People don’t have enough cheerleaders…

DSC_0527People don’t have enough cheerleaders, but they have plenty of critics. I’ve found the difference is really a choice a person makes. We can choose act as a cheerleader or we can choose act as a critic. In our hyper-critical church world, the choice is often to be a critic.

Biblical love is HARD!
Practicing 1 Corinthians 13 love, or Philippians 4:8-9 is HARD! How hard is it to trust and believe all things? Just by saying that the ‘Yeah, but’ crowd starts bubbling up about discernment or sin. Truth does not trump love nor love truth. How can I assume the best knowing that many are [insert the worst possible stereotype you can think of here]? Because that is what the Bible instructs me to do. After all, love is the more excellent way. Excellence is hard, messy and an intentional choice.

Act don’t react
Cheerleading is an intentional act, criticism is a reaction. Cheerleaders promote what they are FOR. Critics promote what they are AGAINST. Cheerleaders see what’s wrong, but push for what’s best. Critics see what is wrong, and push what is wrong. Cheerleaders praise in public and criticize in private. Critics criticize in public and (maybe) praise in private, hedged with said criticism. Cheerleading is hard because there are things seen that are frustrating. Criticism is easy because it is easier to destroy instead of build up. Cheerleaders trust God. Critics play God. What are you FOR?

Yeah, but the truth must be stated, right?
Promoting what you are for is stating truth. The statement “telling the truth is the most loving thing you can do” often puts truth above love. Think of it this way: out of the heart the mouth speaks. If I speak truth critically instead of lovingly, there is a theological error in my heart. We act based on what we believe. The ‘Yeah, but’ Crowd often speaks truth out of theological error.

God is God and we’re not
Paul didn’t mind his critics judging him or his motives. Why? Because God does. In fact, Paul didn’t even bother to judge himself for the same reason. Paul didn’t mind preachers making a name for themselves. Why? Because the Gospel was still being proclaimed. Paul didn’t go nuclear on false teaching in the Ephesian church. WHAT!? Paul sent Timothy to to instruct false teachers and bring them inline with the Bible. Cheerleading is a patient, long-suffering work that “GOD may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth…”

The bottom line:
I choose to be a cheerleader rather than a critic. Praise in public, criticize in in private. Cheerleading is about building up. It is not being naive about faults. Cheerleading is recognizing the value of one’s strengths that we can learn from. The Holy Spirit is really good at his job. He will accomplish his task of making people Christlike. Keep what you are for as the main thing. Promoting such naturally and patiently deals with the things you are critical of.

Civility is a marathon and we’re out of breath

On January 6th I wrote a blog piece on the need for civility: http://twoznek.com/2011/01/06/a-return-to-civility/ . It is my desire for my boyz to live in a world were ideas are discussed with proper respect and not vitriol. Given the shootings that occurred in Tuscon, AZ soon after the blog post I wrote this: http://twoznek.com/2011/01/11/civility-civility-where-art-thou/ . Civility isn’t easy. I appreciated the way President Obama put it when addressing those hurting in AZ:

“We should be civil because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.”
~ President Obama.

Failing the Tea Party and the Unions
Statements by public officials and other leaders regarding the Tea Party are the furthest from the concept of what civil discourse is. Note: I am not defending, promoting the Tea Party, nor am I criticizing them in this post. The vitriol within statements regarding the Tea Party pales in comparison of the rhetoric that was scolded soon after the Tuscon shooting.  The rhetoric against the Tea Party is bigoted, caustic and beneath contempt for those holding office. It serves no greater purpose than feed hostilities. For those making such statements to promote or protect unions, it ultimately fails for it gives up the high ground

Beyond party
We see the lack of civility in both parties. President Obama wisely stated “If [the Tuscon shooting] tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle.” Sadly we are currently failing in the area of civility. This isn’t a right vs left problem, it is a lack of discernment and wisdom by all of us. We the people are the problem.

The bottom line:
We need to catch our breath n the marathon that is civility. It is time for our leaders to reflect on the rhetoric they are using. They should exemplify civility. We the people should be careful with what we desire. Civility doesn’t mean being emotionless. It does mean we should accord even those we cannot stand proper respect whether deserved or not.

