Archives For Leadership

In basketball, there’s a concept that’s vital. And it’s something that’s rarely seen by the person unless they’re watching intently. The casual basketball viewer won’t see it, because the casual viewer watches the ball. The ball is where the action happens. Scoring, passing, steals, and blocks all happen AT the ball.

But what happens away from the ball is often just as important.

image credit: UKSports.com

image credit: UKSports.com

 

It’s a concept called “moving without the ball.” It’s pretty self-explanatory, but just for the sake of clarity allow me to explain in further details.

Moving without the ball means you move even when you don’t have the ball, with the express purpose of creating the next play, receiving the next pass, gaining the next rebound, or blocking the next shot. IF you don’t move without the ball, you’ll be caught in the wrong position at the wrong time. Or, said more accurately, you won’t be in the right position at the right time if you don’t move when you don’t control the ball.

If you don’t move without the ball

  • You’ll never get open
  • You’ll never score
  • You’ll be out of position when the time is right
  • You won’t be ready to steal
  • You’ll get left behind
  • You’ll constantly be wondering where the action is happening
  • You’ll not be in the action of the game

In a 48 minute game of basketball, the game is dominated by moving without the ball. To a casual observer, the person moving without the ball looks goofy, like they don’t know what they’re doing. Like the game is happening in spite of them. But the casual observer doesn’t know just how important it is to position yourself to be ready.

Moving without the ball isn’t sexy. But it’s vital.

The same is true in ministry.

Moving without the ministry ball

There are times when you, in your role, have “the ball.” These are the busy seasons of ministry, when the spotlight is on. For me, this happens during small group signups and launches. It happens during our church-wide alignments. During these seasons, it’s all-hands-on-deck for our team.

But for the most part, I don’t have the ball. It’s apparent “down time.” And if I don’t move, plan, strategize, recruit, train, and mobilize, when the ball’s passed to me I’ll be caught flat-footed. I’ll be left behind. The infrastructure won’t be ready, the plan won’t be in place, and my heart won’t be in the place it needs to be.

That’s why the casual church observer thinks pastors just work one day/week. Because our “time with the ball” seems like a waste of time. All the casual church observer sees is the time when we’re in the spotlight, highlighting our ministry, getting people into serving and growing, preaching, teaching, and executing. They don’t always realize that executing at the right time in the right way is loaded with lots of “moving without the ball” times.

If I don’t work to prepare myself spiritually, either, I’ll be dead in the water. I’ve got to spend time allowing God to refresh, recharge, and equip me for the work ahead.

That’s why I read books, meet with other pastors, and go to conferences like Re:Group (which is a must-attend event, by the way. To get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the healthiest small groups ministry will help you strategize, and become better in your local context).

Moving without the ball isn’t sexy. But it’s vital.

Strategize, shift, train, recruit, and prepare. Because the ball’s coming your way.

 

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photo credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

photo credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

Getting your small group to like you isn’t something you may have explicitly set out to do. If you did, you’re pretty self-centered. And there’s a great chance that nobody really likes you.

There. I said it.

While you may not have set that out as a written goal though, it’s on the back of your mind whether you’re a leader or a group member. Don’t lie. You want to be liked. And that’s not a terrible thing. If you didn’t care what others thought of you, you’d probably be a jerk. Caring what others think (while not being dominated by that) shapes our responses, and helps us become more loving and generous. If you didn’t care what others thought of you, you’d dress like a slob and never shower. So please, please keep caring.

If people genuinely don’t like you, and you’re a representation of Christ for them, then there’s a great chance you’re acting as a barrier for them to enjoying Jesus. It would be wise for us to not be a barrier.

How to you get your small group to like you? Well you can start by taking a shower before group. Then, let’s get to the more important things.

How to get your group to like you

Listen intently.

Listen way more than you talk. When you think you’ve listened too much, you’ve just started the process.

Share your story.

