Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Using The Unqualified

We’re all different. We have different likes, dislikes, abilities, passions, quirks, ticks, and personalities. We all have different gifts, capabilities, and capacities. We have different resources and outlooks.

None of those are a mistake. In fact, read any part of the Bible or spend anytime leading other people and you’ll soon discover that we’re not all the same. It doesn’t take a registered people expert to determine that. Because we’re not all wired and made the same, we can find our share of difficulties when in relationship with other people. 

Whether we’re in a relationship with our spouse, making new friends in high school, raising our kids, or leading a team, the differences in us all can be somewhat difficult to navigate. The tempting thing, especially for those of us with higher levels of capability and big callings, can be to push people away that don’t seem to think like us, or be willing to learn what we want them to learn.

I’m glad God has never pushed away people that are difficult to lead.
I’m glad God has never pushed away people that are difficult to lead.
One of the greatest leaders in all of scripture is Moses. Spend any time at a leadership conference or reading a leadership book and you’re 99.998 % likely to hear about his style of leadership. Moses was a man with a past that God called to dramatically impact the future. God called Moses, a man who had already been an orphan and a murderer to a big task in Exodus 3:10:

“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

The temptation when reading that verse is to immediately think that Moses was fully gifted for a call that God had put in front of him. Did Moses have a past? Sure. Was God going to call someone that didn’t have all the tools they needed to get the job done? You wouldn’t think so. That’s exactly what God did. In fact, in the next verse we can see a little bit about how incapable Moses himself thought he was…

“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’”

And again a chapter later. Here, Moses got specific with God about how incapable he was…

“But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’”

Now, many of us know the rest of the story. After this, Moses would do some bold things for God and God’s people. He’d approach Pharaoh over and over knowing Pharaoh wasn’t going to listen. He’d approach the people’s sins head on and beg with God on their behalf. He’d get called to the top of a mountain and get instructions for the rest of humanity. He’d get a glimpse of God Himself. While he eventually fell into pride and didn’t get to see the land promised to his people, Moses is mentioned several times in the New Testament as being a hero of the faith.

One of the most amazing parts of the Moses story is that he let God teach him. God led Him each day, every day. God would instruct him. God would discipline Him. God would provide practical information and tangible tools.

As leaders, we often look at Moses’ leadership, but we should also look at God’s leadership of Moses. When Moses argued with God in Exodus 3 about his calling, God could have easily told him he was right and gone with someone else. I’m sure there were more polished and smarter people out there. He didn’t. Instead, God chose to coach Moses through the greatest comeback story of all time. He walked in close relationship with Moses. He even changed His plan once when Moses requested.

As leaders, relationships are still key. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to build real relationships with those we lead, but we have to do it. We have to know them, their families, and even let them speak into our lives at times. Sure, they may not be someone we would pick as a close friend, but if we find them worth leading, we have to find them worth our investing.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to build real relationships with those we lead, but we have to do it.
I love How God led Moses through his insecurities of speech and ability. Moses wasn’t so sure He could speak to the people or to God for that matter, but God boosted his self esteem early on by showing Him that he was with him every step of the way. “Throw down your staff and make it a snake.” God was with Moses. Our people, no matter how “unqualified” or insecure they may seem, have to know we have their back. That we’ll support them and provide the tools they need to grow and make it in whatever we’re placing them in. Too often we write people off as incapable when we just haven’t been empowering.

I’m thankful today that God is a patient leader. His patience has lead to my redemption, my life, and my eternity. He still leads us the same way He led Moses—patiently, lovingly, and gracefully. We have to borrow from that example. Our organization, our church, our business, our students, our families will be better because of it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Traits Of Innovative Leaders

By Aaron Loy
Some say the millennial generation is the most connected generation the world has ever seen. And maybe the most hopeful.
The generation grew up with a front row seat to the countless needs of the world constantly updated in real time, and we have the audacity to believe we can actually make a difference. Many have or will set out to do precisely that.
This is no small thing.
There are few young adults content with the idea of living an insignificant life. When asked, most will readily admit we long for much more than that.
To quote the late Steve Jobs, we long to make “a dent in the universe.” We want to leave the world different from how we found it. We want our lives to matter.
The new good news is, those who are chasing their dreams, leading and innovating with purpose, seem to exhibit similar characteristics that everyone can learn from. If we’re not doing these things, we should start.

1. Learn to Follow First

Leaders tend to want to lead, and that isn’t always a bad thing. After all, the Apostle Paul did say whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task (1 Timothy 3:1). But Paul also gave us a great picture of what that leadership is supposed to look like: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
In other words, Christian leaders are primarily in the following business. This is important for aspiring leaders to understand, because the idea of leading can sound pretty sexy. Aspiring to lead can play to our pride, but following develops humility.
For this reason, young leaders must learn how to follow first. This means not only learning how to follow Jesus, but also learning how to follow those He has placed above us. Until you can do that joyfully, you’re not ready to lead. Learning how to follow is an important part of becoming a leader worth following.

2. Find a Mentor

Great leaders never stop learning. They know enough to know there’s a lot they don’t know. For this reason, they are constantly learning from others in order to grow in their craft. You might be surprised to learn that many of the very best leaders continue to have coaches and mentors even as they sit at the highest levels of leadership in their companies or organizations.
The truth is, it’s never too late or too early to find a mentor. So find one (or three) and starting asking questions. Listen well to what they have to say. Give them permission to speak hard truths into your life. And take really good notes. Not only will this allow you to draw from their wealth of knowledge and experience, but it will help you avoid having to learn what they have the hard way.

3. Finish What You Start

One of the best pieces of advice I received as an aspiring young leader was, “Do everything you can to finish what you start.” That was not my track record up until that time, but I took the advice and it changed my life.
I meet a lot of passionate young people who jump from one thing to the next without finishing many of the things they’ve started.
As my mentor pointed out to me in my early twenties, this is a character issue. It’s a sign of immaturity and selfishness, as what we want or feel right now is given complete precedence. It breaks trust with others as they come to realize we can’t be counted on to follow through on what we’ve said. It develops a really bad habit that will not serve you well. And it shortcuts the character development that happens in the hard work of persevering (Romans 5:3-4), a necessary quality for every leader.
So finish what you start. No matter how badly you want to quit, no matter how hard it gets, finish and finish well.

4. Decide Who You Want To Be and Act Accordingly

This might sound obvious, but it’s important to realize you’re not just going to roll out of bed one day and be who you want to be. You won’t just stumble into your dream job. You won’t be an overnight success (there’s really no such thing). You won’t accidentally become more wise, more talented, more connected, more faithful, more spiritual, more mature, more disciplined, more developed, more successful, more ___________.
You will be who you have decided to be, whether actively or passively. Your person—and as a result, your life—will be a reflection of the decisions you make over time. So you need to decide now who you want to be and what kind of life you want to live and begin practicing the habits that will get you there.

5. Don’t Wait for Permission

A lot of young adults plan to do something someday, but are doing little to move in that direction right now.
But here’s the thing: You can start doing some of the things you want to do someday today. And doing it today is the best way to figure out whether you actually want to do it someday.
You want to start a business? Awesome. Start one. Even if it fails in six months and you don’t net a single dollar, you will have learned more trying and failing than you will sitting around reading Fast Company for the next five years.
The same goes for most anything else. You want to go into ministry? Great. Start doing ministry today. Take responsibility for investing spiritually in those in your relational circles now. Then pay attention to what happens. If you see fruit, that’s a really good sign. If not, at least you’ve got some experience to process with your mentor before you invest a whole lot of years and money in a ministry education you may never use.
The point is you can start right where you are, right now. Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission.
Many people among this generation want their lives, like Steve Jobs said, to change the world. If that’s you, act like it. Look at what world-changers do, and do the same.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Perfect Tech Worker

Everybody’s working for the weekend. But, as church leaders, we work hard during the week so we can work even more on the weekend. It’s not always easy, but we do it because we are passionate about it, and it’s our desire to reach people for Christ through the messages we communicate.

Having a team that is strong and executes everything perfectly is important to the weekend’s success. But what does a perfect team look like in a tangible sense? What can you be doing as a leader to cultivate that in how you lead your team and how you train up new leaders?

Leaders Create New Leaders

We’ve all heard about that church that has that one person who does everything all the time. Maybe that person is you. I can think of very few times when this is a good situation. Is that at all healthy for anyone involved? Probably not.
The perfect team starts with at least two people.
The perfect team starts with at least two people. If you’re flying solo each weekend, I encourage you to find someone else to bring along with you as you walk through your weekend-to-weekend responsibilities. Always be asking who you can train and grow to help fill your shoes. Maybe it’s a new attendee in your congregation or that teenager that always seems to slow down and crane their neck as they walk past the production booth. I encourage you to step outside you comfort zone, leave the booth, and ask that person if they’re willing to serve alongside you. The perfect team doesn’t start out doing everything perfectly; it starts small and grows into something great over time.

Serve Outside of Production/Tech

It’s easy to become narrow-minded. It’s important to remember that ministry happens outside of our tech teams. I think we lose sight of that sometimes, so it is important to serve in some other capacity from time to time. In recent years, I’ve led an international missions trip with our church. Maybe there’s a building project that needs some volunteer assistance to save the church money, or maybe they just need help cleaning things up after they’re done working. You may even consider serving somewhere outside the church with other organizations. Regardless, it’s a way to meet new people and see what God does in ministries aside from tech. It’s a great way to stretch your leadership and exercise different “muscles” that you might not really be using working within a tech team. What new perspective can you find and what ideas can you bring back and translate to work with your team?
It’s important to remember that ministry happens outside of our tech teams.

Take Time to Worship

Just because you’re in a worship service doesn’t mean you’re worshipping. Just because the pastor is praying for everyone to be filled doesn’t mean you’re being filled. It’s pretty hard to fill something up while it’s already busy pouring something out. Doesn’t that just create a ridiculous mental picture? Make sure you and your team are finding a time to make sure they’re being poured into and filled up. Whether that means serving every other weekend, serving through Sunday morning services and then attending Sunday night or Saturday night services, or if that means creating an intentional small group for the techs you lead or serve alongside, it’s important and should not be overlooked.
Just because you’re in a worship service doesn’t mean you’re worshipping.
Being a strong team and working hard to do everything with excellence is great. But you can’t always do it yourself. Surround yourself with other people who are passionate to learn and do life with them, serve with them, worship with them, and spend time with them in other ways. Keep the relationships strong and you’ll keep the team strong.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Easy Ways To Create "WOW"

Wow, I did not expect that!

These are the words that speak to the heart of creating experiences that exceed the expectation of an attender. Usually when we think about creating a wow moment, our minds drift to Cirque du Soleil, Disney, or the Ritz Carlton. But the truth is, most of us have budgets that more in line with a C-grade traveling circus, Chuck E. Cheese, and Holiday Inn Express.

I wonder what could happen if we changed our perspective of wow. You see; the truth is that wow is not about big budgets or hyper theatrics. Sure, both of those could create wow. But the reality is, wow experiences are what happen when we exceed the expectations of someone who is engaging our ministry.
Wow experiences are what happen when we exceed the expectations of someone who is engaging our ministry.
If you think about that, it makes creating a wow moment much more tangible. And what if, instead of creating one major wow moment, we created multiple wows each weekend?
What if, instead of creating one major wow moment, we created multiple wows each weekend?
What if our parking lots were managed so well that every guest said, “Wow, these people care about me?”

What if our greeters were so happy to see people when they walked in that guests felt like family from day one? That would be a wow.

As we check in kids, what if every classroom was inviting, every step in the process was easy, and there was a host who walked our guest through each moment of a very tense situation and helped relieved the tension of that moment? Wow!

Then our hosts made our experiences inviting, our songs and our teams delivered their best efforts, our messages spoke to the needs of our community…

And even more, what if we were just as intentional about the exit of our experiences, that last 90 seconds before people leave the room and how they get to their vehicles that they were so wowed that they couldn’t help but come back next week.

And finally, what if our communication to these guests throughout the week was so beyond their expectations that they couldn’t help but think wow?

So what experiences can you transform from average to amazing? There are things that are in your control and are ready to be improved so that you can make people think, “Wow, this is awesome!”

What do you want the outcome of each of those moments to be? If you don’t define the win, and clarify what wow would feel like for someone, you will never be able to actually achieve that goal.

And before we can improve we should start by asking, “What does the average attendee, guest, or user expect?” Once we can answer this question, we can enhance every aspect of their day.

The last question that we should focus on is what impact does not enhance this experience we create? Can we afford to not focus on wow moments? And if we fail, is the failure worth the pay off if we succeed?
Focus more on how you can beat expectations every single week.
At the end of the day, creating wow experiences is a lot like the rest of the creative world: focused on expectation management. If you want to make the most irresistible experiences in the world, change your lens. Focus more on how you can beat expectations every single week. As you do this and work like crazy to create wow everywhere, one Sunday you will look up on the stage and see the equivalent of the Ritz. Step by step, week by week… Wow, that will be awesome.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Warning Signs Of Burnout

It was almost unbearable to go back. As we approached the yellow caution tape outlining the charred remains of what was my sister’s apartment building, it was clear nothing recognizable was left. The previous day we had watched in horror as the flames raced through her home destroying her dearest possessions. The firefighters could not keep pace with the out-of-control blaze. A small spark sabotaged a seemingly ordinary day and within hours everything was destroyed.

Burnout for church leaders conjures up a similarly ominous feeling. We don’t begin ministry with the expectation of burning out. We are confident we won’t be one of the statistics. We’re committed to being healthy for the long haul.

But the statistics are real and the pressures are fierce. The longer I’ve been in ministry, the more paranoid I’ve become of experiencing burnout. What does it actually look like? How do I know when I’m headed in that direction?

The metaphors with fire can be confusing to me. I’m not sure I’ve ever been burned out, but I’ve certainly been scorched. Scorched in that I’ve experienced enough heat and pressure to change me but not completely burn me out. What’s the different between the “refiner’s fire” (Malachi 2) and burnout?

John Piper describes refiner’s fire this way: “A refiner’s fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner’s fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner’s fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He (God) is like a refiner’s fire.”

The refiner’s fire and raging flames are two very different experiences. The refiner’s fire is controlled. The refiner is watching the temperature and controlling exposure to the heat. 

Raging flames are uncontrolled and unconcerned about what they are burning.
Throughout my ministry, I’ve wrestled with how to endure the pressure without being torched. How do I know when I’m being refined or when I’m flaming out? I believe the distinction is in what type of fire I am in. Am I in an uncontrolled blaze or am I under the careful watch of the refiner?
Am I in an uncontrolled blaze or am I under the careful watch of the refiner?
As we look for signs of burnout in our lives as ministry leaders, a sign of impending burnout is when we are not under the care of the refiner. If the heat is on but we are grounded and secure in our savior, I believe the refiner protects and controls the intensity of the heat. We need the fire to mold us and shape us. But if we resist his care, if we run headlong into the flame, we leave ourselves susceptible to the damage that comes from long exposure to extreme heat.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you discern whether you are in the refiner’s fire or being consumed by the flame.

Three “Burnout” Questions

Am I being with God or doing for God? We must be with God, not just do for God. Ministry deceives us into thinking we’re tending our relationship with God. We read scripture, pray, and talk about God all the time, but if we only do them because the job requires it, we may be starving ourselves of experiencing God personally.
Ministry deceives us into thinking we’re tending our relationship with God.
Is God refining some part of my character? We must understand the process of refinement. Too often, we assume that any heat or pressure is a bad thing. We must be able to discern when God is refining us and not be too quick to cry burnout because we’re uncomfortable.

Am I creating times for rest and do I regularly observe Sabbath? We must constantly evaluate our priorities and our personal boundaries. Ministry can easily become a 24/7 commitment. There is always someone who needs support, encouragement, help, and hope. While ministry is more than a nine to five job, we do need to create rhythms of rest and rejuvenation.
While ministry is more than a nine to five job, we do need to create rhythms of rest and rejuvenation.
If you are unsure of whether you’re approaching burnout, the most important thing you can do is to stop and carve out time to pray and ask God to show you where the heat is coming from. Is it the refiner’s fire or have you been running so hard for so long that the ministry flames are consuming you? God does not desire for you to flame out. Burnout is brought on by our attempts to be superhuman and believing we can meet all of our own expectations and the myriad expectations others put on us. Feeling a little scorched can be a helpful sign that draws us back to a place of humble dependence on God’s power working through us.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

5 Traits Of An Equipping Leader

As a leader of any group of volunteers it can be very tempting to fall into the trap of “I'll just do it myself.” It can be easier than calling someone to come and serve and more simple than coordinating a volunteer schedule. But there is a problem with that. You are doing all the work. There is another problem too. You aren't using the people that God gave you to work with.
Did you know that as a minister and a leader you aren't called by God to do all of the work yourself? In fact, you are actually encouraged in the Bible to equip others to do the work.
Ephesians 4:11-12 - Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
Your primary function is not to merely use the skills God has given you, but to use those abilities to equip others. This is contrary to how many of us operate. We just do all the work. If we do somehow end up getting a volunteer, we don't do a very good job equipping them and they end up getting frustrated and bailing out of the ministry. We are sad that they left but inside we use that to reaffirm that no one can really do it as well as we can.
The first thing to understand is what it means to equip someone. It is not simply just teaching someone to do something. It means that you come alongside of them and give them the tools and training that gives them the best chance of success.
So, here are some ways that you can actually equip those volunteers that God brings into our area of ministry.
This is a pretty obvious one and something that most tech directors do pretty well. You take the recruit through all of the ins and outs of the system so that they can operate it properly.
One of the best ways to discover how to best equip a person is by asking them good questions. Questions like: Do you understand what I am teaching you? Is there anything that you need? Do you feel comfortable with a particular responsibility? This allows them to offer you direct feedback showing areas that they might not be confident in and giving you the opportunity to fill in those gaps.
A great way to equip people is to provide them with quality and relevant information. Maybe you give them current training resources, instructional videos or the latest issue of Church Production Magazine. This helps to keep them in the loop not just of what your church is doing but helps them to see the bigger picture as well.
An aspect of equipping people is empowering them to make decisions. You give out choices and let someone help decide. This shows that you trust and value their input and it inspires them to dig deep and really discover what the best choice is.
All of these things are good, but it will fall short if you don't evaluate your volunteers. This obviously needs to be done gently and with a heavy dose of grace. But realize that your volunteers won't be able to improve in an area if they don't realize they might not be doing it correct.
In the end, you need to view your role as more than just a person who does the work of the technical ministry, but as someone who equips others to do that work. Wit this mindset you will greatly increase your value both to your church and to the Kingdom of God.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Introducing New Songs In Worship

I think its fair to say that we all love new music. Even if your church doesn’t introduce new songs very often, new worship music is refreshing and needed. For one, it’s a demonstration of the Spirit’s work. This in turn inspires songwriters across the globe to create and write songs for the big “C” church. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 96 to “sing a new song unto the Lord.” Plus, it helps those of us getting older feel as though we can still throw down with the latest Hillsong/Elevation/Planet Shakers/Bethel synth groove. I’m sort of kidding, but sort of not.

However, we must learn to practice caution when moving forward with this conversation, because every church is on a different journey and thus must practice wisdom when selecting songs. A core value of my church that I wholeheartedly adhere to when introducing new songs is: we value each and every generation. This isn’t something regulated to just what we offer for different age groups throughout the week, but also what we do together when gathered on Sunday mornings to sing and worship together. Our calling as worship leaders is to help lead and teach others in the worshipping of Christ through song. We have to consider how accessible and engaging those songs actually are to our various age groups.
Our calling as worship leaders is to help lead and teach others in the worshipping of Christ through song.
Furthermore, there’s no shortage of new music coming out these days. It feels as though every Tuesday on iTunes there’s another five great songs you could introduce to your church that would be successful. But if we’re honest, this can often be very overwhelming for a worship leader. It’s a never-ending cycle, and you’ll always feel like you’re running to catch up.

With too many new songs or a poor vision on how to introduce new songs, people won’t engage. Additionally, when you keep your song selection older, you risk becoming stale and disengaging younger generations. At the end of the day, I love seeing both young and old together on Sunday mornings singing their hearts out to the Lord. And it’s partly the worship leader’s responsibility to help create those moments.
With too many new songs or a poor vision on how to introduce new songs, people won’t engage.
With that in mind, here are a few things to consider when thinking through new songs:

Vision. Before you make any noise on Sunday morning or plan out your church’s liturgy, please make sure that you are aligned with the vision that the Lord has given to your lead pastor. This is key. You must be on the same page. If not, it will be a constant push/pull relationship. And it may even lead to disobedience and sin. The importance of vision alignment also comes down to the theology. Be sure you’re thinking through all the biblical accuracy of the songs you’re singing. Make sure they align first with Scripture and secondly to your church’s vision. Don’t assume that all songs are Scripturally accurate.

Values. What value does your church place on the singing or music portion of your Sunday morning gathering? Do they value new music? Do you even know if they value new music? One of the four core values of our home church is worship. We place a high value on an engaging time of corporate singing and worship. Whether we’re introducing a new song or singing familiar ones, we’ve worked hard at making congregational involvement a part of our DNA. For us, Sunday mornings aren’t a spectator sport. So if you value involvement in worship through song, here are four tips I hope will be beneficial to you and your congregation.

Tip #1: I’d suggest not introducing more than two new songs per month. This is a practice we’ve been able to refine that fits best with the culture we’ve built. Just make sure that the weeks you’re introducing the new songs—your other songs on the list are well-known.

Tip #2: Play the song for two weeks straight, then break for one week, and then again for a third time. If the song hasn’t really caught on by the third time you’ve sung it, take it out of your rotation. (This practice is something pretty common in worship circles.)

Tip #3: Try introducing songs by doing them acoustically during or after your teaching pastor’s message. Allow the words and music to be sung “over” your people. You don’t have to expect involvement from your people during these times. It’s also sometimes beneficial to nix the full band so it doesn’t pull the people’s attention away from the lyrics and melody. These have often been especially powerful times for us.

Tip #4: Avoid starting a service with a new song. There’s no better way to cripple a song even before you’ve sung it than to open your service with it. I know people may disagree with that idea. But try new songs in the second or third spot in your list. They have a far better chance of staying in your rotation.

I pray these tips and ideas are helpful and can assist you when thinking through introducing new songs. Please know I didn’t pull these from some top-secret handbook on worship leader. Rather, these have come from things I’ve learned in my unique role and in my unique experiences. I am constantly thinking through these ideas and refining them as the Spirit leads and our church goes through different seasons.