Do the Words We Use Limit the Solutions We Create?

Uncaging vision involves meticulous articulation. 

Every single word, metaphor or story that drives your vision must be carefully created if you want to have a stunning impact.

As Deborah Mills-Scofield, writing in HBR.org recently said:

Language is paradoxical.  In some ways, it doesn’t keep pace with the rate of societal and technological change (e.g., TV show, carbon copy) and in others, new words are created almost daily in response to our fast-changing world (e.g., selfie, MOOC).  There is a balance between using the past to understand the present and guide the future, on the one hand, and on the other, creating something fresh that leaves the old behind.  We need analogies to understand the new (e.g., horseless carriage) yet they also hold us back by it constraining our thinking (e.g., horseless carriage).

So I have a challenge for you. Watch your language and the language of those around you.  See what words you are using and how you’re using them. Do they help you and your organization move forward? View the world differently? Open your mind to new possibilities? Or do they constrain how you view the world?

And when you change the words, does the world change as well?

Recently, I ran into a new church planter in my hometown Starbucks. He thanked me again for writing Church Unique and was enthusiastic to share the results of their arduous process of walking the Vision Pathway found in the book. I was stunned by the clarity and eloquence of his mission to “make true disciples by being true disciples.” The name of his church is “One Life Church” and their living language vision is spearheaded by the rallying cry
“Now, we really live.” I left that day greatly encouraged that another “everyday” pastor was pressing into and wrestling through the art of word choice. Another pastor was becoming a skillful visionary.

My favorite way of capturing the thrust that language matters is found in the phrase: “Words create worlds.”

So if the words we use as leaders do indeed create worlds for our followers, what, may I ask, are you saying?


Want to learn more about the importance of language in communicating your vision? Connect with an Auxano Navigator.

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.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
 
— Carter Kerns
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Napkin Sketch Strategy: If You Can’t Draw It, You Can’t Deliver It

In the process of articulating disciple-making strategy with church teams,

I have grown to appreciate the power of a napkin sketch. In fact, I emphasized in my latest book: The Dream Big Workbook released in collaboration with Exponential.

In the book, I ask teams to put together as napkin sketch strategy. I define strategy as a picture that shows how your church accomplishes its mission on the broadest level. It is your disciple-making pathway. I also think of it as:

  • The operational logic of your church
  • The pattern of participation of your people
  • The rhythm of the body of Christ on mission 

Think of your napkin sketch as a map with simple, easy, and obvious next steps. It clarifies what you do “at church” and “in life” to keep church programming less complicated. It should be fun to share with others. Done right, a simple napkin sketch is a weapon to fight the prevailing and broken models of church. Church is not somewhere a person goes for one hour week, it’s a community of people living on mission everyday.

I will be uploading some videos of strategy napkin sketches soon.

Until then, read this great article on the power of a napkin sketch.

If you have not grabbed it yet, get a free copy of the Dream Big Workbook.


> Read more from Will.

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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.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
 
— Carter Kerns
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Ten Reasons You Need a Life Mission Statement

For decades we have heard of the importance of the life mission statement sometimes referred to as a personal mantra or life purpose idea.  But do you really need one? Can a simple little phrase make that much of a difference in your life?

The intentional living genre is literally the size of an ocean. Everyone is showing you a better way to “succeed in life” or a better methodology for planning your life or a new recipe for how to make New Year’s resolutions that  don’t suck.

And just about all of these approaches point to some kind of life mission statement or idea that’s a part of the mix. But most are ineffective. The reasons are pretty straightforward. The examples are often too generic or too lengthy because they are written on a whim without the context of good process and meaningful reflection.

For example, a top ranked Google search reveals a Fast Company article where they share the life mission statements of five famous CEOs. Two examples are:

  • “To have fun in my journey through life and learn from my mistakes.”
  • “To serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference.”

Really? While these sound nice they are a little too impotent and general, lacking a dynamic specificity. When people read examples like these it’s all too easy to write off the idea of having a personal life mission.

But in reality knowing your mission can be one of life’s most powerful tools.

Several years ago, I launched Life Younique, a training company that certifies church leaders to offer gospel-centered life designthrough their church. I have been passionate about helping people get life mission right–what exactly is the best way to know and name what God has created you to do?

