leadership pipeline

The Jolt That Jump Started the Momentum

Have you ever had one of those days where you dream about the future?

Maybe you had one of those moments talking with a trusted friend where the conversations turns to what could be and your heart starts to beat a little faster. You mind races as you bounce back and forth imagining what life would be like if we could just ______________. 


Unfortunately, as I’ve talked with pastors and church leaders, I’ve noticed one huge, discouraging problem! 


This problem plagues both organizations and individuals. 

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If you’re like me, the decade markers of our lives tend to be the moments when we evaluate our progress to date. Some people have panic attacks, others have a mid-life crisis. I landed somewhere in between. I was having a fair amount of success in my job (not in the church) but wasn’t having the kind of impact I had always imagined my life would have. I was working hard, enjoying my life but I wasn’t making any progress towards anything that remotely resembled my “life’s work”. My own life was plagued with the same, huge, discouraging problem. 


So, what was the huge problem I saw?


The problem can actually be separated into two equally important parts.


1. No clear, actionable plan to move toward the dream. 

More often then not, the dream of the future is much clearer than the steps to get there. That’s probably because dreaming is the easier part. Working out an actionable plan means working through a truckload of variables. It requires the ability to uncover what’s most important and which steps require priority. It requires a clear understanding of the current situation, as well as, what’s happened in the past. 

It commonly requires some type of change management, which undoubtedly requires conviction and focused energy. 

Teams need more than emotional enthusiasm; they need solid planning and strategy that empowers and executes the vision.
— Tony Morgan

That potential for conflict can stop any sort of actionable plan dead in its tracks. 

An aggressive actionable plan requires an appropriate amount of tolerance for risk and ambiguity, matched with the right timing, level of details, understood variables and defined tasks. None of which all come naturally to one person and therefore require some level of healthy conflict. 


2. No jolt, to break you from your current reality.

A jolt is most often the required ingredient for teams to overcome the fear of conflict.  That event that can serve as a catalyst to open the planning process and present the need for immediate action. 

Better yet, an external guide to help the process can help the team move beyond personalities. An outsider, who doesn’t, as they say, have a horse in the game can provide an unbiased focal point for your discussion and planning.  

A couple of years back, our church hit a turning point by going through this exact type of process. We hired an outside organization to walk us through a process that would point us toward a much clearer path moving forward. Starting with a two-day offsite (a jolt) we spent the following year moving through a clear actionable plan. Not only did we have a map to follow, we now had a taste for clarity and focus.  


Why I became StratOp certified.


That experience is precisely why I became StratOp certified. It has always been a passion and a calling of mine to help those I care about find clarity and purpose in what they do. The StratOp process provided the clarity and longevity to accelerate that impact. It’s why I now offer a Lead Forward process based on the Strategic Operating plan pioneered by the Paterson Center over the last 30 years. 


Leading forward to the dream and vision you have for your church’s future means is what you were meant to do. Don’t stay still and grow stale, jump forward and lead your church to the next level. 

When Pastor vs Manager Collide

Ever met a pastor that just saw people as pawns?

It’s an easy trap to get sucked into. 

We have a vision for the future, and board or a boss watching us. We want to deliver, but delivery takes manpower. Volunteer manpower. 

So, we get sucked into viewing everyone we meet as someone who can help us meet our goal. Eventually, we burn people out and everyone feels like they are just being used. 
There is a solution though and it’s directly related to the expectation you put on yourself. 

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It took me a long time to learn this lesson. For years, I would push toward a goal. If the person in front of me wasn’t helping me accomplish those goals, they didn’t get much attention.  

It was almost 12 years ago now. We had cut our department’s paid staff essentially in half but still needed to push forward. We put our heads down, grew our existing ministry and added a new ministry from the ground up. Not to mention the fact that we were no longer planning week to week, but had a 6+ month runway. We got things done…but I realize now I was focused on the wrong thing. I had created a massive org chart in my head. One for a ministry 3-4 times our size and all I was focused on was putting people in my org chart. We got things accomplished, but I was forgetting one important piece. I wasn’t just a manager, I was a pastor too. 

