Thursday, October 28, 2010

What No One Told Me

Team D (that's Josh, Maegan, Will, and me) are working on a little project: What No One Ever Told Me About Leading a Small Group. We are in "training mode" of Operation Kaboom, where we are trying to think about training modules that need to be developed, and we are trying to think specifically about important lessons that no one ever thought to mention when training us.

Will has already posted a list of 50. Some of his actually stretch into other areas of leadership beyond small groups.

Here is my list. I obviously have more to learn:
  1. People might not show up on the first Thursday of group meeting. Or for two months of Thursdays of group meetings.
  2. Community is messy.
  3. Everyone is not as excited about group as I am.
  4. Groups don’t like to multiply. They resist it. They avoid it like the plague.
  5. There will be nights when the last thing I want to do is go to my small group.
  6. Everyone’s normal till you get to know them. I stole that from John Ortberg. And it makes me think of a group I once led in Nashville.
  7. The most meaningful conversations are not found in the workbooks.
  8. The primary role of the small group leader is to spark the right questions and not give the right answers.
  9. Change doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve got to be committed for the long haul.
  10. Jesus said go make disciples, not find them. That means we can’t just look for a potential leader; we have to make them.
  11. Small group leadership begins with leading yourself well.
  12. The bigger your level of influence, the bigger the target on your butt.
I'll be blogging about some of these over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When the Mess is Of Your Own Creation

I've been talking for a while now on the topic Community is Messy. Usually, I share examples from the vantage point of a third-party observer of a mess, a consultant in the navigation of a mess, or the victim of a mess. But what do you do when you-- the leader-- are the originator, creator, and mastermind of the mess?

I found myself in that very situation last week.

Short story-- we included a humorous bit (well, we thought it was funny) in a leadership summit last weekend that offended some folks. Including some folks on our staff team. The details of the scenario are really not important, but I thought I would share a bit on how I handled it. Or at least on how I wish I had handled it. Okay, let's just say these are some lessons I am learning about how better to lead and serve in the midst of a mess of my own creation.

1. Affirm the relationships. Relationships are more important than anything else. More important that vision, more important than strategies, more important than being right. If you've got a leader with a complaint-- no matter how valid you think it is or isn't-- make sure to validate and affirm the relationship.

2. Seek counsel. I spent close to 48 hours doing little more than seeking counsel. As a high "thinker" on the Meyers- Briggs personality profile, I actively sought out feelers and others who could help me sort through the logic and the emotions surrounding the mess.

3. Recognize your blind spots. Will Johnston summed up what both he and I felt at one point, "Enough people that I respect are offended that I am pretty sure I am wrong...I just don't know why." Listen to the people around you. It's quite possible you have a blind spot. Let me re-state that, it's absolutely probable you have a blind spot.

4. Be honest. Be humble. I felt like it was important for me to be very honest with my reaction-- I didn't just roll over and wave the white flag of surrender. I stood my ground. But I also tried very hard to be humble-- to say, "this is what I think; help me understand a different perspective."

5. Own it. Somehow, I was immune to the initial criticism. It was all leveraged against my teammates because they were the implementers and the ones on the platform. But the reality was that they were simply executing my vision. I had to own it. And even if it was all my team's fault, I'm still the leader. I've got to own it. Own your own mess.

6. Keep a good sense of humor. I tried to acknowledge from the very beginning that "one day we will laugh about this." And we were laughing about it before the day was over. Not in a flippant or arrogant or dismissive kind of way-- in a self-depricating, we are not going to take ourselves too seriously kind of way.

7. Look for the growth goals and the leadership lessons. One of my biggest goals throughout the process was to find the personal growth goals and the leadership lessons available. Whether it was how to communicate better with our team, how to better discern appropriate content, how to anticipate reactions, how to be sensitive to differences of opinion, etc. Whenever you are in the midst of a mess, ask yourself, "How do we all grow from this?" and "How does God want to get glory from this?"

8. Take care of your team. My primary focus on the first few days of processing was to make sure that my Team D was okay. Some of them are relatively new to leadership and to ministry, and I wanted to affirm them. I asked lots of questions that day about their feelings, their thoughts, their opinions, and their ideas on next steps.

