Wednesday, September 15, 2010

10 Things-Teams are Great

I have been and always will be a huge proponent of teamwork. (Currently every time I say that word I have a song that pops into my head, if you have a preschooler, it probably pops into your head as well-"What's gonna work, TEAMWORK! Go Wonder Pets").
It is no secret that a great team will always beat a great individual. Sports, business, and ministry provide plenty of examples of teams triumphing over individual super stars, so I will not belabor that point here. However, more times than not, teams don't function at their highest potential.
Why is that? I think there are several reasons why teams sometimes falter. Teams are just like families. If they are not a priority, then things will begin to fall apart. From what I can tell, these are 7 keys to a great team:
1. Loyalty- The team has to know that everyone has the support of everyone else on the team. Does the team really have each other's "backs"? Or are they more worried about themselves and what they are doing and how they can further themselves?
2. Trust- Trust is huge on teams. Can you say the final 10%? Or is there always just a little bit you go without saying because you are afraid of how the other person will react?
3. Collaboration- In a great team, everyone needs to feel like they are valuable enough to give input to the team. Their input doesn't necessarily have to be used, but they need to feel safe to give it.
4. Fun- I have been on teams that have been so much fun that I can't wait to get back to the team, and I have been on other teams that cause me to want to stay away. In order for a team to be healthy, they must work hard, but they must play hard as well.
5. Growth- Healthy teams are always growing. They might not be growing in numbers (as a matter of fact, I think once you get to a certain point, adding people to the team will actually take away from productivity), but they will be growing together. For instance, our Team here at Hope takes regular opportunities to grow in our leadership by attending conferences and watching videos together. There is something huge to be said for attending a conference together as a team.
6. Communication- This one may actually be the most important, because without it, nothing else is even possible. Teams have to be able to have open lines of communication that travel in both directions. If the leadership team is only communicating "down", then the team will suffer for it.
7. Transparency- This one isn't quite as obvious, but it is just as essential. There are times, in business and in ministry, when leadership must make tough decisions. Most of the time when one of these decisions is necessary, a potential difficult situation can be averted if the leadership team will make clear the reasons for their decision. Sometimes this isn't possible due to the confidentiality of things, but if the leader has made it a habit to be transparent in other things, then the team will "TRUST" the leadership enough to know there is a reason for their decision.

I love teams, and I think that God has called me to serve on teams and do my part to help the teams that I am on to be healthy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

10 Things-The Individaul

Very early on in ministry I learned an unusually difficult lesson. I had a very serious issue with a volunteer that had to be addressed immediately. I was somewhat new in ministry so I went to my Pastor to find out how he wanted to the situation handled. I will never forget the words he spoke to me that day. This was a key volunteer in my ministry, and I knew without a doubt that he needed to be dismissed, I just wasn't sure how to go about it. My pastor said, "No matter what Scott, you must always remember that the individual is more important than the ministry." It took me a few minutes to understand exactly what he was saying. I grew up playing sports and always knowing the exact opposite to be true. The team is more important than the individual, and no one player is above the team. This seemed to be the exact opposite of everything that I knew, so I asked the Pastor to explain what he meant. He took the time that day to teach me that the ministry that a volunteer is a part of, though valuable, is not the most important thing. What they do for me is no where near the most valuable part of them.
I think we lose track of that when we get caught up in our flow charts and our job descriptions. Don't get me wrong. I am a huge proponent of knowing what you need people to do, and where you need them to do it (In fact, I just examined every area of Adventure Kidz to see where we could use more staff, turns out pretty much everywhere has availability). The problem comes though when we lose sight of the individual and all we see is another spot on our chart filled.
My pastor taught me that day that every person has value and deserves to be treated fairly and with respect. He taught me that just because I had to ask that volunteer to step down, didn't mean that I needed to cut him off from the church and banish him entirely.
No matter how large our ministries grow, they will always be made up of individuals. People deserve to be treated as individuals and not just another spot on our flow chart that we have filled.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

10 Things-Read to Succeed

Let's face it, there are a lot of things that clamor for our time in the ministry. Most of the time, when I come home from the office or from some activity, the last thing I want to do is pick up a book and spend an hour or two reading before I go to bed. I would much rather pick up a remote, shut my mind off, and watch an hour or two of some mind-numbing form of entertainment (I have to "some" because it is entirely dependent upon who gets to the remote control first, if it is me it will be something on espn...if Sarah gets it though, it is likely to be some form of a reality show).How different would we be as leaders though, if we would put down the remote and pick up a book? I have been mentored by some of the greatest leaders of my generation simply by reading what they have written. Reading is an investment. It will cost you time, energy, and probably a little bit of money to read on a regular basis; but it is an investment that can pay almost immediate dividends. I have been struggling with an issue at church, and I will go home and pick up my reading material for the night, and a completely workable solution will be right there on the pages I am scheduled to read that night (almost like a God-thing or something).
I have been asked on more than one occasion, what should I read? So, here is my top ten list (in no particular order) for books that you should read if you are in a ministry leadership position:
1. Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley
2. Confessions of a Pastor by Craig Groeschel
4. Leading from the Second Chair by Bonem & Patterson
5. In a Pit with A Lion by Mark Batterson
7. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton
8. The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni
9. Leadership Gold by John C. Maxwell
10. Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels

I have intentionally only listed one book from each of these authors. Most of them have multiple works that have shaped me as a leader and helped to cultivate thoughts and visions in my life that have brought me to where I am today. A book that just barely missed this Top Ten List is Tony Dungy's latest book The Mentor Leader. Maybe because I have only read it once and I just finished it about a week ago. There was so much to unpack in that book that I think I will be rereading it soon.
No matter what you choose to read, start making reading a habit. It can dramatically affect you and your leadership abilities!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I love you too Daddy

I have a two year old little girl named Myah who is possibly the cutest little girl in the entire world (when she wants to be). Lately she has been on this kick of looking up at either me or Sarah and saying "I love you too." Pretty stinking cute, and it really melts my heart every time. As I was spending some time in prayer though, I got to thinking. That is kind of how God must feel each time we decide to stop and spend some time with Him.
The Bible is clear, Romans 5:8 says it this way: "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us." You see God is calling out to each of us in so many different ways, trying to share his love with us. He is just waiting for us to stop for a moment and look up and say, "I love you too." Being a dad is teaching me so much more than just parenting, it is teaching me about my relationship with my heavenly Father.

10 Things-Everything Rise and Falls

For years I followed the quote of "Everything rises and falls on Leadership" as a principle to live by. Basically, what this statement is saying is that everything your organization does is a reflection of your leadership. I still feel this statement is true, but after spending time with my pastor about a year ago as he was talking to college students at Southwestern about church planting, I have modified it just a bit. Now I believe that "everything rises and falls on relationships." John Maxwell reminded us many years ago, that if you don't have any one following you, you aren't leading, you are only taking a walk. Leadership ultimately comes down to influence and your influence is relying on your ability to build relationships with those you are tasked with leading.
For some, forming relationships comes easy. They are gifted with the ability to establish bonds with people rapidly. For others this process is more like a "root canal." It is awkward and sometimes painful, but it is necessary if we are going to establish a healthy relationship with those we lead. Here are 3 hints for forming relationships with your team:
1. Learn about who they are outside of church. What are their hobbies and interests? What is their family like? Where are they from? (When you do this, find some way of recording this data, because if you are like me, you will not be able to keep up with all the info you get).
2. Spend time with the team. This is essential if you are a new leader coming in, but those of us who have been around for a while can't forget it either. When I first got to Frisco, I spent time with the team in place to allow them a chance to get to know me and give me a chance to get to know them. This has been crucial to the long term growth of our ministry and our team.
3. Listen to them. Your people don't necessarily need you to use every idea that they send your way, but they do need you to be open and receptive. They are usually the ones in the "trenches" doing the work. They have a first hand knowledge of the challenges that need to be addressed. They might be able to provide some valuable insight to finding the solution.
If you will value the people you lead and your relationships with them, you will get the buy-in you need to make the changes necessary for your ministry to go to a new level.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Random Thoughts...

As I sit here watching the blue par steadily move across the screen in Final Cut Pro as it renders video and listening to the rain pound against the window of my office, my mind begins to wander a bit (it is not like I can do much as I wait for this video to render).
A few things I have been thinking about lately:
1. My little girl just lost her first tooth. Ouch, I guess she really is growing up no matter how hard I try to keep it from happening. She is in Kindergarten too.
2. This could be a really rough year for my Steelers. With Big Ben out for the first 4 games, it could make for a long season listening to the Steeler haters talking all their trash.
3. I love teams, I think that a good team of people will out shine the "one man" show any day of the week. Not even the greatest players in the world can compete alone. Teams are vital.
4. Friendships are an important thing to have. I should do more to develop solid friendships than I do.
5. I am blessed with the most amazing woman for a wife. I have had to have the kids a lot lately because she has been working and doing stuff with the church. I don't know how she manages all that she does, and still keeps her sanity. She is unbelievable.
6. Waiting on God's timing is hard for me. I think that is what God has been trying to teach me lately and I am obviously not a very good student.
7. Trusting God is getting easier and harder at the same time. Not sure if that makes sense. I feel like it is getting easier and easier for me to trust God with some things, but more and more difficult to trust him in other areas.
Got to go, video is done rendering, back to my editing!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

10 Things-Average is Easy

After 10 years of professional ministry I can honestly say that I know how to do a kids church service. I have written my own lessons for more than 500 kids church services and I know what works and what doesn't. That is unfortunately not such a good thing. You see it has become very easy to "wing it". I have learned over the last few years that "Excellence is hard and Average is Easy". To often in ministry I think we do things out of habit or tradition. For experienced kids pastors it is very easy to look at our services and say they are "good enough" even when we know we can do better. I really don't want to have average though. Maybe it is the competitive strength in me (see Now Discover Your Strengths), but I want to be the best. It is that way in pretty much everything I do, I can't help it. That is the way God wired me, and I think it is the way that He wired every single leader I know. Excellence isn't easy though, in fact most of the time it is hard. When I am writing and creating a kids church service, it is easy for me to throw something together in about 2 hours or so. But to make it great, to make it more than average, I have to commit huge chunks of time to writing, prayer, and study. Isn't that what the kids and God deserve though? My absolute best. I don't ever want to settle for average, I want to always push through and go for excellence so that I can be the best for God.

Friday, September 3, 2010

10 Things-Someone will always Feel Cheated

Ministry can sometimes be a "break-neck" speeds. It seems that there are times when I can physically not get everything done that needs to get done in the time that I have. This can lead to a couple of different scenarios playing out.
Scenario #1- Because there is so much work to be done, I begin working 85-100 hour work weeks to accomplish everything that needs to be done. This will allow me to accomplish most of my tasks, but there will inevitably still be things that do not get done.
Scenario #2- Because there is so much work to be done, I work as hard as I possibly can for a reasonable amount of time each day, and when that time is up, I go home. This will allow me to accomplish most of my tasks, but there will inevitably still be things that do not get done.

Let's face it, if we are doing ministry the right way, more often than not there will always be items left on our to do lists that we never make it to. You can work yourself to exhaustion, and though you might accomplish everything today, you will not have the energy needed to accomplish tomorrow's tasks. I read somewhere that the most productive week of almost every employees year is the week that is right before they leave for vacation. At first, this didn't make sense to me, but then I paid very close attention the next time I was preparing to leave for vacation. Suddenly I was accomplishing so much more. Instead of the one week's kids church lesson that I had to write, I was able to write 3 weeks lessons (one for that week, and 2 for the 2 weeks that I would be gone). I was able to communicate with my entire leadership team and let them know what their responsibilities would be while I was away, and I was able to accomplish about 3 weeks worth of work in that 1 week. So, what can we learn from this: That we should go on vacation every month :) Not really. We can learn that when we have to, we can work much more effectively and efficiently when we have to, so why not work that way all of the time?
I read a book by Andy Stanley called Choosing to Cheat about 3 years ago that radically changed my thoughts about the "ministry". I would highly recommend it to every new minister, and every veteran minister as well. In it, Stanley talks about the tensions between work and family. Reading his book made me realize that there is only one man in this world who my babies will call Daddy, there is only one man who my wife will call husband, and no one else can handle those responsibilities for me.
I have to find ways to "Cheat" at the office (read the book, it certainly isn't what it sounds like initially) so that my wife and kids will never feel cheated. A slight disclaimer here would be that there are "seasons" of ministry which will require me to "cheat" at home a bit because of what is going on at church. If I have done my job at home prior to the seasons, then they will be only that, seasons, and not catastrophes.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

10 Things-Aim at Nothing

I have learned that in ministry and in life it is very important to have a target that you are aiming at. I have a hard time just floating along in life. I am the type of person who really enjoys accomplishing things. If you have read Marcus Buckingham's book Now, Discover Your Strengths you will understand what I mean when I say that I am an "Activator". I don't really enjoy sitting in long meaningless meetings that I feel are wasting valuable time. I am really the kind of guy who sees what needs to be done and decides to go do it. Sometimes however, this has gotten me in to a little bit of trouble.
You see, you have to have a target (a goal). If you don't know where you are supposed to end up, how will you know when you have arrived there? Ministry and life are both this way. I can have a great event from an "outsiders" perspective, but how do I know if has truly been a great event if I don't know what that event was supposed to accomplish?
Let me give an example: Each year, like most churches in America, we do a Fall Festival. There are many different names and ways of doing this event, but for the most part, they are all held in the Fall and involve both candy and games. Our's is usually held the Sunday before halloween (mainly because there is a major mark up on the inflatable equipment we rent if we use it on halloween). When I first came to Hope, I had to make the decision on the validity and necessity of doing the Fall Festival. I wanted to make sure that I was not just adding an event because "this is what we have always done" (I value tradition, but I don't see the validity of spending an enormous amount of money on something just because we have always done it and little timmy will be very upset if he doesn't get his free candy from the church this year).
We decided that our Fall Festival would be an outreach event to the community where we did not "shove" the gospel at them as much as we provided them a "safe and relaxed" opportunity to come on our campus and experience the LOVE of God. We also wanted our children's ministry and church to have the opportunity to SERVE the community around us.
This is our target, without having a clear target, we would just be throwing a big party every year with no real purpose. Parties are great, but I don't think they are a great way to spend the "kingdom resources" of both time and money!
Always have a target that you are aiming at, because when you don't, you will never truly know what you have accomplished.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


What does it really mean to YOU? Sometimes I hear people use that word and say things like: "We have such a great TEAM?" I hear them say that, and then I hear crazy stuff like, "we will not clean up after him any more" or "I am sure that HE DOES" in a very sarcastic tone. So, what does team really mean? I guess I am confused.

10 Things I've Learned-Never Do Ministry Alone

I have learned a ton of things, but this one I learned very early on. Never Do Ministry Alone. This one is kind of stolen from Jim Wideman, he is a great leader and has an incredible teaching called the club, check him out here He has several great resources for kids pastors and leaders.
I think the theory behind never do ministry alone is more about training others to do the work of the ministry than it is about having help with what you are doing. There are times when I am doing ministry that would be valuable for others to learn. For instance, why go to a hospital visit alone when I can take one of my volunteers with me. Why build a set for kids ministry alone, if I can bring in a few people to do it with me. With both of these examples, the time I get to spend with them is as valuable to me as the amount of help they provide me. Many times, those moments of working side by side with someone provide opportunities for me to speak into their life. It is great when God opens those doors, and it only happens because I do my best to "Never do Ministry Alone."