Systems Thinking: Personal Prayer

prayer2I’ll admit it: I struggle with prayer.  I always have.  I understand how it works, I know lots of different ways to do it, and I believe in its power.  But I have always struggled to pray well because it has always been outside of my systems thinking.  I’ve always thought about prayer as needing to be “authentic” – and by authentic we normally really mean spontaneous.  And I don’t do spontaneous.

But this week I was challenged by a prayer warrior to have “established and formal” prayer.  That sounds like a System to me!  And that I can get my mind around.  So what does a Personal Prayer System look like?  Here are some aspects I think need to be in place:

An Appointment

A Prayer System starts with having a time designated to pray.  It is important to have the time blocked out or it will get used for something else.  Just like anything else, if we don’t make time to pray, we won’t do it!

A Direction

Once you have time set aside to pray, a Prayer System needs a direction for the prayer to go in.  There are lots of ways to pray, and lots of things to pray for.  So choose one!  Choose a way (or many ways) to pray, and what you are going to pray about regularly (family, self, sins, church, the lost, etc).  Then stick to the plan flexibly – there are times you may need to shift your plan.

A Team

A Personal Prayer System starts with you praying, but it also needs people praying for you!  Find 2-4 reliable, trustworthy people and ask them to pray for you – as part of your system.  Then work them into the system by creating a scheduled sharing of praises, needs, and answers to pray.  Make sure to include those answers as encouragement to them to keep praying!

An Evaluation

Finally, a Prayer System, like all systems, needs some way to evaluate success.  Define what success looks like for you (time in prayer, answers to prayer, daily impact on life, etc).  Then create the scorecard – what you are going to track and evaluate (days I prayed, number of prayers clearly answered, number of times God clearly moved, etc).  Now evaluate, redesigning the system as necessary.

When we have a Personal Prayer System, our prayer becomes “established and formal”, and our lives, families, and ministries will be covered continuously in prayer.

How can systematic prayer transform your personal prayer life?

to the Center

English: A of . This church is situated in Sym...

None of these things is bad in itself.  We should belief the right things, act the right way, and have outer signs of our faith (faith without works is still dead).  But a church that is focused on the perimeter loses its focus on the center, which is Christ.

Rather than focus on the line between “us” and “them”, what would it look like if the church was focused instead of Jesus and Him Crucified?

A church focused on the Center will understand that we are all journeying toward Jesus – sinners and saints.  This journey then becomes a unifying thread between the found one and the lost one.  Both need to be moved in the same direction, just in different increments and ways.

A church focused on the Center will allow the lost to experience the community of the found, for there the lost experience Jesus.  This experience becomes a common experience between the lost and the found, a starting ground for conversation.

A church focused on the Center will view evangelism as discipleship, as it draws the lost toward Jesus and the found closer to Jesus.  They will see that discipleship begins before conversion, not just afterwards.

The Center focused church creates less distinction between the lost and the found, as it views both as travelers journeying in the same direction and moves to create commonality between the two.  When the lost and the found are together, the commonalities between them are readily apparent.

But the Center focused church will also create more distinction between the lost and the found, for the fruit of their lives will quickly display who is drawing close to Jesus and who is far from him.  When the lost and the found are together, the differences between them are readily apparent.

This is a church I want to be a part of – a church that takes seriously Jesus’ call to full discipleship of those found and those lost.

What do you think a center focused church might look like?

Segmenting Church Leadership

How should the local church be governed? I can’t provide an adequate answer to a question that we’ve been divided on for two thousand years. But I do want to point out some benefits to a local church having a segmented leadership structure. The idea is to have multiple leadership boards rather than one “megaboard” that handles everything from replacing light bulbs to spiritual discipline. The model can have two, three, or more leadership boards, but is probably most effective with three – a lead board that handles purpose and direction, a board that focuses on resources (volunteers, budgets, and facilities) and a board that focuses on care of people.

Manageable Workloads

Megaboards never get anything done because they are trying to do to much. There isn’t enough time in the day for one group to do all that needs to be done to lead a church. By segmenting leadership, each board has a manageable workload. This allows the church to move forward because the leadership can accomplish things. It also lets the board members feel like they are doing something, which leads them to be more engaged.

Better Decisions

Because of their massive workloads, megaboards tend to be inefficient. Segmenting leadership optimizes board efficiency by narrowing the focus of the agenda. Since less things are being considered, they are given full attention. This leads to better decisions, and more of them. When people are asked to make many decisions in one sitting, they tend to make poorer decisions.

Gifted Leaders

The likelihood of a person being gifted to lead in spiritual oversight, administration, and care at the same time is fairly low. But on a megaboard, you have people who are gifted in one or two areas being asked to lead in all three. When you segment leadership you allow people to serve in their area of giftedness. And when people are serving in their area of giftedness they lead better.

Multiplying Leaders

With one board, leadership is limited to a select few. This can lead to an amalgamation of power among the board and a lack of new leaders being developed (as there is no need for them). By contrast, with segmented leadership leadership development becomes necessary as more leaders are needed. And the segmented boards naturally prohibit power plays by the few. The more leaders a church has the better off it will be, and those leaders all own the purpose and strategy of the church.

I think there are many benefits to segmenting leadership, but help me out – what potential issues might crop up with this model?

4 Obsessions of an Extra/Ordinary Pastor

I love Patrick Lencioni’s writing. His case study style fits my learning style, and he says simple, yet profound things. Randy Richards, one of my professors said “You know something is true when you hear it for the first time but think you’ve known it all along.” That is what Lencioni does. You are reading a new insight, but you could swear you knew it for years. The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive is like that.

But I find that pastors often have a hard time taking business insights and translating them to their realm. So here is my “church translation” of the Four Obsessions

1. Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team

The first obsession lead pastors must have is the obsession to build and maintain a cohesive leadership team. Obviously, this refers to the staff, but even more so to the leading board of the church. The pastor must have a Board that understands the vision and mission of the church and is sold out to making it a reality. To make this happen, the lead pastor must have a large part of (if not the only part of) choosing the members of the Board. Then, he has to take the time it takes to get them to the point where they trust each other and know each other personally. This might mean that some meetings are all about building the group and leave “mission critical” issues off the agenda. I recommend Larry Osbourne’s Sticky Teams as a guide to this area of your leadership.

2. Create Organizational Clarity

The second obsession of the lead pastor must be to create clarity about the church. This means that they do need to take the time to really seek God’s face on the mission of their church. Why is your church there as opposed to another? What is your church supposed to do that another could not? And how are you going to do it – what is your strategy? If the lead pastor is unsure of the purpose and strategy of the church, everyone else will be too. And a church with no direction is going to go nowhere fast.

3. Over-Communicate Organizational Clarity

Thirdly, the lead pastor must over-communicate that clarity to the church. You have to tell the leadership, the staff, the congregation, and maybe even the community what your church is about until you are blue in the face. This means carving out time on Sunday mornings. It means using email, newsletters, thank you notes in giving statements, the church sign, the business meeting, staff meeting, board meeting, and personal conversations. As Lencioni says, when your people make jokes about how much you talk about it, you are starting to talk about it enough. Talk about it often, and in multiple media.

4. Reinforce Organizational Clarity through Human Systems

Last, the lead pastor must reinforce the purpose and strategy of the church through all of the human systems. You must choose leaders based on it. You must choose volunteers based on it. You must decide what programs to have based on it. You must “fire” volunteers when they don’t own it. You must reward people publicly who are getting it. You must create your budget around it (if you don’t think that creating a church budget is a human system, you must not have done it before). Every place that you have a system that touches leadership, staff, volunteers, donors, or congregants, you have to alter the system to support your purpose and strategy.

In sum, a pastor’s role is not just to preach and teach. It is to lead the church. Leadership requires having a direction, knowing that direction, communicating that direction, and making that direction strategically correlated to everything about the church.

I think this is hard for a pastor in our church culture because it will require him to say no to a lot of things people want him to do. What do you think? Is this doable, or will it require a paradigm shift for a lot of churches?

 

What’s in a Name? Part Three

Part Three of a Three Part Series

Since many churches are changing their names or considering doing so, it is worth looking at why they do so and whether it is necessary or biblical.  Two assumptions lie behind most church re-branding: the idea that denominational affiliation is a detriment to evangelism and the idea that church attendance is somehow equivalent to evangelism.

In Part One and Part Two I set aside two of the main assumptions that lead churches to rebrand themselves.  In fact, denominational affiliation does not have a negative impact on the perception of the church by non believers, and getting people into the doors of the church is not evangelism.  If these assumptions are false, then is there a reason to rebrand a church?  Is it potentially necessary?  Is it biblical?

Brand or Mission?2010-06-churches-no-denominations-big

The name of your church is not important.  Period.  Call it whatever you want.  The mission and culture of your church is what is going to move it forward.  Even the most “authentic”, relevant, non-denominational church name is going to flop if the church isn’t about furthering the Kingdom of God.  And even the stodgiest 19th century church name is going to rock a community if the church is loving, caring and missionally oriented.

So even though I spent several blog posts musing on them, spend less time on thinking of a name for your church and more time loving justice, showing mercy, and walking humbly with God.  However, in the midst of the mission, you have to call yourselves something.  And that something is going to represent your mission and culture.  So spend enough time when you launch on your church’s name, just not too much.

Reasons to Re-brand

Is there a time when a church can or should re-brand itself?  There is, but not often.  Is it biblical to re-brand our church?  It is.  In fact, re-branding happens in the Scriptures.  Abram becomes Abraham.  Sarai becomes Sarah.  Simon becomes Peter.  And in Genesis 35, God takes Jacob and re-brands him as Israel, “one who struggles with God,” and he becomes the namesake of God’s people.  Looking at these examples, here are some reasons it may be beneficial or even necessary to change your church’s name.

A New Land:  Abraham was given a new name as he moved with God into a new land.  Your church may need a new name if it moves into a new location.  If you are First Church of Dallas, but your new location is in Fort Worth, it is probably time to re-brand.

A New Stage of Life:  Sarah was given a new name as she moved from the married class to the married with children class.  Her new life stage was an impetus for a new moniker.  Is your church moving into a new stage of life?  The transition as a long time lead pastor steps away.  A shift from being a church plant to a settled church.  A church split.  If you have a life-stage change, re-branding may be beneficial.

A New Mission:  Simon takes on a new mission and becomes Peter.  In the same way, if your church is changing its mission, it may fit to have a new name, especially if the new mission will have you encountering a new people group.  Your name represents your mission, so a major change in one may need to affect the other.

A New Multiplication:  As the promise to Abraham began to multiply through Jacob, the people of God took on the brand of Israel.  As a church multiplies itself, becoming a church planting church or moving to a multi-site model, it may be time to re-brand.  These multiplying ministries move the church into more locations, into influence with more people, and reach more cultures.  This may be the time to re-brand with a more universal name – from First Church of This Suburb to First Church of The Suburbs, or First Church.

Re-branding is biblical, and it can be necessary (moving the building to a new city).  But it should always be driven by mission and culture.  What are some other reasons a church may want or need to re-brand?

What’s in a Name? Part Two

Part Two of a Three Part Series

Since many churches are changing their names or considering doing so, it is worth looking at why they do so and whether it is necessary or biblical.  Two assumptions lie behind most church re-branding: the idea that denominational affiliation is a detriment to evangelism and the idea that church attendance is somehow equivalent to evangelism.

“Having Non-Christians AtteA Different Church Buildingnd Our Church is Evangelism”

While I don’t think any pastor in America would say it this way, our actions speak louder than our words.  Long ago a shift occurred from encouraging our congregations to share their faith to encouraging our congregation to bring people to our worship services.  The message lines up with American culture: let the experts handle this.  If you want your kids to be educated, take them to the teacher (expert).  If you want to become proficient in dance, sign up for classes with an instructor (expert).  And if you want your friends to know Jesus, bring them to hear your pastor (expert).

This isn’t exactly wrong.  In fact, the experience of Christian community and worship is an experience of Christ, and is a major step on the path toward entering the Kingdom of God.  However, this is only part of the picture, not the entirety.  The problem is that this trend has led us to a point where Christians never share their faith, but instead focus on inviting their friends and family to a church service or event.  We have intentionally or unintentionally taught our congregations that their part of evangelism is to bring people into a church building.

When people think this way, then they think that we need to do whatever it takes to get people to come to our church building/service/event.  Our church has to be named something that will get people interested or at least that won’t keep them away.  (As I mentioned in Part One, our assumptions about how people view our denomination leads us to change our name just in case it will keep them away.)

What this leads to is a focus on targeted marketing.  We have to understand the people in our community so that we can market our brand successfully.  And the goal of that marketing is to get them to visit our church building/service/event.  There is nothing wrong with presenting ourselves to our community, and we want to make sure we have a positive image and voice in our community.  But we are entering a world where people do not wake up on Sunday morning and say “Let’s go to church!”  In fact, the majority of people will never darken the door of a church according to Alan Hirsch.

Instead of doing what we can to get people into our church building/service/event, we should be doing what we can to get our church (people) into our community!  We are worried about what we can do to get people in the door.  But if we would worry about what we can do to get into the community – schools, community groups, our neighbors’ homes – it won’t matter what our name is.

People will become a part of our church when they have a relationship with us.  And if they have a relationship with us, they won’t care what our name is!

Re-branding our church in order to get people in the door isn’t wrong, it just isn’t effective.  People just aren’t coming, and it isn’t because of our name, it’s because of the culture we live in.

To move our communities into our churches we are going to have to move our churches into our communities.  Any ideas how to do that?

Re-branding Your Church

A current trend in the church today is to change our names.  First Baptist Suburbs becomes First Church of the Suburbs.  First United Methodist Church becomes Grace Church.  Two assumptions drive these changes.  First, the assumption that our denominational affiliation is a detriment to evangelism.  Second, the assumption that a “cooler” name will bring more people to our churches.  Whether or not you agree with these assumptions, churches all over are changing their names. They are re-branding themselves.  If you are considering changing your brand, consider the following:

Spend Enough

If you are going to rebrand your church, don’t assume that you or your congregation have the expertise required to do it well.  In fact, assume the opposite.  Create a budget for the re-branding process, including funds to do research about the area your church is in, to create graphics that support the change, to hire a consultant to assist with the process, and to buy all new everything that has your church’s name and/or logo on it.  In addition, make sure you spend enough time on the process.  Re-branding your church is not something that can be done overnight, or even in a month.  Make sure that you take the time to consult people who are key influencers in your church and community.  Make sure that you give your board enough time to really support the change before you go public.  And make sure that you take some time after you decide on the new name/logo to sleep on it.  Don’t announce it right away – you might not like it in the morning!

Value Input

Re-branding your church is a huge endeavor.  It doesn’t just affect you and your staff or board.  It affects the congregation.  It affects the community.  It affects your mission and vision.  And it affects everyone who used to attend.  Be cognizant of these groups as you look at re-branding, and consult key influencers.  If you have people on board with your change that others trust, they will be more likely to trust it as well.  Value their input, because they will be key to making the change successful.

Have a Plan

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when re-branding is to leave remnants of the old brand in existence.  You need to eradicate all references to the old brand when you switch to the new one (except for historical items or memorabilia, i.e. cornerstones).  Otherwise there will be confusion within the congregation and among the community.  A plan is necessary to accomplish this – don’t leave it up to chance.  Have someone designated to make this happen and ensure they have a written plan.  Think about every place where the old name/logo exist – signage, websites, documents, printed materials, everything.  Then write them all down and create a timeline to get each one updated.  This will also help with your budgeting, as these items will cost you.  If I am looking for your church, but Google gives me the old name, I won’t find you.  Make sure that doesn’t happen!

A good re-branding can rejuvenate a church and reach a community for the gospel.

Have you or are you considering re-branding?  What are you reasons for doing so?