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Overcommitted Churches (via Thom Rainer)

Thom Rainer writes about how churches can find themselves with so many programs and activities that they become ineffective at discipling Christians and sharing the Gospel.

From Rainer’s post:

So how did our churches get in this predicament? The causes are many, but here are seven of them:

  1. Our churches equate activity with value. Thus busy churches are deemed to be churches of value. And busy, exhausted, and frustrated church members are deemed to be Christians of value.
  2. Programs and ministries became ends instead of means. I recently asked a pastor why he continued a ministry that had dwindled from 220 participants to 23 participants. “Because,” he said, “this program is a part of the history and heritage that defines our church.” Warning: If a program defines your church, your church is in trouble.
  3. Failure of churches to have a clear purpose. Even the best of churches can only do so many things well. Once a church has no clear and defining purpose, it has no reason to start or discontinue a program or ministry. That issue then leads to the next two reasons.
  4. Church leaders have failed to say “no.” Some church leaders can’t say “no” to new programs and ministries because they have no clear or defining purpose on what they should do. Others leaders simply lack courage to say “no.”
  5. Fear of eliminating. Once a program, ministry, or activity has begun, it can be exceedingly difficult to let it die. Sometimes leaders lack courage to kill programs. Sometimes they are blinded to the need to kill programs. Sometimes they hesitate to kill a program because they don’t know a better alternative. We need more churches in the program killing business.
  6. Church is often defined as an address. As long as we think “church” means a physical location, we will try to load up that address with all kinds of busyness. Many churches are ineffective at reaching their communities because their members are so busy at the building they call the church. That’s both bad ecclesiology and bad missiology.
  7. Churches often try to compete with culture rather than reach culture. A church in the deep South had a dynamic basketball ministry where they fielded community basketball teams comprised of church members and non-believers. But once the church built its own gym and recreation center, the church members started spending all their time playing at their new facility. In an attempt to have a gym as good as those in the community, the church ironically became less effective reaching those in the community.

Read the whole post at Rainer’s blog, which also promises a follow-up which deals with churches that have de-programmed and become more effective.


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Growth Requires Connection (via Dan Rockwell at Leadership Freak)

Dan Rockwell observes that: “Building an environment of growth is one of leadership’s greatest challenges and opportunities.”
From his post:

Community:
Growth requires community. We stagnate and die in isolation. Everyone needs seclusion to refresh and reflect. But growth requires connection.

  1. Who knowingly participates in your growth?
  2. Whose growth are you actively encouraging?
  3. Who knows your growth goals? Whose goals do you know?
  4. How might you establish and nurture growth-connections between team members?

Confrontation:
Growth is a myth in environments that tolerate deceit, backstabbing, malevolence, and hypocrisy. Leaders who tolerate offenses against community – in the name of delivering results – destroy growth and limit results.

  1. Never tolerate a high performer who destroys community.
  2. Eliminate hypocrisy by practicing transparency regarding strengths, weaknesses, and development. Teams can’t pull for each other if they don’t know each other’s growth-goals.
  3. Remove people who work to undermine others.

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Why Tradition Is Good And Why Traditionalism Is Not Good (via Chuck Swindoll)

Chuck Lawless quotes Chuck Swindoll:

Why tradition is good:

  1. It honors God for what He has done. Tradition, by definition, is tied to the past. Ideally, though, it focuses on God and what He has done, not on what we used to do in the church. Healthy tradition is concerned about glorifying God only.
  2. It celebrates the past while pressing toward the future. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating yesterday as long as that rejoicing encourages us to move into the future. My first church had an annual homecoming service that retold God’s work to encourage us to capture God’s vision for tomorrow—and that’s a good kind of tradition.
  3. It grounds next generations in the work of God. Tradition is good when it helps next generations appreciate what God has done through His people in the past. For example, the Hebrews marked places where God worked so their children and grandchildren could know His care and guidance (e.g., Joshua 4).
  4. It offers wisdom when making change. Sometimes, the traditions of a church cause leaders to carefully and prayerfully consider options before making a change. That’s not a bad thing.
  5. It evokes gratitude and unity. Because it celebrates God’s work in the past as a means of faith for the future, our response ought to be thanksgiving as the family of God.

Why traditionalism is not good:

  1. It emphasizes what we (or others) have done more than what God has done. Traditionalism fights to save traditions, but the traditions are what we’ve done . . . what our forefathers did . . . what our denomination has “always” done. It assumes that our preferences are God’s commands.
  2. It elevates the past over the future. Traditionalism is protective and reactive. It guards yesterday’s turf at the expense of making a difference today and tomorrow. It fears the future more than it influences it.
  3. It hinders reaching the next generations. Traditionalism assumes that almost anything new is a threat to the gospel, even if the gospel itself is never compromised. It requires young generations to become us if they want to follow God.
  4. It blocks making necessary change. Traditionalism fights change, often without honest consideration of the options. It doesn’t inform change like tradition does; it obstructs it.
  5. It leads to division. Traditionalism is elevating tradition to the level of commandment as if it equals the gospel. The emotion behind such a position usually creates conflict and disunity.

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Seven Leadership Pitfalls (via Ron Edmondson)

Ron Edmondson looks to his own experience and provides seven warnings for aspiring leaders.
These are all ongoing to leadership life. There’s never a time when they don’t apply.

