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Don’t Just Work In It. Work On It.
Don’t Just Work In It. Work On It. 1024 640 The Provisum Group

In order to become a great leader you must learn to make things better in your organization. The first way to start to make things better is to ask great questions. Great questions lead to better answers and more clarity about the true and current status of your organization. Once you have true and clear picture, you will have a better chance of plotting a course of action that will improve and grow your church, non-profit, or business.

As a church consultant, I have audited many church financial balance sheets. The audit process can often feel painful to staff members, but it is necessary to insure organizational health.

In the same way, leaders must audit their ministries, systems, and models. Why? Ministry auditing makes things better.

Andy Stanley, of North Point Community Church offers six questions that every leader should ask on a regular basis. These are great questions.

  1. Do I have the right people at the table? Do I have the right people who are informed to make the right decisions?

I like this question because without the right people, you really have nothing. The wrong people in the wrong positions always lead to the wrong decisions and the wrong results. If you manage others in your organization, you must ask if you have the right people in the right positions.

  1. Where are we manufacturing energy? Where are we pretending? Where are we trying to convince people to go to that we don’t want to go to ourselves?”

There is a difference between buzz and hype. Buzz means that there is a groundswell of interest. Hype means that somebody is trying to sell others on being interested. In your organization, you want buzz. You want people to want to do the ministry activities. You must regularly guard against yourself and your other staff from trying to make things happen that just don’t have genuine interest.

  1. Where do I make the greatest contribution to the organization?”

This question leads you to self-evaluation. Let’s face it: you’re not really good at everything. Don’t believe me? Just ask your spouse. You must stay in your lane. Every good leader knows their strengths and their weaknesses. Stay in your lane and make the biggest contribution you can.

  1. “Who’s not keeping up?”

Every organization has people who are ahead and behind. Nobody likes to be behind. However, when we fail to evaluate who is not keeping up we are discrediting the work of those who do. I’m not saying you have to automatically fire people who don’t keep up with you, but you do need to be aware and take appropriate action.

  1. What have we fallen in love with that is no longer…? What have we become emotionally attached to that no longer belongs? What is our way but is no longer the best way to…?

Just because the rotary phone used to be a good idea, doesn’t mean you have to keep using it today. Every system and ministry in your church was at one time a good idea. However, your church is not a history museum or an art museum. It is a living and breathing group of people. Just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it works for today. Organizational leaders need to be rigorous in their evaluation of their systems, ministries, and models regardless of how in love they are or used to be.

  1. “What would a great leader do?”

I like this question because it allows leaders to step outside of themselves and to imagine and dream what somebody else might do. This process often frees mental roadblocks and allows a leader to think clearly and creatively about how to move forward.

For more from Andy Stanley, check out: www.insidenorthpoint.org.

Avoiding Detours Created by Diversions
Whose Mission Is It Anyway?
Whose Mission Is It Anyway? 900 598 The Provisum Group

‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. (Haggai 2:8)

Simple right?

But over the years I have talked with so many leaders in the church and I have noticed that financial stewardship in the church is never simple. Ask church leaders to tell you the words that pop into their heads when they think of church finances and you will hear words like: stress, conflict, meetings; and one of my personal favorite reactions, “Lord take me now.”

Intellectually, they have a plan; in their hearts, they have a mission. The friction usually resides in trying to do the right thing (the God-centered thing) and the other right thing (the people pleasing thing) all at once. The church leaders can feel pulled in several financial directions. The desire to please everyone and serve all things well becomes overwhelming.

In my book, I shared a story about a church leader who needed a building torn down on the church property. He asked a congregate for a bid, the bid was high, yet he still felt obligated to use him because he did not want to offend him.

I have no doubt that the pastor was on mission to serve the church. But there are detours that we can make in serving our mission and they can come in two common forms:

  • Aversions – Discomforts we try to avoid (usually internal fears or preferences)
  • Diversions – Distractions to our calling (usually applied by external sources)

Avoiding Detours Caused by Aversions

Our desire to avoid conflict and uncomfortable situations can be a driving force in how we spend the money of the church.

After all spiritual leaders are not matadors, waving a red cape anyone to charge at them. While spiritual leaders are faithful, brave, and not remotely faint of heart, they value harmony in the church.

The problem lies in knowing the difference between solving conflict and avoiding it all costs. While we may be tempted to avoid upsetting others or creating conflict, we have a better option of using our gifts to solve conflict that may arise (when we make God-centered decisions that others do not agree with).

