Frame the future with these five questions

29 05 2014

The Five Most Important Questions

The best congregations don’t create members. They create disciples who are passionate about creating more disciples. In Peter Drucker’s book, The Five Most Important Questions, the author helps leaders focus on doing what matters most.  These questions provide a foundation for assessing what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what you must do to improve an organization’s performance. It leads to clarity about what to say “yes” to and when to say “no.”

Here’s a summary of the questions which I slightly modified to fit a congregational setting:

  1. What is Our Mission? What is the reason for our existence? What is the current mission? Can our leaders and ministry partners recite it? What are the challenges or vexing problems we’re seeking to address? What are our opportunities? For many congregations, your mission may need to be revisited.  The starting and ending point of all faith communities is changing lives.  Effective mission statements are short and focused and often can be summed up in a tag line.  They state why you do what you do, providing the emotional energy or motivation for people to contribute in meaningful ways. The core mission remains fixed while operating practices, processes, procedures, strategies and structures continually adapt in response to changing realities.
  2. Who are we seeking to serve? Is it just who comes to the congregation and participates in its ministries?  Does it include the local community, and if so, how far away? Have you considered how the people you’re seeking to serve have changed in the last few decades? How well do you know the people you’re seeking to serve?
  3. What do the people we are seeking to serve value? What do we believe about what they value and how do we find out if what we believe is accurate? Think through what knowledge you need to gain and develop a process for deep and continuous listening. Make sure that the voice of the people you’re seeking to serve is part of your discussions and decisions, and guides what programs, ministries and services are provided.
  4. What are our results? How do we define results? What does the transformation we’re offering look like? What must we strengthen or abandon to get a better result? A congregation’s results are always measured in changed lives and changed conditions – in people’s behavior, circumstances, health, hopes, and capacities.  Leaders should frequently ask, “Do we produce results that are sufficiently transformative for us to justify putting our resources in this area?” Need alone does not justify continuing. Nor does tradition. The results we’re seeking must support the fulfillment of the mission.
  5. What is our plan? What are our goals? To further the mission, there must be action today and specific aims for tomorrow. Planning is less about masterminding the future and more about defining the particular place the organization wants to be and how they intend to get there. Your congregation’s mission will change infrequently.  Be married to your mission but not to the models and strategies that fulfill the mission.  View ministry plans as working documents that should be updated on a regular basis. Planning is not a single event but rather a continuous process of strengthening what works and abandoning what does not, of making risk-taking decisions with the greatest knowledge of their potential effect, of setting objectives, appraising performance and results through systematic feedback, and making ongoing adjustments just as a sailboat makes constant course corrections.

Which of these five questions might your congregation need to focus on more intentionally?  Which question do YOU need to pay attention to related your particular role in ministry?







Five learnings about leading change

20 05 2014

IMG_1715Our Certschool students walk through the 6-step change process found in the book, Surface to Soul. In addition, they read John Kotter’s article describing the 8 reasons why transformation efforts fail. Collectively, we review the learnings found in the book, Switch, by Dan and Chip Heath, and then discuss Ron Heifetz’s work on adaptive change.

I’ve added my “Top 5″ learnings about leading change below that I’ve found applicable to congregations I coach. Please send me your insights on the subject:

  1. Begin with building on the bright spots.  Highlight what’s working and transformational in ministry, and do more of these things.
  2. Celebrate the past. Remind people of the bold decisions  they’ve made in the past. Use their legacy of taking bold steps in the past as a springboard for taking bold actions now.
  3. Rather than opposing the old, spend energy encouraging the new. Quit attending meetings that focus on propping up or prolonging the life of ministries that have seen their better days. Redirect funds to support new initiatives and avoid subsidizing ministries that have limited impact.
  4. Assume that people aren’t aware of new changes.  Just because articles have been written on the changes ahead and the pastor preached on them, doesn’t mean that people are aware of them, understand them, and or embrace them. Have leaders continuously ask people what they know about the changes. Gather their opinions about them.  Have a 60 second elevator speech ready for those seeking more information. John Kotter states that most change efforts are under communicated by the factor of 10.  I find that to be true. What’s often perceived as resistance is really a request for more information. People need to know the “what,” the “so what,” and the “now what” if they are to embrace and support the change.
  5. You can’t do it alone.  Create a guiding coalition that will help create a buzz around the change efforts and help sustain the effort then you encounter resistance.

