The Smelly Cow

Every once in a while I have the privilege to lead all day meetings at Elim Gospel Church where I serve as Executive Pastor. After a couple hours of intense discussions we’ll take a break. Everyone will stand up, leave the room, go to the bathroom, get a new cup of coffee, etc. Ten minutes later, I’ll walk back in the room and be inundated with an odor I hadn’t noticed before. Ugh. We’ll all notice it. The windows get opened and we valiantly attempt to air it out. All those bodies stuffed into that room add up to some serious BO. Here’s the deal. Most of us didn’t notice it until we left and came back.

 
Two days ago I told you my sad story about a cow I cared about and then had to kill. I also suggested that some of our churches have cows as well. They are most often referred to and known as sacred cows.
 
Their not. They are only treated like sacred cows. They are really smelly cows. You know what it’s like to get used to a smell. You’ve been in numerous situations where the odor is mildly unbearable for most people – but surprisingly not to you.
 
By now you’re wondering what in the world my point is. Simply this. The ‘cows’ in your church aren’t very obvious to you and your members. They may be staring you in the face. You just might be gently patting one on the back while reading this article.

However, sacred cows are usually quite obvious to your guests. Ouch. Is it possible that’s one of the reason some of them don’t come back?

 
Do you have any sacred cows at your church? Not sure? I have a suggestion for you. Try sniffing them out. Here are a few ideas on how to get started…
  • Draft a few questions that are designed specifically to sniff out sacred (smelly) cows. Here are a couple to consider: 
    Was there anything that made you feel uncomfortable when you first arrived at our church? Was there anything about the Sunday service that was confusing to you or that didn’t seem to have a real point that you could tell? Is there anything anyone did or said that made you feel like an outsider? Is there anything about the facility that seems out of place? What can you think of about this church that has always been confusing to you? If you have attended other churches before, what would you say is really different compared to your other church experiences – good or bad?
  • Ask key people who might have some measure of authority to answer these questions. This could include:
    Any new members of your church within the past year. First time guests within the past 2 months (give them a call). First time guests each Sunday (make a feedback card or form). Guest speakers who have spoken in the past year. Trusted family members of attendees who visited from out of town.
  • Select four people who you trust know how to think critically to spend two weeks asking the question, “why?” to anything and everything. 
    I recommend you give them a notebook and have them journal all of their ‘why’ questions in the notebook. I also suggest they not share their ‘why’ questions with you or anyone else until the two weeks are over. Anytime they have a ‘why’ question that they can’t reasonably answer themselves, have them highlight them for further consideration after the two weeks are over.
  • Hire a mystery guest to come to your church. 
    Check out my post about mystery guests right here. 
If you find some cows, I’d love it if you’d let me know.
 

How to Draft a Mission Statement

When I was a teenager I was drafted by my dad to mop the kitchen floor. He handed me one of those mops professionals use with the long strings at the end. I started swiping the floor back and forth with the wet mop head. This went on for a few minutes until he walked into the room and saw what I was doing. He kindly notified me that the proper way to mop was like “this”. In about two minutes I was mopping the floor like a pro. I was also pretty sure my dad knew what he was talking about as he was the Facility Director at the local hospital.

The thing is, I have very rarely seen anyone mop the floor this way. Sure, I’ve seen some pro’s do it, but rarely have I seen the average janitor at local schools or churches use this kind of mop properly. This shocks me almost every time because it’s actually easier and more effective to mop the floor the right way rather than the wrong way. Since I learned what to do so long ago, I just assumed everyone knew how to do it.

The same is true for drafting a mission statement. It can seem intimidating and hard at first, but once you’ve walked through the process most people discover it wasn’t as difficult as they thought it would be. Don’t misunderstand, it’s still work (so is mopping the floor), but it doesn’t have to be an ineffective use of your time.

