Not in it for the money

Here’s a nice piece of wisdom Seth Godin wrote a while back:

Seth’s Blog: Doing it for free: “Woz wasn’t looking to make a lot of money when he invented the Apple computer, and Nolan Bushnell certainly didn’t imagine he was creating the video game industry when he invented Pong. Cory and the rest of the boingboing team had no revenue for years, and Digg and Yahoo! and dozens of other key websites were started without an eye on profit, never mind revenue. The same thing is true for Julia Child and Gene Roddenberry and Dean Kamen.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more it seems that pioneers are almost never in it for the money. The smart ones figure out how to take a remarkable innovation and turn it into a living (or a bigger than big payout) but not the other way around. I think the reason is pretty obvious: when you try to make a profit from your innovation, you stop innovating too soon. You take the short payout because it’s too hard to stick around for the later one.”

Two takeaways.

Do something you’re passionate about – something that will bubble up within you whether or not you’re getting paid.

Start now. Sometimes we wait until we can perfect something before beginning it. But the best innovations, projects, activities start because they’re something we’re going to do even if no one notices and grow into something powerful. I see it all the time with church planting. We see these healthy churches and think a new one has to look the exact same way on day one (big, mega, smooth, etc.). But almost anything started small and imperfect and moved forward as everyone learned, created, prayed, and obeyed.

Punch the clock or change the world. You decide.

You’re probably already reading him, but Seth Godin talks about loving what you do and taking real risks in your work (instead of just “working hard” and punching the clock) in a recent post. It’s some powerful stuff.

Today, working hard is about taking apparent risk. Not a crazy risk like betting the entire company on an untested product. No, an apparent risk: something that the competition (and your coworkers) believe is unsafe but that you realize is far more conservative than sticking with the status quo.

Here’s why it resonates: most of us still don’t get it. We know that work success is more about what you produce (tasks, relationships, connections, results) than the hours punched, but we revert back to the “stay busy for eight hours and go home” mindset when pushed. What if you work to do what you love and then see how to improve it like crazy?

The people seeing the most success aren’t necessarily the ones working the most hours. They’re the ones making the tough decisions, taking risks, and inventing something new. They’re putting that “something new” into practice and shaking things up instead of sinking into the status quo.

A lot of people still look at life through the “more hours of work = more rewards” lens. Sometimes the best thing to do is improve the quality of work within those hours…

If you’re leading, these three things matter

A few months ago I wrote about the relationship for leaders personally between vision, action, and relationship.

The more I think about it … the more I move through areas of ministry and leadership … the more I see how the balance of these three pieces matters in many areas.

Just two examples…

I’ve found the meetings I lead need to have all three: A time of relationship or connection, a time to step back and see the big picture vision (analyze it, see why we’re doing it, how we can grow it), and a time of action (What are our next steps? What concrete things need to happen right now? How can we make them happen?)

When I’m speaking to a group, the three come into play again. Vision represents the passion for the topic. It’s something you value and believe. Therefore, it’s contageous. Relationship represents the connection you have with the people. They see authenticity. They like you. They trust you’re a credible source. And action is the less tangible piece of having a life that backs it up. Are you really living what you’re saying? Are you at least trying to?

Just thinking out loud (blogging out loud?) here. These three are really similar to the know/do/be tension we see in life – the balance between knowledge, action, and the self. We tend to focus on one, but all three need to be fed.

Productivity and the power of small

This interview from Jason Fried of 37 signals has some interesting info in it.

First, he talks about how productivity for his team really means leaving each other alone. They take time to collaborate, but then work alone to get things done. His team is distributed across the United States (and world), and he finds that works better to minimize distractions and up productivity.

Second, he talks about how he expects to stay small. He thinks it’s better. In the internet age a software company doesn’t need the economy of scale to get noticed. He thinks less structure, planning 30-60 days out and staying small is better. “I don’t think you need to be a big company anymore to do big things,” he says. “You can reach a lot more people if you’re a smaller company and know how to get to the right people through non-traditional channels.”

Most importantly, it seems a lot of the success of their company is that they are focused and enjoy what they’re doing. They may expand to products beyond software. They have an overall vision and direction that helps guide them, but it’s also flexible.

The world’s a-changin’. It isn’t just the church world that’s in flux. The old assumptions on what works and what doesn’t are changing everywhere. It’s exciting to see many industries rethinking the outer methods of how things get done.

|ht: Terry Storch|

A power trifecta of amazing posts!

Every once in a while you need an over-the-top title, don’t you?

But seriously, there are three bloggers who have has some amazing posts recently. And in my goodness, I’m going to point you right to them.

