Abused and Hurt Christians

There is a growing segment of the American Christian community who possess only cynicism toward being part of a congregation. And it is mostly due to failure of churches, abusive leaders or broken trust. But of course a lot of it is also due to a lack of follow through and character on the part of a Christian.

The following are reasons I believe Christians get hurt or abused by churches:

  1. They don’t know how to do analytical thinking. Our schools unlike Australian and German schools teach toward test scores rather than developing skills of analysis and assessment. We follow the rules thinking we will be safe. But we blindly expect to follow. It is the believers responsibility to be sharpened by the Word of God and test everything they hear.
  2. We don’t question enough. This one will get me in trouble with my fraternity of leaders. But I say question everything. Don’t be cynical or slanderous or skeptical. But question. Every January I question everything about the previous year. I question my call. I question my doctrine. I question my holiness. I question my use of money. And I question my leaders and organizations. It is a good thing. Leaders who can’t be assessed aren’t leaders they are something else. Everyone should go on Amazon and by my book “Criticism: Friend or Foe.” You can probably get it for .01 plus 200 dollars shipping.
  3. They are lazy. It’s easier to just go a long than seek understanding.
  4. They follow icons instead of servants. And when the idols fail that’s all there is in their foundation. i have come to believe a better model for church leadership is a symphony director rather than a super star celebrity.
  5. They want something for nothing.
  6. They believe the goal is perfection and no pain. Church is painful at times. Families are always painful at times. And if things get painful Americans bolt. If you want to good stuff sometimes you have to survive the bad stuff. Disappointment is something that kills Americans. All Christians and leaders will fail, sin, and make mistakes. Its unfortunate but true. If you go into church with the expectation that everyone at some point will be disappointing you will have more fun.
  7. They don’t follow their gut. As they say, “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a dog it is probably a duck.
  8. They approach church like a consumer rather than a disciple.
  9. They confuse forgiveness with approval, overlooking or trusting again.
  10. They get talked into something they didn’t feel good about to begin with and later feel burned. Only do what you want to do. Memorize II Cor. 8 – it will give you the approach of a healthy giver and believer.
  11. They have the church take the place of their family. Church is a poor substitute and will never satisfy on this level.
  12. They think they need to like everyone to be part of a church. I think we should get honest and realize that I can not like someone but still love them. I don’t like a number of people I work with regularly. And that is good. I would do anything for them out of love but I really don’t want to have coffee with them and that’s ok.
  13. Are susceptible to shame, guilt and personal attacks and confuse that will spiritual growth. We need to learn the power of grace, mercy and peace. Broken homes, to much mobility, addicted past, abuse of all kinds lead to emotional vulnerability that attracts abuse.
  14. Americans study the Bible but don’t go the next step to apply the word.

6 Lives

They say cats have 7 lives. I think people just might have that many as well. My mother’s B’day was yesterday. She is 83. I started wondering where would I be at 83. She walks 3 to 5 miles a day and has for years. Her mind is razor sharp. And she has a magnificent grasp of the scriptures. I led her to Christ in her 40s.

But I began to think for me that would likely be a whole other life. Have you ever looked back on your life or periods of your life and thought “who in the world was that person.” For fun sometime try talking to yourself that has past or the one coming up. It is a fascinating venture into self-awareness. I think God awareness is the most important journey of our life. And second self-awareness can save you a lot of wasted time and pain.

I have decided I have been five people and am working on my sixth. I honestly can’t relate well today to a couple of “me.”

It is amazing how different one can be in different seasons of their life. Hopefully each life is an improvement on the former but I know a few people that the opposite is true of the journey.

My first person was from ages 1to 16. I was pretty shy, I remember feeling pretty lonely and I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t mind school but it wasn’t my favorite activity. I remember enjoying working and making money in the Orchards in the small town I grew up in. My grandparents were extremely important to me. My brother and I made bombs I remember that pretty vividly. But overall nothing eventful came out of that life.

My second person was form ages 17 to 30. I call this my change the world phase. I started with experimenting with the religious side of hallucinogens. I really never like to get high per say. And to this day I have never been drunk. But I did think I was talking to God more than once. Even after my conversion I would say I was enamored with the “idea” of communism. It was a marvelous act of grace that I received Christ. I married too young. Had two incredible kids and some how we all survived my quest for our future. Worked on a church staff, did missions trips behind the Iron Curtain. I found my way through the Bible. And was on three different church staffs in college. And then was a staff member and leader of a Bible College of a church that was fantastic but turned bad at its end and isn’t around any longer. I learned five Ph D’s in life experience in that life. Basically I related to God as someone who wanted to use me and I wanted to be used. I was filled with a zealous passion to change the world. And I remember being supremely naive about people. I learned to not trust people in this life.

My third person was the pastor guy life. I with a group founded a church and merged with another church and the thing grew to 4500 Sunday morning attendance for a long stretch sometimes less sometimes more. This life was from 31 to 48. My identity was wrapped up in that church thing. That guy was incredibly ambitions about just doing things. I would call that my conquering life. I very much viewed people and their being with me on the basis of what we could accomplish together. My introversion and eccentricities grow in this phase. Eventually this man saw all he worked for in every arena disappear through his hands like sand. But it was great. This man learned the value of pain. And found in the end that God does do amazing things if you are willing to work and believe. And I learned to trust and love people at the same time. This was also my question everything and everyone phase which wasn’t a bad idea.

