The Secret Ingredient Behind Critical Thinking

The first time I read 1 Kings 3 I was both awed and inspired. It’s the conversation between Solomon and God about what Solomon desired the most. He didn’t ask for riches or a long life, he asked for wisdom. I vividly remember praying that same prayer as a new believer those many years ago; and I’ve prayed it many times since then.

Here’s what Solomon prayed:

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 1 Kings 3:7-9

He confessed, “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.” Who hasn’t experienced that feeling of being inadequate and lacking in understanding? I suspect it’s actually an important element in every leader’s life. Some might call it humility.

When I read that sentence, I can’t help but hear Solomon saying, “I don’t think like an adult yet. I need help!” Here’s the man who is now known primarily for his great wisdom, who seemed to have a natural skill for critical thinking, saying he still thinks like a child. 

Of course, we know God was very pleased that he asked for this instead of long life and riches. In fact, Solomon later proclaimed the virtues of drawing on God’s wisdom in Proverbs.

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” Proverbs 2:1-11

I wonder if Solomon was thinking about that prayer in 1 Kings 3 when he wrote that first sentence?

The New Testament also reminds the believer to look to God as the source for wisdom.

Solutions ARE available when we choose to seek the Lord. This doesn’t mean solutions will fall out of heaven into our laps. It means God will give us the tools and ability to discover solutions as we apply ourselves to find them.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault.” James 1:5

In my experience, critical thinking is a skill that must always be mixed with the favor and wisdom that only comes from God. Too often I have been guilty of trying to figure things out on my own; and although that type of thinking can still bring good results, I don’t believe it always leads to God’s very best. 

“Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regards to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” 1 Corinthians 14:20

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” | “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom…” 1 Corinthians 1:20, 25

Critical Thinking – Step 1. What’s the first step in becoming someone who can tackle problems and find great solutions? Two words.

Seek God.

 

photo credit: Davide Restivo via photopin cc

Looking For An Exceptional Greeter?

I love to tell the story about a large church in New York City that invites anyone who wants to be a greeter to join them Sunday morning. In the back room, before people begin arriving for church, all volunteers are asked to line up and smile. The pastor in charge then points to different people down the line to be the greeters for the morning, encouraging everyone else to work on their smile before coming back.

The fact is, just because someone is a nice person doesn’t necessarily mean they would make a great greeter. The best greeters are those that help attendees feel both welcome and at home as they arrive at church. They will help ease worries, reduce tension and are an important part of a first time guest’s first impression.

The Exceptional Greeter Workshop.

I’d like to introduce to you, ‘The Exceptional Greeter’ workshop, where I share some basic principles that are so easy to implement, but sometimes difficult to remember. Turn your ‘ho-hum’ greeters and ushers into ‘amazing’ greeters and ushers. 

The Exceptional Greeter is available in two formats: DVD or Thumb Drive. It includes video teaching as well as a participant’s note-taker. The 2 hour workshop is designed to be split into several 10-20 minute teaching segments, each followed by a group oriented question to facilitate workshop discussion & interaction throughout.

ORDER TODAY! 

How To Know If Guests Will Want To Return

I visited a popular Mexican Restaurant with my 14 year old son a while back.

He was convinced I would love the place. I was doubtful, which means I went into the experience already critical of what might happen. As you might expect, I had a terrible experience while my son loved it and was left scratching his head why I hated it. Here’s my short list:

  • The line was long, so I had to stand and wait for 10 minutes.
  • The floor was a simple, and dirty, concrete floor.
  • They didn’t serve ground beef, which is what I love on my taco salad.
  • They didn’t have any normal lettuce for my taco salad.
  • I had to pay extra if I wanted some nacho’s (where I normally go they are free.)
  • The ice machine was broken and the soda was warm (really.)
  • The place we chose to sit at was dirty and I had to clean it off myself first.

Most people reading that list will agree with me that I had a right to complain, and not want to return. And yet, there was a line of regular customers (like my son) who loves the place and will come back over and over, despite some minor (or even major) problems with the overall experience.

Why is that? Because loyal customers don’t need to be treated extra special to remain loyal. But that’s not true for first-time guests! Successful organizations will know how to roll out the red carpet for new people, and they will know how to invite them to return for a second visit!

THE SAME IS TRUE FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH!

How to know if your guests will want to return.

There are several proven strategies that, when embraced by local churches, will ensure most 1st time guests will be likely to come back for another visit. Here are just a few.

VIP Treatment the Moment They Arrive

The best greeter teams are those that know how to identify and host guests. From the moment guests arrive on the scene (as early as the parking lot in some cases) there are people available to kindly direct them to others who will then explain where things are, what to expect and, if necessary, help them find a seat. The most anxious first-timers will begin to relax and focus on God when their worries and fears are dealt with within the first 2-3 minutes after they arrive.

