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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Is it Time to Leave? Assessing Your Job Challenge

Before_you_move_5 This week, we'll pick up in our series again (after a week off for the holiday). We've been looking each week at a short exerpt of John Cionca's new book "Before You Move: A Guide to Making Transitions in Ministry." John has been discussing the signals and red lights/green lights that should be in place to help you make the decision to stay in your current ministry or possibly look for other ministry career opportunities. Today, we'll discuss how to assess your job challenge.

John writes, "Another important personal signal is an evaluation of the nature and size of your present assignment and whether you are able -- and willing -- to 'make the most of every opportunity. (Col. 4:5). Althought some things in your job description are probably more stimulating than others, consider the overall challenge of your job. Does it match your abilities and level of drive?

Cionca then goes on to say that many pastors and church staff never really seriously consider a job change because they find their work continually fulfilling. Some pastors have a very different experience. Some feel overwhelmed after a while. Others feel bored. Pastors who "find their work stimulating sense an important reason for remaining with their congregation. Those who are faced with a job that's either mundane or overpowering, however, often profit from a move."

Has this been true for you? Have you ever moved on because you needed a good challenge? If you've been in your current ministry for a number of years and still feel challenged and motivated, please take a moment to share why you think this is true as well. (Is it because of the circumstances you find yourself in; or simply because you've found ways to keep yourself engaged, motivated, and excited?)  Please take a few moments to share in the discussion on this subject below.

PS -- You can order the book we're talking about, "Before You Move: A Guide to Making Transitions in Ministry" by following the link.  It is well worth taking the time to read (in my humble opinion!)

Todd

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November 30, 2004 in Personnel Issues | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Monday, November 29, 2004

Church Leaders Admit Top Five Weaknesses

Diversity Dr. Thom Rainer is doing some great research on churches and leadership.  Here are bits and pieces of an article by Dr. Rainer just posted on the ChurchCentral.com website. 

Dr. Rainer writes, "My research team and I didn't know what type of response we would get to the question: "What do you feel your greatest weaknesses are in the area of leadership?"

Would the leaders of effective churches recognize weaknesses? Would they admit them? Would they be reticent to share their weaknesses if they did admit them?

Somewhat to our surprise, not only did these leaders recognize and admit their mistakes, but they were happy to share their weaknesses with us. If anything, our sense of their comments was that they were too hard on themselves. Sometimes we could not get them to stop talking about their deficiencies.

A majority of the leaders of the churches that reach the unchurched listed 12 weaknesses. The most frequently mentioned weakness may surprise some people, but the fact that it was at the top of the list did not surprise the leaders we interviewed. Let us examine the first five weaknesses mentioned among these effective leaders.

Weakness #1: Pastoral Ministry

Almost three out of four leaders told us their number one leadership weakness was providing personal pastoral ministry. Our definition of pastoral ministry included counseling, doing hospital visitation, and performing weddings and funerals, to name a few of the responsibilities...In our research we discovered that leaders of effective churches spent 10 hours per week in pastoral care while leaders of the comparison churches spent 23 hours doing the same type of ministries...So why did the leaders of the effective churches say pastoral ministry was their number one leadership weakness? The issue, it seems, is one of balance.

Weakness #2: Lack of Patience

The fifth weakness noted by effective church leaders was that they are task driven. We will look at that issue, but first, let’s look at what results from leaders being task driven — impatience.

More than seven out of 10 leaders indicated they were impatient to see objectives accomplished. Contributing to this dilemma is the fact that most American churches are notoriously resistant to change...The mix of an intransigent church with a task-driven leader can be lethal.

Weakness #3: Dealing with Staff

Most of the effective church pastors we interviewed had at least one other part-time minister on the church staff. Thus, most of the pastors in our study had to deal with staff. And seven out of 10 leaders considered their staff leadership skills to be weak. One of the open-ended questions we asked in our leadership survey was worded as follows: "Name some specific leadership decisions you have made in your church that had a negative impact and result." The responses related to bad decisions with staff were numerous:

"I made some terrible staff choices."

"I did not get involved in staff hiring. It was a big mistake."