To stay on course, and avoid the aversion-based decision making, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is any part of this decision based in fear of being uncomfortable or fear of conflict?
  • Am I trying to please someone with this decision or is this the very best decision for the church in the long term?

While we may succeed in avoiding the conflict by succumbing to our aversions, we may lose valuable time or finances in a decision that was not well suited for the church in the long-run.

Avoiding Detours Created by Diversions

While an aversion is caused when we get off course to avoid something negative or uncomfortable, a diversion is caused when we are pulled off course by a distraction or a tug towards something that is off mission but not necessarily wrong.

Diversions often come in the form of people who have a different mission in mind. While the spiritual leaders of the church are living a calling to serve God and grow the church, there are people who are on a different mission. Their mission may not be bad or unethical. But it might be a diversion to the mission of the church.

When we are not carefully focused on our calling, it can become possible for us to be pulled off course even by good and decent church-going people. The decision can be good in many ways, yet still be wrong for the church.

Here are a couple of questions to helps us unravel this diversion tangle:

  • Have I come to this decision after a careful time of prayer and reliance on Scripture?
  • Will this decision leave a legacy that clearly reflects my calling, or will it somehow reflect external pressure on my team or me?

Aversions and diversions are mission-negative. And they reflect the motives of the individual rather than the mission of the church and the true and godly calling of the leader.

Instead of fear and pressure bending the mission, allow your calling to keep your focus on the One who called you there to begin with.

After all, whose mission is it anyway?

Honor the Widow’s Mite
Honor the Widow’s Mite 300 171 The Provisum Group

 

Ministry leaders are responsible to do what Jesus did—to watch over ministry finances. Jesus watched people giving in the temple and commended a widow for the great sacrifice she had made. Though she gave only two coins (known as a “mite”), she gave all that she had. (See Mark 12:41–44; Luke 21:1–4.) In the same way, we have to honor the level of sacrifice that people make to support the spread of the gospel and the life of the church.

A litmus test I use to determine the righteousness of a choice I am considering is to ask myself one central question: would I be willing to do or say whatever I am contemplating in front of my entire church congregation?

If I would not want my thoughts or my decision put up on the big screen for all to see, it is probably not righteous.

If you’re weighing a decision that relates to money, just imagine telling your entire congregation how you spent it. If you would be comfortable doing so, then it’s probably a right and a righteous thing. We have to trust the Holy Spirit to give us discernment in this area.

The sacrifice of the widow shows us the importance of spending money wisely.

If You Build It, They Will Come… Maybe…
If You Build It, They Will Come… Maybe… 300 151 The Provisum Group

 

The common error of thought in many churches is, If we build it, they will come. Whether it’s a new website, a new pastoral hire, or a new strategy, churches sometimes feel that if they simply do something new they will reap the rewards.

The truth is that before you decide on what you are going to do, spend some time considering how you are going to do it and how you are going to keep it going. Furthermore, you should work hard to avoid top-down prescriptive solutions.

Here are a few evaluation questions for making strategic decisions.

  • Why do we want to make this change?
  • What empirical evidence do we have to support this change?
  • How are we going to make this change?
  • How are we going to keep it going?
  • Have we taken time to listen to the community?
  • How will we know if we are successful (What are the metrics).
  • When will we stop if we are not successful?

By learning as much as you can and seeking data from the church community, you are more likely to avoid costly strategic errors.

Principles for Minding His Business
Principles for Minding His Business 208 300 The Provisum Group

Minding His Business Principle 1
The greatest cost most churches will incur is “opportunity cost” — the price of doing the safe, easy thing — or, even worse, doing nothing—instead of the “scary,” God thing.

Minding His Business Principle 2
People making business decisions that impact the church or congregation need to know what they’re doing. Hire people with proven track records and solid reputations to conduct the business of the church.

Minding His Business Principle 3
Before you decide on what you are going to do, spend some time considering how you are going to do it and how you will keep it going.

Minding His Business Principle 4
Turning business decisions into matters of personal preference causes progress to grind to a halt. It is better to reach many outside your church and risk upsetting a few inside your church than to reach only a few and upset no one.

Pastors Need (at least some) Business Training
Pastors Need (at least some) Business Training 300 224 The Provisum Group

I love how seminaries train our clergy to understand the bible and how to exegete appropriately. Many of these schools even attempt to teach historically proven ministry methods. However, many higher educational institutions don’t always teach church leaders how to practically manage the organization.

