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

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?

Five Questions Every Church Must Answer

The answer to these five questions will drive what you do as a local church. They will impact the activities and programs you host. Ultimately, they will determine your effectiveness in reaching both your community and your congregation for Jesus Christ. 

1. How do we attract people to our church?

Sadly, many church leaders fail to seriously address this question. They assume people will visit the church because they see the church building and a welcome sign on the front lawn or they assume regular attendees will regularly invite people to the Sunday Service. They scratch their heads and wonder what people’s problem is. One pastor once told me that first time guests were often heard making comments like, “Your church is the best kept secret in our town!”

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Your community doesn’t need to see your building, they need to see “the light of the world” in you and your congregation. They need to see that your church is a place where transformation takes place. Where lives are changed. Where people meet the True and Living God. You need to find ways to shout from the mountain that God actually shows up at your church each week. People need to get the feeling they are missing out on something important.

What is your church’s strategy to attract people?

2. How do we assimilate guests into our church?

Of the five questions, this is what pastors ask me more than any other. It can be very frustrating to see 3-4 guests walk through the front doors every week and yet not experience growth as a church. Sometimes guests will even return for a second or third visit, but eventually they sort of just disappear and we never know what happened. What makes matters worse, they usually tell us they really enjoyed the service! We can’t help but secretly ask ourselves: Was it something I said? Did someone offend them? Are we weird and just don’t know it? Why won’t they come back?

More often than not, the problem is that church leaders and longstanding members have blinders on. They are unable to properly see the church environment through the eyes of a guest or newcomer. This is fairly normal and to be expected, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Creating a ‘guest culture’ should be high on every church’s priority list and should include finding ways to ensure guests have a positive experience and are tactfully invited to come again.

Another reason why this question is hard to answer is because we fail to properly define ‘assimilate’ when we ask it. Is it when they have visited 3 times or 6 or 8? Is it when they join a small group or get involved? Is it when they become a member? It may be different for every church, but at some point, newcomers need to feel like they are one of the ‘insiders’ at your church. We need to make that as easy as possible!

In Acts 15, Paul said, “It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for Gentiles who are turning to God.” In other words, we need to pay special and close attention to our new attendees as they are “turning to God.” 

What is your church’s strategy to assimilate people?

3. How do we connect people with one another in our church?

I often tell church leaders, “You can make a lot of mistakes as a church and people will keep coming if they are connected.” Certainly, the answer to this question is an important part of ‘how do we assimilate people.’ But it’s more than about just getting newcomers to stay. It’s about having a church where people truly care about one another, and show it in practical ways. A church that successfully accomplishes this doesn’t have to rely on the pastor(s) to do all the ministry in the church, because people organically minister to one another all the time. 

In today’s culture, getting people to ‘connect’ with others in the church is a LOT easier said than done. But it is a necessity if we are to go beyond the ‘superficial’ in ministry to one another. And despite the indoctrination of social media in the world, nothing will ever truly beat face to face interactions. Getting people to actually do that is a challenge some pastors have literally given up addressing. No matter how discouraging or hard it may be, we should ‘not grow weary in doing good’ and continue forward until we have discovered ways to do it for our church community.

The author of Hebrews so aptly reminds us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” That passage isn’t just talking about the Sunday morning experience. It’s talking about small groups, medium groups, even 1 on 1 connections – all so we may “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

What is your church’s strategy for connecting people?

4. How do we disciple people in our church?

Any church leader who doesn’t know what the “Great Commission” is has missed his calling. It’s Christ’s final mandate to His disciples, and to each one of us. Entire sermons, series, books and even volumes of books have been given to us to explore Jesus command to us to spread the Gospel around the globe, as well as in our own communities. It’s hard to miss the four primary commands found in this passage:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19

Go. Make Disciples. Baptize. Teach.

From what I’ve seen, local churches can be all over the place on answering this question. Some of the reason may be differences in opinion or even theology. But I think the biggest difference is in intentionality. Are we doing church the way we’ve always done it, because that’s what church’s do? Or are we intentionally choosing to do {put program/activity/service here} because we really believe it will disciple people? Only you (and God) can answer that question!

Either way, discipleship should be a critical part of your church’s service to the congregation. This is going to include helping people learn how to discover God for themselves through activities like Bible reading, prayer and missions trips; teaching them Godly principles regarding evangelism, parenting, relationships, stewardship, etc.; and equipping them to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil by living a victorious life.

What is your church’s strategy for discipling people?

