Monday, November 30, 2009
Proudly posted on our fridge is the first of what I'm sure will be many masterpieces by our grandson Jack.
Think what you will, those scribbles on the paper represent unlimited potential for Jack. He has loving parents, doting grandparents, and a gleam in his eye.
That's what being 20 months old is all about...
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The October 2009 issue has a striking image of a redwood tree on it. As soon as I saw the magazine in its shrink-wrapped shipping bag, I was transported back to first grade show and tell: my crude drawing of a redwood tree, taken from a July 1964 NG story. I filed that thought away, and not long afterwards, had the occasion to visit my boyhood home in Tennessee. I asked my dad about that magazine, and sure enough, he had kept the magazines too! I pulled the issue off the shelf and thumbed through it, gazing again at living giants thousands of years old, comparing them to the same family of trees 45 years later. While I enjoyed that trip down memory lane, there was still something tugging at my thoughts.
When I returned home, I searched my library and found the answer: “Growing Spiritual Redwoods” by William Easum and Thomas Bandy. Published in 1997, it was a striking call for church leaders to understand the new paradigm the church was entering. They likened the healthy church to a redwood tree. I remember reading the text when it first came out, and my copy bore highlighted sections, Post-It© Notes, and scribbles throughout.
Using the metaphor of the redwood tree, the authors described the growing and healthy church as follows:
- They stand taller than any other tree, but their visibility is less a function of the numbers of their adherents, and more the magnitude of their ministries
- They hold aloft an enormous umbrella of intertwined branches, which shelter a huge diversity of life in an atmosphere of peace and mutual respect
- They are resistant to crisis from beyond and disease from within. Political winds do not break them, and ideological fires cannot burn them down
- They put down strong, extensive root systems that intertwine with those of other Redwoods. They draw nutrition from unexpected sources, and reach out into unlikely places
- They regenerate in abundance. Not only do seeds initiate new life across the forest floor, but they sprout vigorously even from the stumps of felled trees
What can you learn from the redwood tree?
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
In his recent book “Who Killed Change?” Blanchard offers a murder mystery setting investigating the death of another change. One by one, a list of thirteen suspects are interviewed, with the startling conclusion: they all contribute to the change process.
- Culture-the predominate attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that characterize change
- Commitment-a person’s motivation and confidence to engage in new behavior required by the change initiative
- Sponsorship-senior leader who has formal authority to deploy resources toward change initiative
- Change Leadership Team-group of leaders with day-to-day responsibilities for executing change leadership strategies
- Communication-effective communication is critical
- Urgency-why change is needed and how quickly people must change
- Vision-clear and compelling vision allows people to see themselves succeeding
- Plan-A plan is important, but the process of planning is even more so
- Budget-analyze change from financial perspective, allocating limited resources to ensure healthy return on investment
- Trainer-provides learning experiences to develop skills needed to lead change
- Incentive-reinforces the desired behaviors and results that enable change
- Performance management-process that sets goals and expectations regarding behavior and results
- Accountability-process of following through with people to ensure behaviors and results are in line with agreed upon goals and expectations
Blanchard’s bottom line: Change can be successful only when the usual characters in an organization combine their unique talents and consistently involve others in initiating, implementing, and sustaining change.
Change is a very present reality in today’s culture – and in churches just like yours. How are you dealing with change in your church? Are you part of the process that will make change succeed? Or are you one of the suspects that will contribute to its death?
Monday, November 23, 2009
It’s about eight million dollars a year – at least on the scale of the operations of UPS and its fleet of over 95,000 trucks. It seems that in today’s troubled economy, the importance of the bottom line is becoming increasingly critical to organizations of all sizes.
No doubt you have experienced sitting in a left-turn lane, waiting on the light to change so you can make your turn. It’s a waste of time and money – not much of either on an individual scale, but if you are big enough, say the size of delivery giant UPS, all those pennies begin to add up.
This realization — that when you operate a gigantic fleet of vehicles, tiny improvements in the efficiency of each one will translate to huge savings overall — is what led UPS to limit the number of left-hand turns its drivers make.
The company employs what it calls a “package flow” software program, which among other highly-efficient practices involves the packing and sorting of its cargo, mapping out routes for every one of its drivers, and drastically reducing the number of left-hand turns they make (taking into consideration, of course, those instances where not to make the left-hand turn would result in a ridiculously circuitous route).
