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Seriously. Stop Counting Attendance on the Weekends.

… as your primary indicator of church health.

For years, Many churches have used ‘butts and bucks’ as they’re leading spiritual indicators.

It’s just not true anymore. (And probably, these were the best indicators to begin…But they were measurable.)

David Odom has put into words what many of us have been thinking: measuring weekend attendance isn’t all that it used to be.

David says:

Average worship attendance was once such an important number. With it, I could predict the size of the church staff, the informal patterns of decision-making, most of the stresses on the pastor’s time, the leadership required for small groups, and more.

Back in the day, church consultant Lyle Schaller was quoted as saying that average worship attendance was a better indicator of congregational behavior than denomination, geography or neighborhood.

Today that number means much less because the definition of an active member has shifted.

At one time, “active” meant attending services three or four times a month. Today people feel active when they enter the church building once or twice a month. Some people engage worship more regularly online than from the pew. Others prioritize participation in a small group over worship attendance. Congregations have multiple services and, increasingly, multiple campuses.

It is more and more difficult to determine what “attending” means, much less judge someone as “active.”

I’m not sure that any of us would disagree. If nothing else, attendance patterns have shifted. In the past, regular church attendance meant people came at least three weekends a month. The new norm for regular attender? It’s probably more like one or two weekend a month.

David continues:

Church attendance was once a key indicator of a virtuous cycle. If the church could get a new person in the pew regularly, offerings would go up, involvement in small groups and missions would climb, and the church would be healthy. If attendance was declining then everything else would eventually decline.

The growing lack of dependability on attendance is a sign that the virtuous cycles that have sustained congregations since the end of World War II are collapsing. In order to sustain congregations over the long haul, new cycles need to be developed. Once that begins to happen, new measures can be identified.

One place to start is to map all the ways that a person engages a congregation — joining a small group, attending group meetings and social functions, contributing to special causes and to the church’s general budget, reading sermons or other resources on-line, volunteering in a missions project, teaching a class and more.

What patterns of engagement emerge? Which activities encourage participation in other activities? What practices are most likely to lead to spiritual growth? These are the building blocks of virtuous cycles.

This whole attendance conundrum is something that is baffling many church leaders. How can we change what we see is happening? Why is it happening? This is only happening to us or is it happening everywhere?

From my discussions with many church leaders, it’s a cultural transit seems to be happening everywhere. So at least you can take heart that it’s not just happening in your church.

But what David says is true.

The days of measuring attendance (butts) and offering (bucks) are over.

Your church needs to find new ways to measure peoples’ involvement.

And that has to do with engagement.

How are your people engaging these days outside of the weekly worship service?

How are you reaching new people?

And one of the most important questions we need to ask is: how are people coming to Christ in our context?

These are the things we should be measuring!

So… what are you measuring these days? Are you seeing evidence of what David is saying, where attendance can be down and offerings can be up? That there’s really no correlation between the two anymore?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below telling your thoughts on this.

Todd

Read more here…

Mom. Mom. Mum. Mommy. Mom. Momma. Ma. Ma. Mom.

This is what email does to you every single day (if you leave your email client open or check email on your phone every time the notification goes off).

Why is it so annoying when our kids do this to us, but not when our email notification interrupts every important thing we do during the day?

New York Times researcher Daniel Levitin says that you should give your brain time to rest and reset by adjusting the way you approach all of your tasks, specifically social media and email:

If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.

Email, too, should be done at designated times. An email that you know is sitting there, unread, may sap attentional resources as your brain keeps thinking about it, distracting you from what you’re doing. What might be in it? Who’s it from? Is it good news or bad news? It’s better to leave your email program off than to hear that constant ping and know that you’re ignoring messages.

One great tool that I’ve found (I use gmail and chrome) is called “Inbox Pause”.  It’s free, and allows you to pause your email inbox (and all notifications on your desktop, tablet, and phone with the touch of a button.

It’s awesome.

Because if I don’t, I AM the guy who looks at the notification and cannot resist seeing who emailed me.

Try Inbox Pause, and let me know what you think?

How do you handle email?  Any tricks you can share to help us all?

Read more here…

Todd

Taking Your Church’s Pulse: Are you Thriving or Diving?

As church leaders, we all look at numbers.

But what numbers are you looking at?

Any churches just look at butts and bucks… How many people are sitting in the seats and how many dollars coming in the offering.

