Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

Category: Strategic Thinking (page 1 of 13)

How Do You Measure Up to the 5 Intangibles of Leadership?

bill hybelsIn the days and weeks following the Global Leadership Summit it’s pretty common for me to work my way back through my notes and begin reading the books I bought.

This morning I spent some time thinking about Bill Hybels’ talk. He set up his talk by pointing out that “we define leadership as moving people from here to there.” He said, “leadership is not about presiding over something, protecting a position or pontificating about how smart you are. Leadership is about movement.”

He went on to identify the 5 intangibles of leadership.

Based on a book by Ed Davis, here are the intangibles identified by Hybels:

  1. Grit: “Grit is passion and perseverance over the long haul.” “Grit can be developed, but its archenemy is ease.”  “We must assign ourselves difficult tasks to grow grit.  Gritty organizations are unstoppable.”
  2. Self-awareness: Statistics show that every leader has 3.4 blindspots. A blindspot is something someone believes they do well, but everyone else knows they do not. Who can help you become aware of your own blindspots? Your direct supervisor and everyone who works with you.
  3. Resourcefulness: Hybels pointed out that organizations that grow resourcefulness among their senior leadership teams grow 25% more than their competitors. Resourceful people are quick learners, endlessly curious, enthusiastic experimenters and collaborators.
  4. Self-sacrificing love: “Self-sacrificing love has always been and will always be at the absolute core of leadership.” “The quality of your own loving will set the tone for your whole organization.”
  5. Sense of meaning: Hybels referred to Simon Sinek’s TED talk and book Start with Why and stated that it is “absolutely essential to know and be driven by your ‘white hot why.'”

As I re-read my notes today and attempt to evaluate my own leadership I’m realizing again that I have a lot of work to do. I’m asking questions like:

  • Do I have grit? How can I grow in my own grittiness? How can I lead my team to grow in grit?
  • Am I self-aware? What are my blindspots? Who can provide the feedback I need?
  • Am I resourceful? How can I grow in resourcefulness? How can I help my team grow in resourcefulness?
  • Is self-sacrificing love a characteristic of my own leadership? Or am I really just out for myself?
  • Do I have sense-of-meaning in my leadership? Does my team know what my “white hot why” is?

What do you think?  Have something to add?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

My notes on Hybels’ session are the frantic scribbles of one desperate to glean everything possible from a powerful talk. You can find many more quotes in this post by Brian Dodd and this one at

Find the Gaps in Your Strategy with This Simple Technique

circlesI love Rick Warren’s concentric circles diagram; a classic illustration of the different segments of people who are associated with your church. The concentric circles also provide a visual representation of Saddleback’s crowd-to-core strategy. See also, Crowd-to-Core: An Essential Understanding.

The way I talk about crowd-to-core is that I want to design next steps for every Ridger (crowd, congregation, committed and core) and first steps for their friends (community). And of course, when I draw the circles I don’t draw them the way they are in the diagram (equally spaced). I draw them as I believe they are at Canyon Ridge (see below). And as I draw the circles I talk about what they represent this way:

  • Outside of this circle is the community. In the 8 zip codes we draw from there are 250,000 people.
  • Inside the circle is the crowd. Based on our Easter numbers and our Christmas Eve numbers, we estimate there are between 10,000 and 12,000 adults who consider Canyon Ridge to be their church. They don’t come every week and they may only attend a few times a year.
  • Inside the crowd is the congregation (when I draw this circle I try to accurately represent the size, 2500 to 3500 adults). These people attend more frequently, 2 to 3 times a month. They are usually connected in some way (i.e., they may be in a small group, on a serving team, etc.). They give on a regular basis, but it is probably not a tithe.
  • Inside the congregation is the committed. They attend 3 to 4 times a month. They definitely serve and often are leaders of groups, teams, or ministries. They tithe. There are hundreds of these people.
  • And finally, inside the committed is the core. They don’t miss a week and are believers of “attend one, serve one.” They give sacrificially. They serve sacrificially. There are less than 300 of these people.

canyon ridge circlesSee how I use the diagram to segment the basic kinds of people who attend?

Here’s how you can use it to illustrate the gaps in your strategy. In my own diagram here, I’ve focused on our men’s ministry and three of their events.

  1. Take an honest look at each of the existing ministries, programs, classes and events and determine which segment of the church are they really designed for. Honesty is essential. You get no where with this is you turn a blind eye to what’s really going. Brutal honesty is required.
  2. Try to overlay them on the concentric circles to illustrate who you believe each menu item exists for.
  3. In order to truly have next steps for everyone and first steps for their friends, there will be no gaps. When you identify gaps you need to create the steps that are missing (that will help everyone take a step). See also, How to Design Next Steps and First Steps.


