Categories
Church Leadership

5 Hallmarks of New Leadership

Yoda spins his leadership mantras like a DJThe balance of power has shifted. Whether you recognize it or not there is a big gap between perceived leadership and actual leadership.

  • Old (perceived) leadership: These are the people with the titles, position, and authority of traditional leadership. These people are called “leaders” by vocation. In actuality, they have much power of big things but little power over your moment-by-moment interactions.
  • New (actual) leadership: These are people you are shaping your mind/heart/life around. They influence your thought life, they help shape your aspirations, they inspire you to be the you you really want to be.

These things have shifted in your mind. Heck, maybe you are frustrated because your own leadership has changed and you can’t figure out quite why?

Some examples… Your boss isn’t likely the boss you have on your job description. Your pastor isn’t likely the pastor you sit under. Your teacher might just be a fallback teacher compared to your guru.

It’s almost cute that traditional, old-style leaders, still think they have great influence with the people technically under their leadership.

That’s why one is perceived and the other actual.

In years past things like an organizational chart really mattered. Even if you didn’t have one, you respected a hierarchy that now baffles you with it’s out-of-datedness. If people were truly honest and asked themselves, “Who is actually leading and influencing me today”  their life org chart now looks more like a bowl of spaghetti than a pyramid.

So, these new leaders, how are they doing it? Because it’s not just an age thing. Plenty of old leaders are retaining leadership in this new age.

5 Hallmarks of New Leadership

  1. New leaders collaborate instinctively Old leadership looked at collaboration as a sign of weakness, something they did when they needed help. New leaders assume they need help and know that working together leads to a better end results. New leaders know that when great minds work together the result is always something awesome. Old leaders worry too much about protecting their territory/brand/knowledge base/customer base.
  2. New leaders begat thinkers Old leadership is intimidated by people who are smarter than them or better leaders than them. They build structures where they are the chief and people who work for them are followers. New leaders want the very best ideas and aren’t intimidated that the best idea came from an intern, new hire, or the janitor. They love it and celebrate when their employees leave to start something new. (Anathema to an old leader)
  3. New leaders lead from the the front lines, not the board room Old leaders love meetings, hold secrets from subordinates, and rarely do the work their organization is best known for. But new leaders are front liners, those who get dirty, those who avoid meetings so they can hang with the engineers, they are hands on and know their presence inspires those working alongside them. Old leaders spend a lot of time hiding while new leaders spend a lot of time on site, working their butts off.
  4. New leaders hate vacuums Decisions don’t come down from on high from today’s best leaders. They are group efforts, made in the best interest of all interested parties, because these leaders know they are in the trust business more than they are in business. Old leaders have a tendency to only look outside of their organizations for validation of their decisions as most of their decisions are made in a vacuum of the “top leaders.” New leaders look outside of their organizations all the time, they want to do what makes sense even if it defies logic.
  5. New leaders create environments Old leaders create structures, efficiencies, set priorities, and worry a lot about tasks & todo lists. New leaders care much more about the ecosystem of their environment, bring on the best possible people, and cultivate a place where the best stuff is celebrated, toxic people are fired, and space is creative.

 

Categories
Church Leadership

How to Disembark from the S.S. Fantasia

Delay is the deadliest form of denial.
~ C. Northcote Parkinson

Have you ever talked to someone and wondered… is this person living on the same planet that I am? This is a bizarre cultural phenomenon all too common among church leaders. Their day-to-day life, ministry, and sadly ministry aspirations are not based on reality but a fantasy version of reality that they have created for themselves.

This disconnection often manifests itself to me when false assumptions have driven decision-making and engagement with their local community.

  • Building a ministry around an assumption of the nuclear family. (In denial of the reality of their own extended family and in the face that the community they are trying to reach has no cultural reference to this ideal.)
  • Shrugging off the lack of racial/ethnic diversity in their organization. (In denial of statistical fact that all of America, not just urban centers, have experienced a major shift in statistical balance over the past 10 years.)
  • Redefining ministry measurables to fit the make-up of what happens naturally versus what ought to happen. (In denial of the role of organizational entropy, the reality that if you measure your impact based purely on who comes, eventually this will lead you to a crushing vortex of inward thinking.)