You’ve got a story of loss. Victory. Defeat. One that makes much of God, and His power to change your heart and shape your journey. Share that. It’s a gift.

Be authentic.

Nobody likes a fake leader. We all want to know that the person we’re following is the person we think we’re following. Be real and open and honest with your struggles and victories.

Be consistent.

Show up and engage. Week after week after week. On the weeks that you feel like going, show up. On the weeks that you don’t feel like going, show up. On the weeks when you’re too busy, show up. Consistency builds trust.

Go over and above.

Have coffee with a group member outside of your group’s meeting time. Invite a couple over to your house for dinner. Text them when you know they’re going to have a difficult day. Reach beyond the “normal” and “expected.”

Love unexpectedly.

Call on their birthday. Offer to watch their kids so they can go on a date night. Buy them a book that’s made a difference in your life.

Give grace when it’s not deserved.

I know, I know…grace “deserved” isn’t really grace. But there are times when you give grace and it’s expected. But when it’s not deserved in the least. When it hasn’t been earned. When everybody in the room expects you to go 100% truth in the moment…go 100% grace.

Learn their kids’ names.

Do this one today.

Remember their birthdays and anniversaries.

Go ahead and plug them into your calendar now, and set yourself a reminder. Trust me…they’ll notice this.

Share a well-timed truth.

Don’t just sit in your big comfy chair and drop theological bombs on your group. Listen well, and share a well-timed, well-pointed, well-applied truth. One that’s informed in the moment, and that walks the nuances of a deep relationship.

Give your resources.

You can’t give everything to everybody. But you can give significant, needed resources, to your group members. In a way that’s much faster, more efficient, than applying for aid from government, or even parachurch, organizations.

Be yourself.

If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re contemplative, be contemplative. If you’re patient, be patient. If you’re the life of a party, be the life of the party. If you’re an intellectual, be an intellectual. Be the you God created you to be.

Anything else that you do that engages your group to enjoy being around you?

 

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This is the time of year when people are returning to the gym. You know those guys. Maybe you’re one of those guys.

You have intended to be more faithful in the gym, more faithful to work out. But life has happened. Kids’ sports have happened. Work has happened. Vacation has happened. Sleep has happened. And it’s not that you’ve been intentionally avoiding the gym (ok, well, maybe you have, but just hang with me), it’s just that carving out time to drive across town, get an hour-long-workout in, then drive back hasn’t happened.

Thank you very much, January-new-years-resolutions, for reminding us we need to get back at it.

You want to know the worst thing you can hear when you step a foot back in the gym? The one thing that, more than any other, may cause you to not come back? The one thing that seems benign by the one who speaks it?

Welcome back! It sure has been a while…

Thus implying:

  • You must be lazy.
  • You are really packing on the pounds.
  • You sure do need to be at the gym.
  • I know your kind…we probably won’t see you for more than a few weeks.
  • I see that pudge…hopefully you’ll stick around long enough to work it off.
  • You haven’t been here in a while, so you probably have no idea what you’re doing at all.

That may not be explicitly stated, but it’s often what’s heard, because it’s so easy to bring our insecurities into the gym. When you look around, you see people who work out every day. You see equipment that’s intimidating. And then you see yourself. Out-of-shape. Out-of-time. Tired. Weak. A-little-too-round. Don’t-really-want-to-be-there-anyway. And those seemingly innocuous words fall like a ton of bricks on your fragile psyche.

Instead of asking them where they’ve been, or feigning shock that they’re back, just welcome them. Help them feel acclimated. And remember that being there is better than not being there.

Church returnees

The same thing is true around this time of year in churches around the world.

People are gracing the doors of church buildings in an attempt to maintain spiritual goals they set that they knew they should’ve been working to keep all last year. Maybe that’s you.

You have intended to be more faithful in your spiritual life, more faithful to God. But life has happened. Kids’ sports have happened. Work has happened. Vacation has happened. Sleep has happened. And it’s not that you’ve been intentionally avoiding God (ok, well, maybe you have, but just hang with me), it’s just that carving out time to drive across town, get an hour-long-worship in, then drive back hasn’t happened.