5. How do we engage people in our church?

An indicator of a healthy church is found in the level of involvement of the attendees in the ministries within your church and to your community. When the congregation relies almost entirely on the pastor, something is broken. The “body” has turned into a malformed entity that will never effectively serve it’s mission in the community. Last week I spoke at a small rural church that is run entirely by volunteers. It’s an active church with several great programs and activities for it’s attendees. But there is nobody on staff. They are hopeful to eventually hire a part time pastor, but in the meantime, they have discovered something powerful – when the body works together, ministry can and will happen.

Getting people involved tends to be something many church leaders talk about a lot, but struggle actually doing. The barriers they face are often complicated to completely unravel. It often seems easier to just do things themselves and rely on a few key influencers in the church to handle the rest. But this cripples the body of Christ. Paul was quite clear in 1 Corinthians that we all make up different parts of the body of Christ:

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” 1 Cor. 12:18-19

Helping people find their place in the body is going to serve both the volunteer and the rest of the body. Even if people aren’t placed perfectly, the whole body will benefit and grow. That growth will bring change, which will force people to adjust what they are doing and where they serve. With good leadership and a lot of time, people will eventually drift towards their sweet spots of ministry. 

What is your church’s strategy for engaging people?

Seats on the Bus

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins says, “We expected that good-to-great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats – and then they figured out where to drive it. The old adage, ‘People are your most important asset’ turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”

He hit the nail on the head. Ministry is not just all about having people around doing things; it’s also about paying attention to what they are doing as well. Unfortunately, I think this ideas sort of locks many of us up. We think, “How am I supposed to find the exact right seat for everyone?” Ugh. Some of us can hardly figure out where WE fit in, much less trying to figure out which seats on the bus everyone else is supposed to fit.

MY RECOMMENDATION: START WITH SECTIONS.

What if we just started by getting people in the right section of the bus instead? Generally, we have three kinds of people in our church: Creatives, Doers & Leaders. Yes, I know. Sometimes people can be a mixture of one or more of those. But generally speaking, if we know what kind of people we’re dealing with, we can seat them where they fit best and worry about finding their exact seat as time goes on.

The back of the bus – Creatives

Everyone knows that the troublemakers like to sit in the back. If you’re sitting back there, you probably want to be far away from what’s really going on. You aren’t interested in where the bus is going right now. You just want to utilize your creativity to dream, talk, and get into just enough trouble that the bus driver doesn’t notice. 

This is where strategic thinkers and creatives sit. They are big-picture people. They like to try new things. They are sometimes critical thinkers (I didn’t say critical people!) They are the ones you want in the room when you’re dreaming about the future, evaluating how things are going and discussing creative, new things to do or ways to do them. 

These people don’t need a lot of authority to make choices, they just need a platform for their thoughts and ideas to be heard. Great leaders will gather them together to hear them out and learn from them. They also tend to be early adopters, ready to jump in with both feet when it’s time for change.

The front of the bus – Leaders

If you’re sitting at the front of the bus it’s likely because you want to be close to the action. You want to see who’s coming in and out the door. You want to talk to the bus driver. You want to see where the bus is going next and you want to play a part in how you will get there.

This is where the the leaders sit; the ones who make decisions. These are the people in your organization who will actually decide the future and direction of the church. Sometimes the Creatives & the Leaders are the same people. However, often it’s wise to have them sit in a separate section of the bus. Of course, if you’re driving a small bus (a small church/ministry) you don’t always have that luxury. 

In a perfect world, the Creatives come up with some great ideas, feedback and insights and the Leaders can then determine which one’s will work best for the bus based on it’s mission and where it’s going.

The middle of the bus – Doers

If you’re sitting in the middle of the bus you are likely in your own world. You’ve got your iPod in or your just hanging with everyone else in that section. Sometimes you like to listen in on the talk in the back of the bus and sometimes you like to sit near the front to get a feel for the action, without having to be involved. You aren’t cut out for the intensity of the back of the bus and you aren’t really super interested in where the bus is going. You just like being IN the bus.

This is where the doers sit. These are the people who will do whatever is necessary to keep the bus moving and support the vision of the leaders. They are the ones who will dig their heels in and grind out the plans you have made. Your doers don’t make a lot of decisions, and they don’t want to. They do the work based on the decisions that have already been made, and they do it well.

About Your Bus

Here are a few closing observations about how these sections work (or don’t work) in different ‘buses’ or ministries.