Sometimes, almost never intentionally and certainly by apathy, I see organizations struggling not merely because they have the wrong people in leadership or because they are bad people or because they have bad values. But they are struggling because they aren’t living in their own present reality. They are trying to win a game no one else is playing. 

They may be perfectly positioned to take community-changing action but work extremely hard on the wrong things.

Surrounded by people who think just like them (known as groupthink) they organization sales the seas of their community on the S.S. Fantasia. 

3 practical steps to help you anchor your assumptions in reality

Let’s get grounded in putting our academic study to work for us!

  • Regularly review census and other statistical data in your immediate area. If once per quarter your leadership team reviewed the latest statistical data publicly available for free via the census and the myriad of government organizations in your community, you could regularly make small decisions based on what you learn. For instance, if the school district releases a profile of new students which shows a spike in a demographic you could ask the most obvious question, “What can we do to serve this new group of people?Don’t understand this or does this seem too hard? Make an appointment with a school administrator or local college sociologist who will gladly share this data and help you understand it.
  • Regularly ask for cultural observations during team meetings. You don’t need to be a trained ethnographer to do basic ethnography. Your team is already spending time outside of the office in the community you are trying to reach… add a new question to your weekly meetings asking for one thing you observed. Maybe its that women outnumber men at a coffee shop during the day? Maybe its about what people are wearing or driving or reading. We all gather this data but until we share it with our teams we can’t make adjustments. Don’t think your team can handle this? We asked groups to do this in our Good News in the Neighborhood curriculum, middle schoolers can handle it!
  • Define your geographical target and make decisions to benefit those within that area. Face the reality that there are lots and lots of organizations/churches/ministries just like yours. Don’t be a purveyor of the rule of affinity, that’s a short-term strategy built on a false assumption that people will always like what you are doing. Instead, define your target area… be it by a mile radius or specific streets or even a zip code. And then, when you make decisions, ask yourself what’s best based on what you know from regular statistical data and cultural observations from within that target area. If you really want to go crazy– reward your staff for moving into that area and only nominate unpaid leaders like elders who come from that target area. That will begin to send the message that your organization is about that geographical area.

What are S.S. Fantasia things you see in your area/context/ministry? What’s driving you crazy? 

Categories
Manifesto

Missing the Moneyball

The movie Moneyball brought to light something that has happens in a lot of areas of our culture: We make decisions all the time based on information that doesn’t really impact the result we are trying to get.

Two examples from today’s newspaper:

  •  Only 80,000 jobs added in October, but unemployment rate drops. The unemployment rate is accurately measuring an old standard while missing a cultural shift. Think about all the people you know in the past 5 years who have gone from gainfully employed to gainfully self-employed. The unemployment rate doesn’t measure people who are starting their own business. I think if we measured that you’d be encouraged by economic growth.
  • Home building spent another year in the cellar. This is an economic indicator? New home starts? Sure, the population is growing a little bit every month and this implies new homes should be built to house them. Because that’s what I’d do, right? Wrong. People don’t get married and live in an apartment until they have a kid and build a house anymore. Our society isn’t that simple, maybe it never was. We should measure the homelessness rate instead. That’s what really matters.

Other examples from this weeks news:

  • A lesbian couple at Patrick Henry High School was elected homecoming king & queen. I’m not even sure why this is a national news item. I know adults have an unhealthy fascination with adolescent sexuality and their interest in particularly peaked in the seemingly new phenomenon of LGBT students on campus. But this is measuring the wrong thing. Here’s a school that is safe and supportive of all of its students. Since when is that a bad thing? And what does this story have anything to do with education? Here’s a newsflash: Most people under 25 are completely over culture wars. 
  • Bank of America Eliminates Plan for $5 Debit Card Fee. Do people who work at banks think this has anything to do with $5? What they should be reporting is a trust index. The light bulb has gone off and people have realized that a $200,000 mortgage, some credit cards, some home improvement loans, some school loans, and a car payment is completely stupid financially even though banks says “good for your credit rating.” The real win was for credit unions. Measure the growth of credit unions vs. the decline of traditional banking and you’ll have an interesting index.
  • NCAA stipend not a lean towards “pay-to-play. This is a classic cover-up to get you to measure the wrong thing. While you’re debating the ethics of giving college football and basketball players $2000 each to offset living expenses, you’ll never notice that ESPN is the quiet majority voice dictating the changing landscape of conference play. (And blocking a playoff in football. Did you know they own a lot of the bowl games?) They have you measuring the wrong thing.

What are some things in your life that are measured using an index that doesn’t really effect the outcome? 

Categories
Christian Living

Deliver us from evil

If you hang out in Churchland you’ll almost never hear of evil in the church. We cover it up with elder approved statements, letters, forced resignations, cheesy happy, clappy worship songs, smiling sermons, and a heavy dose of denial.

I didn’t have to search very hard for those headlines above. All I did was search the term youth pastor” on Google News; these were on the first page of results.

Evil exists everywhere, of course. Just because people are Christians doesn’t mean they are absent of sin in their lives. But it boils my blood that the profession I love leads headlines with evil instead of the good that we do.

My point isn’t that youth pastors are evil. Far from it. My point is that we can’t live in denial that there is evil. 

People in your ministry deal with real evil every day. There is real evil in your life. There are people who are out to destroy you. There are forces at work through the tides of relationships that can elevate or destroy you. There are real temptations and moments of failure which can lead your life into horrible directions.

Life is full of temptresses and tempests.

And we need deliverance from this evil every day. And we need to lead people in a way that seeks deliverance from evil, real evil in their lives.

Because at the end of the day– living a happy, clappy, smiley, existence of denial may just be enabling evil. 

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come. 
Thy will be done in earth, 
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us. 
And lead us not into temptation, 
But deliver us from evil. 
For thine is the kingdom,

The power, and the glory,

For ever and ever.

Amen.

Categories
Church Leadership

Competitive Advantage

This clip from Tin Cup highlights the differences between an amateur and a tour professional. 

Whether you are a casual golfer or a week-to-week preacher in a church. You and the guy on tour are fundamentally different in how you approach your craft.

What you do is similar! But how you approach it and how it’s carried out are completely different.

As the movie shows, the tour pro takes calculated risks, repeating the same simple winning swing over and over again, week-to-week, tour stop to tour stop.

Whereas the casual golfer, even the aspiring professional, has to take greater risks to see lesser rewards, often swinging wildly and taking big risks in hopes that it’ll pay off.

Having been around PGA and Champions Tour players as a tour volunteer I know that there are a lot of differences between their game and your game. 

  • They will hit +/- 1000 practice balls per day. (Driving range, sand, putting green, chipping)
  • They are surrounded by people who advise them on their game all the time. (People who know what they’re talking about, too.)
  • They only play on courses at the top of their condition. The greenskeeper at a Tour stop builds his whole growth cycle around that week.
  • They have a caddy with them who does all of the math and can tell them exact distances and best approaches to every shot on the golf course.
  • The TV cameras only show the best players on shots that have been edited. Each minute during a tournament 40-50 players take a swing, you only see the best of the best.

I’m a 12 handicapper on my own. But I guarantee you that if you put me on that stage, in those conditions, with that practice… I’d look a whole lot better than I do normally. Give me a week with those set of circumstances and I’d break 80.

It’s not that they don’t have skill or talent. It’s that their skill has been put on display in the best possible conditions for them to look good. (They would argue that they rose to this spot just like everyone else. Sure, they take advantage today. But they got to that point with nothing but hard work and rising through the amateur, college, and mini-tour ranks. Fair enough.)

It’s that the game they play is similar, but completely different from the game I play with my friends. It’s set up for them to look good.

What’s my point?