Thank you very much, January-new-years-resolutions, for reminding us we need to get back at it.

You want to know the worst thing you can hear when you step a foot back in a local church? The one thing that, more than any other, may cause you to not come back? The one thing that seems benign by the one who speaks it?

Welcome back! It sure has been a while…

Thus implying:

  • You must be lazy.
  • You must hate God.
  • You are really living a life of debauchery.
  • You sure do need to be in church.
  • I know your kind…we probably won’t see you for more than a few weeks. (churches even have a name for you…C&E. Christmas and Easter attenders.)
  • I see that tattoo…I smell that alcohol…I heard that muttering…hopefully you’ll stick around long enough to work it off.
  • You haven’t been here in a while, so you probably have no idea what you’re doing at all.

That may not be explicitly stated, but it’s often what’s heard, because it’s so easy to bring our insecurities into church. When we look around, we see people who have been following Jesus longer than we’ve been alive. And way more effectively than we ever will. We see processes and procedures and systems that are intimidating. And then we see ourself. Out-of-shape. Out-of-time. Tired. Weak. A-little-too-hooked-on-something. Don’t-really-want-to-be-there-anyway. And those seemingly innocuous words fall like a ton of bricks on our fragile psyche, full of baggage that we bring in towards God, the Church, others, and ourselves.

Church returnees: we’re sorry. We say dumb things to help us feel better about ourselves. Or sometimes we just babble because we don’t know what to say. Please give us another chance. We’re just as broken as you are. We need Jesus as much as you are. We can just be knuckleheads sometimes when words start coming out of our mouths.

Church members: just shut your mouth. Paste a genuine smile on your face. And for crying out loud, would it kill you to just give someone a hug? Or, if you’re not a hugger, give a hearty handshake. Nothing else. No “funny” comments about wondering why they’re here. You’re not that funny…and in fact, you’re offensive. If you say, “Welcome back! It sure has been a while…” they won’t come back. Trust me.

 

 

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change-flickr-david-reece

image credit: grist.org

Growing up, I played sports a lot, but golf was the game that stuck. On the other side of being able to regularly play competitive sports because of “life,” golf continues to be a sport I’m able to play, and not embarrass myself.

While playing competitively, I took lessons from a handful of coaches over the years, each of whom had their strengths, and taught me a different aspect of the game.

But one thing was constant with each coach and each lesson I took.

After changing my swing, even just a little bit, I always got worse.

Always.

There was never once where my coach would shift my grip, or adjust my posture, or shorten my backswing, where I would go out the next day and fire the round of my life.

Not. Even. Once.

I’d hit one or two good shots. And 75 bad ones.

Then the next round I’d hit 3 or 4 good shots.

Followed by another coaching lesson change.

Followed by a mere 1 or 2 good shots.

Over time, those 75 bad shots became less bad. And the 1 or 2 good shots became 8 or 10.

The positive effects of a swing change were never instantly felt. Even though I was making changes for the better.

Some times, when things got tough and I didn’t want to keep fighting through the difficult change, I’d revert back to old habits. In the heat of the moment, it made things easier. But never did it help in the long run.

If I went back to old habits, it would feel good, but I was no better off.

Organizational change

Organizational change is no different. It’s just on a larger scale. With more zeros on the end.

You know the changes that need to be made in your organization. Changes that will help move things forward. Changes that will open the door for new growth. Changes that will get the right people on your team.

Changes that will help position you for a bigger community impact. Changes that will lead you into the next phase of development.

But when you try to implement those changes, your organization will take a couple of steps backwards before it take steps forward.

My context for organizational change is the local church. Maybe yours is the non-profit board you sit on. Or the company you work for. Or the small group you lead. Or the running club you’ve joined.

When the change process begins, there’s a tension that exists between what “was” and what “could be.”

