7 Vital Steps Prior to Implementing Major Change

 

change

 

Every organization, as it grows, has to be able to change.  But change is not easy. It requires trust, strong leadership, common ground, plan, and  a solid execution.  I found this blog post very helpful by Ron Edmondson.  Hope you enjoy.

 

 

ORIGINALLY POSTED BY Ron Edmondson

As a pastor and leader, I am continually dealing with change. Everyday. Change is a part of life – for all of us.

Some change occurs without us doing anything. In my context, we adjust our Easter calendar every year – without much thought of whether we will or not. Sometimes it’s in March – sometimes April. And, there is nothing we do to influence this change. There are lots of other examples of this.

Some change is so routine it requires little thought or preparation by the leader. For example, leaders will move and new leaders will replace them – almost naturally over time. If you’ve been in leadership for very long at all you’ve probably seen dozens of leaders in the organization change.

But, when making major change – change which impacts everyone – change which may be controversial – there are some steps to take before you begin to implement the change. Failing to understand this or do most or all of these, in my experience, could derail the effectiveness of the change.

I am going to share steps I take. You may have a better system in place. If so, please help me learn from you. But, certainly steps must be taken in advance of major change. It’s naive to think otherwise.

Here are 7 steps before implementing major change:

Establish trust authority.

I wrote about this principle HERE. Leaders shouldn’t attempt to implement major change until they have enough trust of the people to solicit the support necessary for the change. You will need people to follow your leadership and this requires an established relationship of trust. Leaders need to be careful not to move until ample trust is in place for the size of the change – and knowing when this is in place takes years of practice and lots of people speaking into the process. This doesn’t mean people will trust, or even like, the change, but it does mean they have trust in the leader.

Personal confidence and conviction.

Check your heart. Have you prayed about it? Do you sense any reason you shouldn’t do it? In my experience, God gives tremendous freedom to us in how we carry out the mission. This is why there are hundreds of styles and structures of churches all carrying out the same Great Commission. But, before you do anything else, make sure you are in this enough to see it through. Would you be willing to fight the naysayers on this one? Are you willing to lose people over it? I’m not saying it will come to this, but it is the level of commitment you need to have before you introduce major change.

Leadership in place.

Make sure you get buy in from those who will most likely end up implementing the change. Personally, I’m seldom willing to move forward if the staff or key volunteers I’ve surrounded myself with don’t believe in the change. There may be times I need to vision cast better and help them see the need, but their support is critical if major change is going to be successful.

Use a focus group.

On major changes, I like to bring in a group of people who are generally supportive of my leadership, but represent all the major groups within the church. I cast the vision for the change, get their feedback and answer questions. Again, they may or may not immediately agree with the change, but I know they will be a respectful audience. I always tell them as a leader, I will have to follow the direction I feel God is leading me, but I value their input in the process of discernment. (And, I genuinely do. Make sure you are open to this as a leader.) This step always makes the change better by their input and helps build a base of support for the change.

Do a stakeholder analysis

I wrote about this concept HERE. I try to know the most interested and influential people in the particular change. We attempt to reach out to them first. Again, this step builds support among influencers and usually further enhances the change with their input and hopefully their support. Many times this group become supporters of the change, or at least they don’t work against it, because they feel included in the process. (Again, leader, make sure you are open to this input. You need people to make any change effective. The more buy-in you get early the more effective you will be.)

Major questions are answered.

(Or a plan to get them answered.) One of my goals is getting as many answers to questions as possible on the table before the change is implemented. We can never anticipate all the questions or scenarios which will arise, but the more we can address them in advance the better prepared we will be to handle them when they do. In each of the groups listed here, I always ask what questions are in the room and what questions they may sense others will have.

Plan a timetable for implementation.

It is impossible to do this perfectly, but having a planned approach to implementing the change makes the change more successful. This needs to be planned, as much as possible, before the change implementation begins. People WILL ask this question. Be realistic with your timetable, but don’t be afraid to let it stretch you either. The best change requires an element of faith.

Those are some of the steps I think through before making major change. As a pastor, I know God has called me to lead a church – with an unchanging mission and message – which will always need to be changing methods as the people we try to reach our changing. Refusing to change simply diminishes our effectiveness and shortens our lifespan as a local church. The more I can do to prepare people for change, the more effective that change can be.

Any steps you would add?

Eight significant “Time-Drainers” for leaders!

Originally posted by Thom Rainer

“The greatest gift you could give me is more time.”

