Life change, anyone?

Unclutterer.com posted an interview with Peter Walsh, host of TLC’s Clean Sweep that talks about his new book and his mission to help people keep “stuff” from controlling their lives.

This doesn’t just apply to clutter…

Unclutterer: What steps do you take to insure that your clients won’t revert to their old clutter-hoarding ways after you’ve worked with them? Any tips to help people stay on track?

Peter Walsh: As odd as it sounds, I don’t focus on the clutter when I help families declutter. The stuff is a distraction to potential success. The first step in addressing clutter in a home is to help the family define the vision they have for the life they want – what do they want their lives, their home, their rooms and living spaces to look like, to feel like and to function. This is the starting point in the process. If you work from this point, the chances of permanent change are significant and almost guaranteed. It’s not about the stuff; it’s about what you want from your life and how you will make that dream a reality. Long-lasting change is possible – I see it every day. That said, the single most important maintenance tip is to respect the limits that your physical space places on you and, once those limits are reached, you must remove an item from your home before you can add a similar item – one in, one out. It’s simple and it works.

Monday Morning Links: Christianity on CNN and Leadership

Just a few things that caught my eye this morning…

> Ed Stetzer was interviewed on CNN recently about some of the research he’s done on unchurched folks’ opinions about Christians. Here’s a clip.

> John Moore of Brand Autopsy posts a great quote from Tom Peters on how leaders are rarely the best performers. It’s encouraging, because I find myself in the place often where I’m more passionate and gifted at helping other people find their fit and succeed in a role than I would be at doing that role myself. I care more about the equipping, vision, and people side of it. Sure, we need to be competent and ready to do that same work, but leadership is a different gift that is worth focusing on…

Linkage: What worked and what didn’t

I love learning from what others are doing. Here’s a list from Chris Elrod about what worked and didn’t at Compass Point in 2007…

I’m beginning to realize just how different Compass Point is from other churches around Lakeland and the United States. What works everywhere else usually bombs here. 2007 was Compass Point’s third year as a church plant and we did a lot of experimenting…and discovering. When we started the year we were still trying to flesh out who we were…by the time the year ended we knew. The following is a short list of things that didn’t work for us in 2007. It is not to say it wouldn’t work in other churches…it just bombed for Compass Point.

Finding leaders who are “one of us”

Most groups think in some way about building up leaders, but another important area to consider is leadership transitions.

A lot of times, when a leader decides to move on, someone else is pulled from the outside to take up the mantle of leadership and move forward. If it’s done well, this can be a terrific jolt to the group that can bring new life, vitality, and direction. But it has to be done well. Many times, especially in smaller groups, it’s more of a drop and swap rather than a positive transition.

I’m thinking of Bible study groups where one leader has shaped the culture and feel of the group for years. When that person leaves, if a new person comes in from the outside, their leadership style is going to be different. That’s fine, but the culture and feel of the group changes dramatically. No one may even notice that all of the old members slowly drift away as new people come in.

That may not be a bad thing. Maybe the new leader needs to make it their own. But I’m guessing that if a new leader was able to spend a month or so just participating in the group without leading and imposing his or her own style, they’d get a better feel for the existing culture and be able to integrate the healthy parts of that culture in with their new vision and ideas for the future.

If you’re facing a leadership transition, how can you raise up leaders from within or help a new leader make the transition? Change is inevitable and usually good, but it’s always important to understand the culture and respect the past as we move toward the future…

Overcommunicate vision

We’re launching a new small group study at Glenkirk, and one thing I know but I’m actually learning through practice is that you have to communicate vision every chance you get. It’s something I want to get better at. It’s an area I’m growing in.

Without fail, every time I feel like I’m repeating myself and sharing the same details of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, someone will walk into the office to ask the same questions I thought everyone already knew. It’s not their fault really – we live in a noisy world. I’m afraid of boring people with the same message, but I’ve got to remember that vision and direction are things leaders think about all the time. The people who take part in the programs/events/activities aren’t giving them the same mental space. They need more time and instruction before new info can be absorbed and “owned.”

