The Ideal Team Player

According to Patrick Lencioni

I discovered Patrick Lencioni a couple of years ago when I picked up his book The Advantage. It was the best book I read that year and still remains one of the best books I’ve ever read on organizational health and leadership. Every pastor should read it. I recently came across his newest book The Ideal Team Player and wanted to share the main premise with you.

People are the most important part of your church. That goes without saying, but you have to remember they can either make your church or break your church.

Every successful church is successful because of the people in it.

Every church that has failed has failed because of the people in it.

I’m not trying to take God out of the equation. God is constant. The people are the variable.

So, you have to get the people part of this thing right, especially the people on your team.

Patrick Lencioni says there are three virtues that make up the ideal team player.

  1. They are humble.

People with big egos don’t perform well in a team setting. If they’re more concerned with their success than the team’s, you have a problem. A person who is humble will always look for ways to compliment someone else on their performance and will be slow to seek attention for their own. An arrogant person who makes everything about him will destroy a team by creating resentment and division. Humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of a team player.

  1. They are hungry.

Hungry people just want more. More to do, more to learn, and more responsibility. They are self-motivated. They are constantly thinking about what’s next. Hunger misdirected or taken too far can be a negative. Healthy hunger is a commitment to doing a job well and a willingness to go above and beyond when necessary. Lots of people will project a sense of hunger to try to get a job or position. That’s why it’s always best to look at their past patterns to discern if it’s real.

  1. They are smart.

They may not be the most intelligent person, but they possess a common sense about people that makes them invaluable. They are relationally smart. They know how you talk to one person may not be the best way to talk to another. They learn the team. They ask good questions and spend time listening to what others say. They understand the impact of their words and actions, so they don’t say or do things without thinking about the likely responses of their teammates.

If just one of these virtues is missing in a person, they become significantly more difficult to have on the team. It requires all three. So, when you find a person who possesses all of these qualities, you would be wise to get them on your team as quick as possible.

What do you think about these virtues? What would you add? Leave a comment and let us know, and while you’re here don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

More Logs, Less Kindling

The Secret to Sustained Success

I’m not much of an outdoorsman. I don’t own a grill, and I’ve never made a fire. Although I would like to believe I’ve watched enough reality TV that if I was ever put in a situation where I needed to make a fire, I could. I know you start with the little stuff that burns easily, and then you add your bigger sticks and logs. The problem I see in many churches today is too much focus on kindling and not enough on logs.

Let me explain. Kindling is the dry twigs and branches used to start a fire. It’s extremely valuable. You would have a hard time starting a fire without it.

But it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to only use kindling on your fire. It would burn up way too quickly. That’s why you need logs.

In ministry we get really excited about kindling. It may be a mailer we’re sending out, a new series we’re starting, or an outreach event.

These things can produce a lot of excitement and momentum, but it’s very short lived. They can start a fire, but they won’t keep the fire burning.

You need something with more substance for that. You need logs.

Churches fall into the trap of always wanting to create a spark, so they will keep on adding kindling all the while wondering why the fire never stays lit for very long.

Don’t make this mistake. Focus on these three logs instead.

  1. Get the Right People in the Right Places

It doesn’t matter if it’s paid staff or volunteers. You have to have the right people in the right place. That means no grumpy door greeters, no creepy kid’s workers, and no out of tune worship singers. I wrote an entire post about this here.

  1. Get the Right Systems in Place

Andy Stanley says, “Your systems are perfectly designed to give the results you’re getting.” If you’re not happy with your results, it’s more than likely a systems issue. What’s your system for getting guests to come back? What’s your system to get people to serve? What’s your system to get people to give? Without the right systems in place, your church will always struggle to grow.

  1. Get the Right Culture in Place

It used to be that systems and people were everything. That’s no longer the case. People have quickly realized the culture of your church sets the tone for everything else. When a guest walks into your church, do they feel loved? Do they feel welcomed? Do volunteers feel appreciated? Is there a level of excitement when you meet?

You can waste a lot of time and money going through kindling, so I would urge you to spend the time to get the right logs on the fire.

Have you seen this to be true in your church? Let us know by leaving a comment, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Do You Trust Your Mirrors?

Guest Post: Cody Hogden

Being a bi-vocational pastor brings challenges and opportunities for the pastor as well as the church. Being successful isn’t easy…unless you have your mirrors set right. Leading a church of any size, either as a fully or partially funded pastor, is much like driving a car. There are many parts and pieces all working together with one purpose (and no…the challenge of backseat drivers is not the topic of this post :D).