But we all know that the old butts and bucks measure only feels part of the story. In fact, it’s very possible to have more but some more bucks and a very unhealthy church.

So what should you measure? What indicators actually give you A good idea of how your churches doing? Executive Pastor Dan Reiland from 12 Stone Church suggests these 10 numbers that REALLY matter…

1. Serving the poor.

2. Visitors that don’t look like you.

3. Next generation called to ministry.

4.  Restored marriages.

5. New Christians/Baptisms.

6. Addictions broken and fear conquered.

7. First time tithers.

8. New leaders and volunteers.

9. Hours devoted to prayer.

10. Kids treated with respect.

You can read more of Dan’s thoughts on each of these items here.

The fact of the matter is, what gets measured, gets done.

Be honest. What are you measuring? If you’re only measuring butts and bucks, you’re missing out.

Each of the items in the above list can be tracked and measured. Pick one or two and start. My guess is that what you start measuring, I’m not only be more excited about seeing results but improving the results.

So… What are you measuring your church? I’d love to hear! Please leave a comment below or send me an e-mail to ToddRhoades@gmail.com.

Todd

Two Essential Questions to Ask About Your Leadership Team or Your Board

Would’ve the biggest frustrations many lead pastors and church leaders deal with on a day-to-day basis is dealing with their board or leadership team. In many churches, leadership meetings can take hours and yet seem to accomplish very little.

Communication, of course, is key. So is cultivating relationships of trust.

What what do you do when you’re stuck? What do you do when it just seems that you’re making no progress whatsoever?

Mike Bonem suggests that as a group you ask your leadership team these two simple questions:

1.: Are the issues we’re discussing important for our future? In other words, are these the issues that are main leadership team should even be dealing with? Be open and honest… Is this really something we should be talking about, or is this a decision that can best be made by someone else or another group?

2. Do we make and follow through on decisions made in our team meetings? The point here is: your decisions are not valuable if they’re not carried out. In some churches, it’s all talk and no decision. But in other churches decisions are made but are never carried out. Both are tragic.

Mike says, “Here’s my recommendation. First, answer the two questions on your own. How do you evaluate your team? Then makes these two questions the focus of your next leadership team meeting. Push hard for an honest conversation and if changes are needed, make a clear decision on what will be different in the future. It could be the most important thing that your team will do this week.

So… How are you doing in your leadership team meetings? Are they extremely valuable? Or are they sometimes what seems to be a huge waste of time?

For additional help, Mike also recommends the book “Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni.

Let me know what you’re learning in yourLeague team meetings.Send me an e-mail with your thoughts to toddrhoades@gmail.com.

Why Video is So Stinkin’ Important In Your Church

As a church leader, you need to use every tool at your disposal to communicate your mission, vision, and values at your church.

Don’t discount video.

According to a post at Insivia.com, here are some very important things to remember about video and the power it has in your ministry:

  • Each day 100 million internet users watch an online video.
  • 90% of user say that seeing a video about a product is helpful in the decision process.  (What ministry implications does this have when people visit your church’s website?)
  • According to ComScore, the average user spends over 16 minutes watching online video ads every month. – The key word here is ‘ads’.  These are JUST the ads.
  • They say a picture is worth a million words.  Insivia says that one minute of video is equal to 1.8 million words. (Not quite sure where they get that, but it IS interesting).
  • Comedy is the most popular form of online video content among all viewers at 39% according to Burst Media.  (Question:  How can you use comedy to help people remember your point?)
  • BUT… Keep it Short:  45% of viewers will stop watching a video after 1 minute and 60% by 2 minutes, according to Visible Measures.
  • It’s the future:  By 2016, 2/3rds of the worlds mobile data traffic will be video according to Cisco.  2/3 by 2016?  Sounds like we have some work to do.

How is YOUR church uniquely using video?

Do you think video will play an important role in the next 5-10 years of ministry?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Todd

How to Reorganize Your Church Without Freaking People Out

Dan McCarthy thinks that you can change an organization without freaking people out.

People freak out in churches all the time.

And change makes many people totally freak.

When congregants freak out, they leave.

Or they make waves (which, in turn, freaks out a whole new group of people).

And, I might add, I’ve seen a few pastors freak out in my day as well.

So… how do you make changes without everyone getting their underwear in a wad?

According to McCarthy, the first step in changing an organization takes a little bit of organization.  A plan. A well-thought-out-plan.

