Sunday, September 30, 2012

Shaping Culture

Organizational culture is extremely important. One of the growth lids most organizations hit is when their organizational culture is contrary to their organizational goals. If your organizational goal is to reward great employees, but your organizational culture doesn’t include discussing, measuring and quantifying employee performance, then there is a problem.

Leaders lead the culture! 

Church leaders, like the leaders in all organizations, are responsible for shaping the culture of the organization. Just as the actual culture of an organization is not easy to define, so too any disconnect between what is intended and what is perceived may be difficult to quantify.

In the church, some of the key positive culture factors are integrity, responsibility, servant-leadership, competency, biblical literacy, authenticity and tenacity. Your organization may have identified similar cultural values or statements that get to the heart of your church’s goals. Likely some may be grouped under the words above, others may be a little more specific to your vision for your organization. 

Sometimes it’s difficult to quantify. 

While it may be difficult to determine if all the employees and members of the church are displaying and rallying around the stated cultural values, it may be easier to spot when the leader is marching to a slightly different beat.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and perhaps ask others that you have given permission to speak into your leadership.


  • How have I demonstrated a respect and insistence on integrity in all matters? An integrity test is often called a ‘red-face’ test. It includes both internal and external compliance with a higher calling, a higher standard. 
  • Do I give people responsibility or do I often pull it back when I want to make a different decision?
  • Am I often accused of micromanaging despite my insistence on letting leaders lead? 
  • Am I a servant-leader at heart? Am I known to be the one that ‘chips-in’ and ‘picks-up’ or do I equate being a leader with being ‘up-front’?
  • Do I follow the rules or, as one of the rule-makers, am I likely the exception? Budgets, internal processes and systems limitations should also apply to leaders, not just everyone else.
  • Do I respect other people’s time? Or am I late for meetings or do I change agendas at the last minute? 
  • Patrick Lencioni said in his book “Death by Meeting” that bad meetings are a reflection of bad leaders. 
  • What I have done to make meetings better? Am I tenacious? Do I stick to a stated multi-year plan despite setbacks and challenges? It’s often easier to teach on the parable of the persistent widow than personally lose heart and camouflage our frustration with new or modified ministry plans. 


What is described is more important than what is prescribed. 

Many of the above may sound a little simplistic. However, when we examine our own behavior in light of the desired culture, we often find troubling disconnects. While it is not the practice in many churches, senior leaders – including executive and senior staff pastors – need to critically examine their behavior and their leadership style. Culture starts at the top, but in most cases what you describe with your behavior is more important than what you prescribe.

Become a fan of self-examination and reflection. King David was described as a “man after God’s own heart” and while certainly not perfect, he nevertheless was willing to say, “Test me, Lord, and try me; examine my heart and mind.” (Psalm 26:2)

Reprint from Church Executive Magazine September 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Collaborate don’t compete


All too often in our local churches when we are putting together agendas, looking to push into new frontiers, recruiting volunteers or putting together annual budgets, we tend to compete with each other.  Regardless of how successful or financially blessed your church may be, there are still more needs and more great ideas than resources. God may have unlimited resources but the local church does not.

Some of the best churches have found ways to replace this competition for resources with collaboration, and it’s a huge improvement in planning as well as in execution.

When one ministry competes with another ministry or department at a church for volunteers, dollars or space, the leaders are at best looking to come out on the top of a “win-lose” outcome. Some ministry wins and the others lose.

On the other hand, collaboration between and among our ministries and departments strives to find the “win-win” outcome.

Opportunities rather than problems …

One of the best ways to collaborate and look for win-win outcomes in programing and recruiting and sharing resources is to communicate. The words we use may also be problematic in communicating well. For example, as a ministry leader and pastor I make sure that when we address issues, we typically don’t want to communicate that we have “problems,” but instead we have “opportunities.” This is not just a substitution of words but also a substitution of viewpoints.

Even if the local church has the resources, facilities or the space to do multiple things well, it’s unlikely the intended audience or participant can be in two places at the same time. Most successful churches intentionally limit the amount of opportunities that the congregation is exposed to in order to allow them to be able to choose wisely and be focused on those that are the best experiences.

Where there is no clarity, people perish …

One of the best things that senior leaders can do in the church is to bring clarity to the implementation of the vision that God has given them regarding the local church. If I were paraphrasing Proverbs 29:18, I’d likely state it this way, “Where there is no clarity, people perish.” Often, the senior or lead pastor will be able to clarify that there are great opportunities for the entire church to be involved for a season in a particular endeavor. That may be a call for people to get involved in small groups or the church may decide that it is calling everyone to a fast. Other times, it may be a time for people to choose their area of interest and let people literally vote with their participation. If the ministry leaders understand and bring clarity on where and how God is leading, collaboration flows naturally and everyone wins.

Milestones are reasons to celebrate …

For years I’ve heard churches say they want to celebrate more, but so often they actually celebrate less. While we are on a journey we rarely believe we have time to celebrate. However, God gave Moses very clear instruction on making sure that all of Israel would pause from time to time to celebrate. Israel was told to celebrate the Feast of the Passover; the people were told to celebrate the building of the Temple. Nehemiah told the people to celebrate the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem.  These were milestones that would only be passed once but could be celebrated often.

In the same way, churches should be celebrating that which God values. When we celebrate lives being dedicated to Christ, people being baptized, successful building or mission projects, we draw everyone’s attention to particular milestones.  Celebrating the wins and achievements automatically help prioritize all of our future plans and opportunities.

When we collaborate, the Church wins.

Reprint from Church Executive Magazine, July 30, 2012 

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Extraordinary, Never Ordinary

I am aware that we often encourage people by letting them know that God uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways. It’s a good sentiment and I can relate, as I’ve been humbled often how God is able to do much more through me than I thought possible.

At the same time, we are not ordinary people, we are actually beyond extraordinary. We are not even mortal but once born, are now immortal. God is the only one that is truly eternal and immortal meaning that He has no beginning and no end. However men and women have been created in His image and are not like any other creature as they are immortal.  Jesus speaks of eternal life often and since the Third Century the creeds of the Christian faith speak of eternal life both for those that are saved and will be eternally with Christ as well as those that are without that hope. In John 10:26-27 Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me”

Understanding that we are not mere mortals should change our perspective in life. It’s unfortunate when we are taught in our schools that our life is a result of mere chance and evolution; that somehow mankind is just one of many earth specie. In reality, we are the product of a loving God, designed and created to be like Him in that we are also creative and can have a relationship with Him.

The 20th Century novelist C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

Don’t be ordinary; understand you are extraordinary. Extraordinarily loved, created, purposed and designed to live forever with your Creator and your Redeemer.


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