"No area of ministry frustrates me more than dealing with staff. I feel so inept."

"My worst mistakes in ministry have mostly been related to issues with the ministry team."

"The two greatest conflicts I have had in ministry had to do with firing a staff member and not dealing with a weak staff member."

Weakness #4: Dealing with Criticism

Though I no longer serve as a pastor of a church, I have served several churches as an interim pastor. In a recent interim I was sharply rebuked and criticized one Sunday. I made some minor changes in the worship service, and a church member, in an emotional outburst, said I had betrayed the church. .

The criticism came in a highly public setting. I think I did a pretty good job of maintaining my composure, and, to the best of my knowledge, I was Christlike in my responses to her. So what is my point?

The criticism bothered me for many days. In my role as a senior pastor of four churches, as an interim pastor of six churches, and presently as dean of a seminary, I have had my share of critics. I guess I have learned to deal with criticism, but I sure have a leadership weakness in that I let it continue to bother me for days, even weeks after the event.

The results of our leadership survey indicate that I am not the only leader who struggles with criticism. Nearly seven out of 10 of the leaders we interviewed noted this issue as one of their own leadership weaknesses.

Weakness #5: Always Task Driven

In our research we saw the self-description of pastors' leadership styles. A clear pattern emerged. The dominant leadership style noted was "task oriented." We defined task oriented as "high interest in production and getting things done."

According to the definition, one might not expect this leadership issue to be a weakness. But the leaders we interviewed spoke of a leadership style that was always task driven, sometimes to the exclusion of relational issues...A task-driven leader is typically a successful leader, so the issue, much like the issue of pastoral care ministry, is one of balance.

What do you think?  Are these the same weaknesses you struggle with day in and day out?  What have you done in your current situation to help you overcome your biggest weaknesses?  I'd love to hear what you have to say...

(By the way, you can read Dr. Rainer's entire article at ChurchCentral.com here

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November 29, 2004 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Friday, November 19, 2004

Visiting Church: A Fruity Experience

Fruits For what it's worth... here's an interesting study I found on Newswise.com about Church Attendance and Eating Habits.  Does this apply to you?

Are you searching for another reason to become active in your church besides spiritual sustenance? Researchers at Saint Louis University School of Public Health have discovered a link between church involvement and eating the fruits and veggies that are best for you.

“We’re saying church membership or having that church community is one of the key links in the long chain of social support structures that help people eat better,” says Deidre Griffith, the Saint Louis University researcher who will be presenting the information at the American Public Health Association conference in early November.

Jennifer Strayhorn, executive director of Hope Build, a faith-based community organization that focuses on healthy lifestyle, is Saint Louis University’s collaborative partner on the project, and will join Griffith for the presentation.

The researchers found that those who frequently attended church ate 26 percent more “powerhouse” fruits and vegetables – those fruits and veggies that contain the most nutrients – than those who didn’t, Griffith says.

Powerhouse fruits and vegetables are citrus, cruciferous – such as broccoli or cauliflower, those that have the brightest colors – dark green leafy greens or bright orange carrots and cantaloupe.

Everyone in the survey ate the most popular fruits and vegetables – corn, iceberg lettuce and bananas. But frequent church-goers – many of whom attended choir rehearsals, Bible study groups, workshop services or committee meetings each week – ate more of the stuff that researchers say offer the most nutrition.

“The body is your temple and we should treat it that way,” Griffith says. “Church can be a big part of your support system for changing your diet.”

Any thoughts?

Have a great weekend!

Todd

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November 19, 2004 in For What It's Worth | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, November 18, 2004

"Conflict: Ask Ken": How Do I Deal With Bad Job References (that Aren't True?)

Resume_locked Here's this week's "Conflict: Ask Ken" question...

Dear Ken,

My husband worked for the church I grew up in for 7 years as the youth minister. After 3 yrs, a woman in the church (on staff and a church elder) negatively influenced the Sr. Pastor away from him by making false accusations and in result, our names were dragged through the mud.  It led us to step out of the ministry the first time. (His wife shared with me in private they were going to fire him and advised me NOT to tell my husband).

