Stop Spreading Your Time Too Thin

Calendars fill up quickly. If leaders don’t manage their calendars then their calendars will manage them. In my view, one of the most important decisions leaders makes is how to plan their work. Do they just react to what comes their way or do they proactively plan how they will lead and create? Meetings, emergencies, and time with people are a given. But what about preparing messages, planning ahead, and crafting direction? Some leaders set large blocks of time for that work while others attempt to “squeeze that work in” to their busy schedules.

I have learned that it is significantly more fruitful to intentionally place large chunks of time on the weekly calendar for preparation. In other words, the “blocks of time” have to be planned and protected. I have learned that:

  • One five-hour block of message prep is significantly more productive that five one-hour blocks.
  • One four-hour block of advanced planning is significantly more fruitful than eight 30-minute sessions in-between emails and meetings.

Here are 4 reasons leaders need large blocks of time (such as 3-5 hours of uninterrupted focus):

1. To maximize deep work.

In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport describes deep work as “a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” In other words, there is a place where you can go mentally that is hard to reproduce. I have heard leaders, writers, and preachers call it “the zone” or “being locked in,” but all speak about the sacredness of those moments, the amount of work that is accomplished, and the desire to not to get up from the desk because you don’t want the moment to end. Those moments of “deep work” cannot be microwaved; they take time.

2. To train yourself to not live and lead reactively.

There is always something to react to as a leader, always a problem to solve, always a question to answer, and always a correspondence to respond to. If you don’t block off time, you can easily spend your day just responding and not proactively leading.

3. To help others lead proactively.

Just as it is healthy for leaders to train themselves to not continually live in chaotic, reactive mode, it is healthy for their teams to also know they don’t have to, and shouldn’t, lead that way either. A leader who leads proactively teaches the team to do so and thus reduces chaos for the entire organization.

4. To encourage your team to solve problems without you.

A leader who loves to be, or needs to be, in every decision trains the team to not solve problems or make decisions without the leader. But a leader who is inaccessible for “large blocks of time” encourages the team to solve problems on their own. “Deep work” is good for the leader and the team.

> Read more from Eric.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Prep Questions for a New Year

2019 is a month old!

  • Is your direction clear?
  • Are your plans complete?
  • Is your lead team onboard?

5 Strategic Questions:

1) What is God saying to you?

God wants your church to thrive. It’s His church! No one cares more than He does. Don’t race ahead with your plans without asking God what He wants specifically for your church.

You may not be the senior pastor, but this is still relevant to you. Maybe you’re on staff leading a department or a volunteer leader of a small group, what is God saying to you? That may be the most important question you can ask as a leader.

This requires time from your busy schedule; a quiet cup of coffee or several cups over many days. And have a notepad or your laptop handy. What do you sense that God wants? What direction does He want you to take?

2) What changes are you making?

If there are no changes, no innovation, nothing new or next planned for 2019, you may be in for a year that looks a lot like 2018.

That may be a good thing, except for one crucial factor. It’s highly likely that you successfully led some smart changes more than a year ago that helped this year be a great one.

There is no way for a healthy and productive ministry to escape change. Nothing stays the same. The key is to make the right moves. Not change for the sake of change but make things better.

It’s usually not the best strategy to change everything all at once, instead, be selective. Focus on implementation. Do it right.

Cool and creative may be fun, but if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter. It has to actually work. Then while the new is working, start talking about what’s next. Don’t wait until the new and cool no longer works. If that happens, you can fix it, but it’s much more work.

3) How is your staff preparing?

Your church may be large with a big staff or a small start-up with volunteer staff, either way, your team has to be out in front of the change.

First, this means they need to have ownership and buy-in of a clear vision. Second, the strategy needs to be clear and quickly make sense to anyone on the team who sees it. And last, each person needs to have clear expectations about their responsibilities.

Equally important, your staff needs to be simultaneously working on their leadership development to shore up any skill gaps required to achieve the new and next for your church.

4) How will you measure success?

Measuring success in a spiritual realm can seem impossible, but it’s not. The subjective element of life-change isn’t the real issue of difficulty. The real challenge in measuring success is the lack of clarity in a goal and being consistent in the measurement of that goal.