My fourth life was from 48-60. This guy really grew as a person. He learned that the highest call of anyone is to make other people successful. He spent about two years doing not much of anything but writing and studying how churches work in general. Found a life partner that was a perfect fit who was a person who wanted to grow too. He ended up coaching pastors, business people, denominations, churches large and small, internationally and ended up reaching a total of 17 books written. He learned to live in feast or famine. Most of all he learned that he wasn’t interested in being the face or personality of anything. This guy just wanted to be the best at knowing how things work in detail, and helping younger and older leaders succeed and have fun. This period he leaned to embrace pain as a good thing. And learned that life is fragile and unpredictable. And his quiet trust in God and lack of anxiety were the best way to live. In fact at the end of this phase his ambition was replaced by a zen like existence. He tried pastoring again but was a miserable failure at it. He learned he is not a small town guy. And churches nearly never turn around even when everything in lined out properly. He saw his call was after all helping others succeed.

My fifth life has just begun a couple years ago. This guy moved to Florida and found he was made perfectly for this part of the world. He misses in grandkids, kids and parents like crazy. But this life appears to be the guy that all the others where intended to go. He sees that all the pain, frustration, joys, successes, and believing prepared him for a whole new venture for what is clearly the peak of his life. And many times the other guys embarrass him. He sees he really had more sins than he thought but they were the Christian kind. In this life he does see dreams. He can meet ten minutes with a leader and predict where their headed. He knows exactly what is going on in a church within two hours. Its really quit amazing. But this guy would rather walk his dogs and pray than speak to 17,000 to 20,000 crowds he used to. And he is learning spanish and working on a doctorate at 63. He sees that life forever requires investment and preparation. This guy really loves knowing people and just thinking. We will see how he ends but hopeful it will be better than that last four guys.

Life number six….hopeful will come. I suspect this guy will think the first three were idiots and the last two almost got it right. And he will probably wish the other five had left him more money to work with.

DM

Education

I believe in education and getting all the education you can. I enter a venture toward another post-graduate degree this year at 63. I wish I had started this one thirty years ago. But now is better than never. I am what they call an autodictus learner meaning I do well with a strong range of interests and tend to study on my own and don’t enjoy locked in systems.

I really believe that most people are a genius at something or some manner of living. Some might be kinetic genius. Others might be mathematic geniuses. Others might have a brain that has the region where languages are produce that are very advanced. I don’t think everyone is a genius but I truly believe most are. One of the keys to a great life is self-awareness. It can be a wonderful thing to know how you work best and find the best learning environment.

Reports state that about 25% or more of High School students drop out. And of course a fair number later or quickly go through the GED process. But America is in serious jeopardy of not being able to compete in the future. I am not one who is certain that all our tests compare apples to apples but still we are in trouble. The American population really is pretty inept at understanding our governance and the basic knowledge of the world.

I know a bit about education. I have develop a couple schools and helped with several Christian and public schools’ curriculum. Here’s what I would do if I were king. I have had people tell me my ideas are economically impractical but my response is the inability to compete is going to cost us a lot more than doing education right.

So here’s my list:

  1. Have students tested for their learning style. Then design a curriculum that takes this into account as much as the content of a class. This should happen by the sixth grade.
  2. Diminish the power of teachers’ unions and require a longer period of mentoring for teachers.
  3. It is believed by some researchers that a school with 400 students is ideal. Our High Schools with 2500 students are not conducive to a strong education. Every student above 400 reduces the quality of education. So we should never have a school exceed 400 students. Students can learn rather than be policed.
  4. Go for vouchers that would mean at least half of all students would go to private schools.
  5. Make it easier for home schooling to integrate with formal schools.
  6. Drop the 12th grade and turn it into either a votech program or your first year of college in a junior college format for free. Student’s won’t owe so much for college in this case.
  7. Consider dropping some college degrees to just three years.
  8. Offer more charter schools with emphasis on career directions and learning styles.
  9. Have uniforms grades 1 to 10. Too many kids are from homes that can’t afford nice clothes and they get type cast by their outward appearance rather than their work at their education.
  10. Have schools provide iPads and/or computers at cost to all students and have subsidies for those who can’t afford one. And have all school supplies provided by the schools. Here again more affluent students have an advantage.
  11. Reevaluate all curriculum and put new classes on line quicker dealing with new marketplace realities.
  12. Create in our schools a culture that tells the truth about the impact of marijuana on schools and students.
  13. Offer more self-directed courses.
  14. Pay more attention to basic writing and math. It is surprising to me the number of people who struggle with the basics. Maybe even go pass fail and require the basics be taken until the students show levels of high proficiency.
  15. Consider year around school.
  16. Also offer night school classes so students who need to work can in High School. Our kids in America do not learn a work ethic early enough in their lives. I grew up in a farm town and in those days you would work as soon as you could hold a shovel not so today and it has hurt us. This would also make 400 student schools more economical. You could have two schools in one that never see each other. And drops who often drop out due to finances would be able to complete their education while employed.
  17. Allow teachers to work year around with vacation and be paid more money accordingly.
  18. Have major corporations get tax credit for putting colleges and high school within their corporate setting. Mercedes does this in Germany. They have a Mercedes University right on the site of the factory. And it isa very highly sought out experience by students and Mercedes get some hands on mentored employees.
  19. Take the requirement of learning foreign languages more seriously especially Spanish.
  20. Deploy the Japanese style of group learning as much as possible. Students have been shown to get higher grades and learn much more in this style of learning. Graduate schools use learning cohorts with great success.
Ok – so put my name in for king and we are in for some great moves forward educationally.

