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John Rinaldo has some great thoughts on successful pastors.  And I heartily agree with him. OK… don’t fly off the handle at me for using the word ‘successful’ and ‘pastor’ in the same sentence. Because I know I have a target on my head for saying that. Don’t read too much into it.  And don’t let it ruin your day. To some pastors… to be successful means to ‘preach the word’. Don’t get me wrong… preaching the word is great.  Awesome, actually.  But while preaching the word is one way (and a very important one) to being faithful (and might I say… successful); it is not the only thing that a pastor needs to be doing to make sure that the church is healthy and moving forward. So… if you’re of the ‘preach the word’ only mindset… please read the following with an open mind.  (Please?) keep reading

Bud Brown shares some metrics that he thinks would make megachurches much more visitor friendly.  See if you agree.  He writes: Mega-church staff and pastors are trapped in a dilemma created by the Church Growth movement – the assumption that bigger is better and that attendance inevitably produces spiritual maturity. This perspective on the disciple making process inevitably leads to metrics like attendance, income, visitor returns and so forth. In time the relentless demands of schedules, logistics, and buildings become the vision; keeping the machine running smoothly becomes the mission, and it happens with no one noticing. Inevitably,  attending a mega-church is like going to Walmart the day after Thanksgiving – it is a madhouse! I’ve seen this from the inside so I have an idea of more appropriate metrics that will move a mega-church in the direction of becoming genuinely engaging, warm and welcoming: How many first time visitors did the greeters meet at the door to the auditorium? To how many regular attendees did the official greeter introduce the new guests? How many first time visitors were greeted by a staff member (Other than children’s and youth pastors all of them should circulate in the auditorium before and after services) How many prayer requests did staff collect from visitors? What is the lag time between a first visit and contact by a non-paid member of the church? (forget the pastor’s welcome letter; it’s nothing more than useless chatter these days) Is a pastor or high ranking staff member actually available meet guests after every service? How often is the hospitality team coached on technique and process? How often does the church employ a “secret shopper” guest to give impartial evaluation of the hospitality? Does the church have a welcoming team at every entrance? How many times did a welcome team members escort a new guest from the entrance to the main welcome center? Is the congregation regularly instructed that members waiting for the service to begin should greet one a number of people and not chat with one person at length? How effective is the enfolding process in moving first time guests into regular fellowship in small groups, connecting them with staff members and insuring that their spiritual needs are met or at least prayed for? What is the percentage rate? Finally, what percentage of first-time guests eventually become regular attenders who are engaged in service through the church? via Can megachurches be church visitor friendly? — Transition Ministries Group. What do YOU think?  Do you think it’s easier or harder for a larger church to be visitor friendly?
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Mac Lake puts out some GREAT leadership stuff… like today’s post on non-negotiables when developing your team.  Mac writes: Here are 5 Non-Negotiable actions I would require as a team leader that will help build a culture of leadership development among your team. 1.  Require written goals – Have the individuals on your team turn in a one page written summary of their goals for the next 4 months.  This lays the ground work for shared expectations and gives you a basis from which to coach their performance. 2.  Require regular 1-1′s. Meet with each person on your team at least once a month if  not twice a month.  During those meetings review their goals, ask what problems they are encountering and use it as a time for individual coaching. 3.  Require reading – A team that reads together learns together.  Reading a leadership book and discussing it during team meetings creates an atmosphere of shared learning and development. 4.  Require reproduction – Leaders should be producing leaders.  Ram Charan in his book Leaders at All Levels recommends that everyone in your organization have “raising up new leaders” as a part of their job description.  When someone is teaching others to lead it reinforces those principles in their own life. 5.  Require evaluation – Have times of regular evaluation as a team.  Ask them:  What have we been doing well?  What can we learn from that?  Where do we need to improve?  What can we learn from that? via Mac Lake » Blog Archive » Non-Negotiables for Developing Your Team.  Subscribe to Mac’s RSS feed for daily great stuff! QUESTION:  What’s been the hardest part of developing YOUR team? Todd

This started as a letter to a friend serving as a volunteer in another church… and then morphed into something much longer. Your average small church pastor (there is no such thing, really, but let me wax rhetorical for a minute) is a little like the guy who used to show up on the Ed Sullivan show & spin plates on long slender poles. He looks calm & collected as he starts spinning the first few… but soon he’s running around like a chicken with his head cut off (ooo – bad metaphor based on some Personnel Committee meetings I’ve been in) trying to keep anything from falling. Chances are excellent that he was given sub-standard training in church administration in seminary (I certainly was)… and that the lay folks (that’s pastorspeak for “congregation members who aren’t paid for their services”) in his church have even less training/gifting in that area than he does. Now, no pastor worth his salt is going to argue (seriously) that the church shouldn’t be organized – and if he is, direct him to Jethro & Moses and/or Paul’s pastoral letters. What they are likely to do is drag their feet in creating or revising the organization of the church because
  • they aren’t good at it
  • they don’t know how to fix it
  • and they’re threatened by what could/might happen if they did.
