Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
In that constant journey of becoming a better speaker, I listen to as many presentations as possible at events I attend; I browse the web for captivating speeches; I listen to CDs of great speeches, and I read a lot (is that a surprise?) on the best books available on the topic.
One such book is slide:ology by Nancy Duarte. I've mentioned her work before, but it has been such an important work and influence that I wanted to post her Five Theses of the Power of Presentation for your consideration - and application.
- Treat Your Audience as King - They didn't come to your presentation to see you. They came to find out what you can do for them. Success means giving them a reason for taking their time, providing content that resonates, and ensuring it's clear what they are to do
- Spread Ideas and Move People - Creating great ideas is what we were born to do; getting people to feel like they have a stake in what we believe is the hard part. Communicate your ideas with strong visual grammar to engage all their senses and they will adopt the ideas as their own
- Help Them See What You're Saying - Epiphanies and profoundly moving experiences come from moments of clarity. Think like a designer and guide your audience through ideas in a way that helps, not hinders, their comprehension. Appeal not only to their verbal senses, but to their visual senses as well.
- Practice Design, Not Decoration - Orchestrating the aesthetic experience through well-known but oft-neglected design practices often transforms audiences into evangelists. Don't just make pretty talking points. Instead, display information in a way that makes complex information clear.
- Cultivate Healthy Relationships - A meaningful relationship between you, your slides, and your audience will connect people with content. Display information in the best way possible for comprehension rather than focusing on what you need as a visual crutch. Content carriers connect with people.
As I continue preparing for 2009 presentations, I'm going back to a blank page and starting with this question:
What action do I want to move my audience to undertake?
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
In a similar vein, I wonder about my spiritual software - the operating system of my beliefs, if you will. Church consultations of the past few months, individuals I have spoken with, and authors I have been reading all seem to be challenging me on my spiritual status quo.
Which leads me to this thought: How often do we check in with our Programmer to see if we are operating the way He designed us?
Monday, February 23, 2009
Today was a long day, with travel first to Winston Salem, then back to Huntersville, then down to Wingate. A long day with lots of "stuff" happening, but it ended on a very positive note from one of the team I was meeting with at the church.
After over 2 1/2 hours of discussion, a remark was made something like this:
Your company's information on the website and print say a lot, but your talk here tonight says the most. You may not realize it, but you've mentioned the influence of your father at least four times tonight, all in very positive ways. That speaks to your character and integrity, and that comes from a relationship that can't be taught, but can be caught. That's the kind of person we want to work with.
I was a little taken aback by the comment, but was very flattered. I did not realize that I was referencing my Dad that much, but evidently I was, and it was noticed.
Thanks, Dad, for modeling for me all the right things to do and say - even when I don't realize I'm doing and saying them!
Friday, February 20, 2009
- My deep appreciation to the Church Solutions staff: they know how to run a good conference! Publisher Katherine Kennedy, Group Editor Karen Butler, and Education Coordinator Amy Reed were everywhere at once, making sure everything was just right. As a frequent speaker at national conferences, I really appreciate their passion and dedication to their job. Thank you, ladies, for another superb event!
- There were 30 presentation slots, full of great content and gifted speakers. I could only be in one place at a time, but I overheard lots of good comments about the presentations. It's great to be a part of a group that believes in sharing their knowledge and experience for the church at large.
- Church leaders from around the country were soaking up more than just the sunny Phoenix weather - they were fully engaged in the presentations, ready to take the knowledge gleaned back to their own turf, put it into their context, and give it a try.
- Keynote speakers John Jenkins and Jerry Colangelo gave inspiring talks to the crowd - and the crowd responded with enthusiasm.
- The expo hall had a good mix of vendors who were eager to interact with conference participants, listening and explaining their services and products.
- The NACDB, of which my company is a proud charter member, seemed to be everywhere. Our association had a good turnout for the annual meeting on Monday, and most of those stayed for the conference the rest of the week. Our members were front and center in the education sessions, taking notes and asking questions, all to better help their church clients back in their home areas.
