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3 Steps to Take When the Flux Capacitor #FAILS

flux capacitorI love Ed Stetzer’s line that “If the 1950s came back, many churches are ready.”  I don’t know what happens when you read the line, but here’s what runs through my mind*:

  • Sunday morning services featuring stanzas 1, 2 and 4 from two hymns from the 16th, 17th or 18th century (Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and John Newton) and one from either the 19th century (Fanny Crosby) or a southern gospel chorus (think How Great Thou Art or He Touched Me).  Ultra progressive churches would later substitute a praise chorus from the Gaither Vocal Band.
  • King James Version (even though the last native users of the King James english had been dead for over 200 years).
  • Come forward invitations (The busses will wait.  If you came with a friend…they’ll wait).
  • Sunday school for all ages.
  • Dinner on the grounds.
  • Sunday night services (unique content, sometimes tailored to the most faithful)
  • Sunday night programming (discipleship training, youth choir, etc.).
  • Monday night visitation (who doesn’t like two strangers showing up at dinner time)
  • Wednesday night prayer meeting.
  • Wednesday night programming (Royal Ambassadors, Girls Auxiliary, choir practice, etc.).

Here’s the question of the day:

How close does your church’s current ministry model fit this paradigm?

Listen…if you’ve simply substituted menu items (i.e., Awana for Royal Ambassadors and Girls Auxiliary, on-campus discipleship groups for prayer meeting, and the New King James Version for the original)…you fit the mold Ed Stetzer has written about.  It may very well be that you have a myopic understanding of the culture.  As a result, you probably have a bloated belong and become menu that is keeping you from effectively reaching your community.

Here’s reality.  If this is your current ministry model, you’re counting on a flux capacitor.

Need to change?

I realize that what I’ve identified here is laughable to churches that have already joined the 21st century and terrifying to those that haven’t.  Still…I’m hoping that if you need to change and want to change, you’ll take these critical steps.  Please don’t hear judgement.  Hear encouragement!

Three Steps to Take When the Flux Capacitor #FAILS

  1. A thorough diagnosis of your present.  See also, Diagnosis: Brutal Honesty about Your Present.
  2. A thoughtful declaration of your preferred future.  See also, Start with the End in Mind.
  3. A series of determined steps in the right direction.  See also, Milestones that Lead to the Preferred Future.

*I was born in 1956…so I’m really describing Southern Baptist churches of the 1960s.

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

Quotebook: Never Stop Questioning

I’ve written many times about the power of a great question.  Here are two of my favorite posts: Supercharge Your Ministry Impact with These 5 Questions and Ministry in a Fog? Here are 6 Critical Questions That Create Clarity.

Here is what Albert Einstein thought about questions:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein

When was the last time you asked a great question?

The Question Everyone Ought to Be Asking

As you know…there are no problem-free strategies or solutions.  Every strategy, every solution comes with a set of problems.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  See also, 5 Strategic Flaws That Cripple Ministry Impact.

With me?

Once you come to the conclusion that there are no problem-free strategies or solutions, the very next step is to begin determining goals and objectives based on your mission (or the business you are in).  Once you’ve set goals and objectives based on your mission, it’s time to determine the best way to accomplish your goals and objectives.  This is about the model or the program you will choose to use.  See also, Supercharge Your Ministry with These 5 Questions.

What is the best way to _____________?  Fill in the blank with whatever your goal or objective is.  For example:

  • What is the best way to connect everyone to a small group?
  • What is the best way to help everyone find a way to serve that fits their unique shape?
  • What is the best way to help everyone overcome the me-first self-centered view that is so common?
  • Etc.

What is the best way to ____________?

Have you learned to ask this question?  Or are you still stuck with legacy models and strategies?  You know what I mean by legacy models, right?  Think about the programs you’re still using that were installed in another era.  Good examples might be Wednesday or Sunday night programing.  Others would be Monday night visitation and Sunday morning programs that are designed to disciple or connect adults (but in many cases are really smaller versions of the weekend service).