  • Insiders have great difficulty recognizing that the programs they love don’t work for everyone.
  • Leaders of existing programs often see the world through rose colored glasses and don’t understand why everyone doesn’t come.
  • Most people need to be coached to see the wisdom that just like restaurants have a target customer, so do good programs, events, ministries, and classes.

See also:

What Do You Need to Abandon?

abandonedThis program has meant so much for so long to all these people! How can you even think of getting rid of the program that helped all of us start following Jesus? Old Mrs. Jones would roll over in her grave if she knew that the class named after her was being cancelled!

Who hasn’t had this “discussion” (read argument)?

The prerequisite to successful pursuit of the new and highly promising

Peter Drucker wrote that “planned, purposeful abandonment of the old and of the unrewarding is a prerequisite to successful pursuit of the new and highly promising.  Above all, abandonment is the key to innovation—both because it frees the necessary resources and because it stimulates the search for the new that will replace the old (Managing for Results, p. 143).”

Of course, Peter Drucker wasn’t writing about a church. He was writing about business, right? Actually, Drucker often focused his attention on non-profits and personally mentored both Rick Warren and Bill Hybels.

Corporations, both for-profit and non-profits, struggle with the difficult task of putting an end to programs that were successful in the past; with things that were once the bread-winner and now are mostly a resource drain.

Still, the truth is most businesses, most non-profits struggle to do what they know they should do…and a few make hard but necessary decisions and then reap the benefit.

INTEL actually provides one of the most dramatic examples of a company that abandoned a successful product in order to make resources available for the product that would carry them into the future. Beginning to see the handwriting on the wall of the memory chip business, Andy Grove and Gordon Moore knew they must move to microprocessors. Finally, they reasoned, “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what would he do?  Why shouldn’t we walk out, come back in and do it ourselves?”  Andy Grove, Former CEO, INTEL

The question today is, “What do you need to abandon?” See also, Andy Stanley: Random Thoughts on Leadership.

Image by freaktography


Insights That Sharpen Small Group Ministry Perspective

1911519592_90f62ac01f_zHave you noticed that reading more books (and blogs) sometimes increases confusion and indecision about the best way to do small group ministry? Add the input from conferences you attend and experts you listen to and you can end up with a pretty complex soup.

What should you do? It’s good to read, right? Leaders are learners, right?

Short answer: Yes, it’s good to read and it’s good to attend conferences and listen to experts. I’m right there with you.

Slightly longer answer: Computer theorist Alan Kay pointed out that “Point of view (or perspective) is worth 80 IQ points.” While it’s good to read, attend conferences and listen to experts, developing the filter of a point of view (or perspective)–through which to absorb new content–provides more clarity and less confusion.

Insights that sharpen point of view (or perspective):

Start with why. Building a small group ministry (or choosing a model, system or strategy) without clarity about the why behind your effort is a recipe for wandering in the wilderness. Did you begin with why? Is it still clear? Was it ever? Simon Sinek notes that “All organizations start with why, but only the great ones keep their why clear year after year.”

Start with why. This is a truly foundational insight. If you’ve never watched Simon Sinek’s brilliant TED talk on this idea, stop what you’re doing and watch it right now. See also, Wrestling with “Why” We Do “What” We Do and 6 Questions We Should All Be Asking.

Determine the what that must be done. Only after identifying why you care enough to do anything about it can you begin to think about what it is that actually must be done. Can you see that it would be foolish to have chosen a small group model, system or strategy before determining what must be done?

Decide how to do what must be done. This is about determining the best way to do what must be done. You are finally in a position to make a wise choice about a model, system or strategy).

I love an Andy Stanley line on this that make so much sense. “Don’t fall in love with a model. Fall in love with the mission and date the model.” When you are clear on the why (and the what) it is easy to choose the how (the model) that is the best way to do what must be done. See also, How to Choose a Small Group System, Model or Strategy.

Image by Al HikesAZ

Small Group Ministry Case Study: Choosing Your Customer

customerIf it’s true that your ministry (or program) is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing, then the design of your ministry is almost everything.

There are several key components of ministry design. According to Peter Drucker, three main components are:

A significant aspect of my work with churches and ministries is to help them choose their customer. A key component of design is the intentional selection of a customer. Many start out believing that their ministry or program really can meet the needs of everyone. This is a theology of wishful thinking. The truth is that a common ingredient of failed ministry design is the illusion of being all things to all people.

