In October I said goodbye to the friends and the church that had become family in DC and headed west to be closer to my mom, my in-laws, and sunshine. After serving on staff at National Community Church for over six years I decided to take some time to write about the things I had learned during my time in DC.
By the time I got to California, Rachel, my wife, had already been there for three months. She began searching for a church to attend before I arrived and had landed at a place called Eastside Christian Church. She received a mailer from the church, and, seeing that it was less than five minutes away from our apartment, decided to check it out.
Having tried a handful of churches that weren’t quite the right fit, she was struck by how Eastside had a rare combination of friendliness and excellence.
The second weekend that I visited Eastside, there was a dinner following the Saturday night service. They wanted to feed everyone barbecue and cast vision for the church, much of which revolved around the plan to start more Eastside locations.
While we were waiting in line for food, Rachel heard a familiar voice behind us. Andie had hosted Rachel’s table at First Step with Gene, an event Eastside does for guests. They hadn’t kept in touch since then, but Andie was pretty much the only person at church who Rachel knew.
We started talking, and Andie asked what I did for a living. At this point I was not advertising the fact that I had been a pastor. In fact, I was hiding it. I was looking to be a normal church member while I pursued writing. So I just told her that I was an author. And naturally, she asked what type of writing I did.
I decided it’s probably not good to lie about what you do for a living, especially when what you do is write about how to bring people together in community to help them become more like Jesus, so I told her that I used to be a small groups pastor at our church in DC and that I wrote about small groups.
“Oh, we’re looking for some help with our small groups.”
It turns out Andie is one of the elders at Eastside. Exactly what I was trying to avoid.
I kinda stumbled through a reply that went something like, “Uh, um, I really am just pursuing writing right now."
A couple of months go by, and Rachel and I are joining Andie and her husband Keith for lunch after church. When we walk up she introduces us to Greg and Dave who are both on staff on the Build Community team at Eastside, which is the team responsible for groups, among other things.
Later that week I have lunch with Greg and Dave where I learn that they’re moving to a small group model called “free market” and want to hire someone to run groups, although they haven't yet advertised the position or begun a candidate search.
My wife gets a mailer for a church five minutes away from our apartment and starts attending. The second weekend I’m there they have a dinner. Of the 5000 people who attend Eastside, the one person my wife knows ends up in line behind us. She just happens to be an elder who introduces us to two members of the team responsible for small groups who tell me that they’re looking to hire someone to run groups. It also just so happens that the church model (multi-site) and the small group model (free market) are the same church model and group model we used at NCC.
I’m not someone who sees the hand of God in every coincidence or random encounter, but I find it hard to chalk up that series of events to chance.
After a number of further conversations and interviews, it truly seems that this is something God has been orchestrating, and so I start my new role as the Director of Build Community at Eastside Christian Church this Saturday.
There are a lot of words to describe how I’m feeling: humbled, honored, a bit nervous. But I think most of all I’m excited to be joining a team that has both a passion and a plan to transform homes, communities, and the world for Jesus.
What do I believe is impossible to do in my field, but if it could be done would fundamentally change my business?
Andy Stanley posed that question during a podcast entitled Bold Leadership. As I was listening, the answer struck me:
Reaching 100% participation in small groups without the lead pastor being in a group.
It’s the white whale of small group ministry: having as many or more people attending small groups than attend weekend church services, and conventional wisdom says that the single most important factor in making this a reality is involvement of the lead pastor.
It makes sense. The pastor is the most influential person in the organization. They have 30 minutes of platform time every week. They make hiring and firing decisions. They usually have a high level of influence over the budget. And perhaps most importantly, people in the church value the input of the lead pastor over any other staff member. The reality is that even if a lead pastor is supportive of small groups, if he or she isn’t in one, it signals to the congregation that while groups may be a good thing, they aren’t an essential thing.
But what if it were possible? What if there were a way to lead a small group ministry such that it was reaching as many or even more people than the weekend services?
This would be revolutionary because there are churches where the lead pastor just isn't going to join a small group. There may be totally valid reasons for this, but the fact is that it's going to limit the scope of that church's small group ministry. But what if it didn't have to?
I had a phone meeting on Tuesday with Tim Ferrell, a small groups pastor at a local church and staff member with the Navigators discipleship ministry. He wanted some insight into how we do small groups at National Community Church.