Nothing Wrong with Legacy

Listen, there is rarely anything inherently wrong with a legacy model or strategy.  Asking what is the best way to __________? simply uncovers…wait for it…the best way to ___________.  And that is the point.  Right?

Why Don’t We Ask the Question?

What is the best way to ___________?

Why don’t we ask the question?  Too often we don’t ask the question because:

Have You Asked the Question?

Have you asked the question?  Why not?  Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

A Smörgåsbord of Destinations vs Sequential and Tailored Next Steps

How would you describe your church?  How would you describe the collection of ministries of your church?  Particularly your ministries and programs designed to meet the needs of adults?

I’m always looking for ways to better describe a phenomenon that occurs naturally in churches everywhere.  I sometimes refer to this phenomenon as the Smörgåsbord of Destinations.  Can you see already what I’m talking about?  Or do you need a little help?  See also, A “Plated” Meal Leads to a Church OF Groups.

A smörgåsbord of destinations occurs when ministries and programs are encouraged (or allowed) even though they aren’t a step that leads anywhere you want people to go.  For example, you have difficulty saying no so you make space available for a class that is an opportunity for adults to learn more about the Bible.  Not bad unless the class becomes more like a club for sponges that never get squeezed out (i.e., no one is really applying what they’re learning…they’re just learning).

Or maybe you made space available for a marriage 101 class that over time became an opportunity for marriage groupies to hang out and study the latest marriage curriculum.  Not really an opportunity to go out and share what they’re learning.  More about benefitting from than contributing to.  And to top it off, it often comes at the expense of leading a group or being a member in a group.

A smörgåsbord of destinations.

Sequential and Tailored Next Steps

Contrast the smörgåsbord idea with a set of sequential and tailored next steps.  They lead in the direction you want everyone to go.  They lead only in the direction you want everyone to go.

These next steps are designed to pull unconnected people from the anonymity of the auditorium into a next step that is specifically tailored with them in mind.  And, the objective of the careful design is to also provide another next step that is easy, obvious and strategic.  See also, Create Connecting Steps that Are Easy, Obvious, and Strategic and How Would You Rate the First Steps Out of Your Auditorium?

A commitment to sequential and tailored next steps makes it necessary to say no to any activity or program that can’t clearly articulate who it is for.  It also makes it necessary to say no to any activity or program that can’t identify its own next step.

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

5 Strategic Flaws that Cripple Ministry Impact

There are recognizable strategic flaws in the culture of churches that are stuck.  Fresh eyes can almost always spot strategic flaws in an honest conversation, a website review, or an onsite visit.  Sometimes it can be just one strategic flaw.  Other times it is the whole set.  Does your church struggle with any of these?

5 Strategic Flaws that Cripple Ministry Impact:

  1. Celebrating menu options, variety and choices.  For all the buzz around the idea of the simple church, there are still considerably more churches that actually celebrate menu options, variety and choices.  Although somewhat counterintuitive, it turns out that a buffet with many choices actually makes it harder for people to recognize and take their next step.  Churches that reason that more options leads to more participation actually have it wrong.  Fewer options leads to more participation.  See also, How to Make Next Steps Easier to Choose.
  2. Unwillingness to stop and ask for directions.  What’s the farthest you’ve driven in the wrong direction?  In the era of GPS positioning, I suppose it is becoming less common all the time to miss a turn and just keep driving.  Unfortunately, it is the rare church that comes equipped with a GPS system.  Worse yet, although it’s been a long time since anything looked familiar, they just keep driving in the same direction without every stopping to ask for directions.  See also, Recalculating: 5 Signs Your GroupLife System Needs an Update.
  3. Insisting that the culture must adapt.  This is a tragic flaw that affects many churches.  Music selection, dress codes, and reaction to tattoos and piercing are really just the tip of the iceberg.  Failure to anticipate low biblical literacy and the expectation that compliance to a moral code precedes acceptance are two very common strategic flaws in churches with low ministry impact.  See also, A Myopic Understanding of the Culture.
  4. Endless pursuit of problem-free.  The headlong pursuit of a problem-free strategy or solution delays more ministry than almost anything else.  The truth is there is no problem-free.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have and pull the trigger.  See also, The Pursuit of Problem-Free.
  5. Optimization of the status quo.  What if it turned out that tweaking what you’re currently doing (optimizing) was keeping you from moving in the direction that would actually open new doors for ministry?  What if what got you here won’t get you there?  See also, 5 Keys to Taking New Ground in 2014 and Do You Struggle with This Leading Cause of Ministry Misfire?