  • In my experience, the middle of the bus (Doers) is where the vast majority of people sit, like 90%. There are usually only a few seats in the front and a few seats in the back dedicated to Creatives and Leaders.
  • If a bus has too FEW Doers, it end up coming up with a lot of ideas/plans that never get done. Innovative ideas & new paths don’t get built. The bus doesn’t stop when it should to take on new passengers. It sometimes doesn’t get cleaned properly and needs a fresh coat of paint. You get the idea.
  • If a bus has too FEW Leaders, the bus tends to take loopy circles and gets distracted going places it doesn’t need to go. It also runs inefficiently and needs to spend a lot of time in the shop with repairs. Often, the bus looks great but is going nowhere important.
  • If a bus has too FEW Creatives it takes the path it’s always known, even when there are better paths to take. The bus stays old and eventually becomes uninteresting to prospective new passengers. 
  • The smaller the church, the more Creatives and Leaders have to double up and also be Doers. There is less of a clear demarcation between the different seats.

Rethinking How We Think

Years ago I heard a story about a man who tried to steal an ATM machine. His plan was to rip the ATM out of the wall of a store-front by chaining it to the back bumper of his pick-up truck. After securing the chain, the incompetent thief got in his truck and hit the gas. A few seconds later, he heard a loud noise and the truck suddenly lurched ahead. Frantic and scared he would soon be caught, he quickly hit the brakes and ran around to claim his prize. Appalled, he discovered the ATM machine was still secured to the building. Lying on the ground in front of him was the truck’s back bumper which had been ripped off. Scared and frustrated, the man got in the truck and went home. Hours later, the police showed up at his door and arrested him for attempted robbery. He was easy to find. The police just checked the license plate on the bumper left chained to the ATM. I don’t know how true the story is, but it makes me chuckle and I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually happened.

It is incredibly easy to make daily choices without really thinking things through first. Something unexpected happens and we either react (which I’m pretty sure is the basest form of thinking) or we do the first thing that comes to mind that seems halfway reasonable. Often, it’s a shot in the dark whether our half-baked decision will come back and bite us or not.

The old saying “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” has its roots in Scriptures. Psalm 7:15 says, “He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made.” Humanity has made a lot of holes throughout history and, unfortunately, we don’t always learn from our mistakes. 

A Quick Example

Consider the Children’s Ministry Director who is faced with a dilemma. A Sunday School volunteer calls 15 minutes before church to explain that she won’t be able to teach the preschool class. The director is now in a quandary. There will be several families showing up in a matter of minutes and something needs to be done quickly.

He may react and grab the first warm body he sees to fill in; or perhaps he quickly decides to let the teen assistant teach the class alone. Either way, with a little more thinking before leaping he might have come up with several more viable options. Of course, we only ever say, “hindsight is 20/20” when we discover our hasty decision created bigger problems. In our example with the absent Sunday School teacher, the spontaneous and untrained sub might have ended up yelling at the children or left them alone for several minutes for a bathroom break. Not good for the new families who then leave the church with a bad taste in their mouths unnecessarily. 

We are often fine with quick, reactive thinking because it usually gets us by. Anyone with a head on their shoulders, a little experience, and common sense can make a halfway decent decision that saves the day most of the time. So this way of thinking becomes the standard simply because it often works!

In the above example, the quick thinking of that director would have saved the day if nothing went wrong. Instead, it ended in disaster and, in hind-sight, he probably wished he had thought things through more thoroughly. An extra 4 minutes probably would have sufficed!

Those extra moments thinking things through woul likely have led to several safer and potentially more appropriate options. Was there another trusted person serving that morning who could have filled in for a while? Could the director himself have filled in? Maybe a sign on the door apologizing and saying the room would open in 10 minutes – to give more time to find a good solution. Could two classes be combined?

The act of simply stopping and thinking through options before deciding can make a huge difference – in both ministry and life!

There’s a better way.

I believe we can learn to think better. To be able to view a problem from different angles & perspectives. To see possibilities and solutions where they may not be so obvious initially. Generally speaking, this activity is called “Critical Thinking.”

For years I assumed most people knew how to think and make good choices. But after watching people make seemingly obvious mistakes over and over, I began to realize that it’s a learned skill – one in which I was unknowingly trained in during my early tenure in leadership & ministry. Understand, I’m still guilty of making some stupid choices. I certainly haven’t arrived! But I do understand some key principles that will help me make choices that are hopefully more wise than I would have years and years ago. 

Over the next few posts, I  will explore more thoroughly, how we can all learn to think differently. 