I take calls like this all of the time. Our pastor, Mark Batterson, is a well-known author and speaker, and by extension, we are a well-known church, the result of which is, people want to know how we do ministry. The fact that people are interested in our small groups has little to do with my skills or abilities. I'm really just in demand by association.
On most of these calls, I do a lot of talking, and the folks on the other end of the phone do a lot of listening, which makes sense, since they reached out because they wanted to learn more about how and why we do what we do. In fact, I talk about our methods and models so much, I can almost do it in my sleep.
A few weeks ago I was interviewing a young woman who applied for a position with us. She's finishing up a fellowship program with another church (her first post-college job) and looking for what's next. During her interview she talked about something she's doing in her current role that we thought was a great idea and intend to replicate.
And this morning I was reading A Trip Around the Sun, in which Dick Foth writes:
Engage people and life ramps up. I can learn from anyone: a ninety-three-year-old or a three-year-old, a street sweeper or a scientist. When I make a friend, I get smarter, when I make a friend, I get richer.
I consider myself someone who's willing to learn from anyone. Some of our best ideas, such as our Small Group Expo, have come from volunteers and staff who report to me. And I'd like to think that I'm quick to give credit where credit is due for those successes.
But Dick, Tim, and this young woman are teaching me a valuable lesson.
Tim is in his 50s or 60s and has been in vocational ministry longer than I've been alive. The fact is that he knows way more about small groups than I do. That he is not just willing to learn from someone half his age but actually sought out my advice speaks volumes about both his humility and his desire to learn.
While I've been willing to learn from anyone, I usually spend more time teaching and less time learning. I'm starting to realize that I need to move beyond willingness and begin actively seeking to learn from every person, every interaction, and every conversation.
It was nearly six years ago that I made the decision to quit my job on Capitol Hill to take an unpaid internship as a Protege at National Community Church.
It was a decision that radically altered the trajectory of my life.
If you are interested in vocational ministry or just want to spend a year growing as a leader and follower of Christ, I'd encourage you to check out the Protege Program. It's not just an internship, it's a year long leadership and character development program in which you are paired with a mentor from your chosen department.
I'd especially recommend checking out the Discipleship Team... but then, I'm biased.
Energetic, passionate, committed, relentless: these are just a few of the words that describe Ben Reed.
Ben is the small groups pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church, a great faith community just outside of Nashville, where he is rethinking and restructuring group life. Before that he served as the groups pastor and then executive pastor for a church plant that grew to over 2000 in weekly attendance.
But more important to me than his impressive resume is that I have the privilege of calling Ben a friend, and I am excited to introduce you to his first book, Starting Small: The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint.
So Ben, for as long as I've known you, you've been a prolific blogger. What made you decide to write a book?
I felt like I had more to say than a series of blog posts could handle. I love blogging, but I was ready to be able to carry a sustained idea a little longer than a blog can.
The value of blogs is that they’re short and to-the-point. My book, though it’s intentionally short (70 pages), is a lot longer than you’d ever want to read on a blog post.
I love writing, and I really make sense of the world as I flesh my thoughts out that way. So the book was as helpful for me as it ever will be for anyone else.
You write about how your love of small group ministry comes out of your own experience in a group and the impact the group had on your life. As I read it, Starting Small is about systematizing that type of experience so that others can have it too. Other than picking up a copy of Starting Small, what advice would you have for folks who are just beginning to lead a small group ministry?
Grab the best leaders you know. Not necessarily the most spiritual, the ones who have been following Jesus the longest, or the ones that know the most Bible, but the best leaders. The ones that people want to follow.
And ask them to journey through life with you in your small group. Invest in them. Help them grow. Let them experience authentic community, see the beauty and power in it, then deploy them to lead as you coach them through the process.
That's good. Find the people with the most leadership capacity, and walk with them until they're spiritually ready... sounds kinda like making disciples.
In Chapter 2 you point out that few of us can name 10 sermons that impacted our lives but that we can almost certainly name 10 people who have invested in us. How can we help our group leaders become not just meeting facilitators but people who are making a significant investment in the lives of the people in their groups?
Help them see that the value of groups is not found in completing a curriculum, checking a box that says you “met,” or in coming to all of the right trainings.
