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Hey Church – Are We There Yet?

Is your church any healthier today than it was at this time last year?  Have you taken effective steps toward the preferred future you envisioned? Recently I heard that the reality is that after –

  • Speeding up the music!
  • Spicing up the sermons!
  • Sprucing up our buildings!

…our church health and overall spirituality is no better off. You have to know that it is not easy to take the steps that need to be taken for your church to be what God desires it to be.  There will be challenges that will tax you and there will be challengers that will push you to your wits end at times.

  1. You should expect there to be some resistance. Not everyone will like your ideas or suggestions and to be completely transparent some will hate them.  In this process of accepting the reality of resistance you should determine the level of resistance.  Are they hostile, resistant, passive, cultivatable, receptive, or ready?  These have also been described as never-adopters, late-adopters, and early-adopters. Realize that some need time to process and there needs to be a balance between going too slow and not slowing down enough.
  2. With whom do you need to have a conversation? The temptation is to avoid and stay away from those who seem to always oppose innovation and change.  The reality is that you should pull them in close, listen to them, and see if you can discover why they are against your proposal.  Yes, there are some (the never-adopters) who will just be against it.  They can even be hostile toward change but that is actually the exception and not the rule.  Do not allow one person to hold you hostage and see if there is a way you can move forward with your team.
  3. Make sure that you are clearly articulating the vision and changes you believe need to be made.  Ask several to share with you what they are hearing and see if they are close at all.  The communication curve is sometimes very steep and is always a challenge.  Be willing to consider ways you can make the vision and message clearer.  Ed Stetzer says, “People are willing to sacrifice in the present for something better in the future.”  Make sure you cast a vision for the end result and goal and not the changes that need to be made.
  4. Develop a prayer strategy.  Listen to what Samuel said to the people in I Samuel 12:23, “As for me, I vow that I will not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.”  It is hard to remain mad at someone you are praying for regularly.  Take time in your meetings to pray out loud for one another. Get in groups of three, ask what you can pray about for them, and then take turns praying for one another.  The work of the Lord requires much prayer.  We say we know that but we must make sure that we are intentional and strategic in implementing this prayer strategy.
  5. Determine what needs your attention first. Do not be overwhelmed by all that you have to do but instead focus on what you can accomplish and where you can make a difference.  As you look at a particular ministry, program, or area of your ministry start by asking what is working.   Then you must ask, what is missing and what is confusing?
  6. Consider thinking through the necessary steps for the change you desire to occur.  Learn from others.  An excellent resource is John Kotter’s Leading Change.  One aspect of his process is to create a guiding coalition.  Make sure you have prayer partners who are willing to speak into this process honestly and with transparency.  The team concept is biblical and it provides you strength in numbers because it gives you a system of checks and balances.  Make sure that you always remain a good listener and that you have a teachable spirit.
  7. Brace yourself for opposition because it is coming at some point or time.  Everyone will not like your ideas and they may hate some of them, a lot.  Get ready because the attacks that seem very personable sometimes are not.  They point the blame at you and the attacks are often founded upon the thought that they didn’t have the problem until you brought it up.  I recently heard it said that if no one is upset you probably are not doing enough and need to get busy.  Certainly, our goal is not to upset or anger people but when you lead it will happen.
  8. Make sure that you practice patience. The change you propose and lead your church in will not happen overnight.  We already made reference to this but you must acknowledge that some people are just going to oppose you.  Prayerfully consider what the real issue is and what questions you may need to answer for them.  We usually cannot accomplish all we want to in one year but normally we can accomplish far more than we imagine in five.  Develop a five-year plan and then begin taking the necessary steps to make it a reality.

Leadership can be lonely but remember that He has promised to never leave you nor forsake you.  Knowing that He will never abandon us as we obediently follow Him allows us to never give up, never give in, and never give out as we depend upon Him daily.

10 Steps to Make the Most Out of 2017

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Another year, 2017, is upon us and 2016 is about to be a part of history. Where does your church go from here and how do you enter this new open door of opportunity? There is a place for planning and strategy as you prayerfully seek what the Lord has for your ministry. Here are some thoughts about how to approach the new year so that you can intentionally lead those of whom God has given you the oversight.

First, plan a prayer retreat as soon as possible! If you have not already planned some time alone to seek God’s face and ask Him for direction, do it now. You must be very practical about this and pull out your calendar to schedule it. If you do not block the time off, it will not happen. A prayer retreat has been defined as “a time you set aside to go away and be alone with God.” You may want to fast from food but especially fast from your phone, the internet, and social media. Be still so you can hear His voice.

Second, utilize the S.W.O.T. analysis to determine where you are. Be willing to evaluate 2016 with other leaders in your church and determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (or challenges). Every church has strengths and it is good to celebrate what you are doing well. Yes, look at your weaknesses and challenges but do not overlook where God is blessing and be thankful for what He is doing in your midst. Then begin to focus on where you can improve in 2017 to be the church Christ designed you to be.

Third, become strategic and intentional. What practices do you need to put in place to accomplish what you believe God is leading you to fulfill? We say we value certain things like evangelism and discipleship but are there consistent patterns evident in our lives that support what we say we value? If people look at our schedules can they tell we value these things? If an outsider looks at our church budget what would they say your church values?

Fourth, remember that church culture begins to change with the language we use. Do you have a clear, concise, and simple mission statement? Have you developed a simple strategy that clearly articulates how you plan to carry out that mission statement? A mission statement is not a fix everything solution but it is a great place to begin the journey. We must remind our congregation regularly that God is able to do above and beyond all we think and even beyond what we can imagine.