The Lord led us to stay at the church. They hired a new youth minister and he left in a year. The pastor came to my husband and repented and told him, "You're the man for this job for good. He told him that he felt this from the Lord.”  Originally, he said he would hire him full time again – which he reneged, saying the church couldn't afford it at the time because they needed to hire ME as a bookkeeper as well. So like dummies, I took the job and he took his job part-time, with a promise that it would be "TEMPORARY". Our temporary situation lasted over 2 years. I got pregnant a year later. They fired me because they thought it was in our "best interests" In the meantime, we were living in our parents garage with our 2 children and 1 baby on the way. We never whined or cried about it. I did cry when they let me go and explained that this would hurt us, in which I was advised that we should have been more careful. (Our last born, Joshua, was not planned - nor was the one prior. Both are "miracle" babies.) Let me just add that we do NOT regret any of our children, they are all a blessing from the Lord. Between November 2003 and May 2004 my husband attempted several times, unsuccessfully to get our pastor to give us an approximate date of when he would place him on staff "full-time".

Finally end of May the pastor confessed that he had no intention of hiring my husband full-time. He could give no reason except for personality conflicts. What conflicts we don't know, he never would say when asked. To fill in the blanks in 18 months time we managed to grow the group of 18 (before we left the 1st time it was at 40 kids) to 60's. The ministry was thriving, the body loved us as well as the board. The only problems we had was that we had outgrown our building and could not keep up with the follow-up due to time constraints. After prayerful consideration, we decided to move on in ministry - there was no where else to go at the church. There is so much that I would not even be able to begin to tell you that happened to us on the in between parts. Things that I am embarrassed that we took all these years to grasp.  We started in ministry at the church and were so young. We were married there, I grew up there and our children were born there.

Our problem is this:  We have had to move out of state due to our reputations being trashed. We couldn't survive in that expensive area on what we were being paid - no one could... and we had no debt. We have interviewed at a few churches since and the pastor is blacklisting us. He is spewing venom, very bitter. He has told many that my husband "demanded" he hire him full time - which never happened. He advised that we were having money problems - not true. He charged that we didn’t have submissive spirits to authority because he didn't hear from God that it was time for us to move on. What do we do? How can my husband possibly get another ministry job without a good reference. The pastor has advised many in the church not to speak to us or our families (both of our parents were board members who actually left the church due to other pastoral abuse and manipulations - much of it I am unaware of the details. We did get the blame for this too, but what people don't understand is that they stayed in the church somewhat because of us. We begged them to stick it out and not get offended).

Through all of this, we still love the pastors and the body. We are hurt, but God will heal. We don't want to go back, we are glad to be set free of the bondage we suffered there. We just don't know how and where to go from here. We have kept silent about the pastor's lies and we won't speak against him; however, we don't know how to answer when asked about how we left, when interviewed. By the way, my husband had a job offer - and we told the Sr. Pastor what the situation was honestly - and then he called our former pastor for a reference.  He was very manipulative in his responses to the questions and it helped to close that door. How could a person who would keep you at a church on staff for 7 years collectively have nothing nice to say? I have known ungodly, unchurched people who care more for the future of a family than that.  We are not sure even where to begin now? Please advise! Thank you so much for your time!

Mrs. Jacobs

To Monday Morning Insight Readers:  Proverbs 18:17 says, “the one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”  I fully understand that when I respond to a given question I am only hearing one side of the story.  But I can only respond to the facts that I have received.  Hence, accepting this picture as reality, these are my thoughts.

Mrs. Jacobs,

I am sorry for what has happened.  Here are some options for you to consider:

1.  Contact someone whom you trust and the Sr. pastor respects.  Tell him/her what has been going on.  Ask that person to speak to the Sr. pastor on your behalf.  See if a resolution to his ongoing negative remarks can be worked out.

2.  Request a meeting with the church board to explain what has been happening.  Request that to the extent the pastor is making false statements about your husband,  he stop and desist.