A Warm & Welcoming Environment

The moment churches forget they are hosting guests is the moment they stop caring about the floors, windows, bathrooms and rest of the building. That’s the moment when the church has decided to hold outsiders at arms length and just focus on insiders. This will be immediately obvious to visitors and may play a much larger role in deterring their return than just about anything else. First time guests should never be distracted by a dirty or run-down facility. 

Handling Kids With Care

Church leaders and greeters will do well to always treat the children and teens of first-time guests with the utmost respect and care. They will over-communicate where they will go and what to expect and they will exceed those expectations. Many long-standing church attendees around the world will confess in private that the real reason they came back was because of their children. Alternatively, ignore children and offer them a bad experience and your guests are almost sure to never return again.

Friendly Attendees

It makes a huge positive impression when the regular attendees are genuinely friendly and reach out to first-time guests. The subtext behind this environment is, “People are really nice here, and I can use friends who are nice to be around. Maybe I should come again.” I’ve visited churches who would label themselves as friendly, but who treated me like I was invisible. And I’ve visited those who are so obviously friendly towards outsiders. The difference between the two might be compared to the difference between the winter weather in the northern versus the southern United States.

Strategic Follow-Up

Unless your first-time guests are already committed ‘church goers’ it’s unlikely that your guests will think of coming back anytime soon. After all, they hold no loyalty toward the church or God yet. For the truly unchurched guest, church attendance might be viewed as something to do on a rainy day, when they think about it or simply when time permits. So churches need to strategically follow-up with their guests, preferably within hours or a day or two of their visit. And they shouldn’t forget about their guests after their ‘obligatory follow-up’ either. Rather, churches should consider methods by which they can occasionally invite past guests to upcoming events or sermon series that may potentially draw them back to the church for another visit.


What other ‘first-time guest’ strategies would you recommend?

(don’t forget to check out my webinar on this very topic later this week!)

10 Tips For Effective Guest Follow-Up

 

A while back my wife and I were invited to dinner with another couple in our church. From the moment we arrived until the moment we left we were treated like honored guests. The food was great, the fellowship was great and the overall experience was just very relaxing and enjoyable.

The next morning we discovered the host family had sent us an email thanking us for joining them for the meal and we found a post on Facebook announcing their joy in spending time with us. I was really impressed that they were still thinking of us even after the official ‘event’ was over with. It was definitely a Romans 12:13 experience.

“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

There are so many things the local church can learn and should emulate from my experience with this family. The one I’d like to highlight in today’s post has to do with the importance and value of effective guest follow-up.

Consider this scenario:

It’s Sunday afternoon and Tim & Joanne just finished lunch with their two teenage kids. Conversation centered around everyone’s impression of the church they visited that morning for the first time. Everyone was in agreement that they enjoyed the service and the people were mostly friendly. Since attending church is not something they normally do as a family they found it a novel experience, to say the least. That said, nobody suggested going back next week.

Two days later Joanne and her daughter are sitting in the living room watching TV when a commercial comes on, distracting them for a moment. Joanne mentions that she received a nice letter from the pastor expressing how glad he was that they visited and letting them know he’d love to talk with them sometime if they have any questions about their first visit to the church. This sparks a lively conversation about one aspect of the service that they did find awkward (the singing). Before the show resumed, the daughter wondered if they should try visiting again some Sunday. 

Fast forward three weeks to a Saturday afternoon. Everyone is driving back from a baseball game when Tim announces he had just received an email that morning from one of the greeters of the church inviting them to come visit the church again sometime. He asked his family, “What do you all think of us going back tomorrow morning?” After some discussion about schedules, everyone agrees to give it another try.

A simple little story that highlights just one thing: the potential influence of guest follow-up. In this scenario, had the church not reached out to that family again, it could have been months or even years before they ever came back. The busy-ness of life and schedules hold a greater demand on their time.

Church was hardly the center of this family’s attention or priorities, but they decided to visit again. I wonder what might happen after they have come a second time? Will their conversation at lunch that Sunday result in a die-hard commitment to the church for the rest of their lives?

I doubt it very much. Assuming they have another great experience (which is sometimes ‘iffy’) they may find themselves a little more vested than a month ago, but not enough to become regular attendees yet. Thus, the importance of a second time guest follow up.

I’m a firm believer in consistent, intentional and friendly follow-up to Sunday service guests.

I believe there is a RIGHT way and a WRONG way to follow up with church guests. In fact, poor guest follow up might actually end up being worse than no follow up at all. Check out some of these tips for great guest-friendly follow-up.

10 Follow-Up Tips

1. Decide to Follow Up.

One of the biggest reasons church’s don’t follow-up is simply because they are already busy and overwhelmed. Follow-up is just one more thing to do and often it gets shoved to the back burner for more urgent tasks. What most pastors and leaders forget is that effective follow-up may ultimately be one of the most mission-critical things you do besides the Sunday morning experience. Your passion to see lives transformed means you should be committed to finding ways to encourage people who need what you have (Christ’s Transforming Love) to return again and again until they have received it. Make a decision this week to start or begin evaluating your guest follow up.