One of the biggest struggles in driving and ministry is not having your mirrors adjusted correctly. Did you know that your vehicle is designed to give you a 360 degree view with only slight head movement? Yet, because we’ve never been taught how to adjust our mirrors properly or simply ignored it, we are now adding equipment (blind spot indicators) to compensate. And we rely on the blind spot indicators instead of the mirrors. Here are three (or four) driving tips for all you bi-vo (and fully funded) pastors out there.

  1. Setting your mirrors right.

This is not a Church Polity blog either…but the Bible gives us a lot of wisdom when it comes to the leadership, staff, and workers of the ministry. Part of setting your mirrors correctly is understanding your role and the role of others. We can get a glimpse of how this looks with just a couple of verses.

“Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” Acts 6:3.

Whether you use teams or committees…call them elders or pastors…God is clear that you can’t do it alone. Remember the wisdom of Jethro? No, no…not Jethro Bodine! Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law. Here was his advice:

“The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” Exodus 18.

God will give you leaders to handle your administrative tasks, digital media tasks, building maintenance tasks, etc. If He doesn’t, maybe that task can wait. When we get bogged down doing things we shouldn’t be, we run a great risk. Stats can be deceiving, but there is a lot of alarming information out there.

This looks differently for each Body of Christ. Which road is God leading you and the Body to travel? What type of vehicle has he equipped you with? Or you can put it like this…what’s the vision? Knowing where you’re going gives you a better understanding of how to set your mirrors. And just like our cars…they need to be adjusted at times. Like when there’s growth. Adjust. When there’s more passengers. Adjust. Evaluating where you’re headed and the road conditions should be a part of your overall routine.

2.  Trust your mirrors.

I know…it’s hard. We’ve gotten so used to turning our heads to check those blind spots. Remember, they were made to enable you to see all around the vehicle with just a quick glance. That’s how we should treat our leaders. Trust them. Let them do their job. Sure, check every once in a while to see if they’re still in the right spot and don’t need to be adjusted. But you should trust your mirrors.

3.  Don’t trick out your car and stay in your lane as a leader.

Believe me, I know how much stuff there is to do. And I get overwhelmed with trying to do it. But it’s not what you’re called to do. Here are a couple more verses to remind us of our role.

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4.

Oh yeah…that’s my role. How about Ephesians 4

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

That’s right, we equip the saints for the work of the ministry NOT do all the work of the ministry. This is the most difficult for me to practice.

Just a quick word for any saints (members) that snuck in to read about bi-vocational (or vocational) pastoring, you have a huge part to play. Get in the game. Volunteer. Don’t hide from the work…run to the work.

A famous coach was once asked, “How does college football contribute to the national physical fitness level?”

“Nothing!” He replied. “The way I see it, you have 22 men down on the field desperately needing a rest and 40,000 in the stands desperately needing some exercise!”

A similar situation exists in many churches today. A small group of workers “down on the field” while most are more like spectators.

Cody Hogden is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Orangefield, Texas. He’s been married to his wife Ginger for 24 years, and they have a 23 year old daughter named Brooklyn. He is also the founder of Twenty TwentyFour Ministries. 

Three Hurdles Every Pastor Faces

To say pastoring is difficult would be an understatement. Yet, it’s not difficult in the sense that the work is hard, although it can be at times. It’s difficult in every other sense, emotional, spiritual, and sometimes physical, because emotional and spiritual stress have a tendency to take a toll on the body.

Don’t get me wrong. There are seasons that can be very joyful, and productive, and motivating, seasons in which you see God’s blessing throughout your church.

Then there can be seasons in which you see no fruit at all, and you wonder why you ever got into this profession. And you start contemplating, is it even worth it?

Then there’s this place you come to as a pastor where the seasons seem to change every day.

On Sunday you are rejoicing because you preached and people gave their lives to Christ, but on Monday you get a call from someone leaving the church, and your rejoicing turns into mourning.

This is the life of a pastor, on the mountain one minute and in the valley the next.

One of the keys to making it in ministry is to not allow yourself to stay in the valley for too long.

You’ll be tempted to stay there. There will be times when you just want to stay in the bed and avoid facing the day.

You have to get past this hurdle and several others along the way.

I’ve found the most common hurdles pastors face fall into these three categories.

  1. Get Past Your Past

You may have been fired from a previous position. You may have had struggles in your marriage. You may have regrets. We all do, but you can’t dwell on the past because you can’t change the past. You have to focus on what’s right in front of you. The greatest stories in the Bible and in life are stories of people who overcame their past and began to live with purpose.