3.  Privately contact people at your former church, who valued your husband's work and who you trust - parents, people who were on the board, youth committee members, staff members who have since moved on, even former teens.  Explain the situation in confidence.  Ask if they would serve as references.  Create a list of up to a half-dozen if you can.  Do not include the Sr. pastor.  A future church may not call on those on the list, but should they call the Sr. pastor, this large number of witnesses can help counter-balance it.

4.  Are you and your husband currently members of a local church?  If not, join a church and get involved so you can develop a new set of references altogether as a faithful church volunteer.

5.  If the board refuses to meet with you as described in #2 above, request Christian arbitration, as specified in I Cor. 6:5.

6.  Lastly, if the church board refuses your requests in #2 and #5, consider contacting a Christian employment lawyer in FL.  I am NOT suggesting legal action.  But you need to find out what the state law says about career ending references.  Generally speaking, many secular employers do not provide evaluations of former employees for fear of being sued.  My thought is, if what the pastor (and church) is doing is illegal, e.g. making false statements, a letter to the board from a lawyer informing them that they are breaking the law (and hence, opening themselves up to an expensive lawsuit if they don't stop) may bring some accountability.  (One respondent to an earlier posting noted that "in California it is against the law to ‘bad mouth’ a former employee when giving a reference check").  God has ordained government for our protection (Ro. 13:1-7, Acts 25:11).  If the church refuses to handle this matter in a Biblical fashion, then looking to other God-ordained resources to resolve this issue can be legitimate.  At the very least, even if you go no further than this letter, the church will explicitly be informed that they are engaging in illegal practices.  (If they still refuse to change their ways, that puts them and the pastor in the conflicted position of encouraging others to pursue morality in their lives).  Keep in mind, any time you raise the stakes, there may be a negative reaction.  In your situation, however, I am not sure what more harm the pastor could do to you.  This option, however, is really the path of last resort.  Given the comparable timeframes that are involved, there may be wisdom in re-establishing yourself in a local church and pursuing option #4 above.

I wish you and your husband well.

Ken

-----

Ken Newberger, an experienced church conflict resolution specialist, earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, has ten years senior pastoral experience, and is in the dissertation phase for his Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University, one of only two accredited doctoral programs of its kind in the United States. If your church needs individualized help, please visit Ken's website or call 301-253-8877.

To submit a question and connect with Ken, click here.

© 2004 Kenneth C. Newberger

QUESTION: Ever had a similar situation?  How did you handle this?  Do you agree with Ken's advice this week?

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November 18, 2004 in Church Conflict, Personnel Issues | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

You can Build the Perfect Church, But People Still Won't Come!

Presentfuture This is from an article written by Mike Bishop over at The-Next-Wave.org.  It's another one of those 'thought-provoking' articles that I like so much.  :)  See what you think...

Mike writes:

This quote [from Reggie McNeal's book "The Present Future"]made me stop dead in my tracks:

"The point is, all the effort to fix the church misses the point. You can build the perfect church - and they (people in the world) still won't come. People are not looking for a great church. They do not wake up every day wondering what church they can make successful."

I wish I could scream that from the rooftops - People in the 21st century, average Jane and Joe American, don't give a rip about making the church down the street a success. If they are even interested in church at all (which according to McNeal the numbers are staggeringly low the younger you go), their relationship to the church will primarily be about what benefit can be received rather than offering their service or resources. The 80-20 rule of participation, for most established churches at the present time, would be generous.

My question is, should we who are attempting to redefine church, Christian praxis, and mission in light of postmodernity think we should expect anything more? Seriously, what makes you think just because your church is not authoritative or hierarchical people are going to jump right in and begin taking their rightful places as priests and missionaries and begin acting as if they are the church? Do you really think Christians who have escaped borderline (and in some cases not-so-borderline) spiritually abusive situations are just going to turn right around give themselves over to your cause to build the next great house church movement to reach postmoderns?

If so, you're kidding yourself. We live in an age of chronic institutional apathy. People will betray you and your organization for something new and brighter down the street as fast as you can say (name your favorite sports star who jumped ship for more money to an arch-rival team).

