Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Living on Mission for God

This summer I spoke on the topic of “Living on Mission for God” at the “By the Way” Conference at the Lexington Community Church in central Illinois. It was a great time at the church, as my wife Tammy and I got to meet many wonderful people and visit with their pastors. I wanted to share a brief summary of the message I delivered at the conference.
The theme of the conference was being mission minded in our everyday lives. I looked at how we – whether we work in a large organization, a small non-profit, are a stay at home mom, a student, farmer or are retired – can live out the mission God intended for our lives. How can we live on mission for God?
Drawing on the scriptures and a number of excellent books I have read, I started with some foundational information, looking at God’s mission in creating the human race and redeeming us for His glory, the mission of the church (the “Great Commission”), and how we can be a part of God’s mission as individual believers.  I summarized this section by indicating: Continue reading

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A Morning Prayer ~ a Need for Workplace Grace

Heavenly Father, we thank you for this beautiful morning, and the good night of sleep you have given us. Use that sleep to refresh our bodies for this day so that we can serve you in our vocations and callings today.
We pray for our commute into the office, that we leave in plenty of time so that we don’t get upset when someone sits too long at a light that turns green. Help us to show your love on the roads we travel, giving other drivers the benefit of the doubt, even if it “wasn’t their turn” to go.  As we travel, prepare our hearts for the day ahead of us, and we lift up those we will meet with and come in contact with. You are sovereign and we are not. We don’t know what will happen today, but you do.
We pray for your guidance in the workplace today, no matter what our particular job is. Help us to treat others with kindness, so that they will see you through us. We want to shine your light in a dark world and point others to you, people who might never even consider going to a church on Sunday to worship you. Help us to use our words wisely. Perhaps those words will be used to encourage someone who is going through a difficult time. Perhaps our words will be needed as we lead others, perhaps providing constructive feedback. If so, let us do so with kindness. Help us to serve others in the workplace.  Help us to truly get to know our co-workers, finding out what it is that they value in their lives.  Use us for your glory.
Help us to make eye contact with those we pass by, offering them a smile, instead of ignoring them, or having our face in our phones. Give us patience to treat interruptions with grace, putting others needs in front of ours.
Help us to handle difficult people and situations that may come our way today with integrity. Help us to be honest, trustworthy and people of good character, admitting our faults, even when they could easily be covered up.
You are a worker too, and we are made in your image. So, help us to do our work well, with excellence and a positive attitude and approach, not to make ourselves look good, but for Your glory, because we are doing our work for You. We don’t want the credit for a job well done. No, all glory goes to You, who created us and equipped us to do our work.
In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.


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Developing Leaders in the Local Church

Just like any organization, a church needs to be continually developing future leaders to plan for succession. As leaders get older, retire and/or move away, you need to have other leaders ready to step in. These would most often be candidates for the office of deacon or elder, but it could also be someone who may want to be a pastor, church planter, missionary or worship leader. In order to have a steady supply of leaders, a church needs to be intentional about leadership development. But how do you do that effectively?
I have previously written about leadership development in the workplace. There are some similarities, but also some key differences between leadership development in the workplace and within the church. In their book Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership, Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck write that God has designed his people to lead and that the church should be the epicenter of leadership development as God has designed the church to develop leaders in all spheres of life – the church, workplace, home, community and world.

Here are four steps for developing leaders in the local church:

  1. Identify candidates. First, the Bible lays out clear qualifications for the offices of elder and deacon. Qualifications for elders are found in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-8, while qualifications for the office of deacon are found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The church leadership team (pastors and elders) should meet on a regular basis (semiannually would be ideal), to discuss potential future leaders and getting them into the leadership pipeline. This is similar to what a workplace organization would do with their leadership talent.
  2. Candidates mentored/discipled by existing leaders. Once candidates have been identified, they should be paired with an existing pastor or elder in a mentoring/discipling relationship. These relationships can all look a bit different. In some cases, you might want to do a Bible study, or read and discuss a book you are both interested in. You might want to have meals, spend time in a coffee shop or take long walks. The mentor will get to know the mentee well to find out about how they lead their families (if applicable), their attention to spiritual disciplines, and whether there is anything in their life that would disqualify them for church leadership. This period is critical. It may help to confirm a leadership calling. On the other hand, it may confirm that the individual is not suited for leadership, or not interested or ready at this particular time.
  3. Do the work of a leader. One of the ways to identify a potential leader (see Step 1) is to observe those who are actually doing the work of a leader now, without the title or office. For example, who are the individuals who regularly show up at the church work days? Who are those who are volunteering to serve in different ministries within the church? Who are those quiet servants? Who is leading a small group, teaching a Sunday School class, or discipling others? In the same way, doing the work of a leader, and getting feedback from your mentor, is an excellent way to develop as a leader.
  4. Intense training on theology and beliefs. In the church I attend, this training is done by the senior pastor. Time is spent on our confession (Westminster Confession of Faith), to assure the candidate’s beliefs are in line with Scripture, the denomination and the church. There is also discussion to determine whether it is the right time of life for the individual to go into leadership. For example, if the individual has a number of small children at home, he may not have the time to devote to this new calling. Over the years, there have been individuals who made the decision during this training that now is not the right time to pursue leadership in the church. However, if all goes well in this training, the senior pastor makes the recommendation to the rest of the leadership team to bring the individual before the church as a new elder or deacon.

These are four steps that I’ve found to be helpful in developing leaders in the local church. What other things have you found to be helpful?


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6 Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Personnel Structure

I recently wrote on “How to Move Your Church Forward Through Effective Planning”.  In that article I stated I wasn’t suggesting that you run your church like a business. However, after having been a leader in the marketplace for nearly 38 years, and in the church for more than 22 years, I do think there are things we can learn from the business world to help our churches be more effective organizations. One of those things is a Human Resources (HR) “department” and a performance management system. In many churches, these functions could be the responsibility of an executive pastor. Here are 6 reasons I believe that a church needs an individual or team dedicated to HR functions:

  • Employment decisions. It is important to have a consistent approach to selecting and onboarding new members onto your church team. Processes need to be established so that you don’t have to “recreate the wheel” every time you have an opening. This would start with developing job descriptions for each position, from the lead pastor to the church janitor. Following this would be an approach to interviewing, a training schedule for each position, new employee orientation, etc.
  • Salary and Benefits. Another human resources responsibility is to determine the salary range and benefits for each position at the church. This will include everything from starting salary, annual salary increases, insurance, retirement, weeks of vacation, etc. Understanding that the starting salary could be flexible based on the skills and experience of the candidate, there should be salary ranges developed, so that a consistent approach is followed.
  • Alignment to the vision and annual plan. It is easy for the different ministries of the church to all be doing “good” things, but having no alignment to the overall vision and the annual plan (see the effective planning article). My suggestion is that each member of the church staff, and all of the major ministries of the church, annually develop their plans, budgets and individual goals in alignment with the overall church vision and goals. The budgets and goals should be submitted to the leadership team, or a designee, such as an executive pastor.
  • Performance evaluation. At a minimum, a one-hour formal performance evaluation (between the established goals and the actual performance) should take place on a semi-annual basis. Individual meetings to discuss performance, concerns, development needs, etc. should take place monthly to facilitate open communication and relationship building. These evaluations should be a component used by the church in determining annual salary compensation decisions.
  • Legal issues. In today’s climate more than ever, a church will need a staff member who can advise them on legal issues related to staffing (hiring, terminating, etc.).
  • Training and development. The ongoing growth of your team members is critical to your organization moving forward. Again, your church should have a consistent approach to the resources (books, conferences, classes, etc.) used for development, and one individual, such as the executive pastor, overseeing this.

If your church is very small, the above responsibilities are probably handled by the pastor or a group of elders. However, if your church is over 200 members, I would recommend assigning these responsibilities to one individual, such as an executive pastor or a personnel committee overseen by the executive pastor.

I’ve listed just a few of the most important responsibilities of a human resources department that are needed in your church. Other responsibilities such as finances could also be added to this list. What would you add to the list?


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How to Move Your Church Forward Through Effective Planning

I was a leader in a Fortune 50 organization for nearly 38 years, and I’ve been in a leadership position at our church for more than 22 years. I’ve found that effective annual planning will help move your organization forward, whether it is a Fortune 50 organization, a church, non-profit, etc. If you don’t have a plan mapped back to your church vision and mission, you may end up just treading water, not making any progress. Or, each ministry may do their own thing, without connection to the overall direction that the church is heading. And, without a plan, how do you know whether you are being successful or not?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you run your church like a business. But I do think there are things we can learn from the business world to help our churches be more effective organizations.
A church is different because its mission is different from a Fortune 50 organization. Some may say that the mission of the church is what is referred to as the Great Commission, which is found in Matthew 28: 18-20:  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
While many may say that Jesus’ primary emphasis in the Great Commission is evangelism, it is actually to make disciples. Making disciples includes evangelism, but it includes so much more than evangelism. If we take a look at this passage, we see that the Great Commission includes baptizing, teaching and sending. The Great Commission is a call to the local church.
A church is also called to do the “ordinary” work of ministry, as Michael Horton referred to in his book Ordinary. He wrote “CNN will not be showing up at a church that is simply trusting God to do extraordinary things through his ordinary means of grace delivered by ordinary servants. But God will.”
Given that a church is different from other organizations, what can it do to make sure it is moving forward and not just going through the motions? Here are 4 thoughts for you to consider:

  1. Annual Planning Session. Hold an annual planning session in the fall. Although not convenient, I would suggest that the leadership team take an entire Saturday to do this. The leaders should prepare in advance of the meeting to make good use of the time. An agenda should be developed and someone assigned to be the meeting facilitator to help the meeting stay on schedule and focus. The planning session can address the following items:
    • What will be the emphasis for the church the following year? For example, will the church continue with the current vision, or does the vision need to be refreshed?
    • Develop high-level church goals to align with the vision. Consideration should be given to aligning the preaching series (topical, books of the bible) that the pastor will be preaching, or the studies that the men and women will be doing, with the goals.
    • What ministries, programs or events will the church be holding in the following year. For example, will the church have:
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Mission trips
  • Financial Peace University classes
  • Concerts
  • Conferences
  • Outreaches
  • Christmas Banquet
  • Leadership retreats
  • Congregational fellowship events (progressive dinner, picnics, etc.)
  1. Develop Ministry Goals. Each of the major ministries in the church should develop their plans and budgets in alignment with the overall church vision and annual goals. The goals and budgets should be submitted to the leadership team, or a designee, such as an Executive Pastor.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. The vision and goals that have been established should be communicated to the congregation when established, with progress updates given throughout the year. This will help connect the entire congregation with the work of the church and build excitement for where the church is going.
  3. Quarterly Leadership Team Meetings. Quarterly leadership team meetings should be held to review progress of the goals that were established. In larger churches, individual staff members may be asked to establish goals for their areas of responsibility. In some cases, their performance on these goals may be taken into consideration during their annual performance review.

These are just 4 thoughts on how your church can use effective planning to help assure that it continues to move forward. What other thoughts do you have to add to this list?


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50 Great Quotes on Leadership from John Wooden

Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization by John Wooden and Steve Jamison. McGraw-Hill Education. 321 pages. 2005.
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I’ve long respected John Wooden for the values he brought to leadership as one of the greatest coaches of all time. For example, over a twelve-year period at UCLA, Wooden won an incredible ten NCAA national basketball championships, including a record seven in a row.  I’ve rarely highlighted as many passages in a book as I did with this one.

The book is divided into three main sections:
Part 1: The Foundation for My Leadership. In this section he covers the 15 fundamental values that were the blocks for his Pyramid of Success. He writes that he believed that they are prerequisites for a leader and an organization whose goal is to perform at the highest level of which they are capable.

Part 2: Lessons in Leadership. This is the section that I most appreciated and where I highlighted a large number of leadership quotes. After each teaching by Wooden there would be a helpful “Suggestions to Lead By” and an “On Wooden” section by some of Wooden’s former players and coaches.

Part 3: Lessons from My Notebook. This section was my least favorite of the book, having the least application for general (non-basketball) leadership. What was most interesting to me was that this section included pages or excerpts of pages from notebooks he used through the years in his teaching—notes, observations, reminders, suggestions, and lists of relevant goals and how to achieve them.

As I mentioned, I highlighted a large number of passages as I read the book. I’ve eliminated many of them to get down to 50 of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • I believe that’s what leadership is all about: helping others to achieve their own greatness by helping the organization to succeed.
  • I believe leadership itself is largely learned.
  • Whatever coaching and leadership skills I possess were learned through listening, observation, study, and then trial and error along the way.
  • It’s the quality of your effort that counts most and offers the greatest and most long-lasting satisfaction.
  • The joy is in the journey of pushing yourself to the outward limits of your ability and teaching your organization to do the same.
  • Effort is the ultimate measure of your success.
  • I do not judge success based on championships; rather, I judge it on how close we came to realizing our potential.
  • Reputation is what others perceive you as being, and their opinion may be right or wrong. Character, however, is what you really are, and nobody truly knows that but you. But you are what matters most.
  • A strong leader accepts blame and gives the credit. A weak leader gives blame and accepts the credit.
  • Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to stay there.
  • Practice moderation and balance in all that you do.
  • The best leaders understand that to successfully compete at any level requires continuous learning and improvement.
  • The best leaders are lifelong learners; they take measures to create organizations that foster and inspire learning throughout.
  • The most effective leaders are those who realize it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts most.
  • Character—doing the right thing—is fundamental to successful leadership
  • For me, a good explanation of character is simple: respect for yourself, respect for others, respect for the game, whether it’s basketball, business, or anything else.
  • A leader with character attracts talent with the same.
  • Who you are inside—what you believe—is important, but what you do means more, much more. Actions trump words, and your values must be visible if they are to have an impact on those you lead or hope to attract as part of your team.
  • Character counts and values matter. And you, the leader, set the standard for both in your organization.
  • For me, leadership is a sacred trust.
  • I believe you must have love in your heart for the people under your leadership. I did.
  • For a good leader, the team is nothing less than extended family.
  • Team members wouldn’t be treated the same or alike; rather, each one would receive the treatment they earned and deserved.
  • I believe effective leaders are, first and foremost, good teachers.
  • Your own personal example is one of the most powerful leadership tools you possess. Put it to good use: Be what you want your team to become.
  • A leader who is through learning is through.
  • A leader who is ruled by emotions, whose temperament is mercurial, produces a team whose trademark is the roller coaster—ups and downs in performance; unpredictability and un-dependability in effort and concentration; one day good, the next day bad.
  • Sharing credit is a surefire way of improving the performance results for any organization.
  • Little things, done well, make big things happen for you and your organization.
  • A casual approach to executing the details of a job ensures that the job will be done poorly.
  • I fully understood that the success of my leadership was directly linked to using time wisely.
  • I came to the conclusion that when choosing between the carrot and the stick as a motivational tool, the well-chosen carrot was almost always more powerful and longer lasting than the stick.
  • Each member of your team has a potential for personal greatness; the leader’s job is to help them achieve it.
  • I believe that personal greatness is measured against one’s own potential, not against that of someone else on the team or elsewhere.
  • Personal greatness for any leader is measured by effectiveness in bringing out the greatness of those you lead.
  • Don’t worry about being better than someone else, but never cease trying to be the best you can become.
  • Are you holding your team back with misconceived notions and false limitations? Identify and then eliminate them. Seek solutions rather than excuses.
  • I believe one of the requirements of good leadership is the ability to listen—really listen—to those in your organization.
  • I believe that you must have people around you willing to ask questions and express opinions, people who seek improvement for the organization rather than merely gaining favor with the boss.
  • Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.
  • The most productive leaders are usually those who are consistently willing to listen and learn.
  • Success is more often attained by asking “how?” than by saying “no.”
  • Contentment with past accomplishments or acceptance of the status quo can derail an organization quickly.
  • Assume improvement is always possible and force yourself—and others—to find out how.
  • New ideas and perspective from those under your leadership are essential for achieving and maintaining a competitive edge.
  • If your word is nothing, you’re not much better.
  • A leader whose promise means something is trusted. Trust counts for everything in leadership.
  • Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.
  • A good leader never stops learning. A great leader never stops teaching.
  • Past achievements for any leader or organization will occur again in the future only with equal, or greater, effort.


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What Does the Bible Say About Work?

It may surprise you that the Bible has a lot to say about work, both God’s work and our work. Here are just a few passages for you to consider:

The “Creation Mandate”

  • And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

God is a worker

  • And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:2-3)

Jesus is a worker

  • Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? (Mark 6:3)
  • I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. John 17:4

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