Posts Tagged ‘strategic planning’

idol church

Monday, October 29th, 2012

I don’t hate church.

Agape Ann ArborLet me say that again to be perfectly clear. I don’t hate church. I’m a missionary and a church planter. God called me twelve years ago to vocational ministry. God called me to work in and for the church. My current endeavor is launching a new church community called Agape Ann Arbor.

As a missionary and church planter, I spend a lot of time talking to people about Agape Ann Arbor. The more I share our vision and our story the more confused I am by the reactions I receive. Here is a brief summary of what I typically share with someone interested in learning more about us. If you’d like to know more you can check out our Open Letter to Ann Arbor, Introduction to Agape Ann Arbor, and blog.

Agape Ann Arbor is a different kind of church community. Our vision is to be a community experiencing and expressing God’s love. The typical church in America is built around the weekend worship service, focusing on musical corporate worship and preaching. We’re building Agape Ann Arbor around relationships where people can experience and express God’s love with each other. The typical church plant launches with a Sunday morning worship service. We’re launching with parties and conversation groups where people connect and share relationally.

Virtually everyone with whom I’ve shared this vision has responded incredibly positively to the idea. Here’s what I don’t understand, why aren’t more people doing this? I’ve not met a single person trying something similar in the US. It’s almost an unspoken rule that if you don’t have a traditional Sunday morning worship service you’re not a church.

I feel like many of us have made an idol out of the Sunday morning worship service. I feel like we value singing and preaching more than we value Loving each other just as Jesus loved his disciples.

What do you think? Is this a fair assessment? What am I missing?

Mission or Business?

Monday, March 26th, 2012

“It’s good for the business of the church but bad for mission.”

That’s what Jen said yesterday as we were talking about the church building as a “third place.” Ministry strategy has been a regular topic of conversation for my wife and I as we launch Agape Ann Arbor. She’s helping me hone the language I use as I communicate what we’re doing.

OK, back to this whole church as the third place thing. The “third place” is a sociological theory popularized by the author Ray Oldenburg. In a nutshell, Oldenburg has observed that in the west we inhabit three places; (1) work, (2) home, (3) and the third place. The third place is the place we inhabit by choice. It is the center of our social life. Think Cheers or Central Perk in Friends.

Many contemporary American evangelical churches have created a ministry strategy around this observation. The philosophy of these churches is that their worship facility should be a third place. The strategy is to create environments and activities in the building that will draw people to the building. The goal is to make the physical structure in which the church meets so attractive that people want to spend time there. It’s great for business. The church members meet at the building for Bible study and buy coffee in the cafe. The church members lives revolve around that physical structure and typically they’re willing to pay for the services they receive in that place.

It’s a good business strategy. It’s a bad mission strategy. The mission of the church is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). You can’t make new disciples if all the Christians are spending all of they’re limited unallocated time with each other in a third place that non-Christians will never choose.

The theory is that if we create cool, comfortable enough environments non-Christians will join us in our cozy little third place. But why would they do that? Do we really think we can compete with Starbuck’s or the comfortable pub on the corner? The only people that want to come to our church buildings are people who are positively predisposed to them. Virtually by definition, this excludes people who are not a part of our Christian community.

This is why Agape Ann Arbor does not inhabit a specific space especially designed for our community. We want to make new disciples. This means we spend time in places where we can meet and connect with people who are not already a part of our community. We inhabit spaces inhabited by people who are not yet Christ-followers. We seek to build relationships there. And, rather than presuming that everyone there is looking for an invitation to be a part of our community we strive to be the kind of people they want to invite into their community.

Think about this: How many stories are there in the Gospels about Jesus inviting people into his community? How many stories are there in the Gospels about people inviting Jesus into their community?

Here’s a challenge for you. Read through the Gospels this week and notice all the parties that Jesus attended. As you read those stories write down where those parties are held and who hosted them.

What do you think? Is the third place a good mission strategy or a good business strategy?

Leadership Pipeline

Friday, April 30th, 2010

While in a seminary leadership class I read a great book on leadership by Ram Charan et. al.; The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company. The book discusses why corporation often fail to develop leaders in their organizations. The root problem, Charan proposes, is that the organization does not think about the skills and training necessary to develop a leader in their organization. Rather than preparing and promoting the best leaders they promote the best performers who often are not the best leaders. For instance, the best salesman in the organization may be great at sales but mat never be a good sales manager.

The book proposes that to develop leaders in an organization the organization needs to first identify the skills and abilities necessary for the next level of leadership. Then they can train to and promote to those skills and abilities.

I think this is true in the church world as well. It seems that those who are the best communicators or have the best stage presence are pushed into leadership in the church, whether they are good leaders or not. I think we have failed to identify the skills and abilities necessary to lead in the church. We, therefore, train and promote communication ability and neglect other necessary skills and abilities.
We need to identify the skills and abilities necessary to lead and start training to and promoting to those. Below I’ve started a list of skills and abilities that I think are necessary for leadership in the church. What would you add or subtract and why?

