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A Values-Driven Culture Is Essential

culture“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Often attributed to Peter Drucker, this is a line right at the heart of an important challenge for all of us. We work hard on choosing our small group model, system or strategy and that is a very good thing.

Strategy is important. But at the end of the day, at the end of the ministry season or year, if your culture is toxic or unhealthy…you’re going to have a very hard time getting to your preferred future.

I’ve been studying culture for many years.  I’ve come back to it many times, recognizing again and again that creating culture and influencing culture is my number one priority.

Here are some resources that you need to know about as you do the same in your own environment.

Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast

I love the new Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast. If you aren’t yet subscribed, you need to stop what you are doing right now and sign up to get this podcast. You can do that right here.

In March and April, Craig shared some tremendously valuable thoughts on creating a values-driven culture. Oh my! So good.

“Healthy cultures never happen by accident.”

“Your culture is a combination of what you create and what you allow.”

“The number one force that shapes your culture is your values.”

“What we value determines what we do. Your values shape what you do.”

“If you want a different culture, change what you value.”

“Strong values attract the right people and weed out the wrong people.”

Creating a Values-Driven Culture, Part OneShow Notes

Creating a Values-Driven Culture, Part TwoShow Notes

Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast

Another podcast you ought to be subscribed to is the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. Seriously, if you aren’t listening to this podcast you are so missing out! You can subscribe to it right here.

Back in May, June and July of 2013 Andy talked about culture and behaviors (

Better Before Bigger

Defining Your Organizational Culture, Part One

Defining Your Organizational Culture, Part Two

Granger Community Church

Granger Community Church reworked their values several years ago. Very thought-provoking stuff. Take a look at their values as you are learning about culture and values.

Core Values: Shaping the Way We Think and Act (This is a very good article on the importance of core values from Tony Morgan)

Granger’s Mission and Values

Assignment:

I hope you’ll take the challenge and spend some time with this! I’m convinced, and I hope you are or soon will be, that creating a values-driven culture is at the root of how we build thriving ministries.

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A Beautiful Design: God’s Unchanging Plan for Manhood and Womanhood

beautiful designSpent some time this week with a new DVD-driven study from Matt Chandler. A Beautiful Design: God’s Unchanging Plan for Manhood and Womanhood is classic Chandler. Straight from the Bible, the lead pastor of teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex tackles one of the most important issues of our time.

“What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? In our society today, there is a massive amount of confusion about manhood and womanhood. Is there a difference between them? If so, what is the difference? The answers our culture offers only further serve to muddy the water. Is there a clearly defined picture? If so, where can we find it? (from the introduction)”

Is this a conversation you’re having anywhere? No doubt it is happening in your world every day and over and over. I have to tell you Matt Chandler handles this topic in a very intelligent and with a sensitivity that is quite powerful.

A Beautiful Design is an 9 session DVD-driven study.  The video segments are classic Chandler.  31 to 42 minutes each, this is weekend sermon footage recorded live at The Village Church in 2014.  Chandler is a powerful speaker in the way few preachers are and these messages are no exception.

The member book (also referred to as the Bible study workbook) includes:

  • A video viewing guide that is designed to help members focus attention on the teaching, capture important ideas, and take notes.
  • Discussion questions for each session that will guide your conversation about the video and also about learnings in the weekly Bible study.
  • Each week includes three personal Bible studies that will take members deep into the topic.
  • A Family Discipleship page offers an opportunity “to craft a vibrant family discipleship experience around three key elements: time, moments, and milestones.

Chandler is a very powerful speaker. Very smart, he easily captures and holds attention Although deeply theological, his messages always break through my personal bias toward seeker sensitive in the first few minutes and I find myself listening intently, caught off guard and fully immersed in what God’s word has to say to me.

I begin my review of every Matt Chandler study with my own bias completely in control and within minutes find myself thinking about all of the small groups that really need this study.  A Beautiful Design is a must add to your recommended list.  This is a conversation your group members are immersed in every day and they will richly benefit from this study. I highly recommend it.

