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Oikos Connections

Oikos

   All of us need to identify our circles of influence, our “oikos.”  It is simply defined as our household; our extended family and friends.  Years ago, Elmer Towns talked about and even had an outreach program called “F.R.A.N.gelism.”  It was a challenge to focus sharing Christ with our friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors first.  These are the natural relationships already in our lives that God has placed there for us to share His love with.  Our circles of influence! 

     In The Multiplication Workshop, Dave DeVries defines “oikos” as “the fundamental unit of society involving families, friends, neighbors, and associates.”  The New Testament describes churches meeting in the ‘oikos,’ and it teaches that believers belong to the ‘household’ of God.  The spread of the gospel happens most effectively through close relationships.  Therefore it is vital to explore and expand our ‘oikos’ evangelism.”

     Dave designates 5 keys to working effectively in reaching your “oikos” with the gospel:

  • Time and Availability – relationships that are significant take time.
  • Hospitality – changed lives and kingdom values are best seen in everyday living.
  • Spiritual Intuition – listen carefully to others and the Holy Spirit.
  • Generosity – people are drawn to those who give freely and cheerfully.
  • A Transformed Life – new life in Christ is contagious.

     Central Church and church planter Anders Lee in Southaven, MS, have taken their “Oikos Connections” seriously.  They are not just talking about reaching their circles of influence; they are doing something about it.  They schedule events for their people to invite those who they know are unchurched or dechurched.  Recently they invited over 60 people to an evening of bowling and then a meal at Jason’s Deli.  They funded the evening for those invited based on one of their core values, “Our Dollars match our DNA.” 

    There were 34 “Oikos Connections” that showed up.  Several couples were asked to greet and have conversations with their guests using the “tap” method.  If one couple was talking to a guest and another couple came up, before they could leave they had to “tap” them on the back to let them know they were handing them off.  It worked, because 26 of the 34 came to worship the next Sunday and 4 families said they would definitely be back!  Of the 26 who attended on Sunday, six raised their hands to be contacted to discuss what it means to be born again.

     Anders attended The Multiplication Workshop and immediately began implementing the training into the outreach strategy of his church plant.  It is not just for church planters but will benefit anyone desiring to make disciples who make disciples.  The training is based upon the Multiplication Cycle developed by DeVries.  It has seven elements:

  • Seize the Mission of Jesus – Embracing the mission of Jesus as your own.
  • Adopt Missional Thinking and Behavior – Thinking and acting like a missionary in your zip code.
  • Exegete the Culture – Identifying your unique circle of accountability.
  • Incarnate the Gospel – Being Jesus to everyone everywhere around you.
  • Multiply Disciple Makers – Helping others to help others follow Jesus.
  • Form Communities/Churches – Gathering disciplemakers into Missional communities.
  • Mobilize Leaders and Teams – Empowering others to lead on mission.

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     If you have never gone through The Multiplication Workshop you should.  We will be hosting the next training in August (exact dates TBD) at the Global Ministries Center in Conway, AR.  You can contact me at larry@bmaam.com    Also, check out Dave’s website: www.missionalchallenge.com or email him at dave@missionalchallenge.com          

     Also check out “Circles of Influence” at http://larryjbarker.com/?p=441          

     Healthy churches are always focused on building strong relationships through “oikos” connections!

Circles of Influence

Circles

     Several years ago I picked up a copy of Concentric Circles of Concern by W. Oscar Thompson Jr.  It was a good read but more importantly it reminded me of the influence every believer has and our responsibility toward those God has placed in our lives.  We are accountable to share the gospel with every man, woman, and child within our “circles.”  Have you identified your circles of influence?  Have you shared Christ with your family, friends, neighbors, and associates?  The spreading of the gospel happens most effectively through close relationships.  It is vital for us to focus on those God has placed closest to us that we may have a godly impact on their lives.  

     In a book review by Brian Foulkes he says, “Concentric Circles of Concern is a dynamic plan of specifics through love to develop disciples for Christ.  Through the entire book Thompson links the importance of relationship, love, prayer, and organization as a fortified team to accomplish discipleship.  He states that there are seven stages in this process: get right, survey, pray, build bridges, show love, make disciples, and begin again (Pg. 30-31). He makes a stance of declaring that the word relationship is the most important word in the dictionary.  That word alones provides a stem or basis from which everything else can and will grow.  He is very adamant about relationships being the glue that holds everything together in the area of discipleship.  He states the premise throughout the entire book that if you do not have a right relationship with those close to you, how can you have one with those far away?  He goes even deeper by saying that you can’t have a right relationship with God and then treat others adversely (pg. 93).”

