Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Worship Facilities Expo is here!

Charlotte Convention Center - site of the Worship Facilities Expo for the next four days!

WFX by the numbers:

  • 3,500 attendees

  • 220+ exhibitors

  • 60 educational sessions

  • 5 different conference tracks

  • 5 keynotes from leading church visionaries

One event to get your church team moving!

JH Batten will be present in a big way. We are the exhibit hall sponsor, we have a Design Central project displayed, I will be hosting an early bird breakfast discussion on "Creating Leaders", I'm speaking on "Turning the Ordinary into Extraordinary" (about Guest Services), and I serve on the Advisory Board for future WFX planning.

It's going to be a busy week!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Making Generations Personal

The legions of ancient Rome were composed of ten cohorts each: cohesive units of 300-600 men who trained, ate, slept, fought, won, lost, lived, and died together. The strength was their ability to think, act, and react as a unit. Though composed of individuals, training and socialization equipped them to behave as if of a single mind when called to battle. Social demographers, students of the effects of population on society, use the term cohort to refer to people born in the same general time span who share key life experiences - from setting out for school for the first time together through reaching puberty at the same time, to entering the workforce or university or marriage or middle age or their dotage at the same time.

The five primary generations of American lifestyle span a remarkable slice of American and world history. Three major wars, countless minor (?) ones, economic booms and busts, social upheavals, rocketing technological achievement, and even stepping beyond our planet are among the milestones that have directly and indirectly shaped the times.

I count myself fortunate to have a direct connection to all five generations. To me, understanding more about how each of them think, feel, and act is not just a mental exercise - it's necessary part of life.
  • Veterans (1922-1945) My father falls into the early part of this cohort. He entered military service just as WWII was ending, part of what some call "The Greatest Generation". Think "American values" and you've got their number: civic pride, loyalty, respect for authority, and apple pie. Though moving into their twilight years, they still control a significant part of the economy and will continue to be a force in the years ahead.
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964) I am a late Baby Boomer. Born in 1958, I am a part of what was until recently the largest cohort in US history. For over thirty years, the sheer size of the Boomer generation defined the organization's social landscape in a majority-rules cultural takeover. We were the civil rights, empowerment, and diversity generation. Never content with the status quo, we are always redefining what it means to be old and cool and important and successful.
  • Generation X (1965-1981) My oldest son is an Xer, even though he sometimes exhibits characteristics of the next cohort as well. Technologically adept, clever, and resourceful, the Xers are a deeply segmented, fragmented cohort. Their need for feed back and flexibility, coupled with the dislike of close supervision is but one of the many complex nuances of this generation. They are all about change- they've changed cities, homes, and even parents all their lives. Often seen as pessimistic with an edgy skepticism, many Xers are more positive about their personal future than the group as a whole.
  • Millennials (1982-2000) My other three children all fall into this cohort. They are the children of the soccer moms and little League dads, and endless rounds of swim meets, karate classes, dancing lessons, computer camp and ... you get the picture. They consider themselves the smartest, cleverest, healthiest and most-wanted group to have ever lived. Born into the technology boom times, barriers of time and space have little absolute meaning to them. They are willing to work and learn. By sheer numbers (their total births eclipsed the Boomers by several million) they are going to dominate history in new ways. They are the hyper-connected: constantly connected to multiple devices in order to now what and whom they need to know.
  • Gen 2020 (born after 2001) This is so brand new that sociologists have little data yet. But it is the generation of my grandson, and it is important to me! There are some indications that generational cohorts repeat every four generations, so we'll just have to see. At least from my viewpoint, their generation will be about social technologies, a decreasing importance of the US, and a growing global awareness. For now, I'm content just to read books to him and play with Legos!

The next five to ten years are going to be very interesting as each of these five generations exert influence on each other. I will be actively watching my own microcosm of society!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Millennials: The Next Great Generation

Bob Buford, founder of Leadership Network, author of HalfTime, Game Plan, Finishing Well, and Beyond HalfTime is writing his next book one chapter at a time. And publishing it one chapter at a time, via free subscription. His website, ActiveEnergy.net, is a great source of information and allows you to sign up for the book.