How Personally Are You Taking It?

take it personallyIn the closing message at re:group Clay Scroggins reflected on the incident in Mark 2:1-12 where four friends brought a paralyzed man to be healed by Jesus. Remember the story? Here’s the paragraph he spent most of his time on:

Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

In a series of statements, Scroggins shared something so important for all of us:

“Jesus was moved not by what they believed, but by what they did because of what they believed.”

“Jesus was moved not by their model of community but by their decision to model community.”

“When you begin to take community personally you’ll learn how to make community better.”

So…how personally are you taking community?

Image by Samuel King Jr.

How Are You Managing the Tension Between Theology and Ministry? (re:group Day Two)

manage tensionI came away with a number of profound insights from this year’s re:group Conference. One of my most eye-opening moments happened toward the end of Training Leaders to Engage Culture, a second day breakout.

Pointing to Jesus’ ability to focus on core issues of the faith while moving time and again “toward the messes,” Tim Cooper emphasized that we need to treat core issues of the faith differently than peripheral ones (as Jesus did when he went to Matthew’s house).

“Address core issues of the faith differently than peripheral ones.”

To help train their leaders to distinguish between core issues and peripheral issues North Point developed a “beliefs assessment” that measures a leader’s ability to make the distinction. You can see their beliefs assessment right here.

Here are some tips to help distinguish core versus peripheral (from the Beliefs Assessment):

  • Core issues are beliefs that are essential to faith.
  • Christians have considerable differences of opinion about peripheral beliefs.
  • While core issues have endured over time, many peripherals have changed over time.
  • Even if something is peripheral, that does not mean it is unimportant.
  • Statements about core beliefs can be pronounced publicly in the local church, but conversations about peripheral topics are many times better handled privately.
  • Whether a topic is core or periphery determines how much energy and emotion it warrants.

In explaining the thinking behind the beliefs assessment, Cooper pointed out that “the more issues that are core to you the harder you make it for people to turn to God.”

“The more issues that are core to you the harder you make it for people to turn to God.”

You can see their beliefs assessment right here.

Can you see their thinking? Have you ever thought through this tension? Have you ever trained your leaders to manage this tension?

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

Further Reading:

Image by Luke Addison

Influencing Culture: Jesus’ Model vs the Pharisees’ Model (re:group Day Two)

influence cultureIn yesterday’s post I gave you a quick overview of a second day breakout called Training Leaders to Engage Culture. If you haven’t read it, you might want to go back and catch up.

One of the big takeaways was embedded in a careful look at the difference between Jesus’ model for influencing culture vs the Pharisees’ model for influencing culture. Sharing an insight into Jesus’ model, the presenter (Tim Cooper) talked about an incident that Matthew records in Matthew 9:9-13:

“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'”

Pointing to verse 13 and citing an insight from Richard Beck’s Unclean, Cooper noted that sacrifice is intentionally moving toward purity (away from what is impure) while mercy is moving toward what is different.

“The Pharisees, seeking purity, pull away from the sinners. Jesus, seeking fellowship, moves toward the sinners.” Richard Beck, Unclean: Meditations on Purity, and Mortality.

And once again, I have to circle back to a great question from the breakout: “What’s encouraging your small group leaders to push through their natural instinct to avoid people God is trying to influence?”

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

Further Reading:

Image by Rachel Kramer

Training Leaders to Engage Culture (re:group Day Two)

engage cultureTraining Leaders to Engage Culture (re:group Day Two)

One of the most powerful takeaways I came away with was a renewed commitment to the importance of training small group leaders. Yes, adults learn on a need to know basis, and yes, I still believe the best practice is to do TO and FOR your leaders whatever you want them to do TO and FOR their members, but when leaders are well trained they will be better prepared to do something beyond facilitate a good discussion. And they will almost always need to be trained to engage culture.

If you read my post on Community for Everyone from day one of re:group you’ll know that I resonated deeply with the need to offer community to everyone (i.e., far beyond community for the usual suspects). As long as I can remember it has been my hope and ambition to reach deeply into the crowd and community to reach people who are far from God. I suspect that you read my blog because you share in that same hope and ambition.

And that leads me to an aha moment from the Community for Everyone breakout. Here’s the insight:

“The wider the diversity (you hope to include) the better the leader must be.”

Did you catch it? Do you see it? I can’t assume every small group leader has my passion for reaching people who are far from God. I also shouldn’t assume they have my intuition about what to say or how to engage. And as a result, I need to make sure I’m actually equipping small group leaders to engage culture.