9. Strive for good conversation, not final resolution. At the end of the day, I'm not sure any of us found a perfect point of resolution. This may be one of those areas that we won't find a place of perfect agreement on for a number of years. Maybe I need to mature a good bit before I see every dimension of my error. Or perhaps this is just one of those things where good people who love Jesus will have to agree to disagree. What we must do is preserve an environment of open, honest communication. And as leaders, we must embrace the idea that the tension is good and resolution is not necessarily the end goal.

10. Keep failing. That might be the wrong way to say it. Because failing should never be the goal. But experimenting, trying new things, pushing the envelope, and innovating should be the goals. And that means messes. New discoveries are never made without failures. I think it's healthy for us to realize that we will continue to make messes. The goal is not to keep a clean lab. But to ensure that any messes we make are cleaned appropriately and that progress is made as a result. If we are going to be the kind of leaders that make change happen, then we can be confident that we will make some colossal messes along the way.

I'm sure there is much more I could say...stay tuned for the next mess of my own creation. I'm sure it's not too far in the future.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Loudspeakers, Telephones, and What We Learn From the Soviets

Just got through reading The Starfish and the Spider. Highly recommend it! Especially for us church leader people. I think it's a great framework for understanding non-linear discipleship and free market small group models.

Anyway-- one of the statements that impacted me the most was found on the very last pages. It's actually a quote from Paul Starr in The Creation of the Media:
After taking power in 1917, the new Soviet rulers could have invested in telephone networks, as other nations were doing at the time, but chose instead to emphasize another emerging communication technology-- loudspeakers.

The leaders of the Soviet Union failed to recognize that the catalysts for economic growth had shifted from communication between government and the masses to communication between individuals.

Today, communication technologies have developed even further. I have never once used a traditional telephone to communicate with the teenagers in my world. I use text, Twitter, and Facebook.

Meanwhile, I find that I still tend to use loudspeaker vehicles for communication in my role at the church-- mass emails loaded with information, platform presentations, and top-down instruction.

What are we using, metaphorically speaking? Loudspeakers? Telephones? Or something new? Do we trust the message and the vision in the hands of our leaders? Or do we hold it close and mass communicate it from a megaphone? Emerging generations want to be involved in the conversation and the crafting of the message and vision. I haven't figured out exactly what that means in terms of implementation and execution, but something must change.


I'm getting excited about the upcoming Unplugged event at National Community Church on November 13 and 14 Registration is free.

Unplugged is a relaxed no-frills, weekend that will provide an opportunity for church planters and leadership teams to get an in-depth, behind the scenes look at National Community Church. Attendance will be limited, but the Q & A time won't.

This is your opportunity to hear the inside scoop on how we do what we do. Like launch new locations; disciple and create community in a multi-site and theater church setting; provide ministry for kids and families in mobile environments; cultivate a missional community through local and overseas outreach; and much, much more. You will also have the opportunity to visit one of our NCC's six locations and meet with campus pastors and ministry volunteers. And I'll be talking about discipleship and group life.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lost and Learning

On Saturday, October 9, I arrived in St. Lucia to officiate a wedding for some great NCCers. On Tuesday, October 12, I arrived at the St. Lucia airport to leave Paradise and return to real life in Washington, DC. Granted, it was real life that I am very excited about-- a recon field trip for leadership retreat, some planning meetings with Team D for the upcoming leadership summit, a webinar with small group pastors around the country to encourage them to stay strong when community gets messy, preparation for a small group leader conference-- the stuff I love to do. It is now two days later, and I'm still stuck at the St. Lucia airport.

It's kinda like being one of the survivors of Oceanic 815. On a beautiful island, sometimes loving it, starting to hate it, becoming good friends with your fellow passengers, realizing there is a very real chance that paradise just might be purgatory in disguise, and most significantly, learning more about yourself than you really wanted to know.