The latest installment arrived today: "Millennials: 20/30 Somethings Come Into Their Own". How appropriate is that for the topic of this week? You will need to sign up to read the whole article, but here are a few great snippets:

  • During a recent evening I sat next to Tom Tierney who, after years as CEO of Bain & Co. (the number one consulting career choice for many elite school MBA graduates) left a pile of money behind to form Bridgespan which does Bain-level consulting for nonprofits and foundations. I was stunned when he told me that Bridgespan had 2,500 applications for 17 new jobs. He also told me that the largest club at Harvard Business School was the Social Enterprise Club. Hmmm – huge demand and lower pay – a quest for meaning over money amongst these well educated 20/30 Somethings. A hundred times more demand than supply. Sounds like a big unrecognized opportunity to me!
  • Last week The Drucker Institute hosted a group of super-star for profit and nonprofit CEO’s convened by A.G. Lafley, Chairman of Proctor & Gamble. The venue was Claremont Graduate University. I had a chance there to speak to Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America. She told me that 15% of the Princeton graduating class applied to spend their first two years teaching in inner city schools. Two-thirds of these kids remain in teaching after their two years. It was the same story as Tierney told me – meaning over money, mean streets over Wall Street.
  • That same night, I flew east in an accommodating friend’s jet to join George Gallup and Tim Keller, Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, for three presentations the next day hosted by New York City Leadership Center. Keller’s congregation now numbers 6,000 weekly attending. That’s really an exceptional number for the East Coast – actually double what it was last time I attended Redeemer! The average age is 30, and 45% are young well-off Asian professionals. Seventy percent are single. Keller said that Halftime comes early for these super bright kids and that they go about it differently. They integrate it with their work through a whole variety of social enterprise initiatives. For example, a 28-year old female in Keller’s congregation, described herself as “bored to tears,” practicing corporate law. She negotiated a deal with her big Wall Street law firm, “Every five years,” she said, “I’ll practice four for the firm and the firm donates a year of my work to the International Justice Mission.” The firm agreed. Eighty percent success, twenty percent significance. A parallel career.

Buford closes every post with relevant questions that are designed to make you think about the post. Here are the current ones:

  1. Is this what you see when you “look out the window?”
  2. What can we do to give permission and encouragement to 20/30 Somethings who want to change their part of the world?
What do you think?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Forever Young

Sometimes it's hard to condense something or just quote relevant paragraphs when the whole article is great - as in this case. Reprinted below in its entirety is a post by Jim White, pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church, author of several great books, and the writer of a ezine called "Serious Times". This post fit well into a look at generational differences in church leadership, so I hope you enjoy it.

According to data just released by LifeWay Research, Southern Baptist membership
will fall nearly 50 percent by 2050 unless the aging denomination reverses a
50-year trend and does more to reach out to young adults. According to Ed
Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, “The difference in the mean age of
Southern Baptists versus the U.S. population shows SBC members older, especially
since 1993.”

This is but the latest in a long litany of laments over the aging of the church. Some blame a secular society; some blame traditional approaches to ministry; some blame new forms of individualism that lead Christian young adults away from institutions in general; some blame the lack of evangelism.

Can someone who has pastored for over twenty years offer something from the trenches?

The natural flow of the church is to skew old. Left to itself, that is what it will do. It
will age. You take your hand off of that wheel, and that is what will happen. This is not the only natural flow of the church. Left to itself, the church will also turn inward and become outdated.

But let’s stick with age.

I know of one large, innovative church - legendary in leadership circles - that woke up one day and realized that its median age had increased from people in their teens and
twenties in the 1970’s to the thirties in the 1980’s, then the forties in the
1990’s, and then the fifties in the new millennium. And this was a church
known for its innovation.

But innovation wasn’t the problem.