How to Draft a Mission Statement

  • Pray. The Bible states very clearly that church leaders must “keep watch over you {believers} as those who must give an account” – Hebrews 13: 17. We hold a holy responsibility that should never be held lightly. Make sure you have submitted all of your conversations and ideas to the Lord regularly and first.
  • Start from Scratch. You may have a mission statement already. I suggest you consider setting it aside and begin afresh. The process of revisiting why you do what you do will bring clarity to your church and either confirm or clarify if your current statement is relevant or not.
  • Ask Yourself, “Why are we here?”. One question. Why are we here? This is the question your mission statement will eventually answer. Why does your church exist? 
  • Set aside Assumptions. It’s so easy to make assumptions and hold conversations without addressing those assumptions. Assumptions can create a lot of confusion. I recommend you ask yourself the question, “Is there anything we think about church that we take for granted or just assume?”
  • Brainstorm and Refine. You’ll want to do a lot of brainstorming, and then a lot of refining. Develop lists of ideas, words, sentences on white-boards – and then categorize them, refine them, and update them. You may go through this process several times.
  • Identify Key Words. There will likely be key words that resonate with you and your team. Note them and set them aside for future consideration. You may not use them all, but you will want to consider them when you get to the final stages of your statement construction.
  • Get Feedback. Sometimes teams can get so focused that they get tunnel vision and will miss the obvious. Draft two or three statements you are considering and run them by a few key people for input and feedback to bring back to the team. In fact – email them to me and I’ll give you my thoughts!
  • Benchmark. Check out some other churches mission statements. Be careful though! A lot of churches have missions that mean nothing to them, but sit proudly three layers into their website for anyone to find and copy. Perhaps I will post a few great mission statement examples sometime in the future.
  • Don’t confuse Values with Mission. Don’t confuse your core values with your mission statement. For instance, you hopefully have a core value of being bible-based. That shouldn’t be part of your mission statement. You probably have a value of being caring or generational, etc. Those should be summarized on a different document rather than in the mission statement. 
  • Keep it Biblical. This may seem obvious – perhaps too obvious. Remember Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
  • Keep it Broad. You’re mission statement will need to be very broad. You can’t write out everything the church DOES. You need to boil down all of the concepts and Scriptures down to the very basics of ‘why you exist’ as a church in your community. For example, your statement should encompass every ministry and person in your church that you know reflects the heartbeat of your church.
  • Keep it Specific. OK. That sounds like the opposite of broad . . . almost. It’s not. You don’t want to be vague in your terminology. “Providing food and clothes to the homeless.” is both a broad and specific statement.  
  • Keep it Brief. This is the perhaps the hardest part (well, the second hardest). Allen Cox defined a mission as ‘an organization’s brief, compelling statement of purpose.’ I recommend your mission statement be one sentence and no more than two sentences – and if possible short ones. 
  • Keep it Simple. Don’t use a lot of adjectives, christianeze, and run-on sentences. Also, if it requires an extra paragraph explaining the reasoning behind it, it’s too complicated. 
  • Evaluate EVERY Word. That’s right. When you near the end of the process you should ask yourselves if every word accurately reflects what you want to say and why. You will also evaluate whether every word is necessary or not.
  • Make it Memorable. I said above that making the statement brief is the second hardest part. This is probably the hardest for most of us. It needs to be memorable. Something that almost rolls off your tongue. Easy to remember. There’s no point in having a mission statement if your congregation can’t remember it. 
  • Don’t Give Up. Sometimes this process can be overwhelming and tedious. Don’t give up. It will be worth it in the end. If you’re getting stuck, consider taking a break for a few minutes, hours, or days. Try approaching the conversation from a different angle. Split into small groups of 3 and have the small groups tackle the problem and return to discuss what happened. Press through.
  • Don’t Lose Your Sense of Humor. Last but not least, have some fun. Make a few jokes. Laugh a little. It’s OK.

Why Mission?

Why are we doing this?

When I was in High School I got hired to pick rock. It was an inglorious job. Hard labor. Long hours. Sore back. One day after finishing picking rock in a field, the farmer asked me and a buddy to start picking rock in a neighboring field that looked like it never had, nor ever would be, used to grow anything. It was not only full of stones and rocks, it was very uneven. To this day I really don’t know if he had some plan to eventually do something with that land, or if he knew I had an hour left on the clock and was trying to keep me busy. I remember talking to my buddy and asking the question in exasperation, “Why are we doing this?” It was hard work and I wasn’t motivated at all to do the job. At least when I was picking rock in the other fields I had a halfway good idea of ‘why’ I was doing it. Suffice it to say, I didn’t really enjoy the job.

