Strategy Kickstart: Hire A Mystery Guest

A Strategy Kickstart is a short 3-5 minute video clip which can be used to ‘kickstart’ a strategic discussion in your church or ministry. Simply show the video clip to your team and use the ideas and question posed in the video to stimulate a valuable and hopefully relevant discussion on how you can better fulfill your ministry mission.

In today’s Strategy Kickstart I challenge your team to consider hiring a mystery guest to provide more realistic feedback on the Sunday morning experience from the perspective of a guest.


Why Core Values?


You will never see my wife or I watching the nightly news, select sit-coms, or murder mystery’s on TV at night with one of my preschool children present in the room. It’s simply not something we have ever done. Becky and I have chosen this standard together. It wasn’t hard. It’s one of the family values we share. I’m glad for this value, and will always stand by it for my family. I won’t impose that value on other families, though I may share why we have this value in the hopes that others might adopt it too. This value is part of our family DNA and shapes who we are and what we do in our home.

In the same way, churches have values. They may or may not be well defined, but they are there and they make a huge difference in how ministry happens.

I’m helping three churches develop their ministry core values. In one of our discussions, the question came up, “Why do we need core values?”.  I’m convinced that if a church defines their core values, and lives by them, they will serve as both a protection and a guide to church leaders in fulfilling their mission.

Here’s Why:

  • D.N.A.
    Everyone knows that there are no two people exactly alike. Even identical twins are overwhelmingly unique from one another. The same is true for every church in the world. The mixture of leadership, people, culture, values, experiences, etc. ensure that there will never be another church like it. Identifying values helps to clarify for church leaders as well as attendees and guests just WHO you are. For example, a church with a core value of “Family Friendly” will not only attract families, but clarify to all that this is part of who God made this church to be.
  • G.P.S.
    There are many paths that can get you to where you want to go, but not every path is the best or right path. While driving, you may prefer to stay away from toll roads or highways. Most GPS units will allow you to program that information in. As a result, the path (or strategic plan) created for you  will stick to those preferences. Additionally, when a roadblock forces you to detour, your GPS will recalculate keeping your programmed preferences. In the same way, core values ensure you don’t stray from ‘who you are’ while fulfilling ministry. For example, let’s say you’ve identified a value of ‘Accepting’ – meaning you will accept anyone in your church regardless of status, background, race, etc. If a group of mentally handicapped adults begin attending services and occasionally become disruptive, your value will ensure you find a way to accept them into your church without alienating or rejecting them.
  • Guardrails
    A business consultant once told me that core values are the guard rails that will protect you while you move from where you are to where you’re going. It’s true. Well defined and implemented values will help ensure we don’t fall off or meander off the path. For example, I recommend you adopt a core value of “Integrity”. This means you will build into your culture certain standards and practices that will ensure that your ministry operates with integrity. Perhaps that might include higher standards regarding the handling of money or who counsels who, where, and when, etc.
  • Behavior
    Values dictate behavior. I’ve heard it said that whenever a person strongly reacts to something it probably means their values have either been violated or validated. When a church selects and chooses to live by certain values, people have a blueprint for how they should act, react, and live out ministry in the church. For example, a value about reaching the ‘younger generation’ might impact the primary means by which the church chooses to communicate to it’s attendees.
  • Buy-In
    Well defined values help others decide how involved they want to be in the life of the church. People want to know what they are getting into, and they want to know they can sink their teeth in deep. Values will help them make that leap. For example, if one of your values includes “Family Friendly” and I have a strong conviction that solid families help lead the church for the next generation, then I will be inclined to give a lot of myself toward the cause.
  • Strategy
    Finally, your values will play a big role in strategic planning. You have no desire to create plans that don’t incorporate every one of your values, but sometimes that is what happens when values aren’t clarified. For example, a value of ‘team’ might communicate that you have no interest in people running a ministry by themselves. It’s critical that teams are in place everywhere, which will mobilize the church to ‘be’ the church. This value comes into play at the outset of a strategic discussion by asking the question, ‘How will we accomplish this as a team?’ or ‘Who will we recruit to be on this team?

