Three Stories We use to Remain Stuck

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I heard it again recently. A lie to justify a persistent problem. The frustrating part was it was me talking. I was lying to myself.ID-100305413

We all do it.

All leaders, including church leaders, default to justification at times. Daunting obstacles push us to create narratives to explain being stuck. Those stories come in 3 common types.

Victim stories – This is the story where your church is the victim and can’t get ahead. “We would be great if we had more money.”  “If we had a facility like they do we’d do more.” We are too small to pull that off.” Our narrative says there is no point in trying because we can’t win.

Villain stories – We tell ourselves that insidious forces prevent us from doing what we should, so we trot out a list of trusty villains. That mega-church is stealing our people. The schools undermine Christian values. Or maybe it’s government regulation, the denomination, or “bad people” who ruin your impact on the community. Others are to blame.

Helpless stories – There is a problem and you feel powerless. So we tell ourselves, “The only option is to compromise like those successful churches.” “There is nothing we can do to stop families from leaving.” Or my favorite, “It is just too hard for us.”

It’s all lies. And worse, these are lies we invent to justify doing nothing. But you do have a choice.

You can choose to fix what you do control. You can’t change everything but everyone can change one thing.

  • You can repair that wall (bathroom, carpet, bench, etc) that looks bad.
  • Your musicians can learn from others
  • You can choose to get better at what you do very well
  • You can get teachers to help your children’s ministry be more engaging
  • You can move your friendliest volunteers to the greeting team
  • You can widen the leadership circle so you get more diverse input
  • You can serve a local community or ministry consistently

Most churches can’t do all of these, but every church can do one. Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” You have a choice. 

Jesus’ church will thrive eventually because He said the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18). Villains are not oppressing you, just people doing what they think is right. Find common ground or go around. Jesus has overcome (1 Jn 4:4).

And you are not helpless. Jesus can and does build his kingdom and he can do it through your church.

So you have a choice. The question is, will you lead or give into stories?

Should you need help to get unstuck, take one step now and schedule a free appointment with Church Accomplished to see if we can help.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ten Things Never to be said in Multisite Churches

Being a multisite church brings many blessings, and a few challenges. Among the multi imagechallenges is clear communication. With multiple locations it’s impossible to know what is going on everywhere, and that lack of knowledge can breed problems.

Words reveal our hearts. Words reveal attitudes and mindset. Words show alignment and where we are lacking direction. In that way, our words will highlight if we are building one cohesive church or something else.

With words in mind, here are 10 things that should never be said in a multisite church.

  1. That’s good enough for Gwinnett – The quality level at all sites is uniformly high. If something isn’t good enough for one campus, it is not good enough for all and vice-versa.
  2. Hamilton broke a camera this weekend. – Creating an us/them paradigm even subtly like this undermines unity. Better to say, “We broke another camera at Hamilton this weekend.”  (Thanks to Rich Burch for this one)
  3. Lincoln Park won’t ever pay for themselves – Healthy churches are financially viable and the same is true for healthy campuses. If a campus isn’t viable, it is consuming mission-critical resources without contributing equally. Every site should be on a path to fiscal strength unless it is an outreach to a financially disadvantaged neighborhood.
  4. Who is responsible for pre-school at Broken Arrow? Knowing who has authority and influence in every ministry is critical. Knowing who to contact for problems, praise, and encouragement is essential. Multisite church structure is complex, so take extra time to clarify responsibilities.
  5. Is Mountainside gonna make it? – Defining success is critical. So if someone has to ask if a site is viable, then either you are not talking about it enough or not working on it enough.
  6. She’s just a site pastor – Site pastors are the key leaders to carry the church’s vision forward and reproduce your mission and values. If a campus pastor is dismissed as “less than,” you have serious challenges. As well, nobody is “just” anything.
  7. We lost our best leaders to the Grove launch. Churches launching new locations don’t “lose” leaders, they send them like missionaries to reach a new area. Growth requires lots of leadership development. To be on mission together means placing leaders for maximum kingdom impact, and that is a win, not a loss.
  8. We don’t like the series logo, so we made our own. Unity of identity, leadership and name is crucial to church success in more than one location. Sites need clarity on what is common and what is distinct.
  9. The Downtown site is on their own on this one – If it is one church, no site is on their own for anything. All sites should access central services equally and all sites carry out the same vision and strategy. Being “on your own” is a sign you are not one church.
  10. What are they gonna do at the other campuses? This is one of the most common early errors. Thought is given to how programming will impact the church (ie. all sites). If this is an issue, rethink that strategy and get something that works for the whole, not just one campus.