2. Ask Permission.

Nobody likes to receive communications without at least some small amount of permission first. It’s not necessary to literally ask a person if you can send them information; but it’s usually wise to create a system whereby they give you their email, phone numbers, and mailing address (as opposed to surprising them by sending them communications by looking them up). The simple task of having them write out their information is implication enough that you just may DO something with that information. For example: Asking them to fill out an information card during their visit to the church.

3. No Pressure.

Please don’t pressure your guests to come back or make them feel guilty if they don’t visit again! This is, perhaps, one of the worst ways to communicate with new people in your church. Whether you are sending a letter, email, Facebook message, or calling them on the phone, remember to treat them as you would want to be treated were you in their shoes. Guests want to feel valued and special when they hear from you. This also means that you shouldn’t presume that they will or will want to visit the church again in the near future.

4. Be a Giver.

The focus of your follow-up communications should stay solely on serving your guest. What can you give to them to help them in this season of their life? You know they may be interested in your church, so GIVE them information they are interested in receiving about your church, with no strings attached. Ask them about their experience on Sunday and if they have any questions about anything. You also know that, whether they know it or not, people usually attend church because God is drawing them. If possible, find out what’s going on in their life that you or your church can help them with. Ask them if there’s anything they would like prayer for. As a bonus, if you can find ways to literally give your guests gifts I’m sure they won’t be too upset. For example: Include a $5 gift card or see if a business owner in your church would be willing to give out free coupons to guests for their product or services.

5. Look Out.

In this article I discuss the difference between Insiders Looking In, Insiders Looking Out, Outsiders Looking In, and Outsiders Looking Out. Taylor your follow up with an ‘Outsiders Looking In’ or an ‘Outsiders Looking Out’ perspective. Remember the world they live in and that their lives are probably already complicated and full.

6. Follow Up More than Once

It is very common for churches to send one follow-up to guests and then to never contact them again. Unfortunately, one follow-up is rarely enough to encourage repeat visits for every guest. Fact: Your guests will probably NOT attend your church consistently at first. They may visit two, three or more times over the course of several months before they start attending weekly. Fact: Your guests have NOT decided to make your church their church home after visiting two or three times. They may say they like your church and the people, but they are not vested in attending regularly yet. Follow up after each guest attendance – at least the first three if not more. Consider following up more often in between visits as well. For example, I know a church that sends a letter to all the guests who visited their church the previous month.

7. Build Follow-Up Systems

There is no way you will be consistently successful in guest friendly follow-up without some systems in place to accommodate what amounts to a highly administrative part of church work. Check out this article I wrote about the Systems/People Matrix. This means you need a simple system for collecting guest information, processing it, tracking it so that you know how often your guests have attended, clarifying which type of follow up should happen (first time follow-up, second time, etc.), and getting the right tasks to the right people in order to actually do that particular follow up. Note: there’s no way around it, you will need a secretary or an administratively gifted individual to champion your follow-up systems.

8. Be Relevant

What worked last decade probably isn’t relevant today. Letters are nice in certain communities and for the older generations they are probably great. But take into consideration your demographics and who you are trying to reach when you choose your methods of follow-up. At one church I worked with for many months they chose to follow-up with a mix of phone calls, letters, emails and Facebook posts.

9. Be Personal

Another way to say it is, “Be friendly.” It is altogether too easy to write an email or letter that sounds formal and businesslike. Not good. Work hard at ensuring the tone of your nonverbal communications are down to earth and friendly. Work just as hard at your verbal follow-ups. You may even consider writing out a script that could be used to ensure your language is friendly over the phone. For instance, “Hello, this is Pastor Bill from the Community Church. I was wondering if I could speak with Tim or Joanne? Oh, hi Joanne. (1)Am I catching you at a bad time? Great. (2)How are you today? . . .  (3)Joanne, the reason I’m calling today is simply to follow-up on your visit to church this last week. (4)I was wondering how you liked the service and if you had any questions about your experience . . . . . . Hey, one more thing before I let you go. (5)Is there anything I can pray for you and your family about this week? . . . . OK. (6)I’m so glad we were able to connect for a few minutes. Have a great day! Bye now.” Notice the script includes several key phrases I wouldn’t want to forget to say. I also phrased them in a conversational way to help me keep the conversation informal. 

10. Follow Up in Bite Size Chunks

You’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” It applies here. Please develop your Guest Friendly Follow Up, but don’t try to go from zero to hero in one week. Build your follow-up systems in small pieces to ensure the systems work. A few months ago I was coaching a pastor and he told me he was ready to take another step in his follow-up systems. We developed a system where a particularly nice and caring man in the church gets a list of 2nd time guests once a month and calls them to pray for them and invite them to an upcoming special event or Sunday service again. It was one step forward. He spent several weeks getting that strategy up and running, and then came back and started talking about what should happen after that.