The process of deciding how you will measure success, meaning specifically what you will measure, is more difficult than knowing if you achieved it or not.

This process of deciding what and how you will measure begins with being clear and honest about your vision. What are you measuring? Are you making progress? How? In what way? Do you change the goals to line up with what’s happening? That’s like when Charlie Brown shoots an arrow and then walks up and draws the target around the arrow. Draw the target first.

If you have missed the mark this year, don’t beat yourself up. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Focus on the new year.

5) Are you enthusiastic about your plans?

As the leader of the church or a leader in the church, no one will be excited if you aren’t. You can’t fake enthusiasm for long, the people will read right through that. If you and your key leaders believe in the direction and plan to get there, the congregation will too.

The plans don’t have to be perfect, but they must be clear and demonstrate forward motion. You can’t generate momentum if there is no sense of movement. If you are stuck and not sure what to do, go for small wins to start.

Genuine enthusiasm is birthed in your heart. It carries great emotion, but it’s not emotional. It’s strong and sure. It develops confidence and conviction. Genuine enthusiasm is contagious!

To summarize, Talk to God, be clear about what changes you are making, help the staff prepare, measure your results, and be enthusiastic about your plans.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

It’s Time to Shift Your Planning Horizon

Life is too busy. I continue to hear this from many people and it is especially true for the ones leading organizations. The leader often relays that they are so stuck in the day-to-day management of the business they cannot spend any time on the vision and direction. There are many techniques that help this, and I think one is getting clear on your planning horizon. What time frame should you be spending most of your time thinking about?

You have people for that

Let’s use the founder of the church as an example. Ten years ago he planted the church, and it has grown now to about 1000 people attending services on the weekend. In the beginning, he had to do nearly everything on his own, including dreaming about the long-term future and preparing for next Sunday. That works ok when an organization is very small because there aren’t that many details or moving parts to worry about. It is still a lot to think about and do. Now, he has staff and volunteers helping to run everything, but he is still in contact with each and every detail.

Do you trust people enough to guide and let go? If there are performance issues, then you can coach and train most people to get better over time. However, if there are trust issues where you can’t let go, that is usually a leadership challenge. Think about the worst thing that could (realistically) happen if you let them go on their own? If that risk is acceptable (and it usually is), then practice letting go.

Visualize your planning horizon

If you have a way to see your planning horizon, the time frame that should consume most of your thinking, then you can communicate effectively to others about your role and theirs.

What most people do as the organization grows and their leadership role expands is shown below. Note how they might be the founding pastor with visionary responsibilities, but they are still operating in the near term.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 9.07.22 AM

What I recommend is to shift the planning horizon rather than expand it. We all have to do a little bit of thinking about today and this week so we remember to get up in the morning, attend the staff meeting, or buy groceries. The question is where most of your time is focused at work.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 9.07.32 AM

Your Next Move

The next time you are too busy to think about the vision and direction of your church, consider drawing out your planning horizon, and do the same for those around you. If there is too much overlap, or you see gaps, then you have work to do so each of you can be working on the right stuff.

> Read more from Dave.


Earlier this year, Auxano Founder Will Mancini released his latest book, God Dreams. It contains a planning method that will bring energy and focus to your church like never before. To see the model for visionary planning check out how the Horizon Storyline works.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave Bair

Dave brings a unique talent for system and process implementation to the Leadership Team at Church Community Builder and also leads our team of coaches. His history of consulting with major corporations to implement change has enabled him to build an impressive coaching framework to guide church leaders towards operational effectiveness. Dave and his wife of many years have a daughter, studying chemistry in college, and a son in high school who's passions include saxophone and drums. In addition for finding Dave at DaveBair.co you may occasionally spot him piloting his hot air ballon in the western sky.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Planning, Strategy, and the Eisenhower Matrix

Dwight Eisenhower is noted as saying, “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” He is credited with the quote because of his emphasis on planning and strategy. From this quote, the Eisenhower matrix was born, which Stephen Covey later popularized. Here is my sketch of it:

EisenhowerMatrix

The matrix has four quadrants:

  1. Urgent, Important: These are things that must be handled now and include ongoing execution, important conversations, and necessary interruptions. We will spend much of our lives in this quadrant, as these are things we must do, things we are honored to do.
  2. Important, Not Urgent: This is where leaders do their strategic planning and most thoughtful and creative work. Wise leaders carve out time and energy to invest in this type of work. They plan for this time so they may plan for the future, prepare, and work closely with teams.
  3. Not Important, Not Urgent: These are unnecessary distractions that provide little or no value. Wise leaders constantly look to stop doing these things.
  4. Urgent, Not Important: These are urgent tasks that come up but can be handled by someone else or should be handled by someone else because another is more qualified or ultimately responsible for the urgent matter. In other words, it should not be of deep importance to you. These items should be delegated or outsourced.

