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.

No Matter How Bad Things Get in Your Church… Don’t Be This Guy

Ever want to just go off on someone?

Ever just want to throw in the towel and let it all out?

Think you’ve got it bad?

Evidently… not as bad as this Japanese politician.

I hope you handle your pastoral stress better than this guy:

Have you ever lost it?

Todd

Mars Hill Announces Staff Layoffs

From Mars Hill’s “The Weekly”:

Last week we had to make the very tough decision to transition a number of people off of staff from our ministry support departments, as well as some staff at a few of our local churches. These are all faithful people who served and worked hard for the church, and we regret that we had to make these changes. If you know any of them, please reach out to offer your prayers and support during this transition, and please continue to pray for the church as we navigate through a tough season.

At this week’s Staff Chapel, we had the opportunity to invite these friends back so that we could honor them and pray over them. It was a meaningful time of worship and reflection as a church family. We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to show these staff members how deeply we care about them and appreciate the contribution they have made toward Jesus’ mission at Mars Hill. While they may no longer be on staff, we love them and they are still a part of our church family.

According to a report in the Seattle PI, nine staff members were let go in the transition.

This is kind of interesting… only because I received FOUR separate emails from Mars Hill in the past few weeks asking for donations and saying that they need my help to close out their fiscal year (that ended June 30).

In fact, I’m not sure how I initially got on the Mars Hill email list, but it looks like I’ve been on it since August of 2012.  Past emails have included an announcement about Mars Hill’s music label, Christmas plans, and other generic press release type emails.

But the financial emails didn’t start until June.  In fact, the first email arrived on June fifth with the simple subject line: “Thank you!” It was a short email from MH XP Sutton Turner thanking me (as part of the Mars Hill Family) for my support and show me some of the things that are happening because of my giving. (Note:  I’ve never given to MH).

Then on June 18, I received another email entitled “Fiscal Year End Approaching”: “Please consider making a gift”.

It seemed to get more serious as time when on: On June 26: “But I need to hear from you by midnight on Monday night.”

And finally on June 30: “Mars Hill’s fiscal year ends today at midnight. Will you please make a special gift to Mars Hill so that we can end the year in a strong financial position?… But I need to hear from you by midnight tonight.”

Obviously, there is a real financial need right now at MH. And let’s face it, it’s been a tough year.

It is interesting to me that the layoffs came a week BEFORE the fiscal year ended.  That’s not a good sign.

I’m a friend of Mars Hill; and have met Mark a couple times at events that we’ve been a part of together. I wish them no ill.

QUESTION: Has your church ever had to lay-off multiple employees?  Have you ever tried to lead through a major financial crisis? What did you learn? And how to you turn things around so that the bad situation doesn’t snowball out of control?

Thoughts?

Todd

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

 

Should Church Leaders Watch “Game of Thrones”?

OK… how would YOU answer this question?

John Piper says the following:

Piper gives 12 reasons why you shouldn’t.

One of those reasons is that when if watch Game of Thrones, you are essentially, recrucifying Christ.

Christ died to purify his people. It is an absolute travesty of the cross to treat it as though Jesus died only to forgive us for the sin of watching nudity, and not to purify us for the power not to watch it.

He has blood-bought power in his cross. He died to make us pure. He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession” (Titus 2:14). If we choose to endorse or embrace or enjoy or pursue impurity, we take a spear and ram it into Jesus’s side every time we do. He suffered to set us free from impurity.

What do you think of Piper’s answer?

Do you agree?

An overstatement, or spot on?

Who’s Your Newman?

Every church leader has their Newman…

And you know exactly who he/she is.  :)

You know… the person you find annoying.

The person who’s always foiling your plans.

The person you just don’t care for.

Thing is… you have to work with ‘Newmans’ every week.  Maybe they’re on your staff.  Maybe they’re on your board.

Hopefully you’re not married to your ‘Newman’.

Who’s YOUR ‘Newman’?

And more importantly… how do you deal with ‘Newmans’ in a ministry context?

OK… go… tell your story.

Todd

 

How to “Hit a Home Run” in Your Next Sermon Series…

Today’s post is by Dr. Charles Arn.  Charles is a Visiting Professor of Christian Ministry & Outreach at Wesley Seminary.  I think you’ll like his practical tips for your next series…

Here’s how to be guaranteed that listeners will eagerly anticipate your next series of messages, waiting to hear your words—and God’s—on the selected topic.

First, some background…

A few years ago the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps asked me to research the attitudes of incoming 18-, 19-, and 20-year old recruits toward religion and church.  I interviewed young men and women across mainstream America.  One of the questions I asked was, “What is your opinion of church?”  Two words came back over and over: boring andirrelevant.

“Relevance” is one of the hallmarks of an effective, contagious church. Attendees who find their church speaking clearly and creatively to life issues not only return, but bring friends. “Relevance” is found in the words and rhythm of songs…in the style and appearance of facilities…in children’s Sunday School and topics in the adult classes.  But perhaps more than any other area, relevance must be found in the sermon.

In his book, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary, veteran pastor James Emery White talks about how to make preaching relevant: “The most important thing has to do with your sermon topics. They should address people’s life issues and questions about the faith… That means you try to bring as much of the counsel of God as you can to them through the door of their interests.”

