Why We Should Stop Comparing Our Average to Everyone Else’s Awesome

I had the opportunity to preach last Sunday. I love when I those weeks roll around.

After our final service concluded (we have three every week), my production director asked me the same question we ask every communicator at the end of each Sunday: “Which message would you like to be the ‘master?’” The master message is the one that is uploaded to all our online portals.

We talked for a moment about each and ultimately decided the 11:00 a.m. message was the best of the three.

And that got me to thinking. Every week, all across the country, pastors and leaders are being recorded. But more often than not, there is a good deal of editing, re-communicating, and “let’s try that again” happening before it ever goes public. We watch these other preachers and teachers and feel both inspired by their message and intimidated by their abilities.

But we’re only seeing their 11:00 a.m. service. We’re only seeing their highlight reels. We’re only seeing their best. It’s like social media profile pictures and the 15,000 selfies that were posted while you read the word “selfie.” More than ever, we have the ability to only post what’s best. And with that, we are positioned like never before to be intimidated by others and convinced we aren’t good enough. In contrast, we seem to only remember our 9:00 a.m. message, where the crowd was still on their first cup of coffee and our production crew was, too.

When we only remember their highlight and our lowlight, we find ourselves in a dark place.

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Unplugging the Microwave of Success

Have you heard the soundtrack to the hit broadway musical “Hamilton?” If you’ve seen the actual musical, just keep that to yourself — intentionally causing envy is tantamount to envy, itself.

The music is quite spectacular. And historically insightful, too. My kids are way more knowledgeable about the Founding Fathers due to our time in the car together. It makes me question everything about my school upbringing! Hip hop trumps note-taking all day long.

Production aside, Alexander Hamilton was quite an amazing guy. He accomplished much, including establishing one of the first banks in America, the Bank of New York. Here’s what made me take a step back while jamming along to the soundtrack — it took Hamilton seven years to establish the bank’s charter. I know, the local community bank went up in a months time, and that seemed like forever in today’s world, but think about that for a moment. Seven years. That’s a long time to focus on something. Anything.

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Filling Seats on Your Bus

If you lead any type of organization — company, church, or department — you probably have an organizational chart of some sort. It’s one of those necessary structures that help delineate chain of command and channels of communication, among others.

When I first began leading a church (a typical organization in many ways), I was encouraged to envision the org chart 5 – 10 years down the road. What departments would be necessary? What divisions? How many layers? How many staff? I even went as far as putting my name in most of the “open” positions in this hypothetical org chart. Visually, it looked impressive and strategic. Personally, it just looked like I had too much to do!

I think this is a valuable exercise for every leader. If you’ve never done it, you should. But a few years into leading at Woodstock City Church, this exercise created quite the conundrum.

Here’s the dilemma I began to ponder:

Is it better to start with the org chart in place so you can then find the right people for each box, or is it better to find the right people and build the organization around them?

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9 Reasons You Could Be the Growth Barrier in Your Church

This is Part 2 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

If that is true, then breaking through barriers is important. But, what if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth wall again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I believe there are 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the first, and most difficult to embrace:

Ingredient 1: REMOVE YOURSELF AS A BARRIER TO GROWTH

By far, this is the most challenging of the ingredients to evaluate and embrace. Often when we bump into an issue or problem, we are tempted to look around and cast blame. At times blame should be cast elsewhere, but as a point leader of any team or organization, there is always an element of blame that should fall back on our shoulders. After all, we are the leader.

Looking in the mirror is more onerous than looking through a window, though. Discovering and owning our part in any problem is painful at best, but if we desire the build THE Kingdom more than our kingdom, a mirror moment is necessary.

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Telling Yourself “No For Now”

When was the last time you listened to a leadership podcast, read a blog, or attended a conference and heard a great leader offer great advice, but walked away thinking it wasn’t for you?

Several years ago I listened as my boss, Andy Stanley, taught a leadership lesson on saying “No for now.” The basis of his teaching was saying “No for now” doesn’t mean “No forever.” According to Andy, as a leader, you should be willing to say “No for now.” He gave examples from his past.

