Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Enemies of Unity

As I was going through old notes on some subjects concerning leadership.  I ran across a message that Dave Ramsey gave back in 07' on the subject of unity at Catalyst conference.
The five points are his, the sub points are from collective sources I've gathered over the years that I believe go hand it hand to his 5 points regarding the subject. I found them incredibility meaningful to any group or organization who is wanting unity in their group.  Hope you enjoy some good sound wisdom from, Dave, a man who knows his stuff.

The Enemies of Unity

1. Poor Communication
 When speaking to a group, team or staff it's important to repeat often.  No one gets in one time what you've spent months dreaming, planning, making strategies and articulating to present vision for them.  We have all heard the phrase, "we need clear lines of communication."  But what does that mean to your group?
2 People or programs = 2 Lines of Communication
3 People or programs = 6 Lines of Communication
4 People or programs = 12 Lines of Communication
5 People or programs = 20 Lines of Communication
6 People or programs = 30 Lines of Communication
 As the group grows, so do the need to find multiple ways to communicate well.

2.  Gossip
Gossip is simply when a negative is discussed with anyone who can't help solve the problem.

3. Unresolved Disagreements
Unresolved disagreements happen when a leader doesn't know they exist or when that leader avoids confrontation.  The truth is a little confrontation cleanses the wounds of confusion and allows the individuals to move forward in a spirit of unity.  It's also important not to confuse "challenging the process" to be misread as "challenging authority."  These two are completely different.  And a team who is under the authority should have a welcome mat at the door of challenge the process.

4. Lack of Shared Purpose
It's been best said, "anything with two heads is a freak of nature and either needs to be killed or put under glass in a circus."  Because that's what your organization will resemble when players on the team don't share the same purpose, it'll die or look like a circus.

5. Sanctioned Incompetence
"Team members will eventually become demotivated when someone else on the team can't or won't do their job and a leader will not take action."--Dave Ramsey
I believe this is one of the biggest obstacles when dealing with building unity; especially in the faith culture, we want to give grace (as we should) but most the time we're not giving grace, we are simply being enablers.
Grace looks at someone who can't and gives the tools, teaching, mentoring so that person can.
Grace looks at someone who won't and honors them on their way out, either of the group or that area on the team.

When unity is valued in the group culture, the team will also act to keep these enemies at the gate.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fresh Eyes

Being in ministry, I think I can be like most, that is; to develop a system for doing things and give little attention to changing.  After all, change is hard.

But what if we, as leaders, were able to walk in our churches or departments with a fresh set of eyes to give  information from a totally different perspective?  What if we were purposefully strategic in wanting feedback about what we are so comfortable in doing?

I used to manage a restaurant and while we lived by the policy, "the customer is always right" and did our best to make it so, there was another tool that really helped us gain an honest perspective.
The Mystery Shopper!!!! 
Without notice we'd receive a data sheet that graded us on everything from cleanliness of the store to the hospitality of the employees.  Food temp, order accuracy, restroom spotlessness, staff conduct and more.
We didn't know who it was or when they came, all we knew is they did! And when they did, we knew the results of their visit.  They yearly outcomes of these visits caused our district managers to come to our stores and hand out bonuses or give out pink slip warnings.

No matter how good we thought we were, or happy we felt about our customers experience, it all boiled down to the mystery shoppers report.

As I travel, I many times find myself acting like a mystery shopper.
"Why are those doors open?  Where do children check in?  Where do I find an usher?  Did someone greet me?  How friendly are the people?  Was the parking easy?  Where are the restrooms, can I get there from here?  Does service start on time?  Who is the staff?  etc........I can't help it---I love the local church and want to see Her presenting Christ in every program with excellence and power.