The problems at the church we’re discussing:
  • money being tight
  • ministries w/inadequate publicity that flop w/out sustained leadership
  • a small core of people (20%?) doing most of the work (80%?)
are common to small churches. It is my personal experience that smaller churches must decide what God has gifted them to do & then do it… rather than attempt to be a mom’n’pop version of the “big box” church across town. (Let me flesh that out a bit – small churches don’t have the resources to do a lot of things well; so instead, they should spend their resources on the things that are strong in order to make them God-honoringly excellent… instead of trying to offer as much and/or more than the church down the street.) That involves a really tough shift in thinking, esp. for older SBC churches who were trained to do what was called “five star” church (ask around – some of your older members will be able to quote this stuff right back to you – they put it in the water like fluoride):
  • a great church has a great Sunday School program (age-graded w/teachers, secretaries, class leaders, etc.)
  • a great church has a great music program (age-graded choirs & ensembles)
  • a great church has a great Discipleship Training program (again, age-graded – this was not small groups but another teaching time to deal with doctrine & practice)
  • a great church has a great Brotherhood ministry (this was an age-graded program for boys [Royal Ambassadors] to men [Brotherhood] that was missions focused – Brotherhood, btw, is completely defunct as a SBC program organization)
  • a great church has a great WMU ministry (this is the Women’s Missionary Union – also age-graded [from Mission Friends to G.A.’s to Acteens to W.M.U] women’s program that was, for many years, the backbone of missions support in the SBC)
Think about it – if you grew up thinking that the above five points were what made a successful church, you ingested a serious case of “programitis” – believing that the Kingdom of God advanced through the creation of programs for all ages. And if you believe that, then regardless of the size of the church, you had 4 hours of “class time” per person to support with money, leaders & church space – because if you didn’t, you weren’t being all that the church could be. And now, even though most of those things don’t/can’t happen in the average small church, the church feels the pull to do that kind of thing. Couple that with the drumbeat of “why don’t we have a Beth Moore study?” or “why don’t our men have a prayer breakfast?” or “our teenagers should have small groups in addition to their weekly meeting!” or “we should have as good a children’s church program as the Methodists” or “why don’t we have Awanas here?” and it is nearly impossible for churches not to do the binge & purge method of creating/killing programs:
  1. hear the need (which, please understand, I believe are real – youth do need small groups; adults need deeper Bible study; kids programs should be excellent)
  2. flail about looking for someone to lead this new ministry/program
  3. grab someone who is already overworked but easily feels guilt
  4. do a horrific job of planning for the ministry and/or recruiting other leaders
  5. launch without doing good publicity to the community or the congregation
  6. initial success is followed almost immediately by decline in attendance, rationalizing about why it’s not working, and a vow to continue despite obvious problems (which are ignored for “spiritual” reasons)
  7. depending on the church, either a staff person or a prominent lay person comes in to take over leadership as the program falters
  8. the program becomes dependent on artificial life support from the key leadership person – if they step out, the program dies
  9. due to the key leadership person and a fear of killing programs/hurting people’s feelings, the program continues on LONG beyond its useful lifespan
No, I’m not cynical. I’ve just watched this cycle happen over & over & over in my own ministry and in churches I’ve served. Breaking the cycle requires smaller churches to realistically assess what they’re good at/what their lay leadership is passionate about… and then pour their resources (financial, people, building space, staff time, etc.) into those things. Then the tough part – the church (and particularly the pastor) has to learn to say “No” or “Wait” to very good ministries that don’t fit their gifts & strengths. Not letting the good get in the way of the best is difficult if you don’t have some kind of way to evaluate the effectiveness of your plans & programs. BTW, a business meeting is a lousy forum for this. In fact, chances are pretty good there isn’t a good forum for this – most church people are afraid to say “this isn’t working” because you’re going to hurt someones feelings. (In some cases, you’re going to besmirch the good name of Sister So-and-So, who started the program years ago & did such a great job & HAS BEEN FACE TO FACE WITH JESUS FOR TEN PLUS YEARS and is hollering from Heaven to “kill it already and get on with building the Kingdom, for crying out loud!”) You need to carefully & prayerfully figure out what the best venue is for healthy evaluation of where the church is… and then get the pastor’s buy-in to be supportive of that evaluation. A reminder: evaluation isn’t magic. You can evaluate the heck out of something yet choose not to deal with what you learn – and now you’ve wasted the time you spent evaluating as well as the resources necessary to continue the program in a crippled state. Blech. Evaluation that doesn’t lead to change/improvement will quickly teach people to sit down & shut up. A healthy & well-organized church isn’t going to happen because you copy another church’s set of documents or you plot the perfect path to organizational health. A pastor can’t preach wise administration into existence any more than he can preach 100% of the church into tithing. Anything that happens in the structure of a church (large or small) happens because we trust God with it – because we talk to Him about it (prayer), look at Biblical examples (Bible study), and talk to others who’ve made the same kinds of changes (wise counsel). And then we do what He says.