Uncle Doug

I have reached the stage in my ministry and life that there are two new realities. One, what I call older leaders refer to me as their old brother. Two, younger leaders treat me like old uncle Doug. And I still have the energy of a 30 year old. And I am a forever learner so I am in the mix. Inside I look entirely different than I do no the outside. On the inside I look like a young George Clunny on the outside I look like an old Brian Dunnehy.

Given my new status and the fact that I am beginning a new cycle of giving input to young leaders I am writing a book for young leaders titled – Monday Mornings with Uncle Doug. I am drawing from 43 years of ministry and many many relationships and research to have a discussion with leaders that are beginning their great and grand journey of following Christ in leadership.

So I am including this morning six quick points. If you have feedback or other topical ideas fire them at me and I will be sure to not give you credit. I have many more thoughts building but I just wanted to see how this much read in a succinct outline.

Advice for leaders under 30 just starting out.

  1. Make certain to have your community you lead put away 10% or more of your salary or income for you monthly. And add 10% to that yourself. Open up a 401k and feed it regularly. You are going to need more money that you ever imagined when you won’t be able to lift the boxes any longer. Insist on this. Neutralize those feelings of invincibility.
  1. Learn to predict consequences to your behavior or make friends with older leaders and get advice. I am working with two churches with leaders in their 50’s. The churches have been going for 30 years in both cases. The leaders made some real errors of omission and commission decades ago. But the frightening part is the consequences have been building for decades. And when consequences build like that the mistakes become a syndrome. You can not recover in six months on this kind of thing. In fact I am not sure either church is going to make it without a serious restart and the leaders are now too old to probably do it well. I know neither of them listened nor listen to others well.
Just remember God will have mercy on you but he rarely stops consequences. He may forgive your adultery but he

won’t promise you your spouse will forget it. So collect old friends and experts and listen. And when you see you

are wrong push the rip cord soon and correct it and you might have a chance.

  1. Watch talk about sex. I had a friend name Hazel Goddard. Hazel was one of the early leaders of Young Life and a psychologist. She had a powerful ministry to leaders who had fallen or were in deep depression and burnt out. She once told me “you young” leaders have lost decorum. She believed she could prove that the more talk leaders did about immorality the more immoral the churches and groups were. She said don’t have anyone confess sexual sin publicly. Keep things polite and proper. Just say they “were guilty of behavior unbecoming a minister” and that will suffice.

I sat in a service where a well known church leader began to talk about masturbation and how awful and sinful it was

even gesturing as though he were masturbating right then. Hazel taught me anyone who has to be that descriptive

about sex is doing one of two things. One, trying to get a quick and cheap emotional lift from the group for a bad

sermon. Two, they have not dealt with sexual sin of their own. It is in vogue by young leaders today influenced by the

likes of Mark Driscoll to be very descriptive and proscriptive about sex in public. Don’t do it. That kind of cheap trick as

a speaker works against developing polite and careful ways of dealing with sensitive topics.

Don’t do it. Trust you will bring more trouble than help. Save the talk for men and women meetings or write a booklet

to give your church. Personally I don’t trust anyone who uses sex talk in a way that is embarrassing to women and

most men. I feel they always have sexual issues they need to face.

  1. Question everything. Especially those who tell you to not question them because they are God’s chosen. Don’t be cynical nor skeptical or a revolutionary just question. Every leader should sit down at the end of every year and go through every aspect of their church life and ministry and be brutally honest about whether it is biblical or helpful if not throw it out. Question your work schedule. Question your sermons. Question your holiness. Question your most important theology. Never question in anger but question in wisdom and learn discernment.
  1. Watch out for pride. Many leaders have a touch or more of what they call hypomania. This carries with it a propensity to have personal grandiosity and troublesome self-importance. Get some prophets that will tell you you killed Bathsheba’s husband and listen. If your church doess’t grow don’t make yourself so important that you are the reason it didn’t work. If it does work let me warn you (if there is such a thing) that it is usually mostly “God’s kind of luck” that anything works. Most great leaders I know if you asked them how they grew so effectively will tell you but trust me they don’t really know. You are just a servant and that is all you ever will be. You can be replaced in ten minutes and don’t forget it. You are not superior spiritually because you lead. And you will never be anymore than a passable model. Your kids probably don’t think you are as great as you think either. And your parents remember when you soiled your pants. Never call yourself anything if you are apostolic let them say so…first before you leap to greatness in your mind. And trust me all the signs of your greatness will likely stall and decline and slip right through your fingers. If you’re a servant you won’t be destroyed.
  1. Seek substance. And be curious not a mimic. If I run into another church putting in a coffee bar and cafe in I am going to blow my brains out. The only relevancy is first being intelligible to your culture. And two substance that can be applied through the vernacular of your listeners. If they speak spanish learn spanish. If they eat pork eat pork. But don’t buy a coffee bar and think you are being relevant. And don’t go buy a pair of jeans with holes in them because you saw the great new celebrity in the church do that. Personally I have made it a practice of wearing a suit where they wear jeans with holes. And i wear jeans where they wear ties. Be the smartest guy in the room not the hippest. And remember hip only lasts three yeas at most in our culture. And most of those who were hip yesterday have dated themselves and look like old tired hippies today.