What Is the formula for united change?

I recently spoke with a church member who was frustrated with his local church. He confided he was considering attending elsewhere. He expressed doubt in the leadership’s ability to make wise choices. He always felt out of the loop. Announcements made about changes in the way things were going to be done with kids, small groups or upcoming event schedules always came unexpectedly and last minute. There was never any room for discussion. They were announced and it was assumed that everyone would line up and follow the new marching orders.

His solution to the problem was to quietly slip out the back door. When I suggested he talk to the pastor he made a very interesting comment. He said, “I wouldn’t know what to say to him. He’s in charge, I’m not. Plus, it’s not like he’s done anything grossly wrong.” When I pressed him further, I discovered he actually had tried to talk with the pastor about the issue earlier in the year, as best he could. The problem was that he didn’t really know exactly what the issue was – just that he felt discontent, disconnected and powerless to make a difference. Nothing changed.

There are two very important elements that every church leadership team should include whenever introducing change. Most don’t. Both elements slow things down. They gum up the works and make things more complicated. However, without them there will almost always be dissension and dissatisfaction. Something the apostle Paul warned us to stay away from.

In my years of ministry I have come to the conclusion that the below formula is super important when introducing change to your congregation. It doesn’t matter if the change is something huge like a building campaign or something relatively minor like switching youth group night. Following this formula will ensure the highest involvement, participation and commitment to your cause from your attendees. 

Here is the all-important formula:

Communication + Time = United Change

Let’s unpack the formula a little bit.

Communication

The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. George Bernard Shaw  People need to get the skinny if you want them to buy-in. Even better, give them a chance to pipe in with their thoughts and input. All you have to commit to is explain and listen. Most complainers wouldn’t be so difficult if they were just heard. Of course, who wants to do all that work? Better to just make the decisions and roll them out, right? That could work, but it won’t lead to committed people. The people that usually follow that kind of leader are those who are either loyal to them no matter what or those who really don’t care either way. No. Share the vision with them and give them time to process and be part of the discussion, first. “When people see their own ideas and fingerprints on the work, they have a sense of ownership that feels true and genuine.” Barry Demp

Time

If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? John Wooden  Communication must be combined with time. That is, people need time to think through your vision. To process. To ask questions. To check their schedule and life and see if it will fit. When you don’t give people time, you are showing a lack of respect for them – the very thing you’re trying hard not to do. So give people time to process change, especially change that will impact them. If your changing worship team rehearsal night from Tuesday to Wednesday, there are only a few people who need to know, but give them time. Communicate + Time will more likely lead to wholehearted commitment to the changes, even when it requires a sacrifice on their part.

United Change

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 1:10  The Word of God has a lot to say about the topic of unity. We are called to work hard at obtaining unity and maintaining it. How ironic that many times we are the reason we lack it, simply because we don’t go the extra mile to communicate clearly and give people time to get on board!


 
How do you introduce change to your congregation?

Time Management 101: The Weekly Schedule

Over the years I’ve occasionally come across a person who prefers to rely on memory for upcoming events and appointments. I can only imagine that they either have an amazing memory, a very simple life or are in store for a rude awakening someday. If you have any level of responsibility over other people, whether that be at work or at home, then I highly recommend the weekly schedule. In fact, the more people in your life, the more important a weekly schedule becomes.

The Weekly Schedule – Ugh. Personally, I would love to do many other things than work on my schedule each week. It’s work and it requires forethought and emotional energy. However, I have NEVER regretted it once I’m done. It falls into the category of things to do that won’t serve you now, but will reap great rewards later.

Benefits of the Weekly Schedule:

Peace of Mind.

When you have scheduled your week really well, you will know that you won’t forget or miss anything important that week. You will prioritize your time based on the allotted hours you have available and can know that you’ve done your best.

Maximized Creativity.

When you choose to free your memory up from having to remember basic things, you increase your brain bandwidth so that you can focus on other things. Who wants to lie in bed at night and try to think up what the schedule is supposed to be tomorrow?

Increased Productivity.

Building your schedule each week will allow you to build the most appropriate hours into your week for the most important things, which means you’ll get the things done you really need to.

A Balanced Lifestyle.

If you build a great weekly schedule, then you will make sure you leave room for ALL the priorities in your life, rather than one or two. For instance, it’s harder for an honest person to schedule a work-week that excludes loved ones when you intentionally choose to schedule every aspect of your week.

Stronger Relationships.

Again, a good schedule will make sure your family, friends, direct reports, and colleagues get the attention they need. It’s nearly impossible to balance your relationships without the weekly schedule.

POINTERS ON BUILDING YOUR WEEKLY SCHEDULE:

Create a New Schedule Each Week.