As I have led and watched others lead, here are three thoughts for leaders:

Take time to plan work, not just do work.

Instead of thinking strategically, many leaders run chaotically in a plethora of directions. The result of not investing ample time in Quadrant I is chaos, wasted energy, and mindless execution. If you never spend time in Quadrant I, you are unable to process and learn from all the activity, and you lack the ability to plan for the future.

The unnecessary robs energy from the important.

It is really Quadrant III that steals the important energy from leaders, energy that is needed for Quadrant I and Quadrant II. As Peter Drucker stated, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Leaders who don’t take time to evaluate what shouldn’t be done in the first place continue to waste time and energy on the unimportant.

The urgent and important can overwhelm.

Many leaders carry resentment and fatigue for the activities that fall into Quadrant II—the urgent and important that constantly comes up. But Quadrant II is significant, and much of the impact we make happens in this quadrant. In Quadrant II are unplanned conversations with people who need our counsel, unplanned crises that need our leadership, and important tasks that get the work done. So that the important and urgent don’t crush us, leaders must appropriate energy from Quadrant III and Quadrant IV.

> Read more from Eric here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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Clarity Process

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Planning Takes Too Long

“Planning takes too long. Let’s just get started.”

For most of us, the joy of a project is in the result: the finished product. We may even feel too busy to go through the process of creating a clear plan, wanting to ‘hit the ground running’. But how do you know if you’re running in the right direction? When we start coaching a new church to implement a change, we make a plan. Usually this is a pretty detailed plan with lots of tasks, dependent steps, dates … the whole bit. We often get feedback that this planning process takes too long and they just want to get started. But in my mind, planning equals speed. I know that sounds contradictory, but the key is whether you are in a hurry to start, or to finish

What’s the Hurry?

If you are in a hurry to start a project, then planning is indeed a waste and should be ignored. However, let’s first ask what is driving us to be in a hurry.  Here are some common reasons we hear: 

  • I have to show ____ I am making progress.
  • If we have a plan, we will be forced to follow it, and I want to be more flexible.
  • I am new here and need to show them I know what I am doing.
  • You just can’t plan this type of work.
  • I am an action-oriented person. All this talking just wears me out.

None of those hold water in my mind; they are excuses. There is a time, when exploring a brand new thing nobody has ever done, that plans can be fairly  vague and loose. In fact, sometimes projects are entering into such an unknown territory that making a meaningful plan can be a waste of your time. However, those cases are the exception, not the rule. 

How Does Planning Make Us Faster?

There are four key benefits to a solid plan.

A good plan clarifies direction, scope, and the value of a project before you begin. How many times have you started a project that seemed like a good idea, only to realize halfway through that you can’t even remember why the project was so important? Planning allows you to firm up those reasons and success criteria early. Sometimes creating a plan helps you to realize the project isn’t even worth doing. You just saved yourself and your team a ton of time! The last thing any of us needs in our busy lives is a project we shouldn’t be doing.

A good plan helps us stay focused. This is my favorite reason to make a plan, because I can get so easily distracted. I need tools to help me think only about what is relevant right now. Debating about the color of the carpet in the new sanctuary is not worthwhile when you should be focused on the location of the new building and buying the land.