Does this sound depressing? Well, of course it is. Church leaders are some of the most depressed people alive largely because they wake up everyday fighting to keep their organization afloat amongst the vast sea of consumer choices available to their congregations. It is literally sucking the life out of countless pastors, youth group leaders, children workers, church secretaries, elder boards, and on down the line. The ones who can hire the best and brightest staff to convince the best and brightest people to show up on Sunday and pay their dues are the ones that survive.

Please, can we stop the madness? Are we just supposed to keep feeding the beast because that's the only show in town?

Hello?

If you are reading this and have some vested interest in a community of faith - whatever your flavor, old-school or new-school, emerging or submerging - do yourself a favor and stop caring about the following things:

1. The number of people in your church. Really, it doesn't matter.
2. The "relevancy" of your common worship.
3. How often or if ever a new person shows up at one of your common worship times.
4. The size of your church budget, building, or paid staff.
5. What any other church in the world is doing - good or bad or otherwise.

And please start caring about the following things:

1. Actively looking for the evidence of God's kingdom - where what he wants done is done - at work, at home, at Starbucks (heaven forbid), at the beach, and anywhere else you might find yourself in the course of living your normal life.
2. Simple, honest worship.
3. Having friends that don't give a rip about your church. Maybe you might just rub off on them.
4. Giving away money to people who need it; using existing, familiar (and free) spaces for common worship such as homes, restaurants, parks, or community centers; flattening the organization's need for paid leadership and support roles.
5. Go on a unique, unreproducible journey with a group of people and rejoice with other groups of people who do the same.

I'm not making any promises here. If you do these things it won't make the perfect church, but you most likely won't be mired in burnout or depression either. Maybe the best I can offer is my own personal experience. Three years after I [mostly] stopped caring about those five things and started caring about those other five...well...I still suck as a Christian, but I don't suck as bad! Hurrah!

I really, really, really, really, really, really love being a part of the Church Jesus is building.

Any thoughts?

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November 17, 2004 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Is it Time to Leave? Assessing Your Job Satisfaction

Before_you_move_4
Each Tuesday, we've been discussing signals for "Is it time to leave?", based on John Cionca's book "Before You Move: A Guide to Making Transitions in Ministry". This week we'll talk about how your job satisfaction can sometimes help determine whether or not it is a good time to move on.

This is, perhaps, one of the first and surface level things that people look at when deciding whether to move on to a new position.  Actually, when you find a good degree of satisfaction in the work you do, you are usually not prone to think about new opportunities as much; but when you find yourself going through an extended stretch of frustrations, problems, and hard experiences, you'll find that the lack of job satisfaction may be one of the first signs you're open to moving to a new place.

In his book, John writes, "In spite of hardships, crises, and occaisonal misunderstandings, if you still have enthusiasm for your task, the red light of job satisfaction suggests that you should continue to serve in such a profitable environment... But if your experience is more like a pastor who admited, "If I could feed my family any other way, I'd be gone tomorrow," then a move is critical.  When ministry robs you of joy and it drains your vibrancy, then the green light of dissatisfaction releases you to pursue a change... The degree to which enthusiasm or discouragement is your daily experience indicates how appropriate a move might be."

Finding the right balance here might be the key.  Is your lack of job satisfaction because of short-term situations or conditions, or is it more a result of your environment, the people you work with, etc.?  That will help you to decide whether your are in a normal, short period of frustration; or if you're in a 'point of no return' critical stage of job disillusionment.  This assessment will be yet one additional factor in your decision to stay or to leave your present ministry.

Have you ever left or stayed at a job specifically because of your level of job satisfaction?  Please share your thoughts on how you finally made your decision!

And for tons more on this subject, pick up a copy of John's book. It's worth every penny!

Have a great day!

Todd

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November 16, 2004 in Personnel Issues | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Monday, November 15, 2004

What's Next? Ever Been There?