This is a very bad strategy.

Far better to focus on choosing your customer.

Here’s what I mean.

Designing for a Specific Customer: A Case Study

Outback Steakhouse, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine BarCarrabba’s Italian Grill, and Bonefish Grill are all owned and operated by Bloomin’ Brands Inc.  P.F. Changs China Bistro and Pei Wei Asian Diner  are owned by Centerbridge Partners.

Think about the restaurants in these two parent companies. Why would Bloomin’ Brands own both Fleming’s and Outback? Why would Centerbridge Partners own both P.F. Changs and Pei Wei?  If you’ve been to these restaurants you probably shouted back an answer just now.  It’s obvious, isn’t it?  Each restaurant pair is designed to appeal to a different customer. The Fleming’s diner anticipates spending in the neighborhood of $100 per person. The Outback customer will spend closer to $30 per person.  Does Fleming’s feel bad when someone chooses Outback over them?  What do you think?

Why would Centerbridge Partners own both P.F. Changs and Pei Wei?  Same basic idea.  Eat at Changs and plan to spend about $50 per person. Eat at Pei Wei and spend closer to $25.  Does Pei Wei feel bad when they don’t attract a Changs customer? What do you think?


When you design your ministry, think carefully about the customer you most want to reach. Design the ministry for them. Don’t feel bad when you can’t be all things to all people. Instead, design a different step for the people that haven’t yet been reached.

Image by Didriks 

Hoping for Problem-Free

hopeWhat are the decisions you know you need to make but you just can’t bring yourself to do it?  Do you know the list by heart?  Is it a long list?  What’s keeping you from pulling the trigger?  Still searching for a problem-free solution?

I’ve made the case for a long time now that the pursuit of problem-free delays more ministry than anything else.  That the belief that there might be a problem-free solution–just around the corner–causes more boards, more teams, and more leaders to push the pause button that anything else.  See also, The Pursuit of Problem-Free.

I’m coming to believe there might be another explanation.  What is it?  There is certainly a temptation to hope that the issue will just resolve itself some other way.  That’s not what I’m thinking about.

I’m actually more and more convinced that we don’t make the decisions that we need to make because we lack the courage we need to make them. At times we try to disguise our lack of courage with the garb of caring for people and not wanting to disappoint. Other times we attempt to disguise our lack of courage by asking for a pause in decisions as we “seek wisdom.”

I believe that hoping for problem-free is an emotional state that must be overcome in order to truly build anything significant.

Sometimes we finally overcome it when we learn to say the last 10 percent (Several years ago Bill Hybels shared the idea that we often say only 90 percent of what needs to be said and withhold the final 10 percent because that’s where the tough stuff and the true gold resides).

And sometimes we finally overcome this emotional state when we acknowledge the reality that the pursuit of problem-free is putting off a solution that will eliminate obstacles for unreached or unconnected people.

Are you free? Or are you still hoping for problem-free?

Image by Trina Alexander

Do You Know What Business You Are Really In?

FactoryPeter Drucker was known for asking great questions.  I love his line that “the important and difficult job is never to find the right answers, it is to find the right question.  For there are few things as useless–if not dangerous–as the right answer to the wrong question (The Practice of Management).”

“What business are you in?” is one of my favorite Drucker questions.  Reflecting about the power of this both simple and profound question, Drucker wrote, “That the question is so rarely asked—at least in a clear and sharp form—and so rarely given adequate study and thought, is perhaps the most important single cause of business failure.”

Clearly, Drucker believed that knowing what business you are in is very important.  Do you?  Have you ever sat down and puzzled through a defining statement about the business you are in?  I’ve written about this many times.  I’ve even posted a few examples.  But I’m wondering if you’ve ever figured out for yourself, for your own ministry, what business you are in?

You may believe you are in the connecting business and all you are doing or the main thing you are doing is connecting people.  Or you may believe you are in the disciple-making business.  Alternatively, you might have decided you are in the life-change business or the transformation business.

Doing the hard work of figuring out the answer to the question is critical but only rarely done.  And that’s unfortunate because until you find this answer you can’t answer the next question.  What’s the next question?  “How’s business?”  See also, If I Was Starting Today, The First Question Every Small Group Pastor Must Answer and Clue #4 When Designing Your Small Group System.

Image by Daniel Foster

Are You Playing to Play? Or Playing to Win?

