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. 

7 Myths Uncovered About Church Planter Assessments

I was a huge skeptic. A new friend told me we needed to consider sending our newest potential campus pastor through a church planter assessment. I scoffed at the idea. I already knew our guy was awesome. Why would I go and spend a few thousand dollars just to confirm what I already knew? What a waste of money!

Thankfully my friend is a persuasive person. He encouraged me to, at very least, observe and I caved. With my arms crossed, I jumped on a plane to Vegas to watch an assessment in action. 

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As much as I hate fulfilling any stereotype, I was a HUGE one. I’m sure there were several people who heard me describe how we were “different” and I wasn’t sure this would work in our situation. Without a doubt, every other experienced assessor was just being polite as they waited for me to come around.  

And throughout our experience with assessments, we’ve uncovered 7 myths about church planter assessments.

  1. Assessments are only for church planters. //
    While the assessment is primarily targeted at church planters, it covers skills and competencies I believe all key staff members should have. It is common to see church planters, worship leaders, campus pastors, and various other staff hires attending assessment. For example, not every staff member will be pitching a missions board asking for money, but talking about money in a clear, professional, compelling manner is a valuable skill no matter what role you fill. 

  2. They won’t understand how church works in my region. They have no idea how we do things here. We are different! //
    You’re not that different. Your context might be, but leadership is leadership no matter where in the world you find yourself. Character and teamwork don’t change depending on which ocean you’re looking at. And if there are regional differences, the best assessments have someone from that team to help answer questions and provide perspective. 

  3. The people closest to our candidate have already validated their calling, why do we need the opinion of strangers? //
    I struggled with this at first, but it wasn’t long before I got nervous that I wanted our candidate to succeed because I like him. We had already been on a ministry journey together and I quickly feared this may cloud my judgment. Having a respected group of strangers take an analytical and experienced look at any candidate can help you validate things you weren’t 100% confident with, while also providing advice you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. A group of experienced assessors have no “sunk costs” with a candidate. They don’t have preconceived ideas about who a candidate is, or who they know. All they can see is the candidate in front of them. 

  4. They are too expensive. //
    Imagine this. You make a bad hire. How much have you spent on salary before you realize it? How long before you do something about it?  If we're going to spend 10 of thousands of dollars on this individual over the next year, a few thousand to make sure we’ve got a solid game plan is probably worth it. 

  5. How are you going to judge our candidate? They don’t even know him/her! //
    But they will. The goal going into each assessment is to deeply understand what makes each candidate unique. The best assessments encourage you or someone from your team to participate in the process to help provide a more intimate understanding of what makes each candidate unique. 

  6. Aren’t they just measuring me against a cookie cutter recipe? //
    Nope! They really are not. Every candidate is an individual and the goal of a great assessment is to give individualized specific feedback and coaching. The goal isn’t checking all the boxes on the checklist. It’s helping each unique child of God discover their best, most God-honoring next step. 

  7. Fine, but why is their spouse coming? //
    "If I'm the one in the designated ministry role, why does my spouse need to participate in the assessment?” is a question I think many candidates wrestle with. Especially those coming from larger churches. What we know about marriages is that they are a team. What happens to one effects the other. Not only does a spouse provide some perspective, but who else would you want on the journey with you. While not every spouse will be energized by the experience, they provide such a unique and powerful impact on the future, I can’t think of any other way to replicate. Trying to reach a God-given potential without them seems like it isn't possilbe...or healthy. 

I’d encourage you to consider sending your next church planter, campus pastor or staff hire through an assessment. Better yet, I’d encourage you to go with them. I’m willing to bet you walk away completely convinced that this will be an incredibly useful tool in your ministry tool belt. 

You can find more about the assessment we use on the Stadia Church Planting website

10 Ideas You Can Steal From Guest Focused Companies

It goes without saying that a growing church is a guest focused church, so paying attention to how we can better engage those we are reaching is something that comes with the territory. The church, just like these businesses, isn't watering down what they do. It's just acknowledging their guests and communicating the importance of who they are trying to reach. 


Here are 10 ideas you can steal from guest focused businesses: 

Disney//Embrace your problems. 

Not long after Disneyland opened, Walt decided he wanted to turn the Sleeping Beauty Castle into a walk-through attraction. As he brought the engineers in to begin designing the attraction they came across a mob of feral cats. Walt knew he couldn’t exterminate the problem without an uproar so he embraced his problem. Realizing that feral cats, by nature, avoid humans, they spayed and neutered them and invited them to stay under the agreement that they keep the rodent population at bay. The relationship has worked out well and is still in place to this day. Idea: Make a list of your current top 3 obstacles. Brainstorm how you could turn these problems into opportunities. 

Google//Empower your team. 