First, recording artist extraordinarre Shaun Groves tells a story in three parts (one, two, and three) you’ve got to read. I think his responses to the woman who wants him to sign a “take back the government and get prayer in schools” petition are extremely well said. It’s a devisive issue in the Christian world. Whatever side you’re on, it’s a good read.

Next, my favorite glocal trekker Bob Roberts (blogging at glocal.net) tells us once again that it ain’t about the “style” of how we do church. It absolutely comes down to disciples. Form follows function. He writes, “Your church is only as good as your disciples–not your preacher! If you want to tinker with something, tinker with the disciple. How do we create a culture of the kingdom so people will engage it in a daily manner?” Awesome stuff, Bob!

And finally, my new favorite blogger, Vince Antonucci, has two thought-provoking, challenging posts about how we do church. The first one lays out his case for the belief that our churches just aren’t reaching lost people. Even though there have been tons of church starts and super mega churches popping up all over, there are less people in church now than in 1990 in every single county in the United States! The next one talks about his informal surveys at churches, finding that most people have transferred to “this church” from “another one” and if they weren’t here, they’d be going to “this other one down the street.” If the church was reaching more lost folks, Vince believes they wouldn’t be in that church shopping mindset. This would be their home.

Now, a lot of people can bash the church without anything positive to say (Vince is even criticized of this in the comments of his post), but what I respect about his writing is that he’s leading a church and doing something about it. He says he’ll be talking more about the “what now?” steps next. As my buddy Michelangelo said, “criticize by creating!”

The discussions in each one of these posts are important to me, not only because of the church planting ideas, but because I’m working on a new “thing” at Glenkirk focused on the post-college/pre-kid age group. It’s supposed to be a Sunday morning class, but we’re going to let it be a lot more experimental. Instead of one guy standing up front and talking about 10 steps to a healthy relationship, it’s going to be a lot more interactive. We’re going to focus on the Gospels and see how we can live them out together.

I have a lot of ideas for where it could go, but for now we’re going to start simple and see where God leads. Hopefully we can begin meeting off the church campus and do some things that don’t immediately “fit” within the typical paradigms – not just do “be different,” but to stretch our faith and follow Christ into places where he’s a lot more needed than the typical church classroom.

Thoughts?

The Forgotten Ways – Day one, part one

Here’s a quick list of a few things that stood out to me from the first day of class. Before you read, know this: I can’t include everything, so you’re getting a limited context. Read the books!

Also, Alan is great at helping a group understand a problem so they see the need for a solution. If the first day seems negative, it’s because we have to see what’s wrong first. We’ll soon move to what the positive alternatives are.

Finally, Alan articulates something better than most people I’ve heard. He’s not against one expression of church and for another. The type of church we’ll talk about will look different than a mega church, primarily because in many areas, studies have shown that type of church really only attracts about 15% of the people. The problem is, more than 90% of churches are seeking to be that style. Not all of them can pull it off. And even if they could, we’d only be connecting with a small section of the population (15% is the number in Australia, it’s very likely higher here, but probably no higher than 40%). We need to think creatively and theologically about how we can join God where he is and go be the church.

  • We’ve never been in a post-Christian environment before. We’ve never been in aspace where we stand in an inoculated culture before. Like we can be inoculated for diseases, much of our culture has been inoculated to Christianity. They’ve gotten a little of some false form of it, and it’s shut them off from having any part of it when the real thing comes around.
  • Emerging is different from missional. In a missional church (or as he terms, emerging missional church, mission is the organizing principle. The mission of God determines how the church organizes itself.
  • God is everywhere, wooing people to himself. We need to be willing to go to dangerous places (places Christians wouldn’t normally go), listen to the stories people tell, affirm those stories, and while showing how God is working within their stories, point to that alternate ending.
  • We need to give that process time and learn the arts of conversation and friendship.
  • Constantine is still the emperor of our imaginations. He introduced us to the institution of the church. His using Christianity to unify his empire could have been the worst thing that happened to us.
  • Americans are highly mobile. That mobility can lead to an incapacity to relate over the long term. He saw this in the church he worked with in Australia. Young 20-something singles would get a two-year itch where they had exhausted their relational skills and said God was moving them on. He and other leaders pushed back and said no – we’re going to learn to keep relating.

This is just one small piece of our discussion yesterday. I’ll add more thoughts later.

Small group ideas – the year ahead

It’s official – another quarter of classes is done. Finished. Gone.

And for once, I can say THANK GOODNESS!

It’s been a crazy week. Between a couple of big events for our small groups and finals, I’m due for a let down! I finished up my last paper at 4:45 p.m. on Friday, and our big year-end celebration for small groups was pulled off without a hitch Sunday night. Around 200 people got together to eat, celebrate the past year, and look ahead.