  1. Stop Focusing on Others & Their Opinion of You

Too many of us, myself included, give too much power to other’s opinions of us. If they’re not my God, my spouse, or my kid, then their opinion about me doesn’t really matter. We lose too much time and sleep worrying about what someone has said or thinks about us. You can’t please everyone, so focus on pleasing the one’s that matter.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

I blame church boards and terrible bosses for this one. Too many of us are afraid to try something different because we’re afraid of what happens if it doesn’t work out. If you’re in a situation in which you have to fear losing your job if an idea you have doesn’t work out, you need to find a new situation. If that isn’t the case, then take some chances. If it doesn’t work out, at least you learned something.

I’m sure these aren’t the only hurdles pastors face. I’d love to hear yours. So, leave a comment below, and if you like tips on church growth, leadership, and more then make sure to take a second and subscribe to the blog.

Easter Follow Up

Easter is right around the corner and for most churches that means their biggest attendance of the year. In the church I serve, it’s not uncommon for our attendance to double on Easter weekend. That means lots of new faces and lots of excitement. It also means you have a great opportunity to see new people get connected to your church.

But it doesn’t happen by accident.

If you really want to see new people come back after Easter, you have to be intentional with everything you do.

Here are a few areas in which you can capitalize.

Parking

No matter what size your church is, I believe you can see huge benefits by having volunteers in the parking lot. At the church I serve, we have special parking just for first time guests. This does two things: it makes them feel appreciated, and it also helps us identify those who are new. Our parking volunteers greet them and then walk them to our host tent.

Host Tent

You may call this the guest tent, VIP tent, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even have to be a tent. The important thing is you have a specific area for first time guests to go, where you gather their information, answer any questions they may have, and offer to show them around the church. You gain bonus points if you also offer them a gift. Something as simple as a coffee mug or t-shirt goes a long way in making people feel special.

Stage Announcement

Churches make a huge mistake when they ask guests to stand up or raise their hand. This make them feel uncomfortable, but on the flip side of that, you also don’t want to ignore them. So, make sure you welcome them from the stage. It can be as simple as, “I want to welcome all of our guests today and say thank you for being here. Make sure to stop by the host tent to pick up your free gift before you leave.”

Letter

Once guests leave the church property, most churches don’t really think about them anymore. But that shouldn’t be the case for you. You’re going to write each one of these guests a handwritten note thanking them for spending Easter at your church, and reminding them about the series/message you will be beginning the next Sunday.

Email

Hopefully, if you’ve been savvy enough at the host tent, you’re not only going to have their mailing address but also their email. Email addresses are extremely valuable because they are an open door to communication. So, not only are you sending a letter, you’re also sending them an email thanking them again, and letting them know what’s coming up at your church that they may be interested in.

I know not every guest is going to return to my church or yours, but it would be foolish of us not to try everything in our power to make them feel welcome and invite them back.

What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear what’s been working for you. Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

The Space Between the Gates

Session Three - Inside Elevation

In March, I was able to attend the Inside Elevation conference hosted by Elevation Church. It was a great experience for our entire team, and as always, the main sessions led by Steven Furtick were the highlight for me. Steven Furtick is an incredible leader and has great insights for churches of any size. If you weren’t able to be there this year, no worries, I’ve got you covered. If you missed Session One or Two notes, you can find them here and here.

It was told Joab, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people, for the people heard that day, “The king is grieving for his son.” And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle. The king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who have this day saved your life and the lives of your sons and your daughters and the lives of your wives and your concubines, because you love those who hate you and hate those who love you. For you have made it clear today that commanders and servants are nothing to you, for today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased. Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the Lord, if you do not go, not a man will stay with you this night, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now.” Then the king arose and took his seat in the gate. And the people were all told, “Behold, the king is sitting in the gate.” And all the people came before the king. 2 Samuel 19:1-8

The Space Between the Gates

In this session Pastor Steven talked about how many of us have been hurt in ministry and have become passive, letting things go on that we shouldn’t. It’s time for us to get back in our seat at the gate.

  1. Check your Gratitude

Are you still grateful that God called you? We are to enter His gates with thanksgiving. Gratitude is the gateway drug. You can’t be grateful and give a bare minimum effort.

  1. Check your Acceptance

What have you been tolerating in your church that you know you shouldn’t? What tough conversation have you been avoiding? Your leaders take their cue from you, so if you’re letting things slide so are they.

  1. Check your Trust

Have you lost trust in people? Is it easier to just do it yourself? When you lose faith in people, it’s easy to think this way, but you were never supposed to put your trust in people. You put your trust in God.

  1. Check your Empowerment

There’s no way you can do everything God has called you to by yourself. You have to trust the team around you and empower them to do the ministry. That means you have to stop micromanaging, and you may not always know everything that is going on in your church. Secure leaders empower.