Robert Scoble talked about some of the same concepts in his year in review post. Part of vision “sticking” is how it fits in the larger narrative. What’s the story? Why are we doing this?

He writes:

If your company doesn’t have a story to tell watch out. Keys I’ve learned? Every employee better be able to tell the story. The story better be reflected in the pitch the CEO does. Mike Arrington better understand the story if you want him to help you out (and Mike is just a metaphor here for any journalist or blogger). Your VCs better understand the story. The story better not change. For instance, the story behind Channel 9 at Microsoft hasn’t changed in four years. It was a community and an openess project that helps people get over their fears of Microsoft just like how Lenn Pryor was scared of flying (a pilot told him to turn on channel 9 on United Airlines). Does your business have a simple, compelling, story? My next thing will.

 Consistent communication over the long haul. That’s one of my goals for 2008.

Multiplication is messy. That’s ok. (part 3)

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We’ve talked about the challenge of multiplication and how sending seems more natural. What if, in addition to groups sending others to start new groups, those connected groups formed a network, or a hub, that got together periodically? It could be for a time of worship, for a party, or for service. Our group meets on Sunday nights. What if the fourth Sunday of every month, our hub got together at a restaurant or at the church?

In The Search to Belong, (more info here, his site here), Joseph Myers talks about four “spaces” where we find belonging: public, social, personal, and intimate. The public sphere can be compared to the belonging one feels at a sporting game among people he or she has never met yet shares an affinity with.

Social belonging occurs when one shares the “small talk” in relationships. This belonging includes that wide realm of people you may know, but don’t know well. You have not been in their home, and that is all right. You would still consider yourselves friends. Personal relationships are with those you’d consider your friends. You do things together. You have been to each other’s houses. You’re close.

Finally, that intimate sphere consists of those few people who know you well – really well. These are the people who know the dirt in your life and love you anyway. They have seen your “naked” self. Myers’ point is that the church has often emphasized the big group and the small group, but has ignored the many types of valid ways people connect with others.

I believe small groups best fit in that “personal” category. They’re your friends. Sometimes it goes to intimate, but most of the time, intimate happens in a one-on-one relationship, not a one-on-ten. Hubs allow a natural place for those “social” connections to happen, while allowing groups that have “sent” others to maintain “personal” connections with friends they may not see otherwise (maybe they’ll even invite them over!).

These are just ideas we’re thinking through. We want to keep things simple. Having hubs adds another level of complexity to the system, which can be dangerous. But it also provides a safe way to maintain relationships. Ideally, relationships are naturally spilling out beyond the meetings, but this mid-level gathering provides a place for those connections to happen. It also gives us leaders a place to invite a few new folks who might fit with a few of the groups. They can hang out at a hub meeting, see if they connect with some people, and then join one of the small groups the next week.

A huge advantage of hubs within a larger church system is that they can look different for different groups of small groups. One hub might choose to have a time of worship – especially if there’s someone in one of their groups who’s gifted at leading worship. Another might feel that’s a good time for some teaching. Some may just want a social time, while others may want to adopt a regular service project. Hubs can be a regular time for a wider swath of people to connect in a laid-back environment.

So that’s where we’re headed. Any thoughts?

Multiplication is messy. That’s ok. (part 2)

So it’s time for our group to multiply. But multiplication is messy and hasn’t really worked in our context. What do we do?

Well, last week I introduced the idea to the group. We talked about how we value being open and open – to new people and with each other. I explained how multiplication doesn’t really make sense. If a small group is a group of friends who get together regularly to intentionally talk about their faith and serve together, it doesn’t make sense to just rip the group apart because we reach some artificial number.

But eventually something has to happen, because we can’t continue to be open and open – a group of 26 or so just isn’t the same as a group of 10.

So we decided to pray about it as a group. God’s in control here, and I believe he’ll bring a solution. We talked about a new model we’re playing with. Instead of multiplication, we’re talking about sending. What if a few couples or some couples and singles felt led to start a new group from our group? Just like a few people may go from a church to plant another church, a group could send a few people to start a new group. We can love and support them as they start something new. We can keep in touch. If something doesn’t work out, they still have a “home” to come back to.