Creating sticky faith @ home

24 04 2014

DSC01267What can parents or grandparents do to help teenagers have faith that lasts a lifetime?

The Lifelong Faith Journal edition titled, Parents & Faith Formation, provides several suggestions. I’ve listed a few below from the articles as well as added a few of my own. Think about which ones may be relevant to your setting.

  1. Share verbally about their own faith journeys. Stop lecturing kids or interviewing them; instead, share organically about your own faith. Use time in the car, recent current events, or dinner discussions as a chance to share how your own faith is growing, or ways that your faith impacts your everyday life. Include both a sense of your present religious experiences and insights as well as highlights of your faith journey in the past.
  2. Ask their children who they will turn to when they have doubts. Doubt in and of itself isn’t toxic; it’s unexpressed doubt that turns toxic. Giving permission for independent thought leads to stickier faith.
  3. Connect their sons and daughters to at least five caring adults. Kids need to develop a strong personal identity for faith to stick and community helps do just that. One of the greatest gifts a parent or grandparent can give a loved one is a web of support to catch them when they fall and keep them connected to faith for the long haul. Think of ways to engage extended family, neighbors, friends, coaches and teachers to mentor and encourage your children and youth. Other adults are often able to speak to them in ways you cannot as the parent.
  4. Reinforce that their faith is bigger than any moral failure or mistake. Young people tend to view their faith as a list of behaviors. A faith that sticks is one that is based not primarily on behaviors, but on inner life change.
  5. Talk to high school juniors and seniors now about life after college. Only one in seven youth group graduates felt their faith was ready for what they faced after high school. As part of practical discussions on issues such as managing money and time, help high schoolers find a faith community to engage with at college and how to make wise decisions that will impact the rest of their lives.
  6. Don’t let distance deter you from building sticky networks of support.  With Skype, FaceTime, Facebook, texting and more, there are so many ways to stay connected from afar.  Send a “picture of the day/week” to a young person.  Text your favorite Bible passage or describe how God used you recently to be a blessing to others.
  7. Don’t underestimate the power of the pen. Thoughtfully written cards often become lifelong keepsakes for young people. I frequently send my kids postcards from distant locations that are filled with words of blessing, affirmations and hope.
  8. Use “on the go” activities to deepen relationships and form faith.  Some of my best conversations with my kids have been when we’re boating, on a bike trip, or walking the golf course. The conversations seem to flow more naturally for me in these settings.

Faith formation research indicates that parents and grand parents are usually the most important spiritual influence in their kids’ lives. According to Search Institute’s nationwide study, 12% of youth have a regular dialog with their mom on faith/life issues. In other words, one out of eight kids talks with their mom about their faith. It’s far lower for dads. One out of twenty, or 5%, of kids have regular faith/life conversations with their dad. Less than one out of ten teenagers looks at Scripture with their parents. When it comes to matters of faith, mum’s usually the word at home.

What might you do in your own home to increase the frequency and level of interaction with your family members?  Who will you include as part of your extended family? seeking to be a source of joy, hope and blessings?  How might you help others model a sticky faith for young people?


Are you making it easy to give?

21 04 2014

KP_DollarinBasket 21-15-45When I need cash, I often hit up my one of my sons. Why? Because I rarely go to a bank since my  paycheck is deposited directly into my checking account, and I rarely go to an ATM to get cash. Since most places accept a debit or credit card, and I pay bills and make contributions online, I rarely have a need to carry cash or a checkbook. Last month, I wrote two checks a month. Rarely do I write more than five. I love autopay and online giving. It simplifies my life and ensures that obligations I have and pledges I make are fulfilled.

Recently, I was approached by the treasurer of the Soccer Booster Club to pay my son’s soccer dues. He pulled out his iPad and asked, “Could we take care of your payment right now?”  After making payment, I asked him how this payment setup was working for him. He stated, “It’s been a night and day difference in trying to obtain payments from families. Parents never seemed to have their checkbooks with them, and rarely did they have enough cash.  Even though they could go online and make payment its seemed like it was always a challenge to get people to do so.  Once we made easy for them to give on the spot, my job has been a piece of cake.”Most congregations I visit seem to invite people to give spontaneously to various giving opportunities.  The only opportunity that received more than a few bucks from me (what was left in my pocket), was one that accepted payments for Habitat For Humanity via the Square payment system.
I often wonder if I would have been a more frequent and generous giver I was given opportunities to donate in ways that didn’t require cash or a check. Is it time for congregations to reconsider how they can make it easier for people to give joyfully, generously and consistently to ministries that grow faith and build God’s kingdom?