Google creates a lot of space for their team members to stay customer focused instead of being micromanaged by rules and policies. They have implemented a number of methods to encourage increased creativity, loyalty and productivity. For example, their cafes encourage people from different teams to interact and exchange ideas; employees are encouraged to directly email any of the company’s leaders; “Google Moderator” is a tool that allows anyone to ask any question at a team meeting and the team to vote on which questions they most want to be answered; “20 Percent” allows employees to spend 20% of their work week on things that interest them most; plus they hold an end of week session where all employees can ask questions directly to the team of executives. Open communication empowers team members to do their best, most informed work. Idea: Get creative with your staff meetings, include key volunteers. Talk more about your church's strategic opportunities with more team members and open "the circle of trust".

Starbucks//Turning eyesores into marketing tools. 

I recently was sitting in my local Starbucks as it was preparing for the holiday season. Just like many other stores, Starbucks transforms its stores during the holiday season and that means more merchandise and more decorations. Most stores don’t have the space to store the extra boxes necessary for this big events so Starbucks does something genius. They place the pile of boxes where customers can see them and then slap a sticker on each box. “Anticipation is half the fun! No peeking till after closing on November 15th.” Even I want to know what’s in those boxes! Idea: Forget the storage room. New shipments coming in for Christmas services? Store them in the lobby with signs creating mysterious anticipation.

Amazon//The empty chair.

Maybe you already implement this idea in your small groups, but this “empty chair” idea is something that Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, implements in even his boardroom meetings. It’s not just an empty chair, it’s something he periodically points out to remind the team that the empty seat is for their customer, “the most important person in the room.” While I can imagine that it get’s old hearing Bezos talk about the empty chair, the reminder is one that is incredibly important. Idea: Empty chair at every meeting…even the small staff ones. 

Tesla//More than one dashboard.

Tesla has found that engaged teams drive 15% more profitability, are 30% more productive and lead to 62% less safety issues. A big piece of that team engagement is built around data sharing. Tesla created a dashboard to display results from it’s valuable (and anonymous) internal survey that let team members share feedback and concerns. They also provide a deeper dive into the results through the team dashboard. Idea: Do you have a dashboard for your staff and key volunteers? How do they know what the current wins and obstacles are? 

Nordstrom//I’ll solve your problem, even if it isn’t my fault. 

As a church grows and more people become involved it’s easy for the team to pass the blame. Just think of the poor delivery guy who just wants someone to accept a delivery only to have each team member dismiss him because they don’t want to take ownership. Nordstrom decidedly fights against that mentality. Their return policy is the gold standard among department stores. There is no return counter, just approach any sales associate and they will take back any item, anytime, receipt or not. That’s putting the customer first, absolute first. Idea: Every team member is a tour guide. Instead of pointing or saying “You should talk to Jim”, walk each person to the appropriate place or person (whether that’s the delivery man or a first-time guest). 

Sweetwater//Keeping it personal. 

Sweetwater is an audio and video online merchant, a business segment that can very easily be transactional. While they are a growing company (last tracked at 850 employees) they make every interaction feel personal. Immediately after every order, each customer receives a confirmation email with a personal feel. Then one of their sales engineers calls just to see if you had any questions (no up-sell, just checking in). Customers may even get another phone call after they receive an email confirmation that their order has shipped. Idea: Personal follow up with every guest. Even in today's digital leaning society, a phone call can stand out.  

Chick-fil-A//Have a little grace. 

Chick-fil-A employees are taught to sit up and pay attention to the fact that “every life has a story, and often our customers and our employees need a little grace and a little space when you deal with them because they are either experiencing a problem, just finished having a problem, or are about to have one.” That statement couldn’t be more true at church. Idea: Any time a team member starts to complain about a situation or person in the church, remind them that everyone needs "grace and a little space”.

USAA//Leverage Technology

Having worked with a number of banks over my life, USAA stands firmly at the front of the line and I have yet to meet someone that will leave this bank (not something you hear very often about banks).  USAA leads the pack in a very competitive industry by leveraging technology to power customer experiences and foster trust. They use everything from biometric authentication on their mobile app to messaging bots powered by natural language processing and machine learning technology. USAA uses technology to make their customer’s lives easier, not more complicated. Idea: How are you leveraging technology? Most people, in this day and age, expect to be able to do anything digitally that they can do in person. Is that true at your church? Think event registration, giving, and even message notes.

KLM//Easy to reach. 

KLM, a Dutch airline, is pushing the boundaries as they explore using Facebook Messenger to interact with their customers. Using the Facebook app customers can download boarding passes, get updates about delays and even get in touch with a human support rep. Not only does this create a better experience for their customer, but it also gives them a direct line of communication with each of their customers. Idea: Explore using Facebook messenger to interact with your guests. How cool of an experience would it be for someone exploring faith and checking out your church to be able to connect with a real person? 

These 10 companies are examples of customer focus, they aren't just functioning as a business type. Neither should the church. You aren't leading just any old church. You are leading a church in a specific community to unique people and reaching those unique people is your responsibility. 

What other customer focused experiences can you learn from? Who are the companies you most enjoy interacting with and what can you do to make your church the same kind of experience?