So let’s start with the what and the why of life mission.  (We will leave how to write one for a different post.) Years ago I decided to call life mission a “LifeCall” statement. The most important reason is to see your mission in life as something created, designed and given by God. Therefore we are called not just to follow Jesus (common call to all people)  but we are called to accomplish something specific as a one-of-a-kind saint (your special assignment from God).

Your LifeCall is a brief and bold big idea that best captures today what God made you to do. Think of it as a golden compass pointing the way or a silver golden thread that weaves through every activity of your life. It’s the enduring rally cry of team-you; it’s the victory banner waving over everything you do. Ideally, every priority, project and penny is filtered through, guided by and championed for your LifeCall. Imagine every person in your sphere of influence being blessed better, served stronger and loved longer because you form a unique life mission every day.

Let’s unpack the definition a bit further: LifeCall is a brief and bold big idea that best captures today what God made you to do.

  • It’s brief: Stay between six and 12 words
  • It’s bold: Declare something that fires you up and makes you confident
  • It’s big: Account for every relationship, domain or “compartment” of your life
  • It’s best for today: Write it down now, even though it may improve over time
  • It’s about God: Reflect God’s goodness and testify to his creative genius that is you
  • It’s about doing: Capture a “being-doing fusion” that ultimately clarifies active output

Why is the knowing and naming your LifeCall so important?  In a nutshell your LifeCall enables you to do more of what you do best. It enhances every aspect of what it means to be human; to be alive as a follower of Jesus. Ponder these 10 benefits. Your LifeCall:

  • Solidifies personal identity in a way that nourishes intimacy with the God who created you
  • Generates internal confidence by revealing how God can use you each day
  • Unlocks deeper motivation that energizes your tasks and relationships
  • Refreshes others-centered thinking to build more love into the core of your being
  • Shapes vocational planning that moves toward increased value to the world
  • Empowers focused living by fortifying your resolve to say “no”
  • Diagnoses frustrating misalignments in the variety of life’s roles at home and work
  • Provides long-term orientation in the midst of suffering or difficult circumstances
  • Produces increased passion that leads toward greater mastery and autonomy
  • Guides lifelong dreaming that fills your days with optimism and hope

As you reflect on the power and beauty of articulating your own LifeCall, which one of the reasons is most significant to you at the beginning of 2018?

What is my LifeCall by the way? It’s to help you make yours more clear of course. But this is how I say it: Will exists to make a life of more meaningful progress more accessible to every believer. 

I have not written many blog posts this last year because I am working on my next book entitled Younique: Designing the Life that God Dreamed for You. I look forward to sharing more with you in 2018.

> Find out more about Younique 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.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
 
— Carter Kerns
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

10 Ways to Use Your Mission Statement Today

No, you don’t need a cooler mission statement so you can call it a mantra. No you don’t need a better sounding slogan. You need to know what the heck your church or ministry is ultimately supposed to be doing and you need to state in a clear, concise and compelling way. This is a leadership statement to direct and integrate all of your thinking, speaking and acting. Let me repeat- this is a leadership statement, not a marketing statement.

Start leading today by doing one or more of these activities.

#1 Rewrite your mission on a sheet of paper as many times as there are words in it. Each time write a different word in ALL CAPS. Reflect on each word of the mission. (Note: If your mission has more than 20 words in it, its too long. Proceed to idea #7)

#2 Look at your worship guide from last Sunday. List all of the ministry opportunity categories that were promoted and force rank them with regard to how effective each is at fulfilling the mission. (Great to do as a team.)

#3 Write the mission real big on a white board or white pad in your office and see how people interact with it.

#4 Ask the next ten people you meet in your church office or church service  if they know the mission of the church. (Make it fun and tell them you are doing research for blogger friend.) Pay attention to their response. (And let me know what happened.)

#5 Do this exercise with a person you are eating lunch with: Write the mission on a napkin and ask them, “What does this mission mean to you?” Listen. Then ask them, “When, if at all, did this mission come into your conscious thought?” Listen again.

#6 Create a five minute devotional using your mission, finding an appropriate biblical text to share.  Use the devotional with the different groups you lead this week.