     Relationships take time and require commitment on our part.  Who do you know that needs Jesus?  Can you identify by name people in your “circles” of influence who need to be saved?

  • First, make a list of your natural circles of influence. Take a sheet of paper and draw seven to ten circles and then label them by who belongs in that circle.  These are people, places, and points of interest where you can personally make contacts.  Examples: Immediate Family, Relatives, Close Friends, Neighbors, Co-Workers, Acquaintances, School, Frequently Visited Locations, Clubs, etc. 
  • Second, once you have your circles drawn and labeled then begin to list names in each circle of those who need Jesus. Hopefully, you will be able to list twenty to thirty people within your circles.
  • Third, be challenged to build relationships with people who are far from God.  How did you do?  Were you challenged by how many lost people you know or were you burdened by the realization that you really do not know anyone lost?
  • Fourth, begin to brainstorm ways you can expand your circles of influence. If you were disappointed by your lack of contact with those who need Jesus begin to brainstorm how you might be able to meet them and build relationships with them.  Invite your neighbors over for steak, take that guy at work that tells dirty jokes fishing with you, join a club, volunteer your services, or simply begin building a relationship with those you see every day.  There are a lot of places where you can build relationships to show others Christ.  Examples: Home Owners Association, Service Clubs, Sports, Music, Neighborhood Watch Programs, Chamber of Commerce, Health Clubs, Parent Teacher Organizations, City Government, Block Parties, Golf or Country Club, etc.
  • Fifth, get started! Where do we begin?  If you don’t know anyone lost go find someone who is and begin building a relationship with them. 

     If you were able to write down several names then here are a few suggestions for you: 

  1. Pray for them daily asking that the Holy Spirit of God would begin drawing them and working on their hearts.
  2. Ask God to show you a way to strengthen your relationship with them so that you might be able to have a conversation with them about Jesus.
  3. Do whatever it is that God asks you to do as you are sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit to not go too fast or too slow. All of us have circles of influence and God has placed these people in our lives for a reason.  We need to love them the way Christ loves us and let them know what an awesome God He is!!!   

     Begin by listening to their story.  Once they know you are someone who cares about them then you will have earned the right to share your story.  Then you will be able to tell His story! 

Taking The Church to the Street

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There are less people (percentage wise) attending church today than ever. While the church has continued with its programs and schedules, those attending church has decreased from 20.4% in 1990 being in church on any given Sunday to 15.5% in 2015. Church attendance is on a steady decline while the population has exploded. The gap between the church and those unreached by the gospel continues to widen at an alarming rate! Dave Browning has said, “The greatest sin of the church today is not any sin of commission or sin of omission but the sin of no mission!” Church, why do you exist?

Thom Rainer has reported that every American generation since WWII has become less churched!!! Here are the shocking facts of how each generation is farther from God. Those born before 1948 are known as the “Builders” and 65% of their generation attend church. The “Boomers,” those born from 1948-1964, have only 35% attending. Then came the “Busters,” born from 1965-1976, and only 15% of them attend regularly. Then there are those born between 1977-1994, the “Bridgers,” and only 4% attend. In less than 50 years church attendance decreased by 61%.

With these realities in front of us there are some major shifts that need to occur in the outreach of the church. We must stop relying on the “come to us and see what we are about” approach and also employ “we’re coming to you and going to show you who Jesus is!” The time is now to take the church to people and not only focus on bringing people to church! Reggie McNeal says it this way, “We must change our ideas of what it means to develop a disciple, shifting the emphasis from studying Jesus and all things in an enviroment protected from the world, to following Jesus into the world to join Him in His redemptive mission!” Please notice I did not say to stop inviting people but we must pursue them with the love of Christ!

