FOREST … TREES: A LEADERSHIP FOCUS JESUS VALUES

From Blake Coffee

forest-for-the-trees “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him,“You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:32-34

I believe the church has more than its share of leaders who cannot see the forest for the trees. They get so distracted by the minutia, the petty, the theological fine points, they lose sight of the main thing. I suspect you know a leader or two like that. You may even BE a leader like that…but, if you are, you probably do not know it. After all, what kind of leader would knowingly be like that?

The Pharisees and other teachers of the law in Jesus’ day were often that way. They were so distracted by the complexities of their traditions and the fine points of the Mosaic law, they had virtually lost sight of the Spirit behind those laws. Questions like, “What’s most important?” were particularly troublesome for them.

Jesus, on the other hand, seems to me to be a “big picture” kind of leader…at least in matters of theology. He always had an eye on the things which matter most, and he had a way of embarrassing the institutional religious thinkers of his day in this regard. He valued a theology which kept the main thing as the main thing. I think that is what he saw in this particular teacher of the law in Mark 12. This was a rare moment when Jesus actually commended one of those teachers, and it seems to me to be because this teacher was actually able to keep the details in perspective and to see the forest for the trees.

When I work with congregational conflict, I am never particularly surprised at how out of focus we church people are capable of becoming, how tunnel-visioned we get, particularly in matters of doctrine and theology. We can get so zoomed in on the differences among us that we completely lose sight of the major worldview we have in common. But I get particularly disappointed in shepherds among us who lose their focus on what is important, because they are who set the focus for the rest of us. Show me a church which is overly focused on money and material possessions, and I will show you church leadership who is out of focus that way. Show me a church who is overly focused on politics and I will show you church leadership who is leaning out of bounds in that same way. In matters of focus, we truly are a “follow the leader” kind of people.

Leadership vision which allows discussion on the finer points but which maintains its focus on the larger points is a vision Jesus commends. He saw it in this teacher of the law. He will acknowledge it in you as well. Keep your eyes on the forest, pastor. Always remind us and help us to see it. There will always be plenty of people around to point out the individual trees. You keep us focused on the major stuff. Jesus will be pleased.
© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee. Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com

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Continuing our discussion about change in the church, this from Sam Rainer’s CHURCH FORWARD blog.

HURDLES TO ESTABLISHED CHURCH INNOVATION

Does the established nature of some churches hinder innovation? Is an established structure antithetical to quick, nimble changes? For most established churches, yes, but it does not mean established churches cannot innovate.

A church plant is an innovation. Innovation is the process of successfully establishing something new. To introduce something new—and to get it to work longer than a month—is innovation. Perhaps some luck into the right change at the right time. Perhaps some churches land on the right demographic with the right leadership. Not all innovations are intentional or well-planned. But an effective church plant should be noted as innovation.

As organizations become more established, they tend to be less prone to change. By its nature, an established organization has a system in place that pushes against change. To establish is to create firm stability. Churches need stability. For example, a discipleship process that is not rooted into the culture of the church (or established) is not likely to last long. And it’s only a matter of time before the innovative church plant begins to feel the pull of becoming established. Everything is new only once, after all.

While stability is necessary, every church should also innovate. Established churches, in particular, can take comfort in the establishment. Traditions and history can easily become a guise for complacency. Innovation can take a back seat to the entrenched processes that help create the stability. While most church planters will admit to having many of the same people problems as established churches, church plants do innovate more easily. They have no history pulling them in a certain direction. Everyone is new. The church is new. Each decision is new. In the early days of a church plant, everything feels like an innovation even if it’s not.

So what hurdles to innovation exist in the established church? Here are four examples.

Lack of intentionality. Generally, established churches have more resources than new churches. When resources are limited, churches must be more intentional about innovation. Failure—especially one that is expensive—can quickly derail a church with limited resources. When resources are plentiful, the temptation is to be less intentional. Established churches can generally absorb more failures. But a practice of spaghetti-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks is not true innovation. It’s haphazard chaos. Give it a month and see how many people get annoyed.

Lack of originality. Build on your foundation, but don’t slap a new logo on an existing program and call it innovation. Innovation is introducing something new, not introducing something with the façade of newness.

The wrong metrics. What gets measured gets done, and what you measure is typically an indicator of what you value. A mature church will measure different things than a new church. Most church plants are not attempting to track down meeting minutes from a dozen committees for next week’s business meeting. And established churches don’t have to worry about the retention ratio of people from a launch service. However, an overemphasis on the metrics sustaining the establishment will inevitably deemphasize innovation and dissuade team members from attempting innovation.

The ease of appeasement. In an established church some leaders prefer the ease of appeasing members rather than innovating to reach new people. Obviously, a long-term member may not desire to be appeased, but rather challenged. However, most churches have a segment of people who would rather rest in the stability of the establishment. It’s not necessarily a sin issue, and leaders should care about all members whatever their spiritual maturity. Appeasing existing members, however, is much easier than challenging a church to innovate and reach new people. Even in a healthy established church, one ready to reach outward, innovation is a challenge. The typical established church has several groups of people who joined during different seasons of the church for different reasons. Even when people agree to reach outward, getting them to agree on timing, direction, budgeting, and pace is a challenge. It’s easier to appease. But appeasement is never innovation.

Though established churches are not new, they can still introduce new things. They can innovate. Hurdles exist. These hurdles, however, are surmountable.

This post was originally published at my Church Executive blog.

WHY DOES IT SEEM SO HARD TO BRING ABOUT CHANGE?