In a recent report, UPS revealed that the software helped the company shave 28.5 million miles off its delivery routes, which has resulted in savings of roughly three million gallons of gas (at today’s average price, that’s almost the above mentioned eight million dollars) and has reduced CO2 emissions by 31,000 metric tons. That’s significant.
Your organization is probably a fraction the size of UPS. You don’t have the economies of scale to gain such huge benefits. But look beyond the specifics to the principles behind this action:
- You are probably not operating at peak efficiencies of your ministry, people, facility, and financial resources
- Your bottom line could probably use a boost these days
- You probably have people in your congregation that could help you analyze your operations to look for improvements in efficiencies
The question is, are you willing to “pay the price” to gain the benefits?
Friday, November 20, 2009
According to noted leadership guru John Kotter, there are also two kinds of urgency – and like cholesterol, one is good and one is bad. The good kind is characterized by constant scrutiny of external promise and peril. It involves relentless focus on doing only those things that drive your organization forward, and doing them right now, if not sooner. The bad kind, which has been on everyone’s mind for months now, is panic-driven and characterized by frantic activity which generates a lot of heat and motion but no substance.
Interviewed in a recent Inc. magazine article, and recalling sections of his book “A Sense of Urgency,” Kotter thinks that most of what we see now is a lot of people running around trying to come up with solutions. Calling that “ineffectual at best,” he feels this type of activity is driven by a fear of losing. Want to change that? Develop a gut-level determination to win and to make absolutely sure that you and your leaders do something every single day to keep pushing your goal forward. That, Kotter says, is true urgency.
What about ChurchWorld? What do you see when you look around? Frenetic activity? Totally exhausted leaders, working long hours trying to keep ministry efforts going? Difficulty in scheduling meetings to work things out? Check this thought out: true urgency will cause people to leave plenty of white space on their calendars, because they recognize the important stuff – the stuff they need to deal with immediately – is going to happen, most times unplanned.
That’s exponentially true in the ministry world. Interruptions and people in crisis are our ministry, and only if you have margin in your life can you deal effectively and with Christ-like love.
Don’t panic – but lead with urgency. True urgent leadership doesn’t drain people, but energizes them. It makes them feel excited to be a part of an organization that is moving forward with purpose, even audacity, in times like these. Now that’s a group I want to be a part of!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Paul’s focus was so sharp that he discarded everything he once counted gain. But he goes beyond that: he counted everything as garbage for the sake of obtaining Christ.
Leaders who want to change the world need to have this same kind of sharp focus. The keys are priorities and concentration. A leader who knows his priorities but lacks concentration knows what to do, but never gets it done. A leader with concentration but no priorities has excellence without progress. But when leaders harness both, they gain the potential to achieve great things.
John Maxwell, writing in “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader” says that leaders base their decisions on a variety of things:
- The Ultimate – First things first
- The Urgent – Loud things first
- The Unpleasant – Hard things first
- The Unfinished – Last things first
- The Unfulfilling – Dull things first
Paul exemplifies a leader who focused on the ultimate every day. How about you? To get back on track with your focus, work on these items:
- Work on yourself: you are your greatest asset or worst liability
- Work on your priorities: fight for the important ones
- Work in your strengths: you can reach your potential if you do
- Work with your colleagues: you can’t be effective alone
Focus on the ultimate, and your vision will become sharper.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Earlier this year my family and I saw our first digital 3D movie – G Force. The movie was fun entertainment for a family night, but what captivated me most was the use of the latest technology to show a film in 3 dimensions, giving a richness and depth to the movie.
The thought later occurred to me that leaders, too, have to work in 3 dimensions to have richness and depth. These 3 dimensions are not length, width, and depth, but 3 representations of time: past, present, and future. A wise leader recognizes the importance of all three:
- Past is history
- Present is reality
- Future is opportunity
History – Every past success and failure can be a source of information and wisdom – if you allow it to be. The wise leader learns both from success and failure. Don’t be satisfied with your successes, and don’t be dismayed by your failures. History is important: it is not a rock to hold on to, but a bridge to the future.
Reality – No matter what a leader learns from the past, it will never tell you all you need to know for the present. The wise leader is constantly gathering information from many sources about what’s going on in the here and now – because that’s where we are at. They ask others on their team, they talk with their peers; they look to other leaders for insight. Wise leaders also become students of the culture they are seeking to minister to.
Opportunity – Wise leaders see tomorrow before it arrives. They have a vision for a preferable future, they understand what it will take to get there, they know who they will need to be on the team to be successful, and they recognize obstacles long before they become apparent to others.