Question. Is your church guilty of that as well? Are there activities, events, perhaps even messages on Sunday’s that aren’t really connected to the mission of your church?

I would like to suggest that if you haven’t taken the time to draft a mission statement, you really don’t know the answer to that. If you DO have a mission statement, but personally don’t know it off the top of your head, then I would also suggest you really don’t know the answer. If you can quote the mission statement, but none of your elders or leaders can, then I still hold that you likely don’t really know if your church regularly or sometimes departs from its God-given purpose.

Defining, refining, and incorporating your church’s mission into the daily life of your church can be one of the most healthy and inspiring things you’ve done in a decade. Really. I’m not just talking about talking. I already talked about that right here. I’m talking about rebuilding your culture around your mission.

Aubrey Malphurs did a great job expressing the benefits to a church mission in her book, Advanced Strategic Planning. Here are a few of them for you to consider:

  • Mission dictates ministry direction.
    When you have a mission statement, you have somewhere to go. Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else.” 
  • Mission formulates the ministry function.
    You will never do ministry that matters until you define what matters. Your mission will help you clarify, “What are we supposed to be doing?” 
  • Mission focuses the ministry’s future.
    A mission gives you and your congregation something tangible to focus on. It defines you and gives you a hope for what is to come. The opposite is true as well. Without a mission statement the future will look fuzzy and out of focus. You won’t really know for sure where you are going or what you are aiming for.
  • Mission provides a guideline for decision making.
    Mission is to ministry what a compass is to a navigator. It provides a framework for critical thinking and decision making.
  • Mission inspires ministry unity.
    A mission statement can draw your members together as a team or community. It broadcasts, ‘Here is where we are going. Let’s all pull together and with God’s help make it happen.’
  • Mission shapes strategy.
    It’s really hard to create and implement strategic plans and steps when you don’t have a target to aim at. Your mission provides the basic framework for strategy.
  • Mission shapes ministry effectiveness.
    There would be no point, in the scheme of things, to draft a mission if it didn’t have the high potential to improve your overall effectiveness. It does. Studies show that organizations that have and operate from a well drafted mission statement are much more likely to succeed than those that don’t.
  • Mission ensures an enduring organization.
    This is one of my favorites. When you have a mission that the whole church knows and believes in, you have something that will last through multiple pastors and leaders and for years and years to come. It brings consistency and continuity to your church’s future.
  • Mission facilitates evaluation.
    We’ve all heard it said, ‘You can’t expect what you don’t inspect.’ Well, you can’t inspect what you don’t expect, either. If you don’t have a clear goal to aim for then you can’t evaluate how well you are doing in getting there.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Make it so.

“Make it so.”

Back in the day I was a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. If you watched the series at all you will remember Captain Picard’s famous line, “Make it so.” Leadership gurus all around have gotten tons of mileage out of that little line. Let’s get it done. Do what you need to. Let’s stop talking and start doing.

Here’s the thing. In the church world, we like to talk . . . a lot. Probably too much. This is especially true when it comes to mission, vision, and values. In my last post I wrote a quick and informal definition for each of these three concepts. Here’s what I said,

Your mission can help you and your congregation clarify WHO YOU ARE. It can play a huge role in focusing your leadership on your church being the church the way God designed you to be. Your vision can become an expression of what you believe that will look like one day. It is your hope for the future. Your values can act as your guide, or the guardrails, as you walk down the path from where you are to where you are going.”

Please note the word, “can” in each of those sentences. That was intentional. I really, really wanted to say, “will”. That wouldn’t be realistic. When you finish figuring out your ministry’s mission, vision, and values you are hardly done. In fact, you’ve reached ground zero.

Now you’re ready to create a culture that revolves around your mission. You’re ready to begin the strategic process to see your vision fulfilled. You’re ready to roll-out to your leadership your ministry philosophy in such a way that it becomes part of your language throughout the week, on Sunday mornings, and even in the homes of your church attendees. Now it’s time to, “Make it so.”