Yep. You heard me. Build a new schedule each week. No, wait. That probably doesn’t apply to everyone. Of course, if you’ve read this far, it probably still applies to you. The only reason I can see for NOT building a new schedule each week is if you don’t have kids or grand-kids, your job is exactly the same every day, and what you do each week is also exactly the same. I know a few empty nesters and retired folk who can just build a basic schedule and live with that. For the rest of us, we will need to rebuild our schedule each week.

This is especially true for pastors. Most pastors have enough flexibility that they can modify their weekly schedule at will. I find that building my weekly schedule forces me to be faithful to my responsibilities at work while honoring my family time and personal life.

Commit to a Certain Number of ‘Work/Ministry’ Hours Each Week.

I want to be a little careful here. Full time ministry is a holy calling and a great privilege. However, too many times pastors and spiritual leaders sacrifice the holy calling to love and protect their family on the altar of church work. The fact is, for pastors, what’s ‘church’ for everyone else is ‘work’ for them. Hopefully, it’s a great joy and service to God when at ‘work’, but it is ‘work’ nonetheless.

Every once in a while, I come across a pastor who does the opposite as well. They are paid a full time salary, but only put in 25 or 30 hours of ‘work/ministry’ on a given week. In the long run, this is dishonoring to the church, to the Lord, and eventually to your family. Unless you have specifically made arrangements to work part-time with your board, you should put in no less than 40 hours of work/ministry every week. If God has called you to full-time ministry, then He has called you to fulfill that role in every way you can.

My target for each week is between 40 and 45 hours. Sometimes I may work over that, other times under; but I am faithful to those numbers. 

Block Out Work Hours in Your Calendar.

This may not be relevant to everyone, but it is to me. I block out the hours I intend to work each day of my week. This allows me to make sure I’m staying ‘in-bounds’ in terms of my committed hours and it also sends a clear message to everyone who has access to my calendar when I am at work and when I am not.

Build Your Weekly Schedule Before Your Week Begins.

I used to build my schedule on Monday mornings, when my week begins. I discovered that, by waiting until Monday, I missed scheduling out Monday. In fact, sometimes I wouldn’t even get to building my weekly schedule until the day was nearly over! So now I try to build my week on Friday or Saturday at the latest.

Observe the Sabbath Day by Keeping it Holy.

I know I’m preaching to the choir, but sometimes us pastors are good at preaching and forget it applies to us too. I know I do! Build at least one full day off into your schedule. I won’t tell you what to do on that day, just stay away from church emails and your office!

Schedule Your Life, Not Your Work.

The best way to ensure we don’t go home and become a couch potato is to schedule what will happen when you get home. Make sure you set aside time for your spouse and kids, for rest and recreation, for friends, and for your health. I’ll be honest, this is hard for most of us (and me). I think we often enjoy the ‘spontaneity’ of just coming home with little planned. The problem is that little planned can easily turns into hours of nothing.

Big Rocks First.

I think you know what I mean. You figure out what is most important for you to accomplish that week (it likely changes week to week) and schedule the appropriate time in. Hint: look at least three or four weeks out when you put in your big rocks. You may discover that there is something coming up that you know you’ll need to work on now that you should schedule time for. I’ll talk more about project management and advanced planning another time.

Eat The Frog.

Perhaps you haven’t heard the analogy yet from author Brian Tracy’s book “Eat That Frog“. The principle goes like this: If you had to eat a frog as part of your day, when should you eat it? Answer: first thing, get it over with. Take care of whatever you have facing you and dread doing early in the week.

Follow Your Plan.

Obviously, your time is wasted if you build a schedule and then just do whatever you feel like doing anyway. The point of the weekly schedule is to keep you on target.

Advanced Weekly Planning:

These next few ideas are not for the newbie. If you can successfully build and follow a weekly schedule, then consider taking it to the next level.

Build Your Ideal Week.

This is something I learned from Michael Hyatt right HERE and have utilized at various times in my life successfully. The idea is that you block out what you want every day to look like in a perfect world, and then build your weekly schedule based on that ideal.

Identify Your Ideal Blocks.

You have blocks of activity that you know you HAVE to accomplish each week in order to survive. If you are a pastor, you should figure out how many hours you really should block out for sermon prep. If you are a worship leader, same thing. You should also identify how much time you should block out each week for ‘Admin’ time – that’s time to return calls, handle emails, etc.

Treat Blocked Time Like Meetings.

You know those blocks of time are critical to your week and will ensure you don’t go overtime or compromise something important you have planned. So be very intentional about keeping your blocked time for things like admin, sermon prep, event prep, etc. Sometimes people will ask me if they can meet with me during a time I’ve blocked out; often my response is simply, “Sorry, I already have things I need to work on during that time. Let’s setup a time to discuss it tomorrow or next week.”

Block Out Flex Time.

