People will change only if they believe that a new insight, a new idea, or a new form helps them become more of who they are. – Margaret J. Wheatley(Leadership and the New Science, 2nd edition (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1999), 148.)
Bob Farr, in his book Renovate or Die: Ten Ways to Focus Your Church on Mission, states “When you renovate something, you have a pretty clear picture of what you want the end product to look like.” (p.67) Without that end product in mind how can you achieve what you hope to achieve. An athlete already knows what she hopes to achieve. If a volleyball player has a dream to win the gold in the Olympics that is the end product of her hopes and dreams. From there she can back up to understand what steps it will take to achieve her goal.
In Bob Farr’s book Renovate or Die: Ten Ways to Focus Your Church on Mission he explains how churches need to approach ministry to their community. This was an eye opener and gave me language to use as I move my congregation forward.
What Farr does is explains the difference between a church’s values and its strategies. Here is his definitions of both: “A value is something of the heart and a strategy is a method for carrying out the value.” (p.52) He goes on to give the example of Sunday School. Sunday School is not a value it is a strategy. “The value is to teach children and adults life teachings of Jesus.” (p.52) That is the core value of why Sunday School is done. Does that mean to keep the value the same it has to happen during the 10:00am Sunday school hour? Does that mean the value can stay the same but small groups are started at people’s homes instead of at church?
This was my ‘eureka’ moment. People cherish the values and they are wonderful values we need in our local churches. But people confuse the strategy for the value all the time. What some congregations even do is they take a beloved strategy and melt it down into a golden calf. These strategies turn into sacred cows that they worship. Defining values and strategies is so important to both the congregation and the minister/staff. We need to look at our core values and the strategies we use to implement them.
Let’s take worship for example. I would say the value of worship is a time to gather together to glorify God through music, God’s Word, offerings, and the message. How this is accomplished is the strategy. One strategy to accomplish this is the Order of the Word found in the beginning of the hymnal and led by a beautiful pipe organ. Another strategy is a modern worship service with a band which plays for 30 minutes before the preacher/teacher comes out to give the message. Both accomplish the same value but two different strategies are implemented. Is one better than the other? NO because they both accomplish the same value.
Recently my wife and my kindergartner got in an argument on who to write a lower case ‘a’. My wife and I learned that you make a circle and then draw a line down on the right side. My son learned to draw a magical c and then a line down the side. His ended up looking more like a ‘d’ and that is what we were trying to remedy. Now whether you use a ‘o’ or a magical ‘c’ to write an ‘a’ doesn’t matter. Those are the strategies being used. The value is that a pencil is hitting paper and a legible ‘a’ is written (the value).
I have started to look at the ministries of my church with different eyes. What is my congregations core values? What are our current strategies we are using? Which strategies have turned into golden calves? What strategies may we do differently to keep our values going?
Delicious food for thought.
In 2008 I wrote a post after reading a book by John Maxwell. In the book, Developing the Leaders Around You, he gives 25 questions to assess the leadership around you. As I am approaching the 4th quarter of my first year of this appointment, I stumbled on this post. It is worth a read because it gives some keys to identifying great leaders verses emerging leaders.
Too often in the local church we place emerging leaders in places where great leaders are needed. Emerging leaders have passion and a lot of heart but may not have all the skills needed to follow through with a project or task. Especially in the UM system which demands working within a structure/polity, it may be too much for emerging leaders to tackle.
The ability to name where leaders are in their growth is beneficial because it provides a way to name the abilities of your leadership. There is nothing wrong with emerging leaders, but they need coaching. Great leaders and even good leaders can be left alone to use their talents and gifts but guidance is needed for those honing their leadership abilities.
As Chairpersons of the Nominations Committees of our churches, leadership assessment tools are great assets to have in our tool box. Please read (link above) it can be enlightening.
This is a great article about what to do when you are in the middle of change, or the messy middle as the author puts it. Here are her twelve guidelines to know whether to persist or quit, but go read the article, it is worth your time. (HT John Meunier via FB)
- Are the initial reasons for the effort still valid, with no consequential external changes?
- Do the needs for which this a solution remain unmet, or are competing solutions still unproven or inadequate?
- Would the situation get worse if this effort stopped?
- Is it more cost-effective to continue than to pay the costs of restarting?
- Is the vision attracting more adherents?
- Are leaders still enthusiastic, committed, and focused on the effort?
- Are resources available for continuing investment and adjustments?
- Is skepticism and resistance declining?
- Is the working team motivated to keep going?
- Have critical deadlines and key milestones been met?
- Are there signs of progress, in that some problems have been solved, new activities are underway, and trends are positive?
- Is there a concrete achievement — a successful demonstration, prototype, or proof of concept?
I am rereading a book I got a couple of years ago entitled, Leadership on the Line. It is a very good book about leadership and although it is from the Harvard Business School, there are a ton of good lessons for ministry. One that caught my attention is in a section called, “Manage Your Hungers.” It is about not giving into our own primal urges that leadership feeds us, such as power and control, affirmation and importance, and intimacy and delight. It is not a far leap to suggest that most, if not all, ministers, of both sexes, deal with some or if not all of these hungers, and at times they get us into DEEP trouble.
Personally I would lean towards affirmation and importance as one of my largest hungers. I desire to be affirmed and to be told I’ve done a good job. It makes me feel wanted and important. I may not be outward about it but it is an inward hunger that it there. Simply ask my wife, who hears the question every Sunday afternoon, “So how was that sermon?”
There is a paragraph in this chapter I found helpful and I thought I would share with my three readers…
Managing one’s grandiosity means giving up the idea of being the heroic lone warrior who saves the day. People may beg you to play that role; don’t let them seduce you. It robs them of the opportunity to develop their own strengths and settle their own issues. Don’t begin to believe that the problem is yours to carry and solve. If you carry it at all, make certain you do so only for a limited period of time, while people accustom themselves to their need and ability to take responsibility for the challenge. (p171)
How many times in have I taken burdens on, placed other people’s problems on my shoulders because I thought it was being ministerial? How many times have I wanted and needed that superhero feeling to swoop in and save the day and make everything right again? But truly I am doing a disservice to my congregation and its leaders. I am setting them up to fail in the long run and simply satisfying my hungers.
On the page before there is another snippet that is very enlightening.
The skill of managing any tendency you might have towards grandiosity goes hand in hand with remaining mindful that people see you in your role more than they see you as a person. Indeed, what those in your professional surroundings see is the fulfillment of their goals or, conversely, the disturbing questions you represent. They see not your face but the reflection of their own needs or worries. These dominate their perceptions of you. (p170)
This is so true in ministry. People always force their presuppositions on what a minister should be upon us. If a minister has hurt them in the past then you will. If a minister they loved was outgoing and energetic then you should be. Ministry (although I say this from a place of preference) is the toughest place to carve our your own sense of self and not be influenced by the desires, needs, and presuppositions of others. The toughest part of ministry is being who God created you to be and realizing where your personal boundaries are. Yet it is something you have to learn to do and to do it well. If not…grandiosity and trouble lie ahead.