Check out this video:
Lesson for churches: Repentance comes before renewal. This definitely merits expanded commentary, but I’d rather start a conversation.
What do you think?
Check out this video:
Lesson for churches: Repentance comes before renewal. This definitely merits expanded commentary, but I’d rather start a conversation.
What do you think?
Seth Godin has written a great little book called Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. I posted Godin’s TED Talk on the material here. Among Godin’s many challenges, he exhorts his readers to start a movement. Here is what Godin says concerning the anatomy of a movement:
Senator Billy Bradley defines a movement as having three elements:
- A narrative that tells a story about who we are and the future we’re trying to build.
- A connection between and among the leader and the tribe.
- Something to do–the fewer limits, the better.
Too often, organizations fail to do anything but the third (bold emphasis mine).
I have friends who read this blog who are part of large church denominations. For them, that third statement really stings. But it doesn’t have to, because movements can begin locally and expand from there.
Tribes is a book that is worthy of a quick read followed by lengthy, thoughtful consideration. I picked up my copy from the public library for free and read it over two days. Godin’s ideas are very simple. To have a tribe, you only need two things: 1) a shared interest and 2) a way to communicate. From humble beginnings, a movement can build.
If you are a church leader, what are you passionate about? What is your narrative? What is the future that God has enabled you, by grace, to envision? And how do you communicate with those around you? Are others compelled by the same story? And if so, how do you band together to begin working toward that shared future, with the fewer limits, the better?
Do you work with other people on a day in, day out basis? Do the people you work with trust one another? Why? Or, why not?
One of the most important aspects of building a solid team is knowing that you can trust those alongside you. Whether you are starting an organization from scratch or inheriting a leadership position that has been around for 150 years (or more), the people around you must trust you, and must trust one another, if you are to move forward in a positive direction.
If you are going to build trust among those you work with, try asking some simple questions. Get people together in the same room. Eat a meal. Play a game. Create an occasion where everyone has the opportunity to share a little bit about themselves. Ask for three to five non-invasive bits of information, such as the number of siblings each person has, what their first was, best family vacation, or favorite type of music. Keep it simple, listen, and do your best to hang on to those bits of information. This information might not factor in to your strategic plan, but it will help you to better understand one another.
Trust is foundational for pursuing a goal or a dream. I think of my friends who are charged with leading churches that have amassed years of tradition, are very proud of where they have been, but have little idea of where they are going before Jesus returns. At some point in their history they stopped asking questions concerning how God was making all things new in their city, town, or neighborhood, and the part they had to play. Instead of starting a new initiative, or waiting a year before launching your first dream (the “do nothing in your first year” rule), get to know people. Build trust. Develop relationships. Ask questions. Be intentional. And don’t just do this so that you get to know people better. Facilitate these conversations in the presence of a group of those you lead. You might be amazed at what your people might learn from and about one another.
Once you have established some level of trust, move on from there.
(To read more about this, check out this leadership book. Not bad.)
If you are leading anyone, anywhere, watch this talk. If you’re not leading, we need you to lead. Especially all of those Christian-leader types that I know read my blog. Or the students who are dreaming about a better world. Or the chronic complainers who can tell you everything that is wrong with the world but refuse to create an alternative.
Start something. Connect with others. Make a difference. Watch this talk.
Last week I finished Daniel E. Pink‘s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. Great read full of good analysis, helpful illustrations (not just stories, but pictures, too!), and practical suggestions for developing your right brain abilities. This book has been on the shelf for a few years, but it contains the type of stuff that was never talked about in seminary, and thus, for me, was exciting, informative, and suggestive. There is plenty of stuff in here that I think could be utilized by any church leader, especially since church leadership demands employment of our creative capacities.
Here are Pink’s “Six Senses” of right brain thinking that he believes will define the future:
I never considered myself a right-brain person growing up. Maybe it was just me. But over the past few years my ministry has demanded that I employ right brain capacities. I’ve had to tell stories, design experiences, put together devotional guides using creative tools (writing, layout design, images, etc.), paint a big picture for people as I’ve exercised leadership (symphony), employed empathy in understanding the people I lead, played alongside children, students, and other adults leaders, and helped groups derive shared meaning. I’ve been doing this right brained stuff.
The church is pegged as being a left-brained institution with a very left-brained discourse. We have a chance to redefine that stuff. Logic will continue to be important, but this right brain stuff cannot be denied. We need a whole new mind. And this means reclaiming the right brain and doing some cool, creative stuff.
Later today I take my last final exam of my KU career. The only thing left to accomplish is the writing of a Master’s Thesis–I’m planning on starting that project this summer and hope to bring it to completion this coming fall. In other personal news, I saw Elvis Costello and The Police at the Sprint Center last night. “Pump it up!”
A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee. Good book–not my favorite on leadership, but helpful nonetheless. The six leadership styles identified and explored in this book are:
The authors explore how each style of leadership affects the emotional climate in the organization, stating when each style might be appropriate, the type of impact, and how the implementation of each style may create resonance (or when used inappropriately, yield dissonance). The authors claim that by developing one’s emotional intelligence–or ability to tune in to the environmental/emotional sensitivity of the organization–leaders will learn to recognize when to emphasis one style of leadership over the others, resulting in increased resonance, positive growth, and long-term success.
