Monday, August 25, 2014

Need Leaders?...Pursue.

Need Leaders…Pursue.

So we’ve prayed for leaders, we’ve prepared to receive them, what’ next?

Pursue simply means to go after.  There’s nothing passive about the concept.  In fact it’s quite active.

A leader will get in mind someone they should ask to join them in ministry for the first time or to move to the next level of leadership.  However, instead of pursuing they hesitate and wait.  Oftentimes too long, and at great cost.

Innovative leaders by nature aren’t good at sitting still.  They want to make a difference and if they can’t find the on ramp into leadership, they’ll just go create their own.  Which there’s nothing wrong with that, other than missing the opportunity to have that leader innovating on your team, making it better.

There are other leaders who may not be able to innovate as quickly on their own, so they need your team in order to help them become a growing leader.  This type of leader left untapped over a period of time can become comfortable, complacent, and crippled in their leadership.  Simply because no one pursued them. 

Which greatly costs the individual and costs the team. – Probably one of the biggest ministry fails is around this issue.  I confess that there are times I did not steward the leadership resources God had entrusted me with.  It hurts to know that I played a role in crippling someone’s leadership.  Because I didn’t have the guts to pursue them as a leader.

Some reasons I didn’t pursue a leader when I should have…
·         I was afraid of rejection.  – Honestly, this is a pride issue, thinking ministry depended upon me and not upon God.  When I depend on God I gain the courage and confidence to do all kinds of things that stretch and grow me. 
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped (Psalm 28:7)

·         I felt “they were probably too busy”. – Weather someone is too busy or not isn’t really for me to decide.  I learned over time to “never say people’s no for them”.  I had people saying no before I ever gave them a chance to say yes…and that’s just dumb. 

Now, that being said, I do think leaders do have a responsibility to coach leaders to focus their time serving to no more than one or two areas.  And through pastoral care, help them make those though choices to focus their ministry for effectiveness, leadership development, and so they don’t’ crash and burn.

·         I glorified myself by proving “I could do it all”. – Well, that’s just a pride thing too that I had to learn to let go of.  Thinking I was raising my level of leadership by “doing it all” actually shrunk my leadership. 

I was the “lid”, the cap at which the organization I was leading could grow.  Which is particularly sad to me, because lack of growth in my ministry meant lack of growth in the church, which meant less people were coming to know and follow Jesus because of my pride.  OUCH!  John Maxwell gives a talk on “The Law of the Lid”.

·        I’m an introvert and beginning conversations with people I don’t know wasn’t natural to me.  But, I began to push through that, I learned, I grew, to the point where now initial meetings are one of my most favorite things to do.  I found a great resource from Amplified Leadership by Dan Reiland and great strength from this passage:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Now that's not to say that being an introvert is a weakness per say.  But I had to learn to just be myself and get real comfortable with just being me in front of others.  Withholding authenticity was leading to others not fully trusting me.  I spent a year working specifically on just "showing my heart" with others.  It was a lot of work, that has continually paid huge dividends in pursuing leaders.

So there’s the stuff NOT to do. 
But what DO we do to purse those God leads us to?

1.  Have an “I See In You” conversation.  These conversations often have a “prophetic” word from God in them.  Where you begin to honestly speak to the potential leader about the fruit you see coming from their lives.  Here are a few examples of “I See In You” conversations I’ve actually had with people:
“I see in you this great joy that makes everyone in the room feel welcome”
“I see in you the ability to relate to and mentor students”
“I see in you the desire listen and give great advice to people”
“I see in you the ability to teach”
“I see in you how you take great attention to excellence and detail”

2.  Invite them to meet with you.  After you’ve expressed what you are seeing in their lives, invite them to meet with you about that.  An example might be:
            “I’d love to talk with you more about that and hear your heart”

3.  Meet with them.  This meeting generally has four major parts.
1.  Connecting With Them – How did they come to the church?  How did they begin following Jesus?  What are the passions God’s been speaking to them about.  This requires listening and discernment.  You may have an end goal of asking them to take on a leadership role, but you want to make sure it fits with what God’s been telling them.  So take the time to listen and be careful not to push your agenda...remember they are a person.
2.  Share Your Heart – Let them see my heart for ministry, what is it that God has laid upon my heart for the ministry I'm leading?  Children coming to know Jesus?  People taking next steps towards Jesus?  A place where people can belong and become?  A community transformed for Christ?  How did I get to where I’m at now?
3.  Make a SOFT Ask – Weather you like it or not, pursuing leaders is a “sales call” you are helping people decide how to spend their most precious commodity - THEIR TIME!  Believe it or not, there’s a respectful and honoring way to handle this pursuit.

After listening to their story.  After sharing what it is that you hope to accomplish through the ministry you lead.  If you discern it’s a match, make a soft ask. 

This means you pull out the job description paper for the role you’d like them to consider.  Say, I’d really like you to spend some time thinking, praying, and talking with your family about this role.  I wonder if it might be a good fit for you and the team we are building here.  One of these responses is to be expected:

·      They could say yes on the spot:  If so, make sure they talk with their family about the commitment before you accept their yes and say:  Great lets get together next week to discuss more details.  At which point you can discuss all of the policy, procedures, and details you already prepared.

·      They could be very interested:  If so, ask them to think about it for a week and that you’ll follow up with them in a week.  They shouldn’t feel pressured there on the spot, they may need to think about what they’ll have to say no to in order to say yes to this, there may be some logistical things to work out, and prayer is always recommended. 

·      They could be a little hesitant:  If so, ask them where the hesitation comes from.  Maybe they are overcommitted.  Maybe there’s a stress at home.  Maybe they just don’t see in themselves what you are seeing.  Either way, there is care and coaching you can provide that person.  Not as a prospective team member, but as a human being.  Ministry is people.

·      They could be totally uninterested and flat out say no:  If so, encourage them in what they are doing.  Thank them for their time.  Pray for them as a person.  Then, ask them to pray with you on the role you are hoping to fill someday.  Ask them to let you know if they know anyone who they think would be great for the role.

4.  Always Follow Up.  Remember after an initial meeting there’s always follow up to be had, schedule the follow up call into your planner, send a note of encouragement, still talk to them as a person if they say no.  Remember people are not the agenda to accomplish the ministry, people ARE the ministry. 

Overall I have found this way of pursuing leaders to be encouraging, honoring, respectful, and flat out fun.  Need leaders…pray, prepare, pursue.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Need Leaders?...Prepare.

So if the first thing you do when you need leaders is pray. 

But, what do you do next? 

Next, it’s important to have an on-boarding plan to receive the leaders you’ve prayed for.  This requires preparation.

When preparing to receive new leaders, there are 5 Key Pieces of Preparation that should be documented.

#1:  Prepare the Why
What kind of team is it that you are recruiting to?  Children’s Ministry?  Technology?  Guest Services?  Life Groups?  The first thing new members of the team are going to want to know is “what’s the point?”  Why should they give their time after working a 40-hour work week?  What is it that the team is trying to accomplish together?  And how does their place in service help move the mission of the entire organization forward?

Team goals should always be aligned with the common overall mission of the church or organization.  I’ve been doing some of this work at Medford First in my first three months here.  Our church’s mission is to “Lift up Jesus so all are drawn to follow Him”.  When it comes to the purpose of our life groups we are beginning to define the goal as “Helping people connect to each other so they can continue to follow Jesus”. 

As a new life group leader steps up to serve I don’t want to them to feel like they are plugging a hole or serving out of obligation because our church needs life groups or it’s just what people do.  The hope is that they would feel inspired to help people connect and continue following Jesus, and be encouraged to be a part of a team of leaders that helps make that happen.  This can’t be communicated to leaders without taking the time to “Prepare the Why”.

#2:  Prepare the Path
In an initial meeting with a leader, more than likely you will find people completely nervous that you would even consider them to be a leader.  It’s a prime opportunity though to cast a little vision for all they could grow into and become.  Leaders flourish and grow when they can see the growth path in front of them. 

In general I’ve used this basic path when creating teams:
Apprentice Leader à Leader à Coach à Ministry Director à Staff

Apprentice Leader:  learning the role and building trust

Leader:  leading in the role and building trust

Coach:  leading other leaders and providing care to leaders

Ministry Director:  leading other coaches, providing care to coaches, and directing the ministry

Staff:  leading other directors, providing care to directors, building systems towards effective ministry.  Has more information.

This is a development path, where everyone starts at the same level.  As they grow, a conversation is had with that team member inviting them to take their next steps in leadership.  A few quick rules of thumb that I learned the hard way:
1.  Everyone (no matter their experience) starts as and apprentice leader.  Experience may move them quicker through the leadership path than some others, but everyone starts at step one.  Trust isn’t built in day, it takes time, and the currency of leadership is trust.  So, for that reason, everyone starts as an apprentice leader.

2.   Develop people through the whole path – don’t let them skip steps.  Every time I’ve let someone skip a step it’s come back to bite me in one-way or another.  Either the person is placed in a higher level of leadership fails and quits.  Or you find yourself having to go back and retrain in the level that they skipped because they needed that experience to be able to preform at the level you skipped them up to.

3.  Don’t ever give someone leadership just to fill a gap on the pathway.  Leadership development takes time.  While you may really need 10 coaches and only have 5, placing someone in a coaching role too soon will only hurt that leader and the trust your leaders place in you.  Developing leaders takes time.  Filling roles is a quick fix.  Settling on filling roles over developing leaders will break down over time.  Developing leaders will build up over time.  Don’t settle for the immediate at the cost of long-term sustainable team growth.  Again, learned this the hard way.

As you document the path for leadership development you will have documented a vision for each and every leader you meet with.

#3:  Prepare Job Descriptions
Ever hear a leader say something like “Our volunteers just don’t get it.” or “They should know better.” or “good luck with that, our people won’t ever…” 

Odds are the leader has failed to clearly define the expectations of their leaders in which they can succeed.  Taking the time to prepare job descriptions for your leaders will save you the leader a lot of headaches down the road.

I firmly believe that no one should ever get asked to do anything without some kind of written, clear job expectation in hand.  Especially as they volunteer and give of their precious time.  No one volunteers time wanting to fail, they just need to know what is expected of them so they can succeed. 

Job descriptions should be kept simple.  What’s the end goal they are expected to meet?  What time are they expected to be there?  What’s the basic role?  Who do they report to?  Who’s responsible for their pastoral care?  What can they expect from you?  All questions that should be answered in a prepared job description.

#4:  Prepare Policy and Procedures
Does the ministry area you lead have specific policy and procedures?  If so, write them down and spend time in that initial interview walking through them with incoming apprentice leaders.  Let them know what they can expect before the first day on the job.

How do we handle child safety?  What are the basic “rules” for healthy life group discussion?  Can student ministry leaders friend students on facebook?  Where do they show up on the first day?

Not sure where to start on documenting policy and procedures?  Go online and research other ministries.  Or, contact someone who does it well and get their stuff as a starting point.

Each time I’ve met with an upcoming leader over policy and procedures I’ve basically said, “Next we are going to walk through some basic policies and procedures, a lot of this is going to seem like ‘no duh’ to you but we hope that all of our leaders understand how we handle certain situations before they get into the first day on the job.  If you have questions as we go through this, feel free to stop and ask”

The goal is after an initial meeting with an incoming apprentice leader is to have them walk away feeling they can trust you, feeling prepared, and feeling really excited.

#5:  Prepare by Knowing Your Greatest Need
So, if you are leading an area that has multiple ways to plug in as an apprentice leader (for instance, children’s ministry has all kinds of age groups, etc.) it’s always great to go into an initial volunteer meeting knowing your greatest need.

Most of the time, 9 times out of 10 leaders will tell you “just put me where I’m needed most”.  People really want to have a big impact with their lives and so they will often forgo personal preference for greatest need.  Be prepared for that, knowing your greatest need.  This also goes back to trusting God, he knows your greatest need and he’s going to send you what you need.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  Matthew 7:11

Prepare by knowing your greatest need, pray specifically for that need, and be prepared to present that need to those interested in serving.

Need Leaders?  Pray.  Then Prepare.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Need Leaders?...Pray.

So lately I've found myself once again in a very familiar place.  Recognizing the job before me is way bigger than what I can handle on my own.  I love building teams, especially teams that have a blast working together to move the mission and message of Jesus forward.  I just love it!  But truth be told, at the beginning of any new challenge or work, is that YIKES moment of realizing that what lies ahead is way bigger than me...and that I'm going to need lots and lots of leaders.

I used to really freak out about this.  I'd see the number of leaders it was going to take to pull off our weekly children's ministry, or an Easter event, or baptism party, you name it, if it was bigger than me, I was semi-freaking out.  I think that freak out moment came out of a sense of self-reliance rather than trust and reliance on God.  Apparently I have control and trust issues...but who doesn't at some level.

Several years ago I came across Matthew 9:35-38 and that's where things began to change for me, where my faith became more reliant upon God rather than myself.

35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

Jesus looks sees the crowds, he sees the great need, he see's that their need stems from the fact they don't have leaders pointing the way to God and towards hope.  He has compassion on the people, he's cut to the heart about the leadership vacuum he encounters.  So he turns to his disciples saying exactly what I've heard time and time again "hey, this job of helping people find hope in Me is way bigger than you"

You can read this passage "the harvest is great, but the workers are few" as if Jesus is telling his disciples look at how hopeless this situation is.  There's only ever going to be a few workers, get used to that because it's always going to be that way, or look at how great you are, you are the few, the proud, the disciples.

But I think that's totally missing Jesus' point.  He's telling his disciples it is NOT right that the workers are few!  He says, look at what I'm seeing, don't you see, this is NOT right.  How do I know that?  Because Jesus immediately follows his observational fact with an action statement.  The harvest is great, the workers are few...

So, here's what you do, here's the action you take:  you PRAY.  

And you don't just pray to anyone but you pray to the Lord of the harvest, you pray to the One who is in charge of the harvest, you pray to the Creator of the harvest, you pray to the One who cares way more about the harvest than you ever will or could, you pray to the One who came to seek and save the harvest.

And you don't just pray that God does something about it, you specifically pray that God would send leaders.  And you know what?  He really does answer this prayer, in my experience, every single time...because it's His harvest and he cares more than anyone.  It's an amazing blessing to watch this prayer get answered as a new leader steps up.

The most exciting part is knowing that each time we pray for leaders, God sends leaders or opens our eyes to leaders that are already there and have yet to be utilized.  Then as that volunteer leader get's in the game, God begins to send more harvest because we're ready to receive it.  

Then on a personal level, each time a prayer for leaders is answered, I'm reminded once again that the work of the harvest is way bigger than me, I trust less on me, and more on God...and my faith grows.  

I hope to never stop being amazed each time this prayer is answered...but at the same time I hope to get to the place where I never have to have a freak out moment because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God will send or show me every leader we may need...because why wouldn't He?

So, need leaders?  PRAY.