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that I had to make a purposeful change in my thinking. And it was one that made me just as likely to accomplish my goals, but was a lot more fun. 

Whenever I meet with someone, I remind myself that I have two equally important objectives. 

  1. Manager - move toward our goals

    It is our job to manage our church or department. I’m assuming you have goals and every day you are working hard to accomplish those goals. That may be growing your weekend attendance, starting a new ministry or investing in an existing one. This is important. It means that you have to always pay attention, always be sharing your vision and your plan, and pay attention to who’s eyes light up. 

    As leaders, we must stay focused on our goal. We must lead the way and engage people in the journey. 

    We must lead our church in the direction we believe God is leading us. That means staying focused, saying "no" to good things, and only putting effort into the right things. 

    But, at the very same time, we must remember that we have a unique opportunity to help our people discover their best contribution to the kingdom of God. 
  2. Pastor - help everyone discover their best contribution

    We have a responsibility to our church and to the Church. The person sitting across the table from us has a calling, a life’s work that’s equally important to our life work. Our role gives us a unique opportunity to help people discover their own contribution. Remember that even if that doesn’t end up happening within your church, it still is having an impact on our world. 

    Just last week, I had a friend in my office asking this exact question. What was next on their journey? Let me tell you, there is nothing quite as fun and helping someone unpack that question in their life. And sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes their passion lines up with what you are trying to accomplish. Either way, when you help someone unpack their calling, it’s a win-win. 

Before people can get excited about your vision, they have to feel like they have something to contribute. It’s our job to help them find it. 

And let me tell you, I've got a lot more accomplished now then I ever did when I only focused on my own goals. 

3 Skills to Teach as You Develop New Communicators

Is your church developing new communicators or are you hoping young communicators will cut their teeth at someone else’s church? I’ve you’ve lost any sleep over your church’s leadership pipeline you probably realize the importance of building your own farm team. 

Realizing the needed to grow more high capacity leaders from within our church we started a residency program. What I think has been most invigorating about this process has been realizing the untapped potential that exists among the people we already know. 

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The question is, what do you focus on? We can’t just expect that their “get it” right out of the gate.

As you begin to develop these new preachers there are 3 skills you need to pass on to them during their growth process. 

  1. Choosing scripture: 
    How do you choose the scripture you will be preaching from? Your new communicators may assume that these magically appear. I’m only half kidding. If they’ve never had to do this before they will not have had to develop the skill necessary to consider the entirety of scripture. They most likely have been working from a prescribed text, whether that was assigned or determined by a curriculum. Spend some time explaining how you came to the decision to use the specific text you are planning to use for a given weekend. 
  2. Unpacking Scripture: 
    How do you approach the task of “unpacking" that scripture? While the idea of biblical interpretation may come naturally to you now, it wasn’t always that way. As you begin to look at a text, ask them what they think the text is communicating. Then ask, “How do you think the author felt writing these words?” “What was the context he was communicating from?” Then, to get an even deeper understanding, “What was this text communicating to the original recipients?” 
  3. Addressing Your Audience: 
    What makes your audience different? Teach them how to speak to your specific audience. What style are they already used to? Who makes up your audience? How does that affect how and what you teach? 

These three skills will be routine to you, but likely new to any developing communicators. Spend the time on these three basics to help them get a solid foundation as they grow as preachers. 

And if you’re looking for some tools to help you through this process, check out Preaching Backwards. An eCourse that uses 6 simple questions to add more value to your next message. They will help you:

  • Speak in a way that encourages your audience to respond. 
  • Sharpen your call to action
  • And, give you a framework to develop new communicators while minimizing your leadership risks.

6 Simple Questions

6 simple questions to help clarify your message. Because if your message isn't crystal clear, how can your audience put it into action? 

Check out the Preaching Backwards eCourse available completely for free. It will walk you through 6 questions that will transform your Preaching Preparation into a more efficient and more powerful message.