Part of my Story at Grace Church part 2

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If you haven’t yet read part 1, please do so, as the journey is important to the conclusions.

So last summer I had a phone call with Doug Parks. Actually, I should go back a little ways. I typically watch, read, listen to whatever I can get my hands on re:best practices— churches or ministries who are effective in God’s mission etc. I am always looking to learn, adapt and integrate. One webinar I watched was from the Leadership Network and on it the lead pastor mentioned a “dashboard” that they use to determine how they are doing as a church. This “dashboard” found a way to measure things that were previously unmeasurable (or so I thought) and was a tool that could be used by God to help us go forward. In fact churches who were using this had experienced major breakthroughs! I quickly shot an email to the presenter and asked about this. He said, “you really should talk to my executive pastor, Dave Smith as he’s the expert on that stuff.” So I connected with Dave and after a short conversation I was put in touch with Doug Parks. Doug is the cofounder of a ministry called “Intentional Churches”. They come alongside of churches and help them. I was skeptical, as believe it or not, there are a ton of people out there trying to sell you something or give you the latest “quick fix” to your church challenges”. (Remember, I was feeling like we needed a break through, as nothing seemed to be having the intended impact. However I wasn’t about to fall for some gimmick.) I was very skeptical throughout the few phone calls we had. There were however two things that caught my attention. One was their track record – they told me about specific churches who had seen double or triple the impact in just 3-4 years! (And they put me in touch with the pastors of those churches!) And secondly, they weren’t selling a product, there was no quick fix, no video program, no book to read. What they specialized in was a process. A process where our leaders, our pastors, our staff could gather in a room for 2-3 days and be lead through a discovery process. We (not some consultant) would discover what is holding us back, we would creatively dream about next steps and we would develop teams and initiatives to put in motion. Then after the “process” they would provide us with a coach who would travel with us for 12 months helping us along the way to follow through on what we said we’d do and navigating through the road blocks.

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Delegate or Develop?

As a church we are incredibly dependent on a ton of volunteers to make church life happen. So here’s the question: are volunteers being delegated to or developed? There’s a lot that goes into a question like that. Part of it flows from the philosophy of ministry involvement. Are we as church leaders wanting something from people or something for people? Do people serve in a church because they’re supposed to or because their called by God to exercise their gifts in the furtherance of God’s mission? I do believe we need paid staff members in churches, but I see our role more as “equippers” than “doers”. When we approach church life as “doers” than we try to find people to “do” for or with us. When we see our role as equippers, it’s about helping people discover their place in God’s work and giving them the tools to accomplish it. So, our philosophy here is that every Christian is called to be involved in the mission of God and we need to develop people to maximize what they have for God’s glory. We know that getting involved is a gift FOR you because you get to be a part of making an impact in the lives of others. Plus every time we use our gifts and serve it helps us grow spiritually, to trust God, to surrender to His purposes and to be a part of watching the Spirit work.

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5 Ways Communication Improves Just About Everything

 

In my work as a pastor, leader, counselor and even husband/dad I can confidently say that communication is often what separates best from good and even good from bad. As a people, we tend to assume what others think, mean and plan. And most of our assumptions are the worst, not the best. I’d like to offer 5 ways that your communication can improve just about everything.

1. Communicate what’s really going on. When I say communication improves things I mean communicating what is true and often below the surface. This requires that we must be in tune and self aware. I’ve found myself frustrated with a staff member or even with one of my kids and if I don’t pause and take the time to reflect on why I’m frustrated I will end up communicating something that is either not true or not helpful for a better future. Before communication can improve anything, I need to understand what is important to me, how I feel and what is important for the other person to know. In marriage counseling, I’ve worked with couples who never learned to be in tune with the “why” behind their own actions and thoughts and therefore are unable to communicate anything that would be truly helpful for their spouse to know. If they learned to reflect on why something bothered them, they’d be able to offer insights that could actually improve the interactions.