No schedule is perfect. Leave room every day for flex time. That way, perhaps you’ll be able to make the occasional trip to the bathroom and call your spouse!

Consider Creating Themes to Your Days or Hours.

Again, I learned this from Michael Hyatt right HERE. What I like about this idea is that this principle should allow you to focus better by minimizing the constant need to multi-task each day.

Schedule Two or More Weeks Out.

I don’t always do this, but when I do, I love it. It forces me to think more long term and shows me what my limitations are in terms of time available for people and meetings. If I over-schedule in meetings one week, I can intentionally make up for lost time the following week.

What do you think? What else could you add to your weekly schedule to maximize your productivity?

Blind Spots for the Local Church

 
I visited a church a while back that had a BIG blind spot. At least, it seemed like a blind spot to me. I could see the problem, but none of the leaders seemed to realize it was there. The problem was that they really believed they were a friendly church, but in reality they weren’t . . . unless you were an insider. I was greeted at the door, which was nice; but from that point forward I became invisible. People actually seemed to work hard at avoiding eye contact with me! This ‘Blind Spot’ is really hurting them – mostly because they are blind to the problem, while it’s painfully obvious to every guest who darkens their door.

Last week I wrote a post entitled, ‘Blind Spots for the Christian Leader‘. This simple matrix does a great job of defining the various areas of self awareness each of us possess. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you jump back & check it out.

Today, I’d like to explore how the Johari Window applies to the local church (rather than just the pastor or a leader within the church). Here’s a review of how the Johari Window works. 

Johari-Window3

In the above image you’ll note the four quadrants.  Each section represents knowledge or lack of knowledge regarding various character traits, weaknesses, etc. for the individual, or for today’s discussion, the local church. Because we are dealing with a group of people instead of just one person, each quadrant gets a little more complicated. With the exception of the ‘Unknown’ section, there end up being different groups of people for each area. So far as I can tell, here are the different groups of people we should keep in mind:

  • Leaders: This includes the pastor, key staff, elders and any other leaders who are on the front lines in ministry at the church.
  • Members/Attendees: This includes everyone else who attends regularly and are the recipients of most of the ministry at the church.
  • Guests: This includes anyone who attends a service, activity, or event for the first time as well as those who come back to visit two or more times. A ‘guest’ is anyone who considers themselves a visitor at the church, regardless of how long they have been attending.
  • Community: This includes anyone in your community who has never attended your church. 

Let’s take a look at each quadrant in relation to the local church:

Open Self – Known To Everyone

For the local church, this is the smallest quadrant of all. There is very little about a local church that everyone knows about, especially when you add in the community – some of whom may not even know the church exists. Depending on the community, the ‘Arena’ quadrant may include things like the church name, location and/or pastor.
 

Hidden Self – Known Only To Us

Leaders are aware of things that members, guests, and the community are unaware of. Examples might include sensitive information like giving records, individual’s unique circumstances, people problems, etc. It may also include a clearer understanding of the bigger picture for the church. For instance, leaders are most likely to know where the church has been and where it’s going.

On the down-side, leaders are often guilty of unintentionally holding their cards too closely to the chest. As a result, sometimes other leaders, volunteers, and/or members can be stuck serving without fully comprehending what they are doing, how they should do it, or why it’s important.

Members are usually ‘in the know’ in some areas, at least in comparison to guests and the community. Where church life can get messy is when members are aware of sensitive information that doesn’t include the whole story or bigger picture. This is a feeding frenzy for satan to reek havoc in the church. Lack of communication or miscommunication will often lead to false conclusions, wrong expectations, and misguided assumptions.

To make matters even more complex, many times members are privy to situations and needs in the church that leaders are unaware of and don’t take the ownership to communicate what’s going on with them. Again, this disables whatever care those leaders may be able to exert in the situation.

Finally, leaders often fail to realize that many members are exactly what they need to solve certain problems, lead certain ministries, or fund new initiatives. God has placed the right people in ‘the house’ for the ministry He wants to initiate. This means many members have the skills, experience or funds to fulfill those purposes, if leaders would just invite them to participate.
 

Blind Self – Known to Others, Unknown to Us

Leaders are often the ones in the dark in this quadrant. There’s an old saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” It may be true for the church leader & pastor. Many would rather not know what they don’t know, but ultimately it isn’t healthy or helpful to the success of the church.

Blind Spots for leaders will include what people really think about the services, events, and activities in the church. For instance, the pastor may believe the weekly bible study is important, relevant and impacting to those who attend while the attendees may simply come because they believe they are supposed to, not because it is helpful to them. Other leadership Blind Spots might include genuine needs that members, guests and the community has, but which have never been communicated to them.

(Remember, we are focusing on the organization, not the individual – there are more blind spots that the pastor or a leader may have personally which I’ve discussed in the post ‘Johari Window for the Christian Leader‘.)