Now, before I get all of the sarcastic comments about how terrible it must be to be stuck 3 extra days in St. Lucia, please allow me just a moment of bellyaching to paint the most accurate picture. We are not on a beach. Or at a pool. Or on a golf course. We have been lied to by the airline. Been rebooked, entered security, gone through customs, watched our bags be packed and unpacked by security, and sat for hours upon hours more times than we can count. We sat on an airplane for four hours yesterday and have been out of the bed before 4am for the past two days. St. Lucia Airport does not equal the experience of the rest of the island. I won't mention the problems with credit card freezes, the inability to make international calls, or the day I was asked if I was the groom's mother.

I'm lost on the island, but I'm learning:
  • Nothing reveals the quantity and quality...or lack thereof...of the Fruit of the Spirit in my life more than airline travails.
  • Perspective is everything. If we have to be stuck for three days, the opportunity to get in a swim on an island beach (on the day we actually got to the hotel on time) makes the rest of the day much better.
  • This is an opportunity to ask how God might want to use me to encourage another, to surprise someone with undeserved kindness, to show his love in some practical way.
  • The things that sometimes seem so "urgent" in my world still rest securely in the sovereignty of God-- and he never seems to be in freak out mode.
  • My team at NCC-- Team D-- Will, Maegan, and Josh-- are rock stars. And when I'm out of their hair, they get great work done.
and maybe just one more...
  • Next time I want to experience the Caribbean, I'm going to DisneyWorld, It's the happiest place on earth. And their version still has pirates.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Let God Be Unique With You

At the last Protege Huddle of the 2009-2010 class, I shared some final thoughts on leadership. I encouraged them to let God be as unique with them as he is with others.

Oswald Chambers said that we should let God be as unique with others as he was with us. In other words, we shouldn’t expect other peoples’ stories to be the same as ours. We shouldn’t try to disciple people to be like us or expect God to work in their lives or speak to them in the same way he speaks to us.

But I think the opposite is also true. We’ve got to allow God to be as unique with us as he is with others. Don’t try to be someone else. Don’t try to preach with someone else’s voice. Don’t try to copy someone else’s leadership style. God is not honored by you trying to be someone else. Your story will be different. Your style will be different. It is your voice that needs to be heard in this season by the people you influence.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Teach What You Know

At the last Protege Huddle of the 2009-2010 class, I shared some final thoughts on leadership. I encouraged them to always pass something on to others.

In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul instructed Timothy, "You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others."

Those of us who follow Christ today do so because the Church in the 1st century dared to do just that. To pass the faith on from generation to generation to generation.

Discipleship is not some difficult process that only highly trained people can do. Nor is it a sterile flowchart of linear instruction. Discipleship happens when one person passes on what they know to someone else. No matter where you are in your spiritual growth, you've learned something or experienced something that might help someone else. Always look for someone you can invest in. If you are praying for someone to mentor you, look for someone you can mentor.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Right Motivation

At the last Protege Huddle of the 2009-2010 class, I shared some final thoughts on leadership. One of the things I talked about was our motivation for ministry.

There are a lot of reasons we step into ministry leadership. For some of us, it is a genuine love for people and desire to see them grow. For others, it is an opportunity to invest their gifts. Some see a need and want to fill it. There are a few that simply cannot not lead. But at the end of the day, there is only one viable and valid reason for doing what we do--

To see God’s named honored and glorified in our generation.

Our love for people will fade every now and then. There will come a situation when we question our giftedness and a day when our passion will wane. The cost/benefits of meeting the need we see will not add up. We must do it for God and God alone.

In Ezekiel 44, we read about God's anger with the Levitical priests. Because they gave energy to lesser pursuits and worshiped lesser gods, God banned them from the most Holy Place. While they were allowed to continue ministering to the people, they were no longer allowed to minister directly to God. They continued to carry out their duties without experiencing the presence of God. Except for the priests from the line of Zadok. Because God remained their priority, they were allowed to continue ministering to the people while still enjoying the presence of God.

This passage challenges me. I never want to be in a situation where I am ministering to people but not experiencing the presence of God. And it begins by keeping God as our primary focus, priority, goal, and motivation.

What is your motivation for ministry? Make sure you are leading for the right reasons.