I had a wake-up call on this a few years ago. I was asked to speak at one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States which was made up almost entirely of twenty-somethings: NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina. The pastor, Perry Noble, is a former student of
mine. He tells people I gave him the kick in the pants he needed to start a church. I think he just needs someone to blame.

But I will never forget standing with Perry, waiting to speak, and watching the band that
took the stage, the people who filled the seats, and the staff mingling between the services. I was overwhelmed with one thought: “We’re old.” That was hard to accept, because Mecklenburg had always been known as the “new” church, the “young” church, the “cutting-edge” church.

Now all I could think was that we had become the “old” church.

I went back to Meck the next weekend, and it was as if God wanted to make sure the message had been received. Though it was a bit of a scheduling fluke, every person on stage that weekend – every musician, every singer, every person speaking - was in their forties, save two. Those two were in their fifties. I was the youngest person on the stage that day, and I’m no spring chicken. The irony is that we were still young as a church in terms of our attenders – mostly folks in their thirties. But we were losing the twenty-somethings, which means we would soon be losing thirty-somethings, and on the creep would go.

My goal was never to simply be a church for young people. But the vision was never to be a church for old people, or to have one generational life-cycle before we closed the doors.

Right then and there I made a vow: we will not grow old! If the natural flow of the church is to skew older, then that means the leadership of the church has to invest a disproportionate amount of energy and intentionality in order to maintain a vibrant population of young
adults. So we did. Mecklenburg Community Church is now younger than it has ever been in its entire existence, growing faster than it has ever grown, and reaching more unchurched people than ever before.

So what did we do? There are three headlines that are disarmingly simple in maintaining influence and impact with the next generation:

1. To attract young adults, you have to hire young adults. It seems simple
enough, but it’s often overlooked. Very few churches intentionally hire
people in their twenties. But without twenty-something staff, you are
cut-off from the next generation’s culture. And that includes technology,
which is heavily oriented toward new forms of communication. So if you
don’t know a tweet from a text, or the Ting-Tings from the Kings of Leon, then
you need to hire some folks who

2. To attract young adults, you have to platform young adults. One of the unwritten laws
of church-life is this: who you platform is who you will attract. It doesn’t matter whether you want it to be true or not, it simply is. If you want a church of forty-somethings, then be sure to litter your stage with that age-group. But don’t then sit back and wonder where all the young people are.

Now, before you think you need to raise the banner for the importance of a multi-generational church, I’m with you. But here’s another unwritten law: the best way to become multi-generational is to intentionally target young adults.

Here’s why: While you can platform older folk and disaffect young adults, you can platform young adults and still attract older folk. Lots of them. A twenty-something person is not attracted to a fifty-year-old man singing a David Crowder Band song. But a fifty-year-old man is often attracted to a youthful, energetic twenty-something person who is singing that song. The stage does not have to be entirely young, by any means, nor necessarily should
it - but remember the law: who you platform is who you will attract, whether young or old, white or black, male or female.

3. To attract young adults, you have to acknowledge young adults. To acknowledge
a young person is to acknowledge their world, their sensibilities, their technology, their vocabulary, their tastes, their priorities, and their questions. Notice I did not say “cater” to such things, only to acknowledge them. A church that does nothing but speak to young adults is
a glorified youth group, and not the vision of the new community detailed in the New Testament. But those who are younger should be acknowledged. So when using illustrations, don’t overlook the world of iPhones and Twitter, texting and Facebook. Become familiar with musical groups such as Coldplay and the Black Eyed Peas. And by all means, embrace the technology of the next generation as it is fast becoming the technology for us all.

Bottom line? Sometimes bridging a cultural divide is as simple as who you hire, who you platform, and who you acknowledge.

Yes, a person who is fifty should come and find points of connection and community at your church.

But that’s not the problem. We’re reaching the fifty-somethings. It’s the twenty-somethings that we’re missing.

Don’t believe me?

Ask a Southern Baptist.

