I Love BIG Churches 3

Unknown-11I Love BIG Churches Part 3

7 Myths about BIG Churches

BIG Churches really don’t need defended. So, why am I sharing this series of posts? Again, it is simply to help those who may be suffering from “BIG Church Bitterness” get past it and move on to fulfilling God’s unique call on their lives and ministries. Are some of the criticisms about “BIG Churches” warranted? Yes. However, I have found these to be the exception and not the rule. Only God truly knows the heart. Until then…

Consider these 7 Myths About BIG Churches.

1. “They don’t preach the Word.” By what metric do you base that on? How many of their sermons or teaching series have you personally engaged in? Could they simply have a different style than some of of us? Perhaps. To be honest, many pastors of larger congregations are simply better communicators. They have a leadership team and a strategy that allows, equips and insists on this. However, this doesn’t make them more or less true to God’s Word. I have sat under and followed closely BIG and even MEGA church pastors who preach expository while others preach topical. What most have in common is a love for the Word and real world application. Some insist, “They tell too many stories.” Do they? Maybe. Then, again, didn’t Jesus often communicate through story, parable and object lessons?

2. “Their worship is shallow.” I hear this one the most. “It’s too ‘showy’.” I wonder… is it ok for exceptionally gifted people to use their gifts for God’s glory? Can people who are professionally trained in music, staging, lights, sound & other forms of media serve the Lord and offer their gifts with a pure heart, or are they somehow unqualified due to too much experience? Sure, if a worship set somehow fails to even mention any member of the Trinity, there’s a problem. Just one more question… can we make too big a deal out of the biggest deal in the world? Should a “professional” level of investment only be reserved for the secular gatherings the majority of us often enjoy outside the church worship context? (concerts, movies, college & professional sports, fishing tournaments, NASCAR… just to name a few)

3. “Their people are only attenders.” Some probably are. Then again, having pastored churches from 9-900, I would suggest the percentages aren’t that different. “Pew sitting” can be just as prevalent among small churches as large. I have witnessed many in small churches who are too quick to give people credit by merely showing up. Choosing not to do anything but show up is a personal choice, regardless of context. One could argue that larger churches offer even more opportunity to be invested in serving Christ and the community.

4. “They steal most of their people from other churches.” This one might be my favorite. There are likely an exception or two out there. However, trust me on this one, few large church lead teams spend their days strategizing on how to gain more members from smaller congregations. They don’t have to. They are too busy strategizing and implementing the Great Commission. It’s true, people do leave smaller churches and join them in their vision. The question is, “Why?” Could it be because many Christ followers want to be where people are actively passionate about reaching the lost, making disciples and transforming a community?  “BIG Churches” often do this with a high level of excellence… and things like passion and excellence are very attractive and contagious to most people (saved or unsaved). God set it up this way… excellence and passion attracts, mediocrity and routine simply don’t.

5. “People are lost in the crowd.” True… but only if they want to be. Practically speaking we can only do life with a limited number of people, a small group, if you will. This holds true whether the larger group is 100 or 10,000. Could it be that there are even more ways and opportunities to be truly connected with others at larger churches? Maybe. Suffice it to say that we can choose to be connected or not regardless of the size of the greater group we worship with. The choice is ours. “But I feel like I’m not connected.” This is possible and, yes, easier in larger contexts. However, small or large, it’s hard to feel this way if you are plugged into a small group and actively serving with others. Most churches of any size offer these opportunities… and big churches offer all the more.

6. “Their leaders are all about the money.” True, they often talk more, promote more, preach and teach more about money. Then again, God’s Word addresses money and stewardship more than subjects like faith and grace combined. Could it be that they talk about money more because it takes more to serve the amount of people they are impacting? And, it’s true, BIG Church leaders almost always make more money. This brings with it the temptations that more money brings to every Christ follower. However, in my experience, few talk about how much they and their families give, invest and sacrifice on behalf of the Kingdom, least of all them. Rest assured, they will answer for their stewardship just like you.