Using technology to turbocharge ministry

17 04 2014

Screen Shot 2012-09-23 at 9.04.11 AMTechnology can greatly simplify your ministry efforts while enhancing your capacity to build connections among people, communicate vision, form faith, and manage projects.

Thoughtfully-chosen technology tools, if introduced at the the appropriate time, should lighten a person’s ministry load while maximizing the ways people can participate. Technology tools can extend the weekly worship experience into people’s daily lives through blogs, Facebook postings, Taking Faith Home inserts and more. Technology can engage more people in faith forming activities such as online book discussion groups, Bible study reflections and access to daily devotions sent directly to one’s smartphone. Technology can expand the amount of time staff spend out in the community since their office (phone, tablet and/or laptop) usually goes with them.

How are you using technology to form faith, build community and equip households? Listed below are ways I see technology turbocharging ministries across the country.

Using technology to COMMUNICATE more effectively
  1. Texting (EZ text)
  2. Websites
  3. Constant Contact for sending email updates
  4. Twitter
  5. Posting blogs using WordPress, Blogger, etc.
Using technology to CONNECT with & CARE for each other
  1. Deepening community through Facebook groups, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.
  2. Supporting people dealing with health issues through Caring Bridge.
  3. Sharing photos of events and activities via Dropbox, Flickr, Instagram, Photodex, Smilebox, Snapchat, etc.
Using technology to COLLABORATE on events & projects
  1. Managing events and projects using Base camp, Google Docs, Evernote, etc.
  2. Gathering feedback and data from people via online polling such as Survey Monkey, Constant Contact, etc.
  3. Using Free Conference Call, Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangout in lieu of face-to-face meetings.
  4. Storing and sharing documents via Boxy, Dropbox, Google Docs, iCloud, Skydrive, Sugarsync, etc.
  5. Using Signup Genius, Eventbrite, Cvent to manage registrations and donated items.
  6. Using Google Calendar to share schedules among, staff, boards and all members.
  7. Using Square, PayPal or Google Checkout to receive payments.
Using technology to EQUIP people with a life-shaping faith
  1. Provide live and recorded trainings through platforms such as Adobe Connect, Go To Meeting, Slideshare and Webex.
  2. Using Videos from Godtube, Vimeo, Youtube to support and train people.
  3. Creating slideshows and movie clips to celebrate ministry activities, train leaders and and highlight ways the congregation is living into its mission (iMovie, Photodex, Smilebox, etc.)
Using mobile phone/tablet apps to  manage workflow (iOS & Android apps)
  1. Creating and managing blogs (WordPress & Blogger)
  2. Video conferencing (Facetime or Skype)
  3. Store documents and confidential information (Dropbox, Google Docs, mSecure, Sugarsync, etc.)
  4. Faith Formation (Vibrant Faith at Home, FaithTalk Series,
  5. iLife/Work Suite (Garage Band, iMovie, Keynote, Numbers, Pages) and Office 365
  6. Listen to books, news or podcasts (Audiobooks, Audible, iCatcher, Umano)
  7. View or share photos (Dropbox, Flickr, Instagram, Snapchat, PhotoCard)
  8. Project Management (Base camp or Google Docs)
  9. Read the Bible (CCEL NRSV, Glo Bible, )
  10. Read books and magazines (iBooks, Kindle, Oyster, TED books, Zinio)
  11. Social Media (Facebook, Google+. Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, etc.)
  12. Video (Godtube, Netflix, Vimeo, Mactube)
  13. Emailing and texting (Group Email and GroupText, Messenger)
  14. Training Platforms (Adobe Connect, Go To Meeting, Slideshare, Webex)
  15. Travel (Expedia, Weather, Maps, Google Maps, Fly Delta, National Geographic Parks)
  16. Personal utilities (Duolingo, Pedometer, Recordium, mSecure, Passbook)

Are there ways you could maximize your time and efforts through judicious use of technology tools? Which tools would have the greatest impact on your ministry without requiring significant time to learn and implement? What are you using now that’s proven to be a great time saver or ministry maximizer?