Can you see yourself?  Have you already done a trouble shoot and eliminated these most common flaws?  Or are you still stuck?  What if 2014 was the year you found the courage to press ahead?

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

Do You Struggle with this Leading Cause of Ministry Misfire?

I’ve written many times about the dangers of what I call the pursuit of problem-free.  I’m pretty sure that the dogged search for problem-free solutions delays more ministry than anything else.

Ready to pull the trigger on a new strategy to connect people?  Can’t do it.  First, we need to look for a strategy that connects the maximum number of people with a minimum of risk.  Coaching system broken?  Let’s turn over one more rock and see if we can find a fail safe system.

With me?  The pursuit of problem free.

Turns out that the pursuit of problem free is not the only issue.  Turns out there is a another leading cause of ministry misfire.  Know what it is?  It’s called the optimization of the status quo.  Essentially, it is the attempt to tweak strategy to gain a slightly better outcome.  You know how this works.

“We connected 78 people in 5 new small groups…what if we tweak the way we follow up on sign-ups in order to decrease the sign-up to show-up ratio?”

Is that bad?  Nope.  Optimizing performance is a good thing…except when it comes in place of the next idea.

One of the most important books I digested in 2013 is Roger Martin’s Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works.  I love that book.  So good and very, very helpful from a strategic standpoint.  Martin makes the very important point that:

“The optimization of current practices does not address the very real possibility that the firm could be exhausting its assets and resources by optimizing the wrong activities, while more strategic (opportunities) pass it by.”

Oh my.  Know anyone who spends most of their time optimizing current practices, the status quo, instead of finding the best way to _________?  See also, Supercharge Your Ministry Impact with These 5 Questions.

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

“What Is”, “What If” and the Challenge of the Preferred Future

cone_slide8If you’ve been along for much of this journey you know we’ve talked a lot about the preferred future.  A lot.  In fact, when I used the search box here on the blog I discovered that 52 of my articles use the term “preferred future” in the title.  That is a lot!  (see the search results for yourself)

Why so much about the preferred future?  I think because all of us, and that includes me, know intuitively that the way things are right now isn’t what it should be…or could be.

We know that if life-change happens in circles, we should have more people in groups.  We dream of that preferred future.

We know that men and women truly become disciples who make disciples only in relationship and we know that happens best in groups.  So we dream of that preferred future.

And yet…one of the greatest difficulties is achieving escape velocity, “the speed needed to escape the gravitational pull” of  the way it is today, the deep rut of our current trajectory–that leads to the probable future, in order to begin moving toward the preferred future.

Why is it so hard achieve escape velocity?  To break out of the rut of “what is?”  I think this line from Erwin McManus explains it as well as anything I’ve ever seen:

“We live in this “what is” reality, and then we talk about things like creating culture, making history, creating the future, and we don’t realize that we actually do not have the fundamental core values of a “what if” culture because they violate our core values that protect the “what is.” Erwin McManus

Could it be as simple as that?  Do we have trouble achieving escape velocity, breaking free from the current trajectory, because our organization’s true core values protect what is?  I think you know that’s true.  If we want to arrive in the preferred future we’ll first have to embrace the core values of what if?