7. “Their leaders are power hungry. “ Again, this is a ready temptation for any top-level leader. Still, it may be just as easy to be the “king” of a smaller church mini-kingdom among a smaller demographic… perhaps easier? Large church leaders often have far less hands-on management of the overall ministry than small/medium sized church leaders. This is by necessity. They more often have a high level of trust and investment in the leaders they lead who in turn lead others who then lead the members of the congregation. Some insist, “Yeah, but they aren’t real pastors, true shepherds of the flock.” I would submit that they are. They simply pastor a difference flock, namely, the staff and leadership flock. These sub-groups often comprise a group as large or larger than those of entire small congregations.

These are just a few of the BIG Church myths we could address. Whatever you do, don’t buy into them. Determine to be too busy fulfilling the Great Commission as a lead team to dwell on what others are or are not doing.


I Love BIG Churches 2

Unknown-4I Love BIG Churches – Part 2

4 Ways to Beat BIG Church Bitterness

It’s been said that, “A few apples spoil the bunch.” The big bad BIG Church reputation may actually apply to a few who have, unfortunately, earned it well. Still, I have found these to be the exception. Regardless, how we respond and relate to others is on us. Bitterness of any kind, for any reason, is unhealthy and quickly becomes a disease that infects a lead team (staff) and even entire church culture. So, what do you do with it once you recognize it?

Here are 4 Ways to Beat BIG Church Bitterness

1. Confess it. Get rid of it. You’ve held on long enough. Confess it to the Lord. Then, go to those you have spoken ill of and seek their forgiveness. Do the same with those you have infected and then repent of it. How? By speaking encouragement and blessing. Remember the old adage, “If you can’t say something nice…”

2. Pray for them. It’s hard to have bad feelings towards people you are sincerely praying for. I don’t know how this works, I just know it does. Pray those BIG Church leaders receive wisdom, faith, influence, blessing, peace and more as they serve the One they will ultimately answer to… just like you. Do this privately, do it as a lead team and even in your large settings, meetings and services. Remember, “What goes around, comes around.”

3. Learn from them. They may not always know better than you, but they might know some things you don’t. Maybe you know what they know and they have simply done what you haven’t? Either way, be humble enough to admit that they might know (and practice) somethings that may yet prove very healthy for you and your ministry culture. DON’T NOT BE AND NOT DO EXCELLENT THINGS JUST SO YOU WON’T BE LIKE “That BIG Church.”

4. Partner with them. Could it be that God’s people are better together than apart? Of course. And, I get it… different groupings of God’s people have and will exist until Jesus comes again. God uses them in unique ways to carry out His greater will. Still, aren’t there some things we could do better together to reach the lost and impact our communities for Christ? You won’t know until you try, until you ask. Take the lead on this…

Seek out that BIG Church leader. Encourage them, share concerns with them, pray for them. Yes, you will probably have to make an appointment. That’s just areality of leading a larger organization with a different system of doing business. Yes, it is a business… and, there is no more important business than the Father’s business. Jesus thought so. No, they may not be interested. However, imagine what God could do through His people if they did!

Whatever you do, don’t live and lead bitter. Let BIG Church bitterness go. It will only burn you and, worse, those you love. Refocus your energy. Big, small, mega, milt-site, home-based… there is so much potential yet to be realized as you invest in God’s unique plan for you and those you serve with!


7 Ways to Restore It!

imagesWhat do leading change and restoring old furniture have in common? When it comes to reworking a team, process or event, here are 7 practices I have discovered from refurbishing antique pieces (sometimes the wrong way!) to renewed beauty and use…

1) Start with the end. What do you want it to look like when the piece is finished? Will you be painting or staining? Flat or glossy finish? Will it be an everyday piece or only for special occasions? The same holds true for organizations and the programs within them.

Ask these vital questions and more before going to work… Why are we reworking it? Whom will it serve? What will it look like when fully functional? Start with the finish in mind.