If you’d like to learn more, you’re welcome to participate in today’s webinar, Tech Tools for Turbocharging Ministry.  It takes place at 1:00pm central time.  Click here a few minutes before 1pm (enter your name in the guest field) to join other participants.

Are you sending mixed messages?

16 04 2014

5439119-867908-church-sign-indicating-they-are-open-for-prayer-and-all-are-welcomeA question I always ask myself after an onsite training or coaching visit is, “Would I join this church if I was new to the area?” The congregations where I struggle to respond with a heartfelt “yes” are the ones that send me mixed messages. Simply put, their words and actions don’t seem to reflect what they say they’re about (their mission) and what they say is most important (their values).

Let me give you a half dozen examples:

  1. Leaders say that they want their congregation to grow, but the growth they’re seeking, or least talking about,  is related to three things: A) increasing worship attendance and/or membership, B) getting new members to contribute money, and C) having people help maintain current programs such as Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, or planning events such as a spaghetti dinner. I don’t hear leaders talk passionately about growing disciples or helping people find their sweet spot and sense of vocation. I don’t hear leaders ask other people, “How’s your prayer life?” or ” Where is God leading you?” I don’t sense that leader have a plan for building disciples, or for that matter, a plan for growing deeper in their own faith journey.
  2. I hear people express their desire to have more young people people at worship and at congregational events. What I don’t hear or see is people of all ages actively befriending young people, including them in their circles of friendship, and tapping their gifts and wisdom. Why is it so important that young people be present if we don’t plan to befriend them, learn from them, or partner with them in ministry?
  3. I hear leaders say that “all are welcome” but then I experience worship services filled with insider language, songs I can’t sing, and hearing about upcoming events that I’m not sure if I’m welcome to participate in.
  4. When I visit their website – the “front door” for most congregations today – I find that it’s neither visitor-friendly nor up-to-date. Most websites overwhelm me with information about programs and ministries while providing given few, if any, reasons why what’s being offered is worth investing in.
  5. When lingering in the narthex after worship, I notice that few people greet me and fewer actually introduce themselves to me. Even fewer invite me to join them for refreshments, thank me for coming, or encourage me come back. Some congregations seem to live by the slogan “We welcome some, on occasion, if you’re like us.”
  6. When I observe leadership meetings, I notice that conversations seem to bounce back and forth between budget challenges and facility repairs. Sometimes there’s talk about the shortage of volunteers, and the length of worship services. There isn’t much conversation, however, about ways we’re helping people grow in faith, reach out to the community, or exploring ideas for doing ministry in more excellent ways.
Granted, I visit a lot of churches in a given year but I don’t think I’m all that picky. I’m simply looking for a place that befriends me and accepts me as I am, that helps me experience God’s presence, and helps me explore ways to be a blessing to others. Is that too much to ask? If these areas were adequately addressed, I think you’d find people coming to worship more often, giving more generously and seeking to serve at and beyond the congregation.

Setting ground rules for meetings

10 04 2014

78180530The majority of people I know seem to dread going to meetings. They will complain about the meetings starting late and ending even later, having to listen to two people dominate the discussion, and the general lack of clarity about what is to be accomplished during these times together. I’ve noticed that most people seem to endure meetings rather than seek to change them. As change agents, I believe that we are called to use meetings well to help further God’s kingdom.  A friend and colleague of mine, Jim Merhaut, suggested that meetings should have some ground rules and I whole-heartedly agree.  Listed below are some ground rules I think most meetings could benefit from.  

  • We start and end the meeting at established times.
  • Only one person speaks at a time.
  • We conclude one topic or agenda item before moving on to another topic or agenda item.
  • Talkative members work on listening more; quiet members work on talking more.
  • All decisions are reached with an agreed-upon percentage of votes at meetings that represent an agreed‐upon quorum.
  • Angry outbursts are not permitted.
  • Strong emotional disagreements will be settled outside of the meeting time.
  • Meetings will conclude with a review of accomplishments and assignments.
What ground rules would your meetings most benefit from?  What ground rules might you add to this list?  Have your leader review and discuss Leading Meetings that Make a Difference and Viewing Meetings as Worshipful Work to explore additional ways to make meetings something that people look forward to rather than dread.


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