Members often have blind spots in their overall effectiveness or involvement in ministry in the church. Additionally, they may not reflect the values and culture the leadership is expecting or hoping for. This is usually due to a lack of communication, mentoring and regular leadership development.

Guests are blind to nearly everything going on around them. Often, their perceptions do not fully reflect reality. They may perceive the church as a warm, friendly place at the start but discover later on that it’s very difficult to connect with people. Conversely, their first impression may be that the church is unfriendly and irrelevant when in reality the opposite is true, were they to stick around. They may be blind to conflict or organizational dysfunction until they’ve been around for a few months or even years. Research says that 96% of people who have a bad experience never complain. This means your guests may know things about your church that you are completely clueless about; in particular, their first impressions and experiences.

The Community is usually completely clueless. If they are even aware your church exists, what they do think about the church and those in the church rarely reflects reality. Unfortunately, this may also contribute to their unwillingness to visit. That said the community may also have important information about your church that you are unaware of. In particular, they know what they think about the church, even if it’s not true. For example, perhaps they ‘heard’ about a guest’s bad experience or a member was rude or insensitive to someone they know. Maybe that community event the church hosted ten years ago that didn’t go very well is still resident in many people’s minds. Individuals in the community will almost never share these thoughts with church leaders, unless they somehow find their way into the life of the church first and reflect back on their original perceptions.
 

UNKNOWN – Known to No One but God

There are things about your church that nobody knows, but God. Some of those things don’t really matter, like where the cool Christmas lights went that were bought two years ago. However, sometimes there are important aspects of ministry that, if revealed, would stimulate personal and numerical growth over time. This is why it is so critical that church leaders remain humble, are voracious learners and readers, and are willing to allow others outside their church (and often inside their church) provide ongoing coaching to them both personally and organizationally.

As a ministry coach, I might be able to play a role in helping you unveil some of the ‘Unknown’ in your ministry. If you’re interested, please contact me and we’ll start a conversation about it.

 

Blind Spots for the Christian Leader

Back in 1955 a couple of men came up with this great model to help people discuss various aspects of self-awareness. The word ‘JoHari’ is a combination of the two people’s first names (Joseph & Harry). In the Johari Window you see four quadrants expressing personal knowledge or lack of knowledge regarding various character traits, weaknesses, etc. The below chart shows each of these quadrants.

Johari-Window3

Open Self: Known to self and others.

This is what we usually communicate to others or is obvious to nearly everyone. It may be something physical, like a blemish or your weight; or it could include things like your education, number of children in your family, a hobby or your job.

Hidden Self: Known to self, but unknown to others.

This is what we conceal from others about ourselves. Sometimes there is a good reason for holding something back, ex. computer passwords or confidential information about others. At other times it may include information you know would not be appropriate to share, ex. a special moment with a spouse or with God. The rest of the time this quadrant will include secrets – most of which we are embarrassed or afraid to share with others.

Blind Self: Unknown to self, but known to others.

Also known as ‘Blind Spots’. This is where our ignorance can truly hurt us. Others see a weakness, flaw, or even a strength and assume you already know about it or choose not to tell you. You’re left in the dark and don’t even know it. For example, perhaps you tend to have strong B.O., often seem angry, rarely smile, or just can’t preach (wait, I meant ‘sing’). On the positive side, it’s very possible others see a gift in you that would be great to strengthen and develop, but nobody ever says anything, e.g. hospitality. Blind Spot’s may run much deeper and darker as well. This is where people have bought into lies earlier in life that they are completely unaware of. Lies may include pride, insecurity, an addiction, stubbornness, insensitivity, and more.

Unknown Self: Unknown to either self or others.

This final quadrant is disclosed to God alone. It will include the inner workings of your life, personality, character, history, sin nature, etc. that may never fully be disclosed to anyone else. That doesn’t mean it won’t one day be revealed. It’s possible God is waiting for the opportune time to reveal an Unknown strength or weakness. David’s prayers were often requests for God to reveal the unknown to him, like in Psalm 139: 23-24.
 


 
If this is your first time seeing this matrix, I know what you’re thinking. “I can’t wait to teach this on a Sunday morning!” or “I should share this with {fill in the blank} – since they have so many blind spots!”

Let’s hold the phone for a while. I’d like to pose a question to YOU first. Here it is.

What are you doing to shrink the “Blind Spot” quadrant in your life?

It’s folly to assume that we don’t have blind spots. Proverbs regularly reminds us to remain humble before both God and man. For example, “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.” Pr. 28:26, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” Pr. 19:20, and “rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge.” Pr. 19:25.

There’s an age-old way for you to begin shrinking that window in your life; but it takes great courage to do it. Find some trusted people and ask them to share what they know or think about you. I’m not just talking about your best friend. Select several people who see you in different venues and who you trust implicitly to be open, honest, and loving with you. 