Training Leaders to Engage Culture

Here is the introductory paragraph from the session notes of a breakout called Training Leaders to Engage Culture:

“From politics to sexuality there are numerous topics where culture intersects with faith and opinions vary. How we think about these issues is as important as what we think about them. In this breakout, we will take you through how we train volunteers to engage with culture. We’ll explore some root causes of existing cultural tensions and focus on how to walk alongside someone who has a viewpoint different from your own.”

I loved the 5 declaratory statements that were part of the breakout notes:

  1. We have to decide if we really want to influence the culture we live in. Note: The difference between what churches believe is true and right and what the culture believes is true and right creates a gap. How we teach people to handle the gap influences how we view and treat the people on the other side of the gap.
  2. Our ability to influence culture is limited by our disgust toward it.
  3. To overcome disgust, we must intentionally move toward the messes. Great Question: “What is encouraging your leaders to push through their natural instinct to avoid people God is trying to influence?”
  4. Jesus models how to influence culture. Note: It was right about here that Tim Cooper said, “If what someone is doing keeps you away from ministering to them, you have a higher standard than Jesus.”
  5. Managing the tension between theology and ministry requires work.

Can you make out the flow of the discussion?

I have to tell you, I’ve thought of little else since I attended this breakout. I am convinced that as the West becomes an increasingly post-Christian culture, it is imperative that we become better at engaging culture.

I found the conclusion of the breakout notes captivating:

“How we educate volunteers to engage with and influence culture is one of the most important things we will do as a church. When our devotion to God is illustrated, demonstrated, and authenticated by our love for others, we make it possible to change our culture…and our world.”

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

Image by Terry Shuck

Celebrating 1900 Posts: My 19 Favorites

celebrateYesterday I published my 1900th post here at MarkHowellLive.com.

1900.

I began blogging here in early 2008. Although I don’t have accurate stats on readers and pageviews until 2009, I know it was a slow beginning in terms of traffic. Today…well today is different.

Here is my best attempt at my 19 favorite posts. This was very tough.

  1. 8 Habits of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader (October, 2013)
  2. 5 Things You Need to Know about Connecting Unconnected People (May 2013)
  3. What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People? (June 2012)
  4. 7 Practices for Developing and Discipling Your Small Group Coaches  (December, 2013)
  5. 5 Essential Practices of a 21st Century Small Group System (August, 2012)
  6. 7 Assumptions that Shape My Small Group Strategy (June, 2013)
  7. 5 Habits I’d Look for If I Was Hiring a Small Group Pastor (January, 2014)
  8. 7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Leaders (October, 2015)
  9. 6 Essential Questions about Making Disciples and Small Group Ministry (November, 2014)
  10. Four Obsessions of the Extraordinary Small Group Pastor (February, 2015)
  11. 5 Stupid Things Small Group Pastors Need to Stop Doing (September, 2015)
  12. Ten Ideas that Have Shaped My Philosophy of Ministry (December, 2012)
  13. Top 5 Reasons Small Group Leaders Quit (August, 2015)
  14. 8 Secrets for Discovering an Unlimited Number of Leaders (December, 2014)
  15. 5 Things that Used to Work in Small Group Ministry (January, 2016)
  16. 5 Things You Need to Know about 21st Century Small Group Ministry  (September, 2015)
  17. Foundational Teaching: Next Steps for Everyone (October, 2015)
  18. 10 Things Small Group Pastors Should Always Be Thinking (September, 2015)
  19. 5 Clues that Point to a Change in Small Group Ministry (October, 2015)

What do you think?  Is your favorite missing?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Image by Shawn Nystrand

Quotebook: A Higher Standard than Jesus? (re:group Day Two)

quote marksThere are times every once in a great while when something a speaker says is so convicting it causes an audible gasp or sigh in the room. There was one of those times on Day Two of re:group in the session by Tim Cooper called Training Leaders to Engage Culture.

It was a statement that was not in the notes and I’m not sure if it was a quote. Here’s the line:

“If what someone is doing keeps you from ministering to them them, you have a higher standard than Jesus”

I hope I never forget that truth.

