Wednesday, August 13, 2008


today we had an extended all staff meeting as many senior staff members presented a new leadership "certification" that the vineyard will be rolling out slowly over the next year. my post is not directly connected to that meeting (as i think the program will be very good for the vineyard overall), but it did bring up a question that i think about from time to time when churches roll out new initiatives.

since we are absorbed in church life as staff members... do we have a disconnect with real people and what they will do or what they expect out of their church. i have a firm belief that the church at large tends to over schedule their people and we have a tendency to make things overly complex and non-intuitive. some of our best ideas really benefit the church from an organizational standpoint rather than the lives of people.

even the purpose driven baseball diamond model looks great on paper... but if you don't have the administrative disciple to carry out each activity with excellence things fizzle out and frustration ensues. i think our main problem is that we over estimate how excited the average member is about our latest program or doodle on a napkin. and... the true believers that will do whatever we throw out there can be pretty scary people.

i believe the single thing we overlook is the "added value" factor. what will the participate benefit from completing our initiatives? how does it affect their everyday life? does it benefit the person or does it benefit the church?

for instance, church membership. does the person grow from the assimilation process and then benefit in the long term from participation? or, is it simply about the church having a database of people who have check marks beside their name? that's a waste of time. if however it provides a solid foundation for participation and accountability... i'm all for it.

sometimes the church at large acts like an employer that can require actions from their employees. but, we work with volunteers that can't be threaten with performance plans or termination of employment. this is why i think working at a church is one of the most challenging careers out there.

here's some observations that i have made in launching new models of leadership and discipleship (mostly from mistakes).

*** think 'value add'. why would someone want to participate in this program? is there a felt need that you can connect with? you must inspire them and connect to a core need that they are in tune with. punch-lists and merit badges don't work.

*** timelines for commitments. how long do you expect a person to participate in this class or process. for instance we require a school year commitment from our small group leaders and coaches. they are not going to do this forever... even if we don't set a timeline. in the church, if you volunteer to teach sunday school... it shouldn't be a life sentence.

*** start small. early success is promotion that money and hype can't get you. if your first group of people benefit from what you offer they will tell people. also, a smaller group allows you the chance to tweak things mid-process... stay agile.

*** ask yourself, "would i want to participate in this if i wasn't getting paid to do so?" if the answer is no, you've got problems.

*** make your processes visual. can people see your direction without having it explained to them? for instance, can you visually draw out your process and it be intuitive? the same can be said about what you name your programs. does it communicate a vital message without explanation?

*** (for student pastors only.) don't solicit feedback from students. this may be counterintuitive to what i have already said... but hear me out. for the most part, students think EVERYTHING sucks. they see faults that don't really exist. they are emotional. so, if you catch them on a good day you'll get a bunch of fluff. if they are having a bad day... look out. instead, get feedback from parents or adult leaders. students need to be led.

*** avoid the label "mandatory". sure we need standards... but, if something is required... it usually sucks. think about all the mandatory meetings you need to go to this month... do you really want to attend any of them? instead of using your energy to make sure everyone RSVPs, invest it in making your event or training great. then they won't miss.




ylmurph said...

I like what you're saying, and it was great working with you.

I think a lot of this stems from church culture. We went to this weekly meeting and started following Jesus. Maybe we went to church college and now we work for the we put on a weekly meeting, or event now. We hope people start following Jesus because it worked for us.

All of our attention and focus is on cranking out the event(s)

It's more about program than people. We end up trying to do bigger or better...or both. We lose the individual, because people are messy and it's a lot easier to put on a great show.

If your show is big enough, some of the people will get it...and you can point to their stories.

Life on life is always harder and messier...and seems to work better.

It's just harder and hasn't been modeled very well by the church. (at large)

Let me know where you end up working...

bshawise said...

i think you should ghost write a book with these thoughts for an author that people would listen to.

i'm thinking jeff foxworthy....