A Vital Ingredient for an Effective Leader

To be an effective leader you have to have resolve…grit… fortitude or you will give up when it counts the most! As leaders of organizations that are leading the way we will face obstacles that few face. We will face challenges that are far greater than we could have imagined and if we do not have that resolve, that deep inner desire to take action and find the solution to keep our team moving forward, we will crumble to the circumstance.

James said… “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3

That we should actually find joy in these crazy circumstances that we face not because it is fun going through stressful moments, but because it is refining ourselves as leaders and our organizations.  That is why he continues with this statement…

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:4

That as we develop resolve or steadfastness we become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. That these situations pull out the best in us and we start walking in the fullness of our potential.  When the balls in our hands and there is a few seconds left on the clock we act.  The more we act the more natural those situations become, though still not easy, and the more confident our organization becomes.  If you fear challenges to the point of inaction then you are greatly limiting your potential.

So where does this resolve come from? Well James goes on to explain…

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

Resolve comes from Godly wisdom.  That we serve a God that moves in the practical just as much as He moves in the spiritual yet many of us never seek Godly wisdom.  The Holy Spirit connects with our spirit and gives us wisdom, counsel, knowledge, and understanding if we just ask.  Great leaders are leaders that lead through prayer and understand that God speaks and guides His people.  However, it doesn’t just end in prayer there must be a response of action that follows the guidance.

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:6-8

Godly wisdom is only complete when we trust the guidance, will, and promises of God.  If we waiver like the waves in the sea back and forth then we will not receive anything from God.  Resolve is not double-minded in that it does not bounce from trusting God to trusting this rational world.  That this audacious resolve trusts fully the nature, the will, and the promises of God.  That God always has our best intentions at heart and when He tells us to take steps of faith we will respond with obedience. Even when the answer is bigger than ourselves we trust a God that is bigger than our circumstances.

The lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.” Deuteronomy 28:8

Have the confidence that God is guaranteeing success in your life when you are trusting the wisdom He gives you and responding to His promises.  Your storehouses will be filled and blessings will come with every new opportunity. So build the resolve to fight through the temporary to experience your destiny.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it, leave a comment I would love to hear from you!

HOW TO RETAIN VISITORS PT. 4 (SERMON)

So we are wrapping up this blog series on “HOW TO RETAIN VISITORS” and you can check out the previous 3 posts on 1st Impressions, Kids, & Worship.  Today we are going to tackle the sermon.  A recent study by Pew Research on the top reasons why someone chooses a church and the #1 pick at 83% of the people was the quality of the sermons.  Now if that doesn’t speak to the importance of being a good communicator I don’t know what will. Today I just want to hit 7 keys to delivering an effective sermon at you church.

1. Speak on Relevant Topics.

This seems like a no brainer right?!? Speak on topics people want to hear, but you would be surprised on how many speakers just speak on whatever they feel like.  Every great communicator knows you are not a great communicator if you ignore the very needs of the people you are speaking to.  Paul said it best in terms of connecting with his audience “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:22-23

So how do you know who you are speaking to and to discover their needs?

  • Get your staff involved.  I love bringing my staff into our calendar planning and we discuss what topics are important to our church.  This allows us to expand our reach within our community as each staff member has weekly interactions with so many of our members through serving and Life groups which in return hits a wide demographic.
  • Send out a survey. I also like to get direct feedback from our people and to do so we will have a survey card we ask everyone to fill out once a year.  The survey card actually hits many important ares of our church, but one part of the survey is a list of topics that they would like us to speak on.  This helps us specifically identify the needs in our church.
  • Have a strong prayer life. I feel like every year God speaks a theme into my heart for our church.  2017 the theme is #TheYearofGrowth as we are going to continue to grow physically, but most importantly grow spiritually as our roots get deeper. In 2016 we saw over 600 people give their heart to Jesus and I was really seeking God on developing all these people that are new to the faith in prayer He spoke that theme in my heart.  Seek God and I know he will speak direction into your church.

2. Add a Personal Touch.

Evangelism isn’t telling people what they need to do as much as it is telling them what God has done in you.  You have to share yourself with your people.  Being open with what God has done in your life builds trust with your listener and trust is what drops guards to allow them to receive what you are saying. As much as I wish people came up to me raving about how smart I am as I dropped some Greek or Hebrew knowledge on them it never really happens that way, but every time I share personally how I struggled or doubted and God moved someone is impacted.  Personal stories take it from a far fetched lecture to real experience that can also take place in their lives.