Communication (While I think this one is over-emphasized I don’t think it should be left out.)
Team Building
Project Planning
Delegation
Time Management
Supervision
Task Evaluation
Leadership Evaluation

What keeps you from being the church that God intends?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago the Jericho Ministry Solutions website launched. You can check it out at JerichoMinistries.net. The vision of Jericho Ministry Solutions is to knock down the walls that keep us from being the church that God intends. I know, it’s too wordy but I haven’t been able to think of a way to communicate it in fewer words. Anyway, in thirteen years serving in churches and para-church organizations both as staff and as a volunteer, I have observed four walls that keep us from being the church that God intends (1) Strategic Planning, (2) Spiritual Development, (3) Small Groups, and (4) Stewardship. The next four posts on this blog will address each of those walls and why it’s so important that church leaders address them.

The first wall that keeps us from being the church that God intends is Strategic Planning. This is because most of us fail to do it. There are two things that tend to keep church leaders from developing strategic plans. One, they just don’t have the time. Two, they never learned how to do it.

A strategic plan is a plan than develops the strategy for how your church is going to fulfill its vision. Our mission is clear, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a NET). Church leaders need to discern the vision that God has for how their local church will fulfill that vision. The vision is a picture of what the church will look like when it’s successfully fulfilling the vision. The strategic plan is the step-by-step instructions with key milestones of how you will fulfill that vision. For more information about developing a strategic plan contact Jericho Ministry Solutions.

Superbowl Leadership

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

This Sunday we will see Jim Caldwell lead the Indianapolis Colts in the Superbowl as a rookie coach.  This season he had the best start of any rookie quarterback in the NFL.  His 14-2 season also tied his predecessor Tony Dungy for the best season record held by an African-American coach.  Jim Caldwell has proven himself to be a strong leader.

It’s his predecessor, however, that I want to talk about today.  As I was listening to the commentators during the AFC championship game against the Jets it was Tony Dungy’s not Jim Caldwell’s leadership that stood out to me.  One of the reasons Jim Caldwell is such a great coach is because Tony Dungy prepared him for it.  Tony Dungy knew that a good leader prepares the leaders that will follow him.  During his tenure as the head coach for the Indianapolis Colts he was preparing Jim Caldwell to take over.  In the summer Dungy had Caldwell lead OTAs to prepare him for the time that he would be leading practice as the head coach.

The best leaders lead leaders.  They find leaders in whom they can invest themselves.  They train leaders who will ultimately replace them as they move on to new vistas of leadership.

Who are you training to replace you as a leader?

To Hire or Not To Hire (Part 3)

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

In this series we’ve been discussing when to hire and when to use volunteers to fulfill roles in the church.  I’ve argued the decision should be strategic not pragmatic.  I’ve proposed that the guiding principle should be that staff positions equip the church for the ministry and the church does the ministry.  All roles should, therefore, default to volunteers rather than staff.   Then I said there are two exceptions to this.  In my last post I said that volunteers should not be expected to fulfill role that require an unreasonable amount on training or experience.

The second question that needs to be asked when making these decisions is, “Are the expectations of this position unreasonable to expect from a volunteer?”  Does this role require the individual to do things or spend time that would be unreasonable for a volunteer?  My best example of this is a role I filled when I helped launch a satellite campus for NorthRidge Church in MI.  One of the tasks was loading a trailer at the original campus on Friday afternoons and driving it to the satellite location Sunday mornings before the rest of the ministry teams arrived.  This required about an hour of work on Friday afternoons hitching and loading the trailer.  Sunday mornings I had to arrive at the original campus at 5a and drive the trailer to the satellite location and have it in place by 5:30a and drive the trailer back to the original campus Sunday afternoons.  There were two reasons that I felt this should be a staff responsibility.  (1) It was really early in the morning.  (2) The vision of the satellite was to create opportunities in that community for people to serve.  The volunteers that were a part of that ministry all lived in that community.  For a volunteer to pick the trailer up they would have had to drive 20 – 30 minutes from their house to pick up the trailer and then drive it to the satellite location which was actually closer to their home.  I believe those expectations were unreasonable to expect from a volunteer.

What do you think?  What tasks are unreasonable to expect a volunteer to do?

To Hire or not To Hire

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

In the past 13 years, I’ve had the privilege of serving in both volunteer and staff leadership positions in churches and parachurch organizations. It’s interesting to me how haphazard many churches are with regards to identifying which jobs are volunteer positions and which jobs are staff positions.

The problem seems to be that the decisions are driven by pragmatism rather than vision. Pragmatism works well for short-term decisions. The decision to fill a position with staff or volunteers is a strategic decision that has far reaching consequences. Leadership teams, therefore, need to have a firm vision of the difference between staff roles and volunteer roles in the structure of the church.
It is important to remember that it is not the staff’s responsibility to do the ministry of the church. It is the whole church’s responsibility to do the ministry of the church. The staff is responsible to equip the church for ministry.

When making staffing decisions the questions that are often asked are:
(1) Can we afford to hire this position? (Do we have the money?)
(2) Can we afford no to hire this position? (Do we trust a volunteer to do it?)

These are pragmatic questions. They do not focus on vision. Better questions to ask are:
(1) Does this position require special skills that it is unreasonable to expect a volunteer to have?
(2) Are the expectations of this position unreasonable to expect from a volunteer?

I’ll unpack these questions in future posts and explain why I think they fit the vision/strategy category rather than being merely pragmatic. I’d love to hear from you though. What questions do you think should be asked in determining whether a position is a staff or volunteer position?