A lot of times we go to a conference, camp, retreat, or a convention and we see a tour pro on their best day, in the best conditions, absolutely NAIL a talk. And we walk away thinking… “Why do I even bother?!? I’ll never be that good. Why not just buy that dude’s DVDs and play them at my church each week?

But before you get upset or lament realize this: The talk you’ve just heard has likely been delivered dozens of times. It’s been critically reviewed by an inner circle. It’s been refined, they know when to drop what line, they know how to adapt it to your setting. They have only booked themselves at events they know they’ll play well to. The lighting, sound, and environmental conditions are tailored to their strengths and weaknesses. A professional band set them up. Someone else introduced them. At best, their talk has 1-2 calculated moments of risk.

It’s not that they are better than you. It’s that given the conditions their talents are amplified and you’re able to see them at their absolute best.

In the end… the act of speaking at a conference is similar to what you do on a week-to-week basis, but completely different at the same time. They are only thinking about that talk. They didn’t drive the van to the retreat. They don’t have to give a new talk each week. On and on. It’s completely different from what you or I do on a week-to-week basis in our ministry.

Here’s the fun part: Just like in the movie– you could tell that the tour pros got a kick out of the caddy hitting the big shot on the big stage. There’s a little glimmer in their eye when you take a big risk. They kind of wish they could do it, too. 

Categories
Christian Living Culture

Lord, change me first

What motivates people to change?

Here’s a list of things that I’m coming to terms with…

Things that I see which don’t change people or organizations but should: (Generally speaking)

  • Biblical truth
  • Their current reality, state, or condition
  • Current position, authority and/or aspirations of
  • Scientific research or law
  • Reading books about other organizations or people who change the world
  • Inspirational stories on the internet, television, or radio of success and/or failure
  • A new program at their school, work, or place of worship

Now, if you are part of an organization, think about the amount of money you spend on the list above. Probably most of it.

Chew on this…

Things that I see which do help people and organizations change behavior: (Generally speaking)

  • Selfish ambition, money
  • Accessibility to something which feeds their ambition, money
  • Fear of losing their family, friends, position, income
  • Losing family, friends, position, income
  • Fear of being discovered
  • Being discovered
  • Peer pressure, positive or negative
  • Cultures laws, mores, and taboos

Thought #1: Behavior change isn’t the point of the Gospel.

Thought #2: Behavior change can be a manifestation of the Gospel in an individual or organizations life.

Thought #3: The majority of  my time/my resources/my energy is invested in things that should change behavior but don’t. There’s a gulf between “ought to affect change” and “does affect change” that people I need to wrestle through.

Thought #4: When I stop trying to be the answer for the top list and start building community where the bottom list is shared openly, then I see the Gospel go places I never thought it would.

Thought #5: As a believer, according to Scripture, I am the answer to the change the people in my life so desperately search for. The question for me to wrestle with is this, “Do I want to be the person people expect me to be and focus on the things that ‘ought to affect change’ or do I want to look in the mirror, deal with my own mess, and help people exchange solutions that don’t fix a thing for solutions that are really hard but affect long-term change.”

Categories
Christian Living

Let Grace be our language

Is grace enough for you?

Maybe I’m a cynic but I don’t think grace is a hallmark of a lot of Christians. We’re too busy having unrealistic expectations for one another and then wallowing in the disappointment of failed relationships.

I’m too busy judging you for judging me for grace!

Let’s get past this oddity of evangelical culture and descend into the heart of what we believe.

We’re all perfectly imperfect. We need to expect imperfection from the people around us while individually, through the power of Jesus, trying to make our live more like Jesus. Not to celebrate it. But build it into our expectations for one another.

I sin. I am messy. I hate things about my nature. Loathe even. I sadden myself with my sinfulness. Sometimes I disgust myself.

Failure is a part of our walk with Christ. Some would say it is the beginning of our walk with Jesus. It’s part of being a leader. It’s part of maturing. It’s part of learning.

You simply cannot walk with Jesus in a state of false perception of yourself, your mess, and your unique ability to do the wrong thing at the wrong moment.