3. Add Humor.

This is probably the hardest thing to build into a message, but it so extremely necessary because laughter allows people to relax and get engaged. Now the better you know your audience the more you feel comfortable in this space.  A few things to think about is first you are not a standup comedian that needs to have an elaborate joke with a punchline so don’t put that pressure on yourself, secondly don’t  take yourself to seriously but be willing to laugh at yourself, thirdly thinking of a funny story or exaggerated examples that goes with your topic truly helps,  and lastly the more comfortable and relaxed you are on stage the funnier you are.

4. Add Applicable Points.

I like to build into every message either a “Take Home” or “Action Steps” which are practical points people can apply to their life.   It is one thing to give someone spiritual goosebumps and get them all amped on your fiery message, but it’s a whole new ball game when they actually start applying what you speak on. Many people want to apply the messages, but we use such broad strokes in our messages that they don’t seam practical.  So what I do is give them something physical to walk out the service to do in the week… Everything from joining a LifeGroup, to going on a date with your spouse, to writing out goals, to setting a specific devotion time, etc… We have to put action towards our faith.

5. Let Your Message Breathe.

Great messages unfold over time.  To many pastors throw their messages together at the last moment and in doing so haven’t given the message enough time to breathe.  I like to have my messaged outlined earlier in the week and finished no later than Thursday.  This gives me several days to tweak the outline and then two whole days to polish the finished message.  You will find humor is easier to develop after you have gone over the message many times, your transitions become smoother as work through them over and over again, and you are able remove material that isn’t really necessary.  Don’t wait to the last minute to write your message, but you have to build into your calendar planning and writing moments for your message every week.

6. Speak with Pace.

Pace is one of the most important factors to keep peoples attention.  Most speakers speak with a slower pace because they don’t truly know their material and so they are constantly going back to their notes.  I am a big advocate of speaking without any notes and I don’t even have a pulpit on stage.  I have confidence monitor set up in front of me that has my main points and scriptures. This allows me to have an effective pace and flow in my messages.  The key is not memorizing your messages, but knowing your message.  When you truly understand the content of each point and have went over your material enough you will be able to deliver what I believe is a more personal message.  No longer is your head down hiding behind a pulpit, but you are out front engaging your audience.

7. End EVERY Message with a Salvation Opportunity.

I have seen so many Pastors deliver powerful messages where you could sense people were ready to commit their lives to Jesus in the room, but the speaker just ends the service with no opportunity to except Jesus.  I am convinced many searching people leave Sundays still searching because as Pastors we didn’t communicate with them their first step. We live in a generation that wasn’t raised in church and to assume people know the sinners prayer is a mistake.  I cannot tell you the amount of people that have attended our church that don’t know what worship is, offerings is, who Matthew Mark Luke or John are let alone accepting Jesus free gift of salvation.  Every Sunday is an opportunity to expand the Kingdom of God and nothing is more energizing to a Church body than knowing they are part of a Great Commission church!

Lets be communicators that speak the life, the truth, and the hope of Jesus in ways that connect with our people week in and week out as we see more people come and then become involved in our church communities!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it, leave a comment I would love to hear from you!

YOUR GREATEST MARKETING TOOL

marketing-toolI would probably say that the #1 question most pastors or church planters ask me is “how do I get the word out about our church?” or “how do we get more people to come to our church?” and for good reasons. Marketing your organization or product is a huge priority for any business and that includes for the church because if people don’t know you exist it doesn’t matter how great your services are…They aren’t coming!

We have to spread the word about what we are doing and we should want to because we should be excited about what we are a part of.  The problem is most people go about marketing all the wrong ways and spend WAY TOO MUCH money on advertising that just simply doesn’t have the ROI for the capital it costs.

Nine years ago, the world changed when apple literally took a computer and put it in your pocket in the form of a phone.  Never in a million years did we think it would be possible this soon to have a computer with internet connection carrying around with you where ever you go.  In this moment the death of traditional advertising started to happen.  Advertising and marketing had always been very costly and with this new creation, why spend it on those means anymore?  Radio? What is that— we have Spotify, Pandora, and Podcasts.  Newspapers, ummm, we get our news online…  Billboards, who even looks up from their phones these days?  The world has changed and we must understand this shift or we will be spinning our wheels and watching our organizations continue to plateau and decline.

