The One Church Leadership Mistake You Cannot Make

I bet you and your team have annual goals or focus points. It’s always healthy to have a few things in focus as the year begins. It’s like an organizational resolution, but much easier to keep.

I recently saw Chick-fil-A’s organizational focus for 2018. One item on their list stood out — food safety. When I first saw it, I wondered why something so basic was on their big four movements list. Have they had trouble with food safety recently? Are some stores serving raw chicken?

Then I realize why. Chick-fil-A understands that focusing on new areas of the business is important, but there are some core elements that they must always keep in focus. Food safety might be at the top of that list, hence it made their annual focus list. It doesn’t take too many cases of salmonellae poisoning to destroy a food brand.

So back to us in the church. You probably have some areas of focus for this year. At Woodstock City Church, we too have some important, future thinking opportunities in focus. But, at the top of our list is still one key element: Stewardship.

Stewardship is our food safety. Why? For the same reason as Chick-fil-A. If we lose the trust of those who support our church with their time and treasure, we will immediately begin to fail. We might be able to recover from other missteps, but I doubt we would be able to recover from any breach of financial trust.

Continue reading…

7 Ways I’m Learning to “Disagree and Commit”

Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame wrote a well-circulated article to his shareholders. You can read it here: Jeff Bezos’ Shareholder Letter

In my industry of church, the implications of his letter are equally important. My guess is any industry where leadership is required to make decisions would benefit from adopting a version of these ideas (that’s everyone, btw).

When our leadership team discussed this article, we spent some time on what Jeff calls “High-Velocity Decision Making.” Within this section, he tells a story of how he disagreed with a specific direction one team was taking, but after voicing his opinion through several heated conversations, he decided to “disagree and commit.”

That simple phrase, “disagree and commit,” hit home for many of us, including me. It is certainly an empowering concept in leadership — empowering because it frees those in our organization to move forward without requiring consensus and without the usual ramifications. Obviously, having consensus is helpful, but it’s elusive. Let’s be honest — all leaders have opinions, and the odds of everyone’s opinion aligning for consensus is relatively small. That’s why being able to commit, even without consensus, is empowering. As for ramifications? Being able to decide and move forward without fear of leadership reprisal is even more empowering.

As a leader myself with plenty of opinions, Jeff’s advice rings true. Here’s how I am personally trying to follow his “disagree and commit” mantra, and what I’m hoping it does for our church:

Continue reading…

4 Steps to Not Overreact to the Disgruntled Attendee

As a leader you are forced to make decisions, and if your church or company is bigger than you, these decisions will inevitably be upsetting to someone. Decisions have a way of upsetting the status quo. In many cases, the lack of success or progress with the status quo is why decisions are necessary.

Not to oversimplify it, but when decisions are made, the response seems to come from two separate categories of people:

1. The vocal disgruntled
2. The quiet supporters

The first category causes us to question our decision. The response (at least the vocal response) seems disproportionately in one direction. And this disproportionate response can be unnerving.

The second category really does bring balance to the conversation, but their quiet support doesn’t ring as loudly as the disgruntled.

Facing this seemingly unbalanced response, leaders begin to either question their decisions, or worse, seek to make decisions that are more “vocally” supported.

But vocal support can feel like an organizational oxymoron. You’ve never called your local pizza delivery chain to thank them for your delivery, but you might have called to complain when your pie is late. People never call our church to tell us we’re doing a great job, but they have no problem letting us know when something doesn’t happen as they expect.

So what should we do when the vocal disgruntled feels like the vast majority? Continue reading…

The Multisite Mistake Nearly Every Church Makes

I love being a part of the multisite church movement. And it’s certainly a movement!

According to the most recent research I’ve seen, this movement in the church has grown from 100 to 8,000 since the year 2000. That’s explosive growth. All the cool kids are doing it, right?

Of course, with any rapidly growing phenomenon, there will be issues and problems to navigate. The multisite movement certainly isn’t immune to issues. We should probably come back to this topic a few more times, but for now, let’s take a moment and address one specific tension between existing locations and newer campuses.

For background, I am a Campus Pastor. We call it Lead Pastor, but that distinction deserves its own post. I’ve been leading at Woodstock City Church, a campus of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, for nearly seven years. In this time, we’ve experienced a great deal of change in attendance, meeting locations, and staff just to name a few. All along the way, one of the greatest tensions we’ve navigated was learning to act our age.

Here’s what I mean specifically.

Continue reading…

Could Your Growing Ministry be Responsible for Your Shrinking Passion?

What do you do when your pastoring passion is shrinking?

It happens to us all, so we better have some answers.

Unfortunately, too many of our answers involve walking away from ministry, from our current churches, and from even our families, friends, and ourself.

A loss of passion can happen for many, many reasons. I’d like for us to consider one of the most common and equally hidden reasons of them all. I stumbled upon this truth a year or two ago. I was in a funk. I was partially questioning my role, my responsibilities, and even ministry as a profession. I was considering reentering the marketplace. As I began contemplating how I arrived in the funk, I realized over time our church (and everything around it) had grown somewhat substantially. Initially, this realization didn’t connect any dots. But, it did begin to launch a discovery process.