Strategy Kickstart: Team Meetings


A Strategy Kickstart is a short 3-5 minute video clip which can be used to ‘kickstart’ a strategic discussion in your church or ministry. Simply show the video clip to your team and use the ideas and question posed in the video to stimulate a valuable and hopefully relevant discussion on how you can better fulfill your ministry mission.

In today’s Strategy Kickstart I challenge your team to consider separating Strategic Discussions from Tactical Discussions.

Strategy Kickstart: Mission Down The Hall


A Strategy Kickstart is a short 3-5 minute video clip which can be used to ‘kickstart’ a strategic discussion in your church or ministry. Simply show the video clip to your team and use the ideas and question posed in the video to stimulate a valuable and hopefully relevant discussion on how you can better fulfill your ministry mission.

In today’s Strategy Kickstart I challenge your team to consider just how effective you have been in connecting your mission to your ministry. This discussion is relevant to have at any stage in your ministry’s development.

For more information about developing and rolling out your ministry mission, check out Mission, Mission, On The Wall and Developing Your Mission!

Mission, Mission, On The Wall


Andy Stanley once asked, “Is the statement on the wall actually happening down the hall?” Asked differently, “Is your mission statement simply a bunch of words that sound great or do they represent the heartbeat of your church at every level of ministry?” It can be very satisfying to develop your ministries mission, but it is ultimately a waste of time and energy if it just becomes empty words that are rarely mentioned in the context of weekly ministry.

I wonder how that applies to you? Has your mission been successfully integrated into everyday life in your organization? Here are a few indicators that may help you evaluate whether your ministry mission is simply a ‘On The Wall’ mission (words but no action) or a ‘Down The Hall’ (words and action) mission.

‘On The Wall’ Indicators:
If any of the following are TRUE then it may indicate missional slippage. In your next Strategic Meeting discuss how you can reintegrate your church mission into everyday ministry.

  • You can’t quote your mission from memory.
  • You haven’t personally quoted your mission statement in the last 3 weeks.
  • You haven’t mentioned your mission from the pulpit in the last month.
  • You haven’t “preached” your mission in the last 9 months.
  • You don’t teach your mission to new members in the membership class.
  • Your mission isn’t posted prominently somewhere in the facility and/or on your website.
  • Your mission is long – more than two short sentences.
  • None of your key staff, elders, or board can quote your mission.
  • Your ministry leaders have never heard you talk about how the ministry they lead fits into the church’s mission.
  • When someone introduces a new ministry idea you don’t automatically ask the question, “How will that help us fulfill our mission?”
  • You have never tried to evaluate your effectiveness through the lenses of your mission.
‘Down the Hall’ Indicators:
If any of the following are TRUE then it may indicate missional traction. In your next Strategic Meeting discuss how effective this has been and what else you might do to strengthen missional momentum. Obviously these indicators will seem familiarly similar but altogether different from the ‘On the Wall’ indicators.
  • You can quote it from memory right now.
  • Your leadership team has strategically discussed your church mission within the past year (to either develop it, evaluate it, or consider how effectively you are fulfilling it).
  • Your staff, elders, and board can quote your mission or something that closely reflects your mission.
  • Someone has mentioned your church mission in some form from the pulpit within the last three weeks (a worship leader, emcee, during a testimony, on the screens, or in the sermon).
  • You have ‘preached’ about your church mission within the past 9 months (that is, you have preached a message that directly points to why your church exists and/or how you are fulfilling your church mission).
  • Your mission is prominently displayed on your church website.
  • Your mission can be found in several places throughout the church (on the wall, church letterhead, business cards, bulletin, etc.).
  • Your Head Usher (or worship leader, children’s director, etc.) understands how the ministry they lead is fulfilling the church’s mission.
  • Every new member learns about the church’s mission and why it is important.
  • Your church mission reflects a deep passion within you personally. You get excited and emotional when you talk about it.

Thinking for a Change: a fresh look at critical thinking e-book

I’m pretty sure our ‘default’ style of thinking errs somewhere between “not too simple that I look stupid” and “just enough to get me average results.”

I’ve heard it said that progress is only one idea away. With some fresh ‘thinking’ tools and a renewed motivation to press through the status-quo I am sure that, in Christ, our lives and ministries can reach their fullest potential!