2. Communicate to cast vision. A clear vision for a church, an organization, a family, a relationship will motivate others and create direction. If we have no idea where we want to be, then we won’t know when we get there and we won’t know how to make good decisions. In my experience, people have vision but either have never really taken the time to write it down/ think it through or worse, have never communicated it. This leaves people to “figure it out” and often results in many different directions and ongoing frustration. A clear vision can be compelling and provide necessary fuel to push through challenging circumstances. A clear vision can unite very different people to work hard together.

3. Communicate to show care. While care and love can definitely be experienced through actions, words also communicate care. As I think back to my time as a younger leader it was a few people who said, “I believe in you” that made a world of difference both in my perseverance and in how I led. Unfortunately, I’ve met several church staff members who never knew where they stood with their direct supervisor/ pastor. How many marriages or families would be exponentially improved if members heard how the other person felt about them. It really can change an entire atmosphere just to hear the positive words of others.

4. Communicate the tough stuff. As a rule of thumb, most of us suffer from an extreme phobia of conflict. And if you enjoy conflict that’s a whole other issue. However, if we never wade into the waters of challenging conversations the best we can hope for is a surfacy and shallow relationship. I certainly don’t enjoy conflict and I dread confrontation, yet I know how much better things can be on the other side. I’ve made myself crazy, stressed out and incredibly awkward around others because I ran from sharing my heart and confronting a person in my life. While it’s really hard to do it the relationship holds the best promise for growth when we lovingly have the hard conversations. Obviously I’d highly recommend you go back to #1 before even considering this since you want to make sure you’re confronting with truth and not just with feelings and emotion.

5. Communicate intentionally.The last way we’ll mention to use communication to improve just about everything is to realize that it won’t just happen. We need to intentionally take the time, or I should say “make the time” to communicate. My wife and I added a regular practice of morning coffee before work at least 3-4 times a week. We started this a few years ago and it’s reaped incredible results for us. Having these few minutes most mornings to communicate about really anything has strengthened our relationship, lessened opportunities for bad assumptions and made us feel more connected. Don’t assume people know anything, take the time to communicate. Our weekly staff meetings at the church and our bi-monthly elder meetings as well as countless emails, texts, etc. have allowed our leadership teams to have greater unity and to be moving in the same direction. I know many folks don’t enjoy meetings, thinking that they take time away from the tasks, but we’re finding that our meetings make our tasks even more fruitful and there is less being done that doesn’t move the ball downfield toward the accomplishment of the vision. In other words, good communication promotes the vision to become realized faster and stronger than ever before.

While we communicate all the time, I’ve found that few of us really stop to think about what we’re communicating, how we’re communicating and what communication could really accomplish. I hope these 5 thoughts will help us all communicate with greater effectiveness.

Doer or Leader?

  
I have been thinking a lot lately about leadership and how people work. And while I believe there are definitely skills that can be taught/learned – I am beginning to believe in the idea that most people seem to be inclined in a certain direction. And to be honest, you need both (leaders and doers), so I’m not about to make a case that leaders are better than doers etc. I would like to encourage you to consider your own personal leanings and your reasons for those leanings.

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Guest Post: TJ Addington-Humility

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One of the great privileges I’m having here on my sabbatical is to do a lot of reading, articles, blogs, books, Bible etc etc And as a leader I am grateful to be influenced by my friend TJ Addington. He’s written a great blog on the topic of humility. I think this topic is one of the biggest differences I’ve noticed with people. I’ve ought referred to it as “teachability” but humility definitely expands the concept in a great way. Take a second and read through this blog post from his blog (Leading From the Sandbox: http://www.leadingfromthesandbox.blogspot.com ) and then reflect on your own life and your humility. See if this is an area you could grow in…

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What do you measure? (church edition)

To be clear, Jesus is about our hearts (as the last blog post highlights) – and yet there are very real ways to set goals and create movement FROM A HEART that is set apart to God.