How about you? As Andy Stanley has said, “Is the statement on your wall happening down the hall?”

Mission, Vision and Values . . . Oh, My!

mission, vision, and values . . . oh, my!

When I was a kid I watched “The Wizard of Oz” like every other kid about once a year. I had sort of a love/hate relationship with the movie. I never told anyone, but some parts were really scary to me. I did NOT like the wicked witch or the evil winged monkeys. I also remember being really scared the first time Dorothy, Scarecrow and Tin Man met the lion. I know I wasn’t alone. There are few in our nation who don’t know where, “Lions, tigers, and bears. Oh, my!” came from!

I think a lot of pastors feel about the same way about mission, vision, and values. Scary. What in the world are they? How do they fit together (or do they)? And are they really that important? Sometimes people will talk about them like they are somehow connected to the second coming of Christ or something. Certainly, we aren’t going to see God move or church growth without them, right?

I’d like to set the records straight.

In your ministry I think they are important and can be extremely helpful in clarifying who you are, where you are going and how you will get there. That said, you can survive without them. You already knew that. There are thousands of churches in the world that don’t have a clear mission, vision, or values and some of them are doing quite well thank you. God is even showing up and changing lives on a regular basis.

So why this almost religious preoccupation with them? I will say, some people can get a little legalistic and pushy about all this strategic stuff. I try really hard NOT to be one of them, but it is hard.

For me, it can be compared to something like godly counsel in the lives of your congregation. Do you believe that godly counsel could be a valuable and important part of your parishioner’s lives? I’m pretty sure you do.

Do you think they can still survive, hear from God, and grow spiritually without it? Likely.

But you also likely believe that they would be missing a key ingredient in life that could greatly impact their spiritual growth, eliminate unnecessary heartache, and bring them to levels of maturity and spiritual health they could not otherwise obtain.

I think you get the point.

Your mission can help you and your congregation clarify WHO YOU ARE. It can play a huge role in focusing your leadership on your church being the church the way God designed you to be. Your vision can become an expression of what you believe that will look like one day. It is your hope for the future. Your values can act as your guide, or the guardrails, as you walk down the path from where you are to where you are going.

I hope to begin a series this week exploring each of these aspects of church life. Stay tuned for more mission, vision, and values . . . oh, my!

Thinking for a Change

This post has been removed. It is now part of my new e-book entitled:

Thinking for a Change: a fresh look at critical thinking

I’d love it if you would consider purchasing the book and letting me know what you think. You can learn more about this e-book right here or feel free to purchase it right now! Cost is only $3.99. Thanks!


The Strategic Personality

This month I’ve been talking about the importance of getting the right people on the right seats in your bus:

  • In ‘The Chicken or the Egg‘ I asked the question, “Which should come first, your strategic team or your vision?”
  • In ‘The Seats of the Bus‘ I explored who should sit where on the bus.
  • In ‘What’s the Big Deal About a Wrong Seat?‘ I showed you what it might look like having the wrong person in the wrong seat – especially on your Strategic Team.
  • Finally, in ‘The Four C’s‘ I gave you permission to evaluate your team selection through the lens of four specific criteria.
I want to zero in on one of those “Four C’s” a little more today; specifically in the area of Competency. Let me ask you a question. How do you know if a person has the right personality to serve on a Strategic Team? You may not think it’s a very important question. I can assure you that it is. I’ve learned through the school of ‘hard knocks’ that certain personalities generally just don’t fit on a Strategic Team. He may have great character, awesome chemistry with you and your church, and feel called to serve in leadership. He may even be one of your leaders or elders.
If you were looking for someone to manage the finances in your organization, I think it’s safe to say that an area of competence for that role would include someone with an analytical personality. If you decided to recruit someone to teach a class you would hope the individual was good with people – another personality trait. In the same way, people who serve on the Strategic Team should lean in a particular direction regarding their personality. This is an area of competence which is very easy for us to overlook.
I’ve already shown you what it might look like if you have the wrong person in the back of the bus right here. Now I’ll show you what personality best fits in those seats. Check out this chart.