Upset Last week, I came across a blog entry at "Nameless Youth Pastors"... take a quick read (this is how it was written... so please excuse all the typos and small caps!):

watz next? i don't know where to start. i'v considered leaving uth min all together & i still want to jump back in

i'm tired. tired of resumes. tired of churches not knowing themselves. tired of my own failures. tired of pastors being pawns of powerful people. tired of praying 4 guidance. tired of waiting. tired of crying.

i don't cry. typical emotionally constipated male and all that. i've been visiting the big-church-down-the-street <doesn't every town have a big-church-down-the-street?> & the last 3 times i was there, i cried during the sermon. he's a good preacher but it's been more than that. it's been refreshing to hear from God even when i'm confused and even angry w/ God.

in case u missed it, i'm tired & trying 2 hold on

Have you ever been there? "Nameless Youth Pastor" transparently writes how each of us probably feels at least once during ministry. Some of you are there now. Others have just come through a time of questioning what's next... questioning your calling... questioning God. Emotions run high. If answers could just be black and white.

But many times they aren't. David Hansen writes in his book "The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers": Sometimes my head gets filled with static. My problems are shouting, flaunting themselves above my faith. Self-pity orders my emotions around like a sergeant. My talents scatter before the cacophonous taunts of the enemy: depression. Years ago I forced myself to work through these times. Eventually I learned that when these feelings come, I must stop trying to work, stop listening to the noise in my head and start paying attention to God. What I inevitably find when I pay attention to God during these times is that he is there, ready to listen. I need to drop everything and pray.

Knowing what's next is never easy. And many times, it's not until you finally make the next step that everything finally makes sense. (And sometimes it NEVER makes sense!)

Let's share some of our stories... Have you ever felt like the "Nameless Youth Pastor"? What did you do next? What advice would you have for others who are going through this process?  As we support one another we provide a valuable service to those "nameless youth pastors" out there who are just searching and wanting to do God's will...

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November 15, 2004 in Personnel Issues | Permalink | Comments (62) | TrackBack

Friday, November 12, 2004

Ministering to Manipulators

Manipulator Do you have anyone in your church that is a manipulator?  Maybe it's a board member.  Maybe it's a little old lady down the street.  Regardless, it can be tough to ministry to a manipulative personality.  Brooks Faulkner has an article posted at LifeWay.com that helps address how you might approach your favorite manipulator.  Brooks writes,

Three As of the manipulator:

  • Attention: He never gets enough, no matter how much you give.
  • Affection: She nevers feel enough, no matter how many share their love.
  • Approval: He never receives enough, no matter how actions are affirmed.

A manipulator may legitimately need attention, affection, and approval, but as a leader you must prioritize your time.

The Solution: Turn an uncomfortable relationship with the manipulative person into a positive relationship. It’s not easy, but it is possible. Here are five ways to help you.

1. Give needed attention.

Our work as caregivers involves the recognition of genuine need. Giving this person attention is not only a responsibility, but a privilege.

2. Confront gently.

Respond to a person who “dropped in” with, “Good to see you Jim, but you’ve caught me at a bad time. There are some things that are pressing me. Let me call you as soon as I get time. Thanks for understanding.”

3. Respond candidly.

When confronted on an issue, respond with, “It sounds to me as if you need a little education on . . . Let me share a couple of my intentions.

4. Say "No" when you need to.

It is hard for you to say "no" without feeling guilty, but it is necessary for your emotional and spiritual health.

5. Leave change up to God.

Encourage, but don’t expect too much. Leave the rest up to God. He can handle it.

Any thoughts?  Ever have to deal with a manipulator in your midst?  Would these tips have helped?  Leave your comments below...

And have a great weekend!

Todd

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November 12, 2004 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, November 11, 2004

"Conflict: Ask Ken": Winning the Tug-of-Wars Over Church Structure

Tugofwar Here's this week's "Conflict: Ask Ken" question...

Dear Ken,

Ours is a church of 600.  Leaders of this church cannot decide who should lead.  Actions are being taken and there is a lack of agreement within the congregation.  There seems to be many “tug-of- wars.”  It reminds me of I Cor. 3:1-4.

Mark

Dear Mark,

Your comments are remarkably similar to ones I cited last week in my posting entitled, “Whose the Boss When Everyone Wants Control?”  There I spoke about the need for a clear demarcation of the roles and relationships between the various leadership circles and how that can be achieved in the church. (See that article for practical help).