So here is the thought.  Ever think of asking someone off the street to come to your church and "mystery shop?"   Done right, it could not only prove to be a valuable tool to tighten up what God has entrusted you with, but also be an avenue to expose new people to your church.
If you'd like to hear more thoughts on this idea, contact me at


"The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings."  Luke 16:8-9

Monday, September 13, 2010

Small Groups --Part 3

7)  Don't confuse natural by-product as the purpose.
Oil is one of those natural resources that would be almost impossible to live without.  Not only does it lubricate our gears and provide gas but it also makes a total slew of other things.  Plastic bottles, diapers, fishing line, nylon, cosmetics, pills, candles, the list goes on and on.
Here's my point.  You never hear an oil worker say, "Time to go drill for some golf balls" or any other "by-product" made from oil.  The purpose for drilling is oil, so that's what they drill for.

I believe the same can be applied for small groups.  When I ask, "what is the purpose of the small group" I get the same answers; fellowship, accountability, care, community, friendships, bible study, etc.
Let me interject and say, there is nothing wrong with any of those answers; here me, what I am saying is that those things should be a natural by-product of Christians meeting together.  Right?
Sure you should promote those things and live out those things, but they shouldn't be the purpose.  (at least in my opinion. My vote for small group purpose is Kingdom; which means making disciples and multiplying)

It's kind of like when a company or church makes a list of "core values" and hang them on the wall.  You've seen them; "We are a company that values, Integrity, Honesty, Character, Teamwork, etc"

The problem is not the values, it's just their kind of......well....they're......just there.
Typically those values are gathered by looking around at the group and saying, "yes that's who we are."
I love how Patrick Lencioni put it in his book, "The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family."  He states, "The key about core values is not to have too many of them.  Organizations tend to compile a list of things they think sound nice....because they want to cover all their bases.  Many times those things are simply a permission to play value, not the core"

He's right!  What company or church wants a dishonest employee or church member?  How about lacks character?  Doesn't play well with others?  See, those are givens or like he says, "permission to play.'

Here are 6 questions that will help as you develop and launch or even relaunch your small group ministry.

1.) What is the ultimate reason you have small groups?  (core purpose)
2.) What are the essential characteristics that your small group must never violate?  (core values)
3.) What are the fruits you want to see displayed in the small group?  (by-products)
4.) When your group meets, what is it's biggest priority and what needs to be done to achieve it?  (goals)
5.) What steps are in place to help you achieve your core purpose as a group?  (strategy)
6.) Who has to do what to achieve your goals?  (roles and responsibilities)

I hope you enjoyed these last three posts on Small Groups.  Be blessed and be fruitful and multiply!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Small Group --Part 2

4) Define who you want in small groups.
I know, I know, your first response is like mine and many others when they hear that statement; "everyone we say!"
While, sure, we want everyone to be in a small group; we have to come to grips with the reality that not everyone will be in a small group.  It's just a fact.  100% attendance is an impossible goal.
I think deep down we all know that but we continue to say "everyone" because if we don't then we sound like we are excluding some people.  Which is not true. We have to define the small group and allow others to decide for themselves if will they join.
I believe Larry Osborne has the best explanation when it comes to defining small groups.  In his book "Sticky Church"  he gives the below diagram.
While I do believe there are some variables, I agree this is a good picture of how we can understand the defining groups in our churches.  As this shows, the amount of "leaders" in our churches are not the same number of those "interested" in Christ.  It's a simple diagram to show the more intense the commitment the fewer people involved. This simply gives us a wake up call to reality; if we decide to target people who are committed to "growing" in their Faith, then we need to structure our groups as a "moderate bible study" and in doing so we should be able to reach about 60% to 70% of our church attenders.  Again, it's not to say it could be more (or less) but it helps us to know when we roll out small groups and we have a number less than "everyone" then we can know a "better" why.

5) Make room for different types of small groups.
As mentioned above, these two factors will flow together.   Again, it's not to say one is right or wrong, it's a sober reminder of what to expect.
Now there are many different types of small groups, everything from the free market/ interest based to age based, location based, gender, G-12, Cell,... and the list goes on and on.  The key is to (here's point #2 again) clarify the "win" for your church.  Now I believe when it comes to churches that are older and more established that a "hybrid" of styles will exist and can exist successfully if everyone rallies to the same win, whatever that is for your church.
For example most younger age groups will function differently than groups made of of older individuals.  To put a blanket definition of how a group should act, function and outreach is a little short sided.  Teenage groups will look different than senior groups and so on.  As they should.  Different needs for different stages of the journey.
This is why (for me personally)  I don't get hung up if the group just meets for fellowship or for intense Bible study; the style should not be focus as much as the goal.  If "interest based" groups are creating transformation in peoples live and that group is growing, great!  If "gender based or age based" groups are creating transformation in people and is growing, again great!  My point is not to get hung up on style as much as knowing how to recognize when the end result is being accomplished.