So where should we sit in this new world of connections and what should be our focus? The answer is easy, but the response is something that takes much more effort.  We live in an ecosystem that no longer wants to be sold, but connected and inspired and this is the beauty of social networks.  They are platforms thats soul purpose is to connect and give you, the organization, the ability say whatever you want.  Now, that can be dangerous or empowering and it is completely up to you which of those paths you take.  You have the ability to connect with people; that would be impossible before. You have that ability to add value to their life in ways that were much more difficult a decade ago. Coming from a Pastors stand point, our job is not to gather large crowds, but to see lives changed for Jesus and that means we should use any tool at our disposal to add value to people.  The great thing is when you connect with people, add value, share your story, and inspire then you also see the growth in your physical location following the growth that is taking place online.

My next posts I want to talk about “HOW” we do social media effectively, but today I just wanted to discuss “WHY” we need to have an online presence.

So some “Next Steps” for you to work on until our next posts…

  1. If you haven’t already, create accounts on the different social networks.  For most churches the two I tell everyone to focus on are Facebook and Instagram.  There are several you can choose from, but I would rather be really effective on a few platforms than “okay” on several platforms.  Also these two platforms have the widest reach for your community.  Build a business Facebook page, not a personal Facebook page for your organization.  Facebook is the largest social media site and hits the most age demographics. Next create an Instagram profile.  Instagram is great for organizations because most people are very visually driven and in doing so we digest the content more. Instagram allows all posts to be seen by its followers unlike the Facebook algorithms.  Instagram also has created features that look a feel like Snapchat in many ways and unlike Snapchat it is much easier to search for profiles which make finding your page much more accessible.
  2. Now you need to make sure your information is up to date on all your platforms.  The right profile pictures, web addresses, physical addresses, and service times.  It is a big turn off when information is not updated or incorrect.
  3. Make sure your branding stays consistent.  Your branding, your design look, needs to be the same at your physical location, on your website, and on all your social sites.  It is extremely confusing when these things do not line up because people question whether it is the same organization, and if it is, then they start wondering why there is no harmony.  I am going to dive into this more on the next posts, but don’t brand yourself online what you are not in person.  BE YOU because if you try to act like you are something online that you are not really in person then when they visit they will immediately have red flags go up and completely miss your heart.
What are your thoughts on how much our culture has changed over the last decade when it comes to Marketing and advertising?

MARRIED TO THE VISION

As a leader God has placed a vision in your heart that is unique to you personally, to your church, and a vision that is effective to reach your community.  That vision is the “WHY” that drives your organization.  It is the reason why people get out of their beds early to serve, why they give to their church, and why they tell their friends and family about the church they love so much.  They understand what their church is uniquely about and not only that but they have personally experienced it!

Vision is like the gas in the engine of your organization.  Yes you have the tangible elements of the mission, systems, staff, and structure, but none of those things are going to get you very far without the fuel that is the vision.  The reality is people do not rally around service times, they do not rally around buildings, and sadly they rarely rally around the directions of the writers of the Bible.  But they do rally around a vision that takes those things and clearly explains why we do what we do and how that impacts real people in our communities.  That is the vision that God has placed in your heart as the leader.  That is the fuel to get the engine of your organization running and to keep it going.  That is the “WHY” that people rally behind and sacrifice for.

Unfortunately most leaders over time forget the importance of their mission and start focusing more and more on the engine and less and less on the fuel.  They allow modifications to take place that have nothing to do with where they are going and allow outside hands to tweak the organization in ways that suite them personally, but doesn’t benefit the organization moving forward.  The greatest understanding a leader must have is this.  We are married to the vision God has given our church and we never cheat on that vision under any circumstances! Too many leaders are unfaithful to their vision and that single thing is what is killing their organization more than anything else.  They are creating a culture of infidelity when it comes to the vision of their church where anything goes. If we know anything it is that an affair strains a relationship more than anything else because it rocks trust to its core and without trust people will not sacrifice in ways that an organization needs for it to succeed.

Now as leaders we don’t cheat on the vision intentionally, but what happens is we start to focus more on the tangibles of our present and less on what we are building and where are we going.  So we start letting things like money dictate our decisions, talent run the show, and strong personalities have a deciding opinion even though it is contrary to our vision.  We are scared that if we say “no” that they will dismantle our engine and leave us broke down on the side of the road. What we don’t realize is we are already broke down because we have no fuel we are just distracted by all their modifications that are just a false sense of progress.