You might think the courageous part is sitting them down to ask them self-disclosing questions, but the really brave moment is when they begin telling you what you don’t know. That is the moment of truth. It’s the moment when you choose between foolishness or wisdom. I have one word of advice. Assume they are telling you the truth. To do otherwise is to be presumptuous – and dishonoring to them.

After all, how can you judge if they are right if it’s a blind spot? At the very least, admit that their commentary about you reflects a real perception, if not reality. 

A few questions to get you started:

  • What do you view as my primary strengths?
  • What do you consider to be my primary weaknesses?
  • Do I seem approachable to you?
  • Do you think people are afraid to confront me about anything?
  • Is there anything you notice in my personal life/family that concerns you?
  • Have you ever been aware of an ‘elephant in the room’ when I have been leading meetings or sharing a sermon? 
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate my effectiveness as a communicator?
  • If I hired you as a personal life coach, what would you want us to work on first in my life?
  • Is it possible that I believe I’m good at something that others probably wouldn’t necessarily agree with?

Rethinking How We Lead Meetings

 

How are you at leading meetings? If you lead them, you better be asking. I lead meetings. Lots of them. Perhaps too many of them. It is so easy for me to get into the groove of leading the meetings without evaluating if I’m actually doing it well. These people are looking to me to lead an engaging, productive, and team building meeting where we all grow in our trust for one another. They eagerly and often secretly hope that the meetings will end on time or early, but they want to be engaged in the meetings as well. They hate boring meetings.

In the past few weeks I’ve talked to several pastors and leaders who were hoping I’d give tips on leading meetings. I’ve gotten the ball rolling with the below posts. I also took a few minutes scouring some of my favorite blogs for additional food for thought on meetings. I don’t claim to agree with everything said, but I do agree that you and I should be thinking about it more.
 

Articles by Wayne Hedlund (me):

Articles by Michael Hyatt:

Articles by Seth Godin:

Articles by Patrick Lencioni:

Articles by Tim Stevens:

Articles by 99%:

5 Reasons Why People Don’t Volunteer

Not too long ago I was talking to a longstanding church attendee about getting involved in her local church. I was surprised to hear her say the following words to me, “I don’t think they need me anywhere.” When I pressed her to explain more, I learned that she had expressed interest a few times over the years and nobody seemed that interested in pursuing and recruiting her to get involved. So she stopped offering to help, assuming she wasn’t needed or wanted.

Friends, this is not good. Ephesians 4 challenges us to a very high standard when it comes to volunteers. We are called to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. As christian leaders, that means we’re not supposed to overly rely on church staff and/or do the bulk of ministry ourselves. God wants to release His people to use their gifts to grow the church, disciple people and reach the world. That is His model and strategy.

Over the years, I’ve discovered a few key reasons why people don’t get involved. I wonder how many people in your church aren’t involved because of one of these excuses?

1. They Don’t Need Me.

In an effort to create a positive environment during church activities, we sometimes hide the volunteer ‘holes’ we know we have to the congregation. So people don’t see or know about our needs. What complicates this more is when we don’t tell them. It’s important we create methods designed to let our congregation know about the various volunteer opportunities we have available, and how they can get involved.

2. Been There, Done That.

When volunteers have a bad experience in ministry, they may choose to take a ‘been there, done that’ attitude and refuse to get involved again. Whenever you perceive a volunteer has been burned, I recommend you bend over backwards to bring reconciliation to that hurt. Asking questions, listening intently and eventually affirming their hurt and asking forgiveness will go a long way to paving the road for them to eventually get involved again.

3. I Have Nothing To Offer.

A lot of people don’t get involved because they can’t see themselves doing what they see so many others doing. They don’t feel qualified. {Serve on the worship team? I can’t sing like they do.} {Help with the kids? I don’t know how to teach kids.} {Help with tech? Have you seen how many nobs are on that board?} People need to know that they don’t have to be experienced before they get plugged in. They just need to know you believe in them and that they can make a difference.

4. I’m Too Busy.

Yes. People are definitely busy. And they are often convinced they are too busy to get involved in ministry right now. Occasionally it’s true. However, most of the time it’s not about being busy, it’s about priorities. Until people are convinced that what you want them to do is important to them, they won’t give something else up to help the church. People need a good reason to give their time and energy to a cause. You need to convince them that what you’re asking is truly important.

5. Nobody Asked Me.

It may seem like a simplistic excuse, but it’s very real and very common. There are some highly skilled and experienced people sitting in church every week who aren’t involved simply because nobody thought to ask them. We don’t ask them for any number of reasons, but often we have convinced ourselves that they can’t or won’t want to. In other words, we say ‘no’ for them and never give them the opportunity to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ themselves.

Asking people to serve in ministry isn’t easy and can be very intimidating. I know, I’ve recruited hundreds of people into volunteer roles during my ministry career. But I did it, and I believe you can too. 

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