Here is some more food for thought from Lost and Found by Ed Stetzer. When asked if people believed they could have a good relationship with God without being involved in a church 90% of those aged 20-29 believed they could and 88% of those over 30 believed the same. Then, when they were asked if the church was the only place to learn what it means to be a Christian only 9% of those 20-29 believe that is true with only 6% of those over 30 believing it. Mike Breen and Alex Absalom in Launching Missional Communities say, “Going in mission is not an optional extra – an upgrade for the ‘mature’ disciple. Going in mission is fundamental to the journey of discipleship and from day one we should view ourselves as missionaries.”

There is some good news, though, from Thom Rainer’s survey discovering that 80% of all people asked said they would come to church if invited. But the bad news is that 80% said they had never been invited. The church is supposed to be a lighthouse, a rescue station, a hospital for sinners, and yet many churches go year after year and never see anyone come to Christ through their ministry. Warren Wiersbe said, “The church at Sardis had a reputation without reality” and “to the public, the Ephesian Church was successful; to Christ, it had fallen.”

Launching Missional Communities goes on to say, “We know seeing people come to know Jesus is important, yet we rarely see people come to know Jesus!” There are some major questions this book challenges us to ask our church:

First, how do we reach people who do not know Jesus? In Good to Great, Jim Collins challenges us to ask two questions to define our purpose. First, what is your business? And then, how is business? Church, your business is glorifying God and sharing His glorious salvation with as many as you can. If what we have been doing is not working does it not make sense to see if there is something else we can to do to be more effective? Remember, if you want a different result, do something different.

Second, what will your church look like in the future? What does it need to look like? How does it need to change? Doug Paul says that as he studied the state of churches and their lack of effectiveness he observed this, “It seemed like there were a lot of thinkers who didn’t practice and a lot of practitioners who didn’t think!” Your church needs to think through what it will require to take Jesus to the street in your community and then do it! The need is to act on what we know we should be doing but the reality is that 50% of all churches in the U.S. did not record one conversion last year.

Third, develop a clear process of how you will make disciples who make disciples. Discipleship begins with the unbeliever before they ever receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. The question is how will you disciple them? Who will disciple them? What will be the discipleship engine you use? It must be easily reproducible and transferable because if it is too complicated it will never multiply! We can no longer give lip service to discipleship by thinking it is a class you attend and once you go through it you are a disciple! You are disciple when you have reproduced other disciples!

Healthy churches realize they are not just a place where you go, but more importantly, a place you go from!

5 Steps to Finish Well

Finish Well

    How you live your life is very important but how you finish is even more important.  Many enter the race but over time because of many challenges they get out of the race.  Most will not remember how you started the race but they will remember how you finish.  In a study by J. Robert Clinton he concluded that less than a third of historical and contemporary leaders finished strong.  Using that as our measuring stick it indicates that two out of three leaders in the ministry will not finish strong.  They will get out of the race because of things like discouragement, greener pastures, or sin in their lives.

     How do you finish well?  J. Robert Clinton offers five factors through his studies that are necessary for a leader to finish strong.  Today we will focus on the last of the five which is “Mentoring.”  Dynamic Church Planting International defines a mentor as, “someone who has been where I want to go and is willing to help me get there.”  It is the concept of having a Paul in your life, a father in the ministry, someone who will keep you focused on being faithful, fruitful, and finishing well. 

First, build close relationships!

     Clinton writes the following about mentorship; “Relationships are vital to life.  One who finishes well has recognized that such a feat does not come about through going it alone.  Leaders who finish well mentor others and are also mentored.  They do not restrict themselves to a single mentor, as if one person can provide them with all they need.  Usually these people have many voices that speak into their lives and hold them accountable to what is truly important.  We need this to finish well.”

Second, invest in others!

     He goes on to say, “More than that, we need also to invest it in the next generation.  The very definition of finishing well requires that we leave this planet in the care of the next generation of leaders.  Unlike the Dead Sea, which receives water from many tributaries but contributes to none and is therefore stagnant and dead, the leader who finishes well is constantly growing because they are always giving and receiving.”  The reason some leaders have not finished well is because they have put so much emphasis on accomplishing tasks instead of strong mentoring relationships.

Third, be determined to remain faithful!

     About eighteen years ago we were in revival services where I was pastor.  Our evangelist was someone I had looked up to for years.  He had ministered and encouraged my family through good times and some tough times.  One morning he asked my advice and prayers on a decision he was making in the ministry at that time.  I was honored that he would even ask but I was challenged that day in a way that I have not forgotten when he said, “Bro. Larry, I want to finish well!”  Here was a man of God in my life who was not talking about stepping out of the fight but was praying and asking God to make the latter years of his ministry his most productive.