#7 Read this FREE chapter from Church Unique on mission. It’s called Carry the Holy Orders. If you need to re-articulate your mission statement, spend 30 minutes planning time and decision-making steps to get it done.

#8 Make a list of five people that you believe model the mission of your ministry. Send all five of them a quick note to say something like, “Thanks for living the mission. You inspire me!”

#9 Write your personal “shadow mission.” What tends to drive you practically? What tends to drive your church practically? Go ahead and really write it out. (For example, a shadow mission might be, “We want to draw bigger crowds every Sunday with great teaching and worship.”  Compare and contrast the shadow mission with the real mission. Repent. Share this with other leaders.

#10 Spend time in prayer with you leadership team using your mission. Create time and space to pray through the mission and each word of the mission.

> Read more from Will.


 

Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn more about your mission.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Vision >

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.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
 
— Carter Kerns
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Do You Have a Blueprint for Ministry Model Change?

Looking back, 2016 was truly a landmark year. From Olympics to Elections to Chewbacca Mom, the year contained moments worth sharing and remembering. The year contained new beginnings, new opportunities and the potential for new ministry impact.

Maybe 2016 was also supposed to be the year that you finally implemented a discipleship strategy, but there never seemed to be enough time, the right team or an applicable model. In this, the last issue of SUMS Remix for 2016, the Auxano team wants to help you jumpstart the implementation of an intentional discipleship strategy for 2017. We are proud to feature disciple-making strategy solutions from three foundational books of the Auxano Vision Framing process.

There is no time like right now to develop a discipleship strategy that engages hearts and inspires growing faith every day. Do not let 2017 slip away. Start building the disciples of tomorrow, today.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Innovating Discipleship, by Will Mancini

Everyone is talking about discipleship, but too many churches stick to business as usual. Sunday comes and Sunday goes. The preacher preaches, the band worships, money gets put in the plate and people get back to their busy, unaffected lives. Hasn’t God called us to more?

Will Mancini thinks so, and that’s what Innovating Discipleship is all about. Innovating Discipleship is for church leaders who have growing discontent for “best practicing” and “fast following.” Is God calling you to re-dream and re-invent beyond the ministry models that were handed to you?

In this potent book, Mancini uncovers the primary obstacle in the minds of pastors that keeps discipleship stuck – revealed through thousands of hours of coaching with church leaders. He calls it the “default vision switch.”

More importantly, Innovating Discipleship gives you a simple and powerful tool to guide you, step by step, into the freedom and confidence of real discipleship, for your time and your place. In the end, there are only four paths to getting the results you have always wanted. Which path will be right for you?

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

One of the greatest challenges in helping church leaders through a vision process is quickly getting them to agree on “what is,” “what could be,” and then “what should be.” How do you start? How do you bring all of these very different perspectives together?

There are three approaches to church strategy:

  • More is more
  • Less is more
  • To be is more

Let’s ask three simple questions to identify what kind of approach represents your church.

1) Rhythm question: How many weekly engagements do we expect of people?

2) Purpose question: What are the purposes of the weekly engagements and how do they relate?

3) Environments question: Do these engagements take place in “church space” or “life space” or both?

Please don’t underestimate the simplicity and power of these questions. How a church answers these questions reveals an “operational logic” and an underlying belief system about the nature of the church.

Here is a brief description and simple diagram for these approaches.

MORE IS MORE

A “more is more” approach is seen in a church in which the basic operating assumption is that the more programs a church can offer in the “church space” the better. The hope is that more programs will attract more people and provide opportunities for spiritual growth.

LESS IS MORE

The “less is more” approach operates with the assumption that the church should provide a few high quality offerings. Whether or not these offerings take place in church space or life space is a variable. In addition, the church attempts to design these offerings so that they have a meaningful relationship to one another. Ideally, the program offerings are designed around a unified set of output (discipleship) results.

TO BE IS MORE

The “to be is more” approach operates with the assumption that the church should provide as little as needed in terms of weekly offerings in order to maximize output (discipleship) results in “life space.” With a greater focus on “life space,” each engagement is forced to have great clarity of purpose, and output (discipleship) results necessarily play a greater role in the church’s identity. This strategy requires a stronger presence of leadership and tool development.