How You Know You Are In A Bad Church

I hold several unorthodox views when it comes to church starts and designs. One, I am not persuaded many if not most churches are suppose to last more than 20 to 30 years. I might be wrong but I am persuaded. Two, I am pretty sue the sermon centric church might not be the best model. Lot’s of talk about vision is usually about the ego of the leader(s). I am pretty sure most churches just need some faith inspiring goals every year. We will be ashamed in 30 years by the way the church has treated women. We are reaching a world in our minds that ceased to exist 55 years ago. We don’t know what to do in a mostly pagan culture. We spend way too much energy hanging to buildings and little is left for loving the lost. We need many different new forms of what a church looks like. I am pretty sure the board ran church is a cultural reflection of American society rather than a form true to the bible.

And the percentage of abusive leaders is on the rise from my anecdotal viewpoint. Many people are actually unraveling spiritual because of the need many leaders have to control. The size of church has little to do with this. It’s too bad we can’t have a reporting systems that leaders could sign up for showing their compliance with basic Christian behavior.

Here some signs you are in the wrong church:

  1. The church defines discipleship by conforming to the needs and system of the church.
  2. The Bible isn’t taught with careful use of the scriptures – if a communicator only uses the Bible to confirm their ideas you aren’t being expose to the Bible.
  3. There is no transparency about the income and expenditures of the church. Everyone should at least know how much comes in and how much the spending of money is taking place.
  4. Many times if the pastor’s wife is a paid member of the staff. Sometimes this is good but make sure it isn’t just a way to double dip.
  5. The Pastor lives extremely higher than the successful church member.
  6. If the pastor and leader don’t have a system for receiving valid criticism.
  7. If the church talks about “covering” or “the visionary” of the church. Some MIGHT be ok but if it is chronic they are trying t control you.
  8. If the Pastor clearly has a posse he hangs with. Not just friends but people who have status in the church because they hang with the Pastor.
  9. If the church talks about giving and money evens slightly in sermons more than every other month. If they talk more you can count on it the church isn’t being managed well.
  10. If there is a constant turn over of staff or leaders.
  11. If there is an elaborate multi-season membership process. If so they are again trying to tighten control.
  12. If the church won’t report back on special offerings for missions etc…
  13. If the church doesn’t have a yearly outside audit.
  14. If no one is every receiving Christ in the services.
  15. If you friends won’t come back a second time on a regular basis.
  16. If the vision and goals of the church are only about numbers and how much and not about character and inner qualities.
  17. If the leader ever lies to the church run for the hills because its a life style if it has gotten the pint of doing it publicly.
  18. If the church never has outside speakers.
  19. If the building debt is beyond 25 or 30% of income. The church will be in jeopardy.
  20. If the pastor and leaders tried to be cute and trendy. Church about honesty, simplicity and substance.
  21. If you children hate their classes on Sunday morning.
  22. If shamming and shunning is used on people who leave, sin or question.
  23. If the church has more than two meetings a week. They are trying to keep you tied into meetings and the control of the church. Church isn’t meetings.
  24. if the staff is poorly paid but the pastor is well paid. This is a disreputable treatment of people.
  25. Divorced people are scorned on.
  26. When people leave they aren’t prayed for and loved and trusted that they have heard God. Or you should listen totem and at least consider their reasons. But never go to a church that makes those who don’t want to stay into evil people.
  27. If you have a pastor that has no real accountability and oversight.
  28. If the pastor talks constantly about rebellion, making more money, people who hurt them, loyalty. Run they are up to no good.
  29. If your leaders are shop-o-holics. Sometime they will have a tragedy in their believability.
  30. If the church never brings in outside consultation.
  31. If the pastor ever talks about being national not matter how big the church.

Things I Tell People And Churches Doing Start Overs

  1. Resets are normal and healthy.
  1. Failure can not be determined in the short term. Often the long term experience
finds the set back was par at of the success.

  1. Make certain you learn from the set back.
  1. The least important piece of information is what was in the past.
  1. Stay away from negative or toxic people you will need all the energy you can muster.
  1. Never blame anyone else. It really doest’ matter who’s fault it is.
  1. Ever notice furniture stores are always have another grand opening. Churches and lives can too.
  1. Call a set back tuition because that’s what it is.
  1. Don’t wait too long to start again.
  1. Learn to laugh at yourself and your failures.
1l. Remember the pathway to finding who you are is often through finding who your not.

  1. Remember God can use sins of others to get you where you should be.
  1. Remember who told you so…and listen to them in the future.
  1. Find what needs to change next time.
  1. Get outside help.
  1. Forgiveness is the starting point. But forgiveness doesn’t forget it just rethinks things.
  1. Make sure you have fun…serious people trip over themselves.
  1. Thank everyone who helped you.
  1. Go to a lot of movies. Don’t over think you aren’t usually smart enough to figure it all out.
  1. I have found that setbacks often help me see that my perspective and planning were too small to begin with.

SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION

I have taken it a serious task to understand how people learn and are transformed. I think if they made me King I could greatly raise the quality and competitive power of our educational systems. Here’s what I would do.