To go back in time a bit… In the beginning years, we would have staff meeting in my car on the way to lunch. We were a much smaller church with way fewer resources. The entire staff served as the president and the janitor. We were all needed for basically every element of ministry that happened in and through our church. As we grew, we added staff. We added complexity. We added complications. We added a building. Throughout the change, our roles and responsibilities also changed. As the Lead Pastor, I continued to function as the president, but the janitorial elements I often did in the past faded away. We had other staff to handle some of the things I used to do.

Continue reading…

Always Content, Never Satisfied

I love this sentiment: “Be content, not satisfied.”

I can’t remember when I first heard it. It sounds like something John Maxwell would say, but I’m not sure. It’s certainly not a new idea. But for many leaders, mastering the power of this statement is novel and can provide new innovations and invigorate change.

At Woodstock City Church where I lead, we are constantly fighting to remain content, but not satisfied. Content because we are partnering with God and his church. Unsatisfied because the mission of God’s church is too big to every feel like it is complete. We take this so seriously around our church that we even labeled it “Make it Better,” one of our six core staff behaviors. “Make it Better” means never fall prey to believing we have arrived.

You know that in an ever-evolving culture, we can never stop evolving our approach, our model, or our strategies. As my friend and boss (Andy Stanley) likes to say, “We must be married to our mission, not our model.”

Continue reading…

How to Make Great Decision without any Clarity

As a leader, have you ever struggled with a decision?

If you lead or have ever led anything, the answer is unequivocally “yes.” Making decisions is crucial to leading. Making decisions is an inseparable part of leadership. Leaders who cease to made decisions abdicate their leadership.

Of course, some decisions are obvious, some are more challenging, and some are absolutely daunting. The decisions leaders face during times of transitions, whether personal or organizational, are often the most difficult. The reason is simple:

Transitions bring cloudy conditions.

Great decisions are only possible when we have clarity — clarity of the situation, problem, possible solutions, and ramifications. Clarity is essential, but as every leader knows, when seasons give way to what’s next, the transition creates conditions that work directly against clear decisions.

Transitions are cloudy because they happen between what is known and what is next. What is known is often clear, but what’s next is typically new. New always has an element of unknown, and unknown is often unclear. It’s like driving our car into a dense fog. When you can barely see, it makes driving nearly impossible. If the fog grows dense enough, moving forward ceases to be a viable option.

Continue reading…

How to Focus Your Leadership in the Spaces You Control

As a leader, what is within your sphere of control?

That is a critical question to ask, because if you don’t know what you can control, you can’t be sure where you can fully lead.

The question matters, because true leadership does require an element of control. I would argue that without any internal locus of control, we are at best managers for the leaders who are in control. This explains why we (and me) desire control within what we are responsible to lead.

I serve as a Campus Pastor within North Point Ministries. That means that I have full control over some things, partial control over others, and no control in certain spaces. No matter what your title, like me, your locus of control varies from space to space, decision to decision.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have a tendency to hyper-focus on what I can’t control, forgetting all that I can control. I want fully control, but full control is never fully available, no matter what your title. Unfortunately, the areas where my control is limited tends to mentally override the places where I do have majority control. That’s a leadership dilemma, and I’m convinced it exists for all leaders. One solution is to stop worrying about control, but that’s a terrible goal — and if you’re a leader, it’s not possible. Leaders want to lead, and leadership requires some control.

Continue reading…

Choosing to Grow Before You Go

Have you ever been frustrated to a point where going felt like the best option? Or maybe the only option?

You were…

…Frustrated with a relationship, and you just had to get out.

…Frustrated in a marriage. So you walked out.

…Frustrated with a job. So you quit.

…Frustrated with your lack of progress. So you dropped the gym membership and grabbed a candy bar (sorry, was that too close to home?)

We’ve all been there. Most of us too many times to count.

The frustration to leaving conundrum is very real and very visceral. At times leaving is absolutely the best option. But not always. For now, let’s focus our energy on workplace frustrations.

I’ve never met a person who’s lived a life free of work-related frustration. As an emotion, frustration drives us to make many decisions. Not necessarily good decisions, but decisions none-the-less. Of all the decisions we face in the midst of our frustration, decisions that seemingly remove the frustration come to us first.

Continue reading…

A Much Better Way to Respond to Unsolicited Advice

Does everyone seem to be an unsolicited advice giver in your church?

I mean, how often do you hear, “Can I give you just a small suggestion?

I get it. I critique everything we do, as well. When you are a part of something, you want it to be great. When you serve and give to a church, you want your time and resources to be leveraged in the best way possible. Unfortunately, “great” is quite subjective. Every opinion is just that — an opinion. Good, bad, or terrible. (Insert pithy quote about armpits and … you know the rest.)

“The music is so loud.” “Too quiet.” “Too bassy.” “Not thumping enough.” 
“The sermon is too long.” “Too short.” “Not helpful.” “TOO helpful (substitute convicting).”
“It’s too crowded.”
“Somebody sat in my seat.”
“There wasn’t enough … Scripture, songs, parking, coffee, snacks, blah, blah blah.”
“There was too much … Scripture, songs, parking, coffee, snacks, blah, blah blah.”

I’m sure everyone means well, but hearing this week in and week out doesn’t do my heart well.

Continue reading…