While purchasing my chicken bowl at Chiptole my eyes fell upon the business cards at the register. Next to the expected General Manager’s card was another card, the GM Apprentice. I was more than curious. I’m not looking for a new career path but I notice when other companies take seriously the lost art of discipleship.
On Chipotle’s career page it reads, “(the apprentice) works shoulder-to-shoulder with the General Manager to prepare for the General Manager role as his/her next position with the company.” They even have a strategy for upward mobility. Why? Well, Chipotle wants not just more stores but they want stores that carry the marks of Chipotle quality and values, offering food with integrity.
Do you have a strategy for those who want to serve more and reach more and climb the ladder of influence and value in God’s kingdom? Could you put a business card out for others to see reading “pastoral apprentice”? How much could your church accomplish if you had more leaders that lived out kingdom values? Get an apprentice. Let someone walk shoulder-to-shoulder with you. Develop a strategy for leader multiplication. Shouldn’t your church set the example of leadership with integrity?
“Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived…The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey…” (Acts 16:1-3)
Aiden, my middle son, is a runner. When he gets hurt he bolts and Aiden is fast. It is common to hear the front door slamming and see Aiden running down the sidewalk because one of his brothers hurt him. I put on my shoes and head off to find him. Why? He is my son, part of our family. I want him home; he needs to be home.
The members of your church will get hurt from time to time. Painful events can cause them to scatter. Part of your responsibility as a spiritual leader is to get your shoes on, find those wounded and hurt sheep, and draw them back to the safety of home. Wounded sheep are more susceptible to attack, further injury, and more quickly stolen.
Make review part of your ministry flow. Who haven’t you seen in a while? Who do you need to track down and call? Who is starting to pull back and needs your calm assurance? This is not about finding the lost- this is about gathering the scattered. And don’t take it so personally. Sheep scatter; that is what we do! If you have found your self personally away from the flock, then it is time to come home. You aren’t safe, come back.
“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12)
American religion is conspicuous for its messianically pretentious energy, its embarrassingly banal prose, and its impatiently hustling ambition. None of these marks is remotely biblical. None is faintly in evidence in the gospel story. All of them are thoroughly documented diseases of the spirit. Pastors are in great danger of being undetected carriers of the very disease we are charged to diagnose and heal.
Peterson, E. H. (1989). The contemplative pastor: returning to the art of spiritual direction (Vol. 17, p. 58). Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub.
We are tempted to insert people where we have the most pressing holes. “We need nursery workers. No one showed up for tech!” Filling gaps is a short-term fix that leads to burn out and under-utilizes the spiritual capacity of the Body. It is no better than filling potholes with basketballs, or china plates, or rosebushes. The goal isn’t filling the hole but bridging the gap with a sustainable resource designed for the problem at hand. Take the time to get people where God has appointed them. It will infuse your ministry with a spiritual power and connect volunteers to their ordained purpose. How?
- Know the gifts in your church and who has them. The seven motivational gifts in Romans 12 are equally important but not equally distributed. 30%-40% of your church will have the gift of service. Less than 5% will have the gift of teaching.
- Filter your programs and volunteer opportunities through the gifts. Don’t filter workers based on your programs.
- Create an open document that lists the gifts in connection with places they can be most readily expressed and utilized.
- Get in the habit of helping people discover their spiritual gifts early. Start here. Make it part of your membership/ assimilation process.
- Pray for gifts in connection with your ministry needs not just workers based off your program holes.
- Remember it is your responsibility to help people connect with their divine ministry.
God gives the church the missionaries, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the members for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… – a paraphrase (Eph 4:11-12)
Good questions are the seed bed of conversation, personal growth, and relational health. The whole reason that you have a relationship with Christ is because the Holy Spirit started asking you questions, “Who is Jesus? Are you sinful? Are you good enough for God? How is this going to end?” Your doctor has a standard list of questions that he asks. They reveal general components of your health and well-being. Consider the same practice as you encounter various “groups” of people. Make asking questions a regular part of your ministry, relationships, and personal spiritual formation.
- Church Members: What are 3-5 questions you that could cue you into someone’s spiritual health? I like to ask, “What is something God has done this week that surprised you?”
- Family/ Friends: What are 3-5 questions you can ask to open up conversations about their day, worries, and needs? I ask my sons, “What is something that made you sad today?”
- Personal Questions: What are 3-5 questions the Holy Spirit asks you to help you stay focused on what matters most? God asks me, daily, if I have cherished my wife and delighted in my sons.
Keep your questions open-ended. Do they probe for answers that cue you in to what is going on deep inside the person? Be sure to listen for their answers and don’t decide what to ask next until you have processed the last response. Your thoughtful questions invite people to grow. Start a journal with good questions. Answers change as people change but you won’t know that unless you ask them better questions.
God confronted Adam, “Where are you?”
God questioned Elijah, “What are you doing here?”
Jesus probed Peter, “Who do you say that I am?”
Lucas, my oldest son, and I were walking home from school. The snow was melting but a thick glaze of ice covered our path. Lucas didn’t want to fall so he grabbed my hand. Together we walked, hand in hand, across the ice and back to safety. Some of your people are in an icy spot. They can’t move forward on their own; they are close to falling. Do not underestimate the power of human touch. God has so wired our brains that physical contact with another human being;
- lessens chronic pain
- improves heart function
- lowers high blood sugar
- improves immune functions
Human tough does truly heal! A hand on the shoulder, a hug, holding the hand of faltering family members anchors them in the reality that they are not alone. It connects them to hope. The physical gesture provides an emotional and mental assurance. It is a physical manifestation of the care and compassion of the Father in heaven.
Jesus, if you are willing you can heal me…and Jesus reached out and touched him. – (Mark 1:40-41)
You are destined to wreck your small group ministry and undermine biblical community if your focus is to multiple groups rather than leaders. The authentic ministry of healthy groups demands familial and familiar relationships. Don’t sacrifice connection so you can hit your “new group goals”. Rather, focus on identifying new leaders that can carry the responsibility to pastoring brand new groups.
Subdividing groups, making two smaller groups out of a larger group, is a multiplication strategy equivalent to taking a bus full of school kids and spreading them out among two different driver-less buses, shoving them down a hill and celebrating growth. Make sure you close your eyes so you don’t see them careen into each other, innocent telephone polls, parked cars, and the occasional brick wall. It is a lunacy equivalent to planting a church without a church planter.
Instead go slow and build into leaders. Let willing people apprentice under proven leaders. Let them get their leadership legs under them while you identify new people who need to get into community. Once you have reached critical mass (8-12 couples/ 4-6 families) and a prepared leader, launch a new group. You actually increase the leadership culture in your church, provide better pastoral care to those in established groups, and prevent more false starts. You will have more groups that last longer.
God built a family and gave them a mission. Don’t try to build a mission by dividing families.
Are you closing the loop?
Example: Children’s Check-In
If your church has a check-in program for children, a system to maintain security and monitor attendance, make sure poor equipping and human error does not short circuit your attempted programming. You could be operating under the assumption that your children are secure. An open loop, neither monitored nor maintained leaves you operating under a false reality, a lie. In the case of children check-in, parents leave your children with your volunteers under the false reality that their kids are safe. A lack of inspecting what you are expecting means you are actually lying to parents. You gotta close the loop.
- Test it. It is the only way to be sure you are receiving the results you are expecting from your various systems and programs.
- Test it again. You could have just gotten lucky the first time.
- Test it often. It is a necessity of administration, checking your reality- closing the loop.
- Ask your guests. They see things and feel things that you have become immune to. Ask them about your systems.
Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land…And let them gather all the food…. – Gen 41:34-35
You make hundreds of decisions a week. Leader or not. The more you lead the greater the consequences of those decisions. Not every decision is a deal breaker. Most are rather small; but even a small decision can shut down your work flow if not handled correctly and efficiently. Use this quick filter for decisions. It frees you up to spend time doing what matters most.
Every decision has only five possible responses; do it now, delegate it, defer it, file for later, delete it.
- I am a huge fan of the 2-minute rule. If you can do something in two minutes then just do it now. It keeps work flow moving and gets things off your mental desk.
- Can someone else do it correctly? Delegate it. But delegate it correctly. Give them the information they need to succeed and then take your hand off the stick. Delegating is designed to free you up to make the decisions only you can make.
- Would it be better to make a decision later? Should you have more people around the table? Defer it. Put it in a place with a date on it. I make certain decisions after sleeping on it, literally. But, once deferred it will need addressed. So defer and date it or you will keep putting it off.
- Is it less like a decision and more like information? File it for later reference. Sometimes your people give you FYIs. Have a system for easy retrieval, stick it where it goes, and move on to the next decision.
- Finally, does it just need discarded? Some decisions don’t need made, the only need deleted. “File 13” it and move on to something that matters.
Pick a decision you are dealing with, big or small. Run it through those 5 filters. Now move on.
When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?…What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. – Jethro Exodus 18:14-18
I haven’t posted in 26 days. I have done other things, important things that no one would call into question. However, as a writer and a blogger and a thinker and a leader I must deliver. I have thought about posting and have intended to post. I put great weight on the priority of living intentionally, on purpose. Yet, intention and action are not the same. Ya gotta get on the horse and ride at some point
You, also, have things that matter to you, to your church and ministry. Yet, they aren’t happening. You want them to happen. You pray about them happening. You have dreams and visions and tell yourself stories about what things will be like when they are happening. You reinforce it with inner monologues while solo-driving on the way to work. But, as of now, nothing is happening. Time to get on the horse.
- Overcome Inertia. You aren’t doing anything so you must get the mind/body/soul in motion, slowly. Do something simple, first, like put your “thing” on the calendar. Carve out a 90 minute block, a week in the future.
- Prime the Pump. While you are doing other things, before your intended and scheduled thing, your mind-factory will begin to work the problem and crank out solutions. Visions of your “thing” completed. Rough-edged. First-drafted. Raw to be sure. In the shower. At bed. Mowing the lawn. WRITE THEM DOWN! Save them for your future meeting.
- Hit the Ground Running. You have come to your scheduled time, you have a paper filled with fodder ideas. Get to work. Plan it. Do it. Write it. Clean it. File it. Scrape it. Paint it. Call it. Whatever you have needed to do, just do it. You will find that overcoming your mental inertia and priming the pump have given you the needed momentum to get ‘r done.
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? – Luke 14:28