2) Know before you go. In the same way it is vital to know the type of wood and grain you are working with, you need to know the people you will be teaming with towards your goal. Where do they come from? How are they wired? What “stains” do they have that go below the surface? Knowing before going will help avoid at least some of the inevitable challenges that are sure to surface along the way. How do you go about this? Keep reading…

3) Remove the layers. Just as there are often layers of finish on older pieces, there are always multiple layers of structure, training, experience, relationships and emotions that have become part of the organization, project or annual event you are reworking. It’s tempting to say, “What’s another layer?” and just add it on. However, over time multiple layers have a tendency to show themselves, and it isn’t pretty. They crack, chip, peal or wear thin due to repeated use. These must be removed with purpose, patience and care or you are only compounding the problem. “Un-learn” some practices and un-do some complicated processes during a season of training as you re-work your plan and, more importantly, patiently restore people to renewed purpose.

4) Look it over… again. Looking a piece over from a variety of angles and in different lights will give you the best idea of your progress at each stage. Don’t be afraid to get different perspective from a fresh pair of eyes. “You missed a spot…” isn’t always what we want to hear. However, these words may mean the difference between a job merely done and one that is done well. The same holds true for a ministry or business project. The more qualified input you have into the process, especially before you begin the restoration, the better the chances of success and the more creative the finished product will be. Consider the value of outside coaches to speak fresh perspective, challenge and inspiration into your team.

5) Test your finish. Know exactly what color and texture you want to use? Do yourself a favor and try it out in a spot other than the most visible surface. Sure, you can always re-sand or re-strip. However, each time you do this you are taking away something from the piece itself. This will be part of the final steps in the process as you avoid the temptation to rush the overall project.

When it comes to a process or event, try a test-run or “dress rehearsal” before the actual “opening day” whenever possible. Talk it through with the team at the very least. While perfection is never the goal, you want to put your best foot forward. Better to reset the launch date than to start poorly. Besides, “You never get a second chance to leave a first impression.”

6) Finish well. Finishing a piece includes the actual staining of a piece. Two thin but ample layers are always preferable to “laying it on thick.” The same holds true for preserving it with anything from a matt or satin to a high-gloss sealant. I liken this to the training needed before you actually implement a new structure or launch a new initiative.

Again, take your time and know that multiple opportunities for training, resourcing, beta testing will only make the actual launch more likely to produce the desired results. Make sure everyone knows their role and is well-equipped to perform with excellence.

7) Celebrate! Celebrate by putting the restored piece to use. The satisfaction of restoring old bookshelves is in seeing books, old and new, find their place on it. Or, in antique chairs filled with the people you love sitting around a table that will now host many a meal and meaningful conversation. This one is often missed.

Plan strategically to put the reformed structure, reworked plan, or a restaffed team to good use sooner than later. Capitalize on the momentum and excitement that restoring something to renewed use brings.

Remember that we all need refurbished, reformed and remade throughout life and the same holds true for the organizations we lead. Isaiah reminds us, Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8, NIV)

How do you restore or refurbish a project or event? Who are the people involved and how can you invest in them throughout the process? Add your own advice on leading renewal in the discussion thread below…

When the “Big Deal” is done…

Unknown-4What do you and your teams do when that “Big Deal” event or ministry initiative is over? Whether it’s the craziness of Christmas or the rush of the Resurrection, a lot goes into the praying, planning, preparing and promoting of times like these. Now what? What’s next for you and your teams?

Here are 3 suggestions for when the latest “Big Deal” in your ministry or organization is done…

Follow-up. The reality is, it’s not over… yet. Whatever it was, it was about moving and motivating people. In my world, it’s about moving them towards and motivating them in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ… kind of a big deal! Ask yourself and your teams… “Who is it that we need to follow-up on and touch base with?” Follow-up on those guests that came for the first time or those extended family members that came because a relative wouldn’t take “No!” for an answer. Send that text, email, letter… maybe a “pop-by” visit to make sure they know how valuable they are to you and how much you appreciate them being with you. Face it, as a good leader, you won’t really be able to relax until you do.

Oh… and who needs an extra “Atta boy!” or show of appreciation? A lot of people had to go the extra mile with you to pull it all off. They came early, stayed late and were fine with being “behind the scenes.” Thank them! Gratitude is pure momentum and just plain nice.

Follow-through. How did it go? What went great that you can celebrate and use as an example for the future? What went good that you can improve on so that next time, it goes great? What was cringe-worthy? Where did you “drop the ball” or otherwise “swing and miss?” Gather your teams and don’t miss out on moving forward in an informed way.