If you have said one or more of these (I have) then take heart. It usually takes time till all the common language gets worked out in your multisite church.

What would you add to the list? 

Seven Habits of Highly Inept Leaders

Steven Covey’s seminal book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People transformed the landscape for personal and corporate leadership. This post is a tongue-in-cheek rant homage to Covey with the seven habits that make for inept leadership.

1. Procrastinate – Delay announcing anything until there is a very tight window to implement. Creating pressure with impossible deadlines spurs creativity and keeps them on their toes. Knowing they work late regularly to meet your demanding constraints reminds them who is in charge.

2. Begin with what’s best for you – As the acknowledged leader, what is good for you has to be good for the them, right? So focus on yourself. Take credit and accept the praise for a job well done. They know if you get a better job you may just take them with you.

3. Put first the new priority – Your ideas are all great and numerous. Be sure the team executes all of them equally, because each one is supremely important. Focusing on a few things is weakness. Your job is to make everything a top priority and their job is to implement, well, everything.

4. Think Win/Lose – There are winners in the world. They are the ones with big congregations, twitter follower lists, and even bigger book deals. So make sure that in any comparison you win. If you are not the winner, you are one of the nameless losers.

5. Seek first to be Understood – In communication, the most important thing is for your underlings followers to know what you think. How can they know what to do if you don’t tell them? Always speak first. Seek to understand others only if there is a luxury of time in your day, which there isn’t.

6. Suppress – Cooperation on a team usually means they are plotting against the leader, so suppress that. Keep everyone in silos, unaware of what others are doing and the talents they possess.

7. Sharpen the tongue – There are always those with questions about your strategy or methods. They must learn to stop questioning you so practice your mocking witty responses. Correct others with sarcasm and condescension. A great way to put critics in their place is with shame and personal attacks, preferably from the platform. They’ll quickly learn that questioning you is a personal attack and as such, merits one.

That’s my take. What would you put on the list?

WfX Seminar – Managing Staff Conflict

WFX 2014It was a great first day at WfX 2014. Miles McPherson delivered some great content on getting our church into the community (count, walk, ask, love). And Jermaine Rodriquez led some loud and powerful worship.

IF you attended my seminar on “Managing Staff Conflict” at your church, the slides are here to download.

Please leave a comment, question, or any insight you have on the topic. Let’s keep the conversation going.

10 Steps to Prevent Church Theft

Churches don’t like to think that someone may be stealing from them, but it happens more often than we want to think. A 2012 fraud investigative report documented that 10% of all fraud cases occurred in non-profits. Of those who stole, 87% had no previous criminal history and the median amount stolen was $100,000.ID-100237367

All churches are at risk. One of the largest churches in America, Lakewood Church, recently had $600,000 stolen and the theft remains unsolved.

The best way to protect your church is to prepare. Here are 10 steps every church can take to prevent fraud and theft.

  1. Multiple counters – Require 2-3 people count cash and checks from offering and any items sold. Never allow related people to count together. Never allow anyone to be alone with uncounted funds. Never.
  2. Count immediately – The longer money sits uncounted, the more opportunities people have to skim off the top.
  3. Secure it – Once counted, cash should be secured immediately. This can be via a bank night deposit box or in a safe.
  4. Track deposits – Deposits should match offering count sheets and should be tracked by someone who does not handle incoming funds.
  5. Limit check access – Keep checks stored securely to limit spending access.
  6. Separation of duties – One person should not have access to deposits and expenditures. If you have one book-keeper, then she should not have signing privileges for checks or online access to any account.
  7. Require invoices – Any expense over $20-25 should have invoices to justify it. Without an invoice, there should be no payment.
  8. Track transfers – The easiest way to move money is electronically. Every EFT should be tracked by someone who isn’t making the transfer.
  9. Account reconciliation – Every account should be reconciled against your bank statement. That reconciliation and the bank statement should be reviewed and signed by someone who didn’t prepare it.
  10. Review your process – At least once a year review your process with knowledgeable outsiders who can recommend improvement and best practices. An audit is ideal.

But don’t these steps “assume everyone is a thief?” No, but they do recognize that anyone can be tempted in the right circumstances. People are sinful.

Another way to view these steps is that great procedures and consistent paper trails protect staff and volunteers from false accusations. Secure procedures demonstrate faithfulness and protect people as well as the church.

What steps does your church take to prevent theft and fraud? What is missing?

Photo image courtesy of FrameAngel / FreeDigitalPhotos.net