The value of a small group is in people taking steps of faith together.
And when you see groups doing that, celebrate it!
Because what’s celebrated is what’s replicated. So when you “catch” someone doing the right thing, let them, and everyone else, know it.
I love that. Let me say that again in case anyone missed it.
Groups are about people taking steps of faith together, not completing the curriculum, and if you want more people to take steps of faith together, celebrate when it happens.
Okay, I should probably step down off my soapbox now.
In Chapter 3 you talk about the importance of a senior pastor in group life. If he or she is bought in, the congregation will notice. And if he or she isn't, the congregation will notice. What advice would you give to small group directors/pastors at churches where the senior pastor isn't fully invested in small groups?
Find a new church.
No, seriously, your church needs you. Don’t give up! Invite your pastor to join your group. And don’t put the pressure of leadership on them, or expectation that they’d wear their pastor hat every week. Just let them be themselves. Let them be a follower of Jesus on a journey, just like everyone else in the group.
As they see lives changing around them in the group, and as God changes their own life too, their sermon illustrations will change from being generic “I’ve heard a story of a guy that…” to, “In my small group this week…” That’s a powerful shift.
It is. Nothing communicates the value of group life like stories or even just mentions of group life. It's invaluable.
Speaking of sermons and church services, one of my favorite parts of Starting Small is in Chapter 5 where you offer a critique of modern worship services as hyper-individualistic. If you were designing a church service from the ground up, what would you do differently?
I would strategically use Sunday mornings as an on-ramp for community. Link the small group questions to the sermon. Tell the congregation that you realize all questions, concerns, and hang-ups can’t be answered here. And tell people constantly that what’s best for them is not that they’d just sit there and soak in, but that they (no matter where they are on their spiritual journey) can be used by God in huge ways to impact the people God’s brought into their lives.
Ben, thanks for spending a few minutes with us. If you haven't gotten a copy of Starting Small yet, be sure to order one. It would make a great gift for the small group lover in your life.
While you're at it, be sure to keep up with Ben on his blog, Life and Theology, as well as on Twitter.
AS: Leaning into what your strengths are means you have to give stuff away. How has what you do or don't do changed over the years?
CG: I really believe that the more effective you want to become as a leader, the fewer things you do. In the early years, I was the only staff member, so I did everything. It was the greatest day when someone else cared if the toilet overflowed.
I wanted to do everything and kept my hands in it. For example, we were the campus pastors at the pastors we preached at for too long. People kept trying to free me up until finally I listened.
If I ask you about your church or organization and you can tell me everything, you're probably leading ineffectively.
AS: Someone asked me what my most important leadership lesson is. Recognizing my strengths and delegating my weaknesses. I wish I had done that earlier. I think there was a lot of guilt there. If I don't want to take out the trash, no one should take it out. But when I learned to delegate what I didn't like and wasn't good at.
I used to do all of our small group training because I wanted to get it started right because it was central to what we did. There is something to putting your time into those central place.
The hardest thing for me was giving up the senior pastor of our largest campus pastor role.
CG: It's not that we're not leading, we're leading through people, and that's even harder.
AS: Then you become the custodian of culture. You're not doing a lot, but you pay attention to where things are going wrong.
CG: And you might sense those problems before someone else does.
AS: But I can't go in and re-own the responsibility. I'll go to one of our churches and something will bother me. I'll go to the senior leader and ask if something bothered him. If it bothers him, then it doesn't have to bother me. But if it doesn't bother him, if I think it's a four and everyone else thinks its an 8, then I have to do some retooling and some re-vision cast.
CG: How has your week changed?
AS: As your church grows and your family changes stage, you have to change your schedule.
I used to preach 2-3 times on Sunday and at 1 of our evening services. I generally take Monday off. I might start back in on Monday afternoon. Tuesday is staff meetings all day. It's almost 100% staff. I used to have lots of lunches, I don't do that. I exercise M, W, F. That's important. Our health is part of our ministry. If you're the point leader, your physical health is part of our ministry. Wednesday is nothing but a study day. Thursday is a study day. Friday is the day I will schedule time I want to spend time with, elders, friends, a few people who want to meet. Saturday, my brain is starting to lean into speaking. We have never done anything on Saturday night for 20 years if I'm preaching on Sunday.