What “was” represents what

  • isn’t that bad 
  • isn’t completely broken
  • is “safe”
  • is comfortable
  • is known
  • is controllable

What “could be” represents what

  • is difficult
  • is painful
  • doesn’t instantly make you feel good
  • causes us to swallow our pride
  • stretches us
  • isn’t controllable
  • could fail
  • is unknown

But you know what change needs to happen. You see things differently. You see a preferred future, with more growth, more impact, more products (or ideas, depending on your industry), and more lives changed. That’s why you’re there!

Quit complaining about things being tough! Without difficulties, there’d be no need for leadership. And you’d be out of a job. [Tweet that!]

Don’t let the regressive, two-step backwards process of change keep you from moving forward. Going back to old habits, to what feels comfortable and easy and well-worn, isn’t what’s good for you and your organization. Even though it’s more comfortable at the time.

Aim for what could be, and don’t stop until you get there. [Tweet that!]

Even if you get burned. Even if you fail. Even if it’s difficult. And trust me…it will be.

If you give up on the first few steps backwards, you’ll never realize the growth that change can bring. [Tweet that!]

I’m rooting for ya.

 

Don’t give up and be helpless in times of trouble. – Proverbs 24:10

 

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Small Groups3

image credit: CreationSwap user George Webster

You don’t want your small group to fail. That’s not why you got into this. You want your group to succeed. You want people to grow and thrive in your group.

You want your group to be the one that people can’t wait to show up to. The one they talk to their friends about. The one that, in 10 years, they look back on and say, “That group changed my life.”

You don’t want people to dread your small group every week. To feel like they just have to come. To view it as a waste of time. To be the group of which they say, “Don’t join a small group. Mine is terrible.”

There’s a certain amount of your group’s success that you can’t control. God’s going to choose to bless or not. He’s going to sovereignly inspire group members to engage…or not. His hand of favor will be there…or not.

But there are statements you can make, personally, that will inevitably tank your group. That will guarantee you’ll get nothing out of it, and that you’ll create a terrible experience for the rest of your group. Statements that will destroy community rather than foster it.

9 Statements that will destroy your group

1. They need community more than I do. I’m just doing this for them.

You need healthy, authentic community as much as anyone does. You’re never above it, because God’s created you to live dependent on others.

2. They need to hear this.

Be careful that as you’re preparing for your small group that you don’t work your way through the material making notes about who in your group needs to hear a given truth…an not including your own name. Pride comes before the fall, my friend. (Proverbs 16:18)

3. I don’t have anything to give.

There may be weeks occasionally that you are empty and dry. But God’s given you gifts that are perfectly suited to lead your group. Don’t spit on God’s grace in your life by feigning a false, self-deprecating humility.

4. I don’t have time for this.

You are busy. So am I. You and I don’t have time to avoid community. The busier we are, the more we need others speaking truth and hope into our lives. When you say this, you place yourself over and above your group members, pridefully believing your life is more important than theirs.

5. Someone else will call them.

Don’t assume that someone else is going to call and encourage your group members. Or visit them in the hospital. Or call them after a new job interview. Or text them after a test. They’re not going to. You need to do the work of shepherding that’s vital for a group leader.

6. What they need is a ‘perfect’ leader. I probably shouldn’t confess my sins here.

Perfection in a small group leader isn’t what’s needed. And in fact, group members will connect with you more over your struggles and difficult times than they ever will with you through your victories. Be open and honest when you mess up.

7. Because I’m the leader I should probably talk more.

No. No. No. The best group leaders listen way more than they talk. Listening, and giving an appropriate (rather than a forced, canned, expected) response is much more honoring, respectful, and helpful. “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.” – Proverbs 18:13

8. Curriculum? Pssht! I got this!

Don’t think that curriculum is evil. It’s not. It provides a backdrop for your group to have a conversation about truth. It’s not the end-all-be-all for your group. But it helps keep you on track and moving forward. Don’t think you’re “too good” for a focused study.

