Jesus Uses Technology

I was recently in a discussion with a pastor whose leader suggested hiring a technology consultant. After some banter back and forth, where it became clear the pastor wasn’t interested he finally responded with, “When was the last time technology led someone to Christ?”

You can imagine the conversation pretty much died at that point, but I had the opportunity to continue the discussion with this pastor behind the scenes, and I wanted to share some of our discussion.

“When was the last time technology led someone to Christ?”
This question seems inherently flawed to me. That’s like asking “When is the last time your small group program led someone to Christ?” The easy answer to both questions is: NEVER.

Programs don’t lead people to Christ, but that doesn’t eliminate their value or effectiveness. Technology doesn’t lead people to Christ. People lead people toward Christ. Programs and technology are tools, methods, and environments that facilitate ministry. I’ve seen technology that does a better job than a lot of small group programs at facilitating genuine community. I’ve seen technology leverage Leadership Development better than most pastors. Technology is a tool for people to accomplish God’s mission. And the impact that technology has on our ability to engage the church’s mission is monumental!

Jesus Uses Revolutions in Communication Technology

The printed Bible is technology (though the technology is quite old). Gutenberg’s printing press at one time, was a cutting-edge technological tool that changed everything about how we communicate God’s word! How many people have come to know Christ because of how the church utilized that technology? How many Christian authors have been the catalyst for life transformation? Imagine if the church had refused to adopt printed materials. A lot of churches villanized the printing press and resisted it as a cultural change, yet it has done more for the church and we can begin to imagine.

We are on a similar crest of technological change. How we communicate as a culture and a people has changed, and continues to change at a rapid rate. If the church does not embrace cultural changes in how we communicate, it will quickly fall into missional impotence. Eventually it will be as if we never adopted the printing press – we lose the ability to communicate effectively with our world.

Social media communication

As a coach (and pastor) that helps leaders navigate through growth challenges with vision clarity, I serve churches with a lot of different perceived challenges. I can say fairly confidently, that any church (from new plant to Gigachurch) that’s not paying attention to their technology and communication is doomed to struggle continually with being less than their God-designed potential.

If an organization rises and falls on leadership, leadership rises and falls on communication. As Jenni Catron said in her book Just Lead – a vision is only as good as it is understood.

Jesus modeled this using parables, stories, and object lessons from an agrarian culture – because that’s to whom he was speaking. Being the God of the universe, He could have used far more accurate and detailed language. But He didn’t. Jesus communicated in concepts that were native to the Jewish cultural mindset.

So what does that mean for us?

If Jesus were walking personally in the flesh in the American culture, I am convinced that He would be using digital examples and object lessons that are native to the modern American mind to illustrate truth. Part of the responsibility of a consultant is to speak the cultural language of the churches we serve – and it is the church’s responsibility to speak the native language of the people it is their mission to reach and disciple. Because we live in a post-digital revolution, technology awareness and effectiveness is part of the praxis of ministry.

Maybe unfollowing is the modern equivalent of shaking the dust from your feet.

>> So what is your church’s biggest communication/technology challenge?

Check out Ed Stetzer’s article on getting started in social media HERE.

 

2 ways alignment will multiply your ministry capacity

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time talking the Jenni Catron, Executive Director of Cross Point Church and co-author of Just Lead.

Jenni had some great insight about what it means to move your mission forward, and illuminated one of the lynchpins of forward movement as alignent. Even if you have a finely tuned engine with tons of horsepower, without alignment, the wheels can really fall off – arresting forward movement!

>>Alignment through vision clarity will multiply your staff capacity
Like most of us, Jenni talks about feeling like we never have enough staff to do the ministry we need to, and leaders tend to take that personally. But when the vision is clear to people, there is an increase in energy. As Jenni put it, “There is more spring in their step. I saw more energy and engagement in my staff when they had this bigger project in front of them than even in a normal ministry season. You start Breaking down the silos and the individual team mentality that can happen in ministry. And when you have one shared, unified goal everything else just kind of goes away and you’re left with this unified vision. Having that shared vision is critical for alignment!