Community for Everyone (re:group Conference Day One)

everyoneI might be sharing key insights from re:group 16 for days. So good! I wish you had been there!

One of the two or three most powerful takeaways I came away with is a very good way of thinking about the importance of making community (available) for everyone.

To set the stage, here is the introductory paragraph in the session notes for Community for Everyone:

“If we want everyone to experience life-changing community, we need to make space in groups for people with a variety of lifestyles and theological beliefs. How do we create avenues for opportunities for dating couples living together? How do we help LGBT people experience a growing relationship with Jesus through community? In this breakout, we’ll explore what we’re learning as we try to move a diverse population from rows into circles.”

Think with me for a moment.

Like the North Point Ministries churches, our small group strategy is designed to form and launch groups for married couples, men (married and unmarried)  and women (married and unmarried). As a result, it is already more and more common for us to field questions from people who are trying to figure out if they fit or where they fit.

Are you answering those questions too?

Let me tell you, if you’re not yet wrestling with questions about “how can I/we participate or “I/we can participate” it is probably only a matter of time (a very brief time).

Again, I love the thinking behind North Point’s philosophy and strategy. Consider these three statements:

“Our mission as a church is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Check. That’s not how we say it but it is what we say. And you are probably the same.

“Our vision is to create churches that unchurched people want to attend.”

Check. I resonate with that vision and you probably do too.

Stop and think for one moment, through, before we continue.

Follow the thinking right here:

If you want unchurched people to attend and are praying that unchurched people to attend and God answers your prayer and unchurched people do attend…doesn’t it stand to reason that these same unchurched people will arrive with lifestyles and habits (and much more) that are consistent with and shaped by the culture?

How are you doing? Still with me?

Okay, so here’s the third statement:

“We believe for people to grow spiritually, they must be connected relationally.”

Check. I’m with you. We are with you.

And now, what must we do to make community available for everyone?

In our case, I’m certain we can’t easily fit everyone into our three categories. At least, not without a lot of forcing men and women to fit.

What do we need to do? What will we do?

We’re already on it. Stay tuned.

If you missed yesterday’s post, here it is: 18 Great Lines from Andy Stanley (re:group Conference Day One).

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

Image by Thomas Hawk

18 Great Lines from Andy Stanley (re:group Conference Day One)

quote marksAndy Stanley’s talk during the opening session of re:group ’16 was a serious collection of great groups one liners. Here are the ones I captured:

  1. After announcing that North Point Ministries has 72,000 people in groups. “20 years in people ask me, ‘What would you change if you started over?’ Our one numeric goal (to have 100,000 people in groups) has shaped everything. It has shaped everything including our budget. Your goals shape where the money goes. Groups is the best bet.”
  2. “People often come up to me and say, “I visited your church.” I tell them, “No you didn’t. You visited one of our worship services. Our church meets in circles.”
  3. “We wanted to build a community of Jesus followers who were in community.”
  4. “The most powerful form of evangelism is a community of Christians who love each other.”
  5. “The one another factor is the explanation of the first couple hundred years.”
  6. “Our kids think you’re supposed to be in a group and lead a group.”
  7. “The church doesn’t happen in rows. The church happens in circles.”
  8. “When people say, ‘I’m going to call the church,’ we should say, ‘no you’re not. You’re going to call somebody. The church meets in circles.'”
  9. “[Life-change] happens a little bit in rows and a lotta bit in circles.”
  10. Teaching on Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “When people are in circles, ‘the church’ automatically picks them up.”
  11. “Groups are like retirement savings. If people wait until they need it [to be picked up] they won’t have it when they need it.”
  12. “Groups are preventative. Somebody (in your group) can see what they can’t see. Somebody can always see it coming.”
  13. “Groups are preventative. You can’t measure prevention. You can measure what happens without it. There is way way more going on (in groups) than you can measure.”
  14. “Every marriage needs support now in order to avoid life support later.”
  15. “[Life-change] is cumulative. When you miss one time you don’t miss much. It happens over time.”
  16. “Your life would be better if the generation before you had been connected.”
  17. “The generation before us tells us that circles are better than rows.”
  18. “You can’t do in rows what you can do in circles.”

At the conference?  Have one to add? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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