“Fall-out!” Paid or volunteer, you and your recruits need a break. If you don’t, something’s gonna give and someone may just fall apart. You may not be able to take a week off, but you can be strategic about slowing things down. Jesus employs this strategy time and again throughout the Gospels after teaching the masses, working miracles or dealing with critics. He got away to the garden or mountain to get re-centered with the Heavenly Father and/or follow-up up with His team of disciples. A strategic retreat in pace and programming is just what your team needs for everyone to recharge and regain drive and creativity towards your greater vision and in preparation for the next “Big Deal!”

Finally, plan in advance for all the above. See it as part of the process, the bigger picture. The “Big Deal” was never really the point. It was a means to a greater end of making disciples and growing influence for Jesus Christ and the expanse of His kingdom. That was and will always be the “Big Deal.”

31 Tips for 2016 – #22

Unknown-1Here is Tip #22 for Ministry Leaders in 2016…

Dare to delegate.

Most leaders don’t realize their potential because they don’t realize the potential in people all around them. Pastors can be especially prone to this as they unintentionally limit the scope of their ministries as they are slow to grant influence/authority to others. However, with equal parts humility and trust, you can both expand the reach and the influence of your team without sacrificing unity.

Here are 6 Steps to Delegating Well…

1) Choose wisely. The most talented may not be the best choice. By all means, find someone who can do the job well. However, be sure they are someone who, more than simply “good at it,” is all-in with your vision, passionate about what they will be doing, and who is a teachable team player.

Consider Jesus’ choice in disciples. See Acts 4:13.

2) Explain simply. Write it down and spell it out. It may be as simple as a checklist or one page job description. Less is more. Be specific about the goal, the requirements (day, time, length of term or task), their team members and who they report to. In other words, delegate outcomes, not just tasks. Show them an example or paint a clear picture of the finished project or “win” when it comes to what they have been asked to do.

Consider the disciples job description. See Matthew 28:16-20.

3) Involve actively. Don’t just throw them into it. Introduce them personally to their team. Then, whether it’s with you or another team leader, have them “shadow” someone in the role or task first. Involve them as much as possible with hands-on experience. Discuss and tackle the challenges along the way while they are actually facing them with you or another leader. Do this until they are confident in their role or task and, frankly, you are only in the way.

Consider Jesus’ model of mentoring… a three year apprenticeship.

4) Launch willingly. Now, turn them lose and let them lead! Besides, they will probably do it better than you. Empower them to make the calls necessary, give them the resources needed to succeed, grant them license for creativity and clear out plenty of room to fail without fear. Don’t hover. Let them know you are just a text or call away if they have a question or need any help.

Consider Jesus’ ascension… See Luke 24:50-53

5) Cheer wildly. Encourage them as they grow in their new role and accomplish the tasks they have been assigned. Celebrate the little things as well as the big wins. Make a big deal out of the way they are getting it done as a team as well as making note of individual contributions.

Consider God’s cheering section. See Hebrews 10:25; 12:1-3

6) Follow-up responsibly. “How’s it going?” or “Let’s take a look together…” may work fine for small projects, especially if there was a simple checklist to begin with. Larger roles may work better with a simple evaluation tool. If it’s a new role, seize the opportunity to involve the new leader in the creation of the evaluation itself. Again, less is more. It is too easy to create a micro-mananged culture. If this develops, your better leaders won’t likely bring disunity… they’ll just leave and find another team where the level of accountability is exceeded only by the level of trust.

Consider Paul’s example with Timothy. See 1 Timothy 1:1-8.

Delegation. We see this leadership essential practiced throughout the Bible as the Spirit of God prompts leaders to harness the power of delegation. See Exodus 18 and Acts 6 for two biblical examples of the power and influence created by empowering others!

What roles are you or another leader presently assuming that could be given to others? What tasks might others not only accomplish, but probably do even better than you? Expand your reach and grow the influence of your ministry or organization by delegating well.


31 Tips for 2016 – #18

Unknown-1Here is Tip # 18 for Ministry Leaders in 2016…

Watch your language.

Are you using “curse words” without even knowing it? We’re not talking about one of the infamous “4-letter words.” As a matter of fact, the worst one may just have only one letter… “I.”