A good plan helps us to avoid rework. Have you ever heard the phrase “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing over again”? While I have always enjoyed that adage, It bothers me that we behave that way so frequently. Think of the time and costs associated with having to go back and redo something — you could have avoided that rework if you had a good plan. A plan should help you do work in the ‘right’ order. Some tasks can be accomplished any time; others have steps that have to be completed first before moving to the next. A planned workflow can help you be efficient and continue to make progress toward your goal. Think of your new church building: pouring the foundation before you have decided where the electrical and plumbing go would be a real mistake. You would have to tear it out and pour more concrete later when you really had a design. In fact, I worked with a church that failed to think about how they were going to run sound and video cables between the stage and the sound booth, so had to tear up concrete in the floor to lay down cables and then come back and repair the floor.

A good plan show us progress. A plan with some milestones in it allows us to track our progress. That progress status is used to do three things that tend to increase motivation, resources, and speed. 

  1. Communicate project status. Sharing with the organization, “We are 30% done on this and we estimate being complete in October” builds clarity and reminds others you are still working and progressing.
  2. Celebrate your progress. Some steps are more difficult than others, and when you celebrate completing a difficult challenge, it builds morale within our team. “Yahoo — we reached the end of the design phase!” An encouraged team is more motivated  to focus on the work.
  3. Compete for resources. In this world of limited time and resources, we often have to fight to keep the resources we secured at the beginning of the project. Sometimes this can be true in the capital campaign as well. “We still need Bob on our team. Look at all he has done and what other tasks are assigned to him.” Plus this is not only true for human resources but financial commitments as well. At the launch of the project, people committed to give to support it, but if you don’t keep them in the loop on the progress you are making, you run the risk of their getting distracted and putting their money elsewhere. 

Be willing to focus on the outcome you want before starting. Think of that project you are hesitating to start. Make a quick plan … just enough to get started. If this is a big project, find yourself some project management software and someone to drive it.

> Read more from Dave.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave Bair

Dave brings a unique talent for system and process implementation to the Leadership Team at Church Community Builder and also leads our team of coaches. His history of consulting with major corporations to implement change has enabled him to build an impressive coaching framework to guide church leaders towards operational effectiveness. Dave and his wife of many years have a daughter, studying chemistry in college, and a son in high school who's passions include saxophone and drums. In addition for finding Dave at DaveBair.co you may occasionally spot him piloting his hot air ballon in the western sky.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Thirteen Issues for Churches in 2013, Part Two

In a previous post, I noted six key issues facing many American congregations. I will discuss seven more issues in this article, and thus provide 13 issues for 2013. As a reminder, these 13 items are not as much prognostications as they are current trends that are accelerating.

  1. Innovative use of space. I recently drove onto a church property located on approximately three to four acres. My consultant training told me that 300 to 500 people could worship on that site. The Millennial pastor who was riding with me said that the site could easily accommodate 2,000 in attendance. The younger pastor did not see limitations of times or days of worship. Indeed that generation will cause us to look anew at church space limitations.
  2. Heightened conflict. The Millennial generation will not accept church-as-usual. They are shaking the status quo in many churches. They are not seeking to be adversarial; they are simply asking tough questions that those of us in older generations were reticent to address. Anecdotally the greatest resistance to change is occurring in the Builder generation and the older Boomer generation (roughly including those born before 1955).
  3. Adversarial government. More public schools and other public facilities will be less accepting of churches meeting in their facilities. Some other local governments are resisting approval of non-tax paying congregations expanding their facilities. New churches and existing churches that are expanding their venues will be forced to become more creative as they look for new locations.
  4. Community focus. One of the great benefits the Millennial generation brings to our churches is their focus on the community in which the church is located. They are not content simply to offer ministries to those who come to the church facilities; they are going into the community to serve the merchants and residents who work and live there.
  5. Cultural discomfort. Many of the issues noted thus far point to growing levels of discomfort for the congregations in the culture they seek to minister and serve. For all of the twentieth century and even the early years of the twenty-first century, it was culturally acceptable, even expected, to be a part of  a local congregation. Those expectations are all but gone. There is a growing and distinct divide between the values of the culture and the Christian values most churches hold.
  6. Organizational distrust. There is a pervasive and growing distrust of institutions in general. Those institutions are found in both government and business, but religious institutions are not exempt from this lack of trust. That diminishing confidence exudes from those both in churches and those who do not attend churches.
  7. Reductions in church staff. I am watching this development carefully. Two different forces are at work. First, in many congregations there is a greater emphasis on laypersons handling roles once led by paid staff.  Second, the tough economic climate and declining church attendance are naturally affecting church budgets. Congregations are reticent to fire staff, but more and more are not filling vacant positions.