Fourth, find someone to be accountable to! 

It is a shame that so many will not finish well because the cause of Christ is damaged when leaders fall by the wayside.  If we do not want to be a statistic then we must be accountable to others as we strive by the grace of God to run the race and to finish well.  A mentor does not just point the way, they lead by example.  They do not want you to just be a follower but they challenge you to become a leader.  A mentor is as interested in you finishing well as they are in finishing well themselves.  Let’s run the race together!  

Fifth, realize the battle is real!

Listen to these statistics shared by Pastor Jonathan Falwell to thousands of ministers who were in Lynchburg, Va., for a “Refuel”Conference.

  • Half of pastors would leave the ministry tomorrow if they could.
  • Seventy percent are fighting depression and 90 percent can’t cope with the challenge of ministry.
  • 1,500 pastors walk away from ministry every month because of moral failure, burnout, conflict, discouragement or depression.
  • 80 percent of seminary and Bible school graduates will leave the ministry within their first five years.

Ephesians 6:11-12, “ Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Develop a “STOP-DOING” List

Building Margin

     We have all heard statements such as, “Keep the main thing the main thing!”  The problem is that we are tempted to believe that more is better.  We add more activities, more programs, and more ministries thinking that they will provide what is needed – more!  Many have long lived by the motto that the only way to be more productive is to work harder,  longer, or both.  Howard Hendricks stated that, “The secret of concentration is elimination.”  Eric Garland says it this way, “The real work isn’t acquisition.  It’s good, reliable filtering.”

     The idea of building margin into our lives and ministry involves developing boundaries that limit how we will utilize our time. The idea of building margin into your life is to remove the unnecessary so that you can focus on the most important things.  It is not only focusing on doing things right but making sure you are doing the right things.  We are often completely focused on our “to-do” lists, but we should also consider making a “stop-doing” list.  What do you need to stop doing so that you can focus on what you should be doing?

     As a church what things should you stop doing so that you can focus on the main things?  Are there programs and activities that are actually keeping you or distracting you from carrying out the Great Commission and obeying the Great Commandment?  In the book Deliberate Simplicity, Dave Browning stresses the three things every church should focus on:

  • Worship – This is how we stay centered! – Loving God more!
  • Small Groups – This is how we stay connected! – Loving people more!
  • Outreach – This is how we stay concerned! – Loving more people!

One question pastors should ask themselves is, “What do I need to stop doing so that I can intentionally build relationships with people far from God so that I might lead them to Him?”

     As an individual believer what do you need to stop doing so that you remain focused on what God is asking of you?  Paul had a focused determination in obediently following the Lord when he said in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  We are called to three things:

  • Follow Jesus – If you are too busy for daily Bible study and prayer you are too busy. What do you need to place on your “stop doing” list so that you build margin into your schedule for your quiet time with God?
  • Help others Follow Jesus – Are you spending time sharing your faith? How do we build margin into our lives so that we are intentionally building relationships with the unchurched and those far from God?  
  • Help others Help others Follow Jesus – Are we mentoring others to be faithful in the first two? We must have margin in order to implement an intentional leadership development strategy.  Dave Ferguson points this out clearly, “The core competency of any movement is apprenticeship, a fundamental principle of reproduction!”

     In Good to Great, Jim Collins says, “The point of this entire book is not that we should ‘add’ these findings to what we are already doing and make ourselves even more overworked. No, the point is to realize that much of what we’re doing is at best a waste of energy. If we organized the majority of our work time around applying these principles, and pretty much ignored or stopped doing everything else, our lives would be simpler and our results vastly improved.”  Remember, if you want a different result, do something different.

     The answer is not adding to our already over scheduled lives.  More frenetic activity will not in itself make us more effective.  The time has come to develop a filter system that places boundaries in our lives that will enable us determine our “stop-doing” list not just our “to-do” list.  Henry David Thoreau said it this way, “It is not enough to be busy.  So are the ants.  The question is what are we busy about?”  It is easy for our lives and ministries to become cluttered and complex but it takes a determined focus to “make the main thing the main thing!”