Want to know what excites me most about working with small groups? The potential. This church was one that caught hold of the small groups idea early. There are some groups that have been meeting together for more than 20 years! More than half of the people who attend church on Sundays are involved in a small group. For larger churches, that’s a good percentage to start with. There are groups that are serving and reaching out to people around them. There’s a lot happening that deserves to be recognized.

But in the midst of that, there’s so much more to be done! It’s exciting to seek God and pray for what he has next. Over the next year (and probably longer) our team’s going to be focusing on three main things: supporting existing groups, starting new groups, and publicizing groups in the church and beyond.

When a group’s been meeting for five or more years, some can basically run on auto pilot. They don’t need much attention from the church. And a lot of groups are doing a great job at that. But, we want to be there to support, encourage, and pour into these groups however we can. Auto pilot shouldn’t be necessary! It’s not about controlling, but more about walking alongside the groups grow, change, and adapt as they seek to connect to God, each other, and the world.

In looking, there are also entire sections of our church that don’t have real options for small groups. We’re working to start new groups that provide places where everyone can fit.

And finally, like I said before, a majority of people are in groups already – which is great! But in the past we haven’t shared enough stories of what God’s doing in groups. Group members have been a silent majority. We want to find ways to share the stories of what’s happening with the church as a whole. Our interim pastor has been a terrific champion for small groups. He believes in them. And it’s such a blessing.

It’ll be exciting to see what the next year brings.

Communal dining is catching on

A fascinating article from the San Francisco Chronicle:

From trendy neighborhood restaurants in San Francisco to casual breakfast spots in the East Bay, communal tables are cropping up everywhere. Designers are putting the big family-style tables into places such as Salt House in San Francisco, West County Grill in Sebastopol and A Cote in Oakland.

Experts say that in these isolated times, people yearn to break bread with neighbors. Some are looking to make friends — and even long-term relationships — while others just want to feel a sense of community.

Many credit restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow and designer Philippe Starck for igniting the trend. Ten years ago the duo made a splash with Asia de Cuba in New York City. The main attraction wasn’t the food, the drinks or even the service. It was the 25-foot-long table placed in the middle of the dining room, where 36 strangers could share a meal together and possibly leave as friends.

“A reporter from London came to write about the restaurant,” says Chodorow. “He expected to hate the sharing table. He sat there, fell in love and nearly missed his flight home.” Now diners are actually reserving seats there, says Chodorow.

I love the different ways community is creeping back into our culture as people look for ways to connect. I’m also excited about the potential for churches to do the same thing, through coffee shops, restaurants, and more. The possibilities are endless…

[HT]

What really matters in church

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There’s a lot of talk in the church world about doing everything with excellence. That’s important. Many leaders have focused on it because for many years it was totally neglected in the church (still is in some places). It just didn’t matter. While culture improved how it communicated, the church stayed stuck in the same old trends.

But something’s changing, at least in me and in the churched and unchurched folks I know. More than an amazing video and a band worthy of opening for U2, I want to see people who are real – people just being people, without polish, taking risks in the world around them. Excellence is important, but being authentic matters a whole lot more.

It’s like visiting a friend’s home verses visiting a five-star restaurant. Both have elements of excellence and authenticity – but their focuses are different. When we pursue the business metaphor, we begin to pursue “cool.” We begin to cater to people’s consumeristic needs. We begin to present a vision of church that leads to misconceptions over what God’s all about. When the pursuit of excellence becomes our goal, other things quickly become secondary priorities. Focusing intensely on the “guest’s” experience makes it a show, and when people attend a show long enough, it becomes an event to consume. Should we think about outsiders during our meeting times? Absolutely. But how we focus should also indicate our values. Hospitality matters a lot. A concierge service matters less. Continue reading “What really matters in church”

Untested ideas

Sometimes I run into a challenge with blogging.

I care deeply about how we as a church and as individuals can spread God’s message and serve the world. I feel called to work within the local church – and it’s something I’m doing right now. But I also feel called to church planting. I’m not there yet, but I’m constantly wrestling with ideas of how it could be done, what’s effective, what isn’t. I want to blog about those things, but have two hesitations.

– I haven’t done it. They’re untested. Credibility comes from action, not ideas. It’s amazing how much ideas change once they jump into the realm of reality.

– It’s all speculative. God calls individuals to a people for a purpose based on who he’s made those individuals to be. In other words, many of the ideas I have – or the types of church I think best reach culture while staying most true to Kingdom values – could completely change once the context for them is set (and once the team of people serving together is set and seeking God’s direction together).

But, it’s a passion. It’s something I think about. It’s something I’m trying to live out. So I’ll write about it. When I do, feel free to call me naive. But even better yet, comment on it. Give your thoughts. I hope to always learn. And sometimes, the best way to learn is to put what you’re thinking into words. Learn to articulate it. Share it. And listen. That’s part of what I hope to do here.