So where do we go from here so that we can be 100% committed to the vision God has given us?  Here are three things to help us move forward:

1. Physically write out your vision.

You have to clearly state why you do what you do.  How can you stay faithful to something you don’t even know what that something is?  Gray areas are organizational killers! We must simplify and clarify what we are about as an organization. Before you do anything else block out time in your schedule to figure out your vision!  You can also read my post here to help you clarify your vision.

2. Physically write out your “HOW”.

Now that you know your vision you need to figure out “HOW” you are going to achieve that vision.  This needs to be what your organization does and you need to keep it simple.  No more than 4 or 5 things.  A healthy church cannot be a ministry buffet and have more events going on than the event center  in your city.  You have to write out only what you are about, how you will achieve that, and build from there.  Maybe start extremely small and grow from there.  Like we are only going to focus on our Sunday service for the next 6 months until that is solid and then add the next step.  But simplifying your “HOW” keeps the vision clear and your people unified.

3. Your vision becomes your litmus test.

Everything is ran under the filter of your vision.  Every idea, every ministry, every opportunity, every lead team member, every staff member, etc…. If it doesn’t marry seamlessly with your vision then it is a no go.  That sounds harsh, but unnecessary modifications just mess up your gas mileage and keep you from going the distance that you were created to go!

4. Be willing to lose people.

You will lose people when you say no! Brace yourself and expect it, but you are losing people that are not helping but hurting the organization.  We as leaders have to be ok with losing a few to gain many.  The reality is that the people you lose need to find a church with a vision that they can rally around just as much as you need people to rally around your vision.  In losing people you are actually benefiting them and yourself because a healthy organization is not a forced relationship.  When we lose people that are not sold out our vision the mood rises, the growth starts happening, and the momentum takes off!

I would love to hear your thoughts below…. What are the biggest compromises that hurt your organizations vision?

Consistency is EVERYTHING!

Guess what?  Overnight success is a BIG FAT LIE.  It is a myth and does not exist!  Success only happens when we do the right things consistently over an extended period of time… If you have ever read Jim Collin’s book “Good to Great” he calls this the Flywheel concept.  That at first it is extremely difficult to push the lever and get the flywheel moving, but if you keep pushing soon momentum will take over.

I am convinced most people never live their dreams because they don’t have the grit to stay committed to the process.  Commitment without a time limit leads to a Dream without a height limit.  Most people have great ideas and great dreams, but most people never see those ideas and dreams manifest into reality because they don’t have the resolve to see them through.  Dreams and ideas are easy.  Everyone has dreams. Yet very few people actually live their dreams. Why? Because very few people are willing to stay consistent long enough to see results.  A farmer doesn’t plant seeds and then after a week gets mad because they haven’t sprouted immediately so he ignores them and then goes and plants something else.  No he understands it takes time for things to grow and during that process he waters them, fertilizes them, and is constantly removing the weeds so those plants can flourish.  We must do that with our dreams, ideas, and our organizations.

Is it hard? You better believe it is hard.  You have to hustle in those moments of waiting, you have to have faith, and you must be disciplined to stay committed to the process.  Dreams without discipline are just fantasies and too many people are living fantasies when we were intended to turn those dreams into realities.

So how do we stay committed during the process?

1. Know where you want to end up.

It is important to picture what your dream would look like completed.  Picture the end result… If the book was completed what would the cover look like, if the storefront was up and running how would it be laid out with all its products, if the website was running how would it function, what would your logo be, how would your week run if you were working your dream Full Time, design the house you want to build, or what is your perfect clothing size? Whatever your dream is start picturing the dream completed so that you have a target in mind.

2. Set Goals.

Goals are meant to be steps that lead to your dreams.  Now that you know where you are heading start figuring out your first steps and give yourself a deadline to accomplish them.  Create a list of 5 or so goals and give yourself 4 to 8 weeks to accomplish them.  When you start attacking your goals in small chunks and in short spurts of time you become less overwhelmed and you naturally create momentum for yourself.

3. Figure out where you need to grow.

There are certain areas you will need to grow in to see your goals accomplished.  Be honest with yourself and come up with a few things you need to develop to fulfill your goals you just set for yourself.  Maybe you need to develop discipline to stay focused and use your time wisely, maybe you need to recruit a team and you need to work on vision casting, or maybe you need work on being more organized so you can accomplish your tasks with everything else you are working on.  Do an honest assessment of yourself every time you set new goals and watch your goals get accomplished and leadership increase.

4. Do NOT Quit.

Just make the commitment now that you are committed to the process.  Quiting is NOT an option and you ARE going to stay committed to the process.