 

The upper right quadrant will tend to be your leaders and visionaries.
The upper left quadrant will often be your thinkers and analytically inclined.
The lower right quadrant will likely be your communicators and your fun people.
The lower left quadrant will usually be your faithful and loyal workers who just want to use their gifts to serve.
The closer to the outer edge, the stronger their personality in that quadrant. The closer to the center the more ‘well-rounded’ they tend to be in all of those quadrants. I recommend you try out the online personality profile at www.leadingfromyourstrengths.com/purchase-lfys-profiles.php. You’ll have to pay a $25 fee to take the test, but in the end you will have a 25+ page summary of your strengths & weaknesses. On the very last page you will find a chart similar to the one above with an indicator of where you fit.
Does this mean that people who tend toward the bottom left shouldn’t be on your team? Not necessarily. What it does mean is that certain strategic discussions will likely be more of a stretch for them to engage in. You will probably see them struggling or need to give them more time to process or catch up than you would those whose personalities lean towards the upper right. Some of these people may contribute very little to the conversation as well. I happen to know that those with a strong bottom/left personality also have a very difficult time with confrontation and conflict. Two important elements in strategic discussions.

What if you find yourself in one of that bottom left quadrant? In that scenario I would recommend that you work extra hard to ensure you don’t fill your Strategic Team with others of the same personality. In other words, be sure to recruit team members who lean to the upper right. You may also want to consider asking someone else to lead the team meetings. You should definitely be present and have a voice in the discussion, but it would probably be easier for you if someone else focused on leading so that you can give more of your energy towards processing the discussions in the room.

What’s the Big Deal About a Wrong Seat?

OK. So we have acknowledged that there are different kinds of seats on the bus. Why is this so important? Would it really be that big of a deal if team members picked their seats? What if someone who sits in the middle of the bus decides they would really like to hang out in the back of the bus? Shouldn’t we let them?

Do you remember where you sat on the bus when you were a grade-schooler or teenager? It’s pretty likely that, although you perhaps thought you would enjoy sitting somewhere else, if you did you would have felt really out of place. Or perhaps your parents made you sit in the front and you couldn’t wait for the ride to get over?

The point is, team members should be placed on the RIGHT team for their OWN benefit as well as the benefit of your organization. This is especially true when it comes to identifying who should be on your strategic team. It’s not for everyone to sit in the back of the bus. The conversations taking place in healthy strategy meetings will include honest and open assessments of current ministry, big picture brainstorming, and plans to make both small and large shifts and changes in your organization. Some of those conversations are enough to send your average “tactically-minded” team member to counselling for weeks.

Here are some signs you may have the wrong person in the wrong seat in Strategic Meetings:

  • He rarely speaks during the meeting.
  • She often fidgets or is disengaged from the conversations.
  • When he does share, his comments seem to reflect a misunderstanding of the general direction of the discussion.
  • She seems distressed during the meeting most of the time.
  • He constantly brings up reasons why ideas won’t work.
  • She regularly resents or defends ministry evaluations.
  • He is emotionally exhausted after each of the meetings.
  • She gets overwhelmed and excessively emotional during or after the meeting.
  • He keeps turning the conversation towards the details – “Who is going to do that?”, “Where will we get the money?”, “How will we ever be able to recruit people to get involved?”, etc.
Do your ministry a favor. Be careful in who you choose to be on your Strategic Team. Over the next few entries I will share more ideas on how to pick the right people for your Strategic Team.

The Chicken or the Egg?

Philosophical Dilemma: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Evidently the age-old question has finally been solved. Ironically, the solution British scientists have come up with supports creation pretty well! If you are into poultry philosophy, fell free to check out the article here.

Leadership Dilemma: Which came first, the strategic plan or the strategic team?

Most of the business and ministry world would likely have answered this question with, ‘the strategic plan’. After all, doesn’t it make sense that we determine where we want to go, what our vision is, and THEN pull together a team of people to implement that vision? I would have thought so myself until I read the book, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins (I recommend this book!). Listen to what Jim had to say about great leaders:

“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.”


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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