6)  Know when to have a funeral for a small group.
When you know what a win is, then it's easy to recognize when your not winning as much.
There are seasons for everything.  Many times I've seen churches implement a small group strategy only to revamp it or re-launch the program in a couple of years.  Why?  I'm sure there are lots of reasons, but the one I've noticed from watching and even leading is due to the reason found in number 2 on the previous post.
The bible says it best, "where there is no clear revelation, people go in circles and die."
We start well, everyone hears the vision, people get excited, attendance is up, then life happens.
So we go back to the drawing board, or adjust the group to fit "everybody" or even attend a new Small Group conference to see the latest "how to" methods.

Nothing wrong with those steps IF that's what's needed.  But too often our small groups suffer from the "drifting eye syndrome."
This is what's happened with YMCA.  They just put out a statement explaining they are now going to go by the name, "The Y"  because that is what everyone calls them anyway.  (wow, I just went on their website to double check my facts and their logo is a "Y' with ymca in the corner)
When they started their mission was young man transformation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, thus the name Young Man Christian Association. Over the years they've drifted from their vision to becoming no more than a community gym.  I find it interesting that there new name, "The Y" is fitting; it begs for the answer of their existence....."why?"

When our small group fails to know the meaning to why, it's time to prop a daisy next to it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Small Groups--Part 1

I love talking, attending, creating, teaching, starting small groups.  Below are some thoughts that I've picked up from those doing successful small group ministry and thoughts I've developed over the years in leading various small groups in multiple locations.
I pray these will be some helpful ideas as you gear up, start up or vamp up your small group ministry.

1.)  Decide what type of small group church you are.
There are basically three types of churches with small groups:  A church "with" small groups, a church "of" small groups and the church "is" small groups.
Let me interject that none of these are a "right" or "wrong" way to do small groups, however knowing what type of small group church you are will decide the amount of involvement you are able to sustain. 

2.) Clarify what is a "win" for your small group.
Many times you will hear this in the vision statement of the small group or even the mission statement of the church. If not there then you'll probably hear it whenever the pastor is promoting small groups in the church.  My point is if you don't spend time every Sunday morning and in every small group gathering reminding or "clarifying" what a win is for at least five years for your small group ministry, then frustration will follow.
I'll give you the most common that I know of with two different churches experiencing right now.
One churches small group leader, who is also an Elder in the church, is leading a small group of 25-30  (which is not a small group) and is having trouble getting anyone to break away to create two groups from that one.  Everyone loves their group, everyone enjoys the fellowship and atmosphere.  Hey, that's good! Nothing wrong, other than the fact the group has a bottle neck and is not producing anymore small groups.
Another church is dealing with the same issue, in fact they are desperately trying to train new leaders in hopes of being able to take a few out of each group to relieve groups that more than 20 in them.
So what's the problem?
Many times no one knows what a win is or they have the wrong win in mind.
For example, when I ask "what are the goals for your small group?"  I'll get answers like, "to disciple, fellowship, accountability, assimilate into the church, prayer, bible study, etc."  Those are all great answers but many times we only think about the goals and we never set a win.  Can I be so honest to say, that the above list of things in a small group, at least healthy ones, are doing those already!  You typically don't have to remind people to fellowship at a home fellowship.  Or really pray during prayer time.  My point is, where do we go?  What's the end result?  If having large small groups is the goal, then the above examples are not really issues.  If it's developing more small groups, then there seems to be a "connect the dot to the win" problem.