Many (many) leaders just try to change things without a plan.

That freaks people out.

To tell you the truth… that freaks me out when a leader does that.

Here are Dan’s steps for a ‘change plan’:

1. Start with a strategy. 
It’s critical to know where the organization or team is going – what’s important, what’s not, what are the goals, etc…. While this may sound obvious, it’s an often overlooked step. Don’t have a strategy? Then maybe it’s time to create one before you start messing with the organization chart. Structure should always follow strategy. A new organization chart is not a strategy!

2. Develop your criteria.
List the problems you are trying to solve and/or opportunities. Then weight (High, Medium, Low) each one. This becomes the criteria that you’ll use to evaluate design alternatives and to measure your success.

3. Develop and evaluate design alternatives.
I’ve seen a lot of teams fall in love with one idea and then spend all of their time trying to justify it or make it perfect. Instead, try to come up with multiple alternatives (3-4), and then rank those against your criteria. The reality is none of the options will ever be perfect – there will always be trade-offs and risks.

Take the best one, and then come up with action plans to mitigate the risks.

This is also a good time to discuss other alternatives that DON’T involve reorganizing. Sometimes, the best change is no change.

4. Test the final design with scenarios.
Spend time testing the design by discussing how various business processes would work within the new structure. These “what if” discussions help fine tune the structure and clarify roles.

Let’s be frank.

Freaking people out is not good leadership.

Sure… you’ll always have people that won’t go along with your plan, won’t like your plan, or (honestly) won’t like you.  But a plan will at least give these people your rationale for the changes you are trying to make.

So… don’t just make changes… make a plan to make the changes, over time, with as many people on board.

There’s no need to freak out here, people.  :)

Thoughts?

Read more here.

Todd

Mission Drift: How Churches and Organizations Get Off-Mission

In 1636 Harvard was founded as a place to train clergy.

In 2014 many in the church find this hard to imagine.

So what happened over the last three hundred years to change the way that we view this venerable institution?

Chris Horst, Peter Greer, and Andy Crouch recently teamed up to write a book called Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches, in it they explain exactly what happened: Mission Drift. A couple months back Chris sat down with my friend Matt and I to help us understand what mission drift is, how to recognize it, and how to protect against it. The video is fifteen minutes long, but it is well worth your time.

Check it out:

How are YOU protecting against mission drift?

In the video we mention that the book was in pre-release… it has since been released and you need to buy several copies which you can do by clicking here.

12 Things You Should Do When Something Goes Right

You’ve always heard that the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

Well, many times as leaders, we only try to oil the squeaky things… the things that are going badly. The more badly they go, the more attention we pour into them.

When things go badly, we call meetings, we hold accountable, and we take action.  Many times we kick the cat; knowing that we have to hold someone responsible for something that went terribly wrong (because we know that it’s our butt on the line at the next elder’s meeting).

But maybe we should stop being so stinking reactionary all the time.

Sure… you have to hold accountable; and you have to deal with the bad.

But when was the last time you handled something urgently when it went really, really well?

Ouch.

Dan Rockwell (aka The Leadership Freak) contrasts how leaders handle the failures and the successes; and gives your twelve pretty simple ways that you can actively act on the great things that are happening all around you:

  1. Call “what went right” meetings.
  2. Send emails to higher ups bragging about the team.
  3. Instill urgency.
  4. Identify behaviors that produce achievement and create success.
  5. Make decisions quickly. Action follows decisions. When leaders don’t decide, everyone waits.
  6. Identify expediters, multipliers, and progress makers.
  7. Assign responsibility for useful behaviors. Keep doing…
  8. Devise plans to keep success happening.
  9. Elevate accountability. “Let’s review our success plan next week.”
  10. Reward if it’s happened before.
  11. Have tough conversations. What needs to continue? How could we be better?
  12. Take action quickly and persistently until the next milestone is reached. Don’t ease up.

Read more from Dan here…

A good leader celebrates success just as much as they learn from failures.

How are you doing in this area?

Todd

The Three Minute Dare

I dare you to watch this three minute video. Give it your full attention. Then we’ll discuss.

Well… how hard was it?

While this video may be kind of a parody of our current culture, there is much truth in it.

And how we communicate as leaders.

It is VERY hard for many to concentrate on anything for very long.