Think about it like this…

The whole reason God created Eve was not for a sin bringing playmate. It was because the Father looked at his creation and said, “Its not good for man to be alone.”

There is no more alone place than in a broken relationship. Conversely, there is little more powerful on this world than a grace-filled relationship with two people.

Here’s my encouragement

Every day you are given the choice between grace and judgement. In all things, chose grace.

Categories
hmm... thoughts

Open to Change?

My byline is: “Crazy enough to change the world.

Mutability. Change. Delta.

The concept of change is the fulcrum of the Gospel message.

Am I willing to look at myself in the mirror, accept who I am, (not) and commit to the hard work of change?

The Gospel message is about change. Changed hearts. Changed lives. Changed motivations. Changed intentions. Changed directions.

Without change– a life with Jesus becomes good information at best and good entertainment at worst.

Without change– the Gospel is devoid of value.

God changed the course of human history when He sent Jesus to die on a cross. He changed how he engaged humanity so you could change your life.

To anthropomorphize it, God changed in the hope that we would change.

Accepting Jesus is accepting that you need to change.

But I wonder how many people are actually open to change in their lives?

Am I open to change?

Are you?

Is change a part of your life? Or do you just talk about it, asking others to change, but you are too good for that?

Or are you afraid to appear weak, displaying a changed heart?

If my byline is “Crazy enough to change the world” that implies that I’m always on the lookout for people, organizations, groups who are willing to change.

Sadly, among Jesus followers, few seem open to change.

They refuse to accept who they can become, thus refuse to change.

Pride sets in, change becomes impossible, and we become “about the Gospel” without living into the Gospel.

Christian organizations would rather go out-of-business, accepting failure, than change.

Churches would rather reach a decreasing congregation in an increasing population than change.

This deeply saddens me.

Oh, that we might be a people changed by the Gospel.

Categories
youth ministry

Mexico + Fear = Stupid

Hanging with Phil in Baja

As I mentioned last week, I spent Friday in Mexico with Phil Cunningham of YWAM. We had a fun time meeting some people for coffee and talking about life, touring the YWAM Baja base, grabbing an amazing taco in Rosarito, and getting a glimpse of the vision they have for reaching Baja for Christ.

I live about 30 minutes from the Tijuana border. And I’m ashamed to admit that the last time I crossed the border into Mexico was 2003. Kristen and the kids have never been. (In fairness, the five years that we lived in Romeo, a mere 45 minutes from Canada, we crossed the border three times.)

The Tijuana/San Diego border sees an average of 300,000 people moving between countries daily. Considering San Diego has 1.2 million residents and Tijuana has 1.5 million… you’re talking a lot of people who cross one way or the other each day.

Two Types of San Diego Residents

There are really two types of San Diego residents when it comes to TJ. There are those who go often and those who never go. The average San Diego resident who doesn’t go has a visceral reaction when you mention going to Tijuana. Almost universally you’ll hear people say “Don’t go to TJ. It’s dangerous.” It’s a mantra I’ve had drilled into me since moving here and its had the intended result– I’d never gone to TJ since moving here!

Likewise the news media on the U.S. side does its best to reinforce this concept that TJ is super dangerous. Drugs, human trafficking, gang violence, murders. While it’s true that those are serious issues the end result is that there is an increasing fear of our neighbors to the south building up.

As if any city of 1.5 million in the United States didn’t have drugs, human trafficking, gang violence, or murders?

Fear vs. Reality

YWAM guest housing near Rosarito.

Now that I’ve been there I can affirm that not much has changed in Tijuana since my last visit in 2003. If anything, crossing the border both ways is a little simpler. Just like any border crossing around the globe there are procedures. You pull up, show some ID, answer some questions, and hope you don’t get waved in to an inspection lane.

If you’ve never been to a developing nation– or only been to a resort city in a developing nation– than Tijuana will come across as dirty and disorganized. In truth, TJ isn’t unlike many major metropolitans in the United States. There are nice areas and there are nasty areas. There are places where you are likely to get robbed and there are places you can relax. Being that Mexico is a developing nation and Tijuana is a fast-growing city it is no surprise that there are many parts of TJ which are slummy and could use some help. I’m not going to say that Tijuana is an awesome place to visit but I do want to point out that its a typical big city in a developing nation.