When it comes to the power of the plural and how we frame our conversations, two examples come to mind…

Jordan Spieth has taken the professional golf world by storm. One of the youngest in history to win so much, so fast on the biggest stages in golf. Of course, those in the know have watched his career grow steadily from the junior golf tour to #1 in the world. How did he get there? It wasn’t overnight and he wasn’t alone. Just listen to a pre or post-round interview and he will tell you his secret, every time. No, it isn’t a magic move in his swing or hidden course strategy, it’s in the way he intentionally and consistently answers questions with… “We have been working on that over this past month…” “We have been trying that out and have plenty of room for improvement…”, etc. With Jordan, it’s almost always a “WE” thing. He includes his family, coaches, friends and fans in just about every conversation concerning his young and stellar career, giving and sharing the credit for the wins with others while personally shouldering the blame when things go wrong.

Peter and the other apostles learned this language as the early church struggled mightily and grew rapidly. Take Acts 15 for example… “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (v11) “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them…” (v19-20) “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” (v36) Whether teaching, confronting, encouraging, or strategizing it was almost always a “WE” thing as the Spirit led the apostles in the rapid expanse of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

How do we frame our conversations as leaders? Let’s determine to create a culture where “WE” vision, work, pray, risk, fail, create, do-over, and keep on striving together with our lead teams and volunteers. Unless taking responsibility for how we’ve fallen short or failed to lead, let’s watch our language and use the “I” word sparingly,

We are truly better, together. Remember, its a “WE” thing! 

31 Tips for 2016 – #10

Unknown-1Here is Tip #10 for Ministry Leaders in 2016…

Own the moment. 

This one comes from an organization who has arguably valued people, or at least their magical moments with them, more than any other on earth. They drive this value home with a phrase that pays… “No one owns the guest, but someone always owns the moment.” (Disney Leadership Institute)

This begins when people pull into the parking lot… the faces they see, the words that are said (or unsaid), the signage they see (or don’t see). It ends with the closing moments of that message, that guest reception or that leadership training. Leaders, we need to understand, if it happens in our organization, on our watch… its our responsibility.

When it comes to people’s experience with us (and WHO we represent), what do we want them to feel, think, do and become as a result of their moments with us? In short, what is the take-away? Is there one moment that we believe can really be a game-changer, an eternal life-changer? Maybe this is going overboard, too controlling of the experience or even manipulative of people? Is this too much to ask of leaders? Only for those who don’t believe the moment matters, nor mind if people miss it even if it does.

The moment matters. Plan for it. Practice it. Pray over it. Unpack it when it’s over. Whatever it takes. Own the moment. 

Here is a great synopsis of this value – Experience Matters

Check out the Disney Leadership Institute for more on guest experience.

4 Preoccupations of Good Leaders

images-4What’s on your mind as a leader? Let’s be more specific… are you results or process oriented in your thinking? The answer to this makes a big difference in how you live and lead, especially as a Christian leader.

Consider these 4 Preoccupations of Good Leaders…

Who are we serving? Is there a specific group of people you are hoping to reach, influence, provide for or guide? If your answer is “everybody,” then I would suggest you re-think it. While reaching the world sounds noble and looks good on a website… start by making a difference in the few down the street. Of course, then there’s the “big picture” answer to this question. Ask yourself, “Who is all this really for in the end?”

Why are we doing this? Knowing your “Why?” will be your motivation when things get hard… and they will. Whether you call it your vision or mission statement, choose this carefully and embrace it fully. When challenges mount almost as fast as the critics, believing in the reason you do what you do will be the motivation to keep doing it!

How can we help? Invest in your team. The best leaders make others better. Who can you position for success in their role? Who can you “prop up” and encourage? What team leader or group (volunteer or paid) needs your investment in order to be who they are called to be and then do what they are tasked to do?

Who’s next? Notice that it’s not, “What’s next?” It is so easy as a leader to focus on what people can do to accomplish something better, instead of what something can be done to make people better. And, be ready! Although we should be planning on who we are investing in next in a targeted way, sometimes God sees fit to put people right in our path that need encouraged and/or equipped right here, right now. Discern the difference between the “needy” and those in need and be there for them.