I would like to expand my comments this week by pointing out that such structure will, in most instances, positively impact the church’s culture.  That is to say, pastors and other leaders will be able to “relax” and enjoy their work.  They can feel more secure in their roles. Ironically, if they don’t have to fight to retain control, they can much more readily adopt the ideas of others with the realization that such input does not threaten their authority.  The end result is a more collaborative relationship.

"As you consider the following chart, collaboration is the goal I strive toward when working with a church regardless of the form of polity that particular church subscribes to."

Ken1

This approach corresponds well to what is found in the New Testament.  I Thes. 5:12-13 reads, 12We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 

In this passage, Paul links the idea of respect for and esteem of church leaders to peace in the church. Verses 12-13 are structurally linked together, being set apart by the Greek particle "de" in vv. 12 and 14. This particle is used as a little signpost indicating a new section of thought. What Paul wrote in vv. 12-13, therefore, are connected thoughts.

In summary, an essential need within the church is to explicitly establish an infrastructure with well-defined lines of authority.  Clearly delineating where individual boundaries of authority begin and end and where overlapping boundaries of authority begin and end is foundational for creating a church environment of stability.  In doing so, love and cooperation will more likely characterize the culture of that church.

Ken

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Ken Newberger, an experienced church conflict resolution specialist, earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, has ten years senior pastoral experience, and is in the dissertation phase for his Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University, one of only two accredited doctoral programs of its kind in the United States. If your church needs individualized help, please visit Ken's website or call 301-253-8877.

To submit a question and connect with Ken, click here.

© 2004 Kenneth C. Newberger

QUESTION: Have you dealt with tug-of-wars of this sort in your church?  How did you deal with them?  What was the final outcome?  Please share your experiences below!

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November 11, 2004 in Church Conflict | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

10 Evangelism and IT Lessons from Fellowship Church

Technology Robert Scoble wrote an interesting piece on evangelism from an IT/Technology point of view.  I found it very interesting...

"How did Dallas' Fellowship church become America's fifth largest church in less than 15 years?

CTO Terry Storch has the answer: information technology investments designed to attract a new kind of churchgoer that other churches were ignoring.

Who said IT doesn't matter? Certainly not the people running this church.

Every weekend 18,000 to 19,000 people walk through the doors. Thousands more watch on the church's TV or radio shows.

Brian Bailey, Internet technology manager, heard I was in town and invited me over to see the secrets behind this church's massive success. Hey, I'm a technology evangelist and I wanted to see how the professionals do it

Even before I got in, I could see this church was something different. The only thing visible on the side of one of their two huge buildings, from the freeway, is the church's URL. Even in Silicon Valley I haven't seen that approach taken on a church sign. Lesson one: make it easy for everyone to learn about you -- on their terms.

Coming in the doors I noticed something else: plasma screens everywhere. I felt like I was in a rock concert, or a sports event.

That's on purpose, Bailey told me. The church knows it's competing against video games, rock concerts, mass media like ESPN, and sporting events, he said.

When the church started, they decided to appeal to a new generation of chuch goers who feel uncomfortable in the traditional churches most of us attend. So, they invested in video, audio, computers, multimedia, and making the end-to-end church experience better than their competitors. "Our services are a lot like attending a concert," Bailey told me -- he handed me some DVDs so I could check it out for myself. Lesson two: make it easy to experience your product's special attributes.

You'll see this investment in all areas, from the time you walk into the church and are registered by one of the volunteers manning 50 computer stations. Plus, massive investments in audio, lighting, video technology -- this church has an all-digital sound system that is better than many rock shows have. Lesson three: to get word-of-mouth advertising you need to be remarkable.

If you are bringing kids, the volunteer will guide you to the right room (and, will print out a name tag and a receipt that guarantees that only you will be able to take a child out of the classroom).

They custom designed the system (yes, it's a multi-tier .NET app written in C# and backed by SQL Server) to be extremely efficient, even in a noisy attrium with thousands of people talking "we only need the last four digits of your phone number," Storch said. Why a phone number? They found that was easier to understand than asking someone to spell their name. The screens are touch-screen and a volunteer can be taught the basics in minutes. Funny enough, though it sounds like it treats visitors like a number, the end result is that each person gets paid attention to and has individual attention that they couldn't get in such a large church without IT investments. Lesson four: use IT to efficiently get close to your customers and take care of their needs.