For me, it’s not so much hard to concentrate.  I can do that.  I have trouble unplugging and relaxing.

For those of us in the church, we do have to be sensitive to how people communicate today.

While many people are communicating best in snippits (i.e. 140 characters or a single picture); we are asking people to give us their undivided attention for an hour and fifteen minutes on Sunday mornings.

For many people, it’s hard.

In the day and age of short; we still preach, uninterrupted for 30, 40, even 50 minutes, trying to pop the word ‘gospel’ in there as many times as possible.

And that’s all good.

But understand, it’s a stretch for many people.

People with phones buzzing in their pockets.

It’s killing them.  You’re killing them.

What am I suggesting?

I have no idea.

But here are a couple of things, just off the top of my head:

1.  Why not try this week to tweet your sermon.  Take this week’s message, however long it is, and find 20-30 tweetable moments.  Wake-up call:  if you can’t find 20-30 tweetable moments in your sermon… well… that’s not a good omen.

2.  Take 30 minutes and record 3-5 short youtube videos to engage your Sunday attenders throughout the week. Just a webcam and 30 minutes required.  Post them to youtube; and add them to facebook and twitter.

Look.  I’m not suggesting you compromise the gospel.

I’m not even suggesting that you cut the time of your sermon back by 20% (although I hear a roaring crowd from the congregation on that one)  :)  I’m just asking you to consider how your people are communicating and consuming; and try to fit your message into that mold so that you can have a greater impact on their lives.

After all… isn’t that why you got into this job?

Todd

Pastors who are Jerks

Have you ever met a pastor who is a real ‘jerk’?

Professor of Philosophy Eric Schwitzgebel has an actual academic theory about jerkiness. After much study, here is Schwitzgebel’s working definition:

The jerk culpably fails to appreciate the perspectives of others around him, treating them as tools to be manipulated or idiots to be dealt with rather than as moral and epistemic peers.

In other words… try this on for size:  Are you surrounded by fools? Are you the only reasonable person around? Then maybe you’re the one with the jerkitude?

Youch.  I think we all feel like this from time to time.

All drivers are idiots.

All airlines and every single one of their employees are inept.

My board (substitute ‘staff’, ‘elders’ ‘attenders’) just don’t get it.

Schwitzgebel writes a fascinating, rather short piece on jerkitude.  It’s worth the read.

But let’s cut to the chase.  Are YOU a jerk? Am I?

Here’s what Eric (I’m tired of typing out his last name) says can help you determine if you’re a real jerk.

(My guess is… you are).  [see what I did there?]

How can you know your own moral character? You can try a label on for size: ‘lazy’, ‘jerk’, ‘unreliable’ – is that really me? As the work of Vazire and other personality psychologists suggests, this might not be a very illuminating approach. More effective, I suspect, is to shift from first-person reflection (what am I like?) to second-person description (tell me, what am I like?). Instead of introspection, try listening. Ideally, you will have a few people in your life who know you intimately, have integrity, and are concerned about your character. They can frankly and lovingly hold your flaws up to the light and insist that you look at them. Give them the space to do this, and prepare to be disappointed in yourself.

Done well enough, this second-person approach could work fairly well for traits such as laziness and unreliability, especially if their scope is restricted: laziness-about-X, unreliability-about-Y. But as I suggested above, jerkitude is not so tractable, since if one is far enough gone, one can’t listen in the right way. Your critics are fools, at least on this particular topic (their critique of you). They can’t appreciate your perspective, you think – though really it’s that you can’t appreciate theirs.

To discover one’s degree of jerkitude, the best approach might be neither (first-person) direct reflection upon yourself nor (second-person) conversation with intimate critics, but rather something more third-person: looking in general at other people. Everywhere you turn, are you surrounded by fools, by boring nonentities, by faceless masses and foes and suckers and, indeed, jerks? Are you the only competent, reasonable person to be found? In other words, how familiar was the vision of the world I described at the beginning of this essay?

If your self-rationalising defences are low enough to feel a little pang of shame at the familiarity of that vision of the world, then you probably aren’t pure diamond-grade jerk. But who is? We’re all somewhere in the middle. That’s what makes the jerk’s vision of the world so instantly recognisable. It’s our own vision. But, thankfully, only sometimes.

It seems to me that jerkiness is really some deviated form of selfishness. And if that’s the case, I am, more often than not, guilty as charged.  :)

What about you?

Todd

 

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