What is your reaction to these issues? What trends would you add to this list?

Read Part One here.

Read more from Thom here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Clarity Process

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Thirteen Issues for Churches in 2013, Part One

As the new year unfolds, it is always a healthy exercise to look ahead to key opportunities and key challenges. Certainly such an effort is in order for congregations in North America. I plan to look at thirteen of those issues in this blog and my blog on Wednesday.

This extrapolation is not an exercise in keen foresight or extraordinary mental acumen. I am simply looking at current issues that seem to be gaining momentum. These issues will present themselves unevenly to different churches. But I foresee that tens of thousands of American congregations will be impacted by each of them.

I am grateful to Sam Rainer for his recent post, “Looking Ahead to 2013: What Should the Church Expect.” Many of his seminal ideas are captured in these articles. Though I list the issues in numerical order, I am not attempting to assign any degree of importance of one over another.

  1. The impact of the “nones.” The 2012 study by Pew Research rightfully garnered much attention. The percentage of the adult U. S. population that claims no religious affiliation increased from 15 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2012. That is an amazing 33 percent increase in that one category in a relatively short period. One implication for local congregation is the decrease of marginal church attendees, often called “CEO” (Christmas Easter Only) Christians. There is no longer much societal pressure to attend church. Those on the margins are thus falling off completely. There will continue to be a financial impact since these infrequent attendees typically provided some level of giving to their churches.
  2. Migration back to small groups. For three decades, the key emphasis in American church life has been the corporate worship experience. Though that emphasis is not going away, there is an increasing emphasis on moving people to small groups of all kinds: Sunday schools; home groups; life groups; etc. There is an increasing awareness that those who are in groups have a higher level of commitment in almost all areas of church life. As the Sunday school movement swept the nation for a half-century through the 1970s, a similar groups movement is already underway and should gain even more momentum.
  3. Accelerated closing of churches. The institutional church stubbornly resists formal closing. Even if only six or seven people attend each week, those few fight for the survival of their church. Those who were attending these very small churches are either moving to the “nones” category, or they are moving to larger churches. The primary stalwarts to keep the doors open are members of the builder generation, those born before 1946.  As that generation decreases at an increasing rate, more churches will close. Any guess to the number of closings in 2013 is speculation on my part. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if the numbers reach the 8,000 to 10,000 level.
  4. More churches moving to multiple venues. Membership in Mensa is not a requisite to have an insight on this issue. Just from an anecdotal perspective, the number of congregations moving to multiple venues is staggering. Indeed that issue may be the single greatest distinguishing factor in growing churches. The variety of the venues is increasing as well. Some churches have different venues on the same campus. Others move to multiple campus models. Some have an onsite preacher/teacher; others offer video streaming. Some churches have venues on Sunday only. Other churches have venues up to seven days a week. In the 1960s American congregations moved to multiple worship services in sweeping numbers. That same trend in multiple venues is taking place today. It should accelerate.
  5. The growth of prayer emphases in local congregations. Though prayer is foundational in the life of New Testament congregations, it frankly has not garnered much attention in recent years in American churches. There was a subtle but noticeable shift in 2012. More and more church leaders and members realized that the power and strength of health in their congregations is not human-centered but God-dependent. I am reticent to predict a true prayer revival in our nation, but I am confident in saying that more local congregations will focus on prayer. It will be interesting to see how such an emphasis manifests itself in each local body.
  6. Fickle commitment. In his post, Sam Rainer noted an overall decline in institutional loyalty. It is certainly pervasive in many American congregations. Indeed, the culture of the vast majority of American churches has been one of low commitment. That lower level of commitment is evident, paradoxically, in even the more committed members. Those members who once were present “every time the doors were open” may now be present, for example, 75 percent of the time. It is likely that decreased frequency of active attendees may be the single largest contributor to church decline in the past five years.

 

Read Part Two tomorrow.

Read more from Thom here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Clarity Process

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Favorite New Year’s Planning Posts for Church Leaders

Your favorite posts on my blog have often come during the New Year window. And I always enjoy creating new content at this time year just for you.