This method seems like it would work better. You don’t completely change the culture of the existing group, and instead of loss, you see gain. You can tangibly see what’s come from your group.

But wait! There’s more. What if there was a natural way to keep connections across groups? We’ll talk about that next.

Multiplication is messy. That’s ok.

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There is no perfect small group system. I wish there was, but there’s no one formula that will work for every church, meet everyone’s needs, and grow an active, healthy, outward-focused ministry.

That little confession leads us to today’s discussion. I’ve read lots of books on small groups, but I haven’t found “the” way to do them. Our church has more than 600 people in groups, but we’re still learning how groups “work best.”

One challenge for us is that many of the small groups are closed. A lot have good reasons – they’re more “support” groups than our typical small groups, they’re too big already and just don’t have more room for new people, etc. But there’s a challenge there. Personally, how do we continue to grow if we aren’t being stretched to welcome new people in? Organizationally, how do we grow the ministry if there is no room in existing groups? Obviously, one way is to start new groups, but I’ve found it takes a special person to start a group from scratch. There are a lot more people able to lead a group that already exists – one that has a culture, a momentum, and most importantly, members!

Healthy small groups have two important values – they’re open to each other and they’re open to others. Funny thing is, those values have to be held in tension. The group I’m a part of on Sunday nights is an amazing group. In the year we’ve been meeting, we’ve grown from one person showing up on a Sunday night to 16 people. The openness to new people has continually brought new life and perspective into the group. But I’ve also noticed that the bigger we get, the less some people share. Being open and growing hurts the other openness – of the individuals.

That means it’s time to multiply, right? Well, here’s the deal. That hasn’t ever really worked here. I don’t know of many places where this “multiplication” thing does work well. You spend time investing in people and becoming friends, and then you’re expected to split in half and never see each other again? That’s not how relationships work, and it seems counter-intuitive. Why would I want to invite new people if it just means it’ll mess up our group?

Many of those groups I mentioned above that are closed are open to inviting new people, they just don’t have room, and they haven’t been shown a good way to multiply. So how does your church handle small groups and multiplication? Do they do anything? I’ll tell you what we’re trying soon…

Leaders make decisions

It’s time for a little leadership “blast from the past.” Here’s a great post from Scott Hodge’s old blog:

“Peter Drucker has some great things to say about a leader’s decision making and getting things done. He points out that it’s not as much about charisma as we tend to think it is. (Good to Great anyone?)

Eight practices that effective leaders followed:

  • They asked, ‘What needs to be done?’
  • They asked, ‘What is right for the enterprise?’
  • They developed action plans.
  • They took responsibility for decisions.
  • They took responsibility for communicating.
  • They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
  • They ran productive meetings.
  • They thought and said ‘we’ rather than ‘I.’

He also says that a decision has not really been made until everyone is clear on the following:

  • the name of the person accountable for carrying it out;
  • the deadline;
  • the names of the people who will be affected by the decision and therefore have to know about, understand, and approve it—or at least not be strongly opposed to it—and
  • the names of the people who have to be informed of the decision, even if they are not directly affected by it.”

Leadership hinges on discipleship

We all have different giftings and passions. Even in the same field, one person may have a different emphasis than another. When I was in journalism, I worked with writers who focused on sports, features, and “hard news.”

It’s time to see pastors in the same light. There’s not one proper style for church leadership. Most pastors see themselves in a traditional “shepherding” role, but God calls different people to different places at different times. That’s why I love how Alan Hirsch talks about APEPT leadership. People are each gifted with different pieces of the Ephesians 4 model.

I’m more of an “Apostolic” type of guy. I get fired up seeing the church mobilized to serve and reach out to the world around them. I really do believe that if we try to start with ministry, we’ll never get to mission. But if we start with mission, ministry will happen along the way.

So when a guy like Bob Roberts writes something like this, I just have to post it.

