The One Word that will Change Your Life

Unimportant Words

domino-163523_960_720There was a Peanuts’ Cartoon where Charlie Brown was making a sign and Lucy, because the sign was wordy, kept marking out words one after another until all Charlie Brown had was a one word sign. Apparently, some words are unimportant. We can communicate without them.

However, some words are important, such as the word “not” in “Thou Shalt not…” Fun fact: In 1631, a bible was misprinted and the word “not” was left out of Exodus 20:14 making the verse read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Oops (For the full scoop, Wikipedia entry for The Wicked Bible). Some words are very important.

One Word To Rule them All

I don’t know if this is the most important word, but I’m finding it essential for my life. Spiritual formation, relationships, and even leadership are influenced by this one word and I am finding this one word transforms my life.

Are you ready?

The most important word I’ve found is “Intentional.”

Think about what difference the word “intentional” makes. Faith development and intentional faith development are different. Spiritual formation and intentional spiritual formation are different. The addition of “intentional” means we intend something to happen or to take place. Intentional means we enter into the task on purpose, rather than haphazardly. Adding intentionality to anything, kicks it up a notch…or many notches.

Intentionality alters leadership. One definition of leadership is having influence. When we exert influence, we lead. Everyone has some influence. If you are a parent, you have influence over your kids, spouses have influence over each other and customers have influence over businesses.

We are Always Influencing Others

Adrian van Kaam’s Formative Science says that we are always giving and receiving form. What does that mean? It means I have an affect on you and you have an affect on me. If I were to meet you and have a conversation, we would both be different. We might only be slightly different. Since we influenced each other, we leave our one conversation changed. In Transtherapy Counseling, van Kaam writes that the counselor influences the counselee, but the counselee also influences the counselor. Both individuals are different after the session.

Since leadership is influence and we influence each other, The question isn’t whether we are leaders, the question is, will we be intentional leaders? Will we use our influence to make a difference in the world and for God, or will we use our influence for our own agenda? Will we, with Godly intent and purpose, use our influence to pursue the mission of God? If so, we must become intentional leaders, learning, and becoming the leaders God has created us to be.

Following Through

While intentionality begins our journey, we still need to follow through, learning what it means to be an effective leader. I’ll point you to one book that can help you begin that journey, The Leadership Challenge By Kouzes and Posner. It outlines five leadership traits and is a great start toward intentional leadership.

You may not believe you are a leader. You may feel ordinary and not “special” leadership material. You are a leader, you just don’t know it. You lead all the time, but don’t consider what you do leadership. You lead your family, influence your friends, and give new perspectives to others. You may even lead with grace, compassion, and understanding. You might not bark out orders or tell others what to do, but that isn’t leadership. You lead, but perhaps accidentally rather than intentionally. If you ever rise up and decide to be an intentional leader…watch out…the world just might be transformed.

I’m interested in your thoughts about leadership and what it means to lead in your context. Leave a comment!

Shared Leadership and the Church

Wheels of Progress

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In over twenty years of pastoring, I have not known the church to be on the “cutting edge” of culture. There may be an argument about some mega-churches focusing on innovation, but for the majority of churches, the wheels of progress move quite slowly. The statements of “We’ve never done it that way before…” and a fear of upsetting people, tend to keep churches from moving too quickly or too far out of their comfort zones.

The propensity to move slowly causes some to look to the business world to get ideas, processes, and inspirations. For years I hated this. “The church isn’t a business,” I would argue, quite smugly I might add. I never considered that both businesses and churches are organizations made up of people. Viewing the church as an organization causes me to wonder; would methods businesses use to effectively mobilize people for a common purpose work in churches? As I continue to see the church, especially my beloved United Methodist Church, slowly decline under cultural tendencies, and how some businesses not only address cultural trends in a way that is effective but thrive, I am convinced that it is time to explore whether any of their methodologies can help churches move forward in God’s mission.

Deja Vu Once Again

Have you ever felt like this?

“Consider the challenges of the 21st century enterprise: things change too fast for one individual to know how to best respond; there are many explanations for any event, and multiple perspectives are needed to understand what that event means and decide what to do; a pipeline of future leaders is essential…”

I know I have! I resonate with that quote. Actually, I resonate with the whole article (more on the article below). I even wrote something similar in Experiences in Transformational Leadership. In my article, I bemoaned how quickly everything changes, making adaptation difficult. Maybe you have similar feelings. You are working longer, harder, and have to know more than ever before. Technological advances help us find information in an instant, but with Facebook, Twitter, Email, text messages, and other technological tools that we have to learn and use, life becomes overwhelming.

Sharing is Nice

The article goes on to say:

“No wonder organizations today are drawn to the benefit of leadership that is shared, rather than concentrated in a single, charismatic individual. Regardless of the exact organizational structure or what it’s called, the times seem to call for leaders who can be first among equals.”

I could say the same thing for the church! Yet, this article wasn’t in Christianity Today, or Relevant Magazine. No, this article came from Harvard Business Review. Amazing.

Learning to Share

In the 21st Century, we must learn to approach leadership differently. If you are interested in the concept of shared or decentralized leadership, check out the article. I like the little twist when they write, “…leaders who can be first among equals.” The concept “first among equals” puts a bit of a spin on decentralized leadership where everyone is equal. Kaiser argues, in “Winning on Purpose”, that effective teams have someone in the lead. Someone, as Kaiser maintains, must be held accountable and it isn’t possible to hold groups accountable. Having a leader, however, does not necessarily mean others are unimportant or don’t have influence. Sharing leadership is one way to maximize the gifts and graces of those in the church. As the article explains, “things change too fast for one individual to know how best to respond…”

The article also states:

“This is more than delegation. It has to do with a team sharing a sense of purpose and responsibility for the overall leadership of the company. Different people may spearhead different aspects of the team’s work, but everyone is in charge, always.”

Shared values, purpose, and alignment of values and purpose, are topics that I plan on exploring on this blog since they are vital to flourish in the 21st Century. A new day has dawned,…well…actually a new day dawned quite a few years ago. The time has come for church leaders to embrace new leadership styles and develop leaders who move the mission forward.

Will shared leadership work in the church? What do you think it would look like? Are business methods even appropriate for churches? Is leadership overvalued in our culture? Leave a comment below.

A Book that Changed My Life

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Some might say the title exhibits hyperbole. Perhaps, but I’m not completely convinced. I don’t name this post lightly. Let me share why I say a book changed my life.

Along with several other churches, my church was participating in a transformational process sponsored by our conference. One of the requirements, was a peer mentoring group, meeting for eighteen months, for the pastors. We were around month ten and the book assigned was The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Peter Lencioni. As I read the book, something within me ‘clicked’ and my life, and leadership, have never been the same.

A Short Summary

I am not reviewing the book in this post, although, I highly recommend you get a copy. In summary, Lencioni maintains that the five dysfunctions are 1) absence of trust, 2) fear of conflict, 3) lack of commitment, 4) avoidance of accountability, and 5) inattention to results. The five dysfunctions leads to effective teams. In order for teams to be effective, each dysfunction must be addressed.

It would be nice to simply fix the fifth dysfunction “inattention to results”. The thought being, “If we fix our inattention to results, then we will be attentive to results and all will be well.” However, you can’t fix the fifth dysfunction unless you work through the dysfunction before it, “avoidance of accountability.” You can’t work through the fourth dysfunction, unless you work through the third, and so on, and so on.

Each dysfunction rest atop of the one before much like a pyramid with absence of trust at the bottom and inattention to results at the top. You need to move down the pyramid until you reach a level that isn’t a dysfunction for your team and then start from there. The tendency is to find the problem such as inattention to detail, and try to fix that dysfunction without addressing the dysfunctions that contribute to it.

Healthy Organization (A Church is an Organization…right?)

That very short summary doesn’t do the book justice at all. However, while Lencioni’s discussion on the dysfunctions was very helpful, I had a different epiphany. I realized if all the dysfunctions were addressed and dealt with, the team would be healthy. If all the teams were healthy, then the organization would be healthy.

I saw how this could apply to my congregation. In my desire to be the best pastor I could be and try to help the church be the best church it could be, I had completely neglected any idea of organizational health. How could the church I serve be what God desired, if the teams were dysfunctional? That question became a focus of prayer. I still wanted to be an effective pastor, but also saw my role as a leader of organizational health. I imaged that God wanted my church to be healthy, but to be honest, churches are not always healthy. If there were models and techniques that could help businesses to be healthy, perhaps these same models and techniques could help churches as well. After all, both churches and businesses have people in common.

Healthy Churches

I maintain that healthy churches are better equipped to fulfill the mission of God. Prayer, theology, and doctrine are all important components, but a church that has all those right, but is filled with dysfunctional teams and committees will be less effective and fruitful than a church operating from organizational health. Transformational Leadership helps pastors lead churches to healthy places for the glory of God.

Experiments in Transformational Leadership

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This post contains both a confession and a vision. Over the past three or four years I have been facilitating pastor peer groups for one of our conference programs. The objective of the groups are that each pastor can become the transformational leader he or she is called to be.

A few times, after reading the objective with the group, I’ve commented that when I became a pastor over twenty years ago being a transformational leader was not one of my expectations. When I became a pastor I had visions of preaching, teaching, visiting, and helping people grow in their relationship with God. Seminary taught me how to exegete Bible passages, different theologies, and the doctrine of my denomination. We had one class about leadership but it was mostly reading and focused on different types of leaders; autocratic, benevolent, etc. Transformational leadership was not on the syllabus.

If I were to define transformational leadership, I would say transformational leadership focuses on change whether the change encompasses transition, spiritual formation, organizational vision and values, cultural interaction, or some other kind of shift. The world has changed, is changing, and will continue to change. Transformational leadership equips pastors to address current challenges so that they can be effective and fruitful in pursing God’s mission.

About five years ago I had an epiphany concerning leadership and the church. For most of my ministry, I didn’t have too much room for anything regarding leadership. I focused one spiritual formation, preaching, and visitation. I left leadership development to businesses. As an example, it was just tonight that I added “leadership” as one of the categories for this blog! Slowly my attitude has shifted as I realize how much and quick culture changes.

Along with cultural transitions, the work of pastors has shifted as well. In the past decade or two, pastoral tasks have added email, websites, social media, presentation software, and that’s just the technological tasks. Some say pastors should delegate these tasks to others, but the reality is that most pastors have to take on these roles because those in the congregation who could are too busy and others just don’t have the skills. Without these tasks being addressed the church finds itself on the sidelines of communication.

Over the past few years, I have been stretched, learned much, and feel that I am a much better leader. Through many books, podcasts, and blog postings, my understanding of organizational health, management, and leadership has deepened. I’m learning what I wish I could have learned many years ago.

I regret neglecting leadership training for so long. Now, I have about fifteen or so years left until retirement. My hope, and prayer, is that those years are filled with fruitful and effective ministry because I’m learning to lead in a healthy and effective way.

So far, I’ve made my confession. Now for my vision! The past year has seen quite a few changes in my life. I moved last year from a small town church to a church in a large college town. I went from having almost no staff to having multiple staff. Transformational leadership has become much more important as I see the changes in culture and churches. My vision is to share my journey with you.

If you, like me, recognize all the changes happening and feel a bit overwhelmed, I invite you to journey with me as I share what has helped me and is helping me. I plan on posting once a week on becoming a transformational leader for God’s glory.

My journey toward transformational leadership started with a book. In my next post, I will share how that book changed the direction of my life.