Fifth, schedule a leadership-planning meeting to cast the vision for the future. There are several components that need to be a part of this process. This is a wonderful opportunity to hear from everyone about what they think should be the church’s focus. There are some helpful guidelines to follow but do not be afraid of constructive criticism and input. A creative think tank approach can accomplish great things. There should always be honest transparency with your leadership or you will never be able to move forward.

Sixth, determine some strategic imperatives that prioritize what you must focus on first. What are 3-5 items that you feel must be focused upon first? Be sure to remain focused on God’s heart and where the Holy Spirit is working right now. What are the “most” important things you must do to achieve your vision. We are assuming at this point that you know why you exist and what you desire to accomplish as a church. Make a list of what your leadership believes are imperatives and narrow it down to 3-5.

Seventh, develop goals for each of these imperatives to move you forward in reaching them. These imperatives can be new ministries, improving present ministries, or even stopping unproductive ministries. The key here is to list at least three goals for each strategic imperative that will help to make them a reality and not just an idea. You need to know what you need to know but that is only information. You also need to be passionate about that information but that is only inspiration. Involving the head and the heart is necessary but the next step through goals is involving the hands and the feet.

Eighth, designate what needs to be done and who is responsible for making sure it happens. This is where leadership can really drop the ball. Committees tend to be a group of people not involved in a particular ministry telling those who are involved what to do. Leadership teams always focus on what needs to be done and who is responsible. You must determine measurable objectives and then assign who is responsible for making sure it happens. Values are good but values with goals are even better.

Ninth, develop the leaders around you by giving them the resources they need. We say we want to develop more leaders but how much time are we actually spending doing that? We say we value defining and developing leaders but no mentoring or apprenticeship is occurring. The process is clear in the word of God that everyone needs a Paul as a mentor and then they need to find a Timothy to mentor. Find receptive, willing, and teachable potential leaders. Then develop a process to intentionally and consistently train them.

Tenth, seek others outside of your church and ministry to help. There is something to be said about “outside” eyes. We know the scriptures tell us that there is wisdom in the multitude of counsel. Somebody knows what you need to know, so find him or her and find out what they know. Somebody has been through what you are going through so listen to his or her story and learn from it. Somebody has been where you want to go so find out what that looked like for them. These godly advisors can talk you in off the ledge or they can motivate you to take that step of faith that you need to take.

Healthy people and healthy churches lead prayerfully, intentionally and strategically!

 

SMART GOALS FOR 2016

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Wow, the last day of 2015! Hard to believe but once again we are focusing on “out with the old and in with the new!” As we evaluate last year, and we should, we can walk through a W.I.N. to help us focus on these three areas:

  • What did you do well? What were the accomplishments in your life, family, and ministry in 2015 that brought you the most joy? What happened last year that when you think about it brings a smile to your face? Don’t forget to reflect on the positives and celebrate the wins even if they were small wins. We need to celebrate more often and remember that “we become what we celebrate!”
  • Where do you need to improve? What were some of your greatest disappointments of 2015? Everyone experiences challenges and failure at one level or the other. Every goal was probably not met and if all your goals were met maybe you set the bar to low? Is there is a skill set you need help with to make you more effective in the new year? Who knows what you need to know? Who out there could help you and how will you find them?
  • What will you do next? The key now is to think about what you will do differently in 2016? An often used discription of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!” One example of this would be to ask, “Is your church reaching new people with the gospel?” Craig Groeschel gives us this challenge, “To reach people no one else is reaching, we must do things no one else is doing.”

You must focus on what is “next” in 2016. You also need to look back and as you remember you should:

  • Rejoice in what God allowed you to accomplish!
  • Repent where repentence is required!
  • Reflect on major life lessons learned!
  • Refocus your energy on new opportunities!

Here are things to consider as you enter the new year:

  1. What are your goals for 2016? What would make this year a great year? Have you spent time alone with the Lord asking His direction in setting your goals for 2016? If not, when is the soonest you could take a prayer retreat to hear from Him? Are you regularly placing yourself in the best possible position to hear from God clearly and consistenly? You never, no matter what your age is, mature past the need for prayer and hearing from the Lord daily!
  2. Why are these goals so important to you? God is really into motives! It is not just what you are doing but why you are doing it. Jesus made it very clear in the semon on the mount that in the areas of giving, prayer, and fasting we were not to practice these disciplines to be noticed by other people. Check it out in Matthew chapte 6. Your motivation should not be to be applauded by men, to impress people, or to show them how “spiritual” you are.
  3. What 2-3 goals are the most important and non-negotiable? You need to prioritze your goals and especially if you have 7-10 goals for the new year. Here is also where it is important to look back at last year. What was missing the most in your life as you look back? Is there anything you can do to change it? Maybe not but one thing that might help is to focus on what you do have and on what you can change!
  4. What are the most immediate actions steps you need to take to make these goals a reality? You need to make these “smart” goals ” (see below) and then write 2-3 action steps that are required to make that specific goal a reality. If my goal is to walk across the room then I must think actions: 1) stand up. 2) take required number of steps. 3) stop when there. Here is what you need to ask yourself about each goal, “What’s the very next thing I need to do to reach this goal?”
  5. What are your biggest prayer requests as you approach these goals? If prayer is not needed then maybe the goals are not big enough. Remember, faith is required! What if you didn’t step out in faith and ask God to do great and mighty things? What are you praying for? What if God answered everyone of your prayer requests? How many lives would be changed, transformed and how many souls would be saved?

Don’t be afraid to set God-given, Holy Spirit directed goals and then ask God to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that you could ask or think! Hearing from God is not enough. You must also take action on what He has commanded you!

  • Specific: Identify exactly what you want to accomplish.
  • Measurable: Quantify the result.
  • Action Oriented: Start with an action verb, not a to-be verb.
  • Realistic: Recognize and implement the power of incremental change over time.
  • Time-Bound: Set a specific deadline.