  • When he had young children and was asked to speak at other churches or conferences, he declined. “No for now.”
  • When he was launching North Point Community Church, he didn’t accept any offers to travel. “No for now.”
  • He decided that being home at 4:00pm was best for his wife and family, so for a season, he would not meet with anyone in the late afternoon or evening. “No for now.”

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Discovering What You Were Made To Do.

What do you really love to do? I mean REALLY love?

If you’re anything like me, that question provokes thoughts, not necessarily of roles or positions, but of specific moments. Moments in time where you felt alive. Experiences that you would love to relive again. Tasks where time seemed nonexistent. Hours past as minutes.

This is an idea that I’m processing currently. Most of the time people introduce ideas once they are solidified in their mind. That’s not the case here. I’m still marinating, but here is where I am (at least right now…).

The strengths movement ushered in by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton has brought questions like this to the surface more now than ever. It’s an important question for us each to answer. Finding our sweet spot makes us both happier and more productive, which benefits both our organization and us. We should be more successful working out of something we love. Eventually, we might even find the perfect seat on Jim Collin’s Good to Great bus. Feels like we are building to an inspirational “never work another day in your life” quote, huh?

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Tip 4. Consistent (not boring) Experiences (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important. In this post, I’ll address tip number four:

TIP 4. Create a consistent, but not boring, experience.

In general, people resist change. We like knowing what to expect. We enjoy consistency. But only when it’s excellent, of course.

Restaurant chains work hard to create consistent offerings. Even individual restaurants understand that inconsistent experiences drive customers away. Retailers need consistency in their offerings. Consistency is important because consistency keeps people coming back. And in our churches, the same is true.

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How Andy Stanley’s Surprise Visit Taught Me Something Important

Have you ever been frustrated that you were frustrated?

Sometimes our frustration is understandable. Sometimes only we can understand our frustration.

But then there are those times when we are frustrated, but we know we shouldn’t be frustrated…which makes us more frustrated! This pretty much describes my experience when my boss, Andy Stanley, recently paid Watermarke Church (the campus location where I lead) a surprise visit.

Just a little background. It’s not normal for Andy to be at Watermarke. We still meet in a school, so our ability to export and broadcast messages to our other church locations is limited. When Andy preaches, everyone needs to hear him, so preaching from Watermarke is not optimal at the moment. But on this particular Sunday, Andy was not preaching, so with his off-Sunday, he decided to pay us a visit – an unannounced visit.

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How To Ensure Feedback Is Helpful, Not Harmful

Have you ever given great feedback in the wrong way or to the wrong person, virtually negating the feedback in total?

I sure have – like it was my job!

Actually, evaluating and providing feedback IS a huge part of my job. It is an important part of any leader’s job. As a Lead Pastor in a campus location with North Point Ministries, I am constantly evaluating our services, events, and programs. One of our staff covenants is “Make it Better,” so it’s safe to say evaluation and feedback is in our organizational DNA.

While evaluation alone is relatively innocent, the feedback mechanisms that carry our evaluations are ripe for harm – especially if you are a senior leader.

I learned this lesson the hard way a few times (I’m a slow learner). I remember two specifically: Continue reading…

So We Sang “Let It Go” From Disney’s Frozen in Church!

As a pastor, I hear it all the time – “Why did we play THAT song?” Maybe you do, too. Or maybe you ask it. Every time we begin our church service with a song from a non-Christian radio station, I know it’s coming.

I understand. We recently began our church service by singing these lyrics: “A singer in a smokey room, a smell of wine and cheap perfume. For a smile they can share the night, it goes on and on and on and on.” Okay – seeing it in written form feels a little sketchy (or a ton sketchy!). I may have a few questions for myself, now!

But let me ask you a question: What song is that lyric from? Did you smile as you read them? Or sang them? Are you still singing?

Here’s why we occasionally begin our services with music from Journey or Disney – because people like it. I know, that’s not profound. And I realize it’s certainly not theologically sound, but it is powerful. People like fun, familiar music. And that’s extremely important, because I’m convinced if people don’t like how their church experience begins, odds are they will not like how it progresses or ends.

To say it another way: If we hope to influence people toward their Heavenly Father, we must engage them emotionally in the beginning of our service to engage them spiritually during the service.

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