Serious Times, July 3, 2009
Jim White

To subscribe to Serious Times see here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

5 Generations of Leadership - At Once!

Picking up from yesterday's post, a recent Harvard Business Review blog post pointed out that in the very near future, there will be five generations of leaders working alongside each other in many organizations - including the church.

By 2015, the Baby Boomers will cede the majority of the workforce to the Millennials. An interesting side note: due to their smaller size, Gen X will never have the majority spot in the workplace - effectively skipping a generation in five years.

Considering the exponential increase of knowledge available, the advent of social networking, and the shrinking of the global connections, is there any wonder that the possibility of a huge gap in leadership could be developing?

The post poses four questions worth considering as a church leader:
  1. Does your organization's brand appeal not only externally to your target audience but also internally to each of the generations in your leadership?
  2. Are you sourcing the next generation of talent where they live - social networking sites?
  3. Are you leveraging innovative learning methodologies such as games, simulations, reverse mentoring, e-coaching, peer-to-peer learning, and informal learning to accelerate learning across the organization?
  4. Are you preparing your leaders for the next generation of team members? Do you current leaders have the skills and tools needed to communicate with the hyper-connected young leaders coming up through your organization?

Tomorrow is here - are you ready?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

5 Generations of Leaders

Can you handle them?

According to a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, organizations in the US are on the verge of something never before experienced: five generations are about to be working side by side. They include:

  • Traditionalists, born prior to 1946

  • Baby Boomers, born between 1946-1964

  • Gen X, born between 1965-1976

  • Millennials, born 1977-1997

  • Gen 2020, born after 1996

Though I might argue with some to the generational cohorts above, I agree with the basic point: unlike any other time in our history, we are facing intergenerational mixes in all our organizations.

Though the post talked about businesses in particular, the same goes for churches. This week I will take a look at generational issues in church leadership, point you to some resources that I have found helpful, and maybe even challenge your assumptions and actions!

First, a look graphically at what's coming:

Let that soak in for a little while - there are some big changes in those numbers!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009


The 27gen title of this blog refers to 27 years between the four living generations of my family. Here are two of them: my son Jonathan and his son Jack visiting the Land of Oz. The picture was taken by Hallie (who is really camera shy!).

I've got a ton of work to do today, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow when Anita and I get to drive up to Boone and babysit for Jack all day. Since Jack has tendancies of both his dad and grandBob, we figure a 2-1 ratio is just about right.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chuck Swindoll Looks Ahead

Your Next 50 Years in Leadership:

  • Whatever you do, do more with others and less alone
  • Whenever you do it, emphasize quality not quantity
  • Wherever you go, do the the same as if you among those who know you best
  • Whoever may respond, keep a level head
  • However long you lead, keep on dripping with gratitude and grace

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chuck Swindoll Looks Back

Chuck Swindoll, speaking at Catalyst last week:

10 Things I've Learned in 50 Years of Leadership
  1. It's lonely to lead
  2. It's dangerous to succeed
  3. It is hardest at home
  4. It's essential to be real
  5. It's painful to obey
  6. Brokenness and failure are necessary
  7. My attitude is more important than my actions
  8. Integrity eclipses image
  9. God's way is always better than my way
  10. Christ-likeness begins and ends with humility

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Marks of a Catalyst

In science, a catalyst is a substance that enables a reaction to proceed at a usually faster rate or under different conditions than otherwise possible; it can also be an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action.

Ten years ago, John Maxwell and Andy Stanley organized an event for next-generation leaders; appropriately, they named it Catalyst. Once experienced, leaders are never the same. Catalyst is a movement about leading change in a culture desperate for hope. It’s a place where assumptions are challenged and God’s eternal perspective is made clear.