The 3D movie I saw required me to wear special glasses; even then the view was only an illusion of depth. Wise leaders will understand the three dimensions of past, present, and future, and realize they are not an illusion, but a powerful force that will help them lead others with real depth and dimension.
Friday, November 13, 2009
We live, work, and minister in a 24/7 world today. Demands on your time come from every direction-family, friends, work, and church. How can you keep pace – how can you manage time? Here’s a big clue: time can’t be managed. The idea that you can manage something that is unchanging and fixed is almost ridiculous. But the very idea that you can manage time has been a staple of leadership development for years – and where has it gotten you? Have you ever thought about the expenditure of your time, and how it might be redirected from the urgent to the important?
You’ve probably heard of the phrase “the tyranny of the urgent.” That’s when a task calls for instant action – even when you had planned to do other, more important things. Crises, pressing problems, deadlines, meetings…church leaders know what the tyranny of the urgent is all about! While many things can’t be planned for and must be dealt with as they come up, many times important things become urgent through procrastination, or because we don’t do enough prevention and planning.
But what about the important things in life, work, and ministry? Things like relationship-building, meditation, planning and preparation for future events, skill development, mentoring, etc. How do they fit into your busy schedule – if at all?
God has given us many gifts – not the least of which is a whole new 24 hours each day. In Psalm 90:12, Moses (as he leads the children of Israel on a 40-year “tyranny of the urgent” exercise in futility) cries out to God:
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
We can employ the skills and principles of time management, use the latest technology to integrate our calendars into every aspect of our lives, and employ a better scheduling system. But all are of little benefit until we understand the value of time. We measure the value of time by how we spend it, not how we schedule it. Knowing the difference is wisdom!
Embracing our time on earth as a limited resource and a gift from God has incredible power to liberate us to attend to the really important things in our lives.
What time is it…for you?
Thursday, November 12, 2009
This question has been on my mind a great deal in the last week as I continue to process all the events of Catalyst with my consulting work with churches. On the one hand, there is the powerful call to the simplicity of the Gospel, as so clearly articulated by speaker after speaker. When we are obedient to God's calling and follow His command to live out the Gospel, we will see lives changed by the simple, powerful proclamation of the Word.
But on the other hand, the Church today pulses with the heartbeat and power of a new energy, based on the power of the gospel, led by the Spirit, and articulated in methods almost beyond imagination: multimillion dollar complexes that cater to the every need of a participant; music and technological productions that rival (and often exceed) the best Hollywood and Broadway have to offer; community/social/fellowship “third places” that take their cues straight from the corporate menus of Starbucks and the like. Have we crossed over the culture line?
Over 50 years ago Yale professor H. Richard Niebuhr delivered a series of lectures that resulted in his book Christ and Culture – still one of the most influential Christian books of the past century. Niebuhr’s five classifications of Christ and culture continue to serve as the foundational thought and reference point about the intersection of Christianity and culture. Here’s a very simplified version:
- Christ against culture – the world outside the church is hopelessly corrupted by sin; God calls His people to come out from the world and be separate.
- Christ above culture – all good in human culture is a gift from God, but requires Christian revelation and the involvement of the church.
- Christ transforming culture – nothing is outside of Christ’s dominion, and all of society is to be reclaimed in His name.
- Christ and culture in paradox – Christians live in tension knowing that God ordained worldly institutions, but God’s kingdom is in the world here and now.
- Christ of culture – there is a harmony of both, with Christians seeking the highest moral and spiritual common ground between the two.
Christ and culture in paradox immediately resonate with me. As soon as I see the words, I connect with Jim Collins’ book “Built to Last” with his powerful chapter on The Genius of the “And”. In business, he found that successful companies no longer were forced into an either/or situation. Instead, they embraced the paradox of both/and.
That leads me to the sower parables of Jesus: God plants wheat in the field, but his enemy comes along and plants weeds. The natural thought is to pull the weeds as soon as you can distinguish them, but the wise farmer lets them both grow to harvest time.
God calls us into the difficult world of the paradox, where values, intentions, and visions often compete with the world. But we also have faith and hope that His promise will come about, and what is confusing now will be crystal clear then.