From Charles Stone, these insights on the hidden factors that you must deal with when managing change in a church.change_bulldozer

 Why does it seem so hard to bring change in a church?

by Charles Stone

In my 30 plus years in ministry, change management has been one of the most challenging tasks I’ve faced. Most pastors would probably agree. Recently I learned an insight about how people’s brains work that helped me see what I may have unintentionally overlooked when I initiated a change.

Our brains are wired for us to want certainty in our lives. When something feels ambiguous or uncertain, we subconsciously feel threatened. When we feel threatened, it creates an away response, rather than a toward response. In the case of church change, an away response might be negativity, fear, passive resistance, or complaining from people. On the other hand, a toward response could be excitement, support, and good gossip, how we hope the church would respond. The more uncertain and ambiguous church change appears, the less support we’ll get and the more difficult the change will become.

So how we can we make church change less ambiguous and easier to bring about? I’ve listed some pointers below based on some recent findings in neuroscience.

Stay close to your key influencers during the entire change process. Remember, the more threatened someone feels, the more they will resist change. Learn their unique personalities because some personalities respond better to change than others. (Brin Jr. & Hoff, 1957).
Remain sensitive to characteristics that impact a person’s feeling of threat caused by the uncertainty change brings.
The more politically conservative they are, the more they may feel threatened by change (Jost et al., 2008).
The more personal anxiety they’re experiencing, the more threatened they may feel from change (Bishop, 2007).
The lower a person’s self esteem, the more resistant they can be to change (Ford & Collins, 2010).
Keep people informed with timely reports on how the change is progressing (helps minimize uncertainty).
Cast a compelling vision on how the new change can make things better (a form of reframing current reality).
Teach about characters in the bible who created certainty through faith, believing God was in control despite difficult circumstances and uncertain futures.
Teach about how to keep a healthy Christ centered self-esteem.
Teach on how to biblically manage anxiety—see blog

What are some tips you’ve learned that have helped bring change?

Related Posts:

6 Keys to Managing Church Change
The Brain and Successful Church Change

References:

Bishop, S. (2007) Neurocognitive Mechanisms of Anxiety: and Integrative Account. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, xxx (x), pp.1–10.

Brin Jr., O. & Hoff, D. (1957) Individual and Situational Differences in Desire for Certainty. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 54(2), pp.225–229.

Ford, M.B. & Collins, N.L. (2010) Self-esteem Moderates Neuroendoctrine and Psychological Responses to Interpersonal Rejection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98 (3), pp.405–419.

Jost, J.T., Nosek, B.A. & Gosling, S.D. (2008) Ideology: Its Resurgence in Social, Personality, and Political Psychology. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3 (2), pp.126–136.

Published on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 8:43 AM CDT
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SOLVING UNSOLVEABLE PROBLEMS

Solving Unsolvable Problems 

Posted: 12 Dec 2010 02:30 PM PST

Some problems have staying power. And good leaders admit it when a solution to a problem will not come to fruition. Allow me to offer you two perspectives—one from the solution side and the other from the problem side. First, leaders can select the right problem to solve but craft a poor solution. Or they can attempt to solve the wrong problem.

Poor solution. Don’t be guilty of wanting to hang on to your ideals—the best solutions—that you know are right, because sometimes the right solution becomes the wrong answer for a problem. Perhaps the solution was poorly communicated. Perhaps the solution was before its time. Perhaps the leader just didn’t do a good job of selling it to the people. For whatever reason, the people being led just did accept it.

Wrong problem. Don’t be guilty of trying to solve the wrong problems. You may be right. Those needing to change may be wrong. But sometimes leaders just pick the wrong battle. Don’t be wrong for being right about the wrong problem.

As a pastor, I have been guilty of both—poor solutions to the right problems and good solutions to the wrong problems. I have fought needless battles. I have nitpicked problems. Clearly, sin problems in the church do not go unaddressed, and the Bible gives plain instructions on how to deal with sin. But some problems are not due to sin. They can be caused by poor planning, bad technology, odd traditions, and outside influences, among many others.

So what’s a leader to do in these cases of unsolvable problems? What if you cannot ignore the issue? What if you must address the problem? These cases are not easy for leaders. Below are a few guidelines to consider.

Concede. Have self-awareness that your solution is not working. Acknowledge that you need a new plan. You “best” solution may never work (and it may really be the best solution). Sometimes leaders have to concede and settle for plan B. Sometimes followers will never grasp the best solution. Remember, leaders serve the people, not their own ideals.

Consensus. Most think of consensus positively—the majority opinion wins out. But the majority does not always have the right solution, nor do they always pick the right problems to solve. When consensus gets ugly, no one gets what they want but most can live with the outcome. Consensus can turn solutions sour and cause problems to perpetuate.

Leaders can use consensus, however, by building it. Don’t start with a large bundle of ideas and allow the people to whittle down the options. Start with one or two new solutions and let the people build them up by making them their own.

Conversations. I’ve discovered something about leading the church—rumors work better if you start them. If you’re shifting plans and proposing a new approach to an old problem, get feedback from the people through the rumor mill. Have low key conversations with key people and assume they will “talk.” Then listen. Track the pulse of the body. Check the excitement (or dissatisfaction) level and continue crafting your solution.

Creativity. Conceding your ideal solution is not the same as admitting defeat. But it does require more creativity in building another solution. If the problem is unsolvable, then extra creativity is needed to find resolution. The problem may always be there. For instance, a landlocked, growing church in a downtown may not have the luxury of buying more land or building taller. Be creative in addressing the problem. If the problem is obvious, leaders can earn much respect by figuring out the next best solution.

What are some ways you approach unsolvable problems? Do you have any success stories?
This post comes from Sam Rainer’s blog CHURCH FORWARD.