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!

The Most Overlooked But Important Aspect of Organizations.

Most leaders focus their entire efforts on the visual product. Whether that be the services they provide, the items their organization is selling, or as Pastors the worship experience i.e. the preaching and music. Focusing on those things are not inherently bad unless you are ignoring the unseen factor which is culture. Culture is not seen, but felt and experienced. Culture can’t be copied from someone else, but has to be developed from who you are as an organization. Culture is the unified DNA of your leaders that creates an environment that your people feel or experience.

A good way to check the pulse of how effective your culture may be is by listening to people’s feedback on how they felt as they experienced your organization. Not what they liked, but how what they liked made them feel! It is one thing to hear “that was a good message” compared to “I felt like you were speaking directly to me and I left with so much hope”. Its one thing to hear “your people are nice” or “I have never felt so welcomed, loved, and at home by the way I was greeted”. Do you see the difference? It is how they feel that communicates most effectively what they experienced and what they experience is your culture.

Every organization has a culture whether they realize it or not, but most do not have an effective culture. I have heard it said by many leaders that “A bad culture eats a good vision for breakfast”. So focusing on your culture is imperative for your organization and developing team values is one of the most effective ways in identifying the culture you desire for your organization.

1. Write out what you want to stand for!

Team values are a list of traits that make up your leaders and what you stand for as an organization. What do you want to be known for when people talk about you to others? What do you want people to experience in your organization? What are qualities you want your leaders to have?

2. Don’t create more than ten.

If you have too many values your people won’t remember any of them. List out the values that you identified earlier and start to list out the absolute most important down to the least important. Also identify if any values could be combined because of similarities.

3. Make the value rememberable.

Don’t make the value to long and complicated, but keep it short to make it easier to remember. You can add a short description afterwards to really define it, but the initial value should be something we can remember. For an example you can find our Team Values at Bloom Church here.

4. Repeat often.

Vision leaks and so does your values. We get so busy doing our projects that our tunnel vision can cloud our memory. It is important to constantly go over your values just like you would go over your vision. I heard Craig Groeschel once say something of the sorts that when your team starts making fun of what you say because you have said it so much that it has finally stuck. Speak your values so much that your team starts finishing your sentences.

5. Celebrate often.

What is celebrated is repeated. Celebrate when your people are rising up to the occasion and creating a culture that impacts your people. Celebrate with words, with cards, and with gifts. Also it is great to celebrate these people publicly in front of the whole team because it does two things. First the person feels extremely special as they become recognized in front of their peers, but also it reminds the other team members that you notice those values being lived out. So it is a positive way to remind the team to rise up to the occasion.

Values create culture, culture creates an environment, and an environment creates an experience. This is should be at the top of your list to develop and implement immediately because it will radically shift the interactions that you have with your people. Remember culture doesn’t cost anything but time and effort!

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!

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?