Here is one particular quote that has relevance to my life experience:
The lessons people get in leadership start very early in life, observing from teachers, coaches, clergy–anyone who has been in the role of leader in their lives. These models offer the first scaffold for people’s own leadership habits, their original ideas for what a leaders does. Then, as they being to step into their first leadership roles in clubs, teams, student government, or as leaders in their peer groups, they put those models into practice. (Goleman, 154-55)
Over my lifetime I have been extremely fortunate to be in the presence of high level leaders. Here are a few lessons I learned as a result of exposure to family, friends, pastors, teachers, coaches, community leaders, professors, employers, coworkers, authors, and young people:
These are just a few things I’ve learned about leadership through the people I’ve been exposed to. I didn’t learn these lessons all at once, and I didn’t learn them all consciously. Some have had to be developed through the years.
What important leadership lessons have you learned, and how have you learned them?
Posted in Church Ministry, Cultural Commentary, Theology, tagged Christianity, Church, leadership, leadership development, seminary, seminary education, theological education, vision on April 29, 2008 | 3 Comments »
Not long ago my friend Andrew reported a conversation he had recently with a seminary faculty member who asked him, “Are we doing a good job?” Great question. I’ve thought about this quite commonly in recent weeks. I’m assuming your response to this question might depend on the extent of your experience with Christian ministers, or your own reflections from your seminary experience, if you are clergy.
Though there were aspects of my own seminary experience that I had hoped would be more helpful, I’m thankful for what I received from my theological education. I thought that my experience in seminary equipped me theologically, biblically, and practically for ministry. I do wish that leadership skills would have been emphasized more, and I also wish that greater theological diversity would’ve been present in my training. Overall, as I’ve stated, I’m thankful. My education was also supplemented by experience in great churches throughout my life.
I’ve spoken to friends who attended other seminaries who had hoped for more–practically, biblically, and theologically. I have also heard friends that retrospectively would’ve liked for more instruction on how to lead a staff, as well as how to engage theologically with the world as it exists today, not some time 50 years ago in which Christendom was still largely holding a grip on American culture.
The web is a great space for debate. Whether you leave a comment here, or write your own post elsewhere, I thought I’d derive a few questions worthy of discussion. So, do you think seminaries are doing a good job?
Feel free to add to this list, or even call into question some of the areas of focus I have identified. What other areas should seminaries focus upon to train leaders for pastoral ministry today? What do you think?
What a day. What follows are my reflections–this will be part 1 of 3. Today took a lot of energy–particularly the afternoon sessions observing the discussion of the General Board of Society. I spent the day observing the subcommittee handling the petitions on human sexuality. You can probably guess where this is going, particularly if you know anything about UMC discussion on this topic in recent years.
I arrived this morning at the Ft. Worth Convention Center around 8:00 a.m. I was met shortly afterward by Andrew Conard. Upon asking for his first impressions, Andrew simply stated, “I’m really struck by just how much hard work it takes to be a denomination.” He’s right. Unity takes work, patience, listening, and thoughtful articulation of vision. As I walked in the front door I breezed past a number of people from all over the world. A choir was waiting to enter the convention center floor to contribute their gifts to our collective worship. I had the general impression that people were happy and excited to be there.
Worship was excellent. You can read about Bishop João Somane Machado’s sermon here. Bishop Machado is from Mozambique. He spoke in his native tongue with a translator at his side. Because the message was translated, I found myself listening more carefully. I watched his body language and listened closely to his intonation. Machado focused his message on Galatians 5:7-10:
7You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 8That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9“A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. (NIV)
He challenged the UMC, saying, “You were running so well–what happened?” He also focused on Matthew 28:16-18 as part of his message.
Machado was full of passion and excitement for the gospel. He emphasized the excellence of the theme of the conference. He was excited about making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. He spoke of his own story and the way in which the United Methodist Church had shaped his own vision for caring for the poor and for evangelism. It was powerful. It was good.
If anything I left the opening worship feeling energized. I had already heard reports of church discussion regarding church planting, leadership development, and justice, which I had blogged about here. These early reports, which I had read, were confirmed as true by friends who were at the conference the last couple of days. Not only did they say that these points of emphasis were mentioned, but also that a plan came along with these initiatives that had measurable goals which were clearly stated. Vision was being cast, something which church leaders who are friends found very encouraging.
Those are my earliest recollections from today. More to come.
God is calling people in to pastoral leadership, but it seems as though the call is going unheeded, at times, from those in our youngest generations. The UMC (as well as other denominations) has seen a drop in the number of clergy ages 35 and younger. I’ve written about the lack of young people in both our congregations and in leadership here and here.
Adam Hamilton featured an interesting post entitled “The Future of the Church” on his blog, reflecting on his recent experience with Church of the Resurrection‘s confirmation program. One of the goals COR has set is to see 200 young people enter clergy ranks in the next 20 years. As a result, the confirmation program has featured a space in which young people identify those who seem to have the gifts for pastoral leadership in their midst, whether that be through observation of their character, their insight, or their leadership ability. Commentary on this blog post can be found here and here from Jim Morrow. Morrow both applauds Hamilton’s leadership and offers some critical questions that should be considered.
All in all, I’m extremely pleased with Church of the Resurrection’s vision for church leadership. Hamilton, and the church leadership as a whole, have recognized the need in this area and have responded well. COR has provided vision for how the church should be actively engaged in the Missio Dei, and have created an environment where life change and transformation are taking place. Hearing Pastor Adam’s story of engaging young people concerning a call to ministry is encouraging.
I would remind Rev. Hamilton that the young people whom he has engaged are not only the future of the church, but they are also the now–a vital and important part of the body that can encourage us in our commitment to Christ. They are also currently providing leadership–they need not wait until they undertake the vows of ordination. With Morrow I would question the process by which COR will mentor and discern with these young people as they pursue their call–a good question. I am glad to know that Jason Gant and the RezLife team have thought about this and have created a space within their ministry to help students who are discerning a call to ministry, whether it be in the pastoral role or in an associate pastor role (children, youth, etc.).
I hope that Rev. Hamilton continues to consider their vision of 200 young people in clergy within 20 years too small! I also hope that other churches would grasp this vision and create similar cultures in their local congregations. The question needs to be asked, and a theology of vocation needs to be explored. The language and discourse surrounding the call needs to be developed.
God is calling servants into pastoral ministry. Are we helping people to listen and pay attention?
Posted in Church Ministry, Cultural Commentary, Theology, tagged Christianity, General Conference 2008, leadership, Lovett Weems, Religion, United Methodist Church, Young Clergy on April 19, 2008 | 2 Comments »
Next week the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church will convene in Ft. Worth, TX. I did not grow up as part of the United Methodist Church, so over the past few years I’ve continued to learn about their polity and the means by which they make decisions. General Conference is an opportunity for delegates from each annual conference in the United Methodist Church to gather and discern the direction of the church. Next week will begin serious debate and dialogue over both the hot-button issues (homosexuality, abortion, etc.) as well as how to address such matters as numerical decline in church membership.
Here is a selection of articles from the UMC website which frame the spirit in which leadership hopes this General Conference will be conducted:
I’ll be at General Conference for one day. I’m looking forward to observing the action on the floor at the conference as well as surrounding the conference–interest groups will surely be represented and active.
It is interesting to me that budget constraints have narrowed the focus of the church financially, though I’m encouraged by the way in which leadership has discerned to focus their energies. If there are two areas of the church that I am fascinated by, it is church planting (congregational growth) and leadership development. Why don’t we just call congregational growth “evangelism” and I’ll be even more excited.
About three weeks ago I read Lovett Weems and Ann Michel’s The Crisis of Younger Clergy. It is my hope that discussion at General Conference would be impacted by the data presented in this short book. According to Weems and Michel’s findings, “the percentage of United Methodist elders age 35 and under has decreased from 15.05% in 1985 to 4.92% in 2007.” That’s a drop from 3,219 clergy persons age 35 and under in ’85 to 876 in 2007. Not good. Weems and Michel argue that this drop is truly a crisis. They’ve considered other factors (such as decline in the under 35 population), and still see a crisis. They present compelling reasons for new emphasis on youth ministries, a reconsideration of the candidacy process and the terminology used in that process, and the importance of supporting younger clergy persons. They also challenge the UMC to consider how they appoint young clergy (finding churches that fit the young person’s gifts well, rather than sending them somewhere to “do time” and “earn their keep”), they challenge the church to help reduce clergy person’s educational debt, and also press the church to change or face continued decline.
I’ve emphatically shared with close friends that the continual and ongoing crisis of any age is leadership. It has to be developed, emphasized, and encouraged. For churches, this requires that we speak in language of calling–there are those in our midst whom God may be calling into pastoral ministry, and it is the responsibility of the leadership to help people young and old learn to be attentive to God’s voice and respond in faithfulness. I have met young people who are part of United Methodist churches who clearly have gifts for ministry and leadership, but those who are part of their church have never identified and encouraged those gifts. I believe that this is simply because of a lack of vision. If you are not intentionally seeking to identify leaders, cultivate them, encourage them in ministry, and commit to pray for God to raise up leaders in your midst, it is likely that the demands of maintaining a ministry will create a loss of focus on leadership development. Loss of focus in this area is simply something that we cannot afford.
For all Christian people who read this blog, I would ask that you would pray for those who will be at General Conference in 2008, that God would grant them wisdom and discernment as they gather together seeking God’s direction. I also would ask that you would pray God would grant our leadership a vision for identifying, developing, encouraging, and praying for an influx of younger clergy persons. I pray that God would raise up new leaders who would faithfully lead congregations and feel called to plant new churches.
May God’s grace be upon us all.