When an organization loses its heart

keep-calm-and-follow-procedures-12Can you imagine how difficult it would be for Jesus to call his disciples today? They’d have to pass a background check, which I’m pretty sure Simon the Zealot would fail. They’d also need to go through an assessment and a multi-tiered interview process. The idea of building a team by calling out to a couple of blue-collar guys, “Hey, come follow me” seems rather naive and even dangerous today. We’ve got a system for that. I wonder if Jesus looks at the complexity we’ve built into following his call and wonders what in the world we’re thinking.

This isn’t a rant against systems and procedures, every lasting institution the world has ever seen eventually creates structure. The challenge I’m running into is when the process erodes the principles the organization was originally built on.

I’m dealing now with a great organization I have interacted with from their beginning. In the early days everything was done on the basis of a relationship and a handshake. This informal, highly connected culture was the heart of the organization and made it very attractive. As the organization grew layers and layers of processes, procedures and programs eventually buried the culture. Now, if you want a relationship and a handshake, you need to fill out all the right forms, attend all the right meetings and jump through all the right hoops. The process has shaped the culture rather than the culture shaping the process.

At the other end of the spectrum is Apple. Four years after the death of their visionary leader they are now the most valuable company in the world, and continue to grow year after year. In almost every interaction with Apple the principles that drove Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to found the company in 1976 still come through. They build insanely great products sold by incredibly well-informed staff through almost frictionless sales channels. From the first Mac, to the first iPod to the greatly anticipated Apple Watch the experience stays the same.

Is your church, business or non-profit still operating on the same principles it was founded on? Does your culture shape your process, or is your culture held hostage by your process? In the midst of the forms, interviews and procedures is there still a warm relationship and a strong handshake? Does your organization have a heart, or is it simply an institution?

Be Sociable, Share!

Stop complaining and start leading

NoComplainingWe have become a nation of complainers rather than leaders. We think that by writing a blog post, or updating our Facebook status or linking to a provocative article we are leading change. All we’re really doing is adding to the noise.  Those who agree with us will nod their heads approvingly and hit the “Like” button while those who disagree will come after us in the comments, or worse, simply ignore our brilliance. There are people who make their living off of pointing out the errors they see all around them. They don’t recruit, they don’t develop, they don’t deploy; they just complain about those who do. (I understand the irony of writing this in a blog post, but please hear me out.)

There’s one Christian blogger in particular who drives me crazy. She is an excellent writer who often makes good points, but as far as I can tell her only contribution to the landscape is picking at specks in other people’s eyes. She caught my attention when she emailed my wife, whom she’s never met, vilifying her for participating in an online conference which the writer felt had too few women on their schedule. I’m still mystified how a woman not participating because not enough women are participating advances the cause. I see her name pop up often in the national media, always pointing out what the church and church leaders are doing wrong. I have yet to read how she is contributing to the solution.

My wife, Sherry, is a writer as well, but she doesn’t use her platform to point out the flaws of the people and institutions around her. She focuses on how she is growing and encouraging others to grow along with her. She doesn’t just write, however, she also leads. She currently leads an organization, Mothers of Preschoolers International, which trains thousands of women every year in how to lead within the context of their local church. When Sherry went to Kenya several years ago she saw an organization struggling to feed the AIDS orphans in their care. Rather than complain about the lack of funds and the mismanagement of resources, she formed a board to bring stability and hope to a small Christian school in Africa. In every problem Sherry looks for a way she can participate in a solution.

Not all of us are called to lead non-profits or form boards, but we are all called to work for solutions. Here are ten ways you can morph from complainer to leader:

  1. If you are frustrated by your political leaders, rather than writing an angry status update or linking to some outrageous article, get involved. Volunteer in a campaign, vote in an election, run for office.
  2. If you think church leaders are missing the mark, get deeply involved in a church that is making a difference in your community. If you can’t find that church, then start one.
  3. If your church isn’t meeting your needs, rather than writing an anonymous note or sending a scathing email, start volunteering to meet someone else’s needs.
  4. If racial discrimination makes you crazy start a small group equally divided between minorities and racists. If you don’t know any minorities or racists, start there.
  5. If you think our education system is a joke volunteer at a school
  6. If you think the church should give more money to help the poor, give more money to help the poor.
  7. If you are frustrated over the way our military is treated, help a wounded veteran.
  8. If your pastor doesn’t spend enough time teaching from the Bible on Sunday mornings start a class teaching from the Bible on Sunday nights.
  9. If there aren’t enough women in leadership become (or support) a woman in leadership
  10. If there aren’t enough opportunities for young leaders become a young leader who creates opportunities for young leaders.

Jesus never called us to point out everyone else’s weaknesses, he called us to lead change.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

So, rather than linking, blogging or updating the next time we’re outraged, let’s commit to becoming doers of good deeds.

Be Sociable, Share!

My final word on being fired by a church

Monday’s rant about churches firing without warning and without a legitimate reason has received an unexpected amount of response. About 20,000 people read the post and almost 3,000 liked it on Facebook. That is a tsunami compared to the response my posts normally generate. There is obviously a lot of emotion around this topic. I have also receive numerous private message from people with open wounds from their interactions with churches. This breaks my heart.