Spiritual formation doesn’t happen in a program at the church. It happens by living your life. We really need to stay away from creating programs as our goal. Programs have their place, but they must be subordinated to the spiritual life.

– Dallas Willard

Think of your church’s ministry model as a pattern of “engagements” that are designed to produce certain outcomes. Engagements include any array of activities you offer from worship to mission trips. They are what you promote each week in your worship guide and everyday on your website. They include all of groups, classes, events, and initiatives that a church can offer. They include programs at church or anywhere away from the church, like a home-based life group or a community-based service initiative. If it’s a place I can go or something I can do in the name of your church, it’s an engagement.

Will Mancini, Innovating Discipleship

A NEXT STEP

Diagnosis – As you scan these three pictures above, which approach describes your church’s current strategy? Draw the diagram for your leadership team. Be sure to include all the various ministries you church currently offers.

Results – Looking at these three approaches to church strategy can help make connections between our ministry models and the results they are designed to produce. If you are unsatisfied with your current discipleship results, it is time to change your model.

Decision – Now you can better answer the question “Is it better to use our existing ministry model or to introduce a change?” What change would you introduce?

Every model of ministry today can be summarized by three different approaches; these approaches create a useful portal for discussing ministry model design for better results.

As you consider changing your current strategy or creating a new one, keep the following essential practices in mind.

Clarity: Innovation must be anchored in clarity first. Clarity isn’t everything but it changes everything. Clarity is the least understood innovation essential among church leaders.

Margin: If you don’t stop doing something, you’ll never start doing something better. Margin is essential. It’s the most neglected innovation essential to church staffs.

Heart: All innovation is a solution to a prior problem and people won’t care about your innovation until they emotionally connected to the problem. Heart is the most underappreciated essential for ministry leaders.

Team: Time and time again, the best ideas come from the collaborative engine of a team. For church leaders, leaning into team is the most inconvenient innovation essential.

Excerpted from SUMS Remix #56, December 2016


 

This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
 
— Carter Kerns
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Real Measure of Making Disciples

Looking back, 2016 was truly a landmark year. From Olympics to Elections to Chewbacca Mom, the year contained moments worth sharing and remembering. The year contained new beginnings, new opportunities and the potential for new ministry impact.

Maybe 2016 was also supposed to be the year that you finally implemented a discipleship strategy, but there never seemed to be enough time, the right team or an applicable model.
In this, the last issue of SUMS Remix for 2016, the Auxano team wants to help you jumpstart the implementation of an intentional discipleship strategy for 2017. We are proud to feature disciple-making strategy solutions from three foundational books of the Auxano Vision Framing process.

There is no time like right now to develop a discipleship strategy that engages hearts and inspires growing faith every day. Do not let 2017 slip away. Start building the disciples of tomorrow, today.

Develop the Measures of a growing disciple

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Church Unique, by Will Mancini

Church Unique, written by Will Mancini, outlines a new kind of visioning process to help churches develop a stunningly unique model of ministry that leads to redemptive movement. The process guides churches away from an internal focus to emphasize participation in their community and surrounding culture.

In Church Unique, Mancini explains that each church has a culture that reflects its particular values, thought, attitudes, and actions. It also shows how church leaders can unlock their church’s individual DNA and unleash their congregation’s one-of-a-kind potential.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Imagine that you are sitting in front of five or six people at your church. They may be elders, council members, volunteer leaders, or members of your small group. For the sake of our illustration, imagine that these people are paid staff at the church.

Then you ask them the simple question, “What ministry bull’s-eye are you all aiming at together?”

Would you see blank stares in response to this question? Or if the staff does attempt an answer, the bull’s-eye descriptions are never the same. In other words, it is almost impossible to walk into a church where the top leaders have a shared articulation of what results they are looking for.

The question becomes, “How do you know when all of these components are working as they should? In other words, when do you hit the bull’s-eye?” The answer is found in defining Measures as Missional Life Marks.

Auxano defines Measures as a set of attributes in an individual’s life that define or reflect the accomplishment of the church’s mission. The Measures are the church’s portrait of a disciple and definition of spiritual maturity. Measures supply the standard by which the mission can be measured with respect to an individual’s development through the ministry of the church.