Do the right things, the right way, consistently, and watch the growth happen in your organization and your life!

3 Questions to discover your Vision

MP3 Version at the bottom

I get asked by many pastors and leaders a lot the “HOW” question.  How are you growing? How do you get more people to attend your church? How do you grow your client base? How do you grow your organization?

With Leaders we are obsessed with the “HOW” because we want that next level, we want that growth, we want that expansion, but that CANNOT be our first question we ask!

The first question that has to be answered is the “WHY”.  Why do you do what you do? What is going to separate you from every other organization? What is your vision? What does this look like?

You cannot just have a blanket statement or a generic answer like “Well I am called to pastor a Church”. Ok that is great, but what does that Church look like? Having a generic answer without being able to answer the why is like someone saying they want to be a writer.  Thats great but what are you going to write about?  Are you going to write biographies, teaching materials, or romance novels?  Are you going to write books or blog posts?

You have to get more specific with your calling.  There is so much uniqueness with people and you have the ability to impact those people that will connect with your heart, but first you have to ask the “WHY” question because that’s your Vision.

3 Questions that help you discover your Vision

1. What am I just naturally good at?

Ask yourself what are you or what is your organization just naturally good at? Now this question is not answered by what you think you should be good at?  See many times we find ourselves playing the clone game where we look at other organizations and try to be carbon copies.  It doesn’t work that way.

So ask yourself what are we gifted at? Where are we excellent or heading that way?

2. What am I passionate about?

You have to enjoy what you are doing or you’re wasting what is already precious time in a very short life.  Do NOT pursue something because it is a good idea, but pursue something because you’re passionate about it!  Good ideas will never fulfill you and they will never give you the resolve to be successful.  John Maxwell said perfectly “Passion provides the fuel in a person’s life to keep them going!”.  If you are not passionate about something you will burn out and quit!

3. What will work?

Now I know you may think that is the million dollar answer, but you should know the demographic or market well enough that you can see where the needs are not currently being met.  If you don’t have that understanding you have not put in the due diligence to succeed because success takes a TON OF WORK. Understand the people you are trying to reach and see where their needs are not being met and thats how you reach a group of people who are not currently getting their needs mets.

When these three answers come together it is like magic.  That is the vision!

Like the Bible says “Without vision the people will perish” or as other translations say “run wild”.  If you do not answer the “WHY” your organization will run away from you and you will be left picking up the pieces.

You MUST answer the “WHY” before the “HOW”!

Eternal Purpose

20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” -Mark 10:20-21

This thought engulfed my prayers when planting BLOOM “It’s time to quit wandering and get connected to our eternal purpose”

How am I going to eternally impact the Kingdom of God? I can follow all the commands and be the perfect Sunday Christian, but if it stops there I am missing the mark. Obeying the commands of God are vital, but there has to be more.  Jesus was calling the rich young ruler to abandon his personal plans for his life and pick up the ideas and dreams of God for his life.  The only way we can eternally impact the Kingdom of God is to connect with the will and purpose of God for our lives.  The scripture is not saying sell everything and live in poverty.  Its saying that you must completely devote yourself to the call of God and seek His will above all else.  When we are living in the will of God we are giving God the glory he deserves because we are saying our greatest desire is please Him.

Ask God to show you His plans for your life and to reveal the things in your heart that are taken priority of over Him.

Letter To Myself. Everything Is Filler

Hey Mike,

Your priority should not be running a company, organization, or running a church.  It is not budgets, reports, or events.

That stuff is all filler.  Your priority should be people!

You need to see people.  You need to know their stories.  You need to see their struggles, pains, & insecurities. You need to know their dreams, desires, and how they see God. Don’t get so busy in your life that you ignore the lives of everyone around you.  Nothing matters if you are not building meaningful relationships with people.

Everything else is filler.

There is people that do not feel loved, have no peace, that are miserable, and depressed.  There are people who feel all alone, feel like nobody cares, and feel like accidents.  Those people live in your neighborhood, pass you in the aisles at the grocery store, make your coffee, and go to your church.  Don’t just see them as a face in the crowd or butts in the seats.  See them for who they are which is not the way they feel about themselves, but the way God feels about them.  God has carved greatness in their souls and when He formed them in their mothers womb He created them with a specific purpose.  They are a part of Gods family and He loves them with and never ending love.  We are supposed to love like that because He has loved us and we are supposed to see people the way He sees them because we are to bear His image.

It is about the people.  Everything else is filler.