Continue to plant wheat, but beware of the weeds, and wait for the harvest.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Sometime along that coaching journey, I picked up a saying that became my favorite instruction as a coach, whether on the practice field or in a game situation:
Play the way you’re facing
In soccer you must be prepared for instant action no matter what the situation. Your opponent may be driving down the field, heading toward your goal; you may be set to defend them one way but a sudden pass finds a whole new situation confronting you. You don’t have time to call a timeout, put in new players, and start a new play. The situation calls upon your instincts and training and awareness of your surroundings. You have to play the way you’re facing, and make the best out of it.
Isn’t it like that in ChurchWorld too? We have our long-range plans and strategic actions and bold initiatives and so on. More often than not, the world doesn’t work like that. New challenges can arise overnight. A crisis doesn’t wait on us; we have to meet it head-on. At that point, your leadership team can’t call a time out to let you regroup and develop a new action plan.
Church leadership is at its very best when the skills and characteristics instilled in the normal everyday learnings of a disciple are allowed to mature and be put into practice when the situation demands it. We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, but we know the Creator and Lord of the days. If we are obedient to Him, He will see us through any circumstance, all the way to the other side.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Not seeing-with-your-eyes vision, but leadership vision.
No matter what your definition of leadership vision, you inevitably see it through a lens and a filter.
An optical lens is a device with perfect or approximate symmetry which transmits and reflects light, converging or diverging the beam. Your leadership lens (you may have more than one) works in a similar fashion, allowing you to focus in on a specific matter on one hand, while sometimes causing you to lose focus on others.
An optical filter is a device that selectively transmits light having certain properties while blocking the remainder. Your leadership filters work-consciously or unconsciously-to let some things register while keeping out others.
What lens are you looking at your world through?
What filters do you view reality through?
Knowing the answers to those two questions won't give you 20-20 leadership vision, but to trying to lead without an awareness of your lens and filters will surely cause leadership myopia at best, and leadership blindness at worst.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Sesame Street DVDs now come with a warning label. According to the New York Times, the release of Volumes 1 and 2 of the perennial children’s favorite contains the following: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.” Gen X parents all over the country are now faced with a dilemma – do they view these videos with their Gen Z kids?
On November 10, 1969 sunny days hit the airwaves of public television for the first time. We were introduced to a cast of real and make-believe characters who interacted throughout all the situations of a typical brownstone in the Upper West Side of New York City. Reality television? NOT!
“The people on “Sesame Street” had limited possibilities and fixed identities, and (the best part) you weren’t expected to change much. The harshness of existence was a given, and no one was proposing that numbers and letters would lead you “out” of your inner city to Elysian suburbs. Instead, “Sesame Street” suggested that learning might merely make our days more bearable, more interesting, even funnier. It encouraged us, above all, to be nice to our neighbors and to cultivate the safer pleasures that take the edge off — taking baths, eating cookies, reading. Don’t tell the kids.”
Fast forward to 2009: churches all over the country are now focusing on children’s ministries which use multi-sensory communication of the Bible lesson. Not content to have children sit in chairs in rows facing a teacher who reads a lesson and asks questions, many churches now have some variation of the following:
- Classrooms transformed into biblical scenes duplicating a Palestinian village or a hillside outside Galilee through the use of theatrical sets
- Costumes and short dramas (for both teachers and children) to communicate the stories of the Bible
- Props that visually reinforce the Bible story
This multi-sensory environment is a product of the Sesame Street generation: puppets popping out of trash cans, windows, and all over the set to interact with real people. Today’s adults grew up on it; now they are refining it for their children and taking the concept to even higher levels.
Current approaches to ministry with children can be grouped into three broad areas of secular media classifications:
- Sesame Street – a cognitive learning style
- Disney – an entertainment learning style
- Nickelodeon – a multi-sensory style
It’s beyond the intent of this post to analyze the pros and cons of each, but consider this:
Research from the Center on Missional Research indicates that all the high quality programming utilizing and dynamic activities is great and very effective in reaching children (and their parents), but it never seems to be enough.
Churches having a life-changing impact with their children are the ones that connect children to one another and have adult leaders (and/or mature older students) who regularly interact and care for them. Despite all the pizzazz and glitz of incredible programs, mentoring seems to be the key to sustained, effective evangelism among children.
I think Gordon may have had it right after all. Happy Birthday Sesame Street!
Friday, November 6, 2009
In his recent book "Leaders Make the Future", Johansen lists 10 new skills that leaders need to develop in order to help make the future. I listed the first five yesterday; here are the final five.
- Constructive Depolarizing - the ability to calm tense situations where differences dominate and communication has broken down - and bring people from divergent cultures toward constructive engagement.