Here are some top posts from my last five years blogging. All of these were created from a New Year planning perspective:

Clarity 101: Goals, Vision, Planning…Blah, Blah, Blah

I wrote this post because people often misunderstand the importance of 30,000 foot, bigger picture clarity before jumping into the daily stuff. AND so much content focuses on the daily stuff.

Church Vision and Strategy Trends

In 2011, I wrote a post that is just as relevant two years later. This post was subsequently picked up by most leadership magazines and online blog aggregators including ChurchLeaders.com and Pastors.com

11 High-Impact Planning Ideas for Senior Pastors

I wrote this post to give some practical ideas to lead pastors. Have you seen it? What are you planning to do new in 2013?

Taking Vision Public: Six Steps to Vision Soaked Communication

This is actually a robust series that I wrote for New Years last year. It is useful for any pastor, but especially those have any responsibility for church communications.  Be sure to read through each post in the series. And, why not send to a friend who is specifically involved in church communications!

Happy New Year my ministry friends!!!  As always, thank you for taking time to swing by the blog.

Read more from Will here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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Clarity Process

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Looking Ahead to 2013: What Should the Church Expect?

If you do not make assumptions about the future, then you are not leading. Good leaders constantly assess the cultural climate. In other words, they do research. Good leaders are also willing to change their assumptions. In other words, they are flexible.  Holding firm to assumptions from the Y2K era is about as relevant as giving a set of Pokemon cards to your kids this year for Christmas.

So at the end of every year, I pause to challenge my underlying assumptions of what I believe the future holds. Vision is a key to leadership, and the nature of vision requires an assumption of what will happen in the future. Therefore, you cannot lead unless you are thinking about the future.

In a recent article about Ford Motor Company, the head of their trends and futuring department revealed several assumptions about the coming year. Though Ford is trying to determine consumer demand for automobiles three years in advance, their research is valuable to the church because they are assessing global trends within sociology, economics, technology, and politics, among others.

So what trends should the church expect to help define the cultural climate of 2013? More specifically, what assumptions do people have about organizations right now? The Ford consumer environment report has a lot of commonalities with current church research. I’ve listed below a few general, qualitative assumptions for church leaders to consider.

Lack of organizational trust. The fiscal cliff, BP, News International, bank after bank, public sector or private sector—the list of examples is long. Brand trust, organizational trust, and institutional trust are all low.  We’re foolish to think this lack of trust in the culture does not apply to the church. The best way to combat a general lack of organizational trust is to build a specific reputation as a trustworthy church. You may not trust car mechanics—generally—but you probably put forth effort to find one you do trust. And the way you find the trustworthy mechanic is through word-of-mouth. It’s the same with doctors. I recently spent considerable time asking people about the best doctor in a particular field. People may not trust churches organizationally as a whole, but a specific reputation as a trustworthy church spreads rapidly through word-of-mouth.

Desire for accountability in leadership. The single most neglected leadership behavior among executives is… accountability. And it’s the most neglected leadership behavior from a global perspective. It should come as no surprise that people recognize the pervasive culture of unaccountability and desire leaders who not only hold others accountable but are also willing to be held accountable. A lack of leadership accountability precipitates almost every church scandal. People desire accountability. From a biblical perspective, the church should be well-positioned to fill this desire. Ironically, many church leaders avoid it.

Fickle commitment. Gone are the days of working for a company for 50 years. People were once loyal to a single employer. Those employers once went to great lengths to take care of their employees. It just doesn’t happen anymore. Over 90 percent of millennials expect to stay at a job for less than three years. Why would we expect anything different for the church? Many reasons exist as to why people church hop, but a large driving factor is the cultural force of fickleness. A church can build commitment levels by having a culture of high expectations. When these expectations are communicated clearly and upfront, the people that commit are more likely to stick.

Intimacy within the crowd. We are quickly becoming an urban society. Big cities are getting bigger. Big churches are getting bigger. People are leaving the countryside in favor of the concrete jungle. The gravitational pull of large cities and large churches will continue for a generation, at least. But the draw of the city and the large church does not mean people eschew intimacy. In fact, the crowds of megacities and megachurches mean people are more intentional about trying to find intimacy. Healthy churches will get bigger by getting smaller. In this era of urbanization, small group settings are arguably more important now than at any point in our history. Quite simply, you will not keep people in a large worship service for long without also connecting them to a small group.

