Recommended Church Assessment

Discipleship, Leader Resources, Personal Growth

It is just about time for my annual check-up at the doctor. I know, not real fun stuff to blog about. But attempting to eat right and trying to exercise is only one part of being healthy. Check-ups, wellness checks, and assessments are part of a healthy journey. I can think I am fine, but it helps to know to what degree I am okay.

Have you ever wondered how healthy your church is? Would you know how people in your church rate their own spiritual growth and health? What would the results of some key metrics tell you about their personal maturation, relationship with God and others, heart for the Gospel, their own worship of God individually and corporately? You see, it is one thing to guess how we are doing. It is entirely another to actually investigate it.

Assessment Tool: Transformational Church

In 2018 the ministry staff at my home church began exploring a way to assess our spiritual health and maturity. We wanted to find a tool that would help us dive into some key metrics of overall spiritual health. One of the lead staff found Transformational Church Assessment Tool. By the developers’ own admission, they know no assessment is flawless. However, it is powerful and incredibly well-rounded in its exploration of key areas of growth and maturity.

Personal Impact

This tool is being used by our church to seek out how we are really doing as a group/body (confidential individual results). We wanted to get past some overly simplistic metrics like “how many attend.” It also has another powerful component. I am now readily aware of how I am doing personally. The assessment explored areas of maturity in my life about my personal discipleship, sharing the Gospel, private and corporate worship, giving, my gifts and serving others. But here’s another bonus. Many of you are likely aware of the “Hawthorne Effect.” I do not mean to refer to this effect being used in some manipulative way. The reality is I am now more conscious and aware of what I would call “accountability.” What was unknown in my life or a guess before is now known.

Church Impact

We have developed this year’s entire Theme around being aware of our growth and pursuit of following Jesus. In college I had a class called “Concepts in Fitness.” We had to do a pre-test and post-test that involved max sit-ups, push-ups, mile run time, etc. Part of the grade was to track improvement of our health through the semester by the post-test. Hence, that is our goal this year: at the end of 2019 our church is more aware of our strength level of our discipleship and key areas of improvement. And more importantly, our goal individually. We are challenging each other to grow in key areas. I want to and need to grow in key areas. Areas that I am now aware of clearly. We are providing resources to enhance growth in those aspects of discipleship, and encouraging each other in the journey!

Please share any insights you’ve discovered on a path such as this. For you!

GiANT TV Leadership Development on the Go!

Leader Resources, Personal Growth

Do you ever wish you could experience leadership development anytime, anywhere? A few years back I had the opportunity to walk through leadership development and growth with GiANT Worldwide. I learned the value of the lifelong journey of growing and improving as a leader. GiANT provided concepts and delivery options for me to explore change and challenge in my own life.

There are variety of ways to experience GiANT’s leadership tools as they describe and offer on their website, from books to personal encounters. But, I want to share something exciting that is new and particularly unique.

GiANT TV

The incredible tools, concepts and insights I have experienced with GiANT can now be experienced anywhere, anytime and on the go through GiANT TV.

If you use the following link, you will be able to experience GiANTtv free for one month! Check it out and enjoy the journey!

GiANT TV free for one month!

For more information about GiANT Worldwide click here.

Change

Discipleship, Leader Resources, Personal Growth

Change is rapid. This past spring, a group of my buddies and I headed out to Arkansas to kayak Mulberry Creek. The scenery is incredible, the river is a beautiful blue and the kayaking a thrill. The guys on the trip made the trip a blast, and we did not hurt for great laughs and amazing food! One of the guys, Kevin, was our fearless leader. He knew the area well. But more importantly, he had been on the river and knew its twist and bends, and dangerous spots. The journey was a thrill and enjoyable, but it had plenty of moments that took insight and care. There were changes at every corner.

Change can be risky

As I floated the river, I couldn’t help but consider the thrill, but also the peril that could be involved in change. We have been in a transition at the church where I currently serve. Our Pastor of 15 years left for another great ministry leadership position. That meant we embarked on a journey in search of a new Senior Pastor. Here are some resources that have made this journey successful.

A Key Guide

Ready for change

One resource came in the form of a person. Having someone come and lead the organization/staff through a time to consider change and all that it means was a blessing. One of our friends in ministry is a leader and consultant with our state church convention, Brett Selby. We invited him to a day retreat at a facility in the Oklahoma River Parks area. He helped us process some early days of change – changes that at that time were happening more about our former pastor leaving. But, he also helped us consider what it will be like now, with a new pastor coming. He recommended the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges.

A Key Book

A journey that I have been on is with another resource, the book, Leading Major Change in Your Ministry by Jeff Iorg. This book chronicles Dr. Iorg’s victories and challenges as he has helped churches, denominational entities, and a seminary to make changes. The seminary changed its name, and moved its entire campus to a new region! Dr. Iorg uses frank but respectful anecdotes from his journey, key biblical passages and clear instruction in the best ways to lead a group through change.

Great book on change

Of the four churches I have served in since Seminary in the 1990’s, 3 have had Senior Pastor changes. Much of what I had experienced in the past was very good and healthy, but these additional resources and insights from Brett, and these two books have helped put into words what I have experienced. These resources have also helped me explore and expand areas that I know need growth and attention in my leadership development.

What resources have you used as you have experienced change?

Staff Retreats – Part 2

Leader Resources

In a follow-up to the previous post on some simple goals for staff retreats, I thought I would share some of my favorite locations.  An attempt is made at the retreats to connect the location with the main thrust of the day, the theme.  Sometimes the theme of the day centers on personal growth, sometimes on team development, and sometimes on a task like planning for the next year. The location of Quartz Mountain was the focus of Staff Retreats – Part 1, here are some more of my favorites!

Roman Nose State Park – This place has been a repeat favorite! This place that sits just west of Oklahoma City has a great facility with ease in rooming and meeting space, combined with cool places to explore. Meal options are good and the meeting space looks out over the lakes and scenery!

The Home Garage –  This one was tops because it was so simple but so cool.  One of our member’s residence has a significant car garage.  First, this man and his family love the Lord and the church.  Second,  he’s a great guy and a gifted mechanic (hobby).  He can make current cars even cooler, and does custom work from chops to resto-mods on classic cars and motorcycles.

After a few sessions to focus on the theme and talk about how we keep things up to date and running best, we had some projects.  We used the garage to literally do maintenance on one of our Widow’s cars – changing the oil, washing it and detailing the inside.  Then it was time to turn our attention to the good-ol’ Church Bus, and it got the same attention! 

Our Church DNA is simple.  We Gather in Worship and Small Groups, are Built Up and Sent Out.  While open to creativity and change, in the end, we tend to take what we have and make it run well – almost like taking something old and restoring it, making it even better today and for the future!  And that is exactly what we talked about that day.  How can we stay fresh and running all out!  Our theme was restoring a classic.  Everyone got a garage button-up shirt with name and Church logo sewn on, and a red garage rag to put in our office as a reminder to keep things running! 

Jacob’s Ladder Camp, located just outside of Oklahoma City by about 40 minutes, is a great place to feel like you have made it out of the “city” but not so far that you feel worn out from a long road trip. The campus has a dual purpose of a great Christian encampment, and also a boys ranch. It is a place like many Christian camps where you can sense that the Lord is often at work in peoples hearts.

Falls Creek – Our state convention has an incredible convention center located in the heart of the Arbuckle Mountains.  For many of us on staff, Falls Creeks holds a dear spot as a place where many of us have made life-changing decisions.  I did a bit of a time-warp to the past for us as a staff with a camp-like feel of a retreat.  Camp cabin, outdoor devotions, throwback camp t-shirt, and even a camp style staff picture for everyone’s office. 

Union Train Station – Some years ago, as QSBC was on the verge of experiencing some dramatic change, we took some time to tag base as a staff with the things that will not change about what we do and who we are as a church. Point being, this formerly bustling train station is no longer used for that purpose. How will we press on in the years ahead with the simple and clear mandates that have always guided the church – what are the most important things we should be doing?

Finish Line Tower and Chesapeake Boathouse – Just south of OKC’s Bricktown is the Oklahoma Riversports complex. This gem of a spot is an incredible place to gather as a team as there are great places to meet, with more than ample access to great trails along the river. The staff who assisted with my last outing to the Finish Line Tower was amazing, from giving direction about the facility and catering, to meeting early for access and help with any setup I needed. Top notch! We were able to talk about finishing well and teamwork.

OBU – The staff took a journey to Shawnee, America to the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University. This beautiful campus lends itself to good walks for time with the Lord. We utilized the campus Athletic Facilitiy called the RAWC, to explore our own “strengths” individually and as a team. Good day for sure!

Aloft Bricktown – Located in downtown OKC at Bricktown you’ll find Aloft and this hip spot had a great meeting room that has panoramic views of Bricktown and even better OKC’s Skyline. On the Skyline side there is also an outdoor terrace that is quite stunning.

Thanks for checking out some of my favorite spots to recharge and focus with our ministry team. Take a moment to share some of your top spots, it would be great to hear!

Top goals for staff retreats

Leader Resources

For some, the phrase “staff retreat” conjures up images of a group going to a great location, but being locked up for hours looking through minutia of the calendar, or focused on a particular department’s health or strategies.  Even the word itself has some negative connotations with “retreat” commonly known as falling back in some type of defeat.  For our staff my hope is anything but what I’ve described above.  My prayer is we are able to get away to the hillside if you will, to breathe, to reflect; yes, to rest.

There are three main goals I have for our staff retreats:

  1.  Relationships – As a church ministry staff we do not work one day a week, Sundays, as many like to joke.  Another notion is that we chat and drink coffee all day when we are in the office.  The reality is, I share office space with a group where it is common for us pass each other in the halls as we are about the work.  I actually am sad to confess this, but it is true.  There is a hustle to ministry, and much of that work is focused with energy to those we serve and are trying to reach.  The work is not focused inward, on the team.  To have a time to focus only on our relationships as a team is not only a challenge, but a blessing and precious commodity when we get it.  At our retreats, how do we focus on relationships?  Time – I designate a large chunk of the schedule for unstructured, non-agenda driven time with one another.  Sometimes an activity is planned, but often not – and it yields time to connect in ways I could not have planned in the first place.  We recently experienced ample time to talk at our meals, and a staff member described this aspect as such a good, laughter filled time of connection.

2. Rest – Another objective is to create space, margin, time to rest.  I will do a future post on some of my favorite locations for retreats.  But the location is important.  Get away, make it feel like a break.  Our recent retreat to Quartz Mountain State Park was perfect in that it was far enough of a drive to feel a disconnect, but not too far to be road weary.  And the main box it checked was the scenery.  If you have not been to this gem in Southwest Oklahoma, plan a day trip.  Rest removes us from the constant drum beat, it refreshes the soul.  It calibrates us to understand that we are not so important that we cannot rest.  It reminds us of how small we are and how big God is when we see and breathe in His creation.  Jesus frequently stepped aside, alone or with the disciples, to talk to the Father.  He implored His disciples to get to a solitary place and rest. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)” Mark 6:31 NASB/biblegateway

3. Responsibility – One thing about rest though, it seems sweeter when you feel like you have or are accomplishing something.  As I plan the agenda, I like to focus on one thing that will be a takeaway of completion.  What is our task?  What are we here to do?  This particular retreat’s task was to introduce and solidify our 2019 theme and settle the action steps for the first half of the year.  Confession: did we walk through a calendar?  Yes.  We do want to insure that all have had opportunity to hear the “big pieces” ahead and to be able to avoid overlap or ministry conflicts with one another.  But, I did try to limit this time and held it off for one of the final meeting times.

Bottom line, I walked away from this retreat with a deepened friendship with our staff.  We prayed, we laughed, we were stirred and challenged.  We tackled a task together.  I sat by myself and reflected on the Lord; I wandered about a bit in His incredible handiwork.  Thank you God.

Take 5

Leader Resources, Marriage and Family

You are familiar no doubt with the phrase “let’s take five” – to take a five or ten minute break before returning to work.  Most places of occupation have some type of work break through the day.  These short bursts of breaks are effective in many ways, from quick energy boosts to regained focus (coffee doesn’t hurt either).  In an even greater sense, you are likely able to accrue longer periods of time to be away to get some valuable rest and relaxation.

Recently, I traveled with my family to the Florida gulf coast and wow, was it a stunning place!  The combination of miles of powdery white sand and incredible crystal clear waters provide for hues of vivid color that look as if edited with a image filter.  But even more, the beauty of that time, even time in traffic (thanks Alabama) with my family was a huge boost; a massive recharge to my soul.

If you’re like me and serve in ministry, we are awful good at guilt tripping ourselves that this time away is not okay, or a waste or idle.  How could we take a break when there is Kingdom work at hand?  True, there is no off switch on the mandate we are given; but in order to avoid personal burnout, moral failure, and/or the neglect of our families these times are critical.  Thankfully I serve at a church and with a group of ministers who understand the value of the recharge!  Thank you Jesus for your example of going off to the hillside to spend time alone with the Father.

I learned a very valuable and handy concept from one of my good friends about how to think about time and how we invest it.  Jeremie Kubicek penned a book from his insights in dealing with leaders and their management of time called 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There is Never Enough Time.  And no, we are not talking simply about how to handle your schedule and appointments.  Rather, Jeremie helps us explore our presence behind the schedule – where’s your focus and attention?  He explores and unpacks how to maximize the types of time we have every day, every month, and every year.  He shares these times of focus in the form of gears, like selecting the right gear at the right time in a car.

Which takes me back to family vacation.  Through the concepts of this book, I not only understand the importance of the gears and what gear vacation time is, but how to use this gear/time to the fullest by how I set my mind during it.  I fully engaged the right gear for the right time.  When I returned to work, I returned with my soul energized and refueled with my most important relationships – to God, and to my family – empowered.

Premarital Counseling Assessments

Leader Resources, Marriage and Family

Through the spring and early summer, odds are you have attended a wedding or two and perhaps led the ceremony.  Such good times!  And as you know, these times of immense excitement also bring anxieties about the readiness of the couple for this lifelong journey.  I have experienced this concern from the couples wondering if this is right and if they are ready.  But there are others who also want the best for them and want to help them be prepared, including their families and ministers.

If you are responsible for working with couples on this important part of the journey, there are tools out there that are great resources to assist you!

These premarital counseling tools can help you:

  • Assess couple preparedness/success for marriage:  Wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly assess strengths and weaknesses for this particular couple in the area of finances, romance, communication styles or family background to name just a few?  Wouldn’t it be a blessing to have a “dashboard” warning so to speak of issues that could cause grief for this couple in the years ahead?
  • Manage the counseling sessions: It can be intimidating for ministers to think of how to structure premarital counseling – what should be covered, how long the sessions should be, how to find and ask the right questions, and give the right coaching exercises.
  • Launch the couple with tools for the future:  How fulfilling would it be to give resources and concepts to the couple for the journey ahead!  Assessments like the ones I’ll mention give practical help to daily life like budgeting, dating and romance, conflict management, healthy communication and spiritual growth!

Back in 1995 I was introduced to my first premarital counseling assessment called Prepare-Enrich and I have used it for many years.  It is extremely helpful and very thorough asking the couple to individually rank “most like me, least like me” type questions about finances, physical intimacy, family background, personality, communication and conflict management to name a few.  The concept is this, while you could spend hours asking questions of the couple about the previous list, you would then also need to work to figure out what are areas of strength and what areas need attention because they could cause trouble.  For this assessment and the next, they do this task for you.  This is not about ease, but rather about precision.  Why talk in length about financial management if the assessment shows this is not a great area of concern for that particular couple?  I also like that it allows me the opportunity to simply reflect back to the couple, “Here is an area that we need to address, because you indicated disagreement about this statement on the assessment.”  This is far different than, “I think you have a problem here.”  There is cost involved and an amount of training to be a facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich tool.  Walter Mullican here in Oklahoma is a great contact for how that works.

But, I have added a new assessment as an option and I have been using it most recently with my premarital couples.  Developed by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, it is called SYMBIS, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts.   I like the fresh view that it gives in its format and delivery, and while much of the content would be the same as mentioned above (as with all premarital content), how it shares it is fresh and I believe unique.  In short, the bonus for me with SYMBIS is that its up to date personalized report for the couple is thorough and available for them through the sessions.  The facilitator report and guide is also very thorough and walks you through each session’s content.  Prepare-Enrich is also thorough and provides workbooks and reports, but to me it seems to take a bit more searching for and connecting of the areas that need to be addressed.  As with Prepare Enrich, there is training and cost involved to become a SYMBIS facilitator.  Dr. Parrott leads the online training through recorded video segments and brief content mastery quizzes.  Either way you go on the assessments, the cost is worth it, the training is worth it.  You’ll be glad you did, and the couples certainly will be as well!

Share in the comments of any tools for this aspect of ministry you have found useful!  Keep at it!

Leader Resource: Church Answers

Leader Resources

As you minister in the local church, you likely grapple with issues and are responsible for leading in areas that range from the health of your ministry’s discipleship and evangelism to risk management and campus security.  You likely wrestle personally and with others on your church staff about church vitality and day in and day out operations.  Are there answers out there?  Is anyone having conversations about current needs and trends?

As I have scanned the horizon for resources that are solid, I continue to be grateful for how Thom Rainer shares his insights on church health and leadership.  Many would be familiar with books he has authored like I Am a Church Member, Simple Church and Transformational Church.  But I want to highlight a couple of resources beyond these solid books.

One is thomrainer.com.  There are varied outlets here from the blog to podcasts.  The links and resources are strong, but most importantly this resource is free.  I appreciate this site and it has a permanent home in my tabs.

A click up from this free site is a new (to me) resource I have been using for the past couple of months.  It also has a home in my tabs, churchanswers.com.  No matter the church size, and no matter the location, as you connect online with this resource you will be part of a monthly “virtual staff meeting” with Rainer and other leaders.  Each month he walks us through a current issue within the church.  Let’s say you cannot make that meeting – every meeting and all resources connected to that meeting are archived on the site.  Beyond the “virtual staff meetings” are other resources, like a leadership forum where you can easily find conversations and content related to a myriad of issues.  Check it out.

Thanks Dr. Rainer for the resources.  And minister, thanks for leading!  Keep going!  Please comment on any of these resources, but especially share about anything you have found that is helping you in ministry.