What is Your Tech Strategy?

“How am I going to add another thing to my schedule? What’s the point of social media anyway?” Often, this is the thought that tumbles through the minds of overworked pastors when they look at their overworked Outlook. I mean, who’s got time to tweet when there’s a wedding to plan, a baby to baptize, and a sermon to write?

On the surface, this struggle makes sense. Pastors hear folks on their staff and in the congregation talking about social media and think, “Can’t do it. No time. Ignore, ignore, ignore.” Social media, and technology in general, gets shoved to the back burner like a screaming tea kettle.

But the digital frontier doesn’t need to be a scary one. Nor all-consuming. Social technology can make the life of a pastor better. As author Clay Shirky famously stated, “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” You feel overwhelmed because you haven’t been able to set your “rules of engagement.”

That stated, here are five simple ways you can use technology to create space in your life:
  1. Set online office hours. This is an experiment I’ve been conducted off-and-on for the better part of four years. I have set hours where I’ll be in my “office” (a website I’ve setup where people can ask questions and video chat with me), ready to interact with anyone and everyone. You’ll most likely want to pair this with regular office hours, but this is a way to be accessible and still maintain your sanity. For more on office hours, read this post I wrote on my initial findings.
  2. Set a time-limit on social media. Give yourself five minutes a day to answer as many tweets as you can. Take 15 minutes at the start of each day to update your Facebook status and wish everyone in your congregation a happy birthday. You may not get everyone, but you can get to some. And that counts. All without having to sacrifice your schedule at the social media altar.
  3. Create an email policy. That’s right, tell people when you’ll be responding to emails. I know folks who have a permanent out-of-office reminder on that says, “I’m answering emails today at 11a and 4p. Please allow 24-48 hours for a response.” The terms can be yours, but be proactive in setting the expectation when you’ll be getting back to people.
  4. Adopt the “three sentences” rule. Speaking of email, one of my favorite websites is three.sentenc.es. The basic premise? Make your emails short. Like, three-sentences-or-less short. If you need to write a longer email than that, pick up the phone. Brevity is beautiful.
  5. Observe a “tech Sabbath”. In my house, I stay off social mediums from sun-down on Saturday to 5p on Sunday. It gives me a chance to breath a bit and take in the natural surroundings (i.e. my family, nature, football, etc.) around me. It’s refreshing, to say the least.
  6. Bonus: Create your own!

As you can see, all of these rules are about proactively setting the terms for which you will interact with technology. Not the other way around. Your life as a pastor is already hectic enough. Don’t let the digital tidal wave crash on your life without a fight. (And wear a poncho, for Pete’s sake!)

Got questions? Feedback? Be sure to join me every Wednesday from 2-4p CST in my online office!

By: Justin Wise (@justinwise)
Social Media Director for Monk Development
Co-direct the Center for Church Communication

Rumors of God Still Exist

In today’s culture we are all distracted and the idea of God moving in miraculous has been subtracted from reality and places only within the history of the Bible. But is the activity of God absent in today’s culture?

In the book, Rumors of God, Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson show just one simple but powerful example of how God has moved in the United States.

    In 1857 churches all over New York City were noticing a sharp decline in church membership. One Dutch Reform church that met on Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan saw a surprising drop in attendance. So a meeting was called with church leaders to discuss the recent trend. A lay leader named Jeremiah Lanphier, a local business man, was commissioned to start a prayer meeting during his lunch hour. Lanphier began promoting his noonday prayer meeting to surrounding businesses. He prepared a printed handout that read:

    A day of Prayer-Meeting is held every Wednesday from 12 to 1 o’clock in the Consistory building in the rear of the North Dutch Church, corner of Fulton and William Streets. This meeting is intended to give merchants, mechanics, clerks, strangers, businessmen generally an opportunity to stop and call on God amid the perplexities incident to their respective avocations. It will continue for one hour.

    On Wednesday, September 21, 1857, he showed up to pray at noon. He prayed alone for the first thirty minutes and then another businessman joined him. By 1:00p.m. six men were quietly praying. The following Wednesday, twenty people gathered, the next week almost forty people came to pray at noon. After several weeks the prayer gatherings changed from weekly to daily, then they out grew the building on Fulton Street.

    Inspired by Lanphier’s simple vision, the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn also began daily prayer meetings at noon. Within months noonday prayer meetings sprang up in Dutch Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregational, Methodist, and Episcopal churches all over the city. Thousands of people started to gather in churches at noon to pray. Many factories began blowing their lunch whistle at 11:55 a.m. to give their employees time to make it to a church by noon to pray.

    One day at a few minutes before twelve, a senior editor of a newspaper was looking out his window and was shocked to see people running from their places of business, bumping into one another, yet within minutes they had all disappeared into churches. He sent a reported down to investigate, who returned with the astonishing report: “They’re all praying!”

    By 1858 the New York Herald and New York Tribune were both running regular columns on the “Noonday Prayer Meeting.” It was reported that as many as forty thousand people were praying across the city. The New York Times called it “the most remarkable movement since the Reformation.”

    The noonday prayer movement began to spread across America—in Denver, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Chicago, noonday prayer meetings began to emerge. Most church historians agree that by 1859 more than one million unchurched Americans had become Christians. At that point the population was only thirty million people. With the current population now ten times that figure, it would be the equivalent of more than ten million people becoming followers of Jesus today.

    The United States has a history of the unmistakable activity of God. Does God still move like this today?

So from this story, do you think that God really moves like this today? Is it even possible? We have a few copies of Rumors of God and want to hear what you think! On Monday, October 24th, we’ll randomly choose 5 people who comment to win a copy of Rumors of God.

Here’s how you can engage for a chance to win:

1. In the comments below, let us know your thoughts about how you have been seeing God move.
2. Post a link to this blog post on twitter or facebook.

By: Rena Kosiek (@renakosiek)
Marketing Coordinator, The Global Leadership Summit

Join Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson for a webcast on the topic of Rumors of God on Wednesday, October 26 at 11:30 CST. More details here.

Restore the Hope in Your Heart

Darren Whitehead Signing Books at Summit 2011

Our world is a pretty cynical place. America’s credit rating has been downgraded. The war on terror continues. And two more reality shows just premiered on prime time television. As a culture, we seem to have lost not only our way, but our context, our story, and our place in the grander scheme of things.

The Church is defined as a place where people who have lost their way are greeted with love and grace. Those who are discouraged should be able to find light against the cynicism. But what happens when church leaders—those of us who should be pointing the way to hope—get discouraged or disappointed? What do you do when your dreams of doing great things for God get strangled by discouragement? I’ve experienced it and if you’ve been leading for any amount of time, you probably have too.

Dashed dreams are nothing new. It was into anaching world that Jesus sent His disciples—disciples who a few weeks earlier had seen the One they had pinned all their hopes on die a brutal death. But as we know, it didn’t end on the Cross. The risen Christ began to appear to them, restoring them to their place in the story. In His story.

The resurrected Christ is still on the road restoring hope to our hearts. Ultimately, Jesus gave His followers more than just the gift of resorted hope and a recovered story. He gave them Himself. And He is still doing it today. It’s is an encounter with Jesus that gave me an eternal hope, but it’s my continued encounters with Him along my journey that restores hope to my heart.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy andpeace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Where in your life do you need God to restore hope to your heart?

For more thoughts on “Where is God in an economic downturn?” check out Chapter 3 (The Great Reversal: Rumors of Generosity) and Chapter 9 (The Greenroom: Rumors of Justice) of Rumors of God (Thomas Nelson)

Darren Whitehead (@darrenwhitehead)
Teaching Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church
Co-author of Rumors of God

> Join Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson for a webcast on the topic of Rumors of God on Wednesday, October 26 at 11:30 CST. More details here.

Developing Stars

Within church culture, we don’t use the term “stars” very much, but we all know when they shine. There are certain members of our team that light up the room when they walk in. They bring a clear sense of mission, improving skills, and high integrity to the team. When you face a big challenge, they pray and work hard to see it overcome. These are the folks that Jim Collins meant when he talked about getting the “right people on the bus.”

Do you think it’s better to hire “new blood” from outside or develop leaders within your organization? In his research, Professor Nanda discovered three things that happen when an organization hires a star from the outside:

    1. The star’s performance goes down.
    2. The performance of other people in the star’s department also goes down.
    3. The stock price of the company actually goes down (he calls this “the winner’s curse).

Jim Mellado and Bill Hybels respond to the interview excerpt with Bill Hybels and Professor Nanda. Professor Nanda concluded that the best strategy for improving an organization is developing the people already within it.

(We made this month’s edition of Defining Moments more widely available so that more church leaders can experience this tool and share it with their team. Defining Moments is a monthly leadership resource created exclusively for WCA Member Churches. Learn more.)

Following up on this month’s episode, here are some individual reflection and team discussion questions for you to use:

Individual Reflection Questions

    1. What about your environment helps you be successful as a leader? If you changed organizations or positions, what would be missing?
    2. Bill talked about right-sizing the challenge level while developing leaders. As you think about your challenge levels these days, would you describe yourself as overchallenged, underchallenged, or appropriately challenged?
    3. What conditions in your current role would keep you from staying at your organization? What has caused you to be loyal or kept you there?

Team Discussion Questions

    1. Take out a piece of paper and write down the name of the person who was most dramatically responsible for developing you as a leader at any timeframe in your life? What did this individual do?
    2. How do we develop leaders in this environment?
    3. What characteristics are rewarded in this culture?
    4. Ashish cautioned, “There is no shortcut to building a high-performing organization of stars.” What shortcuts are sometimes tempting in developing people on our team?
    5. If someone new joined our staff today, what do they need to know to be successful?
    6. What do we do in this culture that fosters loyalty to our organization?

By Andy Cook (@wca_andycook)
Director of Member Experience, WCA

How to Maximize Your Sphere of Influence

Erwin McManus Speaking at Summit 2011

In todays culture, there is a this mind set that influence is a stage presence, a known voice, an excessive amount of twitter followers—but is this really the kind of influence that changes lives at the core?

Erwin McManus reminds us in this excerpt from, Chasing Daylight, that, “Jesus Christ is the greatest example of true influence reaching into the heart and soul of a person, changing him from the inside out.”

Erwin says:

    The ultimate end and most profound result of influence is when a person is free from any command or power you may exert and yet still reflects the influence of your values and passions. That being said, it becomes more profound when we begin to consider the influence of Jesus. His life two thousand years ago continues to shape the hearts and souls of millions around the world—not motivated by fear of judgment or the uncertainty of salvation, but in fact promised through the grace of God’s irrevocable relationship. After all, once you promise a person forgiveness, once you guarantee a relationship built on unconditional love, what are you left with to force a person to do your will? Isn’t this God’s dilemma? No coercion, no threat of rejection—freedom from punishment, judgment, and rejection. What motivates a Christian now?

    Jesus Christ is the greatest example of true influence reaching into the heart and soul of a person, changing him from the inside out. When God does it, it’s the miraculous work of transformation. Yet in the end, it is rooted in influence. God wins our hearts. We move with Him because He has earned our trust, and we long to be at His side. This is the model Jonathan reinforces. This is the challenge that is set before us—that we not only take initiative, that we not only move with confidence into the reality of uncertainty, but also that we maximize our sphere of influence as we grow in depth of character. (Excerpt taken from Chasing Daylight)

So how can we start to reflect Jesus in our walk of influence?

Throughout the ministry of Jesus, you see his leadership and influence played out through relationships. Whether it’s the twelve disciples or the others along his journey-Jesus maximized his influence with pure motive, time, consistency, intimacy, depth, and action.

To build an influence that reflects Jesus, I would challenge you to ask yourself a few questions and see where you stand, gain a perspective, and sink into the reality of where you stand.

    1) Who has influenced you? Look into those who have played an influential role in your life. What have you learned from them?

    2) What’s your motive? Before you are intentional with your influence, check yourself. Why do you want to be intentional with your influence-Is it to make you feel better about yourself or to truly win hearts for God?

    3) Are you willing to be vulnerable? If you want to speak into the lives of others you also have to be willing to let others speak into yours. As a leader—This is one of the hardest things to accept.

    4) Are you available? These days, work is 24/7. So what are you going to do to be intentional with your time? Are you willing to make yourself available?

    5) What speaks louder; you words or your actions? There is room for both of these, but in todays culture people don’t want to see a talking head-they want to see someone getting their hands dirty through actions.

As I sit and reflect on these things myself as a young leader, I have to remember that influence is not determined by age, gender, or occupation. Influence is a direct reflection of Christ within you and me. It is our intention and actions that help maximize the sphere of influence and depth of character.

We have a few copies of Erwin’s book and want to hear what you think! On Monday, October 17th, we’ll randomly choose 5 people who comment to win a copy of Erwin’s book, Chasing Daylight.

Here’s how you can engage for a chance to win:

    1. In the comments below, let us know your answer to the question: “What do you do daily to help maximize your sphere of influence?”

    2. Post a link to this blog post on twitter or facebook.

By: Rena Kosiek (@renakosiek)
Marketing Coordinator, The Global Leadership Summit

Statistics that Must Change

Recently, WCA President, Jim Mellado shared some alarming statistics with our staff team. The stats were distilled from Barna research, Focus on the Family, and Fuller Seminary. In the weeks following the meeting, the stats have given our team much to pray for as we’ve re-asked and keep asking God ‘how can we help’?

Here are a few of the stats-

    80% of pastors feel unquilaified and discouraged in their role as a pastor

    50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

    70% of pastors constantly fight depression

    80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first 5 years.

We believe these statistics can and must change! As a church leader, you’re called to important work and we hope that you know there’s a team that is cheering you on and praying for you every day.

Just for fun, on Friday October 14 at noon CST, we’ll randomly choose 2 people to join the LIFT project- Leading for Results (a 7-week online course designed by Dr. Henry Cloud) on us!

Here’s how you can engage for a chance to win:
1. In the comments below, let us know your answer to the question: “Which of the statistics strikes you the most? Why?”

2. Post a link to this blog post on twitter or facebook.

By: Devon Noonan (@devoncnoonan)

Content Development, The LIFT Project
Willow Creek Association

Good Leadership and the Cause of Global Justice

One of the major themes about Christ in the book of Isaiah is that he cares a lot about justice. For example, Isaiah says that “he will bring forth justice to the nations” (42:1), that “he will faithfully bring forth justice” (42:3) and that “he will not grow faint or be discouraged until he has established justice in the earth” (42:4).

In his book Good News About Injustice, Gary Haugen points out that justice is “the right use of power.” To use power rightly means to skillfully exercise it in the service of others–especially those who are in need or in a situation where they are unable to help themselves. That’s why the Bible lays substantial emphasis on caring for the orphan and the widow: “Seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).

One implication of this that is rightly getting a lot of attention in the church today is that we should spend ourselves radically in the fight against global poverty, human trafficking, and other injustices. A concern for justice means a concern for addressing large global problems.

A concern for justice also implies a concern for something else that is sometimes overlooked–namely, leadership. For if justice is “the right use of power,” then good leadership is a form of justice. And, conversely, bad leadership–even if unintentionally so–is a subtle form of injustice.

Hence, as followers of Christ, our desire to care about the same things Jesus cares about should lead us to care about not only about fighting against injustices such as poverty and hunger, but also about advancing good leadership. A concern for justice should lead to a concern for leadership, which is a form of justice.

That’s why I think it is so important that the Global Leadership Summit is truly global. Solid teaching on leadership needs to advance globally not simply because it is interesting (which it is!), but because it serves people. It is needed. As good teaching on leadership spreads and is applied, churches, organizations, and society generally all become more just. This is a critical and important thing.

And, even more than that, the spread of good leadership in the church–and in society generally–is the work of Jesus himself. For when we advance the cause of good leadership in Christ’s name, we are participating in Christ’s own mission to “faithfully bring forth justice” (Isaiah 42:3)–something which, obviously, he will do fully when he returns, but which he is also progressively doing even now, through the work of his people.

Which leads to one last thing: This is the case not only when good leadership teaching spreads globally through avenues such as the Summit, but also when we are good leaders ourselves. Being good leaders ourselves is a direct application of Christ’s concern for justice that we can make to our own situations, right where we are at.

Doing something about global hunger and leadership development can sometimes feel complex. We sometimes have to go out of our way to address it–as we should. But being a good leader is a form of justice we can pursue right where we are at, without having to even go out of our way, because it has to do with how we go about our work every day.

If we are in a formal leadership, this means continually seeking to learn more about leadership, applying what we know, and exercising our influence for the good of our organizations, its employees, and the people it serves. And if we are not in a position of formal leadership, we can still lead through being a positive influence in the role we do have (“you don’t need a title to be a leader!”) and supporting the practices of good leadership. We can all lead right where we are at, wherever that is.

When we do that, we are not simply being good leaders, but we are serving people and treating them justly. And that is something God very much approves of.

Have you ever considered the relationship between justice and leadership?

By: Matt Perman (@MattPerman)
Read more from Matt at WhatsBestNext.com
Matt is also working on a book to be released in April called What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Changes the Way You Get Things Done.

4 Leadership Best Practices for Pastors

I receive several sailing magazines each month pertaining to sailboat racing. Sailing has been a recreational passion of mine for a long time. Recently I read an issue that had six articles on how to how to win races. I counted up all of the recommendations from each article about how to win sailboat races. There were 35 recommendations. Unfortunately, a list that long doesn’t help me because it’s just too overwhelming. I would like someone to say, here are four recommendations that are super important and if you do these, you’ll vastly improve.

Sometimes the same kind of thought process happens to me when I think about leadership. When I read Michael Feiner’s book on the 50 facets of leadership I thought, “50, wow—that’s a little intimidating”. John Maxwell did the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and sold millions of copies. Thank God he whittled the list from 50 down to 21. Jack Welch wrote Winning, and he boils the list of 21 down to eight basics. But that had to be hard just boiling it down to eight.

And so, in a bold moment, I’m going to share four leadership points that are on my ‘must do’ list for church leaders. As I interact with pastors around the world, I often am asked questions about the facets of leadership. If I had to say—above all things—do these four recommendations when you get back to your church, I think the points below make the highest impact.

    1. Keep the vision clear. Proverbs 29:18 says—without a vision the people perish. Great leaders attend to every single detail with regard to a vision talk. When a vision lands in the hearts of people in the church, people start soaring in their spirits because there’s a vision in the church worth investing in, praying for, giving toward.

    2. Get people engaged. Nehemiah 4:6 says—and all the people worked with all their hearts. Imagine that for a moment, every single person you’re leading working with all his or her heart. What we have to understand here is the difference between someone who passively agrees to an exciting vision and someone who buys in and has an owning stake in that vision.

    3. Make your gatherings memorable. Another way of saying it, create great church services. Work so hard to make your gatherings memorable that your people wouldn’t think of missing them. Acts 2:43 says—everyone kept feeling a sense of awe. Awe as in holy transcendent moments where the awareness of the presence of God is palpable.

    4. Pace yourself for the long haul. The key verse here is 1 Corinthians 9:25—Run in such a way as to win the prize. I’d like to finish the race with a family that loves to be together, and with friends that I can belly laugh with, and still stand in front of Jesus who finished His race (and had the toughest assignment of all).

Leaders, we need you. The local church is the hope of the world, and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders. We can’t lose a single one of you from your race. So I plead with you, pace yourself for the long haul. I pray that through our leadership and the leadership of others the church will reach her full potential in this world.

By: Bill Hybels (@BillHybels)
Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church
Chairman of the Board, Willow Creek Association

Warning Signs

One of the toughest parts of leadership is keeping a steady, sustainable pace. If you are part of a growing organization, you are going to constantly find yourself having to retool how you spend your time. There is always more to do, more people who need you and more responsibilities.

Like anything in life, if you are going too fast you blow right past the warning signs without giving them a second glance. How you respond to warning signs is one of the things that will make or break you as a leader.

Here are a few of mine:

    When I don’t want to be with people that I usually enjoy being around, I know I’m over-committed.

    When I come into the office and immediately shut my door, I know that I’m too over-loaded with task to care for my staff appropriately.

    When making dinner for my family feels like a huge luxury, I know that I’ve cheated my time at home too much lately.

    When I have trouble making simple decisions, I know that my mind hasn’t had space to be rejuvenated.

So what do you do when the warning sirens are screaming for your attention?

Here are some things that I do:

    Evaluate my emotional and spiritual health. Great leaders are healthy leaders. Don’t convince yourself your superman/woman. Take time for rest and rejuvenation. And most importantly take time with God.

    Rework my schedule. Where have I over-committed? What can I change, move or cancel? What can I delegate to someone else? Everything on my schedule becomes open for discussion.

    Stop. Literally stop for time enough to think. When I’m racing past the warning signs at a break-neck speed, I can’t think clearly enough to make good decisions. Make a pit stop and regroup your thoughts. Fresh perspective often comes with a strategic pause.

    Seek counsel. Who knows you well enough to speak truthfully about your strengths and weaknesses, priorities and dysfunctions as a leader? You need to invite their voice into your current season. They just might be the emergency brake that saves you from a crash.

What are your warning signs and how can you heed them?

By: Jenni Catron (@jennicatron)
Executive Director of Cross Point Church

Read more of Jenni’s thoughts here.

Faith Without Works is Dead

During the Summit this year, we heard from leaders who shared their response to what they heard. (You can view more Summit Backstage videos here.) In this video with JR Kerr, Daniel Hill, Senior Pastor at River City Church, says that, when you’re in the trenches, it doesn’t always feel like you’re making a difference. But Brenda Salter-McNeil’s session at the Summit provided a great reminder that part of why we’re in ministry is to be witness. We’re called to go out and be a witness to be the Kingdom of God.

    “I love the fact that Jesus said that the Father is always working. And, I want you to know that that is still true today. God’s working in your city. God’s working in your town. God’s working in your country and our job as catalytic leaders is to look around and find what God’s doing!

    My challenge to you is this, after you ask God for a divine mandate and you get the heart of God for something, something that doubles you over, something that causes you to feel like I can’t stand it anymore, somebody ought to do something and God says that somebody is you.

    And then mobilize people to go. Faith without works is dead. We have got to move outside of our Jerusalem in to Judea. There is so much ministry and so much cultural cross-pollenization just waiting to happen in Judea.” -Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter-McNeil

By: Willow Creek Association (@wcagls)