Manic Monday: iShock…

As an Apple fanboy (nut?) I was shocked to read about Steve Jobs retiring as CEO. Then, seeing all the articles pondering what Apple will be like without Jobs interested me. From a leadership perspective here is what I think…

Apple’s best days are ahead…
Enduring organizations hold vehemently to their set of values. The language used over the last decade from Apple centered on its DNA. Steve focused on keeping Apple’s values first and foremost. The saga around the iPhone 4 Gizmodo deal pointed this out greatly.

Apple figured out its culture
Culture leads long term where a person cannot. Apple returned to its culture and who it was. At a point where everyone thought Apple was done, it came back. Many companies have gone through this cycle. Ford is going through this journey.

Apple figured out discernment
Apple figured out the power of no is a stronger yes. This is hard for anyone to do. Learning to say no also sets an organization up to act vs react. Apple astutely states: if people don’t like it, they wont buy it. Apple gave realization that people really want quality & artistic expression.

Apple learned to take steps not add programs
Everything Apple did since ’97 propelled it to the next step. A key part was choosing to focus on usability vs speed & specs approach to development. In the computer race Apple was the tortoise as its 30% market growth over the last few years demonstrates.

Apple may not succeed
Qoheleth states one cannot control what happens after them. Is it possible Apple is Jobs? Yes. Is it possible that for other reasons not related to Jobs Apple will decline? Yes. But, it’s possible for reasons stated above that Apple may endure as well. And, we may suppose, that a day will come when another company will take the reigns of innovation and wow us.

The bottom line:
We cannot control what happens after us.

Book Review: Onward by Howard Schultz

 “Starbucks never set out to be cool. We set out to be relevant!” p. 159

Starbucks always fascinated me. I picked up a book “The Starbucks Experience” and read about the amazing organization. Starbucks produces the perfect cup of what I call liquid love. I found Starbucks stores around the area did not follow what was written in the book. This took place at the start of Onward’s story. Onward is an excellent book on leadership. It offers a transformational plan of hope that doesn’t forget the human side of things.

The perfect cup
The book talks about the romance of coffee. While this may not seem to have anything to do with leadership, as you read you’ll see it has everything to do with it. For Starbucks coffee is the main thing. It is easy for organizations to get off the main thing. I picked the book up at Starbucks. As I read I found myself sipping my grande vanilla latte triple shot with whip cream, day dreaming about my first cup of Starbucks. In the business of life I forgot how much I enjoyed coffee. Organizations can forget the romance of what they’re about.

Growth can distract
One key thing I discovered is rapid growth can knock you off the main thing. Growth becomes the objective and not your core. Growth is a good thing. It’s key to many organizations. When growth dominates losing the main thing is very quick and subtle. I became stuck on good coffee after a month of drinking nothing but Starbucks. Coffee went from a drink to an experience. When I got back home, I put in the ‘current brand’ of I used at the time. I took a sip. I spat it out and visited my first Starbucks store. When an organization loses what’s core, it’s not palatable.

The right tools
A proverb my Grandpa often said: “If you want the job done right you need to give people the right tools.” Starbuck’s rapid growth masked a venti sized whole… infrastructure. The discussion on equipping people with the right tools and supporting the team was critical to Starbucks turn around. Infrastructure and the right tools places a foundation to sustain growth.

“The volume and duration of our partners’ jubilation exceeded anything we had heard or seen that day, providing proof of just how desperately our managers needed better resources and how hungry they were to do a better job.” p. 206

Humanity
The most refreshing thing about Onward is something so vitally missing from our culture: humanity. Howard Schultz should be commended for running a business that does not forget humanity over profit, humanity over difficult decisions and humanity over what’s best for each store. This stood out most in the discussion on why Starbucks offers healthcare to even part time employees. Howard’s love for his dad was evident. Never forget where you came from. It would be a different world if organizations helped people didn’t just use them.

The Abstract
Abstract aspects that detail number cruncher types cannot wrap their minds around came up often. I’m not criticizing these types of people, they’re important. It is difficult to lead the ‘numbers types’ when you’re a dreamer. Onward will help you greatly in navigating this challenge in building your team and organization.

The bottom line:
Onward by Howard Schultz is a must read leadership book. It combines all the essential elements for leadership. It also offers hope. Even when an organization loses its way, it can turn around and get back on target. And, in that turn around it, organizations can embrace humanity in the process.

A quote on a dynamic church…

A friend sent this quote by Chuck Colson to me. It got me thinking and its something we should ponder:

“I miss traveling abroad.  I always returned home from visiting out partners in Third World nations invigorated, revived, and encouraged.  I would often find more exciting, growing, church vitality in places like Sri Lanka or Papua New Guinea or Peru than in comfortable churches at home.

In many nations, the church is a tiny, embattled minority – and it has no superstars. So when the church wants to evangelize, for example it can’t depend on a celebrity or bring in Billy Graham for a crusade. The people do the work themselves. Which means the church functions as the church, not a bunch of observers watching someone else perform.

When we sit passively in our pews, paying some charismatic leader to entertain us and other staff people to do ministry, we do much more than miss the living dynamic of how Jesus intends His church to work in the world.  When we mimic the culture around us with our pedestal complex, we offend a holy, all powerful  God, the most grievous consequence of all.

Of course we should respect those who are invested with spiritual authority.  That’s biblical.  But there’s a difference between respect and adulation. With the latter, we are always in danger of stepping over the line giving glory to man rather than God.

It’s easy to see how the world’s fascination with fame has snuck into our tents  and sapped our effectiveness. Yet this attitude runs absolutely contrary to that which Christ modeled when He, the King of the universe, came to live among us as a suffering servant.”

P. 334-335  Being the Body by Chuck Colson.

President Bush

I read some interview articles about President Bush’s book “Decision Points.” The book sounds like a good read.

What impresses me about President Bush is how secure he is in who he is. As president he took responsibility for problems regardless of cause. While his ‘New Tone’ policy is debated, Bush demonstrates nobility by it. The carry over to his post-presidency is shown by not critiquing Obama. Further, President Bush seeks anonymity.

As is any presidency, people will debate the Bush years. But, I greatly admire the man. He is not full of himself. His ambition to stay out of the political fray brings a fresh nobility. To let history make its own judgements by not rebutting criticism takes humility.

I’m interested if these thoughts will continue or how they will be altered after reading his book. For sure, it would be nice to see more leaders with a depth like President Bush, regardless of political ideology.

Why Kids Ministry: Part 2 (And most vital)

The wonder of children

What’s that, Daddy?
~ Jadon

How often have you heard someone wish to be a kid again? Kids are the gateway to being a kid again. They are live novels in process. We get to be an editor, a writer, and a reader.  There is an infectious nature of kids ministry that the church needs, fresh eyes! The wonder of life is new to children. With the loss of newness we often lose the wonder. Serving kids brings back wonder.

What?
What is the question of discovery. It tries to figure out the uniqueness of an object.  Curious adventures of children take on names. Names answer what. It is more than a name. Kids delight as they can now say what so captivates their attention. Take sky, for example. It is the name of a massive canvas of wonder and adventure, from color, to birds, to planes, to cotton balls suspended in bliss, to the falling of snow on your tongue. Just because we know the name doesn’t mean we should stop asking what.

Why?
If a name were not enough, children remind us of the importance of philosophy, history and theology. They do not use such grandiose words, but those are the fields of study for a child. Simplicity is not the removal of complexity, just try to answer a child’s question of why. Why, a most simple question leading to the most intriguing conversations, amusing anecdotes, and cunning epiphanies. Answering why drives us to the most important aspect of learning, the inevitable ‘I don’t know.’ Just because we’re busy and grown up doesn’t mean we should stop asking why.

Jump up!
You know you want to! Now you’re feeling self-conscious, it’ll pass. Children don’t read into things too much. Yes, this is a result of being naïve, but not always. Children love delight, they love fun. The curse of sin made life hard. Children remind us of what life is to be and one day will be for sure: delightful, fun, engaging. So, jump up! Children do not take themselves seriously because play is serious work. Play is exploring possibilities, seeing what can be done, and just having fun. Play is not entertainment, that gets boring. Just because we’re self conscious and mature doesn’t mean we should stop jumping. (On a bed or couch is most fun!)

Hugs…
Kids understand what is most important. They understand that people matter most. Just because we’re adults with various responsibilities doesn’t mean we should stop looking for ways to bless others.

The bottom line:
Why kids ministry? Because we are forgetful. The crime of lacking a vibrant kids ministry isn’t the loss of a new generation. The crime is we have lost our own. Ask what. Ask why. Jump. Hug. And, if you forgot how, then ask a kid because that is what they do best. It is how kids disciple you and I. We cannot afford losing the wonder of life and the God who made it.

Why Kids Ministry: Part 1

The Value of Children

A Child is a person who is going to carry on what you have started. They are going to sit where you are sitting and when you are gone, attend to those things which you think are important. You may adopt all the policies you please; but how they are carried out depends on them. They will assume control of your cities, states and nations. They are going to move in and take over your churches, schools, universities and corporations. All your books are going to be judged, praised or condemned by them. The fate of humanity is in their hands.
~Abraham Lincoln

I highly doubt a church will come right out and claim that children are not important to God. The adage is true, however, actions speak louder than words. It alarms me that only one out of four churches lists reaching children as a priority. The church, like the society it dwells in, does not value children. Note Barna’s transformation in his chapter entitles I mist the Ocean:

Yet somehow the wisdom and necessity of seeing children as the primary focus of ministry never occurred to me. In that regard, perhaps I’ve simply been a product of my environment. Like most adults, I have been aware of children, fond of them and willing to invest some resources in them; but I have not really been fully devoted to their development. In my mind, they were people en route to significance—i.e., adulthood—but were not yet deserving of the choice resources.

An audiotape of Barna’s workshop describes the reality of this problem. Barna was surprised at how many pastors called and asked if the workshop on children could be moved to a more “skippable” spot because their time was so valuable. Barna purposely placed the session on children in an inconvenient place for people to skip it, thus it confirming his findings.

The problem  will continue to grow
Given advances in medicine and the standard of living, the adult population is continuing to grow. 1993 marked the first year where there were more senior citizens than teens. This trend can be partially attributed to the millions of humans who have been aborted. As the adult population grows, the propensity to gear church ministries primarily to adults will grow. What can children contribute to church finances or church growth? The results of this attitude leave children largely on their own. The mere lack of role models for children points to this issue. Marva Dawn’s states:

What makes the battle so intense in the present world is that so much of life is becoming ambiguous, chaotic, fearsome, unmoored. Consequently, people cling more desperately to whatever idolatries seem to them capable of freeing them from pain, confusion, weariness, or meaninglessness. The powers function to twist such things as efficiency, money, or fame into the gods of our lives, and thus God’s designs for good are distorted, corrupted, and deflected into contrary purposes. Our neighbors in the world (and we, in spite of knowing better) wind up with the ultimate concerns that are trite, violent, enslaving or flimsy. These goals will never ultimately satisfy or repress our deepest longing; they will never alleviate our aching bone-weariness, satiate our galling thirst, or pierce our bitter darkness.

A generation that did not know
What happens when a society does not reach its young ones is disaster. Judges 2:10 states that “another generation rose up who did not know the LORD or the works He had done for Israel.” This is a very easy thing to do if one does not know God nor the things that He has done. With biblical literacy low, many 20-year-olds leaving the church, and church statistics are as dismal as the world. It is becoming safer to say that a new generation grew up that did not know God nor the things of God.

The bottom line
To have a lasting impact on the world one must reach people when they are young, when they are children. Jesus’ words carry more urgency today than ever. Not showing children the way to Christ is another way of hindering them. Mediocrity in the pew comes from lack of diligence in to the cradle. If the “kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” the church needs to give serious attention to reaching and equipping the emerging generation.  Millenials search for spirituality and significance may be grasping for the God they know to be there whom they were not clearly told about.

Are you special?

I soaked in two ‘articles’ about being a specialist. In the first article, the end of 60 Minutes raised the question about the lack of family doctors compared with specialists. In the second article, D.A. Carson wrote on the trials of biblical studies. He raised the issue of theological scholars being too specialized and neglecting their study of other fields. The problem is not specializing but the loss of understanding the whole.

Look beyond
Often the ideas and solutions needed for your field are not found in your field. My dad made sure that I did not get ‘stuck’ in one thing. He wanted me to have a very broad and vast array of experiences to pull and learn from. This developed into a strong desire for learning and the ability to look at a problem from a variety of vantage points.

Read elsewhere
When interviewing various leaders in children’s ministry I asked what books on children’s ministry they recommend. They had recommendations, but without fail they all said the best ideas and books were not children’s ministry books. Read widely and read broadly. One conference a speaker suggested not reading everything in your field. Few books pass the test of time. Read those kinds of books.

Life is complex
The problem is not people specializing. Our culture and the vast sharing of information pushes that to happen. There are advantages to being a specialist. But, with every advantage there is often a disadvantage. The culture turned into multiple fragments. Life is a complex whole. Just think of all the news stories about unintended consequences from a solution implemented. Are we lost in the details as a culture?

Jack of all trades
We need Jack! We need people who have a broad understanding across multiple fields. They may be masters of none, but they have an understanding of the bigger picture. In thinking through the two articles and other past experiences, I agree we need more generalists, more “family doctors.” They may not be the best at fixing a particular part, but they help us avoid negative and unintended consequences from being too focused. They help us appreciate the forest and the broader work of art known as life.

Book Review: Built to Last by Jim Collins & Jerry I. Porras

If you are involved in building and managing an organization, the single most important point to take away from this book is the critical importance of creating tangible mechanisms aligned to preserve the core and stimulate progress. This is the essence of clock building. ~ P. 89

A pastor friend highly recommended I read ‘Built to Last.’ I would echo that sentiment. The quotation above really encapsulates the book. To put it in other words, the book is more concerned about who you are as apposed to what you do. The visionary companies described in their book were more about who they were- their core ideology- then the products produced. Their great products were a result of their core ideology in action.

Building the core
The purpose and values of an organization is what is most essential and non-changing. It is the preservation of this core ideology that drives leadership development, products, adaptations, consistency and culture of visionary companies. These companies have transitioned through multiple CEO’s, economies, products, and culture shifts. Core ideology is the center of visionary companies, not profit nor product. The company itself is the greatest achievement. Preserving the core allows freedom to and opportunity to explore what the company can do.

Vision?
The greatest shock in reading the book was the un-central role vision played. Many of the leaders were not charismatic visionary leaders, though some were. In reading through the book everything went back to who the company was at its core. Growth of these companies normally occurred in one of two ways, BHAG’s or trying a lot things and keeping what sticks. The paperback version, which I read, had a chapter about vision, but this chapter still pointed back to the core ideology. Surprising fact from this book: can you build a dynamic organization without a vision? Yes. Without a core ideology? No. The book does not negate vision, but vision is certainly not the driving force, as the book almost arguing against it being the driving force.

Ministry value
The greatest ministry value from this book is to focus more on who you are and want to be rather than what you do. Values are discovered, rather than imposed, and a culture is developed rather then chosen. Attention should be given to the theology of what a church should be more than its actions. What a ministry does will have a greater impact if it is from its ideological center. As with any book, discernment should be used. The church is an organism not an organization.

A big key to the success of these companies was the preservation of its core ideology, particularly through multiple CEO’s. This is an element many churches struggle with. I have heard of too many stories of ministries declining after a successful tenure of a key leader. The draws attention to a much broader discussion.

The book
The book read ok and the stories were excellent. It did feel very choppy to me. The book is a report on a study and it felt like a report on a study. Things they pointed out were very well done, but the book could have been considerably shorter and communicated the same thing. While a worthwhile read, it was not the most enjoyable to read.

Bottom lines
Focus on living out and preserving the ideological core of the organization you’re in.
Focus on developing the culture and leadership of the organization you’re in.