If churches, denominations, networks, etc. put as much energy and resources into making disciples as they did organizing events, institutions, etc., I’m convinced it would speed up engagement dramatically. I hate the terminology using “platforms” to engage society. You don’t have to. Make disciples, help them understand their primary ministry is their vocation and that it should be lived out as a disciple and you’ll see God work and move. This is the only way the Gospel can, and will ever, be viral. I heard an incredible preacher last night at a gathering and he said, “too many churches have become like prisons. We’ve built prisons and the pastor is the warden. We should be in the business of releasing–not holding on.”

Preach it, Bob!

Here’s Alan’s take on a similar subject:

If this is not already obvious by now let me say it more explicitly: the quality of the church’s leadership is directly proportional to the quality of discipleship. If we fail in the area of making disciples we should not be surprised if we fail in the area of leadership development. I think many of the problems that the church faces in trying to cultivate missional leadership for the challenges of the 21st century would be resolved if we were to focus the solution to the problem on something prior to leadership development per se, namely that of discipleship first. Discipleship is primary, leadership is always secondary. And leadership, to be genuinely Christian, must always reflect Christlikeness and therefore…discipleship.

Study finds that most young non-Christians don’t like Christianity

LA Times: Christianity’s image taking a turn for the worse

Christianity’s image in the United States is declining, especially among young people, according to a new study.

A decade ago, an overwhelming majority of non-Christians, including people between the ages 16 and 29, were “favorably” disposed toward Christianity’s role in society. But today, just 16% of non-Christians in that age group had a “good impression” of the religion, according to research by the Barna Group, a Ventura firm that has tracked trends related to values, beliefs and attitudes since 1984.

Evangelicals come under the severest attack, with just 3% of the 16- to 29-year-old non-Christians indicating favorable views toward this subgroup of believers.

… Among the most common perceptions held by young non-Christians about American Christianity were that it is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%) and too involved in politics (75%).

Read the whole article here. Most of the info is from the new book, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity … and Why it Matters.

There’s a lot that could be said here, but what do you think? What does this mean for Christians today? For churches?

Begin with the end in mind – just don’t start there.

Most leaders who are passionate about what they do spend most of their time thinking about the future.

Where are we headed?

Where is God leading us?

What are our challenges?

What needs to change?

But while most people involved in those projects may care about them – even deeply – they just aren’t thinking as deeply about the same subjects. So when it’s time to plan, or set vision, the leader may be two, three, or 82 steps ahead of where the group is in that thought journey.

That’s not bad, but it becomes a problem if the leader starts where he or she is at that moment, the thoughts just won’t connect. The group is in a different place.

When leading, it’s important to take people on a journey. This usually means starting at a place that seems incredibly basic. Instead of standing miles ahead and yelling at them to catch up, we need to go back, tell stories of what’s ahead, and walk with them.

Another lesson from that coffee shop

I normally don’t write the “how church can get better by adopting business practices” posts. A lot of people are already doing that. Plus, I don’t believe it’s always a one-to-one comparison. There are different forces at work in church life (more community focused, outward oriented, God-driven) that don’t always neatly mesh with the consumerist-based end game of most business plans. And that’s fine!

But we can all learn from stories where people rise to the occasion and do what’s best for others. What makes this one even better is that the values were already instilled within the culture.

At Brand Autopsy, John Moore tells the backstory of a Starbucks manager featured in the new book, How Starbucks Saved My Life. He writes:

Tiffany helped to restore Michael’s belief system by being welcoming, considerate, and genuine. It just so happens those people qualities of being welcoming, considerate, and genuine are life skills Starbucks looks for in store-level employees, especially store managers.

On one end, that’s the type of thing churches are all about. At least, we talk about it a lot. But to what extent are those qualities valued in interaction between staff members? Between people within the church?

It’s easy to get bogged down or filled up with programs. It’s good to be busy – if it means actively helping and serving people outside the church. But often we’re so busy with busyness that the basic human values get thrown out the window.

So how are you going to value being welcoming, considerate, and genuine today?