In my experience as a consultant, businessperson, and large church executive, I have found the following areas of learning opportunity to be particularly helpful among pastors:

  • Accountability: how to ensure accountability for employees and their goals.
  • Conflict Management: how conflict can be helpful in an organization.
  • Understanding Costs: there are many types of cost far more expensive than price.
  • Fundraising Training: how to teach and execute a culture of generosity in the church.
  • Human Resources: how to hire the right people for the right job and stay out of harm’s way.

I have found that when church leaders seek training in these areas, their ministries flourish. Even if you haven’t received specific training in these areas, it is out there and you can find it. And, by all means, keep attending great seminaries. Just remember to supplement what you don’t learn in higher education with real world training.

May you seek to learn to engage our culture with every fiber of your being because Jesus and His Kingdom are always worth it.

Making Tough Personnel Decisions
Making Tough Personnel Decisions 392 306 The Provisum Group

 

Resignations and dismissals don’t necessarily need to be negative.

By taking time to pay close attention to the details surrounding an employee who needs to move on, you may find that God is doing something new. If a personnel change is inevitable, try to find a way to “send” the person out to their next big adventure with God. Many times senior leaders fail to recognize that the reason the person needs to move on is because God has stirred up a holy discontent in their heart. “Sending” feels much better than “leaving” especially when it is legitimate. Also, “sending” helps minimize collateral damage with the individual, other staff, and parishioners.

Just keep in mind that no matter what you do or how well you do it, some people are going to leave at some point. Don’t allow your desire to avoid the pain of “a lot of people” leaving to outweigh the wise decision to nip a personnel issue in the bud. Your job is to be the voice of reason as you remind everyone that the church exists to lead people into a growing relationship with Christ. Those who don’t see this vision of the church probably will never be pleased.

Remember Jesus gave us a model for dealing with unacceptable behavior. Whether it is from a parishioner or a staff member, the steps are to:

  • tell the person
  • take some leaders along and tell the person again
  • tell the whole church before sending this person on their way

To grow in this area, I suggest reading Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High.

You Can Train a Dog to Climb a Tree…But Why?
You Can Train a Dog to Climb a Tree…But Why? 300 188 The Provisum Group

Church leaders are notoriously famous for hiring the wrong people. Pastors often hire people who are passionate or competent or full of integrity—but lack all three. Unqualified hires lead to poor work, poor relationships, and lack of motivation. Without using good principles when you hire people, you will be hiring tree-climbing dogs.

In Kingdom work, willingness is admirable but not enough. Integrity is essential, but good character may not insure excellent job performance. Competency is fundamental, but if an employee is dishonest, there will be problems.

Here are four attributes to look for in your next hire:

Desire

A prospective hire should want to do the work. A great hire wakes up in the morning with an “internal start button” and is autonomously motivated to make things happen.

What to look for: During your interview process with candidates, you need to be able to find somebody who wants to do the specifics of a job instead of hiring those people who “can do” or are “willing to do” a job. Motivating the unmotivated is a terrible way to lead a church. But desire isn’t enough…

Competency

A prospective hire must have job-specific levels of competency. This doesn’t necessarily mean a candidate must be perfectly aligned based on their past work experience. That kind of idealism will also lead you nowhere.

What to look for: During your interview process, you need to be able to see a correlation between the type of work they have done and the type of work you will be asking them to do. This safeguard protects you from hiring somebody who is passionate about the work but has no idea how to actually do it successfully.

Integrity

A prospective hire already has integrity BEFORE an official offer is made. Passion and integrity cannot be forced. Either the person you want to hire has it, or… they don’t. Do not put yourself in a situation in which you have a passionate and qualified candidate who is dishonest, impatient, or unstable.

What to look for: During your interview process, ask the prospective hire questions about difficult work situations in the past and how they were handled. Also, make good use of getting to know people before you hire them so you can get a good sense of their character before a job interview skews your clarity.

Chemistry

This is an idea from Andy Stanley. A prospective hire must eventually develop chemistry with you and your team. While it is hard to determine chemistry during an interview process, you need to do your best to determine if there is enough evidence to move forward.

What to look for: During your personal reflection time before you make an offer, ask yourself chemistry questions like… “Do I like this person?” “Could I see myself enjoying working with this person?” “Based on what I know about this candidate, do I think our team’s chemistry grow or shrink as a result of this hire?” As a hiring manager, you are entitled to like the people you work with.

To borrow language from Jim Collins, a pastor must find ways to get the right people in the right seat on the right bus. The right people are essential if you want to lead your organization to move toward all that God has for you and your church.