The statement was made half jokingly by a pastor. Of course, he didn’t think I could create days with more than 24-hours. But he was busy, overcommitted, and worn out.

He is not alone.

What if I told you I could help you get 10 or more hours of your week back? That’s like having an extra three weeks a year. In order to make this quest a reality, let’s look at some of the greatest time drainers of pastors and staff, with suggestions about improving each of them.

  1. Regularly scheduled meetings. How many hours do you spend each month in meetings you feel obligated to attend? Probably a lot. Solution: Ruthlessly evaluate all of your mandatory meetings. You can probably eliminate two or more. And never add a regularly scheduled meeting without eliminating another.
  2. Add-on meetings. “Pastor, can we get together this week to talk about something?” How many times have you received similar requests? Think of the time expended scheduling the meeting, going to the meeting and, possibly, following up on the meeting. Solution: Say no. Tell the person you will talk about it right then. The conversation will likely be shorter than five minutes.
  3. Non-productive meetings. Have you ever ended a meeting thinking it was a total waste of time? Or perhaps most of the meeting was a waste of time. Solution: Never go into a meeting without a clear and specific agenda. Also, have a definitive ending time. Don’t go one minute beyond that time.
  4. Telephone calls. Many of you are constantly answering the phone. You get started on one project, only to be interrupted. Solution: Get a second phone number to share with church members. There are some services and apps that offer a free number. I use Google Voice. Any call to Google Voice goes to voicemail, where I decide later how I will handle the call.
  5. Social media complexity. Some of you pastors and staff are constantly interacting with church members on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media. I wouldn’t be surprised if the amount of time spent on this task is 10 to 15 hours week. Solution: Stop it! You have no obligation to respond on social media. Get rid of the guilt trip and get your time back.
  6. Old school secretaries. The world of support staff has changed dramatically. If you have a secretary who is still in the 1990s or 2000s, you are wasting a lot of time. That secretary provides you no efficiencies. Solution: Get a productive assistant. If your church cannot afford one, check into a virtual assistant. I personally like EAHelp. I will expand on this issue in my next post.
  7. Time in the car. Depending on your hospital visits or commute, you could spend a lot of time in your car. Solution: If possible, select a specific day to do hospital visits, so that you are not interrupting your other days continuously. Also, make the most use of your time in your auto. I love Audible books by Amazon. For less than $10, I choose a new book every month. My learning curve has gone up yet again!
  8. Counseling. I know one pastor who counsels over 20 hours a week. Needless to say, he is burning out as he counsels and carries out other responsibilities. Solution: Most of you pastors and staff are neither trained nor equipped to do counseling. Stop it and refer requests to those who can do the ministry better. Limit your counseling to one-time sessions and to times for spiritual counseling.

Time is a gift from God. It is not to be wasted or abused. Go through these eight items again. Do you see some areas where you can gain back time? Are there some other insights you can provide us?

hourglass

Five Ways to Hear from People Different from You

Originally Posted by Ron Edmondson on June 4, 2013

 One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is:

Forgetting that everyone doesn’t think like the leader.

People are different. They think differently. They have different desires. Thankfully, they have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are different from the leader.

If you want to lead people who are different from you…and you should…you’ll often have to lead differently from how you wish to be led. Frankly, I’d be comfortable leading by email, but how healthy would that environment be?

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership, that people are different, you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and your team fails to live up to its potential.

Here are some thoughts to warrant against this:

(Please understand, I am using the word “I” a lot here. I don’t really like that term much, because I’m a leader in training too, but I want you to see how I being intentional in this area and provide a few practical examples.)

1.  Intentionally surrounding yourself with diverse personalities. One intentional thing I do is try to have good friends who stretch me as a person, even outside or my work. I have some extremely extroverted friends, for example. They remind me that everyone isn’t introverted like me. On any church staff I lead, I know I want some different personalities to compliment mine. Building my comfort with this in my personal life helps me welcome it even more in my professional life. We will all share a common vision, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it. Ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?”

2.  Asking questions. Lots of them. Personally, I ask lots of questions. I give plenty of opportunity for input into major decisions before a decision is final. We do assessments as a team. I have quarterly meetings with direct reports. We have frequent all staff meetings. I periodically set up focus groups of people for input on various issues. I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible. I try to consistently surround myself with different voices so I receive diversity of thought. I place a personal value on hearing from people who I know respect me, but are not afraid to be honest with me.