CG: I've been to counseling two different times for being a workaholic. I've found a managable schedule now. It changes with the
Saturday, all day soccer games and kids stuff, 1-2 services saturday night, so I get to the church by 2:30 . Saturday is family night at the church, so my whole family comes. The family parties on while I preach. I want them to associate being at church having a lot of fun.
I usually preach on Sundays twice, but if I like the video on Saturday night, I'll let it run on Sunday.
I have two set meetings on Mondays. I do all of the paperwork and everything with my assistant on Monday, and then I shift into sermon prep on Monday afternoon.
Tuesday is full on message prep all day.
By Wednesday I'm finishing up the message and I go into do our videos, and every week I go in and do a bunch of videos for campuses, churches, etc.
Every day I try to leave by 3:45 to go to the gym. Ministry is never, ever done, so if I put an artificial barrier on my day, it forces me to be efficient. I believe I get more done. I'm home by 5:15 every night.
Thursday is the day I meet with whomever I want to.
Friday is usually my day off.
We meet Monday mornings with our key leaders, and we meet with our board or key leaders as needed throughout the year.
That's the template, so people ask, "When are you a pastor?" This guy ended his life, and I called his wife. There was a guy struggling with his marriage.
You can't get too big to just pastor people.
AS: I primarily pastor my staff. We probably feel the weight to pastor a similar amount of people as a single site, single congregation pastor. It's just that we have larger staff.
CG: I was raised that the church come first, but I've found that I have to keep myself spiritually healthy and my marriage healthy.
AS: I used to ask Sandra every now and again, just, "How am I doing?"
CG: I ask Amy all of the time, "What are the three things I do that are the biggest blessing to you? What are the three things I do that could use work?"
It's easy for us to lie to ourselves. When we've lied long enough, it's easy to believe it's true.
When I ask people how many of you battle with significant self-deception, something like 3% raise their hands. But when I ask who knows someone who's a good singer, or good manager, or good communicator, but they're not, all kinds of hands go up.
A lot of us are self-deceived, and many of us are self-deceived to the point we don't realize it.
I want to talk about creating a culture of self-awareness, or a culture of high-feedback.
Those who don't know don't know they don't know.
Many of us are very self-deceived. The higher you rise in any organization, the more difficult it will be to get people tell you the truth, especially in church world, because nobody lies in church world.
In where I come from in the south they say, "Well bless your heart." What they really mean is, "You're an idiot."
The problems you don't know about are the problems you can't fix.
My wife told me after several years, "Craig, put down the box." I was like, "What are you talking about?" When I spoke I looked like I was carrying a box.
Because we're so full of love, we rarely create a culture of truthful feedback.
Three Principles of Self-Deceptions
- We as leaders have a limitless capacity for self-deception.
Perhaps the greatest example in Scripture is with Bathsheba and David. Nathan tells the story about a rich man stealing a poor man's lamb. David is indignant, and Nathan tells him he's the rich man.
- The longer we believe the lies, the harder it is to hear the truth.
Psalms 36:2 - For in his own eyes he flatters himself to much to detect or hate his sin.
I really believed I was good at interpersonal communications. People told me I was warm and friendly on stage but not in person. People over and over tried to tell me lovingly, but I just wouldn't listen. One day, my small group members re-enacted the way I treated people. Finally I saw it. So I got coaching on how to do it better.
There are a lot of you who very likely have had someone in your organization trying to tell you something about your leadership, and you're not listening.
That's especially true in the younger generation. We have not told the emerging generation the truth. You have to work extra hard to be coachable, to posture yourself in a position where you want to learn.
- The leader's lack of self-awareness is the leader's barrier.
I used to think I was good at delegating. I was good at delegating tasks, not delegating authority. Delegating tasks creates followers. Delegating authority creates leaders.
So often in the church world we're quick to issue blame for any of our problems, not enough money, they don't serve, wrong location, etc.
I've trained myself to never say, they won't. Anytime I hear another leader say, "They won't," I stop and correct them and say, "I have not led them to."
Uncovering the Truth about You
Psalms 139:23-24 - Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting.