A Catalyst Leader is:

  • Uncompromising in Integrity
  • Intentional about Community
  • Passionate about God
  • Courageous in Calling
  • Engaged in Culture
  • Authentic in Influence

How do you measure up?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Catalyst Day Two Highlights

Day two of Catalyst proved to be even more powerful that the first! Some highlights include:

  • No pink Hummer this time! Arrived to a packed parking lot and lots of walking
  • Priscilla Shirer-When God interrupts our life, will we go if it is different than our planned direction?
  • Dave Ramsey-You can’t be burned out if you were never on fire in the first place.
  • New Guinness world record: high-diving from a 35' 9" platform into a foot of water
  • Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton testimony about being at the top, falling, and coming back
  • Powerful video, comments, and testimonies about adoption-143million.org
  • Chuck Swindoll-Wherever you go, do it the same as is you were among those who know you best.
  • Louie Giglio-Leadership is all about knowing and following Christ; seek His face and reflect it to the world.
  • Andy Stanley-As leaders, we choose what to put in the gap between expectations and experience; do we believe the best or assume the worst?

Catalyst 2009 is over, but like a rock thrown in a pond, the ripple effect will continue for quite some time. The experience was great for my wife and me; we learned a lot about serving the church and impacting the culture around us. But even more exciting, I wonder what the long-term impact will be on our two kids. They are already leaders in their own right. What mark will they leave as a result of Catalyst?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Catalyst Day One Hightlights

  • Arrival in a pink stretch Hummer (picked up in the parking lot and dropped off at the front entrance)
  • Watching silly games while waiting for the doors to open
  • Powerful worship to start the day from Kari Jobe and the Fee Band
  • Andy Stanley: Are you perfectly positioned for God to make His mark through you?
  • Jessica Jackley: We can truly believe in each other
  • Malcolm Gladwell: What we need from leaders in times of crisis is humility - starting with the ability to lisen to others
  • Shane Hipps: Christianity is fundamentally a communication event; the way you say something will shape how it is heard
  • Rob Bell: Until we are ready to take care of ourselves we will have a difficult time taking care of others
  • Tony Dungy: Players need you the most after a loss
  • Matt Chandler: Every hesitancy in obedience is God beckoning you to deeper waters
  • Francis Chan: Sometimes we don't have faith that the cross is good enough

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Catalyst Day One Pictures

Arriving in style in a pink stretch Hummer...

The Catalyst Main Stage: LED flooring in the shape of a huge X - for the 10th anniversary.

The Fee Band kicks it up to high gear...

Lanny Donoho and a youth football team make a great introduction to former coach Tony Dungee.

Catalyst Morning

After the ride in a pink stretch hummer, we waited along with 13,000 others for the doors to open at 8:00.

Compared to last year's rocket-like start, this year was a slow, understated beginning. Which kept building and building, with Kari Jobe bringing everyone to their feet with The Revelation Song. Then the Fee Band kept it going on the stage: a huge X lit by LED's underneath, changing with the music. It might have started slow, but it blazed hot with "Glory to God."

Andy Stanley opened by saying we don't see the mark we leave until long after. His main point: It's not who is for or against you but Who you are for.

Catalyst 09 is off and running!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Our ride to Catalyst

Anita, Amy, Aaron and I arrived in style this morning-this pink stretch Hummer picked us up in the parking lot and delivered us to the main entrance. How cool is that?

This is going to be a great day!
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Andy Stanley, senior pastor at North Point Ministries in Atlanta (and one of the co-founders of the Catalyst Conference) wrote a book in 1999 entitled "Visioneering." Stanley calls it a new word, an old concept, and a familiar process.

The book weaves the story of Nehemiah and his leadership in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem into leaders today who want to find a clear, God-ordained vision for each of the roles they play.

While the book stands alone on its own, I find it an appropriate launching point for the next few days of blog posts. I'm headed to Catalyst X in Atlanta tomorrow, accompanied by my wife, our 21 year old daughter, and 17 year old son. We've been looking forward to this for months. We're expecting powerful moments of worship. We will hear men and women bringing clear messages from God. We will meet new friends. We will be challenged to move beyond where we are to what God has planned for us.

We will be visioneering.