So when these “untested ideas” come by, feel free to ignore them – or challenge them. I’d prefer the last option.

Say “no” to conferences

Conferences provide a lot of information with little context. Jordan Fowler has an excellent take on how to really learn over at Worship Trench:

There is a better way to learn that is customized to your context … watch-and-ask-over-dinner learning. If you go to a big conference, you are getting good stuff in a shotgun fashion which you may or may not be able to contextualize on your own. Instead, try this. When you have something to learn, find out who excels at it. Call them up and ask them their favorite NICE restaurant and ask them if there is a time you can buy them dinner and get a face to face with them to talk about how you do X or Y.

Conferences are still useful for networking and providing general info to get people started/fired up. But his way seems much more useful. Read the full post here.

Building momentum with balance (part one)

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A = Lots of work’s getting done, but you’re not connecting with others, so there’s no real progress.
B = You have dreams. You sit and talk about them. You share them with others. But no one’s moving toward them, so what’s the point?
C = You’re working hard, you’re sharing the work. You’re busy cutting down trees together, but they may be in the wrong forest.
D = You’re focused. You’re moving. And you’re not alone. You see health, progress, momentum, and transformation.

——

Just wanted to throw out an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head recently. Here’s how it works.

We all have three main functions in leadership. Each person prefers or leans towards certain parts, but we need all three pieces to be successful leaders.

We need the vision time to step back and see where we’re headed (and get ideas for what’s next). We need those action times to press through and just get stuff done. And probably most importantly, we need the relationships and connections with others that allow everything to be shaped by others’ wisdom and to spread beyond our own little sphere.

As an individual, if you do naturally lean in one direction, focus on it and do it well, but be sure to realize the value and importance of the others. I’m a vision/idea guy, but love relationships and am still learning to press through and get the stuff done.

I’ve found that when I focus all my time on one or two areas, productivity and momentum decreases. When I’m intentional about pressing forward in all three, ministry happens and things start rolling.

Do you find yourself spending more time in one area than others?

Starbucks challenges and church life

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I like chain stores.

I know that’s not really “cool.” But if I have a choice, a lot of times I’ll choose Target, On The Border, or Starbucks over the local, untested option. They’ve gotten big because they do what they do well. So small stores must not be doing something right … right?

Well, things may be changing. Take that last example – Starbucks. There’s been a lot of buzz recently about the memo their CEO Howard Schultz wrote about the changes the store has seen over the last few years because of expansion. He writes about how some of the stores’ uniqueness has been lost and what it will take to revive the Starbucks brand.

Last week, I walked into a store and saw what he was talking about. For the first time, I was noticeably underwhelmed with the “Starbucks experience.” The bathroom was dirty. There were boxes of supplies stacked along the wall. The store was crowded. There was a long line. The baristas didn’t care (or have time to care) about customer relationships so much as getting the product into the hands of the people. It felt like another fast food joint. Nothing special – no connection – it was just about a product.

A lot of smart people have written about what Starbucks should do next. If you’re interested, there are some great posts at the Idea Sandbox Blog and Brand Autopsy. There’s also a good ChangeThis pdf here.

It’s interesting stuff, but I guess my biggest thought from the whole thing is how it applies to church life. At a time when the church is saying “let’s expand our brand and get big,” some businesses are saying “we need to step back, see what makes us unique, and do it well.” Obviously, it’s not a direct comparison. I don’t know of any church with 13,000 locations. But maybe one consistent “brand” that looks exactly the same from city to city shouldn’t be the point.

Whether multi-site or this-is-our-one-and-only-site, a church should reflect, and be deeply embedded in, the community. Big or small, we cannot lose site of our core message in the midst of programming, buildings, and more programming. In everything we do, we must ask two things: How are the unconnected becoming connected (to God, to the community, to the world)? And how are the connected starting to live it out?

Why I … blog

I’m a practical person. Sometimes too practical. Things have to live up to the “so what?” measure.

What’s the point? Why are we doing it? What are we saying? Why?

So, why blog? Here are a few of my reasons. I’m honestly still learning.

  • to put thoughts into words – clarity
  • to connect with others who care about the same things
  • to learn
  • to share ideas

So why do you blog? Or, why don’t you blog? What do you enjoy reading in blogs? Ever want to ditch them and just go read a book?

20-somethings and church

One of my passions right now is 20-something ministry. The church I work at has some great things happening for a lot of age groups, but those people who are post-college but pre-kid seem to disappear. I don’t think they need another program to be a part of, but they (we) do need a place to live out God’s call on their lives in community.

So over the next week or two I’ll be blogging a few ideas I have for what that might look like. Maybe it’ll help me get a more concrete direction and a little feedback from you …