right from Andy Stanley (see his book Deep and Wide). It’s all to easy to assume that a first-time guest didn’t make a return visit to your church because they weren’t interested in Jesus. Maybe it was because you weren’t interested in the first-guest! You may think you’re the friendliest church around, but if guests aren’t welcomed, you don’t have signs to help a mom of a four-year-old quickly find the children’s are (or a bathroom), or you confuse guests with unnecessarily confusing language, you’re probably offending many of your first-time guests. When that’s the case, they may not be engaged or even stick around long enough to actually hear about Jesus.

Worship services should be enjoyable
If that sentence makes you cringe because you assume that an enjoyable church service means a watered-down message, consider this: Jesus told jokes, shared captivating stories, and even loved a good party. Creating an experience on Sunday mornings (or whenever you gather for worship) that people who don’t yet know Jesus can actually engage with doesn’t mean you’re selling out. It just means that you actually care enough about people who are far from God to create an environment where they’re more likely to hear the unadulterated Gospel.

Outsiders should be made to feel like Insiders
In all too many churches, it’s very difficult for new people to crack the circle and be accepted as an Insider. The biggest issue with this is that it’s far easier for a Christian to figure out how to crack the circle than it is for someone who doesn’t yet know Jesus. Churches where Outsiders are made to feel like Insiders on their first visit will likely do a better job of helping people stick around long enough to be transformed by an encounter with Jesus.

You Need to Focus on Your Problems

Focus-0You should focus on your problems more.

I’m aware that statement doesn’t exactly seem positive. But it’s an important thing to do. Let me explain.

Think about a problem that both intrigues you and frustrates you. Something about your world–or the world in general–that you know is broken. It might be a problem that seems insurmountable, such as the fact that there are still 27,000,000 slaves in this world today. Or it might be a simpler problem, such as the fact that the handful of employees you oversee don’t really enjoy their work at all.

Now imagine for a moment that you find a way to make a dent in the problem. You haven’t completely solved the problem. This is, after all, real life; not 7th-grade pre-algebra. In real life, problems don’t have simple solutions, and most problems aren’t ever perfectly eradicated at all. However, you feel great about the progress you’ve made. You developed a strategy, you innovated, you’ve put in some long hours, and you can see progress. You’re proud of the solution you’ve come up with. Now what?
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