9. Evangelism? Nope.

Stop it. Quit thinking too narrowly about the Gospel. Too weakly about it. Too shallowly about the power of the Gospel to change lives. Stop it.

What other statements would you include that would destroy a small group?

 

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Screen Shot 2013-07-31 at 2.31.22 PM

background image via Forest Cavale. CreationSwap.

There are all kinds of things that people say leadership is. Ways they sum it up. Retweetable quotes. Instagram-inspired sunset-in-the-background-laden thick-fonted quotes. Ones that make you go, “Wow…that’s good.”

But at the end of the day, leadership is about making decisions. Yes, it involves a lot/ But at the end of the day, leaders make decisions. Lots of them. Every single day.

Every leader must make a lot of good decisions. They also make a lot of decisions that don’t turn out as well.

In other words, good leaders make both good decisions and bad decisions. And so do bad leaders.

So what is it that distinguishes a good leader from a bad one? (let’s not talk about character issues here…that’s another issue for another day)

It’s true that good decisions will earn you more respect, and help push the ball forward faster, than bad decisions will. But there’s a factor in making decisions that, if overlooked, will leave you taking a walk in the park rather than leading people.

What separates a good leader from a bad one? Relationships. (Tweet that)

Leadership is a relationship between those desiring to lead…and those who have the choice to follow or not.

And it’s not just about being chummy with everyone you lead. Relationships are vital in two different ways, and they parallel how to be a terrible leader. They also happen to correspond with two different animals. :)

The 2 ways to be a terrible leader

1. Make decisions like a rabbit.

Rabbits never stay around to fight. At least not the rabbits I’ve run in to. When I get within 5 feet of them, they tuck their little cotton tail and hop away. They let other people do the fighting…they do the running.

As a leader, this looks like building leadership relationships purely on friendship, and making no decisions. Landing on nothing. Letting everyone else make the decisions for you. Putting your head down and running away. Assume everyone else wants to eat you, make no decisions, and lead out of fear. (Tweet that)

2. Make decisions like a bull.

Bulls don’t just stay around and fight. They don’t consult the other cows, either. They just charge.

In leadership, this looks like putting your head down and charging through everything. Assuming leadership relationships are purely top-down in-charge with no-respect for others’ gifts, time, talents, or other responsibilities. Put your head down, stomp your hoof in the dirt, and charge. (Tweet that)

But there’s a better way.

Leading with others in mind.

Leading with others in mind means you value collaboration. You value others’ gifts. Passions. Responsibilities. You allow people to use their expertise. You know you aren’t always be the smartest person in the room. You lean on others, because you weren’t created to be all things. God hasn’t gifted you with everything.

Leading with others in mind also means you value making decisions collectively, but you know you are the one on whom the buck falls. You take responsibility, make a decision, and move forward. (Tweet that) You know that, though you’re not the smartest, you must make a decision. You are the leader. You must move things forward. You don’t lead out of fear.

  • Fear of making the wrong decision. 
  • Fear of letting people down. 
  • Fear of being viewed as an idiot.
  • Fear of not having all of your ducks in a row.
  • Fear of not knowing the next step.
The book of Proverbs sums it up well.
Walk straight. Consult others. And give an apt answer.

Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense,
but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.
Without counsel plans fail,
but with many advisers they succeed.
To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
and a word in season, how good it is!

– Proverbs 15:21-23

 

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This is a guest post from KC Procter (Twitter, Facebook, Blog). Data admin by day. Social media manager by night. Writer in the space between. He likes LEGOs.

volunteer21

image credit: Cohemo.org

There are common themes to leadership. When your team is comprised of volunteers the value of these guidelines is amplified.

For the last 2 years I have had the privilege of working with a team of 100+ church volunteers each week. From a friendly smile to helping someone find a seat, we work to provide a warm and welcoming environment where people feel like they belong. Keeping volunteers engaged is crucial, and this is what I am learning from the experience.