I’m afraid in my haste writing the post I gave the wrong impression about a few things. Let me follow up on some areas where I might have been misunderstood:

  • I love the Church. I work for a church, and I coach pastors all over the country. Although church leaders make terrible decisions and fire people in awful ways, I will not give up on the local church. I have had bad doctors, but I never gave up on medicine. If you have been hurt, please do not give up on the church.
  • I believe there are legitimate reasons to fire a staff member. If you consistently lie, cheat or steal you should be fired. If you don’t keep your word, if you have sexual interactions with people you are not married to, if you repeatedly bring division in the church, you should be fired.
  • While being on staff is similar to being in a family, its not the same. You are not paid to be in your family, you are paid to work for a church.If you don’t do the job you are paid to do the church has just cause to stop paying you.
  • No matter why someone is fired it should never come as a surprise.
  • If you have been hurt by a church you need to meet with a wise counselor. Time does not heal all wounds, time by itself just creates scars.

I promise this will be sealmy last post on churches firing people for a long, long time. I think my next post will be about kittens and bunnies and adorable baby seals. Surely we can all agree on adorable mammals. And seals.

Be Sociable, Share!

Monday Rant: Churches who fire without cause

So it happened again last week. Another cool, growing mega-church told a friend he needs to find a new job because he is no longer a fit for their corporate chemistry. Even though they said he consistently hit his goals, and they Fired-300x300had no complaints about the results he was achieving, they decided he wasn’t the style leader they wanted to work with. So now he has to uproot his family from a church they love, leave friendships formed over years of ministry together and find another place to work. The church he is leaving will likely employ a search firm to find someone whose chemistry they prefer who happens to be currently employed at another church. And the merry-go-round continues.

In case you haven’t picked it up yet, this is going to be a rant. I am over the corporate practices so many American churches have adopted that run counter to basic biblical principles of leadership and Christian relationship. Here are my thoughts:

  • If you can’t find a direct correlation between your HR practices and how Jesus treated his disciples, you need to change how you do HR.
  • Jesus never fired a disciple. He didn’t fire Peter for mouthing off in front of Elijah and Moses, he didn’t fire Thomas for doubting the outcome of the mission, and he didn’t fire Philip for missing the point entirely. He didn’t even fire Judas for betraying him. If Jesus didn’t fire, we should be very cautious about how and why we fire.
  • Forcing someone to resign is the same as firing.
  • If the church fired (or forced the resignation) of your predecessor, they will fire you eventually. Trust me on this.
  • Being unwilling to work through relational messiness is a terrible excuse for firing someone. Peter and Paul had serious issues, but they worked it out.
  • Your mission is never more important than your staff; your staff is your mission. If you can’t develop, love and care for your staff, how in the world are you going to develop, love and care for your congregation.
  • There are times when staff should be let go, but this should never come as a surprise. Unless there is a major moral issue, firing should always follow multiple conversations and a well-defined growth plan.
  • A revolving door of staff members is indicative of a deeper problem, and hiring more staff isn’t going to solve the problem. To quote a friend, “How long are you going to work on what’s not the problem before you work on what is the problem?”

That’s probably enough rant for one Monday morning. I’ll leave you with two things to think about:

  • If you lead a church that has a high turnover rate on staff, you may be the problem.
  • If you work at a church that has a high turnover rate on staff, you should polish your resume. Your time is coming.

[I posted an addendum to this post here]

Be Sociable, Share!

Six steps to parenting great kids

stick-familyI was talking to a friend who has young kids the other day and he was stressing over an episode he’d had with his son the night before. He said, “If i react in one way it feels like I’m being too strict, if I react in another way it feels like I’m not being strict enough. A lot of time in parenting it feels l like there is no right answer.”

I know the feeling. When our kids were young it felt like their future hung in the balance every time we made a decision. My kids would either grow up and go on Oprah to tell the world how their dad ruined their lives, or end up doing hard time as an axe murderer based solely on whether I got the parenting thing right. The biggest challenge was there wasn’t a manual. There were plenty of parenting books, but no one had a simple guide to great kids.

I have good news. I have finally created just such a guide and I’m giving it to you free today. Not only is it free, but it is six simple steps. If you will follow you these steps I can 100% guarantee how your kids will turn out. Here are the steps:

  1. Keep them in church
  2. Make sure they know you love them every day (or as many days as you can)
  3. Send time with them
  4. Be ok with being hated for once in awhile
  5. Be ok with being a terrible parent once in awhile
  6. Do your best

If you follow these steps I guarantee that your kids will become what they will become. The reality is we can really mess our kids up by being terrible parents (the lock them in the basement kind), but outside of that kids will become what they will become. I have a friend who has four adult children. They raised all four the same, kept them in church, loved them, and spent time with them. Three of them grew up to be successful adults who love Jesus with all their hearts and one grew up to be a complete goofball. Same parenting, wildly different results.

So if you still have kids in the home do your best and trust God. If your kids are already grown give yourself a break. You did your best, what happens now is up to them.

Be Sociable, Share!
Page 1 of 11012345»102030...Last »