But if you watch the news, particularly conservative news, all of the Mexican border areas are filled with people who want to brutally murder Americans on site. Burned in our consciousness are all the Dateline NBC shows, Geraldo standing at the border and saying beheading as many times between commercials as possible, and documentaries showing us how people are being brutally murdered. Let’s remind ourselves of a simple fact… if you aren’t in a gang or not buying drugs or not soliciting a prostitute, you are unlikely to get caught up in anything having to do with drugs, gangs, or prostitution.

The news media, particularly the conservative news media, is well-aware that scaring people leads to good ratings. (Which translates to ad revenue) So it pays well to scare you away from Mexico. And it is working. Big time.

Here’s a little fact for you to think about. Killing innocent Americans is bad business for a drug cartel. With a little street smarts and a good dose of common sense I don’t think there is any reason to avoid going to Mexico altogether. (Obviously, there are plenty of places to avoid after dark! But you’d avoid those same types of places in any city in America.)

Mission trips to Mexico

I think the thing that shocked me the most during my day in TJ was to learn how Christians have stopped coming to Mexico to do missions. Participation is down 50%-75% in recent years.

And why? All of the agencies will tell you the same thing: People are afraid of traveling to Mexico.

I saw this same phenomenon on my Facebook status the other day. Had I posted that I was going out for a taco with my friend Phil, no one would have thought much of it. But because I said I was going to TJ… lots of people were praying for my safety. Now, I appreciate the prayers. But this reveals the fear factor.

What’s changing?

I couldn’t help but go down there, see the ministry locations, and hear the news that people aren’t helping as much anymore without being touched.

What’s changing first is my behavior. I know I can’t do a lot but I know that I can both raise awareness of ministry opportunities in TJ as well as make time to go and participate in small ways. Maybe that will mean finding a place to plug in as a family? Or a community group? Or inviting friends to go down to check out ministry stuff? I’m not sure on the exact details yet… but I do know that I can’t serve in Jerusalem and Judea without thinking about the Samaria next door.

Categories
haiti hmm... thoughts Social Action

Ephesians 5:14 and You

A young man prays in Carrefour, the epicenter of the January 12th earthquake

“Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Ephesians 5:14

I first memorized Ephesians 5 with Kristen in 1995. We were dating and we had discovered that memorizing Scripture together was a way to channel our, um, energy for one another. It worked!

This passage of Scripture has been illuminated to me in new ways since I returned from Haiti a few days ago.

On the one hand– I need to shake the trip, to focus on the action items ahead of me, to move on with being a leader, husband, and father here in San Diego. I am needed here and there is no denying it. That much is clear.

On the other hand– everywhere I go I encounter something I cannot reconcile with what I have seen. Yesterday, I spent most of my day in a coffee shop sipping mochas and working on a freelance project for some friends. I am proud of the work I did yesterday. It turned out great. I love the opportunity it provides both for my family and the organization this work will benefit. But as I walked through my neighborhood I couldn’t help but think of the contrast to what I was doing just a week prior. Last Saturday, sounds of thousands praising Jesus and shouting prayers filled every neighborhood in Port-au-Prince and Carrefour. Even as night fell and we rested in our mission station we could hear the loud speakers in the distance… people singing and praising well into the humid darkness. Yesterday, back home in my neighborhood– nearly silence. The only sounds heard were children playing soccer in the park.

One place was awake. The other asleep.

Paul doesn’t leave me there, he continues, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.Ephesians 5:15-17

My prayer while in Haiti were verses 15-17. I overlooked verse 14. My teammates kind of poked fun at me because I barely slept the whole week. I’d go to bed after they were asleep and they’d wake up and I’d already be up. It’s was this verse… I was doing what I could to make the most of every opportunity. I could sleep on the plane.

But it is verse 14 which stirs me now. Now I have to sort out how I can be awake to both realities.