3.  Never assuming agreement by silence. I want to know, as best as I can, not only what people are saying, but what people are really thinking. To accomplish this, I periodically allow and welcome anonymous feedback. I realize, just because of position, and partly because of personalities, that some are not going to be totally transparent with me. I try to provide multiple ways for feedback. Even during meetings I welcome texting or emailing me (depending on the size and structure of the meeting) during the meeting. I’ve found that approach works better for some who may not provide their voice otherwise.

4.  Welcoming input. This probably should have come first, but this is a personal attitude. I have to actually want to hear from people on my team. Even the kind of information that hurts to hear initially. I personally want any team I lead to feel comfortable walking into my office, at any time, and challenging my decisions. (I keep candy in my office knowing it attracts them for frequent returns.) Granted, I want to receive respect, but I expect to equally give respect. Knowing what my team really thinks empowers me to lead them better.

5.  Structuring for expression of thought. Here I am referring to the DNA…the culture…for the entire team. And, it is very important. There has to be an environment with all leaders that encourages people to think for themselves. That kind of culture doesn’t happen without intentionality. As a leader, I try to surround myself with people sharper than me, but I want all of us to have the same attitude towards this principle of hearing from others. I believe in the power of “WE”. If we want to take advantage of the experience and talents in our church, we have to get out of the way, listen, and follow others lead when appropriate.

It’s not easy being a leader, but it is more manageable when you discipline yourself to allow others to help you lead.

Distinguishing Marks of A Fruitful Church

Originally posted by Jared C Wilson

I follow the ongoing pastoral and missiological discussions about “faithfulness vs. fruitfulness” from a bemused distance. I do believe that a church’s faithfulness to the mission of God is itself success, regardless of the “results.” And I also believe that a faithful church will be a fruitful church. But when some begin defining fruitfulness in quantifiable ways — decisions, attendance, etc. — I see more pragmatism and less Bible.

Does this mean I don’t think we should look for results? No. It just means I think we should look differently for results. I think measuring a church’s fruitfulness is not as simple as how many hands get raised during an invitation or how many parking spots are filled.

In 1741, the great Jonathan Edwards first published his now-classic book The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. In this important work, Edwards is analyzing and synthesizing all he’s experienced in the revivals of his day (chronicled most notably in A Narrative of Surprising Conversions and An Account of the Revival of Religion in Northampton 1740-1742). He wants to know — what are the signs that a genuine move of God is taking place?

What, in other words, are the true evidences of Spiritual fruitfulness?

Interestingly enough, he prefaces his list of “distinguishing marks” with a list of things that may or may not be signs of a genuine move of God. It’s a curious collection — including things like charismatic experiences, the stirring up of emotions, and the fiery preaching of hell — and Edwards is saying that these things might be good things in many instances, but they do not themselves authenticate a work of God. A work of God may have charismatic experiences, stirring up of emotions, and the like, but it also may not. (He also lists some negative things — like errors and counterfeits — that he says do not necessarily disprove a work of God, since he reasons that a genuine move of God is likely to have Satan actively trying to derail it.)

I think we ought to apply Edwards’s strong reasoning to the ecclesiological landscape today. What are the signs of actual fruitfulness? How do we know our church is a growing part of something God is blessing?

Well, first, let’s look, as Edwards did, at some things that may or may not accompany a genuine move of God.

Marks of Neutrality – These May or May Not Authenticate a Church’s Fruitfulness

1. A steady accumulation of decisions or responses during Sunday invitations.

We have all seen the pastors touting their weekly catch on social media. Many people do hear the gospel and respond genuinely in this way. And yet, this kind of evangelistic strategy has been employed by evangelicals for the last 50 years, and we still face a discernible drought of mature Christianity in the West and a steady decline in evangelical numbers. The discipleship processes in so many of these “count the hands” churches seems to top out at the counting of the hands. Something isn’t adding up. Even Spurgeon commented on this practice, routine even in his day. No, what we can say is this — people coming to know Christ is always a good thing, no matter what kind of church they’re in, no matter the method by which they heard the gospel. But this does not itself sanctify methods. And a simple counting of “decisions” does not itself prove genuine fruitfulness because a (genuine) decision is itself only the first tiny bud of a life of fruit.

2. Large attendance.

It is wearying to need to repeat this, but American evangelicals love bigness, so we have to keep saying it: a lot of people is itself not a sign of faithfulness. It is another neutral sign. A lot of people coming to a church can be a good thing. There is nothing inherently wrong with a big church! But nor is there anything inherently right about it. One of the largest churches in North America is a church where Christ crucified is not routinely preached. Further, the Mormons have big churches. We need only look to the political realm for a fitting analogy: a lot of people supporting something does not mean that that something is doing something right!

3. Emotional experiences.

Here we track with Edwards again. Edwards rightly says that true worship often engages worshipers on an emotional level. It would be strange for a genuine love of Jesus not to make human beings feel something. But in many churches, the emphasis is on the emotional experience. This is why they advertise their music as “exciting,” “vibrant,” or the all-too-familiar “relevant.” These adjectives communicate that the worship is for the worshiper, which is another way of revealing that it is the worshiper the worshiper is worshiping. So it’s not a bad thing to get emotional in church. But it’s not in itself a sign that your church is doing something right.

So there we have 3 neutral signs, none of which are reliable indicators of genuine fruitfulness. A fruitful church may witness many conversions, growing attendance, and intense emotional engagement — or it may not. What, then, ought we to look for as signs of Spiritual fruitfulness? I happen to think Edwards’s “distinguishing marks of a work of the Spirit of God” hold up rather well.

Distinguishing Marks of A Fruitful Church

1. A Growing Esteem for Jesus Christ

How do you measure this? How do you know if a church is focused on the glory of Jesus Christ? Well, I think you start with the most visible communications. In sermon and song, is Jesus the focal point? Are the sermons preached making Jesus a bit player, an add-on at invitation time, a quotable hero? Or do they promote his finished work as the only hope of mankind? Do the messages labor more intently in the Law or do they delight more intently in the gospel? Are people getting a steady dose of five things to do or are they walking away understanding that the essential message of Christianity is that the work of salvation is done?

Musically, is the church focused more on creating an experience or adoring the Creator? Do the songs tell the story of the gospel? Are people the star of the show, or is Jesus? Does the church speak in vague generalities about hope, peace, light, etc. without constantly making the connection that Jesus is the embodiment of these virtues?

Do the people of the church speak more highly of Jesus than simply doing good or knowing the right doctrine? Do the pastors exhibit high esteem of Jesus? Are they Jesusy people?

If the church is not ensuring Jesus is explicitly and persistently the point, it is not fruitful. And conversely, if a church is ensuring Jesus is explicitly and persistently the point, it is being fruitful, since ongoing worship of Jesus is a fruit of the new birth.

2. A Discernible Spirit of Repentance

Is the church, first, preaching the dangers and horrors of sin? And then, in its preaching of the gospel, are people responding to the Spirit’s conviction and comfort with repentance? Do people own and confess their sin? Is there an air of humility about the place or an air of swagger? Are the pastors bullies? Are the people narcissists? Is appropriate church discipline practiced, gentle but direct? Is there a spirit of gossip in the place or of transparency? Is the church programming built around production values or honest intimacy with the Lord?

Are the people good repenters? That’s a real sign of genuine fruitfulness.

3. A Dogged Devotion to the Word of God

A lot of churches say they are “Bible-based,” by which they mean they will quote some Bible verses in the sermon. Or you can take a look at their small group offerings and see most of them are built around special interests, hobbies, or personal demographics. But fruitful churches love God’s word. They preach from it as if doing so gives oxygen. They study it with determination and intensity. They believe the word of God is sufficient and powerful and authoritative. You might even see people carrying their Bibles to the worship gathering!

Edwards says that a mark of a true move of God is high esteem of the Scriptures. I fear this mark is much missing in too many evangelical churches that admittedly use the Bible but aren’t effectively esteeming it.

4. An Interest in Theology and Doctrine

Yes, knowledge apart from grace simply puffs up, but this does not make knowledge disposable. Edwards says that the people of God will love the things of God. They will search out his ways, following the trails of doctrine in the Scriptures straight to the throne. In our day, it is common to see emotion/experience set at odds with doctrine/theology, and so it is quite common to see churches that have devoted themselves to one while keeping the other at arm’s length. But just as unfruitful as a church that’s all head knowledge and no heart is a church that’s all feelings and no depth. Some pastors even publicly mock theology or denigrate Bible study. But the church has not endured for 2,000 years on “spiritual feelings.”

The Lord himself says that true worshipers worship in spirit and in truth. We cannot jettison the truth for a dominating “spirit.” And in fact, as Edwards says, the work of the true Spirit “operates as a spirit of truth, leading persons to truth, convincing them of those things that are true.”

5. An Evident Love for God and Love for Neighbor

Exactly as it sounds. True fruitfulness is evidenced chiefly in obedience to the commands of God, the greatest of which is loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. If a church appears to exist only for the sake of its own survival, only for the sake of its own enterprise, only for the sake of its own internal experiences, no matter how big it gets, it is not likely fruitful but more likely swollen.

Fruitful churches may or may not see steady conversions but they will have a steady outward heart of service and compassion for the world outside their doors.

Measuring the Spirit

Obviously, these five things are harder to quantify than simply counting hands and bodies. I think this is why we (lazily?) tend to equate hands and bodies with fruitfulness. But I want to make the provocative claim that a church can be Spiritually fruitful without seeing many or frequent conversions, without bursting at the seams attendance-wise, without creating “worship experiences” that stir people emotionally and imaginatively. Seeing those things can be good when done from the right place. But they are not themselves indicators of genuine fruit.

Yes, the early church counted. It’s totally fine to count. But we don’t see the kind of emphasis on high attendance and decision-producing that exists today in the pages of the New Testament. We see faithfulness. And we see fruit (“in season”) and sometimes we don’t (“out of season”). The job of the church is not to succeed but to be faithful. If you are not seeing much evangelistic fruit, in other words, be careful that it is not because you are being evangelistically disobedient!

Here are some good diagnostic questions to help us go deeper in our church measurements. I have adapted them from my book The Prodigal Church:

1. Are those being baptized continuing to walk in the faith a year later? Two years? Three years?

2. How many of our people are being trained to personally disciple others?

3. What percentage of our weekend attendees are engaged in community groups? Evangelism? Community service?

4. How many of our people could articulate the biblical gospel?

5. What is the reputation of our church in the community?

6. Are our people graduating into other grades and classes demonstrating a growing understanding of theology and a growing walk with Christ?

In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts a list of bad behaviors with good qualities. The fruit of the Spirit. These are much harder to measure than an accumulation of good deeds, but they are a much better indicator of spiritual growth. One thing we keep seeing in the Scriptures is how character, disposition, quality, being is consistently emphasized over behavior, position, quantity, and doing. The former is much harder to measure, yes, but shouldn’t this make sense? The Holy Spirit is not so easily sized-up.

7 Traits of Great Team Members

Originally posted by Ron Edmondson

In the business world and in the church, I’ve learned that having a good team often makes the difference in how well we do at reaching our objectives.

I have been blessed with some great teams in the past. As a result, I frequently get asked if I have any openings on my team. I have a good team now. More than that, I’m asked how I continue to put together such great team. I’m not bragging, it’s simply that I’ve learned a few things about great teams. The longer a great team is together, the better it seems to work together.

I was reflecting recently on what makes a great team member. What is it that causes some teams to gel better than others? What are some of the joint characteristics we share?

Here are 7 traits I believe make a great team member:

1.  SENSE OF HUMOR

It’s critical that you be able to laugh…at life…at corny jokes…and sometimes at or with each other. I think teams should have fun together. It makes us a better team. We may even occasionally be found in the hallway playing a game. Life…and ministry…is stressful enough. Let’s laugh a little. Together.

2.  TEAM SPIRIT 

We have no lone rangers on our staff. We rebuke struggling alone! We are part of a team and there are no turf wars on our staff and no one should be drowning in a project without some help.

3.  WORK ETHIC 

 I’ve never been great at managing people. As a leader, I simply rely on people having the sense of responsibility and inner drive needed to complete the work. We set definite goals and objectives…measurable wherever possible, but I surround myself with other leaders who are passionate about Christ, our vision and other people and are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the vision.

4.  HEATHY PERSONAL LIFE

In ministry, we deal with a lot of messiness in other people’s lives. It would make it very difficult to maintain the level of ministry required of us if we were not personally living healthy lives spiritually, emotionally and, as much as it depends on us, physically. That doesn’t mean we don’t have issues or problems of our own…of course we do…but we are striving to be healthy individually and together.

5.  TRANSPARENCY

Great team members share burdens with one another. (That’s another way they stay healthy.) Team members don’t live on an island to themselves. The more a team learns to trust each other the greater this process becomes. The team is open to challenge the system, the ministry, the leader, and each other in an attempt to make the organization better.

6.  LOYALTY

It is imperative in any organizational structure that a team member be dedicated to the vision, organization, senior leadership and the team. There doesn’t have to be unanimous agreement on every decision…that would be unhealthy…but there must be unanimity of purpose.

7.  SERVANT’S HEART

If one cannot approach their position from a point of serving others and Christ then he or she will not work well on a good team. It should be the model of the entire ministry, so certainly it must be represented by the team members first.

I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones that come to my mind first.