1. Lead by Appreciation

You cannot over-appreciate your people. It must be genuine and frequent. Write thank you notes, give them a shout out on Facebook, and tell them you are grateful for their servant hearts. Volunteers work hard without compensation. They need to know you see and value their contribution. Acts of appreciation don’t have to be grand. Most of the time volunteers shy away from the spotlight. A simple handshake and a short conversation letting them know you care goes a long way.

2. Lead by Example

Never ask your people to do something you are not willing to do. Sometimes you need to get in the trenches and get your hands dirty. Everyone has their strengths, and it’s best to place people in a role that plays to their natural abilities. But that doesn’t exclude you from jumping in to fill the gaps. If your people see you hesitating to fill a need, they will follow suit and lose respect for your leadership. There is no task that is beneath you. After all, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. And they walked around all day in sandals.

3. Lead by Delegation

You can’t do everything. This was my biggest area of growth. Even if you are capable in each role on your team, you can’t do everything. And chances are people on your team fulfill these roles better than you. That’s why you are the leader. It’s important that you’re competent and willing to jump in when needed, but you need to let your team serve. Volunteering is a blessing to the one serving as much as to those being served. Don’t rob your team of a blessing.

4. Lead by Learning

You learn more from your team than they do from you. It’s simple math really. There is one of you and many of them. Many people can teach one person a whole lot more than that one person can teach many people. A few of my college professors might disagree, but I’m still paying off student loans so their vote doesn’t count. Odds are there are some wise people on your team whose insight can equip you. Just because they’re volunteers doesn’t mean they aren’t experienced or educated. Perhaps even more so than you.

Working with a team of volunteers presents its own set of unique challenges. However, it’s also a rewarding experience that’ll touch your heart and grow your leadership skills.

Question:

Do you work with volunteers? Any words of wisdom you’d add?

 

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Planning for growth

Ben Reed —  July 3, 2013 — 2 Comments
13853

image credit: Creation Swap user Cody Davenport

If you’re someone that’s content to take life slowly and easily, I’d frustrate you. I never find myself “content” with the status quo.

It’s this time of year that I start dreaming about the Fall. Summer’s in full swing, and I’m looking for what’s next. Where I need to grow. What I need to change. What I need to start doing. What I need to stop doing.

What book I need to read. What podcast I need to start listening to. What coffee shop I need to visit.

As a pastor, I’m always thinking this direction as well. I’m constantly looking for what’s next, because I’m never satisfied with where we’re at. “Good enough” doesn’t whet my whistle. Nor does “okay” or “average” or “decent” or “pretty good.”

So if you want to grow spiritually, you’ll have to plan for it. Here are a few things I’m looking towards, that will help me continue to grow. Your list may be different. But it’s time, now, to start making that list out.*

The Fall season can be a great time of growth, but you’ve got to plan now.

Read

I’ve always got a book or seven in my hand. I intake vast amounts of content through books and articles. They help me stretch and grow. Here are a few that are on tap for me leading into the Fall.

Write

For me, writing helps flesh my thoughts out like nothing else. I extrovert my thoughts to make sense of them, so writing becomes an outlet for what God’s showing me. Some of that makes it on this blog. Some of that will make its way into my upcoming book on small group life. But I’ve got to write to grow.

I’m going to write 1500 words/week throughout the 3 months of Fall. Which equates to 18,000 words. It’ll be good for my heart.

Go

It’s important for me to get out of my normal environment if I’m going to grow. Conferences provide that opportunity for me this Fall, and I’m headed to Atlanta for the ReGroup conference. I’m pretty stoked to be going back again this year. It’s a time of refreshment and strategic planning for me. The team at North Point is spot on.

What’s your plan for growth this Fall?