That’s what my brand new e-book, ‘Thinking for a Change’ is about: Critical Thinking. I’m convinced that most of us can be critical thinkers, but first we need to learn how. I hope ‘Thinking for a Change’ will equip you and your team with tools to be successful wherever you are. Cost is $3.99.

Here are a few suggestions on how you might utilize ‘Thinking for a Change: a fresh look at critical thinking’.

  • Discuss With Your Team
    Critical thinking and strategic thinking have a lot in common. What better way to ensure everyone is ‘thinking’ together than to talk about ‘thinking’ before you really start ‘thinking’.
  • Give To Your Key Leaders
    This book can be a great tool in the hands of your key leaders. Armed with a fresh perspective about how to approach problems, you may discover they spend more time working up solutions than in coming to you with their problems.
  • Give To Your Staff & Volunteers
    I didn’t market this book as a leadership book for a reason. It isn’t. It’s a book about solving everyday challenges. It’s use ranges from cleaning the carpets to dealing with the photocopier to facing scheduling, financial, relational challenges and more. 
  • Promote To Your Congregation
    Obviously, ‘thinking’ applies to everyone, everywhere. Although most of the examples in ‘Thinking for a Change’ are ministry oriented, the principles will apply in every aspect of life. You may want to consider letting your congregation know about the book and point them here for purchase.
If you do choose to purchase this e-book, I invite you to also consider giving me your feedback. What did you like? What didn’t you like? How could I improve on the content? Was there anything missing? I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!
Purchase your copy today! Cost is $3.99.
Also, checkout my other products at the Transforming Leader store.

Photo compliments of joecicak at istockphoto.

Ten Church Strategies: A Strategic Culture


I’m convinced that healthy and growing churches result from BOTH prayer and strategic planning. I’m pretty sure you can’t have one without the other. I know that God expects us to both seek Him and make things happen. Jesus hit on this very idea in The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 when he described the pleased master as saying:

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things.” Matthew 25:21

In this final installment of ‘The Ten Church Systems‘ I will talk about perhaps one of the most important (and least attended) aspects of a growing church and organization: Strategic Planning. I recommend you also read some of the ‘Getting Started Thoughts and Disclaimers’ I wrote prior to this series on systems. It was written in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Key Sub-Systems of the Strategic System
Following are the key sub-systems of strategic development in the local church. Ironically, we’re discussing what your strategy is for ongoing strategic planning.

  • The Strategic Team & Strategic Meetings
    Strategic planning is not a solo sport. Although one individual can plan and implement plans, that’s not how a healthy church will function – nor is it very effective. This system will build the best possible team (or teams) of leaders and will include regular, consistent and well led strategic meetings throughout the year. 
  • Philosophy of Ministry Development (mission/vision/values)
    It’s very difficult for your church leaders and staff to get where you’re going when it hasn’t been defined. Howard Hendricks said, “If it’s a mist in the pulpit, it’s a fog in the pew.” This system includes the development of your church mission statement, core values, and long range vision statements. Once that is done, this system will also ensure that your philosophy of ministry is integrated into every area of church life. 
  • Strategic Evaluation & Feedback
    Feedback is the bread and butter of successful strategic planning. Without regular and unbiased input your church will create amazing strategic plans that lead in the wrong direction. It can be the difference between hitting the target in the bulls eye and simply hitting the target. This system will create ways to evaluate every aspect of church life. It will include evaluating how well the Philosophy of Ministry is being integrated throughout church events and activities. It will also include occasional or regular evaluation of each of The Ten Church Systems. Finally, this system will evaluate the effectiveness of all major sub-systems and tactical plans.
  • Strategic Metrics & Benchmarks
    Metrics take evaluation and feedback to a whole new level. They will play a big role in setting agenda items for future strategic meetings. Besides revealing possible areas of weakness in the church, they will also bring great encouragement when your team is doing things right – resulting in growth and an increase in positive life change in your congregation. This system will track important areas of growth over a period of months and years. Common metrics often include giving, attendance, and small group participation.
  • Strategic Coaching & Training
    It is rare for the average pastor to be knowledgeable in every aspect of church life and development. Most pastors have been trained in the Bible, public speaking, and other aspects of spiritual care and oversight. Strategic planning and organizational development usually are at the bottom of their repertoire of skill sets. This is why it is critical the pastor and church leaders gather around themselves others who excel in those areas. This system will ensure that strategic planning happens through regular input from ministry coaches and/or a strategic leader. This system will also include ongoing training in areas of strategic planning for the pastor and all church leaders. (tip: subscribe to this blog!)
  • Ongoing Strategic Planning
    If you’ve followed along at all, then it’s very likely you’ve become overwhelmed reading through all of the ‘Ten Systems’ and their various sub-systems. No church can focus on every area at once. This system will ensure the feedback, metrics, and strategic team are all utilized in the best possible way in order to focus on the most important areas of church health and growth each year. It also includes basic training in strategic thinking for all key staff and leaders. Ideally, strategic planning will take place at every level of leadership and for every area of ministry in the church.
  • Strategic Roll-out & Tactical Planning
    At some point, everybody needs to stop talking and start doing. Surprisingly, this can be very difficult to do. Strategic Planning can easily become a sinkhole that leaders and teams can never find their way out of. This system will finalize strategic development through the creation of tactical plans. This system will also include intentional strategic steps to ‘roll-out’ new plans to other church leaders and the congregation without creating mass discord or dissension.