Weariness of overwhelming amounts of information. Hyperlinks, RSS feeds, and Twitter—all are great until you just get overwhelmed. Access to information is no longer a problem. Everyone is talking, and it’s posted all over the Internet hinterland. Now people just want to know who to listen to. In the overwhelming, loud complexity of our culture, the church should be a solace of simplicity and clarity. Of course, most church leaders try to make their church simple for them. Making a church simple for the people, however, is tremendously difficult and entirely complex for the leadership. As church leaders, we’ve made simple about us. It’s time we make church simple for the people.

Projecting the cultural climate ten years out is about as exact as nailing the tenth day in a ten-day forecast. But there is great value in assessing your assumptions about the direction of the culture, especially within the next year or two. Our culture is constantly changing. What people think about organizations is changing. As a leader, you must become a student of the culture to recognize these changes, and you must be flexible enough to rework your assumptions when necessary.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Rainer III

Sam serves as lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church. He is also the president of Rainer Research, and he is the co-founder/co-owner of Rainer Publishing. His desire is to provide answers for better church health. Sam is author of the book, Obstacles in the Established Church, and the co-author of the book, Essential Church. He is an editorial advisor/contributor at Church Executive magazine. He has also served as a consulting editor at Outreach magazine. He has written over 150 articles on church health for numerous publications, and he is a frequent conference speaker. Before submitting to the call of ministry, Sam worked in a procurement consulting role for Fortune 1000 companies. Sam holds a B.S. in Finance and Marketing from the University of South Carolina, an M.A. in Missiology from Southern Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University.

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COMMENTS

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Mr. Jon Whiteway — 01/08/13 9:59 am

Truly appreciate this post! It will be extremely helpful to leaders within multiple roles. Your statement about assessing our assumptions really resonated with me. As a Marine Corps Infantry Officer I've been told it's my job to make assumptions when planning missions. This is only acceptable, however, if I use the most up-to-date information to craft a course of action that I assume will change upon execution in conjunction with an emphasis on the envisioned endstate of the engagement. Thank you for challenging our assumptions on making assumptions as well as disseminating some of this critical up-to-date information!

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Conquer Big Creative Projects Using Past, Present, and Future Focus

In the past 25 days, I have written five chapters for my first book, which currently stands at 35,554 words of text. This writing has happened around also taking three out-of-town trips, working with clients, writing my newsletter, completing guest posts, giving virtual training courses, keeping in touch with family and friends, and still sleeping an average of 6.5 hours a night (the amount I need to be at my prime). At first, I feared that I might lose my typically peaceful approach to work because of the enormity of the project and the tight publisher’s deadline. But by using the techniques described below, I’ve found it possible to manage a huge increase in my workload without becoming frantic. Here are my secrets to using past, present, and future focus to tackle a large creative project with a fixed deadline:

Past Focus: When to Look Back

Big Picture: Looking backward plays a critical role in making your overall project plan. Before you begin, take some time to review any similar creative work. For example, if you were an illustrator taking on a new commission to illustrate a brochure, you might think back to a previous project in which you had to generate a similar volume of work. Then, based on the hard numbers from this past experience, you can estimate about how long you think it will take you to complete your current project and block out the time accordingly.

Day-to-Day: Once you have your overall plan in place, assess your actual versus estimated progress on a daily or weekly basis and adjust the plan accordingly. For instance, you could make a goal of finishing 1 of 10 illustrations this week and set aside 8 hours to do so based on your previous experience. If you get to the end of the week and haven’t gotten the work done even though you put in 8 hours, you can decide how to allocate your hours the following week to finish the first drawing and keep on schedule for the other 9.

Looking backward plays a critical role in making your overall project plan.

Read the rest about present and future focus from Elizabeth here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Grace Saunders

Elizabeth Grace Saunders is a time management life coach who empowers clients around the world to go from feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and guilty to feeling peaceful, confident and accomplished with how they invest their time. Find out more at www.ScheduleMakeover.com.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
— Okello.moses
 
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— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
— Thomas TC Gotcher
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.