 * For continued spiritual growth, I’m assuming the normal disciplines of the Christian life: reading Scripture, prayer, corporate worship, small group community, confession, repentance, etc. I’ll not quit these, and neither should you. This is my outside-of-the-normal ‘things’ list. I’m also assuming you know that it’s God that produces the growth. I’m just positioning myself for the maximum potential.

 

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9194

image credit: CreationSwap user Agatha Villa

Sensing a call to ministry?

Then it’s time to start getting prepped now. Nothing can substitute for doing the work of ministry. But picking up and working through a handful (or two) of good books will help you more than you could ever know.

These are some of my favorites. Some I read in seminary. Others I’ve read since I’ve been working full-time in the local church.

I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.

 

Ministry

Small Groups with Purpose by Steve Gladen (e-book)

Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley (e-book)

Sticky Church by Larry Osborne (e-book)

Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne (e-book)

Lectures to my Students by CH Spurgeon (e-book)

Creating Community by Andy Stanley (e-book)

UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons (e-book)

 

Leadership

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell (e-book)

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (e-book)

Tribes: We Need you to Lead us by Seth Godin (e-book)

Good to Great by Jim Collins (e-book)

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (e-book)

 

Theology/Spiritual Growth

The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler (e-book)

Knowing God by JI Packer (e-book)

Christian Beliefs: 20 Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem (e-book)

ESV Study Bible

The Attributes of God by AW Pink (e-book)

Desiring God by John Piper (e-book)

Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen (e-book)

Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper (e-book)

The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg (e-book)

 

Anything you’d add?

 

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I read books outside the scope of my niche. I hope you do, too.

Reading books that speak in to areas where you’re not zoned in help stretch you in new ways, applying new truths to your well-worn paths. Not everything in these books will be applicable to you. Not everything will even be relevant. But at the end of the day, truth is truth. And truth is applicable across disciplines.

Business books help me think critically about the “system” of church. About how to spur on growth and change. About how to create systems that maintain growth over time.

I recently read Brand Against the Machine by John Morgan (on Twitter, Facebook, and Blog), and found it to be full of nuggets applicable to ministry.

brand-against-the-machine (1)

John talks a lot about “branding,” much outside of the context of ministry. So let me give you 3 ways to process this book.

1. Brand = your local church.

What helps your “brand” of church stand out from other “good” things a person could be doing on a Sunday morning? What is it that motivates them to consistently worship with you, instead of skipping out? YES, if someone doesn’t consistently show up for worship (or small group) it’s a spiritual growth issue. But let’s craft our message in such a way that the image (or “brand”) of our churches doesn’t get in the way of the Gospel.

John consistently makes the connection between “trust” and “sales.” If you trust a brand, you’re more likely to buy from that brand. We in churches aren’t in a completely different field. We just happen to have the best product in the world: Jesus! The more trust we develop with our congregations, the more likely we are to close a sale.*

2. Brand = the ministry you’re a part of.

What is it that helps your ministry stand out from everything else? What helps your “brand” of small groups stand out from the noises of life that distract on a weeknight, like going to a movie or watching TV? What helps your “brand” of student ministry encourage students to forego other activities in favor of linking arms with other students on Wednesday nights.

3. Brand = professional.

Feel free to read the book as it was originally intended, and think through your life in the marketplace. Process it through the lens of your company. Or even your personal “brand” online and in your community.

Giveaway contest:

I spoke with John, and he’s generously chosen to give a personally signed copy away. Just enter the contest here, and I’ll choose a winner on Friday, May 3, by 5:00 pm central time. Just fill in your information below and you’ll be officially entered. I’ll ship the book out next week.

Below each quote, I’ve included the question I’m personally wrestling with.

15 quotes from Brand Against the Machine

1. “Branding is about emotion, and emotion turns prospects into buyers.”

How am I stirring people’s emotions to help them “buy” into the idea I’m selling?