Jenni shared a story about how their church had drifted away from a volunteer development culture based on empowering volunteers to do ministry. She noticed a drift toward a culture of hiring people for any task that couldn’t be explained in a 5 minute overview. So Jenni initiated “an all-staff, all-campus initiative for a year to rally everyone around our core value of volunteer development.” She introduced the crisis as, “You will not get your job done unless you equip volunteers to do it!” Volunteer development became part of performance evaluations, they celebrated stories of success in weekly meetings, and kept that one focus in view for a whole year. Cross Point saw the whole staff become aligned around their core value and drastically increase their ministry capacity with volunteers.

>>Alignment increases health and leadership through clear communication
“If everything rises and falls on leadership, leadership rises and falls on communication.” Jenni identified communication clarity as the core center-point for good alignment. If people don’t have good information they are not going to be well-aligned, and that only gets more complicated as the organization gets bigger and the communication component becomes even more influential. A quote from Jenni’s book Just Lead, reminds us “A stellar vision is only as good as it is understood!” She gives several examples of how they maintain finely tuned communication habits by revisiting their communication system every 6 months to redo anything that’s not working. They ask if they have the right people in the room and if they’re having the right “structured communication times” (nobody likes the word meeting).

Additionally, the more intuitive and discerning part of that communication clarity is a leader’s discipline to pull back from the daily details to look at the big picture. Part of executive leadership is about looking out ahead. “When you see a point of caution, you’ve GOT to step into it! …as a leader you’ve got to be looking forward to see where you’re starting to come off the tracks before you derail. Part of being an executive level leader is about spotting problems and leaning in to them with preventative action, not just being great at solving problems after they come to light. A huge part of that is communicating well with your team. Listening with discernment is a big part of that. We have to detect changes in our people, and have conversations/take steps to address them – and not always personally. Jenni gives great advice about leveraging the relational and organizational connections with other staff to help shepherd and keep the organization healthy. These measures can help detect fragmentation, misalignment, and silos before they become a crisis.

Jenni provides a tremendous perspective on how alignment can throw-off everything we’re doing, or multiply our capacity and impact. I have so much respect for a person like Jenni who not only runs a 5 campus ministry, but empowers and equips her leaders to greater capacity and health through alignment, as their advocate and shepherd.

My time with Jenni concluded with a valuable insight that I want to pass on as a question.

“Your staff can’t be unified, aligned, and moving in the right direction if you’re scattered.”

>>What is one way that you can get less scattered and focus for greater impact?

3 ways clarity transforms a pastor’s role

Coming up this Thursday March 28 at 2:30(EST) sign-up and participate in the next NavXP with Jenni Catron. Out topic is Alignment: getting everyone to pull in the same direction.

Brian McGown is the Executive Pastor at Faithbridge church in Spring, TX. In out recent NavXP webinar hangout, he shared his story about how vision clarity radically changes his role, church staff alignment, and ministry impact.

It’s easy to listen to his story and still miss how clarity is a game-changer for pastors. Clarity isn’t everything, but it changes everything. Brian’s story echoes what I hear over and over from pastors who really invest in what it takes to get clear.

>>From the treadmill to the triathlon – Clarity Makes Focus Sustainable
As a pastor, do you every feel like you’re running and running endlessly pushing forward, but never really getting anywhere; or paddling as hard as you can, but the river bank isn’t moving. Brian shares how being clear about who they are as a church and what they’re supposed to be doing creates sustainable ministry.
“When we are clear about something – the Lord has given us the vision…it’s almost like just getting in the river and moving down the right way – being in the Mississippi and heading down toward Louisiana instead of trying to paddle upriver.” I wonder if Brian watches Duck Dynasty…

When you’re clear about exactly what you’re called to do as a church, it provides the leadership credibility to say “no” for the sake of a larger “yes”. All of the wasted effort of paddling upstream is transformed into forward momentum as God sweeps us along in His vision for us. “Clarity makes our job as leaders so much easier!” Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard work, but it’s exponentially more fruitful when it’s focused.

>>Endless tasks to eternal transformation – Clarity makes work meaningful
As pastors, we often feel like ministry has been reduced to wrestling with an overfilled calendar, meetings, research, damage control, and email elimination – especially for Executive Pastors. In the tyranny of tasks we end up with no margin for more meaningful things. Our role gets reduced to time and task management. But clarity gives a framework and compass that points us relentlessly toward our mission. Brian tells the story of how being clear about their mission as a church leads them into ministry that is eternally transforming the lives of people in Houston and beyond. “Our church is playing a big role in Love146, which is fighting the exploitation and trafficking of children around the world…”

>>From beggar to abundantly blessed – Clarity makes enthusiasm transferable
At some point, every pastor feels like we’re begging – whether it’s getting people to volunteer, endlessly asking for resources to complete a project, or trying to convince people to join a small-group. Whatever it is, we seem to always be trying to pull something out of our people.

Many times enthusiasm only comes with clarity. There is a moment of contagious excitement when a follower gets it. When we connect who we are called to be and our God-breathed mission to an opportunity to serve, it captures a person’s hearts and makes them want to share it. But the ease of sharing it is directly proportional to clarity. Brian tells the story of partnering with a local school to provide food for kids who were faced with the choice of stealing it from school or going hungry. “We presented it to the church and literally just had an overabundance of giving to that. We had to adopt three other schools just to provide enough children for the amount of food and resources we could bring…”

Brian and the other leaders at Faithbridge make a compelling case for clarity, and the way it changes the nature of ministry and church life.

>>Do you want to get clear? Start a conversation with Auxano or just contact me. Auxano is a non-profit that serves churches by navigating leaders through growth challenges with vision clarity.

Coming up this Thursday March 28 at 2:30(EST) sign-up and participate in the next NavXP with Jenni Catron. Out topic is Alignment: getting everyone to pull in the same direction.

4 signs of misalignment in your church

4 Signs of Misalignment in Your Church

>>excessive fatigue: when parts in any active system are not aligned there is additional wear-and-tear. Parts and people (like tires) get worn out faster when not aligned.
>>wasted resources: misalignment in an organization causes energy to be expended laterally or even in opposition of the missional goals.
>>unhealthy tension: lack of alignment causes different parts of a system to work at odds with one another – pursing self-created goals in competition with each another and the larger mission.
>>unsteady rhythm: an engine with parts out of alignment causes timing issues resulting in wobbles or vibration in the rhythm of parts moving together. A staff with people out of alignment often misses the healthy rhythm of events and communication as they march to a different beat.

This month on Thursday March 28 at 1:30(CST)
webinars for Executive PastorsAlignment: Getting your staff all pulling in the same direction.

Jenni Catron will be joining us to share her experiences and wisdom about the importance of alignment. We’ll talk about how alignment can throw off everything you’re doing, or multiply your impact. We’ll hear some stories from Jenni about her experiences as an Executive Director at the multicampus Cross Point Church. We’d love you to join the conversation. Leave us questions in the comments below that you’d like Jenni to answer in the live webinar.

We’ll also hear a little bit about Jenni and Sherry Surrat’s new book Just Lead, just released and available in bookstores now!

Just Lead: a no whining, no complaining, no nonsense practical guide for women leaders in the churchJenni is a phenomenal blogger, with a steady stream of practical and encouraging content for leaders! You can keep up with her at her blog JenniCatron.tv which was just listed in Church Relevance’s Top 200 Ministry Blogs of 2013.

Jenni CatronJenni Catron serves as the Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, a 10-year old multi-site church. She leads the staff of Cross Point and oversees the ministry of its five campuses. Prior to joining the staff of Cross Point, she worked as Artist Development Director in the Christian music industry for 9 years.

Jenni’s passion is to lead well and to inspire, equip and encourage others to do the same.  She speaks at conferences and churches nationwide, seeking to help others develop their leadership gifts and lead confidently in the different spheres of influence God has granted them. Jenni blogs at www.jennicatron.tv and contributes to a number of other online publications as well.

Jenni loves a fabulous cup of tea, great books, learning the game of tennis and hanging out with her husband and their border collie.

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>>watch other NavXP webinars here
>>leave questions for Jenni to address in the webinar on Thu March 28th in the comments below.

3 clues to uncovering your church’s ultimate purpose

3 clues to the unique purpose of your churchThis past Sunday, I had the privilege to work with a church leadership team in Texas. They are passionately seeking clear answers from God about who He intends them to be as a church. As we are uncover how God has crafted them uniquely, we’re examining 3 overlapping areas to give us a better understanding of our church identity.

>>place: The distinctive nature of the area where God has planted a church has a lot of do with the kind of ministry that will thrive there. The people and needs in the area immediately around a church, give us clues to how a church can effectively reach out, how they should communicate and invite, what kind of community service they engage in, and a whole host of other implications. This particular church exists in an economically diverse (but declining), highly transitional area, where many people from all over the world come to live for 6 months to several years. 

>>people: Who God brings to a church body is directly connected to what your unique strengths, resources, and potential capacity. In the heart of this particular church’s leadership team, I’m not sure how convinced they really were of their uniqueness. But as I worshiped with them and studied the data, an outsider’s strategic perspective brought to light the fact they they have more than 10 different nationalities regularly represented at their church. They have attenders converted from Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism! They have a vast range of economic diversity, from disaster refugees to CEOs. This church is so naturally comfortable being multi-cultural that they never considered it as a potentially unique opportunity. It is not a conscious effort on their part, it is a powerful natural expression of who they are. They are so used to it, they wrestled considerably to consider it as anything unusual. I actually had to pause all progress until we had truly wrestled through some of what it meant for them as a church.

>>passion: The excitement and burden that God plants in a leader’s heart tells a lot about the direction that He’s taking a church body. From Abraham to the Apostles, we see God directing His people through the heart of who He calls to lead them for a season. As we began unpacking the passions and heartbreak of these particular leaders, what God revealed is a relentless passion for missions and reproducing disciples. It doesn’t take a genius to see how God is setting up this church to have a massive impact for His kingdom where they are and around the world!

A diverse, multicultural church body with a passion for missions and discipleship in an area with a lot of international families transitioning in and out. I think God is connecting the dots for them.

It is an amazing, God-revealing blessing to navigate leadership teams through uncovering and articulating what God is doing, and how He has intricately prepared them to become epicenters of His redemptive movement. There is such a confidence and sturdy faith that comes from seeing with clarity, who God has made us to be – then we can begin wrestling through the unique expression of what He is calling us to do!

>>would your church benefit from an outside perspective in uncovering this with your team?

Contact me:
tony@auxano.com
321+252+8849

 

Giving up on God 3 seconds too soon

>>one of the illustrations that I use as a coach/consultant with leadership teams is called “The Tunnel of Chaos”. It is represented as a spiral. We start on the outside limit, with our work together curving inward toward clear vision. When we’re traveling along the outward boundary slowly curving inward, there is a lot of distance covered, a lot of activity, and a LOT of hard work. Even though we expend all this energy to move forward, we don’t feel like we’re getting much closer to the center. Our desire is to travel a straight line right toward a clear answer.

tunnel of chaosThis is a critical time, when we are most tempted to doubt our investment and abandon our journey toward a clear picture of God’s unique vision for us. The farther we go though, the tighter the spiral becomes, and the more rapidly we move toward that center-point of confident clarity.

When I am in the middle of the Tunnel of Chaos, just like when I sat watching this video clip, I find myself judging the artist’s activity in ways that arrogantly assume that I know more than He does. When I doubt His activity and what He’s revealing, what I’m really doing is presuming that my perspective is the most important one – that I know more than God.

>>in the words of the judge “We sat here giving you such a hard time saying, “This is rubbish!”; “What’s it gonna be?”; “He’s never going to do it in time.” Wow! How many times have similar thoughts run through my heart? How many times have I heard leaders express those thoughts about God’s activity (but in our falsely humble, Sunday School words).

When the team invites God to take center-stage in our Vision Pathway process and we feel like things are moving forward because we are committed and doing the hard work, sometimes the picture that begins to emerge seems to be less clear than ever! We see the result of our collaborative God-ward activity, but it appears like random strokes of the brush. We see God moving things forward and uncovering truth, but somehow it just doesn’t connect as a larger picture.

>>my secret heart begins to whisper, just connect the dots yourself. You’re smart enough to find the meaning in this, and God’s not saying anything else. Rely on your own ingenuity. What comes out will be good enough. It seems that right before God turns our perspective upside down is when so many of us give up on God’s leading. We take over and make our meaning in what has been revealed. We are expecting God to add more to the picture until it becomes clear and when He doesn’t we feel compelled to take over. Instead, He’s waiting to shift us so that our perspective snaps into sync with the artist and we see what He sees. All along, it wasn’t a problem with the picture, it was a problem with my perspective.

>>in my secret life when I’m pursuing God, I can get doubtful that what I’m seeing is from Him, and not just my random brain-noise mixed with my desire to find meaning and direction, and like Anderson, “I gotta say, I thought it was like a weird potato.”

We all travel along the Tunnel of Chaos. Somewhere in our daily search for clarity God is actively revealing something – and what God used this 3 minute video to remind me of is vital. Don’t give up on God too quickly. 3 seconds can make all the difference. One thing that I know with confidence: the picture that He’s painting is clear – it’s my vision that needs adjustment.

>>what do you need God to make clear to you right now?

How to escape the tyranny of being Everything to Everyone!

Recently I had the privilege of having Dr. David Fletcher, founder of XPastor.org talk with us on a NavXP webinar, “How to grow ministry with less money”. He shared his wisdom, struggles, and stories of how vision clarity has been the guiding light for navigating seasons of shrinking resources.

This is an amazing perspective from a man with a rich history of Executive Pastoral ministry, as well as providing resources and learning to the XP community. David talks about a time of having to reduce the church’s budget by $700,000+ during the recession. He makes an incredibly powerful statement:

Vision is what releases you to focus. If you don’t have a vision on where you want to go, every road seems perfectly acceptable. You pursue a hundred different rabbit trails and none of them are very effective.

David talks about vision leading the way to creativity and focus that narrows the field of ministry for greater impact. One of the principles that Auxano Navigators lead with is that “focus expands”. It seems counter-intuitive that narrowing our focus gives us the opportunity to increase our impact, but time and again I hear stories that illustrate this principle. A quote from Peter Drucker continues to bounce around in my head, “without a concentration of resources, there are no results“. It excites me to help churches uncover that God-given strength – we call it a church’s Kingdom Concept.

As David talked with us about vision and focus, another insightful encouragement that rang particularly true for XP’s was:

“It’s never about money – it’s about vision. When your people are mobilized, there’s going to be enough money to do the right kind of ministry… Most people are trying to do too much. Skinny it down. Do a few things exceedingly well. Most churches think they can do everything well. Focus on the things you can do best, and let go of the other things. Do the things that God has blessed you and given you the resources to do.”

I love David’s commitment to focus and vision. His track record as an XP, and his generous support of the church community illustrate how effective a vision-based leader can be. Vision clarity and focus unlocks the church’s ability to do so much more with less. We can only have that kind of far-reaching impact when we stop trying to be everything to everyone and focus on what God is calling us to do above everything else.

To read more about David’s experiences in how a church’s vision impact resources, check out his articles on XPastor.org.

Check out the NavXP video with Dr. Josh Whitehead: Is a Shrinking Budget You Best Blessing?

Is a shrinking budget your best blessing?

In the recent NavXP webinar, Dr Josh Whitehead shared how he has learned to grow ministry with less money. Through the course of our conversation, something amazing occurred to me – his perspective seemed to indicate that every time they faced financial struggles, it was a blessing that expanded the scope of the ministry at Faith Promise.

As Josh spoke about times of shrinking budget and financial downturn he said things like:
“When your resources get limited, you are forced to determine what really matters.”

“If we can’t do anything else, these are the things we are going to do!”

“We don’t really evaluate ministries and determine whether they are really accomplishing what we need them to.”

These are powerful statements about how God used financial struggles to refine the clarity and focus of vision at Faith Promise. And the result is growth and expanded ministry impact!

We can learn a lot from Josh. Typically, we see financial hardship in such a negative light. Josh’s story really turns that on its head. Could God be trying to bless our ministry by restricting our resources? With the right process, reducing available resources could be the catalyst to a healthier, more missionally focused church.

And we all know – we rarely change until the pain is so great we can’t stand to remain where we are.

The role of an XP like Josh can really impact God’s church in amazing ways as he turned a shrinking budget into one of their best blessings.

I am thankful for Josh sharing his wisdom and showing us how God is using the unique role and gifts of XP’s to make church work.

>>see Dr. David Fletcher’s webinar How to escape the tyranny of being everything to everyone.

You can watch the other NavXP webinars here.

 

Do we embarrass God?

>>do I embarrass God sometimes? A few days ago I read a post from Mashable about a pastor who left a note for a waitress that read, “I give God 10% why do you get 18?” I got miffed at the anecdote knowing from my days of waiting tables that “church people” have a reputation as low tippers. I didn’t think much about it until the teller at the bank this morning referenced the article, and then I heard a table at lunch talking about it. Clearly, the social media community finds something to chew on with this story.

Receipt

>>strictly speaking, as a self-reflective question, I think it’s a great thing to ask. Why would I give someone who serves me in a luxury activity a higher percentage of the transaction than I would give to the one who provides everything to me? If I consider that God sovereignly provides all that I have, is the first 10% really so much to ask? Ideologically, I don’t think so, but it’s been a while since that percentage was consistently higher.

>>the problem here is that it wasn’t a self-challenging reflection between this pastor and God, it was a snarky quip to the server. Even that makes me cringe a little. Again, not because the food service industry doesn’t need some refinements, but because it brings God into the consideration – and not exactly in a positive light. This pastor went so far as to scratch out the tip and write in $0. Now, the reality for the server is that they got “stiffed” (that’s what we called it when I was a server) and somehow it’s God’s fault. What really burns me is that it paints the picture of those who spend their lives serving God and sharing the most valuable gift in the universe are cheap-ass jerks. The fact that the server posted this in the Atheism section on Reddit gives an indication of how this pastor’s actions are perceived to represent God.

>>adding injury to insult, when the pastor heard about this, she contacted the restaurant and allegedly demanded that the whole wait staff be fired. The following day, the server who posted the image of the receipt was fired. The store manager Dan Smith was reported to say that the picture violated the privacy rights of the pastor. While I agree that I wouldn’t want my signature posted on the web for everyone to see, I find it tough to agree with Dan’s decision.

>>having been a server in my younger days, I have always been an over-tipper unless service is absolutely horrible – and even then I’ve never tipped less than 10%. But now every time I sit down at a restaurant, because I always ask the server if there’s anything I can pray for when I pray for my meal, I’m almost embarrassed that I have just self-identified as a Christian, and I feel like I have to leave even more gratuity to tip the balance (pun intended) of how we represent the generosity of our father.

Most people waiting tables are in a transitional period of life facing tough issues. That’s one of the reasons that illegal drug use is well above the national average in the food service industry. I would like to suggest that it wouldn’t hurt if we decided as pastors to be aware of that and treat them like we know them and love them. If we do that, perhaps instead of leaving work farther from God than when she came in, the kingdom of God might advance and someone might find the love and support that draws them closer to a loving God who suffered for their redemption! …and we wouldn’t have another pastor losing credibility and having to apologize.

>>it seems sacrilegious to say that we might embarrass God, but I know that as a father, if one of my children had done this, despite my love for them, I would be embarrassed. As pastors, (particularly XP’s) we have to be frugal, and keep an eye on the money. We have a stronger concept than most, of how ministry and finance interact. So what do are your thoughts, do you disagree?

>>1. should the server have been fired?
>>2. what would you do if one of your staff had done this?

 

More ministry, less money!

webinars for Executive Pastors

Next week on Jan 31, at 1pm [CST] I’ll be hosting the NavXP webinar for Executive Pastors. Our first one is how to grow ministry with less money.


We’ll hear stories, tips, and practices from two phenomenal thought leaders: Dr. David Fletcher and Dr. Joshua Whitehead.

david-fletcherjosh-whitehead

>> Increase ownership among members & volunteers.
>> Raise staff awareness of resources.
>> Focus resources for impact.
>> Create a clear sense of missional priority.


The webinar will be hosted on Google+ hangouts and livecast on the NavXP page here.

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