     Healthy churches not only desire to things right, they make sure they are focused on the right things!

 

3 Steps to Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

Limiting Beliefs

     Whenever you see God’s people struggling, as you read the scriptures, it is usually because of their lack of faith!  We all have beliefs that limit us.  Matt 19:26 says, “But Jesus looked at them and said, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (HCSB)  These limiting beliefs exist in our heads because we have chosen to look outward in fear at our situation instead of looking upward in faith at our Savior.  Michael Hyatt teaches that there are basically three areas these limiting beliefs impact our lives.

     First, we have limiting beliefs about ourselves.  This is where we say , “I could never ______________!”  You fill in that blank.  Second, we have limiting beliefs about other people.  This is where we say, “I’m never gonna trust anyone ever again because _____________!”  Once again you fill in the blank.  In Limitless Life Derwin Gray says, “When you and I focus on how we’ve been done wrong, we do not focus on how we’ve been done right by Jesus!”

  Michael Hyatt says this, “Nothing can screw up your future like getting stuck in the past.”  Did you know the only place the past still exists is in your mind?  A recent quote I saw, not sure where it came from, said, “Your future does not equal your past.”   We must move past our memories of grief, grudges, and even past glory.  The apostle Paul challenges us to forget those things that are behind and press forward.

     The third limiting belief is about the world we live in.  We recognize it when we say things like, “Well what do you expect these are the last days!”  “There’s nothing we can do about it!”  Please don’t forget about I JN 4:4 which says, “You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (HCSB)  We must realize that “all things are possible through God!”  People aren’t holding you back nor are your finances holding you back.  Your job isn’t holding you back nor are your circumstances holding you back!  What is holding us back is our lack of faith!

     Tony Evans says it this way, “Faith is acting like it is so even when it is not so in order that it may be so simply because God said so.”  JN 14:13-14 says, “Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name,  I will do it.”  This is not a name it and claim it theology but is based upon two truths that determine how our prayers are answered.  Does it further God’s kingdom (in my name) and does it glorify Him?

     Does your church believe what Jesus said regardless of what has happened in the past or what has not happened?  Do you believe what Jesus said, regardless of what limiting believes are swirling in your head, about yourself, others, and the world?  We must be willing to wait in prayer with a “disciplined refusal” to move forward or act before God acts.  But we must also be willing to step out in obedient faith when God says go.  What is it God is wanting to do in your church and through your church?

     What should we as a church do to move forward in faith?  First, write out your core values!  What you value determines what you do!  If you say you value people who do not know God and are far from Him, then you will be doing something about reaching them with the gospel!  The problem is that we are long on talk and short on action!  If you say you value lost people but never share your faith then you really do not value them.  You cannot keep doing the same things (or not doing) and expect to get different results.

     Second, make new goals.  Have you as a church sat down and written out what you are asking God to do through your ministry?  Have you written out your own personal goals?  Research tells us that just writing down your goals means there is a 42% greater chance they will happen!  But they also must have a deadline.  Dave Ramsey says, “A goal without a deadline is just a dream!” 

     Third, ask God to do it!  Will the goals you feel God has laid upon your heart and your church further His kingdom and will they glorify Him?  James reminds us in God’s word that we have not because we ask not!  Are you asking God to redeem and save your neighbor, friend, co-worker, or family member? Are you asking God to do above and beyond anything you could ask or think according to His power not your limiting beliefs?

     Healthy churches refuse to allow limiting beliefs to keep them from moving forward in obedient faith!

5 Ingredients for a Dynamic Team

Team Dynamics

     Once you have your “dream” team together and functioning it can quickly become a nightmare.  Is everyone working together on the agreed vision of the church?  Is there a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie?  Does everyone desire to work together for the common good and health of everyone involved?  You must continually be working on team dynamics with clear communication because the potential for misunderstandings and individual agendas will always be present.

     First, there must be a willingness to lead through other people.  If you are not careful, your commitment to excellence will hurt your desire to invest time into developing leaders.  The temptation is to think you are the only one who can do things the way we want them done.  You know what I’m talking about because at one time or the other you have probably thought or said, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself!”  That actually is not true!
The risk here is to trust other people and delegate responsibility but this risk must be taken.