  1. Have no High School have more than 400 students. Sell the buildings to churches. It is a fact that any time there are more than 400 people in an education process the dumb factor is stronger with each student about 400.
  2. I would definitely go with the voucher system.
  3. I would pay more for teachers and administrators in inner city Urban areas.
  4. I would gig every student an iPad.
  5. I would have many class assignments on the internet.
  6. I would apply the Asian system of studying in groups as the norm.
  7. I would require a short of uniform based on age and school. There is too much every spent on wardrobe. School is about education not creating a social environment.
  8. I would end the teachers union.
  9. I would add one more year to Junior College and have it be free for all.
  10. I would adapt the German system of setting the course of one’s education based on learning style and optimal tracks for each persons make-up.
  11. Offer free University and add one more year – and giving MA degrees for all grads.
  12. I would add a practical living curriculum on parenting, handling your money, parenting, and faith.
  13. I would add regular motivational speakers.

WHAT IS A VISION

Today – on my blog I want to stay on church development. I have helped dozens of churches develop strategic plans. I have often been a little hesitant to launch into a great vision plan. Over the years I have come to be very cautious about visions. I am not sure they are needed, necessarily helpful, and in many cases safe.

Here’s the down side of visions driven by a key leader or oligarchy of leaders:

  1. Few people actually read them and fewer apply them.
  2. Goals and planing are often neglected in developing a plan.
  3. Visions can be tools that become abusive of the folks in a church.
  4. I find church life can be much more fluid than people think.
  5. Way too much time is wasted on the concept.
  6. People easily become abused, or only functional part of the church. In other words everyone finds their value in what they contribute to the plan.
  7. Success is defined by scorecards that differ from Jesus’ heart for people.
  8. People become tools.
I have located two things i like to do before one writes a mission or vision statement if you ever need one.

  1. Every plan has to begin with values. Until you establish what is important to the group and leader there is no need to bother with a vision. I like to have leaders and churches assess what they spend their time on, prayer on, money, and energy. A close look at these areas and you will quickly find out what your true values are. And then you can be deliberate about stating your values.
  2. I have come to believe that a church should be simple and just have goals for three years. I believe that your history will reveal what God’s vision is for you. I know some of the best and brightest will disagree with me here. But what can I say – I am right.
I am very very certain that some of the best churches and I might add growing churches don’t have vision statements or

mission plans. Or a leader who has like Moses come down from the mountain. And I have frankly found that very view

churches seek to apply their plan, just like most of us they live crises to crises. What we need are clear values that are

educated by the Bible and clear plans and goals that require God to be the partner.

Why I Love Being a Church Leader: A Call To Young Leaders

Publications like to wax bodily about how rough the ministry is and how depressed all the pastors and their wives are. I have even passed on some thoughts that I have come to see are anecdotal and tainted by the fact that as a coach and consultant I am more often that not called into most often unhappy situations.

I was asked by a young leader this week this question? “What do you like about leading churches and why should I want to do that?’ I concluded I had to believe church leadership is a worthwhile and virtuous calling rather than I just wanted company in my misery.

I have spent several days thinking about that question. And I concluded that one, I love pastoring and leading ministries. And I could highly recommend it to young men and women wanting to make a dent in the slippery slope the world is in. I really don’t think the ministry is any more virtuous or a concern of God’s for say bankers and dentists. But it is a noble call Paul said.

And I know enough business owners, educators, politicians, athletes and doctors to know that the ministry isn’t the most stressful, under paid job you can have out there. Hey its tough running a governmental department, or managing a small business and you don’t usually get anywhere near the affirmation church leaders do.

So what do I like about ministry and why would encourage you to sign up?

  1. I am a visionary/creative person. And there is likely no more fulfilling arena to fulfill the joy of expressing who I am than what I do. I get to create and design every day of my life. And people appreciate it most of the time.
  2. You get to work every day and week at efforts that have the potential of bring eternal results.
  3. You usually get to work with honest and wonderful people.
  4. You get to grow as a person, leader and thinker daily.
  5. You really can make a good income at it if you apply yourself and work hard.
  6. You can influence entire cities with a simple message on Sunday.
  7. You get to see up close lives that are changed, transformed and get back on track.
  8. Your schedule is more often than not your own and you are free to design it.
  9. You usually get to choose the team of people you will work with rather than having them handed to you.
  10. You can leave your mark on the culture, your church group, families and young people moving into their callings and vocations for generations to come.
So yes I could recommend the ministry.

I Am Just Wondering

I was wondering today what would happen if the driving ministries in the country told the truth on a few things. Would we participants be mature enough to handle it. The American passion for success, more, and presentation I think can be an addictive vice.

I was just thinking when I read the report of an acquaintance ministry event. i won’t name them. And I am not saying I am not tainted by the same toxin having been an American leader at all. But they reported that they had a blow out event with x number of people and the strongest spirit. Now, I noted that the attendance was about 200 less than last year’s. I just wonder what it they had said, “we had 200 less people this year and the messages weren’t nearly as good either.” Would that be a bad thing?

What if they just told the truth and said,”it goes that way sometimes but we are going to give it our best next week but our marketing department has a real chore ahead of them now.” Personally I would love it. I may even plan to come next year.

Why is it we have to have the biggest and better every year? Its not true much of the time.