The atrium, by the way, doesn't look like your traditional church. A baseball or football fan would feel right at home here. In the middle is circular information desk surrounded by eight plasma screens. "The minute the service starts we switch four of them to the service," Storch said. The rest of the time there's a set of information screens that play (different ones on each screen). All high-definition. Lesson five: if you want to be better, make sure you're better from the first minutes of someone's experience.

Speaking of HD, this church was the first in the world to film all of its services in high-definition TV format. They worked with Sony on their HDTV system and, Storch says they learned so much that now the church is consulted on HDTV projects around the world. Lesson six: if you want to be seen as bleeding edge, invest to be bleeding edge and do so throughout your company.

The church's store also uses plasma screens throughout the store to display information and to set the mood. Of course there's WiFi available in the attrium and other parts of the church (not in the main worship hall, though. "We haven't yet pushed the edge there," Storch admits, but says they are looking into it). He said they invested in WiFi because they wanted to give church members a way to hang out at the church during the week and be able to stay in touch with work and family. Lesson seven: extend the usefulness of your plant.

Other IT investments they've made? A sizeable fiber-optic network that was designed to take the HDTV video load, not to mention the church's Web traffic, and other needs (there's computers in nearly every room I toured, including the children's play areas). Plus, they designed the network for future growth -- the church is now working on building satellite campuses that will share video feeds. To do that, they needed to make sure their network would never go down and have a good backbone to allow for future growth. Every system has redundancy, too (there are two digital sound boards, for instance, in case one goes down). Imagine what would happen if the computer system went down on a Sunday with 5,000 people arriving for the next service and trying to get their kids into the right classroom. Lesson eight: design your systems so they never go down and can expand for future growth.

Several years ago, the church almost went with a database back end from Oracle, but switched to Microsoft several years ago because of Microsoft's special non-profit pricing, which saved the church tens of thousands of dollars, Storch said. Plus, they liked the quality, performance, and productivity that they got with Visual Studio and .NET. "We're extremely happy with Microsoft and .NET," Bailey said. How happy? Well, one of their staff members is 15-year-old James Reggio -- he's been programming for more than five years and is working on multimedia applications for the church's TV studio. Amazing kid. I asked him "so, are you the next Bill Gates?" Answer: he has bigger goals. He says that .NET lets him get a lot more done for the church than other programming environments.

While most of the computers at this church are running Windows, there are a couple of Macs (their radio show engineer was editing on a Mac when I was given a tour), most of the video is running on a Windows front end, but the back end is an SGI set of computers, along with a stack of computers running Linux that do the hard-core video rendering. "Why did you use Linux for that?" I asked. Storch answered that most the bleeding-edge video rendering apps were designed for Linux. Lesson nine: don't be religious about technology, choose what gets the job done best for the least amount of money and staff time.

By the way, now the church is selling their software that they wrote to run their church. Named Fellowship One, it looks to become as successful in helping churches run themselves as the church itself is. Lesson 10: when you become successful, bottle up what got you there and sell it to others.

I asked why he went with Windows for their network architecture (Exchange runs their email, Active Directory keeps track of domain, .NET apps do nearly everything from logging their cash, to signing volunteers in. Microsoft Great Plains and SBS keep track of the business). He said they choose Windows because most of their congregants know Windows, and there's a good pool of Windows developers and IT support people to help out too and because there's one company to deal with for support needs.

The next time someone tells me that IT doesn't matter, I'm gonna take them to church. After all, isn't that what an evangelist should do?"

This, of course, was written from a business/IT point of view... but what do you think?  Does this stuff really make a difference?  (I know there are many who say yes vigorously; and many who say no with the same passion).  If God provides the resources to make this happen, shouldn't we applaud it?  Leave your comments (please?!)...

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November 10, 2004 in Outreach and Evangelism, Technology in the Church | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack