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Monday, February 28, 2005

Culture Shift: Transforming Your Church from the Inside Out: Defining Church Culture

CultureshiftLast week we looked at the beginning of a brand new book by Robert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro called "Culture Shift: Transforming Your Church from the Inside Out." Last week we looked at an introduction of church culture. This week, we'll discuss the four ingredients that Robert and Wayne say will bring your church's culture a little more into focus. Here's what they write...

Leadership & Values
What values do members of your church's leadership communicate by their lifestyles? Is it wealth and power? commitment to protecting the status quo? commitment to a cause? modeling of a particular set of behaviors? Leaders more than anyone else set the cultural climate of a church.

Vision Statement
Is your church's vision something people can identify with and use to measure their spiritual lives? Unfortunately, most vision statements, though well crafted, rarely connect with the everyday lives of church people. A good vision statement is one people can feel and connect with in both an individual and a congregational way.

Symbols, Ceremonies, Celebrations
The things you honor, remember, and cheer are the things you most value. Take a look around your church facilities. What do the symbols say is important ? Think back over the last year. Who or what did you honor and celebrate? Who did your church see as its heroes, and why? What got people talking and excited? Embedded in each of these things are your real values.

You as Leader
Ask yourself, "What do I want to accomplish here at this church? What is it that makes me come alive and feel successful before God?" As a leader, you consciously or unconsciously pull everything you do toward the things you really value. That's why it's so important that you be honest about what your values are and how they fit into the values of the church you help lead.

Mixed together, these ingredients produce the culture of a church. If there is commonality, they not only mix well but reinforce one another. The result is an even stronger overall influence of clarity and power. On the other hand, if these elements clash with one another in some way, the result is confusion, conflict, and a repelling influence that undermines clarity and power.

As I said, Robert and Wayne's book is set to be released on April 8, but you can pre-purchase a copy of Culture Shift now by going here. I think it's a book that you'll really want to read!

FOR DISCUSSION:  After reading this, what is your church's culture?  What do you value?  Is your true culture what you'd like it to be?

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February 28, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Fellowship Church Epidemic

TippingpointOne of my favorite blogs to read is Terry Storch's.  Terry is Chief Operations and Technology Pastor at Fellowship Church in Dallas, (Grapevine) TX; and is part of one of the most innovative and fastest-growing churches in the country.  Whether or not you like large churches, Fellowship is doing a lot of things right... experiencing tremendous growth (and not transfer growth); and making a real difference for Christ in the Dallas area.  Terry recently shared a post that got quite a few comments at his blog (both good and negative).  Here's a little of what Terry said...

Nearly everyone that I ever talk to in the church world asks me this question, "What one thing makes Fellowship successful?" And, as I have said in the past, the standard remark always starts with "It's a God thing." But that is not what they are looking for. Here is an exerpt of The Tipping Point that shows why Fellowship is an Epidemic.

"In epidemics, the messenger matters: messengers are what make something spread. But the content of the message matters too. And the specific quality that a message needs to be successful is the quality of "stickiness." Is the message- or the food, or the movie, or the product- memorable? Is it so memorable, in fact, that it can create change, that it can spur someone to action?" -Malcolm Gladwell

The Fellowship Epidemic- Ed is God's messenger. You will hear Ed say that if the message is boring don't blame God, blame the communicator. Ed works very, very hard at his communication and spends almost all of his time focused on honing and improving his communication. Why? The messenger is what makes The Gospel spread. Next, the content. The content is important. God's word... it does not get much better than that. But that is not all. You can not get by with just opening your Bible and expect it to "just work". Why? Well, keep reading... the quality must be at a level that it creates "stickiness". Stickiness will make it memorable, and if it is so memorable it can create change. Life Change! So sticky that the life changing story of Jesus Christ can truly evoke a decision of life change.

The Fellowship epidemic; The Tipping Point (ttp), the wave of life changing stories revolving around a church that God has touched.

The Messenger Matters.
The Content Matters.
The Quality Matters.
The combined must create "stickiness".
Great stickiness will spur action.

I've read Gladwell's book as well.  It IS a great read.  Of course, it is primarily a book for business; but it is more about how things work in our society... how things become popular, how things attract people, how things gain momentum, how things succeed, and how things thrive.  If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend you get a copy and read it.

Now  I know that many people think that the church already takes too much from the business world.  I know that some will say that Ed Young, the 'creativeness' of the communication, or even the quality of the communication will make little difference in the success of Fellowship Church.  After all, if they just preached the Bible, people would come.  (sarcasm intended)  Terry, I think, has given proper credit to God for their success... but he also recognizes how organizations thrive in our society.  As with any entity, there is a 'tipping point'.  When you reach that 'tipping point', you'll find that the hard, difficult, long, tedious work of building starts to pay off.  You begin to see the payback.  And it is at this 'tipping point' that things get fun... things take off... things grow... and in ministry, you start to see unbelieveable results.  That's pretty much the concept of Gladwell's "Tipping Point" book.  He tries to explain how this phenomena happens.  And when it happens inside the church structure... watch out!

What are your thoughts?  Has your church reached the tipping point?  How did you know you were there.  And for all you nay-sayers, I'll be glad to hear from you as well... just be kind.  :)

Have a great weekend!

Todd

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February 25, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (51) | TrackBack

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Building the Perfect Church: The Newberger Project / The Relationship Between the Senior Pastor and Other Elders (Part 2)

Building_1

Editor’s Note
[If you are new to this column, please read Ken’s foundational article from January 27, 2005, “The Four Issues All Churches Deal With.”  This will help you understand  the basis upon which this and the other articles in this series are written].

Introduction
W.J.M.’s comments [Category: The Newberger Project.  Article: “Tackling the Issues of Church Structure and Leadership,” Time: February 10, 2005 11:09 AM] are the basis for last week’s posting and this one.  The essence of his remarks touched upon the relationship between the senior pastor and elders.  Last week I presented what I believe the Scriptures represents as the structural core of this relationship.  That is to say, among elders, two separate lines of Biblical teaching point to the senior pastor as being the leader among elders.  On the other hand, it was also noted that the elders as a group are given oversight responsibility of the local congregation.

This Weeks Focus
This week, the questions become, “how can church leadership be set-up that both allows those who lead to do so without undue encumbrance and yet be sufficiently accountability for their actions?  What arrangement minimizes unnecessary conflict?

When Leadership and Accountability are “Out of Whack”
Consider the following true description of one church [with minor editing to keep the description as anonymous as possible].  “Members and board members alike have had problems with the pastor who has major control issues.  The pastor does not want strong personalities in the church who disagree with him, including men on the board.  They and others in the congregation feel this pastor's attitude is "my way or the highway" even though he was doing things for "the good of the church" that were unconstitutional.  Board members  went to the pastor and asked for his resignation.  He refused the package they offered.  They consulted denominational headquarters and were advised to bring it to a church vote.

“Several new members joined the church two weeks before the vote.  Also, many members who had not attended the church in months showed up to vote.  There was a landslide vote in the Pastor's favor.  The next day, he had all the locks changed (without anyone's permission).  There used to be 36 church keys.  Now there are 6 that read "do not duplicate".  He then met with the board and asked them to resign from their positions or they would be voted out.  Two resigned.  One refused.  Then the pastor held a special business meeting (you are supposed to give 2 weeks notice).  He put it in the church bulletin the morning of the meeting.  At that meeting, he had the church vote to pull out of the denomination.  And, he voted to change the constitution to not use the board anymore but, to have a "pastoral advisory committee" appointed by the pastor.  He is talking of further restructuring….”

Over the years, I have heard my fair share of such senior pastor stories.  I bring this example to our attention to make it clear that when I assert the leadership role of the senior pastor among elders (as I outlined last week), it is not meant to give him license to rule as a despot.  Such an outcome can only occur if the elders fail to live up to their oversight responsibilities (hopefully as delineated in the church’s bylaws).

That said, let’s now return to W.J.M.’s “question, “is the church board in place to ‘come along side’ to help fulfill the vision of the pastor or are they there to ‘hold him accountable’ to the people?”  For me, the answer is both, and here is how such play out in the real world.

The Inner Workings of the Senior Pastor – Board Relationship
Foundational to the success of any elder board are two things: (1) a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities, beginning with the senior pastor in relationship to the rest of the board, and (2) open and ongoing communication.  Given his leadership role (see last week’s posting), the elders should “come along side” to help the senior pastor lead the charge in fulfilling the mission of the church.  The inner workings of this structure would look as follows.  The board and senior pastor agree on the parameters of his authority in terms of the kinds of decisions the senior pastor can make on his own during the course of the week without prior board approval.  In other words, the senior pastor should be accorded trust to make those day-to-day decisions that keep the work of the church effectively moving forward.  The senior pastor should report back to the elders during the meetings any significant decisions he made that the elders need to be aware of.  Conversely, an elder may be informed of a decision the pastor made by a complaining member.  In such a case, that elder would bring up that point for discussion.  Either way, the ensuing conversation should help clarify not merely the wisdom of the decision, but much more importantly, the appropriateness of the pastor to make it.  That’s where elder accountability comes in.  Happily, as this pattern unfolds over time, the parameters of the pastor’s domain should become clear to all.  (Note: When members rotate off the board, new members need to be fully informed of the arrangement and established boundaries to avoid unnecessary problems with the changing of the guard).

The Underlying Assumption
The underlying assumption here (which parallels what is found in the pastoral epistles regarding Timothy and Titus) is that the pastor is a man who can be trusted in the exercise of his office and should be accorded the corresponding trust, respect, and freedom to do so. 
By contrast, I am reminded of one pastor I met with who unhappily noted that his church was regulated by so many rules and policies that he almost needed permission to go to the bathroom.  In building the perfect church, such a bureaucratic scenario can choke the joy and vitality out of ministry.  From my perspective, the way elder support and accountability can be happily married is to assume the pastor has sound judgment to make decisions in areas that have been agreed upon by the elders and to restrict or expand those boundaries as needed upon further discussion.

Your conflict resolution and church development consultant,

Ken Newberger

FOR DISCUSSION:  What do you think?  How is your church doing in this area?  Do you have any thoughts or ideas that can further our discussion in this area?

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© 2005 Kenneth C. Newberger
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 help resolving conflict, if you need individual coaching, or if you would like to introduce a proactive conflict management system into your church, please visit Ken's website at www.ResolveChurchConflict.com
  or call 301-253-8877.

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You are invited to attend Ken's free conflict resolution seminar entitled, “How to Convert Church Problems and Tensions into Energy Leading to Deeper Relations and a Positive Outcome.”  This event is sponsored by Regent University at its Alexandria, VA campus (just outside of DC).  The date and time is March 7th, 7:00 – 9:00 pm.  For more information, contact Lolita Cobbs. Email: lolicob@regent.edu. Phone: 1-866-REGENT-U or 703-740-1409.  Come join us for an interactive and edifying time together.

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February 24, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Heavy Lifting of Ministry

Lifting

Kenny Luck has an interesting article featured at Pastors.com titled "Developing Men Who Take on the Heavy Lifting of the Ministry."  Kenny writes,

The reason men present such a challenge to the church is not because they are unmotivated or unchallenged or lacking opportunities to connect. To use a baseball (U.S.) anaology, the church is simply not throwing most men “pitches” they can hit.

It's not as easy as it looks to get a mass of men to 'the plate' -- where they can then begin to run the purpose-driven bases. Even if you are successful at getting them to participate in a spiritual growth campaign, it’s another challenge to move them around the bases in a way that resonates deeply with their manhood.

In order to feel confident about the spiritual process and pathway ahead,  there are some definite dos and don’ts when it comes to getting large numbers of men into the discipleship experience. This should be mission-critical in your journey toward health as a church. If you want more competent and reliable leaders who take over the heavy lifting of the ministry, here are some ideas to explore.

Fast Balls of Super High Commitment. We have lost so many opportunities to reach men in the last decade because we have set the bar too high and they give up before they even start. If the only option for a man to connect with other men in the church is a one-year spiritual discipleship program or to go “on mission,” you’ve lost him. Your average man will say to himself: “I am not there yet.” Typically, if a man has sin or character issues that he deems incongruent with the “high commitment” profile, he will stay away.

Curve Balls of Heavy Theology. There is theology -- and then there is theology that “plays.” Men fear what they don’t know and are constantly measuring their ability to connect to people or situations based on their level of knowledge. If the “feel” or offerings of your men’s culture are overly theological, most men will assess their Bible knowledge and self-select out of the program. On the other hand, we should take our cue from Luther, who said, “My temptations are my masters of divinity.”

Off-Speed Emotional Pitches.  Can you name three things which cause emotional discomfort in the average unchurched man? Try these on: singing, socializing, and sharing. Ironically, most men’s events, programs, retreats, or small groups place a high premium on all of these. Men treat emotions like smelly socks: They put them in the back of the drawer or in the hamper. They are not something they cozy up to! So when you seek to build a men’s culture that is attractive, you have to balance the fact that most men are in emotional kindergarten and that their DNA is built to avoid these exercises.

You can read the whole article here at Pastors.com.

What do you think?  How is your church doing in discipleshiping men to do the 'heavy lifting?'  I'd love to hear your comments

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February 23, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Elephant in the Boardroom: Transition, Jesus Style (Part 2)

Elephant_boardroomLast Tuesday, we looked at the first three principles of pastoral transitions, Jesus style. We've be using the new book titled "The Elephant in the Boardroom -- Speaking the Unspoken about Pastoral Transitions" by Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree. Today, we'll continue with the last three principles for Godly transitions outlined in the book. Carolyn and Russ write...

Jesus managed two major leadership transitions in His life. He managed His succession of His predecessor; and He managed His own departure. Today's leader has to manage these same transitions as well.

Principle Four: Envision Abundance
Jesus refuses to envision scarcity upon His departure. He refuses to envision stagnation in the future of His disciples: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12 NIV). The task of forming and articulating a positive vision for the future does not end with a pension for the leader. A leader following Jesus is called to articulate a vision for how the Body can thrive in and through a leadership transition. Anything less is a failure of discipleship.

The closer Jesus moved to His transition out of leadership, the more detailed He became about what would happen next. He gave clear direction... A leader who envisions abundance for the future had better have a specific plan in mind for how the vision will be realized. Every strategic plan should have a strategic target that lays out a transition strategy. The transition plan should have a clear set of actions, with accountability, time lines, and a budget. Envision abundance.

Principle Five: Create Capacity
When a leader moves on, a hole is left in the operation. The hole has two components. The first consists of those irreplaceable qualities that are unique to the leader and impossible to replicate. The second consists of transferable skills that were not transferred. Jesus as Messiah, was unique and irreplaceable. Jesus as mentor, teacher, preacher, and healer was replicable. The process of moving expertise from leader to people is called creating capacity, or reproducible ministry.

A congregation planning for transition needs to build capacity at the leadership level. It needs strategic thinkers and planners. It needs marketing and communication experts. It needs people with skills in personnel recruitment, management, and coaching. It needs people who understand fundraising and financial management. It needs psychologists and counselors who can help high-level people work together in periods of stress without getting entangled in personal issues and baggage. It needs professional artists who can paint and sculpt and sing people into new places. All these people need to be spiritually grounded.

Unfortunately, these are often the most underused people in the church. If they were honest, many leaders would admit being afraid to let people with these gifts too close to the reins of power, because they are threatened by such competence. At the same time, some of the most highly skilled laypeople in the workplace become less than adequate in the church because they have not been empowered to use their gifts to the maximum. As a result, a church that is rich in operational capacity has almost no bench strength at the leadership level. When a key leader departs, the church can't field a team. It is important at every level, but especially at the leadership level. Build capacity.

Principle Six: Fight the Demons
By "fighting the demons," we are not speaking about exorcism. We are speaking about managing the shadow side of our lives, which tends to emerge with particular strength during times of transition. All in all, we do not see many struggles in the life of Jesus, except around His transitions in and out of leadership. At the beginning, the transition from being a carpenter to an itinerate preacher and healer drives Him into the wilderness. At the end, the transition out of leadership and to the cross drives Him to Gethsemane. There are demons appearing at these points of transition that threaten to scuttle the future.

It is not necessary to go into a lengthy analysis of the spiritual struggles that emerge during a time of significant change. The issues tend to focus on matters of personal identity, worth, and place. Others have dealt with these issues in depth; you should make use of the fine resources readily available.

However, it is important to make the point that struggle around leader transition is almost all emotional and/or spiritual. We are afraid of the topic and therefore do not talk about it. We do not talk about it, and therefore we are afraid of it. The fact that we avoid such issues, make discussion of them taboo, reward silence, punish honesty, and put systems in place that perpetuate dysfunction is a spiritual issue.

Leaders on both sides of the board table must face the unhealthy part of themselves that threatens a successful pastoral transition.

Also, I would highly recommend that you consider using this book for a study for your group of board members, personnel committee members or elder group. It will make a huge difference in the future of your ministry. You can order your copies here.

FOR DISCUSSION:  What are your thoughts on these six principles?  Do they make sense?  Are they doable in your present situation?  What part of these principles is the hardest to understand or to implement?

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February 22, 2005 in Personnel Issues | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Monday, February 21, 2005

Culture Shift: Transforming Your Church from the Inside Out

CultureshiftRobert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro have a new book due to be released in April called "Culture Shift: Transforming Your Church from the Inside Out." It is a fascinating look at how as church pastors and staff members, we must address our church's own culture before making long and lasting changes. I'm enjoying reading through the book, and want to take the next couple of weeks to discuss the issue of 'culture' in the local church. Lewis and Codeiro know alot about what they write in their new book. They are both pastors that have seen dynamic culture change in their own churches (one in Hawaii, the other in Arkansas). Here is a little bit from the opening of "Culture Shift". Robert and Wayne write...

"Culture is the most important social reality in your church. Though invisible to the untrained eye, its power is undeniable. Culture gives color and flavor to everything your church is and does. Like a powerful current running through your church, it can move you inland or take you farther out to sea. It can prevent your church's potential from ever being realized, or-- if used by the Holy Spirit-- it can draw others in and reproduce healthy spiritual life all along the way.

Culture is also an enigma. It defies simple definition and is difficult to explain. It's not a "plug and play" program that you buy off the shelf. Nor is it something you can clone from another church that seems successful.

You might underestimate its capability for helping you or blocking you, just as you probably don't think regularly about the roll of the air you breathe. Yet to make any kind of transition as a church, your church's culture can't be ignored. Only if you play an active role in shifting the culture can you best help your church to become the organic, life-giving environment you've always known it can be.
What about your church? Would you like it to be an island of health that magnetically draws people who feel lost, seasick, or shipwrecked? Or people who are simply in need of solid ground on which to build their lives? Your church can indeed make certain changes and become the way church was always meant to be. Such changes focus not so much on the leatest new idea or program but on a culture shift that honors your church's unique values.

Are you in love with the potential that's in your church? Do you see the great potential God has already willed to it? As a leader, you're the tutor God has called to release it!

"But we don't have all the right resources, " you say.

"But we don't have that kind of culture," you say.

"But you don't know our church and the leadership group we inherited," you say.

God's children are heirs to things so precious that no amount of money can buy them. All they need is a tutor who sees their potential. That's you as a leader in the church. Your job is to develop a culture in which these young emerging leaders can mature to the point where they can steward the inheritance of Christ. Your church can have the best programs in the world, but deep-rooted change won't happen without the right culture shift.

Ephesians 4:11 says the purpose of a leader is "for the equipping of the saints", or "for building up the body of Christ." If you have people with Christ living inside, then you've got all you need. The right culture can be built by starting with what you already have.

Next week, we'll take a closer look at what culture actually is and how you can get a grasp on how to begin changing the culture in your church.

As I said, Robert and Wayne's book is set to be released on April 8, but you can pre-purchase a copy of Culture Shift now by going here. I think it's a book that you'll really want to read!

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February 21, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Friday, February 18, 2005

New Church Motto: Now 17% Less Judgmental

JudgeDisclaimer... Some may find this very cutting-edge.  Some will find this very disturbing.  Read on knowing I warned you.  :)

A church in California (The Annex) is now using the tagline:  "Now 17% Less Judgmental".  According to an article at the blogging website ChurchMarketingSucks.com, The Annex really got the idea from a comment made by a reader there after another church had T-Shirts printed with the words "we suck".

According to Pastor Robin Bailey of The Annex, "Now that may sound like a bit of a hokey tag line, but historically the church has been pretty darned judgmental wouldn't you say? How many people do you know that have been hurt by others claiming to know what God thinks?  Honestly, let's wake up here. Christianity's worst enemies tend to be those who get so caught up in being Holy that they neglect to be whole."

Well, it turns out that the "17 percent less" tagline produced a lot of controversy, causing Pastor Bailey to later post this at the Annex's website:

"So I guess you’ve noticed our tag line, and to be honest it was supposed to be more of a conversation starter than a statement. We stole it, okay we got permission from this guy Chris in Oregon to use it after I noticed it on a website discussion board.  (www.christianmarketingsucks.com). In the discussion regarding different slogans Chris brought up that it would be great if there was a church out there bold enough to recognize the way the church is regarded in our North American society outside of it’s walls (okay the Annex doesn’t even have walls yet). I loved it and so we ran with the “now 17% less judgmental” thing, not knowing how much controversy it would bring.                    

We have outraged Christians that are angered that we would say that their church is judgmental and we have outraged people that we are only 17% less judgmental. When we start to talk with both of these groups I think they start to understand where we’re coming from, so let me try and explain it a little bit here. First off we are striving to be at least 17% less judgmental than WE were yesterday, not the other church down the street. We at the Annex realize that God is trying to change us using us, it’s not our job to change the other churches around us. He also wants to use us to make an impact in the culture in which we live, mainly by helping us (the world in which we live) see Him in the stuff that is already going on (I’ll get into that in another post).

                   

As for the 17%, it just seemed like a number that may one day be attainable if we are being realistic. I once told a friend of mine, who told me that he was looking for a church that was at least 25% less judgmental, that there wasn’t one and if he found one that claimed to be they were probably lying! Now that may not be true but it’s all in your perspective. I’m not sure if I’m living up to the 17% thing or if I’ve just refocused my judgmental attitudes to another arena. And if I was paying attention in Sunday School class I would remember when Jesus said “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37) and then I’d realize that I may just have to work on raising that percentage!"

OK... let's hear your thoughts on this one!  :)

Have a great weekend!

Todd

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February 18, 2005 in Outreach and Evangelism | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Building the Perfect Church: The Newberger Project / The Relationship Between the Senior Pastor and other Elders

Building_1

Editor’s Note
[If you are new to this column, please read Ken’s foundational article from January 27, 2005, “The Four Issues All Churches Deal With.”  This will help you understand  the basis upon which this and the other articles in this series are written].

Introduction
W.J.M. [Category: The Newberger Project.  Article: “Tackling the Issues of Church Structure and Leadership,” Time:  February 10, 2005 11:09 AM] raises an excellent issue.  He asks, “is the church board in place to ‘come along side’ to help fulfill the vision of the pastor or are they there to ‘hold him accountable’ to the people?  There are two different mindsets here….  My point?  It's a matter of perspective and clear definition of purpose. Having a pastor in place that is wanting to lead along with a board in place that's holding the reigns can, and will, bring frustration for both (or visa versa).”

W.J.M.’s comments are the basis for this week’s posting and next.  The core of his remarks touches upon the relationship between the senior pastor and elders.  This week, I want to lay the foundation for what I think the Scriptures represents as the structural core of this relationship – with practical application.  Next week, I will more fully address W.J.M.’s specific question.

OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Biblically, elders clearly have oversight responsibility of the local congregation.

Biblical support:  (a) I Tim. 3:1. The title "overseer" itself,  which is also translated "superintendent" (BDAG Lexicon) is indicative of an elder’s role (see also Acts 20:28).  (b) I Tim. 3:4-5, where the analogy is made between the role of a husband and father in his own home to the role of an overseer in the church.  (c) Titus 1:7 where an overseer is called "God's steward," that is, “(house) steward, manager” (BDAG Lexicon) of God's household, the church (I Tim. 3:15).

LEADERSHIP
Yet even though oversight of a local church’s church well-being is given to a group of elders, a group without a single, identifiable leader is not only impossible, but is contrary to God’s pattern for humans (and even angels – Michael being the chief angel or archangel, Jude 9, cp. Rev. 12:7).  The fact is, “leadership” is Biblically endorsed for the major relationships that exist among humans.

Citizens are to be subject to the government , Ro. 13:1-2
Employees are to serve their employers, Col. 3:22-25
Wives are to be submissive to their husbands, Eph. 5:22
Children are to be obedient to their parents, Eph. 6:1
The church is to follow the lead of its elders, Heb. 13:7, 17;  I Thes. 5:12-13

Even within the most intimate of human relationships, the "one-flesh" relationship between a husband and wife, where two become one, leadership within that indivisible relationship is still defined. The point is, if the closest relationship created by God requires a leader, it would be to senseless to suppose that any other group, including a board of elders, would not have a similar need.

By way of footnote, sociologists have observed the same thing among all groups of people.  One college textbook has gone so far as to declare, Groups have leaders even if... the group is determined not to have a leader, (Sociology, Ian Robertson, 3rd ed., p. 170).

The question that logically needs to be asked next is, “who should this leader be?”  Succinctly the New Testament identifies leadership in the church based on two criteria. (1) those who teach the word, and (2) those who most fully serve others.

LEADERSHIP IN THE CHURCH

Teaching the Word
Hebrews 13:7 reads, “Remember your leaders... consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”  Who are these leaders?  What distinguishes them from others in the church?  The answer is contained in the verse.  The complete verse reads,  “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the Word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”  Leadership in the New Testament is identified as those individuals who exposit the Word of God.

Additional Evidence
It is universally recognized that James was the leader of the Jerusalem church (see, for example, NIV Study Bible notes on Acts 21:18 and Gal. 1:19).  In the midst of a major controversy recorded in Acts 15, the turning point came when James spoke up and declared, “Therefore, it is my judgment that…” (NASB),   or “Therefore I have reached the decision that we should…” (NRSV).  James’ judgment was accepted by the rest of the church, including the apostles and other elders.  Why?  What is most significant about James’ words is that his decision was based on his understanding of Scripture.  The “therefore” is a connecting word which explicitly joins James' citation from the OT with his decision (in other words, “on account of the teaching of Scripture, it is my judgment…”).   James' leadership role in the Jerusalem church is directly associated with his knowledge of and appeal to Scripture.

I Timothy 5:17 distinguishes between elders.  Though all elders are worthy of "double honor," such honor is to be accorded “especially to those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” This passage teaches that special deference is to be accorded the recognized Biblical teachers of the church.

Conclusion
These passages make it clear that within a local church, the leader among leaders is identified as the man who stands before others teaching the Word of God.  Today, this invariably translates to the role of the church’s senior pastor. 

Service
In Mark 10:42-45 we read, “42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  Similarly, in I Corinthians 16:15-16  we read, “Now brothers, you know that members of the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints, 16 I urge you to submit yourselves to such men, and of everyone who works and toils with them.”

These two passages on “servant-leadership” make it clear that the greater one’s commitment to service, the greater one’s authority.  Given a senior pastor's commitment to full-time ministry, in comparison to the outstanding work of lay elders, the senior pastor’s leadership among them should be so recognized.

Practical Application
Every group has a leader.  Among elders, two separate lines of Biblical teaching point to the senior pastor as being the leader among elders.  Some like to use the phrase, “the first among equals.”  Because of this, I am not averse to recommending that the senior pastor be accorded a vote of 1½ among the elders.  In practical terms, it gives the authority to the senior pastor to break frustrating tie votes.  (For those who feel this tie-breaking power accords the senior pastor too much power, simply maintain an odd number of elders).

Moreover, this conclusion speaks to the issue of who the “chairman of the board” is.  This doesn’t mean that senior pastors can’t delegate the role of meeting facilitator to another elder.  It does mean, however, that if he does, he is not delegating the authority of his office as well, a move that can lead to serious conflict.  I read about one case, for instance, where the chairman of one church’s elder board, a layman, asserted to the senior pastor, “You and the board aren’t in submission to me.  I’ve been elected chairman, placed in spiritual authority over this church, and you’re resisting my leadership.”  (As you can imagine, this church soon faced a serious internal problem).

For Discussion   
As I noted in the introduction, the full answer to W.J.M.’s question will come next week.  We will add spirit to these dry bones (the cultural mindset that can make this structure into a more perfect church).

In the meantime, what is your response to this basic breakdown of power and authority among elders?  Certainly, any structural arrangement can be abused, and we will be returning to the issues of accountability next week as well.  But for now, what do you think are either the strengths or weaknesses of the above outline?  If you have a different perspective altogether, please feel free to share it.

Your church development and conflict resolution consultant,

Ken

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© 2005 Kenneth C. Newberger
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 help resolving conflict, if you need individual coaching, or if you would like to introduce a proactive conflict management system into your church, please visit Ken's website at
www.ResolveChurchConflict.com  or call 301-253-8877.

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You are invited to attend Ken's free conflict resolution seminar entitled, “How to Convert Church Problems and Tensions into Energy Leading to Deeper Relations and a Positive Outcome.”  This event is sponsored by Regent University at its Alexandria, VA campus (just outside of DC).  The date and time is March 7th, 7:00 – 9:00 pm.  For more information, contact Lolita Cobbs.  Email: lolicob@regent.edu. Phone: 1-866-REGENT-U or 703-740-1409.  Come join us for an interactive and edifying time together.

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February 17, 2005 in The Newberger Project | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

What's Your Church's Priority for 2005?

BarnaGeorge Barna has some new research out on what churches are focusing on during the next year.  His findings are quite interesting.  Here's part of his posting at Barna.org:

Church analysts have noted that most congregations operate independently of the ideas and efforts of other churches. That absence of consensus emerged in the data from a new study conducted by The Barna Group (Ventura, California) regarding the ministry priorities of Protestant churches. When a nationally representative sample of 614 Senior Pastors was asked to identify the top three ministry priorities for their church in the coming year, not a single ministry emphasis was listed by even half of the church leaders.

Three-Stage Ranking

Overall, twelve different ministry emphases were listed by at least 3% of the pastors, aligned in three distinct levels of priority.

The most frequently mentioned priorities were discipleship and spiritual development (47%); evangelism and outreach (46%); and preaching (35%).

The second level of priorities included congregational care efforts, such as visitation and counseling (24%); worship (19%); ministry to teenagers and young adults (17%); missions (15%); community service (15%); ministry to children (13%); and congregational fellowship (11%).

The lowest priorities among the dozen ministries described by pastors were ministry to families (4%) and prayer (3%).

Priorities Varied by Church Types

The survey data revealed that different types of churches had different rankings regarding their priorities.

The most obvious differences were between white and black churches. Half of all white churches (50%) listed discipleship as their dominant priority, followed by evangelism (41%) and preaching (36%). Black churches, however, placed evangelism as their undisputed highest priority (67%), trailed by discipleship (35%), congregational care (24%) and preaching (24%). One-quarter of white churches (23%) said worship was a high priority, placing fifth in the ranking. However, just 3% of black churches listed worship as a top priority, ranking it 11th on their list. White churches placed ministry to children as their seventh highest priority (15%), while black congregations were less focused on children, rating it ninth (listed by 6%).

For more information see  click here High Impact African-American Churches  Click here

Baptist churches were distinguished by placing evangelism at the top of their ranking: 56% included it among their top priorities. (The figure was even higher among Southern Baptist churches: 60% rated it in their three highest priorities.) Baptist churches were also those most likely to name preaching as a priority. In contrast, mainline churches led the pack in citing discipleship ministries as their highest priority (54%). Pentecostal churches were substantially less likely than either Baptist or mainline pastors to mention discipleship (36%).

Male and female pastors had a few substantial disparities in perspective. Less than half of male pastors (46%) offered discipleship as a top priority compared to two-thirds of female pastors (65%). Female pastors were also twice as likely as their male counterparts to list community service as a high priority (29% versus 14%, respectively). Even though relatively few of the male pastors listed prayer as a major emphasis (4%), not a single female pastor identified prayer.

Also of interest was the fact that the largest churches studied were far more likely than smaller congregations to prioritize evangelism and outreach – which may explain their growth. However, larger churches were also those least likely to mention congregational care ministries as a priority.

Some Ministries Are Favored By Divergent Groups

Several of the ministry emphases that fell within the second and third tiers had notable champions within the church world.

For instance, worship was a relatively higher priority for mainline pastors (37%) than for Baptist (12%) or Pentecostal (13%) pastors. It was also less frequently cited by pastors of small churches (16% of those at churches with 100 or fewer adults) than by their colleagues pastoring larger congregations (23%).

Ministry to teenagers was most likely to be promoted in Pentecostal congregations (25%) and churches in the South (21%).

Missions gained the highest proportion of support from pastors of Baptist churches (22%) and theologically liberal congregations (23%). The least support for missions was expressed among pastors under the age of 40 (10% listed missions).

Besides the disparity listed between black and white congregations regarding ministry to children, pastors under 40 were twice as likely as older pastors to prioritize children (22% versus 11%, respectively). Churches in the Northeast and Midwest were also somewhat less likely to prioritize children’s ministry (9%) than were pastors from churches in the South and West (15%).