     Second, there must be a focus on training leaders to do the work of the ministry.  Remember, Jesus did not ignore the crowds but He did focus on His small group by pouring into their lives and encouraging them to do greater things then He did.  It has been said that Jesus, “influenced twelve, invested in three, and was intimately close to one.”  Someone has said that to encourage means to “pour courage into someone else.”  It is easy to develop a culture in our ministries where everything depends on us but that is not scriptural.  Who are you pouring courage into through intentional relationships so that they might develop into reproducing leaders?
     Third, you need to delegate and pass off certain tasks so you can focus on leadership development.  If you are too busy to mentor potential leaders then you are too busy!
Take a closer look at what you are doing and realize that 90-95% of what you do could be done by someone else, especially if they are properly trained.  We must make time to develop leaders and develop a multiplication culture of reproducing disciples and leaders. What would happen if you were to dedicate 5-10 hours a week to mentoring others who would then mentor others?

     Fourth, realize that if you want more out of your team you must put more into them.  Gary Rohrmayer puts it this way, “The Pygmalion Principle says that leaders tend to rise to the level of your expectation.  The key here is just not having high expectations but making these expectations known.”  Gary suggests three areas of concern: 

  • Connecting Relationally: Am I getting into their world, their frame of
    reference?
  • Clarifying Strategically: Have I helped them process through a problem
    or internalized a new learning?
  • Committing Specifically: Have I helped them move forward in their
    ministry?  Can we see specific progress?

     Fifth, make sure you value your team for who they are not just for the job they can get done.  While I do not remember who said it I do remember being challenged by this statement, “Are you using people to build your church or are you using your church to build up your people.”  That is especially true about the leadership team you are working with whether they are paid, volunteer or a combination of both.  If you want to build great team dynamics make sure they are praying together but also playing together.  How are you intentionally working at developing one another spiritually, relationally, emotionally, and physically?

     When a leader is committed to developing other leaders they are not interested in being the star but in helping the team members to shine!  The focus of leading your team to have the right dynamics requires asking the right questions in order to train and lead them up:

  • What have you done to prepare this leader for this opportunity?
  • What can you do to equip and empower this leader?
  • What can you do to help this leader grow and improve?
  • How can you coach and mentor followers to become leaders?

     Healthy churches have built great team dynamics into their leadership culture.

Team Building

Team Building

   When a church is building a leadership team many times the attempt to build a “dream” team can actually hurt the ministry more than help it.  Just because you go after the “all star” type of leaders and staff does not mean that they will have the right kind of team chemistry.  Be careful of looking for abilities first but rather look for character and godly fruit in their lives. Looking for team members who are full of the Holy Spirit requires looking for individuals who are bearing the fruit of the Spirit.  Here are some things to look for when building a team.

     First, look for those who are people driven!  They are relational and love being with people, ministering to people, and caring for people.  Other people love to be around them because they focus on them and not themselves.  Make sure that you can get a good testimony from their church family that they are given to hospitality and known for creating community and not destroying it.  Some people are great at planning and creating programs but when people begin to work with them they are difficult to get along with.  Team members must be more people focused than program focused.  They may be an introvert but their heart causes them to reach out to others.

     Secondly, make sure they understand what they are being asked to do.  It is unfair to expect things from a team member when they do not know what those expectations are.  Pay attention to details and a clear written description of their responsibilities will help everyone on the team. There is no room for handshake deals because soon there will be misunderstandings about who said what.   A good thing to remember when recruiting team members to serve in a particular area is to under promise and over deliver.  Be very careful and cautious about unrealistic expectations. 

     Third, you also need to look for people who are generalists and not specialists.  Specialization can come later but look first for people who have a servant heart and have a burden for the entire spiritual health of the church not just one particular group.  They must be willing to help wherever help is needed.  Stress core values of the church and the non-negotiables.  The things that team members should always do and those things team members should never do must be clearly communicated to all team members.  Every person needs to know what can get them promoted and what can get them fired.  Remember, it is always easier to promote than demote.

     Fourth, be aware that there are diamonds in the rough out there.  They might already be in your church and just need the attention and mentoring of someone who is already a leader.  Many are convinced that the only way to build a team is through recruiting them but they can be raised up through our own farm systems.  When they are raised up from within then they already understand the church culture they are in and the learning curve greatly diminishes.  When you recruit from without there is often a required time of deprogramming that must occur for them to fit in and embrace the vision of your team.

     Fifth, make sure those on your team are disciple makers.  They are going to mentor, teach, and train others to take over for them.  Everyone on the team should always be trying to work themselves out of a job.  They should be willing to cross train individuals to be able to do the work of “the” ministry not “a” ministry.  Look for team members who are not into titles, promotions, raises, and recognition but are more interested in equipping and encouraging others.  They do not care who gets the credit but they do want God to get all the glory.

     Every great team is more interested in the other team members than they are in themselves.  They have an exit strategy for when they may no longer be on the team.  They realize that no one is indispensable so they want to make sure that their bench is deep and there are plenty of people who can step forward to lead when they are needed.  God’s team is always reproducing disciples and reproducing leaders by pouring into them what they need to know and then giving them the opportunity to play in the game.  Everyone on the team is important for the body of Christ to function the way He wants His churches to function!      

Building a Dream Team

Dream Team

 

      When you think of building a dream team at your church or in your ministry what comes to mind?  Whenever I think of the term “Dream Team,” my mind immediately goes back to the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team” that included Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.  They completely dominated their competition in every game by an average of 44 points.  This was the first U.S. Olympic team to include NBA stars and it gave fans a glimpse of basketball at its finest.

    The differences between ministry teams and athletic teams are obvious but there are also many comparisons that can be drawn.  Legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant put it this way, “I’m just a plowhand from Arkansas, but I have learned how to hold a team together – how to lift some men up, how to calm others down, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together as a team.”  The goal of any team ought to be “One Heartbeat” which will then insure that everyone is working towards the same goals.

     Coach Bryant went on to say,”There’s always just three things I say: ‘If anything goes bad, I did it.  If anything goes semi-good, then we did it.  If anything goes real good, they did it!’  That’s all it takes to get people to win.”  What great advice, because when we are focused on servant leadership as a team then we don’t care who gets the credit; other than Jesus!  All of us have heard it multiple times but it is still true; “Together Everyone Accomplishes More” and Ecc. 4:9-12 teaches this principle clearly.

     In  Jesus on Leadership Becoming a Servant Leader, C. Gene Wilkes has much to say about what a team should look like.  He describes four elements: Togetherness, Empowerment, Accountability, and Mentoring!

  • Togetherness – This is a team sport and Wilkes says, “A leader is more like a player on a soccer team than a pro golfer on tour…Ministry teams are how the early church met the need of evangelism. Ministry teams are how the church of the twenty-first century will continue to meet needs effectively.” Remember, a team must share “one heartbeat.”  A great resource on this concept is Church is a Team Sport by Jim Putman. 
  • Empowerment – Coach John Wooden, the wizard of Westwood, who led the UCLA basketball team to seven straight national championships said, “The guy who puts the ball through the hoop has ten hands.” Team members must know their role and what is expected of them.  Wilkes says, “Encouragement without training is like enthusiasm without direction.”  We cannot afford to have the pep rally without a game plan! 
  • Accountability – The leader of the team is first responsible for equipping team members. 4:12 points out that the leaders are “for the training of the saints in the work of the ministry.”  Wilkes says, “Team accountability can happen when team members become servants to the goal of the ministry” (one heartbeat) “and slaves to those on the team to help them reach that goal.”  Your team needs more from you if you expect more from them!
  • Mentoring – Never forget that the speed of the leader determines the speed of the team! Don’t expect those who follow you to catch what you are teaching unless they see you demonstrating it in your life.  Wilkes says, “Mentors model what they want their followers to do.  Their actions weigh as heavy as their words.”  And, “Servant leaders model for others what Christ modeled for them.”

     Building a “dream team’ requires far more than teaching leaders something they need to know.  It is more than leaders just learning something they need to do.  It also requires you showing them how to be something and the only way for that to occur is to live out what Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  Make sure someone is mentoring you on how to lead with a servant’s heart and then you mentor someone in the same way.

          In Developing the Leaders Around You, John Maxwell says, “An organization cannot increase its productivity—but people can!  The asset that truly appreciates within any organization is people.  Systems become dated.  Buildings deteriorate.  Machinery wears.  But people can grow, develop, and become more effective if they have a leader who understands their potential value.”

     Healthy churches focus on developing leaders and building their “dream team!”