I used to use a lot of edgy humor in my messages. I kept getting complaints, but I just chalked it up to stuffy, legalistic church people. Finally one guy just asked me to pray. I half-heartedly said I would. I prayed about it, and the next Sunday my oldest daughter had her first Sunday in big people's church. I looked over at her about to tell an off-color joke.
Proverbs 15:31-32 - He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.
The more I tend to believe that I'm right, the more likely I might be wrong. Just like Peter says he's never going to deny Jesus like everyone else.
- Build a team that craves and gives helpful feedback.
If you're a senior leader, it starts with you. I get feedback after my first message. I get feedback before my first message. We build this into our entire process. It's in our hiring process. We have people prepare a 10 minute talk for 10 minutes and then give them feedback. We want to see how they receive feedback. We have them give the other candidates feedback.
If you're a senior leader, people are afraid of you. You have to go ask for feedback specifically
- Implement annual 360° evaluations for every team member.
I think we need to have anonymous feedback. It needs to be anonymous, because that's when the truth really comes out. It's so helpful, and it's so incredibly painful.
I had two consecutive years where people said I was disengaged from the staff, that I was more concerns with mentoring other senior pastors. For two years many leaders in our organization said I was distracted. Even though my heart was still in LifeChurch, my head was divided.
It's one of the most painful and most helpful things I have ever done.
James 1:22 - Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
What have others been trying to say to you or show you? What has God been trying to say or show you that you've been too proud to listen to.
Some of the most common things I see:
- You're a workaholic. Give your family some attention. When my youngest daughter was three years old, God rang my bell, she said, "Daddy, you don't live here. You live up at the church." My wife asked if we could have a meal without me typing on my phone.
- Some of you will do what I did years back. I became a full-time pastor, and a part-time follower of Christ. I'd pray when I prayed publicly. I'd study when I was preparing for a sermon. My self-worth was based on last week's numbers.
- Some of you are looking at some things you should not be looking at. You're telling yourself it's not a big deal. You're not telling anybody. But your sin will find you out.
Some of you need to go repent to your spouse or your children. If we build big churches and lose our children, that is a failure. The more I humble myself and listen to God, the more broken I am, the better my relationship with my spouse is, the better my family is, and the better my church is.
There are so many people who continue to fight against the truth, when it's the truth that will set you free.
Personally if there's some part of your life God is trying to show you is not where it should be, don't fight against it, embrace it.
The local church should be the greatest place in the world to work. My goal is to make working at North Point the best job that you ever have.
I think every local church should be like that. We have shared values and mission. We have a 2,000 year history. The inner workings of the local church should be extraordinary.
One of the reasons we chose this topic is we want local churches to get healthier so that we can do our ministry well.
This is the one thing we have to get. It is the thing. And it's clearly taught in Scripture, one of the few leadership lessons there.
If you want to be great in God's kingdom, you use your service for the sake of other people. Jesus washes their feet to show them that when you're in authority, you use your authority to benefit all of those who are below you, who are less resourced, less talented, less powerful than you. The more you have, the more potential you have to serve those who have less. They got it because He washed their feet. That was the end of the ego trip for their disciples.
- Healthy and productive staff cultures are characterized by mutual submission.
I'm here to serve you, and you're here to serve me, and the more you have, the more responsibility you have to be a servant.
- The message of mutual submission: I'm here to facilitate your success regardless of where either of us shows up on an organizational chart.
- The assumption of mutual submission: While our responsibilities differ, we are both essential to the success of this enterprise.
There are no non-essential personell in your enterprise. If there are, you've hired incorrectly. All of us are equally essential for the success of the organization.
- The question of mutual submission asks, "What can I do to help?"
This is a game changer. People think they're there to help you, the leader. And you know why they think that? Because you're leading like a gentile. Senior pastors, walk into your student ministries office and ask, "What can I do to help?"
We have this culture that somehow took an OT paradigm that has been abandoned and replaced with NT language. We took this OT prophet, priest, and king, and we force it on the local church, and it's nonsense. There are no especially anointed people. The word anointed only shows up a couple of times in the NT, and it refers to Jesus. The other times it says we're all anointed because we have the Holy Spirit.
The NT could not be clearer, we're not a kingdom. We're a body. There are noticeable parts and not noticeable parts, but none of them are special. In the local church, if you're a good talker, they put you in charge. People say, "Oh, Andy, you're so great." And I'm like no. It's a gift. Somebody gave it to me, and somebody can take it.