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For many years churches have focused on two key measurements: “nickels and noses”. I know it sounds a little irreverent, but when churches would be evaluated for their effectiveness, the focus was how generous (money-wise) is the church and how many people (noses) are coming. While I do believe if people are prioritizing the things of God with their finances, it’s typically a good sign of spiritual growth and commitment. And obviously if people are coming to regularly engage with a community of faith by showing up – that is a good sign as well. Yet I think these measurements fall short of determining the spiritual health of a church.

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Potential vs Product

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Having served as a pastor for the last 20+ years I’ve realized that more than anything else, church is about people. Yes there is theology, organization, worship, etc etc – but this is really a “people” endeavor. While I am no expert (far from it) on people, I have noticed two different approaches that can be taken when it comes to people. You can look for a “product” or look for “potential”.

I have seen too many really good people be written off because someone was expecting a “product”. They make comments like, “he is so annoying, she is so high maintenance, he is so set in his ways, she is so inconsiderate” etc etc. Those things may be true about that person in that moment in time, and to be fair there are some who don’t desire to grow, change or mature. However, I’ve found in more cases than not that it’s either a case of poor self awareness (meaning they DON’T KNOW they’re annoying, high-maintenance etc) or a case of not knowing how to grow. Both of these issues can be addressed and people can be helped.

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Behind the Scenes: Leadership in a Organism or Organization?

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This blog continues our series where we take you behind the scenes in church life to discuss the why and how of it all. In part 1 I reviewed my process of sermon prep ( http://jasonstonehouse.com/?p=1682 ) in this post we’ll talk a little about leadership in a church with many diverse people and ministries.

Here’s the thing: most people think of church, as well, “church” — and while there is lots of biblical backing for church as a body, an organism — it is also very much an organization as well. And so there is this unique balance between honoring the family/ organism aspects of the church and the structural/ organization aspects as well. I’ve seen churches that refused to look at the organization aspect and seriously hindered their growth, bumped up against multiple leadership “lids” and naively ignored human resources, direction, and organization of any kind. I’ve also seen churches that operated as a business with little heart, little relationship and leaned too heavily on strategy and structure and very little on the Holy Spirit and people of faith. So this is really a tension to be managed not a problem to be solved. A church needs Spirit-led, relationally intelligent and organizationally insightful leadership. In too many churches leadership is granted to someone gifted as a communicator regardless of his giftedness in leadership or organization. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe every lead pastor needs to have leadership gifts, but if he doesn’t, he needs to know that about himself and be willing to do what he does best and bring others to do what he is not gifted to do (and empower them to do it). But I digress… My main point in this paragraph is to ground us with an understanding that church is BOTH an organism and organization and we do serious harm to the church if we refuse to embrace this tension or try to “solve it” by going to one side or the other.

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Good Advice for “Go-Getters”

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I am a person who likes to keep moving. As a leader I am continually focused on the next challenge, the next hill, the next opportunity. I love to jump into a situation, discover some compelling solutions, stick with it long enough to see real movement and a new trajectory set in place and then move forward from there. It’s fun to keep moving, however, there are some downsides and I want to share with you two practices that I’ve far from mastered, but have been extremely helpful. Are you a person who is continually in motion? Do you find yourself looking at the next thing after accomplishing something? If so, these two practices are going to be “gold” for you…

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Leadership is more than a job

I am around the topic of leadership a lot. I read a lot about it, both receive and provide coaching around it and would probably say it’s the thing God has wired me up with the most. And yet I realize that because of all that exposure to it, I may underestimate or take for granted how critical it is everywhere. I was preaching in the final week of our “Family Drama” series last weekend on the topic of parenting. And as I thought about some of the points like, “be more proactive, less reactive” or “be more strategic, less annoying” etc etc that those are indeed leadership principles. So it all comes full circle: being a parent IS being a leader.

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