The old maxim goes, “Your mission is what you measure.” Every church feels the gravitation pull to measure only the ABC’s (attendance, buildings, and cash). The problem is that you can be very successful with the ABC’s but be a circus. So what measures are appropriate for kingdom-minded leaders in the missional church? By defining your measures, you can focus your church on the Spirit’s work of soul formation, and Jesus’ agenda for multiplication. 

Although Measures can be a straightforward and simple definition for pastors, it’s strangely missing in our churches. On a typical leadership team, most people could scratch out a basic definition of a disciple within five minutes. Yet years and years go by without ministry staff ever having a shared definition to work from.

Will Mancini, Church Unique

A NEXT STEP

Use the following exercises to determine the top-level outline of your Measures.

Teams should create four to six categories as the outline of their Measures. More than six will be difficult for people to remember. To stimulate creative juices, here is a sample of ideas and exercises to get you started:

Mission man: Have small groups of leaders draw a stick figure on a large white pad. Using parts of the body as a creative spark, develop a list of the attributes of a disciple that corresponds to the body part.

Red-letter maturity: Have groups scan the red letters of the gospel— the words that Jesus spoke directly. Organize them into no more than six categories that describe a mature follower of Christ.

Missional interviews: Bring in three to five people who represent the most missionally minded people in your church. Talk to them about their story and life practices of following Christ. Ask them to list the six most important characteristics of their walk with Jesus. See how their individual lists compare and from them develop your own.

Obviously, these exercises are meant to stimulate the expression of biblical foundations already present on the leadership team. For a more thorough treatment, find books and Bible studies to work through together. Of course you can always study the Measures of other churches like those found in Church Unique. But don’t get too preoccupied with the expressions of others. Do the hard work of your own process! At this stage of the process your focus should be on content—what are the most important four to six ideas you want to use to describe the missional life.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 56-1, issued December 2016


 

This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
 
— Carter Kerns
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

6 Times When It’s a Good Idea to Change Your Church’s Mission Statement

Classic wisdom taught us that our mission or purpose statements are timeless. In many ways that’s true and its a helpful teaching concept. And in an ideal world, it works. But in reality, there are times when a leader should change or renew or recreate the sense of mission. So don’t let the classic wisdom freeze you and prevent a significant opportunity to create fresh meaning and new progress for God’s people under your care today. When should you rewrite your mission?

1) When no one knows the one you have

This happens when leaders have not been emotionally connected to the big idea of what the church is about; therefore they don’t use it as an everyday leadership tool. It never makes it into conversations, team meetings, volunteer recruitment or preaching. Usually this is the result of some ridiculous committee-based jargon that is way too long. Or it may be just a short over-generalization of the Great Commission or Great Commandment that has no real teeth for folks in the congregation.

EXAMPLE: Grace Presbyterian in Houston is in a two-year interim between senior pastors. The people of Grace engaged a vision process to better articulate their identity their and direction. Their previous mission to “Love God, Love people” wasn’t specific or actionable enough. So they are currently proposing a new expression, “Building a faith family by encouraging people overwhelmed by life to trust Christ in everything.”

2) When your existing mission reinforces, unintentionally, a consumeristic mentality

We look for the “catalytic” factor in a good mission; that is, it should reinforce upon hearing it, that it involves everyone in the gathering of God’s people. Sometimes a statement subtly reinforces the idea that “we have a pastor or staff who does the mission for us.” (Even thought this is always unintentional, it is more common than you would think.) The last thing you want is a statement that strengthens the death of the church with a clergy-laity false divide.

EXAMPLE: Bruce Miller grew Christ Fellowship in McKinney, Texas to about 2,000 in worship attendance. As the growth began to slow, I challenged him the idea that his mission wasn’t working any more: “Helping people follow Christ” What had clearly been everyone’s role when the church was 200 people (helping people), wasn’t so clear now that the church was 2,000 in attendance.  He didn’t believe me, so he tested it out. I told him to ask his leaders “Who helps people around here?” They all replied, “The staff.” So within the Vision Pathway process, the team added two simple words that changed everything. The mission of Christ Fellowship is now “People helping people, find and follow Christ”

3) When you simply have a better way to be more clear and compelling as your church grows and multiplies

Sometimes greater clarity comes as you lead. Sometimes a significant accomplishment behind you leaves you with an entirely new perspective looking ahead. At such times, a tweak or evolution of your mission can be strategic and powerful for the people you are leading.