I think everyone in ministry has gone through seasons in which they’ve left the gate. The longer you stay away, the harder it will be when you come back, so take a deep breath and get back in there. What would you add to this session? Let us know by leaving a comment, and make sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out on church leadership tips delivered to your inbox each week.

Going Pro

Inside Elevation - Session Two

In March, I was able to attend the Inside Elevation conference hosted by Elevation Church. It was a great experience for our entire team, and as always, the main sessions led by Steven Furtick were the highlight for me. Steven Furtick is an incredible leader and has great insights for churches of any size. If you weren’t able to be there this year, no worries, I’ve got you covered. If you missed Session One notes, you can find them here.

Going Pro

Whether you’re a volunteer or a full time staff member at a church, you can still act like a pro.

In this session Pastor Steven unpacked the differences between pros and amateurs.

  1. Pros give themselves to the process. Amateurs are always looking for the promotion.

If you will plow, God will promote. You have to crucify your need for credit. Pros don’t confuse credit with contribution. I can enjoy the win, even if I don’t get the credit. Do you want to be a part of a winning team, or do you have to be the star? Process reveals potential.

  1. Pros produce. Amateurs project.

Pros get the job done no matter what obstacles are in the way. Amateurs always have excuses. Well, I would’ve had that done, but so and so didn’t show up so it didn’t happen. Amateurs always project the blame onto someone or something else other than themselves.

  1. Pros view correction as an investment. Amateurs make you pay for correcting them.

Pros view correction as a compliment because they want to get better. Amateurs hate correction because nothing is ever their fault. Some of the greatest athletes in the world have trainers and coaches. When someone stops correcting you, that’s when you should be worried because that means they’ve given up on you.

  1. Pros submit their personality to their purpose. Amateurs submit their purpose to their personality.

Stop saying, that’s just the way I am. We don’t give anyone else a pass like that. That may be the way you are, but you should want to get better. I’m an introvert but not on Sunday mornings. You may have a temper, but that doesn’t mean you get to be a jerk to everyone. Get better!

  1. Pros know parameters and work within them. Amateurs are always asking permission.

Pros save you a lot of time because they know how you think and what you like. Amateurs take up your time because they can’t be trusted to think for themselves. You can tell a pro a broad idea and they’ll run with it, but you have to give an amateur step-by-step instruction.

Be on the lookout for my notes from Session Three next week, but in the meantime, what would you add to this session? Let us know by leaving a comment, and make sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out on church leadership tips delivered to your inbox each week.

7 C’s of a Championship Team

Inside Elevation - Session One

In March, I was able to attend the Inside Elevation conference hosted by Elevation Church. It was a great experience for our entire team, and as always, the main sessions led by Steven Furtick were the highlight for me. Steven Furtick is an incredible leader and has great insights for churches of any size. If you weren’t able to be there this year, no worries, I’ve got you covered.

14 Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” 15 And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Draw the bow,” and he drew it. And Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. 17 And he said, “Open the window eastward,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot,” and he shot. And he said, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” 18 And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped. 19 Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.” 2 Kings 13:14-19

Victory is a Decision

Seven C’s of a Championship Team

  1. Choose Where You Want to Win

It’s impossible to be great at everything, so you need to narrow your focus. This also means you need to choose where you’re willing to lose. For us, this means we don’t do men’s ministry, women’s ministry, food pantries, and a dozen other things. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, but that’s not our focus.

  1. Create a Win

What’s a win at your church? What’s a win in student ministry? Have you defined it? Take time to define the win in every ministry in your church.

  1. Communicate the Win

Once you’ve defined what a win is, you need to communicate it when it happens. For my church, a person serving is a win, but I haven’t been intentional about highlighting our volunteers. A Sunday shouldn’t go by without me posting to social media bragging on our volunteers. People are willing to work if you show them they’re winning.

  1. Contextualize the Win

One of my biggest struggles, if you’re a church in a small town, stop comparing yourself to the megachurch in a big city. Context matters. Don’t compare the other way either. Don’t think more highly of yourself by comparing yourself to someone who has a lot less to work with than you.

  1. Capitalize on the Win

When a win takes place, talk about it until you get sick of talking about it. Find ways to multiply it. When you start talking about wins, you’ll be surprised by other people coming forward and share wins of their own.

  1. Commit to the Win

The battle is won or loss before you fight it. If you go into anything thinking you’re going to fail, you set yourself up for failure. Use all the arrows you have and commit to victory before the battle even begins.

  1. Celebrate Victory

Be on the lookout for my notes from Session Two and Three in the next few days, but in the meantime what would you add to this session? Let us know by leaving a comment, and make sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out on church leadership tips delivered to your inbox each week.