We teach it, and believe it, and then we turn right around and grab this OT paradigm and force it on the local church.
IF you want to know if the pastor's anointed, it's not on stage, go home with him or her.
This hurts the local church. It's not just unbiblical, it's anti-NT. It attracts a bunch of sycophants and sets the pastor up for a fall. If you foster that in your church, you will not have a healthy staff culture. You're going to churn and churn staff until you get enough insecure people around you that feel good about yourself. You're trying to make yourself a prophet, priest, or king.
The more spiritual you are, you should be the greatest servant in your organization.
If you embrace mutual submission, and you model it, and this trickles down through your staff, you will unleash people's gifts and talent. They'll stop caring about making you happy and start caring about doing things with excellence.
God doesn't care how many people you can gather or how well you can teach if you don't have love.
- Best Practices
- Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.
Symbolic Leadership: I can't do everything for everyone, but I'm not going to miss an opportunity to something for someone.
We take the ridiculous thinking that if you can't do something for everyone don't do it for everyone that we learned from the lunch lady who wouldn't give you an extra cookie because she would have to give one to everyone into the rest of our lives.
Do you know how you leverage your resources? Anytime you can do something for someone you do. People won't be jealous, they'll copy you.
- Systematize top-down service.
It's one thing to randomly buy someone a paper cutter, but you have to systematize this. When I meet with our leadership team of 14 people at the beginning of the year, I ask them for 2 or 3 things I can do to help them. Every year our groups person asks for two messages on groups. With my high school team, I spend a day developing bottom lines. For our Global X guy, I do one or two trips a year. I can't do everything for everyone, but every single year, I ask what I can do in our organization to.
- Create and maintain a organizational pace.
- Without margin, there is no room to serve beyond a job description.
People will not loan their talent and resources to other departments if they have no margin. If I don't have margin, I can't serve my staff.
- Without margin, we seek first our kingdoms.
You work all day and your family misses you.
Show me an overworked staff, and I'll show you turf wars and politics.
If you walk into someone's office and you're greatest fear is they're actually going to have an answer, you can't
We always shut down the entire organization the Sunday after Christmas. We have no worship services. It is light at the end of the tunnel for the entire organization. Do you know how hard it is to get volunteers to staff a children's ministry the Sunday after Christmas?
- Celebrate and reward mutual submission when you see it.
Tip: What's rewarded is repeated.
You have to make a big deal out of it.
- Confront your ego.
What's most important? Building a great organization or creating a name for yourself?
If you really view your staff as a supporting cast for your name and your ministry and what God is doing through you because you're the guy, then I dare you next week to sit them all down and tell them. God has called me, and you are all hired help to help me what God has called me to do. If you can't do that, then you're leading like a Gentile.
Do I want to build a great church, or do I want to build a name for myself? You may build a name for yourself in the pursuit of building a great church, but the moment you flip that switch, the sharpest leaders in the organization will start looking for the door.
- Drop the term loyalty from your vocabulary.
You will never create a culture of mutual submission with loyalty as a core value.
Tip: If you has to ask for it, demand it, or have people sign a document pledging it, you are the one with a loyalty problem, not them.
Albert Speer, who was high up in Hitler's organization but was not responsible directly for any of the atrocities, he saw the whole thing, Hitler's evolution, he said,
There is a special trap for every holder of power, whether the director of a company, the head of the state, or the ruler of a dictatorship. His favor is so desireable to his subordinates that they will sue for it by every means possible. Servility becomes endemic among his entourage, who compete among themselves in their show of devotion. This in turn exercises a sway upon the ruler who becomes corrupted in his turn.
The key to the quality of the man in power is how he reacts to this situation. I have observed a number of industrialists and military men who knew how to fend off this danger. Where power has been exercised over generations, a kind of hereditary incorruptibility grows up. Only a few individuals among those around Hitler, such as Fritz Todt, withstood the temptation to sycophancy. Hitler himself put up no visible resistance to the evolution of a court.
-Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs by Albert Speer, p. 83
If God has gifted you, God is going to use you, and people are going to respond. And some of them know how to respond appropriately. But others will respond in a way that can change you.