Notice that these questions assume something vital? They are in the plural.  It’s a team thing, not a me thing. You didn’t get where you are by being a “lone ranger,” and you won’t get where God wants you to go and reach who He wants you to reach that way, either. Determine to live and lead as part of a great team of people determined to make a difference in other people… together.

Finally, here is a portion of the “pep talk” the Apostle Paul gave to the leaders of the growing church in the city of Colossae. I hope it serves to keep you precoccupied as a Christian leader today! Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24, NIV

What preoccupations would you recommend to other leaders? Share your insights in the discussion thread below!

Giveaway Leadership

imgres-3What does it look like to increase influence for Christ by giving away more and more and more as a leader?
Could it be that one of the biggest changes that needs made concerns the level of our own generosity? Here are 5 Giveaways of Good Leaders…

1) Give away control. Let’s face it. This scares us. But only to the extent of our own insecurities and at the expense of our influence for Jesus. With grace as long as standards are high, give gifted and called individuals the opportunity to gather and lead great teams… to fail and succeed greatly while learning valuable lessons along the way.

2) Give away credit. Give God the glory and others the credit for the wins you are experiencing. Be selfish with the responsibility and even the blame when they aren’t. This is hard and takes a humility fueled by daily intimacy and affinity with Jesus.

3) Give away experience. Be generous not only with what you have gained from your experiences, but seek opportunities to provide others, especially young people, new and challenging experiences. These will mold their character and expand their imaginations concerning what God can do in and through them!

4) Give away attention. Yes, your time is limited. However, give people not only your time, but your undivided attention. Lean into the conversation, ask good questions and make it all about them at every turn.

5) Give away resources. This is all about equipping others. How can you encourage team leaders and members through training opportunities and the latest in tools for the trades they are working in?

John the Apostle summarized the spirit and posture of a giveaway leader, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30, NIV) 

What giveaways can you share? Give them away in the Reply section below…

6 Things Effective Board Members Do

imagesIf you are a pastor or lay-leader hoping to lead well through a season of BIG change, you are going to need an effective team. The wisdom writer reminds us, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22, NIV) 

By whatever name you call your leaders (Elders, Deacons, Directors, Trustees, Team Leads, etc), the good ones are far from perfect, but do have a few things in common.

As we continue our “Small Church BIG Change!” series, here are 6 Things Effective Board Members Do in churches of any size…

1) Pray. Effective board members are passionate, persistent and prevailing in prayer. They intercede for everyone from guests who filled out the latest “Connect Card” to the Children’s pastor’s wife who has a job interview. They pray and fast with the team for major decisions and that routine meetings will be anything but.

2) Prepare. Effective board members don’t just show up. They are read up, prayed up and pumped up. Their reports are on time and to the point. They prepare both insightful comments and probing questions to add value to the greater discussion.

3) Promote. Effective board members help get the word out about the latest and greatest via social media and good old-fashioned word of mouth. They don’t wait for it… they create the “buzz” that get’s everyone else talking about the vision, value or event. (They never use social media to question or critique… but are free to do so one on one or in team meetings.) 

4) Present. Effective board members are ready to give their 2-cents (report, presentation, proposal, etc) in clear, concise and creative ways. They are well aware that they aren’t the only one’s who will have the floor, nor are they the “main event.” They do have a grounded understanding of the importance of their area and contribution to the greater team.

5) Protect. Effective board members are the first to confront negativity, critical spirits or gossip. They guard the vision and values of the organization almost as passionately as they guard the people in it… especially fellow leaders and their families. They have little tolerance for bad attitudes and non whatsoever for seeds of discord.

6) Praise. Effective board members set the example in giving God the glory and others the credit when things are going well, and shouldering the blame when they aren’t. They intentionally create a culture of praise, gratitude and celebration.

Bonus: Effective board members know when to listen and when to speak. They will wait and watch or stand up and be counted whenever it is appropriate to do so. In other words, they are both patient and proactive. How do they know when to be one or the other? See #1 above.

These are just a few… what do great board members do in your ministry or organization? (And, no, it doesn’t have to start with “P.”) Share your thoughts in the Reply section below…