I thought about myself. When I send a bio in I usually say, “wrote fifteen published books one was a Gold Medallion finalist, and another was the text book for church growth for eight years.” Both of these statements are true. But what if I added one of his books only sold 800 books for one publish and was then sold to another and sold only 2000 and had a lousy cover Doug insisted upon. I think I may just do that in the future.

Or how’s this “20 years ago Doug led the eighth fastest growing church for five years in America but the last church he stepped into heal up had less money when he left than he arrived and he discovered he really didn’t have a grace upon him to pastor any more though the indicators were good for the church. He simply doesn’t like taking on churches he hasn’t started because he is too impatient to put up with the process. Sounds good. I would go hear that guy.

I wonder what would happen if we just told the truth a little more.

There is really good news we miss out on too. Like instead of 50% of Christian marriages ending in divorce only 20% do.

Or this 80% of pastor’s kids require therapy to deal with depression by the time they are young adults to forty years old. And it is usually due to the way churches treated their family.

I had a friend who pastored a church of thousands who constantly told young leaders he only made $36.000 year. It just didn’t set with me. He had two new cars every year (given to him by the guy who owned the car business in his church), He had a 5,000 square foot house that four builders built for him. His kids study in major overseas universities which another donor paid for. And the mostly ate out with church business covered by church business cards.

I had not an ounce of envy or chagrin about how God blessed my friend. But basically he had $36,000 with no obligations most of us have and that was a couple decades ago. It would be like having $8,000 free cash a month these days. Now my friend probably deserved four times what he was paid even then. But why tell a group of young leaders you only made $36,000. I know they went home and cut their pay to keep up.

Some of our less than truthful statements cause some real damage.

Insights: Setting Up the Room

I have learned several subtle but important insights that can predict the outcome of a meeting. One is I can predict how a meeting will go first by how a room is set up (setting of the chars and tables, where the windows in the room are in relation to the tables or chairs) and where people are seated.

I recommend a book titled “Making Room for Leaadership: Power, Space and Influence (IVP) buy MaryKate Morse. It is one of the most helpful books you will ever read on the topic of impressions, influence and power.

Here are some pointers I have found:

  1. If you are leading the meeting never let someone else organize how the chairs will be set up.
  2. A rectangular set up of a room is cold and inhibits communication.
  3. Half circles make for an easier communication experience. I disdain speaking in a rectangular room.
  4. Don’t have a disproportionate amount of space between the speaker/leader and the folks. People detach or you have to resort to near bullying tactics to maintain the crowds attention.
  5. Family meetings and sensitive meetings should be in a circular form. The lead member should blend in with the group if you want open communication or have sensitive topics to be covered.
  6. It is a good idea for there to be name plates and determine where people sit for a business meeting. Especially if there are several dominate personalities in the group.
  7. I think serious meetings should be set up so all people can see each other all at once. A perfect square works for me usually with people dispersed around the table. I prefer not by rank.
  8. I don’t trust anyone who sits behind a desk when we are talking. Its a power pose and I don’t need the stress. So I never have a barrier between me and anyone I am talking with that I am trying to get acquainted with or am trying to help.
  9. If you are a weaker personality or naturally on the more mellow side yet have to led the meeting take what they call the mafia seat. Its the seat that looks directly at the door. Sometimes its the head of the table others the middle of the table. Its the seat where no one is behind you nor out of your view. You will have the upper hand to get your point across.
  10. If you are introducing change or new topics or leaders to a group always set things up in a half circle where all can see one another. And have more than one person up front with the group.
  11. Also mix the new folks, or idea sources with the longer term people never have the separate entities of a group sit together it creates an us /them dynamic. You need a “we” moment or hour to get the point across.
  12. Always seat a room from the front to the back. Block off rows so people will be forced forward.
  13. In public meetings of any kind always have someone in command of the door. And train them what to say to intruders, distractors, mothers of crying babies etc…
  14. I always watch for who tries to take the Mafia seat and who takes the weaker seats when I work with churches it tips me off as to the group dynamics in the church.
  15. If you are a very strong personality and want discussion in the meeting take a weaker and less powerful seat in the room. Never take the mafia seat. In fact I like to place the quietest and more intelligent person in that seat.
  16. If you are gong to let a staff member or leader go who has caused you problems always stay behind a desk or table. They need the power base not a warm I am vulnerable to you setting.
  17. Change the set up for your board or other meetings six times a year.
  18. Don’t leave a lot of space between tables – leave that for the totalitarians.
In addition:

  1. NEVER EVER HAVE A MEETING OF ANY KIND WITHOUT AN AGENDA AND TIMELINE.
  2. ALWAYS AND ALWAYS ALWAYS START ON TIME AND HAVE AN END TIME.
**If you don’t do these things there are those who will hijack the meeting and make it too long and make private points that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