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

Prerequisite to the New and Highly Promising

Last fall I posted an article about the 5 Compromises That Derail Small Group Ministry.  This morning I began to feel like I needed to revisit compromise #3, Shrinking Back from Prioritizing Steps that Lead to GroupLife.

What got me today was Peter Drucker’s insistence that “Planned, purposeful abandonment of the old and of the unrewarding is a prerequisite to successful pursuit of the new and highly promising.”  See also, Purposeful Abandonment: Prerequisite to Innovation.

Unrewarding.  Good word.  Loved this line from The 5 Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask Your Organization: “Like the New Testament parable of the talents, your job is to invest your resources where the returns are manifold, where you can have success.”

Why is this so hard?  Again, Drucker was almost always spot on:

“People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete–the things that should have worked but did not, the things that once were productive and no longer are (Pg 54, The 5 Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask Your Organization).”

Do you have programs that are begging to be abandoned?  Now you know why…

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

5 Keys to Taking New Ground in 2014

Want to take new ground in 2014?  Don’t we all?  You’re probably not spending a lot of time figuring out how to avoid or slow down the rate of losing ground (although this Dilbert cartoon has a very funny take on the idea).  No, if you wake up in the middle of the night it’s probably to think about what you need to do to take new ground.

Here are five keys to taking new ground in 2014:

  • Sharpen clarity on your preferred future.  One of the most productive things all of us can do is to develop razor sharp clarity on where we want to go as an organization.  If “path, not intent, determines destination” (Andy Stanley), then clarity on destination makes the best path obvious.  See also, Start with the End in Mind and Choosing What Not to Do.  In addition, two excellent resources on this subject are The 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley and Church Unique by Will Mancini.
  • Be about finding solutions.  There are people on almost every team that seem pre-wired to focus on problem identification.  If you want to take new ground, you must build a team that is about finding solutions.  Since there are no problem-free solutions anyway, wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  Colin Powell had it right when he said, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”  See also, The Pursuit of Problem-Free.  An excellent resource on this is Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley.
  • Ask great questions.  Learning to ask great questions is very near the center of great leadership.  Whether you develop your own questions or simply develop the skill of collecting and using great questions you hear or read is not important.  Making it your practice to insert great questions into your conversations and meetings is essential.  Albert Einstein was expressing a similar perspective when he said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”  See also, Supercharge Your Ministry with These 5 Questions.
  • Develop and celebrate an “others focus.”  If you want to take new ground, you will need to become preoccupied with the interests of others.  Forever working to provide more and better services for the usual suspects won’t take new ground.  New ground is taken only when we begin thinking about and prioritizing the needs and interests of the people we haven’t yet reached.  Craig Groeschel has said that “if you want to reach people no one else is reaching, you need to do things no one else is doing.”  See also, Unexamined Expectations about Commitments and Priorities and Preoccupied with the Needs and Interests of the Right People.
  • Refine your menu to offer only the best next steps.  While this is a very challenging step (it means disappointing the owners of the sacred cow), it is an important key to taking new ground.  There are two underlying truths in this key.  First, the more options your menu offers the more difficult the choice becomes.  Second,  Peter Drucker pointed out 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 (p. 143, Managing for Results).”  See also, How to Make Next Steps Easier to Choose and Purposeful Abandonment: Prerequisite to Innovation.

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

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Quotebook: The Key to Long-Term (Ministry) Success

You know this…but I thought this was a good quote for your notebook.  This is a very Peter Drucker/Joseph Schumpeter concept, the gist of which is that you can’t continue to succeed without being willing to abandon yesterday’s winning products or programs (in the pursuit of tomorrow’s winning products or programs).

“The key to long-term success is a willingness to disrupt your own comfort for the sake of continued growth.”  Todd Henry, Die Empty

For more on this idea, see Purposeful Abandonment: a Prerequisite to Innovation and The Innovator’s Guide to Growth.

By the way, Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Everyday is a great read.  If you’re in a creative enterprise, this is a must read!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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