How do you learn the interests, concerns, and needs of your congregation so that you can connect God’s Word with their world in a relevant way?  Rather than guess, why not ask them?

HERE’S HOW… 

Insert a 3×5 card in each church bulletin or program for the next several weeks, and point it out during the service.  Explain that one of your goals, as pastor, is to help the Word of God to be understood and applied in people’s daily lives so that it is relevant to both those in the church, and those in the community.  Describe the purpose of the card—to list key life issues they are facing at the moment.

Give listeners time to think about their responses to three questions, and then write them down on the card. At the end of the service attendees should drop their completed “answer cards” in one of several marked boxes on their way out. The cards should, of course, be anonymous.

THE QUESTIONS ?

  1. What do you wonder about?  What do you just not understand—or wish you did understand—about how life works?  Is it “Why bad things happen to good people?”  Or, maybe “Does prayer really work?”  Perhaps you wonder about “What happens when you die?” or “Why do innocent children suffer?”  If more than one thing comes to mind, write them all down.
  2. What do you worry about?  What keeps you up at night; causes your heart to beat faster, your anxiety to rise?  Perhaps it’s a financial issue.  Maybe a relationship gone bad.  Is there realistic hope in your worse case scenario?
  3. What do you wish for?  If money were no obstacle, time or other commitments could not stop you, what is your dream?  What would you love to see, or do?  Maybe travel somewhere. Have lots of money.  A particular job, or a special relationship?  Dreams are powerful motivators.  What’s yours?

After the service, collect the cards.  Repeat the process for the next two weeks so that people can add additional items, and those who did not attend the previous week can contribute.

On your computer create three different documents (one for each question) and transcribe the responses.  (Asking a secretary or volunteer to help may be a better use of your time.)

Then, review the responses to each question and look for common themes.  Identify general response categories for each question and make tic marks (IIII) for similar answers.  Finally, identify the most frequent responses to each question.  Once you have identified what people wonder about…worry about…wish for… you have tapped into relevance.

Your congregation will be interested in the results.  On the Sunday after your last survey, share the list and frequency of the responses.  A visual illustration or printed document will add interest.

Explain that you will be taking these responses seriously, doing research, and sharing messages in the coming months that speak to these issues.  If you are organized enough, print a list of upcoming dates in which the service will address these topics.  Encourage members to bring a friend or relative on the day(s) which may be relevant to them.

AND THEN…

Ask a group of creative people to help you plan the services.  Use the entire service to focus on the issue.  Consider drama, a panel discussion, personal testimonies, video clips.  You have an hour to address the issue.  Remember that the sermon is not the message…the service is the message.  Make it a comprehensive and engaging growth experience.

Use the series as an opportunity to invite past visitors, parents of VBS kids, inactive members, and other groups with whom you have a connection.  And in this context, communicate to all who come that Christ’s “…grace is sufficient for all your needs”  (2nd Cor. 12:9).  That’s another name for relevance!

Read some more great thoughts from Charles here…

Could this be the tipping point for some in the United Methodist Church?

There is no doubt that the subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage is a hot topic in the church these days, and it have hit fever pitch for some in the United Methodist Church.

Yesterday, suspended UMC pastor Frank Schaefer was reinstated as a pastor.  The Pennsylvania minister was suspended about six months ago after officiating his son’s same-sex marriage.

The move had some cheering; and others mad as, well, you know.

First, he was just suspended by a jury of Methodist pastors… for just 30 days.

But when he refused to promise that he would not ever perform another same-sex marriage, he was defrocked.

This is personal for Schaefer.  Three of his four children are gay.

Now, according to the LA Times, a nine-person panel of clergy and lay members has determined that that ‘defrocking’ was unlawful.  Here’s why: Revoking his credentials “cannot be squared with the well-established principle that our clergy can only be punished for what they have been convicted of doing in the past, not for what they may or may not do in the future” according to the panel.

Schaefer will be moved from PA to the California-Pacific conference where he will work in Student Ministry.

You can tell the amount of acrimony in sectors of the UMC just by reading the Bishop of the California-Pacific Conference’s release on Schaefer’s reinstatement and move to her conference:

I am aware of the fact that these steps on our journey to wholeness may be troubling to some among us.  This burdens my heart, but we must be the church of Jesus that excludes no one.  I will continue to hold up for all of us the need to be servants of Christ of the highest moral character whether we are straight or gay.  At the same time, we must not judge each other on the basis of our gender identity, for we are all created by God and loved by God with the very gender identity God has graciously bestowed upon us.

Rev. Schaefer has much to teach us about what it means to love the children God gives us who happen to be gay.  I pray that we will make space for him and his family in our lives and in our hearts as he comes to labor among us.

For those on the other side of this issue, I doubt they feel that Schaefer has anything to teach them.  She doesn’t seem to understand that there are a good share of her tribe that feel that it is not possible to live under the highest moral character if you are a practicing homosexual.

We have a lot of United Methodists that read this blog… many on both sides of the issue.

My question… will the Schaefer case turn into some kind of a tipping point ultimately for or against gay marriage in the UMC?

Your thoughts?

Todd

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