I know what you're thinking, "but our people don't want to divide" or "why ask them to break up the very much needed fellowship we've asked them to join?"
Those are understandable examples but not the standard.  From day one of starting a small group ministry in your church if you promoted, "Our goal as a small group is to make more small groups" then it defines what a win is.  When a group multiplies into two, then people have a reason to celebrate.  It's not a "have to" issue it's a want to step.  But if it's not clarified in the small group it will create confusion and even frustration with the attenders because when you start breaking groups up, they will react.

3) Determine group size before it becomes a size issue.
If you clarify the win then knowing a group size becomes easy to determine.
Let me say this regarding the above; notice I never said, "when it comes time to divide a small group..."  Lingo is very important, it's why I speak "multiply."  It fits with a grow more groups vision.  Personally I've found that once a small group reaches around 3-4 couples it's time to start thinking and training another leader.  It's key that when more members start joining the group that they connect with the leaders in training and not the current small group leaders.  When group and when the group reaches 8-9 couples, time to launch that new group and celebrate the win.
It's a rule, the bigger the group the fewer people talk.  I was in a small group where there were about 8 people in the group and almost everyone spoke up and contributed in the discussion topic.  I was in another small group where there was 25 or more and only about 5 people engaged.
That group of 25 can easily become two groups of 12 and no one would be upset due to being "torn away from relationships" because not everyone knows everyone on that deep of a level.  Now for both of those groups to grow and then become 4 groups of 8, will take some work.  But can be done with a clear focus of what type of church they are and what a win is.

More later.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Daily Spiritual Act

I love Romans 12:1-2!  One of the things I notice about this verse is the fact it contains in it all three elements that make us human.  Look what the verse says. I'll bold the three parts so you can see it too.  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

We are three in one; body, soul and spirit.  In the verse it says "mind" and that is one of the aspects that make up our soul. Our soul encompasses our minds, will and emotions.

With that in mind let me ask you a question.  "What is our most powerful daily spiritual act?"

As you go down the list of things it could be: prayer, reading the Bible, worship, listening to the Holy Spirit, etc.  Let me say this, "you'd be correct with any one of those."  BUT let me hone in on the one word in this question that we skip over that we need to look at to get a better answer.


I'm human.  I don't worship daily.  Sorry if that offends you. But lets be real.  Of the many Christians you know, including yourself, do they do everything they should?
Pray daily?
Read the Bible daily?
Hear God daily?
Walk in the fullness of Grace daily?
Live in the fruit of the Spirit daily?

I'm like you, I'm working towards it but I don't do it daily.  I have good moments and not so good moments. Like you I'm working on shortening the distance between the good and bad ones.

Here is what I believe when I look at scripture and see the revelation of the fullness of who we are as humans following Christ.
"Our most powerful spiritual act is the daily ability to make choices."

With that in mind, that's why I can say the list you and I named about prayer and reading the bible and all those from above-- it's that important to do them.  Because it renews our minds.  With renewed minds our spirit and life is transformed.

Here's the issue.  What you believe determines your choices which leads to a desired outcome.
How many times have you seen (or even been) someone who doesn't like a certain outcome; with a job, a date, a mate, a church?  So what do they do?  Different choice: change jobs, change churches, change spouse.  A little time goes by and "oops! don't like this, time to make a different choice."

The problem will always continue on a "marry-go-round" lifestyle as long as the issue of "beliefs" is never dealt with.
What do you believe about your job? Spouse? Church? Family? Parents? Money? God?

Until those beliefs line up with what God says (and not what you or I think) we are confronted to live in the outcomes that are less than what God intended for us; because of our choices. And the sad truth is we many times we have to live in the consequences of someone else's choice.
Choices contain in them a level of spiritual responsibility.
My faith can affect your faith.  Either for good or bad.
I'm the man today because of great Godly men and women faith.  How many people have lost faith because of the fall of another?

Our choices matter.  Everyday you and I have this awesome power to put our free will to the test and say, "am I going to do this my way or God's way?  Am I going to trust in His methods or mans wisdom?  Am I going to do what is right or what is Kingdom?

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.'"  Deut. 30:18-20