  1. NEVER EVER EVER HAVE A Q AND A WITHOUT SETTING A CLEAR TOPIC….FOR EXAMPLE JIM DO YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS ABOUT THE SERVICE CHANGE TIME….. OR JILL DO YOU ANY THOUGHTS ABOUT ADDING THE NEW CAMPUS WITH REGARD TO ITS SCHEDULE. NEVER SAY BILL WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT WE HAVE BEEN SAYING. HE PROBABLY WILL SAY IT.
  2. HAVE CLEAR CONCISE REAONS WRITTEN FOR HAVING THE MEETING AND WHAT NEEDS TO COME OUT OF THE MEETING.
  3. ALWAYS HAVE A CONSULTANT OR EXPERT GIVE THEIR CREDENTIALS AND REASONS FOR CREDIBILITY BEFORE THEY SPEAK.
  4. NEVER TIE THE WHOLE GROUP UP ON WHAT CAN BE DISCUSSED AND DECIDED BY THE LEADER AND A SUBCOMMITTEE.
  5. ALWAYS HAVE A SECRETARY AT ANY KIND OF MEETING. IT REMINDS PEOPLE THAT WHAT THEY SAY WILL OUTLAST THE MEETING. IT HAS MUCH THE SAME EFFECT AS A VIDEO CAMERA RECORDING YOU AT 7/11.
  6. MAKE CERTAIN EVERYONE PLAYS FAIR THAT’S PRIMARILY WHY YOUR ARE THE LEADER. DONT’ LET MEN TALK OVER WOMEN. AND DONT’ LET TALKATIVE PEOPLE DOMINATE THE MEETING.
  7. ALWAYS HAVE A TIME LIMIT ON COMMENTS AND STATE HOW MANY COMMENTS YOU HAVE TIME FOR.
  8. NEVER BE SURPRISED BY THE OUTCOME OF A MEETING. ALWAYS TAKE A STRAW POLL BEFORE THE MEETING SO YOU HAVE A GOOD IDEA WHAT TO PREPARE FOR.
  9. BE WILLING TO ENDORSE THE BEST IDEAS NOT JUST YOUR OWN.
  10. ALWAYS THANK EVERY PERSON WHO SPEAKS AFTER THEY SAY SOMETHING. IT WILL HELP THE GROUP STAY OPEN.
  11. NEVER EVER ALLOW FOR PAST ISSUES TO TAKE THE TOTAL DISCUSSION. TRAIN PEOPLE TO LEARN FROM THE PAST BUT BE FUTURE FOCUSED. IN FACT YOUR AGENDA SHOULD CLEARLY STATE HOW MUCH TIME WILL BE GIVEN TO BOTH.
  12. ALWAYS ALWAYS REMEMBER – LEADERS HAVE THEIR JOBS, FEARS, CHALLENGES AND TIME LIMITS. AND THEY MAY HAVE A LITTLE DIFFICULTY GIVING YOU FULL ATTENTION. I LIKE TO TELL A STORY OR A JOKE TO START OFF A MEETING TO ESTABLISH HUMANITY IN THE MEETING.
  13. NEVER LET ANOTHER PERSON START YOUR MEETINGS. YOU NEED TO SET THE TONE AND PACE OF THE MEETING. I LIKE TO START WITH A SNAP AND DRIVE THE THINGS. AND GET HOME.
  14. IF YOU REALLY WANT INPUT MAKE PERSONAL CALLS AND HAVE COFFEE WITH PEOPLE. YOU WILL FIND THE PEOPLE WHO REALLY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT OFTE DIFFER IN A MEETING AND THOSE WHO DONT’ LIKE SPEAK AS THEY LEARN. AND I LIKE TO HAVE A PREPARED SHEET OF COMMENTS YOU HAVE ALREADY GOTTEN FROM THE GROUP.
That’s plenty for now. I have often kicked myself as a leader and consultant for not commanding the room. I have seen important causes dropped, near fist fights start, and even leadership groups split mostly due to a bad room or meeting set up and preparation. I recently walked into a set-up that was ready made for failure. And sure enough what would have been a glorious move ahead with a great opportunity was controlled by the least qualified and most emotionally unhealthy person in the room due to set up and having open ended Q and A.

As a leader you can make certain the important thing happens by paying attention to these small details.

And all this isn’t about control. It’s about just the opposite. It is about making sure the agenda and needs of the group are covered over those needs of the ill motivated, unintelligent, attitudinally challenged or those who don’t prepare for meetings. It’s about keeping things fair and in order.

In a future submission I will cover how to encourage, develop and guide a meeting where there can be true criticism, disagreement and challenges. It begins with the above and moves from there. It will also create ownership.

The Tragic Error of The American Church

If I were to pinpoint the major point where the U.S. church has been neutered it would be the religious consumerism

of the American church. I do believe this premise can attract people to Christ. If we are consumers we are very likely to be more comfortable in an appeal to our needs.

Needs based church life is killing us. I have for years sought as a leader to connect people’s needs with God. And I will continue. But needs based Church life CAN undermine the basic call that Christ places on the believer.

When Christians seek only the meeting of their needs and that is all we are feeding for dinner we have run the risk of being a motivational club rather than the dynamic people of God committed to the spread of the Kingdom of God. I have concluded the teaching on the cross and a call to challenge the forces that push back on the kingdom are more to the core of what it means to be a Christian.

I am not sure we can recover any time soon from this upside down view of the church. As a coach I am trying to help churches do just that…

Young Leaders

I am working on a book for Young Leaders. I was presenting the material in seminar form. IN my question answer session I was asked a great question. What are the five top mistakes young leaders make?

I gave a couple responses but the thought further than evening about the question. Here are what I believe are the biggest mistake young leaders mistake. At least in my humble unresearched opinion.