It was the question God the Father and Jesus asked of the world, "What can I do to help?" We have the privilege of serving God and his people.
Churches don't divide because of theology. They divide because systems get out of whack.
Every organization has a culture. A culture is a set of unwritten rules that determine how an organization runs, the values, practices, etc.
The longer you are there, the less aware you are of your organization's culture. If you work with a healthy, clearly defined culture, then you know how energizing it can be.
If you've ever worked for an unhealthy culture, you know how draining it is.
These 5 statements are the framework for everything we're going to talk about today. 5 indisputable truths about organizational culture.
- Leaders shape organizational culture whether they intend to or not.
- If you have have been at your current church for two years or less, you can still remember when you came to that church, and you walked in and you began to pick up on the personality of that church, and there were things you liked or didn't like. You were aware of how your predecessor shaped the organizational culture.
- But if you've been there 5 years or more, those are your problems.
- Every leader is doing something intentionally or unintentionally to shape the organizational culture.
- If you love the organizational culture of your church, then your number 1 goal is to figure out why it has become what it has become, because if you don't know why it's working when it's working, you won't know what's not working when it breaks.
- If you hate your organizational culture, then you need to go home and look in the mirror, because you create your culture.
- Time in erodes awareness of.
- There are things in your house that don't look good, but you don't see them. If I came to your house I could point them out.
- The longer you are anywhere, the less aware of it you are.
- You need to build into your structure the information that comes with fresh eyes and fresh ears.
- I tell our new staff, "In three months, you're going to get an email from my office with a set of questions. We're not evaluating you. You're evaluating us. In a year, you're going to get another email. Because you see the problems." We ask these questions trying to see the insight that comes with fresh eyes.
- When there's a problem in the organization, there are three levels of blame:
- Human nature
- Systems - This is often the problem. If you are not aware of the culture you are shaping, you will try to make personnel changes that aren't needed.
- Healthy cultures attract and keep healthy people.
Don't you love healthy people? They're secure. They have ideas but can hear no. They're not always looking for more vacation time. Unhealthy people are a drain on your staff. I'm not saying they're not going to Heaven, you just don't want them on your staff. Have a ministry, don't hire a ministry. Unhealthy people wither and die in a healthy organization. People won't gossip with them. When they're critical, people will ask what's wrong with them.
- The culture of an organization impacts the long term productivity of an organization.
- This hasn't really been studied, but recently people have tried to take the squishy things and begun to measure them. Because business people, pastors, want things they can measure. So is it really worth it to create a productive culture?
- Yes. Healthy people love to lean into the future instead of dwelling on the past. Healthy people are problem solvers not problem creators. You'll do more with less resources.
- We're going to talk about goals. We're going to have push back. You are a corporation. You are an organization, so you should be organized.
- When your systems begin to break down, you're less healthy.
- Unhealthy cultures are slow to adapt to change.
- Unealthy cultures turn their back to the community and face each other... to gripe, moan, and infight.
- Healthy cultures turn their back to each other and face the community to be on mission, and they'll do anything they need to do to accomplish the mission.
- We need to have nimble organizations committed to the vision and mission, rather than doing things the way we've always done.
Creating and re-creating corporate culture rarely feels urgent. Besides, you can't fix it with a meeting, a memo, or a mandate. It's a bit like trying to pick up Jell-O or win an argument with your teenage daughter. One keeps slipping away. The other keeps changing the subject. For leaders, working on culture feels like going backwards. Why can't people just do their jobs and get along? The truth is, the good people in your organization want to do exactly that. They want to do their jobs and get along with the people they work with. While tinkering with your organization's culture is not glamorous, it is mission-critical.
We've all met that kid just out of college who's planning to change the world. He's full of life and energy. She's got a plan to solve every social ill.
If you haven't met that kid, you are that kid.
"Naiveté," we say. They'll be disabused of that notion soon enough. They'll see the world for what it is, and how hard it is to change.
But what if we let them keep their naiveté?
What if we were already busy changing the world? What if we brought all of our experience and wisdom and cynicism to bear on the task at hand? What if instead of telling them they can't do it we invited them to be a part of what we're already doing?
What if we taught them what we know and unleashed their boundless energy to go about the task?
What if we let them change the world?