Los Angeles Memorial ColiseumAre you playing to play? Or playing to win?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about clarifying the win in the various ministries and steps at Canyon Ridge.  We always want to identify what we will call a win before we schedule anything.  Actually, before we calendar anything we want to know what you will  call a win and what are the embedded steps that lead to where we want people to go next.  See also, How to Design First Steps and Next Steps.

What will you call a win?  Peter Drucker framed it slightly different when he asked, “What will you call success?”  Same idea.  See also, 10 Principles for Building a Thriving Small Group Ministry and 5 Non-Negotiables that Define True Small Group Ministry Success.

I’ve been spending some time again with Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin (the former Chairman and CEO of Proctor & Gamble and the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto).  This book is packed with great insights and the application is practically dripping off the pages.

I love the distinction made between playing to play (or participate) and playing to win.  Lafley and Martin point out that:

“When a company sets out to participate, rather than win, it will inevitably fail to make the tough choices and the significant investments that would make winning even a remote possibility.  A too-modest aspiration is far more dangerous than a too-lofty one.  Too many companies eventually die a death of modest aspirations (p. 36).”

Are you playing to play? Or playing to win?

That is a very compelling question, isn’t it?  Since unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again, doesn’t it make sense that you would play to win?  Doesn’t it make sense that you would readily make the tough choices and the significant investments that would make winning likely?

What does it mean if you aren’t?

Image by Brendan Loy

Yes, But What Do I Do First?

pick up sticksYou’re in, right? Ready to do the work that will take your small group ministry to new levels in 2015?  You’ve taken the time to write some new year’s resolutions and are beginning to figure out where you need to go.

But where do you start?  How do you figure out what must happen first?  Or does it matter where you start?

I call your dilemma “joining a game of pick up sticks in progress.”  I call it that because the truth is there really are some things that you must tackle before you can even get down to the issues you want to work on.

I believe in almost every church there are two primary issues that must be tackled at the same time.

First, if you believe that unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again, then you are already certain you’ve got to find better and faster ways to connect more people.  Waiting until certain deeper issues are solved or waiting until certain capabilities are developed won’t make sense in light of your awareness that every unconnected person in your crowd has a closing window on their availability to connect.  See also, 5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People and What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People?

Believing this is true should prompt you to take seriously the urgency of connecting unconnected people.

It should also convince you to:

Second, if you believe that coaches play a key role in sustaining new groups and furthermore, that whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your groups must happen first in the lives of your leaders, then you already know you that identifying, recruiting and developing coaches must be an immediate priority.  See also, Life Change at the Member Level

Believing this is true should prompt you to take seriously the need to identify, recruit and develop coaches.

Aren’t there other important things that must be done to build a thriving small group ministry?  Yes!  But without a doubt these are the two most important things and they will not wait for a better season.  They must be done well and they must be done now.

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

6 Questions We Should All Be Asking

I love a great question.  I collect them!  And I try to remember to ask them all the time and especially when I’m seeking to break free from the status quo and business-as-usual.

Here are 6 questions we should all be asking:

  1. What are the things we are doing that make it difficult for unconnected people to connect to a small group?  If we are truly on a hunt for the best ways to connect the largest number of people to a small group, we’ll need to pay careful attention to the things we are doing that make it difficult.
  2. What are the activities, attitudes and commitments that prevent unconnected people from connecting to a small group?  A best practice we could all adopt is to spend time on a regular basis listening to unconnected people.  Believe me, they have reasons they have not joined a group or are not currently connected to a group.  Until we figure out what those reasons are, we will struggle to make a compelling case for unconnected people to join a group.
  3. What are the ways we are allocating our resources that produce the greatest return on investment?  You may prefer “bear the most fruit” to “produce the greatest return on investment.”  No matter.  If we want to hear “well done,” we will all be paying attention to outcomes.  Doing the same things again and again, hoping for a different outcome, is more than the definition of insanity.  It is poor stewardship.
  4. What are the ways we are allocating our resources that produce the lowest return on investment?  This is obviously the flip side of the previous question, but it is potentially a very productive conversation.  Yes, it is a very difficult and challenging pathway, but if we would be good stewards it is a conversation we must have.
  5. What are we not doing that we should start doing immediately?  This is a game-changing conversation.  So often, we know what we should be doing and we just don’t do it.  It is about good stewardship.
  6. What are we doing that we should stop doing immediately?  Again, this is a flip side question but an essential conversation.  It is about stewardship.  It is about allocating resources to the critical growth path.

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Here are some additional posts that might be helpful:

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