  1. Saying no to opportunities. If you fur down teaching the second grade boys you might be saying no to more than you think. I recently was asked to work with a group of church leaders – and I really didn’t have the time but I saw it as an opportunity to learn from younger leaders and share my limited expertise with the leaders. A short time later one of the leaders shared how I had helped them with a pastor of 40,000 member church in Latin American. He sought me out and said God had told him I was going to help him restructure his ministry and church…. Young leaders can hold out for what really “get’s their juices going” and miss finding themselves. I believe that success finds all callings as long as we jump at opportunities.
  1. Pre-marital sex.
  1. Marrying the wrong person.
  1. Not getting all the education they can.
  1. Fail to see the real way to leadership and success is seeking to make someone else successful at what they do.

Morning Meditation

I usually take and hour and just think and review what I have read and experienced the precious day. And then quickly review my one week, one month, one year and ten year goals and plans. This morning I took myself into a personal coaching mode. Here a couple points I know but have not mastered and brought into my thinking today.

First – Success is usually achieved more by what you don’t do that what you do decide to do. Focus. Distraction is the enemy of success. Every day should start with an eraser.

Second – A daily deletion of fear has to be done. Fear means failure eventually.

Third – Learn to overlap work. One activity might be usable in four different arena’s if you invest the time to pay attention.

Four – There is a sliver lining in every mistake or set back. Better to find the benefit than try and find who is to blame.

Five – Books are written one line at a time. You can never write a book trying to right a book.

Six – Work from the end of your life backward when making decisions and investing time and money.

Peace- have a good day….

Church Stuff

I am a church guy. And this is supposed to be a church site. So I want to put out some thoughts I have as a church coach. i have to say there aren’t really a lot of churches I would attend from my broad experience. And if we all got honest there are many churches that just plain are bad for you and your health. And as long as we are all being honest you don’t really need to go to church to be a good Christian. Many of my friends don’t and they seem as happy and Christian as my friends who do. Go figure.

So why church? I believe in the church. I really do. I think Jesus clearly believes in the church. But my twist is a little different and I believe biblically educated. First off Jesus’ mission wasn’t to create churches. It was about His becoming the manifest King of God’s Kingdom. God’s kingdom is to be released every where at all times. The church is the agency of the Kingdom. In other words we gather as the church to be healed up, trained and released to do the Kingdom in the bank, the school, the court, congress, football stadium, and even church.

The church is not about an event. The church is a verb. We gather for one reason and that is to be prepared. Prepared for combat, prepared to love, and released to give. Church is the only organization it has been said that exists mostly for those not there yet. Church without promoting the Kingdom is not really a church. I am not sure what it is but there might be a 150,000 of them.

Thom Rainer one of my favorite researchers and analyst said that out of 330,000 churches in the U.S. 150,000 of them are dying. And for the most part he believes because they have begun to exist to meet members needs. Nearly none of these dying churches can hope for a turn around. Thankfully last year we started 500 more churches than we closed.

The following are some of my radical and surprising solutions to where we are:

  1. We need persecution. And it looks like we are getting it. If we truly contended as citizens of the Kingdom on many issues we would be persecuted. The church always does better when its persecuted. Persecution is rising so that must be the precursor to an awakening.
  2. I think denominations should stop being unrealistically hopeful and shut down many churches, sell the building and give the money to successful churches. Or take the money and find a qualified planter and start another church.
  3. Get rid of all boards. And get qualified trustees. I believe the smaller the church the more qualified the leadership needs to be to grow. Boards are a failed experiment following a corporate model. Church in the NT is led by the expert and highly qualified. I know of no other aspect of church that has destroyed more churches than the board. I say fire them all. And give them real ministry jobs in the church like teaching kids, going door to door for evangelism. And either get some qualified successful pastors and leaders to manage the church or the denominational leaders need to run the business details. I have been at this for nearly 40 years and way too much energy is spent on dealing with a room full of people who have no business deciding the direction of a church.
  4. We should start churches with a death clause. Committing to close down the church in 20 years and have the church split up into groups of 100 and start over splitting the money they put away. Let’s face it after 20 years you really have to work hard to keep people interested. Churches will make better facilities decisions, and stick to task I believe if we did this.. Develop a retirement fund for the leader(s) so they are not left in the lurch and go for it.
  5. Give significant pay raises to pastors who stay ten years. Not time to go over why. I should add successfully for ten years.
  6. Affirm the ordination and call of leaders form the church in the community. Take offerings for their ministries. Give scholarships to strong Christian Kingdom kids for their education. Help connect people to start businesses. Let the young couples take care of themselves, and the singles groups…. spend the money and energy of the church on doing the stuff. And don’t give away hamburgers or hot dogs and things. Go deeper and invest in the neighborhood.
  7. Assign groups of four to own two blocks of the city and help them to develop a two year plan to reach the folks there, heal them, start studies, pray for them, include them in your Thanksgiving. And cancel mid-week services. The people already know too much for their own good anyway.
  8. Don’t just start churches start networks of small groups that meet in a large group once a month.
  9. Do all skill level training online…forget so many meetings. Or just do them four times a year. People are tired of your silly meetings they want to do something. The only people who like them are geeky people who like being smarter than everyone else…It’s true let’s be honest.
  10. If someone can’t make their own friends you will never hand them one. Make small groups leaders build their own crowd.
Ok enough already. In the next submission I am going to outline what a good board meeting would look like if you still had to do one.