If you need more resources in this area, I recommend:

Minding His Business
Don Corder

Next Generation Leader
Andy Stanley

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Daniel Pink

Little Numbers Add Up to Be Big Numbers
Little Numbers Add Up to Be Big Numbers 150 150 The Provisum Group

Your church’s finances are susceptible to an issue called “little numbers”. Little numbers can plague even the healthiest of local churches’ finances. Little numbers affect the stewardship of big numbers in a way you might not think.

Little numbers usually affect churches when individual staff members are responsible for a ministry budget and perhaps even a church credit card. Sometimes the use of these credit cards leads to discretionary spending in small amounts over a long period. And while these types of spending decisions may not be illegal, immoral, or wrong, they can sometimes lead to overspending that result in big numbers in the red.

Let me be clear: personalized ministry budgets and credit cards are not the problem. Little numbers that add up to be big numbers are an expectation and stewardship problem. The way a church treats little expenses in the long run impact how it treats the big expenses.

In order to avoid overspending in the little numbers, ministry leaders should lead their staff toward healthy expectations in three areas.

  • Define Your Expectations. Both you and your staff need to have good stewardship. Stewardship applies to all things—both little and big. We should honor the little expenses the way Jesus honored the Widow’s Mite. He used the little offering to make a very big point about the widow’s heart. In the same way, Jesus is interested in the heart of the spender. When we are faithful in the little, he gives us more. Defining good stewardship is essential. When you have clear expectations with your staff, they will know what types of purchases are acceptable and which ones are not. For instance, some church staff members need to hear that using the church credit card for just your meal for lunch is unacceptable. Clarify each staff member’s fiscal responsibility.
  • Model Your Expectations. If we were to look at your expenses, would we see good stewardship in your expenditures? If somebody reviewed your expenditures, would they question your choices? The bible tells us to not give people a hint of impropriety (Eph 5:3). As the spiritual leader of your church, you should pay attention to the little numbers because it demonstrates your commitment to avoid any impropriety—big or small. Here’s a rule of thumb: would you care if the church posted your ministry credit card statement or your expense reports on the big screen on Sunday morning? If you would care, even if the spending was sound stewardship, then you are acknowledging that there may be a hint of impropriety in your spending. Remember, if you want your staff to pay attention to little numbers, you need to pay attention to little numbers and your staff needs to see you do it. Ideally, you want your staff to model their actions after your behavior. Have you reviewed your credit cards statement to know which behaviors are acceptable? Do you personally monitor the little numbers on the bank statement to know where and why the money is being spent? As you do these things for yourself, make sure to never do it alone. Bring along junior staff members as much as possible and show them what you’re doing and what you’re looking for. Show them how to look for spending patterns. Guide them through the basics and don’t assume that they know how to do it.
  • Inspect Your Expectations In the church, you or somebody on your staff needs to set time in your calendar to inspect the numbers. The small numbers need to be inspected by somebody other than the spenders. This should be his/her job to check to ensure there is no impropriety among staff spending. Whether it’s once a week or once a month. You need to inspect. You also need to be consistent about what you inspect. Create patterns of inspection to make sure you’re seeing everything. Lastly, let your staff know that you will be periodically inspecting their fiscal decisions. As you inspect what you expect, your staff will develop better spending habits out of recognition that you will be examining their choices.

May you find ways to regularly empower your church staff to spend wisely for God’s Kingdom.

Know Your Costs
Know Your Costs 300 227 The Provisum Group

Part 1 – On who is your church spending its money

Here is a little exercise to try. Think of all the people you know who gave their heart to Jesus in your church in the last year. It does not matter how you know or what the number is. Now double that number for the people who gave their heart to Jesus and did not tell you or anyone else. Now divide your church’s annual budget by the (doubled) number of souls saved. So now you have a number that represents the dollars your church spends for each new soul it sends to heaven in a year. Are you proud of the number? Now here is the meaningful part of this exercise. If you wanted to cut that cost per soul your church sends to heaven in half (whatever it is), would it be easier to double the number of salvations or cut your budget in half?

Now, take five minutes and write down everything you can think of to do that could increase the number of salvations in your church in the next twelve months. For example, you could have an altar call at the end of each service or you could invite a soul-winning evangelist to come to your church and hold a revival. Whatever you come up with, the souls that don’t go to heaven next year and the lives not changed are the opportunity cost of not doing the things you just wrote down. What if your church’s goal was to cut the price it pays per soul in half and you only had one year to do it? How different would your budget look? Get this concept of opportunity cost into your spirit and the spirit of the people you lead. Then direct your budget accordingly. Call me in a year and we will celebrate how God honors your decision.