- Quiet Transparency - the ability to be open and authentic about what matters to you - without advertising yourself.
- Rapid Prototyping - the ability to create quick early versions of new innovations, with the expectations that later success will require early failure.
- Smart Mob Organizing - the ability to bring together, engage with, and nurture purposeful business or social-change networks through intelligent use of electronic and other media.
- Commons Creating - the ability to stimulate, grow, and nurture shared assets that can benefit other players - and allow competition at a higher level.
Nobody can predict the future, but the four-decade long track record of forecasts of Johansen and his colleagues at the Institute for the Future are plausible and consistent views of what might happen. I found the book (and additional research of the Institute) to be a fascinating journey into a new land of leadership skills - one that all leaders need to be making.
Johansen wrote the following in his introduction: The space between judging too soon (the classic mistake of problem solvers) and deciding too late (the classic mistake of academics) is a space leaders of the future must love - without staying there too long. Leaders need to reflect on the future, but they must also make decisions in the present.
Where do you find yourself in that continuum? Do you want to be somewhere else?
Then create your own future!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Bob Johansen, Distinguished Fellow with the Institute for the Future, has written a fascinating book on the development of a new set of new skills that are uniquely suited to the "threshold" decade ahead. It's called "Leaders Make the Future". Here is a summary of the first five skills; the remainder will come tomorrow.
- Maker Instinct - the ability to turn one's natural impulse to build into a skill for making the future and connecting with others in the making. The maker instinct is basic to leadership in the future.
- Clarity - the ability to see through messes and contradictions to a future that others cannot yet see. Leaders are very clear about what they are making, but very flexible about how they get it made.
- Dilemma Flipping - the ability to turn dilemmas - which, unlike problems, cannot be solved - into advantages and opportunities.
- Immersive Learning Ability - the ability to dive into different-for-you physical and online worlds, to learn from them in a first person way.
- Bio-empathy - the ability to see things from nature's point of view; to understand, respect, and learn from nature's patterns. Nature has its own clarity, if only we humans can understand and engage with it.
Johansen places the development of theses skills in what he labels the VUCA world: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. It's a world that has both danger and opportunity, and one that requires learning new skills in order to make a better future.
Can you find room in your busy schedule to learn these new skills?
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Keeping our offices and homes lit, heated, and cooled accounts for a staggering 72% of electricity consumption and 38% of all carbon emissions in the U.S.
Green building is more than just a trend - it's becoming a requirement.
Church facilities are no exception. At last week's Worship Facilities, there were multiple sessions on green building. Green products and services were all over the exhibit floor. The conference itself made special efforts to be seen as a leader in sustainability.
I welcome the conversation and action on the church's part. I've been writing, speaking, and encouraging churches since 2005 to move in this direction. But for all the good reasons we hear about sustainability, there's really only one reason:
It's a stewardship issue: God created the world, and then mankind. Then He put us in charge over it. Not to exploit it and waste it, but to sustain it for our use, and for future generations.
How are we doing? Not so well.
How are you doing?
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
I heard those words from my father years ago, and they have come to be an important part of an ongoing learning curve involving that most difficult of social skills – communication.
Communication between individuals or groups of people is never easy. Some people think that all we have to do is to listen. Others think we just need to hear them out. However, there is a great difference between hearing and listening. Hearing refers to the physical dimension of the sound waves striking the ear and the brain processing them into meaningful information. Listening, however, involves far more than the hearing process. It incorporates paying attention and focusing with the intention of understanding and responding appropriately.
One of the most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and to be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. Not only that but when people feel that you have really listened to them, you will gain their respect and they will value and give you the credibility to speak.
Consider how you feel when you sense someone is really listening to what you have to say. You feel good, you feel understood, and more connected to the person who is listening. The fact that they are interested causes you to feel cared for.
True listening is a skill which needs to be learnt and practiced because the mind functions seven times more quickly than it is possible to speak. Therefore the mind needs to be slowed down and focused on what the person is saying, and not pay attention to other irrelevant thoughts or distractions.
One of the best ways to build up your listening skills is to ask a question, and then be quiet and listen to the answer. Questions will give you a greater understanding of the person, give them encouragement, and instill a sense of connectedness. Make sure that ask questions and listen more than you speak.
When you have the opportunity, use a question or questions and experience the power of creating understanding with others through the power of listening.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
The MORE vertical display caught the attention of all the attendees in the Exhibit Hall.