Note: Inspiration for the Ten Church Systems comes from Nelson Searcy and the Eight Systems of the Local Church he proposed in his free e-book entitled, ‘Healthy Systems, Healthy Church‘.

Do Something Different

This past Sunday our church did something unique. It got people talking, created some buzz, added value to the message, and created a memory for our congregation. It was something different.

We held a ‘No-Show’ Sunday. We removed all of the volunteers from the schedule and replaced them with cardboard silhouettes. We trimmed down the service to almost nothing. No projection, videos, lights, or worship team. Our worship leader led from a guitar. The words to the songs were in the  bulletin – which people picked up themselves because there were no greeters or ushers. Everyone left right after the service because there was no cafe. Staff and key elders ran the preschool – there was no programming for gradeschoolers. I could go on, but you get the idea. Our series title is ‘Me to We’ – we’re talking about partnering together in ministry through service in the church. It was awesome.

When was the last time you did something unique, different and memorable?

I ran across this video clip at today. It’s about a store called ‘The Limited’ that did something different. What could you do in your church or community this winter that people would always remember (in a good way)?

Can’t see this video? Click this link.

Andy Stanley’s Podcast (for the non-tech Christian leader)

Pastor Andy Stanley

If you are a pastor or church leader you are probably familiar with Andy Stanley. If you aren’t, then I recommend you get familiar with him right now. Andy Stanley is a very important voice in church leadership, management and personal growth. You can learn more about Andy right here and you can browse and purchase some awesome books right here.

This post is meant to be a quick and easy way for you to listen to Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast without actually subscribing to the podcast (which I recommend you do – subscribe with iTunes/subscribe with feed-burner). If I were you, I would make it a personal goal to listen to every one of these 25 minute audio clips . . . several times. I also recommend you ask your church leaders and friends to listen to them as well.

If you are unfamiliar with how to listen to podcasts, then I recommend you watch one of these short video tutorials.

Subscribe to Podcast in iTunes

Subscribe to Podcast using Google Reader

Note: Due to copyright issues, I am unable to provide links to each individual Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast in this blog. However, should you choose to subscribe via Google Reader you can easily see past Podcast’s and listen to them whenever you want.

Demystifying Our Plans

In chapter 4:13-15 James warns: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.'”

He’s got a good point. We can make all the plans we want, all for nothing. That last sentence is such a foundation to everything we do in life, at home, at work and in ministry. Really, our plans aren’t (or shouldn’t be) about us – after all, we are just a mist in the grand scheme of things. We know it’s possible to build something that lasts, that ends up being bigger than us. But that means setting aside “me” and picking up “God”; His purposes, His ideas, His plans. I think it’s a lot harder for us to do that than most of us are willing to admit. James didn’t tell us we shouldn’t make plans. He just warns us to keep them God-centered. To get out of and stay out of the way.

Whatever you’ve got planned today, tomorrow, next week, and if you are really with it, next month and year, submit and commit it to the Lord right now. That’s Who we’re doing all of this for anyway, right?

Photo credit, infinityNANO

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