EXAMPLE: At Faithbridge UMC, Ken Werlein saw tremendous growth in the first ten years to over 3,000 in worship attendance. Up to that point he had always led passionately with the same mission: “Making more and stronger disciples of Jesus.” To keep it catalytic, it would often be followed with the phrase, “By being a bridge of faith to people everyday.” But as the church grew, Ken was concerned about the quality of reproducing disciples. They spend an entire year re-envisioning their groups process and wanted to further clarify the end that was already embedded in the mission but not clearly expressed as it could be. Their mission now: “Making more and stronger disciples of Jesus, who make more and stronger disciples of Jesus.”

4) When you have discovered your Kingdom Concept  and can be more contextual with your language

We have worked with churches that have a good statements of mission that become less meaningful on the backside of our Kingdom Concept discovery work at Auxano. The Kingdom Concept is an tool we use to further discern your church’s unique strength by examining more thoughtfully, the unique place the church is located (local predicament) the unique people that God has gathered (collective potential) and the unique passion of the leadership team(apostolic spirit).  It answers the question, :What can your church do better than 10,000 others.”  Church leaders love to refresh their mission after this experience.

EXAMPLE: The Elders at Northwest Bible Church, led by Neil Tomba, were excited to land the plane on their Kingdom Concept, that unpacked how the church was called to “Make Jesus real in a make-believe world.” They discuss how their local area is filled with worldly and religious pretense. They discussed their passion to embrace and reinterpret brokenness.  Afterwards their existing mission, albeit good, didn’t feel great. It was, “Equipping people to passionately pursue Christ to do whatever he asks of us in the world.” Now their mission is “Inviting people into the unexpected joy of desperate dependance on Jesus.” Can you feel the difference?

5) When you borrowed the language of another church model to get started and now you have “grown -up”

Yes, many great leaders planted churches in the 80s, 90s and 00s by looking to great models like Willowcreek, Saddleback, NorthPoint, LifeChurch.tv, to name a few. These model churches also created vocabulary that leaders were inspired to adopt. This borrowing of language works fine in the early years. The problem is, God is always doing something unique and new. That means at some point in the church’s history and the leader’s core, a hunger emerges to express that something new; that something one-of-a-kind that God is doing. If this is happening you should name it by re-articulating your mission.

EXAMPLE: David Saathoff at Bandera Road City Church has seen God do amazing things at their church in San Antonio. In the early days, David was proud to take many cues from Bill Hybels. In fact, BRCC was a poster child seeker church. The church’s mission in its first chapter of ministry was, “Helping people far from God become fully devoted followers of Christ.” The mission ws meaningful and strong in the beginning. But a leader always knows where they get their words. David never forgot that his words were really articulated from the heart of Bill Hybels, not his own. Later, through the Vision Pathway, David would find the perfect words for what God was doing uniquely through the people of BRCC. Today their mission is, “Helping people far from God be catalysts of spiritual and social change.”

6) When you are reinventing or reinvigorating a declining church

If the mission isn’t happening it isn’t happening. I don’t think I have ever seen a turn-a-round without some new leadership or leadership tools in place. Remember the most fundamental tool of leadership is the statement of mission. It answers question zero- the question before all other questions. There are simply times where you need a re-statement to be a part of a congregational reboot.

EXAMPLE: Years ago Crozet Baptist Church realized that life wasn’t going to get better as a congregation unless they started focusing outward. With twenty-five deacons in the room  we set out to re-articulate their mission. With many different opinions in the room, there was one thing they could agree on: their town was located in the fastest growing county in the state and they would see unprecedented opportunity to reach people in  the church’s one-hundred plus year history. At the end of the Vision Pathway, they had a brand new day of clarity starting with the mission to encourage people in our ever-expanding community to follow Christ with ever-increasing passion.