From Edmondson’s post.

What you “settle for” eventually becomes the culture. And, then it is much more difficult to change. In fact, you’re probably settling because you’re fighting against culture now. Leadership involves challenging people beyond their current comfort level.
Mediocrity isn’t created. It’s accepted. Oh, how I’ve learned this one the hard way. People will be average if you allow them to be. It’s easier. In most jobs, they get paid the same. That’s not even to say it’s what they prefer. Most people prefer excellence, but it often takes leadership – or coaching – to pull out the best in people.
Your actions determine other people’s reactions. During stressful times the leader’s response dictates the level of stress on the team. When it’s time to celebrate, the team will seldom celebrate more than the leader. The leader sets the bar of expectations in how the team reacts to life as a team.
Don’t assume they agree because they haven’t said anything. I actually wrote about a whole chapter about this one in my book The Mythical Leader. But, silence doesn’t equate to agreement.
You’ll never get there just “thinking about it”. And, we do more of that as a team sometimes – it seems – than we do getting work done. Every good idea isn’t even something the team should do. But, if it is, there needs to be a plan. Who’s in charge? When are we doing it? And, how will we know when we are successful?
If you’re the leader, they are likely waiting on you to lead or release the right to lead. People seldom take initiative unless you lead – or unless you create the culture which gives them permission, freedom and encouragement to do so.
What the team values becomes apparent by your actions, more than your words. And, it doesn’t matter how well spoken you might be. People follow what the leader does.

Read the whole post here.


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Build Capital – Spend Capital (via Jamie Brown)

Jamie Brown writes from the perspective of leading musical praise in a local church, but the principle is true for all leaders, including pastors.
There is always a danger of building trust, but never calling on that trust to be expressed; just as expecting trust continually without ever earning it does not build relationships.
Pastors should also be conscious that a reserve of trust should not take the place of faith in God’s power and presence.
Which is to say I think the balance is best kept where the relationship operates from a basis of both parties acting out of trust in God. Don’t try to build up so much capital that trust in God doesn’t seem essential.
From Brown:

Worship leaders must learn the capital equation. Which is: Build capital. Spend capital. Build back capital. Repeat as needed.
When all you do is spend, spend, spend capital, you’re operating out of a deficit. People don’t trust you, they’re worn out, and you’re not going to find them all that adventurous. Too many new songs. Too loud. Too much liturgy. Too many hymns. Too many electric guitars. Whatever it is. You’re spending too much, too soon, too often, and maybe too recklessly. Be smarter.
Likewise, when all you do is build, build, build capital and never take any risks or push people anywhere, then you’re wasting opportunities. Safe choices, same songs, no creativity, no one is upset with you, bored musicians, ho-hum services, and no lost sleep over a risky idea.
Do both. Spend capital! But once you’ve spent it, then ease off the gas and build it back. Feel it out. You’ll almost certainly lean too much in one direction before you realize it and then make a correction.

Read the whole post at Worthily Magnify.


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Seven Classic New Leader Mistakes (via Ron Edmondson)

These seven classic new leader mistakes from Ron Edmondson are not about youth or age. They speak to the need for leadership growing from a relationship, and how certain aspects of being new can lead to mistaken assumptions about preparedness for change.

Here are the seven. Read the post for the explanations.
Assuming people trust you before they really do.
Bashing the past while attempting to get to the future.
Assuming nothing good was done before you got there.
Having the “they need me” complex.
Ignoring unwritten rules.
Not understanding the real power structure.
Not testing the waters before making major change.


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Pastoral Leadership Capital (via Marty Duren)

A couple of articles by Marty Duran about ‘Pastoral Leadership Capital’ which is a term for the trust that a pastor can build with a congregation that enables needed change to be implemented, or even mis-steps to be forgiven and moved on from.

There are two parts here and here.

Part one.

In my opinion, Pastoral Leadership Capital shares some components of business-oriented leadership capital, but likely gains more through the relational experiences unique to pastoring. Pastoral Leadership Capital is gained through ministry in times of grief (funerals, loss of jobs, loss of health), times of joy (visiting during new births, weddings), personal discipleship, compassion, long-tenure, and other life-sharing events or journeying together spiritually. In most instances, this differs from business.
When a pastor says, “I think God is leading us to…” make a certain change or take on a certain challenge, perhaps unconsciously, the congregation evaluates whether said pastor has enough capital to “buy” their involvement. Has he “earned” the right to ask for their support and lead the endeavor? The pastor may have intellectual capacity, understand the church’s power dynamics, and be of sound financial mind. But, how long has he been on the field? Has he walked them through the valley of the shadow of death? Has he earned trust?
If not, the pastor may be leading on hopes and wishes rather than capital.

Read the whole post here.

Part two.

The flip side of good decisions that increase capital are bad decisions that destroy it. Bad decisions that eat away at your capital like fees through a checking account. Blunders—accidental or simply unwise—reduce available capital. Carnality, ignoring the family, and other things that undermine credibility could lead to an account balance so far underwater the pastor’s own family would struggle with a vote of confidence.
Building capital can be arduous. Do not allow fees to consume it leaving you nothing to spend when needed.
Every “win” of leadership earns capital for future leadership decisions. And, the better your decisions the quicker you may see your spent capital replenished. Smart investments lead to good rewards.

Read the whole post here.