Check out the next post in this series: Critical Thinking 101 – Seek God

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Knowledge Empowers Leaders To Make Wise Choices

knowledge-empowers-leaders

A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength; for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers. Proverbs 24:5-6

There is very little that will frustrate a true leader more than lack of knowledge. Knowledge, when wielded by the right individual, is like a sharp sword that is capable of cutting through confusion to find truth and wisdom. Lack of knowledge leaves us whacking away at ghosts in the darkness, hoping we will stumble upon the right path. Empires have fallen because of lack of knowledge. Relationships have come to ruin. Bank accounts have run dry. Employment opportunities have passed people by. All because someone didn’t have the information needed to make a wise choice.

The church world is not exempt from this truth. When leaders have access to the right information, it empowers them to make wise choices. Those wise choices ultimately lead to transformation in the lives of the broken and hurting people in that community.

Proverbs 24 (quoted above), reminds us that leaders can have ‘great power’ and ‘increased strength’, which can lead to ‘guidance’ when facing battles. In other words, we have a greater chance of victory than we did without them (wisdom & knowledge); we are ’empowered.’

If wisdom were a fire keeping us warm and giving us light, knowledge would be the wood and fuel feeding that fire. Of course, knowledge must be given to the right person, a wise person, in order for it to make a difference. Otherwise, it is simply wood sitting in a pile on the floor. 

Charles Spurgeon said it this way: “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”

Knowledge is not our ONLY source of wisdom. There are other sources as well, the most important Source being God Himself, who promises to give wisdom to all who ask it (James 1:5.) But I suspect that knowledge is one of the primary tools God gives us to make wise choices.

How does this apply to you today? What area of your life or ministry are you struggling with? What challenge are you facing that seems overwhelming and insurmountable? I recommend you start with prayer and then begin asking lots of questions. Go on a treasure hunt. Look for answers and don’t stop until you’ve found them. 

Image from istockphoto.com.

Developing Your Core Values

church_core_values

I’m a firm believer in developing Core Values for your church or organization. A Strategic Planning mentor once told me that your Core Values act as the guardrails on the path to where you are going. In other words, to get from here to where you ultimately want to go, there, you need some guiding principles and values that ensure you stay true to who you are and what you believe.  

As a general rule of thumb, think of your Core Values as the basic rules by which you will accomplish your mission as a church. These well defined rules should never be broken, as that would ultimately compromise a basic belief you have about how ministry should always take place.

I’ve already written a lot about this, so for your benefit I’ve included links to each relevant article here. I hope you find them helpful.

  • Core Values
    A brief discussion to help you figure out whether or not you have core values, know what they are and what they mean.

  • Why Core Values?
    An explanation of why core values are so important.
  • How To Draft Your Core Values
    Ideas on how your strategic team might go about drafting your ministry Core Values.
     
  • Elevation Church Core Values
     A list of Elevation Church Core Values and a suggestion to consider modeling the style of how you write and communicate your own core values after Elevation.

Image from skegbydave on istockphoto.com

The Art of Inviting Feedback

feedbackI’m a big fan of feedback. Not the kind you get on Sunday mornings when the microphone goes haywire and everybody goes deaf. The kind you get when people share their thoughts & opinions regarding something you’re trying to do with excellence.

Inviting feedback is a bittersweet activity. But when I swallow my pride and listen closely to other’s thoughts, it increases my effectiveness and impact in ministry.

Yesterday I listened to this two-part podcast from the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast series entitled, “The Art of Inviting Feedback“. One of the big takeaways was learning how to ask your leaders, co-workers and team-mates this one question:

“If you were me, what would you do differently?”

 I strongly urge you to ask your entire team to listen to these two podcasts. They have the potential to, over time, make a big difference in your ministry’s leadership culture.

The Art of Inviting Feedback – Part 1 (Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast)

The Art of Inviting Feedback – Part 2 (Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast)

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

Developing Your Mission

Image & Mission of Living Bridge Church in Gibsonia, PA. 2011

I’m a firm believer that a well developed AND a well implemented mission statement can make a huge difference in your ministry. The hard parts are developing and implementing. You don’t want a statement that nobody remembers or cares about and of course there really is no point if your leadership and membership don’t embrace the mission as their own. A good mission statement will create excitement, build momentum, strengthen unity, and reinforce vision.

I’ve already written a lot about this, so for your benefit I’ve included links to each relevant article here. I hope you find them helpful.

  • Make it so.
    A reminder that a mission statement is just a bunch of words on paper unless you hit the ‘go’ button and utilize it throughout your ministry.
  • Why Mission?
    A detailed explanation on “why” your church should create and embrace a mission statement.
  • Mission, Mission, On The Wall
    Is your mission just sitting on the wall gathering dust or is it happening down the hall wherever you go? Here are a few indicators that will help you answer that question.
Check out my Resources Page to see more summaries of past series!

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