Visioneering = Inspiration + Conviction + Action + Determination + Completion

Catalyst X begins tomorrow morning...stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


My seminary experience didn't include Greek or Hebrew (officially anyway, but that's another story). My daughter is taking Greek now and loves it, so I always have a ready reference. I know enough that to really get behind the ideas the biblical writers were trying to convey, you have to look at words in the original language.

Such is the case with the Hebrew word "chazown" - vision. Craig Groeschel's book by the same name is proving to be very instructive in my pursuit of the concept of vision. Here's a sample:

Four Gifts

  1. The vision God gives you will bring focus to your life
  2. With vision also comes endurance
  3. Vision brings peace
  4. True vision brings great passion

When you get a vision for what God has in mind for your life, things change.

A lot.

Catalyst Countdown: 2 days...

Monday, October 5, 2009


When you hear the word "vision", you usually think of seeing things. Well, it is about seeing things - sometimes. But you don't always see things with your eyes.

Sometimes you see with your heart.

And sometimes, you see when there's nothing to see...

"Go and look toward the see," Elijah told his servant. And he went up and looked. "There is nothing there." he said.

Seven times Elijah said, "Go back."

The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea."

Elijah smiled.

Vision is all of the above - and much more. But there is something more important than knowing what it is.

It's having it.

Where there is no vision - no dream, no revelation, no vision, no sense of our created purpose, we perish.

I don't know about you, but I choose LIFE.

Friday, October 2, 2009

What's on Your Menu?

This week has been a closer examination of Will Mancini's book "Church Unique." Specifically, the chapter entitled "Lost Congregations" that examines how churches adapt to a vision vacuum. Using the metaphor of Soul Fast Food, Mancini challenges the church leader to examine how their structures, programs, and ministries may have become a substitute for the real meal - what God intends for the church.

To close out the week, I simply want to restate some of Mancini's questions for your consideration.

  • What really happens in the soul of a congregant when left in a church's vision vacuum over time?
  • What is left to excite the heart of church attenders?
  • What then fuels the dreams of your people?
  • What nourishes the identity of those who call your church home?

God's people have a heart for mission; we need guidance to carry it out - vision. When a church articulates and clarifies its vision, the people of God will be released in a powerful realization of God at work in their world.

What's on your menu?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Granite Etching vs. Sand Writing

This is the close of a four-day look at a section of Will Mancini's "Church Unique". I'm participating in the Charlotte Vision co::Lab, and this section has been jumping all over me!

For the past three days, it's been all about Soul Fast Food - but now it's down to some "solid" stuff!

The real nourishment of your people should come from the vision of your Church Unique. Only then will the enduring purpose of the church reflected locally can replace the substitutes of place, personality, programs, and people.

In his book "Built to Last", author Jim Collins found that enduring organizations have two dominant characteristic that are complementary opposites:
  • A strong conviction about core ideals that never changes
  • A clear understanding that everything else must change in order to preserve the core
If people are nourished by unchanging vision, they are more agreeable when the rules change with tactics. It takes clarity and discipline to understand which things in the organization belong to which category.

But what if our people were so captivated by the granite etching that it set us free to play with sand drawings? The leader’s role is not just to communicate in both granite and sand but to show how the two components work together. The leader should help people embrace change by nurturing an emotional connection to the unchanging core vision. The leader should preserve and champion the core vision by showing people how to constantly adapt.

Our change management problems today are vision problems first and people problems second. Many leaders want their people to run a missional marathon but unknowingly feed them junk food, leaving them malnourished and unprepared for the future.

If you are leader in ChurchWorld, don't be part of "feeding" your congregation junk fast food - focus on the Bread of Life, and watch your church thrive and grow!
When we fail to clarify and nurture the things written in granite, our people get too attached to the things written in sand. This is how the four P’s (place, personality, programs, and people) fit in. These are sand, not granite. As the fluid and flexible stuff of the kingdom they not only should change, but must change. In the absence of vision, the stuff of sand becomes the vision. In the absence of granite, sand is all we can grasp.