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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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
 
— Carter Kerns
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

20 of the Most Important Things You Should Know About Your Church

Below you will find what I believe to be 20 very important, if not the most important things you should know about your church. Keep in mind these are things to measure about your church as an organization.  (This is NOT the top things to measure in terms of individual spiritual formation.)  I have told pastors for a long time I wouldn’t consider pastoring again unless I had the congregation’s commitment to measure these 20 things every two years.

But first the backstory…

For the last 12 years, the Auxano team has developed, used and refined a survey designed completely around the culture, vision  and strategic mid-term decision-making priorities of the church. I have led this process by turning over and inside out every possible church survey I could find. After about five years I felt like we had a good template to start with as we helped local churches with their specific needs and challenges.

We  have never advertised and I have never even blogged about this product. Why?  Despite its incredible benefit to our church clients we did not have the capacity to offer the service to churches unless they were engaged in our core experience called the Vision Pathway. The desire to bring this to more churches eventually led me to LifeWay Research. We have worked with them over the past year to bring the best survey to local churches that has ever been designed for YOUR LOCAL CHURCH.

Here is what we measure:

#1: Percent of new attenders in prior two years

#2: Guest percentage

#3: Profile of new attenders and guest including reason for attending

#4 Age of the church vs. age of the community

#5 Age of church vs. the age of new attenders in the prior two years

#6 Spiritual growth satisfaction

#7 Sense of connection to the church

#8 Giving patterns

#9 Adult conversion percentage

#10 Influence of ministries

#11 Group assimilation percentage

#12 Group assimilation obstacle identification

#13 Assimilation rate for groups and membership (if applicable)

#14 Serving assimilation percentage

#15 Serving assimilation obstacles

#16 Invitation activity

#17 Invitation obstacles

#18 Total assimilation percentages

#19 Strategic direction question cluster one

#20 Strategic direction question cluster two

What other things would you include on this list? The tool we use to get this info is what we call the RealTime Survey. Feel free to download our PDF about the survey by clicking here.

If you are interested in learning more, fill out this form and I’ll make sure one of my team reaches out to you.

 

Read more from Will here

Download PDF

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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.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
 
— Carter Kerns
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Most Important Decision to Lead By: Ministry Means or Ministry Ends

If you aren’t clear on your ministry ends you will always measure your ministry means. Think about it. If it’s easy to confuse ends and means than this becomes the most important distinction to lead by. I hate to break it to you as ministry leaders, but leading in the church is the MOST difficult environment to maintain this clarity.

How can immediately know where you stand with this distinction? If you don’t have clear language for both ministry means and ministry ends, you will necessarily be measuring means only.

For example, a ministry means is a small group. If your church has small groups you will have some language for this environment— home teams, life groups, etc. Ministry ends, on the other hand, is what that small group should produce, or facilitate or aim at in the life of an individual. Do your group leaders know the ministry ends for a small group?

  • Have you every clarified your ministry ends as a church?
  • What kind of disciple is your church designed to produce?
  • Have you ever measured anything other than attendance and giving?
  • What are the God results and spiritual output that you are really after?
  • Do you think attendance alone is an adequate way to assess the accomplishment of the mission?

There is actually an entire world of articulating and living into ministry ends. It’s the most freeing thing a ministry leader can ever experience. Do you stop measuring means? Of course not. You still count how many people you have in groups. But you count other stuff as well. You count…

  • How many 2:00am friends people have?
  • How many people have experienced meaningful accountability?
  • How many leaders have mentored other leaders?
  • Who in your life has “refrigerator rights?”
  • The confidence level of sharing the gospel?
  • How many people have crossed a cultural boundary for Jesus?
  • The level fulfillment of being a missionary in the workplace?

Lead with the end in mind.

Read more from Will here.

Download PDF

Tags: , , , , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Execution >

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.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
 
— Carter Kerns
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Eight Costs of the Pastoral Succession Crisis: Part 1 – Personal Costs

The challenge of pastoral succession is a topic of increasing interest for good reason. In the next decade we will see an unprecedented number of pastors hitting retirement age. In a recent study by Barna Research, we learn that the average age of pastors has increased by 10 years over the last 25 years and is currently age 54. In 2017, only 1 of 7 pastors are under age 40. In some denominations, the age is even higher. For example, one denomination, using Auxano’s new pastoral succession toolbox, has a much higher average age than the national norm–40% of it’s pastors are over age 60! 