2. “People are willing to spend more money on a brand they trust. Do I want to drink a nice cold Kountry Mist or a Mountain Dew? Kountry Mist is a generic brand of Mountain Dew, and I have zero trust in that brand. Just because  it’s cheaper doesn’t mean I’m gonna have a sip. Plus, it’s annoying when brands get too cute with the spelling of their name. Spelling country with a K makes me worry about their education. It isn’t kool.”

Am I developing trust and innovating? Or just stealing from pop culture?

3. “Branding is not just about being seen as better than the competition. It’s about being seen as the only solution to your audience’s problem.”

What problem in people’s lives am I helping them solve through this idea? Am I communicating that through my pitch?

4. “You are your brand.”

Am I representing the church, and the ministry I lead, well in every avenue of life in-person and online?

5. “You may have an incredible product or service, and I truly hope that you do. But having a great product or service isn’t going to be enough. If no one knows you exist, the best product in the world isn’t going to save you. It’s estimated that 1 to 5 percent of people who come in contact with your brand will become clients. Are you coming in contact with enough people?”

Am I getting my message in front of enough eyes? Am I prepared for the vast amount of people I come in contact with to say, “No” to my pitch (to lead a small group, join a small group, or take the next step of faith?)

6. “When your message is focused and directed toward a certain group of people, those people respond. They respond because they realize it’s for them. That’s the kind of attention you want. With the attention of the right people and by taking care of those people, you can start to build trust and a loyal audience. You’ll never be all things to everyone, so don’t even try.”

Who is my “target audience” and are all of our communication pushes directed towards helping them move forward in faith? Or am I trying to be “all things to everyone?”

7. “Offer prospects a better product or service than everyone else. The most important element of branding is positioning.”

How am I positioning the ministry I lead as something that’s better than what culture promises them is best for their life? I.e., why is joining a small group worth bending your life around?

8. “Branding is all about emotion. Most marketing campaigns are lacking both emotion and passion. There’s nothing for people to get attached to. In fact, people rarely if ever feel an attachment to an individual marketing campaign, but they do feel an attachment with certain brands.”

How are we “branding” small groups? Are we using emotion (stories of life change) to drive our campaigns? Do people feel an attachment with groups?

9. “Fans are very attracted to a strong stance on something.”

Is our ministry positioned as something you “can’t live without?” What is it in their lives that’s missing without the element of healthy community?

10. “No one wants your product. They want their problem solved.”

What problem are we solving in people’s lives? Are we leading our promotions with that?

11. “The better you know your customers, the better you can create valuable content and products for them. There is no point in guessing, and making assumptions about your audience is extremely dangerous.”

How am I getting to know the people I lead at an even deeper level? 

12. “You are your bigest advantage in business. What you sell may not be one of a kind, but you are. You create the value for people, not your business name or fancy logo.”

Every church in town has the same Gospel message. Every small group at our church has the same end-goal in mind. What separates one from the other is our beautiful uniqueness…are we embracing that?

13. “One of the main reasons people don’t visit a new church is because they don’t know what to expect. They don’t know which doors to go in. They don’t know how to dress. People are always afraid of looking stupid. A church could ease these fears by posting a simple video on their website with a tour of the church and what to do and where to go, starting from when they pull into the parking lot. Video can take the unknown element out of the equation for prospects.”

Are we overcoming fears through how we promote small group life?

14. “Price often gets the blame when a product fails. Although price could certainly be the culprit, most of the time it is not. The problem is that consumers failed to see the value in it. When selling your product or service, focus on value, not price.”

Are we selling the value of small groups well? So that people understand that the price (giving up a night of the week, finding childcare, forming new relationships) is worth the value?

15. “Your fans want to be a part of something that is fun, exciting, and has a real sense of community.”

Are we having fun? Or just doing a job?

The book is full of even more nuggets, but this blog post is already too long. Honestly, if you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed. :)

You can pick up a copy of the book for yourself HERE.

 

*In no way am I discounting the work of the Holy Spirit to awaken the heart. I just want to posture myself, and our ministry, to be most ready for His work.

 

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