Reactions to the Results

Some of the survey outcomes surprised George Barna, who directed the research. “The magnitude of the differences between black and white congregations is very significant,” explained the author of the recent book describing faith in the lives of African-Americans, entitled High Impact African-American Churches.  “Compared to white pastors, few black pastors identified worship and preaching as top priorities, in spite of the fact that our surveys among church-goers show that African-Americans are much more likely than white congregants to be satisfied with their worship experience and to feel they have been in God’s presence at their worship services. This may reflect the fact that black pastors are attempting to broaden the faith experience and depth of their people by shifting their focus onto other dimensions of spiritual growth.”

Barna also mentioned that even though no specific types of ministries were prioritized by a majority of pastors, the distribution of priorities across the various church segments was strikingly similar. “While there are certainly distinctions worthy of note,” the researcher commented, “what really stands out is the consistency of the profile of priorities among pastors of vastly different church backgrounds and perspectives. Church size, regional location, doctrinal leaning, pastoral age and even pastoral gender produced surprisingly few major differences. This may reflect the similar emphasis that most pastors receive in their pastoral training. At the same time, it also suggests that it would be quite unlikely to see a significant shift in ministry priorities among the nation’s churches. What we have in place today is likely to remain relatively static for the foreseeable future, unless a confluence of leadership, events and resources emerges to alter the prevailing perspectives and habits of our Protestant churches.”

You can read the whole article/posting here at Barna.org...

What do you think?  Does any of this fit with what your church has planned for 2005?

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February 16, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Elephant in the Boardroom... Transition, Jesus Style (Part 1)

ElephantFor the past month of Tuesdays we've been looking, in depth, at the topic of pastoral transitions. We've be using the new book titled "The Elephant in the Boardroom -- Speaking the Unspoken about Pastoral Transitions" by Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree. Today, we'll begin with a few excerpts from the book that take an interesting look at how Jesus handled transition. This week we'll look at the first three of six principles. The authors write...

Jesus managed two major leadership transitions in His life. He managed His succession of His predecessor; and He managed His own departure. Today's leader has to manage these same transitions as well.

Principle One: Honor Thy Predecessor
Practically, honoring our predecessor means that we should use TLC with members regarding a predecessor. That's talk, listen, and comfirm.

Leaders help the transition process if they simply talk about their predecessor. Jesus did. He talked about John the Baptist on multiple occasions in public settings (Matthew 11:11; Mathew 21:32; Mark 11:30) Jesus was not afraid to talk about His predecessor in public. Yet many church members experience an eerie silence on the part of their new pastor regarding the work of his or her predecessor.

This leads to listening. Members need leaders to listen to them talk about their affection for their predecessor. This enables them to integrate their past and present experiences rather than compartmentalize them. If the leader is unwilling to do this, it places an emotional burden on the members.

Finally, the members need to have the leader confirm the importance of the past. As we develop, we generally are trying to find integrity in our lives. It is important to discover that a common thread has been running through our years, and that life is not merely a series of events that have no relationship to one another. Members and leaders need to confirm that past experiences, including those with a predecessor, made an important contribution to the drama of their lives even when a significant change has to be made.

Principle Two: Build on Health
Jesus said, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instruced about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old (Matthew 13:52). Jesus reached into the treasure chest of the pastor and pulled out what was healthy and strong, thus fashioning the timbers of the new work He was building. Many of the stories Jesus told were not original to Him; neither were many of His ideas. Jesus know where to find islands of health in His tradition, and that is where He planted His feet.

Today, one prevailing stream of thinking about leadership transitions tends to be illness-based. A pastoral departure is treaed like a terminal diagnosis; just as no one plans for cancer, no one plans for a leadership transition either. Once the leader has moved, grief sets in. Organic change has taken place. A death has taken place. The congregation is wounded in all the ways an individual is wounded by a personal loss, and it responds in a similar manner.

Considerable pressure is often brought to bear on a new leader to fix what is broken. Get inactive members to come back. Restore the women's association to its former strength... Focusing on these pockets of dysfunction is a poor transitional strategy. Jesus knew that. Build on health.

Principle Three: Complete the Past
Jesus was a master at completing the past. The past was neither His whipping post nor His prison. The past was the first stage of a two-stage rocket headed upward.

Jesus understood John the Baptist's role as preparatory to His work; there was no arrogance here relative to John. Jesus understood His own work as preparatory to that of His disciples; He understood the past as the forerunner of the present.

Jesus did not deal with the past by assassination, but by completion. He generally assumed that the past was the necessary path to the presend. The role of the new leader is to discover how he or she can complete the work of a previous leader or take it to a higher level.

What are your thoughts? How does looking at the way Jesus handled transition apply to each of us when we're considering a move? I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments!

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February 15, 2005 in Personnel Issues | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack