REThink Leadership?

 

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Powerful main sessions with challenging speakers and excellent music refreshed me.

I spent last week at a conference in Atlanta. My goal was to come away with practical ideas of how to approach developing leadership teams in this new era of ministry, especially in a church going through revitalization. My expectation with the “REthink” title was for new, outside the box, approaches to leadership that are proving effective in churches that are working hard to realign and readjust to changing culture. While the conference was very well organized and flowed smoothly, I am coming home with none of what I went to find. It’s not a total loss though. I’m coming home inspired and energized in other ways.

What happened?

You who know me will probably not be surprised at the epiphany I had at this conference. As I filed in with 750 other “lead pastors” I was uncomfortable from the start. Though the promotional material described the dress code as “very casual” and relaxed, only 3 of us were in shorts and t-shirts. And only one of those, me, was wearing red sneakers. The rest of the crowd was mostly in sharp, button-down shirts and what I would call dress jeans pulled up high on the waist with nice leather belts. My epiphany? These are not my people. I don’t fit. Table exchanges were mostly brief, professional, pleasantries.

For the next two days I sat in a room that I will call “corporate church America.” The talk centered on managing our staff members, meetings and structure. At one point my table discussion focused on how often staff meetings should occur at each staff level. I didn’t have much to offer.

I told Robin I felt like I was at a fish-care conference representing my little glass bowl with a single goldfish swimming around while the rest of these guys were in positions overseeing aquariums like Sea World and the Boston Aquarium. I went to one breakout session that promised to help lead an established church from the old to the new. Point one was to not change anything for six months in order to learn the systems. Point two was helpful information for firing staff members not in line with the vision and point three focused on how to make quality hires for open positions. I left to try another workshop. As I walked in they were laughing about a pastor that gave his congregation his home phone number and how crazy that is. (My cell number is on the back of our bulletin.)

My mind kept darting through scripture about servant leadership, shepherding, gospel partnerships and teams. I don’t want to judge harshly. Maybe the corporate model of the CEO pastor is the way it has to be in giant churches. All I can tell you is I have no desire for that whatsoever!

Thankfully, the main sessions were where I found encouragement for servant leadership, personal soul care and investing in relationshìps. I had some excellent speakers pour into me and encourage my spirit. I got some excellent evaluation questions to consider in working to improve my own leadership style. I think that was the talk that got me thinking the most.

“What is it like to be on the other side of me?”  (Brad Lomenick)

He pointed out that every leader brings a climite to his organization and that most times the leader has little idea what that climate actually is. Old leadership models stress fear based leadership to bring results. Thankfully most in the church have abandoned that approach. But, Brad told a story about growing the organization he was working with to the point of losing his personality and becoming a demanding, workaholic, task master. His team was afraid to be truthful with him and hesitant to approach him with new ideas or feedback. The climate he was creating was unhealthy and he wasn’t even aware how much he had changed. Brad challenged us to return to our churches and ask, “What is it like to be on the other side of me?” The goal is honest feedback to help us be better leaders.

I wonder what kind of climate I bring? What is it like to be on the other side of me? For the past 3 years I’ve been trying to navigate leading the rebuilding of a church after it had been through decades of decline. On a number of occasions I’ve been pretty sure that I’m not the right person for the job. I’ve made some painful mistakes, hurt some people and had some things I wish I had done differently. But, thankfully, most of the time, I’ve been able to look at the fruit of growth and changed lives and thank God for putting imperfect me in this position and working despite my numerous shortcomings.

Most of the conference was great, especially when we went across the street to join with the 8,000 youth and children’s workers at their conference. Of course, they were relaxed, friendly, smiling and there was no sense of the structure of corporate America. The level of joy was refreshing. The “professionals” disappeared and the business vibe evaporated. Not that the serious crowd on the other side of the street loved Jesus any less, there was just less freedom and spontaneity there. It was guarded.

My soul was refreshed in singing loudly with hands in the air. My tablet filled with notes and quotes of both encouragement and self-improvement. My ideas vault expanded. Andy Stanley, Jon Acuff, Reggie Joiner,Doug Fields and Perry Noble poured into me and refreshed me.

My conclusion, even after two “are you interested in a move” conversations, was that God placed me right where I am in a faith family that I love with the longing the Paul writes about in the first chapter of Philippians. I have no desire for a big staff or becoming the biggest church in Maine. I am not Corporate Carl and have no desire to live his life. I love the team approach where we are all ministers together. I love that changed lives is our measuring stick rather than numbers. I love that loving others is our heart and that we are simple and uncomplicated.

I am not called to Guatemala. I am not called to Pennsylvania or to be on a staff of 18 in North Carolina. I am more convinced than ever that God has me right where he wants me in little, old, Westbrook, Maine. I am beyond blessed to be serving with friends I love dearly.

If we do grow to a multi, fulltime staff level, I’m not ever going to be Corporate Carl and the big cheese. Instead I pray for a team working together, loving each other and serving together where each of us will sharpen the others regardless of position or title. My prayer is that we will continue to grow together as family, building one another up, forgiving one another and pushing forward together.

 

 

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My Confession: I don’t want to go to church.

Enjoying Phil & Jan's pool.

Enjoying Phil & Jan’s pool.

Sometimes I feel like a school principal. It’s weird. People miss church and then send me a note through social media, text or email, “Johnny missed church Sunday because he had a fungus growing in his ears.”

No, it’s not that extreme but I feel a little weird when people feel like they need to tell me why they weren’t in church. It’s like they want me to know they aren’t just playing hooky but have legitimate reasons.

The whole “going to church” mentality is, as far as I can see, off the mark. I think years of perfect attendance pins and gold stars on Sunday School attendance charts have undermined what should pull us out of bed.

Here’s my confession: I don’t want to go to church. Really, I don’t.

What I do want to do is gather with my friends to worship our God, hear about their lives and make plans. I want to make their kids laugh. I want to kiss Ruth on the forehead and have Helen hand me a cough drop. I like Kip’s morning hug and teasing Vicki about her Cowboys. I love sitting in the lobby laughing with Cam and Sean, high fives and hugs from Sara and Shelby and hearing Sara call me “dude.” I love connecting with that row of Anthony, Kylie, Nicole and Adam, seeing Obrien smiles and teasing Kim. I could go on and on and list a hundred names from sharing baseball stories with Sally to seeing Nancy’s smile, from talking cameras with Al to laughing with Pam and Larry, name after name is popping into my mind right now. I like that.

I get up Sunday morning not to go to church; I get up because I want to gather with the church, the people, my family. I want to worship with the church, learn with the church and grow with the church in this big white building where it meets.

I hope that is, or becomes, your motivation. I don’t want you to feel guilty for missing “church” but I do hope we continue to build such a loving community that you miss gathering with the church when you are away.

Yes, I believe gathering regularly with and being connected with the church is vital. I think it is much more difficult to grow and navigate life without connecting with others who share our beliefs, values and purposes. When I do not make gathering with the church a priority, it impacts my life and my attitude negatively.

Summer is here! It is time for vacations, family cookouts and canoeing with friends. I love that. Please shake off the church guilt complex and kiss the perfect attendance pin goodbye to enjoy the beach house. Breathe deep, reflect, read a book and enjoy sabbath rest. I am thrilled you are getting away to be refreshed. I am happy that you are building memories that will last. I love seeing the smiles in the pictures you post on Facebook and I know my God loves it when you laugh and relax.

Know that no one is taking attendance here and know that we do miss you when you are gone but please don’t feel like you need a note or that the pastor is going to be upset because you missed church. This pastor is thrilled to see you loving your family enough to vacation and loving your spouse enough to take out the kayaks to head for the water.

I know that September is coming and I know that we Mainers need to grab these brief summer days while they are here. I can’t wait to welcome you back and hear about your summer fun.

I remember hearing someone once say, “Yeah, I felt so bad that I hadn’t been to church in so long that I never went back. It would be awkward hearing, ‘where have you been?'”

That’s silly.

When you get back just know that we love you and have missed you like crazy. We want to hear about your adventures. We’ll just pick up right where we left off.

Deal?

I hope you are having a great summer. I hope you are squeezing out every drop of vitamin D each day offers.

I’m looking forward to seeing you when you get back whether it be next Sunday or this fall.

We don’t go to church, we are the church.

– Scott Linscott

There are local churches that are growing in Southern Maine!

7 PracticesI am very excited to be in the midst of a three week series of shaping messages for moving forward as a church. If you missed part one of “Becoming a Church that People Love to Attend” Sunday, the audio is now available online. I encourage you to click here to listen so you will be caught up and know where we are headed.

Since the word has gotten around that I accepted your call to ministry at FBC, area pastors have been calling me to get together, chat and make introductions. Their welcome has been very warm and kind.

But, a number of them have made me feel a little sad. I want to be careful how I say this because I do not want to discourage any of them that might read this. Some of the men I have met with are very tired and discouraged in ministry. While I am sure that have not intended to discourage me, I’ve had to determine to take some of our interactions and commit to praying that the Lord will refresh and spark them anew without allowing them to douse my enthusiasm with what I believe the Lord wants to do with us here at FBC.

I am excited because there are churches that ARE growing in Southern Maine. From Eastpoint to the Rock Church to White Pine to Southcoast Community Church and more, I see examples every day of churches that are alive and vibrant. Yes, we are in a difficult part of the country but I want you to be encouraged with me that growing churches show us that it is possible!

I see evidence already that the Lord is blessing us and bringing growth. The key to each of the growing churches that I see is that they are unafraid to take steps to connect the gospel with today’s culture. They are unafraid of change and taking risks.

Sunday morning I mentioned a book by Andy Stanley titled, “Seven Practices of Effective Ministry.” I first discovered it while I was studying for my graduate degree in church growth and planting. It made total sense and, fact is, we are seeing churches that are following these principles growing all across the country. No, it’s not a program formula. It is more or a culture and approach to ministry. It’s a mindset.

We will continue our series next Sunday and talk specifically about developing the second of three environments that help move people from outsiders to family in our midst.

I thought it would be helpful to share the principles with you below. If you would like to pick up the book and get involved in helping craft the vision for the future here at FBC Westbrook, you can find it on Amazon. (CLICK HERE)

I am excited! I do believe that God is on the move in Southern Maine and I totally believe He wants us to be involved in what he is doing.

In His Grip,
Scott

Seven Practices of Effective Ministry
Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, Lane Jones
North Point Resources

Overview: The seven practices are designed to provide a template that will help you
determine which programs to start, what to stop, and how to improve what’s working.
When implemented properly, these practices will energize every facet of your ministry.
So what are these seven practices? (10-11)

1. Clarify the Win. When all is said and done, what is it that we want to look back
on and celebrate?

2. Think Steps, Not Programs. Your programs should take people somewhere, not
simply fill up their time. Ask yourself, “Where do we want our people to be?
What do we want them to become? Is our programming designed to take them
there?

3. Narrow The Focus. Focus is the key to achieving excellence and making an
impact. Each ministry environment should be designed to do no more than one or
two things well.

4. Teach More For Less. The less you say, the more you will communicate. Learn
to say only what you need to say to the people who need to hear it.

5. Listen To Outsiders. The needs and interests of insiders have a tendency to
determine the agenda for the organization. Focus your efforts on those you’re
trying to reach, rather than those you’re trying to keep.

6. Replace Yourself. One day someone else will be doing what you are doing.
Embrace the inevitable and prepare now for the future.

7. Work On It. To maintain your relevance, your sanity, and your effectiveness,
you must carve out time in your schedule to step back and evaluate what you are
doing and how you are doing it.

Only sheep make more sheep.

shiftBy Scott Linscott

Statistics tells us that the church in America has been in decline for more than 30 years. Even while the number of mega-churches has enlarged, the church has shrunk.

I came across this cartoon that seems to sum up the American Church phenomenon fairly well…

True evangelism efforts focus on reaching unreached people groups whereas sheep shifting increases attendance by recruiting Christians from other churches.

Imagine an area where 10 shepherds watch over ten separate flocks of 100 each. The area has 1000 sheep. If the shepherd in pasture #1 manages to attract 20 sheep from the other 9 flocks his flock grows to 280 and is easily the largest flock around. Without the sheep doing their job and making other sheep, the number of sheep in the area remains at 1000. Shepherd number 1 could build his flock to 500 by offering more perks to attract more sheep at the expense of the other flocks. Is shepherd number 1 a success? If the goal is to have the largest flock he is a tremendous success but if the goal is to increase the number of sheep overall? No, nothing has changed.

My understanding of what Jesus has called us to is not shifting sheep but multiplying sheep. As God revitalizes our body and brings new life to our gathering one thing is for certain, we will see faces that are new to us. We’ll see some sheep wander into our flock attracted by the preaching style, the format of our services and the flavor of our music. Some sheep will find greener grass with us while some of our sheep simultaneously head for the greener grass of the pasture in the next town over. We’ll be excited about the faces that are new to us and we will give a warm and genuine welcome.

But what should we really want? We want to bring in faces that are new to Him!

We can focus on attracting sheep with a rocking worship team, cool mission trips and we can do all the stuff Christians are shopping for. We can invite our Christian friends to check out our new pastor or come hear the big speaker we are bringing in. We can build an event-driven, attractional ministry with a great show week after week complete with all the hype we can muster. But one thing to remember? Attracting sheep is not what Jesus has called us to. Jesus called us to make sheep.

The Great Commission doesn’t to go to Christian friends with, “come see what we’re all about.” Instead it tells us to go to those who don’t know. We are to go, live in the culture, rub shoulders and share life in Christ and invite. Shepherds don’t make sheep. Only sheep make new sheep.

As I wrestle with church revitalization and planting, I’m not really interested in spending big bucks to send out glossy mailers, put out lawn signs, hang invitations on doorknobs and hype up a big show that attracts Christians. I’m more interested in building a community of people loving and serving the people around them, praying earnestly to reach unreached people for Jesus.

Let’s not put on a show. Let’s follow after Jesus with everything we have and invite people along for the journey. Only sheep make sheep.

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One of my favorite songs based on Amos 5:21-24.

How can we make our guests feel welcome?

By Scott Linscott

Are you excited? In the past two weeks we have had 16 first time guests! In the past month I count 12 guests who joined us on a Sunday morning and have returned and are becoming regular faces.

blog 11-12-13

We’ve made changes to make guests feel more comfortable and welcome in our gathering. When I put my messages together I always try to remember that we will have guests among us and work to speak to all ages. I want to focus on memorable and relevant messages, extend a vibrant welcome and make sure to laugh with our guests.

We have started into a new series to begin addressing barriers that keep outsiders from feeling welcome and accepted. Last Sunday I asked you to sacrifice three things: (listen here)

  1. Sacred cows. These can be anything that you have attached to God and elevated to a much higher place than He has asked. Sacred cows can be icons, formats, methods, furnishings, styles, music and even attitudes.
  2. Self-centered comfort zones. Like Paul, we must be willing to become all things to all people to win some.
  3. Fear of change. God calls us into scary territories but He NEVER sends us alone.

I asked that, before we fight and argue about any of our personal sacred cows, we pray,

“Lord, is this truly important to you? Am I fighting to advance the gospel or am I fighting to maintain a barrier? Am I fighting to preserve what I like or am I willing to lay my likes down for your purposes?”

The Apostle Paul went into Athens, known for worshiping dozens of Gods and erecting idols. It was an uncomfortable place but the message of the gospel compelled him to go. He put his traditions, preferences and history aside to walk among the people and even use one of their own idols to introduce Christ.

This week we will be continuing to look at Paul’s actions and address some of the specific barriers that keep guests from visiting or returning.  Our first step in growth is to pray that God bring us believers who will join the team He is building to make a difference in our community.

I enjoyed reading what Rick Warren wrote in a blog post about welcoming guests. He makes a lot of sense. I like several of his ideas for the future…

BY RICK WARREN

There are a lot of reasons a church might grow. Sometimes people come because of the preaching. Sometimes people come because of the music. Some people like the great programs for kids and youth.

But I’m convinced there’s an often overlooked factor in church growth: Growing churches are friendly to guests. All churches think they’re friendly, but when you take a good look at them, you often discover they’re friendly to people who have been attending for 15 years or more – not to new people.

A guest’s first 12 minutes dramatically influence whether they’re coming back or not. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. When non-Christians come to your church for the first time, their number one emotion is fear. What will people think? What are they going to do? Am I going to have to sign something, sing something, sacrifice something, or say something? They don’t know what’s going on, and they’re scared to death.

Your first goal with guests (and by the way, I never call them visitors) is to get them to relax. Then you can communicate with them. When people are afraid, their barriers are up and it’s like, “I dare you to teach me something!” No matter how good your sermon is, they won’t listen to the Good News about Jesus until they get past those fears. You need to put guests at ease.

How do you do that? Here are some ideas:

– Reserve your best parking spots for guests. It just shows you’re thinking about them. If you had guests for dinner at your house, you’d probably do whatever it took to make them feel more comfortable. You’d give them your best silverware and your best dishes. You might ask them about food preferences before you plan the meal. You should show the same type of courtesies to guests at your church.

– Station greeters outside your building. You need people strategically placed around your campus to greet guests. At Saddleback, we used to play a game. I would dare people to get into the building without having their hand shaken at least three times. We place greeters way out in the parking lot. Why? We’ve found that people hate to be greeted publicly during the service, but they love to be greeted personally.

– Set up an information table. Put all sorts of information on the table that might help people find their way around. Put maps out with classrooms and restrooms easily marked. Put out brochures about the church that give people information they can take home and read at their convenience. Most importantly, have hosts stationed there to help people find their way around. Make sure your hosts know where the restrooms are and where the children should go!

– Have taped music playing when people enter. In America almost every public building has music playing. Even in the elevator, music is playing. You go into the restroom and music is playing. You go into a restaurant and music is playing. Why? Because people expect to hear music. If you walked into a church right now and everyone was dead silent when you walked in, you’d probably be uncomfortable. On the other hand, if you heard fairly loud praise music playing, you’d feel much more comfortable.

Here’s something interesting I’ve found: If you play soft music, people talk softly. But if you play loud music, people talk louder. When non-Christians come into your church, they want it to be noisy. They want to hear what’s going on.

– Allow guests to remain anonymous in the service. Please don’t make guests stand up. The three greatest fears people have are going to a party with strangers, having to speak before a crowd, and being asked personal questions in public. So when we ask our guests to tell us their name and where they are from in front of everyone, we subject them to all three of their greatest fears at one time. Bad idea.

How do you identify guests if you don’t have them stand up? Have them fill out a welcome card. Then someone from the church can connect with them later.

– Offer a warm, casual public welcome that relaxes people. If you want to make guests feel welcome, you’ve got to be at ease yourself. That’s what most people expect – just watch the late-night TV shows. Like it or not, how the pastor and the worship leader interact with each other sets the tone for good or for bad in a service.

In early years at Saddleback we used to say, “If this is your first time at Saddleback, we’re glad you’re here. We want you take a deep breath, sit back, relax, and enjoy the service.” You know where I got that? I heard someone say it on an airline once! Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight. All we’re trying to do is help them relax and then make them feel comfortable.

– Begin and end each service by having people greet each other. Five times in the New Testament Christians are told to greet one another and share affection. I’ll say during the service, “Turn around and give somebody a hug. Turn around and give somebody a handshake.” I’ve been told by some that’s the only physical touch they get all week. And human beings need touch. It’s a great way to help lower the barriers of your guests.

– Offer a refreshment table at each service. Today in our society, it’s not appropriate to just stand in a crowd doing nothing. You have to have something in your hand. That’s why they have cocktail parties. People like to have something in their hand when they’re hanging out and mingling. Out on the patio, I’ll see a 300-pound guy who thinks he’s hiding behind a Styrofoam cup! He’s very comfortable as long as he has something in his hand if somebody looks at him and he’s not talking.

You have to break down the fear barriers before people will ever open up to your message and consider coming back to your church.