But rather than focusing on the stats of pastoral succession and the coming wave of aging pastors, let’s take a closer look at what happens if we don’t “get succession right.” As a reader you are most likely aware that pastoral succession is a challenging and emotional topic to address for many church leaders. The purpose of this article is to wave a red flag with a spirit that says, “We must have this conversation.” For many church leaders that conversation needs to happen sooner than later. What really is at stake if a senior pastor fails to pass the baton to the next senior pastor? What kind of loss will a church experience if it doesn’t lovingly address this crucial topic at the right time? 

To capture the weight of the crisis, I will cover eight costs: four through the personal lens of the pastor himself and four through the lens of the congregation and the resulting broader impact. 

The Four Costs to Pastor

Failure to Thrive, Personally

The first cost to the pastor is the overall inability to thrive at a special season in ministry where transition is normative physically, logically and biblically for a leader.  As Will Heath, Auxano’s lead navigator for pastoral succession, shares often: “Every leader must move through the natural ministry seasons from “preparing” to  “doing” and then to “mentoring.” For example, a Levite priest in the Old Testament shifted the kind of work they performed at age 50.  Heath uses this biblical pattern as a guideline for helping pastors shift their “ministry season” to one of increased mentoring. I like the metaphor used by Bob Buford that leaders should navigate a journey from “warrior” to “king” to “sage.” The failure of succession planning keeps leaders working like warriors–laboring heavily like younger men do– when they should be transitioning to a “sage” stage where their experience and wisdom does the “heavy lifting” of work. 

Collapse of Trust, Relationally

Usually, people around the leader see clearly the “emotional block” and unwillingness to think through the succession planning question. Over time some of the best and most trusted relationships for the leader, start loosing the bond of solidarity. Ranging from mildly awkward to downright toxic, the entire dynamic of the leadership will shift. If the people in pastor’s sphere of influence are a leadership constellation, the stars will soon begin falling. 

Lack of Equipping, Strategically

The irony for the senior pastor who is not preparing to transition is that they rob themselves of the beauty of ministry in the final chapter– one that can and should be defined by equipping others. Robert Clinton in his classic work, The Making of Leader, emphasizes that the greatest fruitfulness in ministry comes in the later years as leaders lead from depth of character and a lifelong of learning. Pastors in their fifties, sixties and seventies have a bank vault of wealth to give away from their personal experiences, but often do so incidentally rather than intentionally. This is most evidenced in how they do the same thing the same way year after year in ministry. That is, they don’t change the mix of “doing ministry” and “developing others.” To use one of my favorite metaphors from Jim Collins they refuse to transition from “time telling” to “clock making.” They simply don’t invest into other leaders who will make the church stronger when their season of leading is finished. 

Forfeit of Legacy, Permanently

The most heartbreaking cost, short of moral failure, is the loss of a leader’s legacy when pastoring the flock long beyond their season of effectiveness. Again, it’s so easy for a senior pastor to be blind to their decreasing value as a “ ministry doer.” (Again, they might have amazing fruit as a “leader developer” but they don’t make the transition.) No matter how well a pastor leads over their lifetime, how they finish will mark how they are remembered. It’s like an airplane ride: it doesn’t matter how well your flight attendant service was at 30,000 feet if the plane crash lands. 

As you can imagine, the cost is very high for the leader who refuses to build a meaningful succession plan. But that’s not the entire picture, as the costs are even higher for the church. In a follow-up post will walk through the next four costs below. 

The Four Costs to Church

  • Loss of Momentum, Organizationally
  • Drain of Enthusiasm, Silently
  • Death of Humility, Symbolically
  • Fumbling of Influence, Culturally

What is a Pastor to Do?

Are you at a point to starting thinking about the succession conversation? Are you on a team to where this conversation is overdue?

Think about it: How will people celebrate your leadership when your day at the helm is done? It’s not too soon to prepare.

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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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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
 
— Carter Kerns
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.