I will be reviewing my notes and gathering some notes from friends, and hope to post some of the best "Learnings" over the next few weeks.
I'm ready to head back to Charlotte to family and friends - I only wish I could take the sunny weather with me!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I have been in Phoenix all week long, and have not even opened the door to the TV stand in my room, nor have I turned on the radio.
I'm getting all my news, etc. via my phone and laptop. Welcome to the digital age!
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009
- How are we going to market this in a way that gives us maximum flexibility?
- How can we prepare for a quick and relatively painless exit?
- How are we going to communicate if things go slower than expected?
- How are we going to communicate if we need to shut the whole thing down?
- How are we going to communicate if we need to go back to the old way?
- How are we going to absorb and limit the financial burden?
- What benchmarks will cause us to pull the plug?
- What benchmarks will cause us to keep going even though things are slow?
Ask yourself these questions - and be honest with the answers.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Teamwork - The way a team comes together will determine how it works together
Larry Osborne - Most innovations fail; Innovate to create the future while protecting the past; innovators share three key traits: insight (mentally modeling outcomes); courage (trust your mental model); flexibility (mid-course corrections)
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I don't have time to begin unpacking it until later this week, but I'm really excited about what came to me. It starts with the individual, moves to the group, and ultimately the group becomes a team. It's applicable for any type of group - small group in a church setting, team at work, or any other collection of individuals who want to go beyond just a casual surface-level knowledge.
It's a simple concept, but one you can spend the rest of your life maturing.
Off to the Phoenix Convention Center and the Church Solutions Conference and Expo.
Monday, February 16, 2009
At the NACDB I serve on the Advisory Board and am chair of the Education Committee. We've got a new initiative to recommend; we're also promoting our annual field trip to Granger Community Church in April.
I'm speaking Tuesday for the Church Solutions conference; I will also be attending most of the education sessions. There are a great group of speakers this year-I'm looking forward to being a part of the Conference.
I've also got some important one-on-one meetings, starting tonight with Will Mancini, author of Church Unique and founder of Auxano.
I'll be posting regular updates throughout the week.
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Saturday, February 14, 2009
What will your grandchild call you?
About a year ago, this was very much the topic of discussion among our family with the imminent birth of our first grandchild. Jack made his arrival last March, and even though he wouldn't know of the momentous decision for several years, GrandBob and Nina were anxious to meet him.
It took us several weeks to come to those names, and the rebel streak in me still imagines that Jack will call us what he wants to, but we'll see. In the meantime, here is a recent blog that speaks to the issue in terms of a whole generation.
You Can Call Me Ray, You Can Call Me Jay, Just Don't Call Me Granddad was posted by Matt Thornhill and John Martin, authors of "The Boomer Consumer". It links to another article entitled Nanas and Papas.
Those of you who are, or soon will be, grandparents will find it amusing and helpful. In the meantime, I'm getting ready for Jack's first birthday party next month, and grandparentitis is building.
On the other hand, I still have a 16 year old at home, so I'm not "old"! I do enjoy life at a more leisurely pace, though.
Friday, February 13, 2009
- Visitor retention rate - do you keep track of the people who visit your church? More importantly, do you know if they return? What kinds of actions do you need to take to keep track of your guests and insure they return? A target goal would be 30% of your guests in a year's time become actively involved in your congregation.
- Ministry involvement - how can you measure the degree to which the people of your congregation are mobilized for ministry? There are three broad areas of involvement: in the church, in the community, and in the world. All three are important, and all three need to be lifted up as models for service in your church.
- Leader development - the strength, vitality, and longevity of a church is dependent on leaders who understand and follow God's vision for the church. How do you recruit, train, and release leaders for service in ministry? A critical component is deciding what a ministry role is. The best and brightest should serve in ministry leadership rather than sit on committees.
- Small groups - continued growth and health beyond 200 or so requires a healthy, robust small group system in your church. Do you have groups that put people into relationship with a small enough number of people that they can be known, cared for, encourages, challenged, taught, helped, and held accountable by others in the group? Do you have categories of small groups that exist in each of your major organizing principles?
- More Important than dollars - it's easy to count the income of the church. But are you a growing, giving, generous church? You can't measure that unless you have method of determining numbers of givers, goals to increase that number, and methods to help people understand and practice biblical stewardship.
- What business are you in? - this question by Peter Drucker cuts to the core of businesses - and the church. If churches cannot articulate the essence of their ministry, and demonstrate tangible what they are trying to accomplish and produce, then it is doomed to mediocrity at best.
The book is Effectiveness by the Numbers: Counting What COUNTS in the Church. Put your numerophobia aside and dive into what really counts at your church.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
First, two things that attendance does not measure:
- Importance - there are too many variables and too many unknowns. Comparing numbers does not establish relative importance or value
- Success - gathering a growing crowd does not necessarily define success
Three things that attendance does measure:
- Influence - attendance can be a helpful measure of influence; it is a quantitative measure of influence. A church averaging 500 in worship has more influence, at least on the surface, than a church averaging 200 in worship. The extent, quality, and nature of the influence will have to be measured in other ways.
- Trends - discovering trends by measuring worship attendance trends can help you be a more effective leader. Good leaders know the trends; wise leaders understand the underlying cause of the trends. Effective leaders are always making changes in order to strengthen a positive trend or to reverse a negative trend.
- Outward focus - the addition of new people always creates growing attendance figures. The more outward focused the church, the more new people will materialize. The outward focus church prioritizes all its activities and ministries that reach out to new people, touching them where they live, work, and play - in order to reach them.
Deep and Wide - there is more than one way to measure attendance. The simplest and most used that of breadth - how many people were at your church on a given Sunday? The more people in attendance, the broader the influence of the church. If you drill down a little into this, there are two other ways to consider attendance that offer more insight into a church's breadth of influence.
- Market share - What is your church's attendance in relation to the total population in the geographic area served? A large church serving a large area and a small church serving a small town have greatly different attendance figures, but their market share might be similar. You can't compare the total numbers, but in either case the goal would be to increase their market share.
- Reflection of the community - the second way to look at your worship attendance in terms of breadth is this: How well do your attendance figures reflect the cultural, ethnic, and economic make-up of your community? Analyzing the demographic makeup of your attendance in relation to the community helps you measure the influence you have in your neighborhood.
Attendance figures can also help you measure in some ways the depth of commitment and maturity of your congregation. A partial measure is simply the percentage of Sundays a person is in worship. Just showing up on Sunday is not a positive factor alone, though. There also has to be some measurement of participation in the life and ministry of the church.
Counting noses is not so simple as it seems, is it? Attendance can be an effective measurement tool, but only when taken in context. Additional posts over the next few days will help establish that context in terms of other measurements.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The mission of the church is stated very specifically in the Great Commission: there are elements of going, making disciples, baptizing, and teaching. If you could only count one thing, it would be conversions - new believers.
The measurement of spiritual milestones - such as conversion - are defined differently by different Christian groups. This post is not about the different beliefs and traditions, but instead is to ask you to focus on your particular church and belief system. How committed are you to measuring conversion grow in your church? Where does that conversion growth come from?
First, it has to start at "home". Effective evangelism must start with the church's own children as they grow up in the faith and come to know, love, and serve God. How are you at measuring the number of children in your church who profess faith in Christ and are baptized? Or to take it a step further, what percentage of that number would you establish as your "family" conversion rate?
The second area of conversion growth is logically the population beyond your immediate church family. How many conversions are measured in this group? What are you doing to increase your effectiveness at reaching children, teenagers, and adults who do not call your church "home"?
Beyond these two immediate measurement numbers, is it possible to develop target goals for effectiveness in conversion? William Hoyt suggests that a minimum rule of thumb in this area would be one conversion per ten worship attendees. A church with an average weekly worship attendance of 500 would therefore have a conversion goal of a minimum of 50 people.
On the functional level, that means each existing member of your church would be used by God to help produce one conversion every ten years.
What about your church? How do you measure up in this one most important number?
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Growing up in a rural Southern Baptist church, I grew accustomed to the two boards on either side of the platform in the front of the church. One had the day's hymn numbers on it, the other had last weeks statistics: Sunday School attendance, worship attendance, and offering amount. While those boards may not be in use much today, the mindset behind them is very prevalent. Many churches are satisfied with keeping these simple few statistics, and that's it. On the other end of the spectrum, there are churches that are immersed in measuring everything that moves, and even some stuff that doesn't. Like many actions, the best path is probably somewhere in the middle.
William Hoyt has a great book out entitled Effectiveness by the Numbers. It's subtitle is an apt description: Counting what Counts in the Church. I think it would be very instructive to look at a few highlights in the book, and consider them in your church. Here is a great highlight to start the discussion.
Since in our humanness we tend to count things that matter most to us, most churches will at least count the offerings. They might not be able to tell you how many came to services, how many unbelievers became believers, how many participate in small groups, or how many serve in some form of ministry, but they can tell you how much was given - and of course the amount given in these situations is never enough!
What are you counting in your church?
Monday, February 9, 2009
I had several phone conversations Friday, and a church visit Sunday, and essentially the same question was asked: Given all the economic uncertainty, is this the right time to build? Based on my conversations with churches since last fall and the beginning of the economic meltdown, the answer is: It depends.
I have had some churches move forward with their plans to build. The process is a little slower, but they are convinced that God is leading them forward at this time. One client even enlarged the scope of their project because they exceeded their capital stewardship program goal. For churches that are clear on their direction, moving forward is the right thing to do.
I have had a few churches that were anticipating moving forward with preliminary planning in 2009 shelf that idea, at least for now. They have prayed, discussed, and believe its the right thing to do. For those churches, stopping is the right thing to do.
There are a host of other churches in that vast middle ground: they were thinking about expansion plans, but are not sure to go ahead, or wait. For those churches who have uncertainty, seeking the right "next step" is the right thing to do.
Like I said, it depends.
There is no cookie cutter, pat answer I can give churches that ask me, because each church situation and church are unique. The only thing I can say for sure is that God wants His church to grow - maybe not in terms of buildings, but certainly in terms of individual relationships with God, sharing Christ with others, and serving others in Christ's name.
There is no option on that count.
Friday, February 6, 2009
- The Principle of Focus - A church should build only when it can do so without shifting its focus from ministering to people to building a building.
- The Principle of Use - A church needs more space only when it is fully using the space it already has.
- The Principle of Provision - A church should build only when it can do so within the income God had provided and without using funds needed for the church's present and future ministries to people.
Generally speaking, these are three principles that JH Batten follows in our conversations with churches. We've gathered them all together in an internal phrase that we use in our meetings: We won't let churches walk off the end of the pier. It's a guiding framework that helps us to look at the total scope of the church's ministries first, and then work with the church to determine if a building will be a help - or a hindrance - to the continued health of the church.
If you are interested in engaging me in a conversation about your ministry, give me a shout. If you want to dive deeper into Bowman's work, I have two extra copies of his book that I will send to the first two persons who request it.
Remember, buildings are tools for the use of your ministry. Properly utilized, this tool will help you create a ministry work of art. Incorrectly used, they have the potential to be hazardous to the health!
Thursday, February 5, 2009
We've been discussing for over year the opportunity we have to relocate to another site. There are pros and cons both either way, so we decided to take a vote to see what to do next. About 60% of the congregation voting said we should consider moving, so I'm calling you to see what to do next.
We finished the conversation, and I will be talking with the leadership team in the near future. What path do you think that conversation is going to take? Remember, now - I work for a church building company. So do you think I will roll in there, whip out the latest and greatest plan for their church, and move forward?
Don't think so.
I may work for a church builder, but my boss makes one thing very clear: we are Kingdom Builders first and foremost. We focus on the "real" church - the people of God - not the structure that they meet in. Buildings are only a tool for the ministries of the church. They are not an end unto themselves.
Consequently, there are questions that buildings won't answer, and shouldn't be asked to. A resource we refer churches to quite frequently is the book When Not to Build, by Ray Bowman. Bowman is a church architect who for years designed churches for what the congregation wanted, instead of working with them to understand what they really needed for ministry growth and expansion. There is a big difference in the two, and Bowman realized what a disservice he was doing. His book outlines a solid process churches should consider when thinking about building. I will explore it a little more tomorrow.
In the meantime, I'm off for a day of consultations with churches in Georgia - and will be listening close to hear what their real needs are.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
I'm in the midst of day-long meetings at my company where decisions are being made, prior decisions being made public, and future decisions are coming. Part of the day has included a very frank discussion with a business partner in which the current relationship has been strained, and future work was very much in doubt. I'm heading into a meeting where significant decisions for me personally and our company are under consideration.
The common denominator in all of these is communication.
Some things should have been said, and weren't. Other things were said, and shouldn't have been. Still more things need to be said, and how they are said is just as important as what is said.
How we communicate is powerful - and we can never stop learning about communicating. I've gotten a refresher course today, and there is still much more to come.
Monday, February 2, 2009
- Rooted in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas Day, where clergy blessed and distributed candles for winter; the candles represented how long and could winter would be
- Germans expanded on the idea by selecting the hedgehog as a means of predicting weather
- German settlers to America in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, switching to the groundhogs as hedgehogs weren't available
- Groundhogs do emerge from hibernation in February, but only to look for a mate before going underground again
- They come out of hibernation for good in March
- In 1887 an enterprising newspaper editor declared that Phil, the Punxsutawaney groundhog, was America's only true weather-forecasting groundhog
- Phil and his descendants might be the most famous, but many towns across North America now have their own meteorology Marmota monax
- The 1993 movie "Groundhog Day" popularized the usage of "groundhog day" to mean something that is repeated over and over
Unfortunately, there are a lot of scary parallels in the church world:
- Do you have ongoing traditions from the past that had original meaning but have now lost that meaning?
- Have you adapted your traditions to fit the culture of your community?
- Are your traditions based on something that no longer is relevant?
- Do you market your traditions on their own merits, or are you exploiting them?
- Are your traditions the same as a half-dozen other churches in your town?
- Do your traditions have a life of their own, long-ago outliving their original useful purpose?
While you may view this post as "anti-tradition", neither it nor I am! I love history and tradition - I have minors in history at the graduate and post-graduate levels, study history all the time, and know that it can be a powerful teacher.
Our history should be a bridge to the future, not an anchor to the past.
Churches should be students of their past - but also their present, in order to help write their future. Can you as a church leader understand and appreciate the history of your church and its traditions? At the same time, are you a cultural anthropologist of your community, understanding what's going on today? Combining the two will give you and your leadership team a solid foundation for future opportunities!
Sunday, February 1, 2009
I wish I'd thought of this, but I read it somewhere - just can't remember it where!
This is really true of churches - how often have churches tried to open their arms wide and try to do all different types of ministries - and in the process not doing well at any of them? Or, as author Will Mancini calls it, the unoriginal sin of vision cloning: adapting the latest ministry fad from some church conference, trying to duplicate the process that church is using in their own setting.
Don't try it.
Instead, be original. Strive to identify what God is uniquely doing in your church, in your community, in your people - and then you are on to something. Churches aren't one size fits all - they should be uniquely different!