Archives For leadership
A few months ago I was on a call with a church-planting coach. We, Two Cities Church, were coming up on our One Year Anniversary and my coach had a few insights into what year two may look like. As always with any coach, there’s a good amount of encouragement and then a warning or a “Hey, you should probably be prepared for (fill in the blank).” I should know to expect it by now, but it always throws me a little off.

Those who have gone before us know a bit more about the process, the trends and what to expect than we do.

He said, “At the beginning of year two, you’re probably going to experience some people getting off the bus and some people moving seats. Don’t be alarmed, it just happens.” Well, when you’ve started a church with close friends… that’s alarming! He asked me a few questions that really messed with my head. He asked:

  • Who is on the bus that needs to move?
  • Who needs to get off the bus?
  • If you had to remove one person from the team, who would it be?

Talk about questions you don’t want to answer! Geez! But that’s the hard work of leadership.

Our One Year Anniversary was on October 4, 2015 and since then we’ve had a good amount of movement on our volunteer staff team. We’ve had 4 people take a step back, 1 move to a different seat and 4 new additions. All of the people who have taken a step back needed to do so for personal reasons of capacity or time. Here’s the good thing, we’re all still friends and here’s what I’ve wanted each and every one of them to know as they step back, move seats or jump on board:

“I care more about you than what you bring to the table.”

All of this has forced me not to just accept that this sort of thing happens as you head into year two, and probably continually, but I want to know why this happens. So, I’ve been working on this theory and it is a working-theory.  I don’t have a great name for it yet, so let’s just call it: The 3 Keys to Staying Missionally Engaged. I’ve recently had the opportunity to bounce these keys off of other church planters who are farther down the road than we are and their experiences have been very similar. So, I want to share these and hope it helps.
While there are tons of different reasons people need to take time off or take a step back, I’d like to offer three things that I believe every staff person or volunteer needs to stay missionally engaged in the church.
I believe people need to be experiencing at least 2 out of 3 of the following in order to stay missionally engaged:
  • Experiencing Personal Wins:
    Inviting and seeing people come and get involved; Being in a small group and watching other people grow; Being personally connected to someone who is getting baptized or recently gave their life to Christ; Serving on or Leading a team that is winning; etc.
  • Experiencing Personal Growth:
    Growing in your own personal relationship with Jesus; Developing healthy habits; Surrendering previously un-surrendered areas of your life; Becoming more Self-Aware; Working through hurts, habits and hang-ups; etc.
  • Experiencing Extraordinary Care or Community:
    Involved in a community group (small group) or strategic service team that loves each other; Feeling cared for or caring for someone when life hits the fan; Gaining support from people in times of high stress or personal tragedy; etc.

I know there are other factors at play, external factors like having a baby, changing jobs or job loss, stress at home, health issues and more. But these principles, when applied over the lives of your leaders, will help you see where they’re at and how engaged they are.

When you feel distance coming between your team and the mission, ask yourself if they’re experiencing these 3 things. If not, try to help them head it off before you’ve come to a point of crisis. I hope this helps you as you engage your key volunteers and staff.

If you’re looking for ways to keep yourself from burn-out, check this blog post and podcast from Carey Nieuwhof’s interview with Craig Groeschel.

Do you read?

November 28, 2011 — 2 Comments

I have a Confession:
I’m what most people call a slow reader and that discourages me from finishing the books I start. Every time I’m part of a group of people who read a book together and discuss it, I’m the one that is cramming to catch up to everybody else. Not because I’m lazy. Not because I waited until the last minute, just because I’m slow. But I know that leaders are learners and learners are readers. So, it’s a learned-behavior, a discipline in my life.

My son reads. At least he’s starting to, sort of.

Are you a leader?
Are you a learner?
Are you a reader?

What’s the latest thing you’re reading?

Andy and I flew down to the San Diego area on Tuesday. Growing Healthy Churches invited some Pastors from the region to have a 24-hour conference with Larry Obsorne at North Coast Church.

Here are some notes from Session 1 with Larry Osborne.

  • You should place equal importance on the first and second part of the great commission.
  • I learned that when I had a very small church and I was trying to grow it… “I was using the people I had to reach the people I wanted.”
  • RELAX and shepherd the people you have
  • When you begin to love people, they just start inviting.
  • Think about your favorite restaurant: “Nobody has to tell you to refer, when people love it… it just happens.”

Hard Lessons about Sticky Church:

  • Assimilation is not [necessarily] retention
  • “Friendship is the stickiest thing you can connect people to”
  • A great goal: “Everyone at our church has a best friend there also”
  • Stickiness always starts with church health
  • “when a church has conflict, it repels”
  • “burn out scares people”
  • “lack of spiritual growth bores people”
  • “It doesn’t take a whole lot for a long-time Christian to believe they are growing”
  • “don’t kill the ponies” – don’t kill your volunteers
  • “The people who serve are more important than the people they serve”
  • Friendliness is NOT Connection
  • As a church approaches 200 people, everyone’s relational capacity is full
  • Create new small groups, for new people
  • Create new connection opportunities for new people
  • Count faces, not just #’s
  • “Whatever is important, we find a way to measure.”
  • ELEVATE other leaders in the church to help people move connections from ONLY the senior pastor
  • “When you can get the freshman to a party, they’re going to connect.” (freshman, aka new people, come in without connections, they have relational margin in their life)
  • “If I can velcro people to the Bible and to other Christians, I’ve set them up for growth.”
  • The Mark of Spiritual Maturity is Obedience… immaturity is a symptom of sin

Session 2, 3 and 4 will be released later.

Defining Success

February 17, 2011 — 1 Comment

Tomorrow we have an all-day staff retreat with the staff of New Vintage Church. We’re going over the master calendar, talking through some leadership principles, spending time in nature (weather permitting) and talking about our personal measures of success.

Andy asked the us a week ago, “How do you define success?” He said, “Be very careful how you define that for yourself. Somewhere along the way someone defined success for me. In seminary a professor said that a church of 1000 is a very successful church. I let that define me for way too long. My definition of success has drastically changed.”

So, I’ve been thinking about it. What does it mean to be successful? One definition I found is: having succeeded or being marked by a favorable outcome. I like this definition because it’s not about hitting a benchmark or some arbitrary number, or cash amount… it’s simply “favorable.” But even this definition seems to be lacking something.

I feel like success that is defined by results is partially dependent on things outside my control. Sure, if I work hard, I will be rewarded… but sometimes despite how hard you work, the economy tanks and you’re out of work. I don’t want circumstances to define any part of my “success.” If I’m going to measure success I think it has to be more internal, character-driven. It has to be more about who you are becoming than what you’ve done.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. – Colossians 3:23

The attitude of working for the Lord changes how I work. It changes how I interact with my family and friends. What if every interaction was used for the glory of God?

So my success is “to live as if I’m working for the Lord, not for man” in every area of life.

Am I always successful? No. But I’m thinking more deliberately because I’m not letting life happen to me, I’m an active participant.

What’s your definition of personal success?

Are You a Hustler?

February 12, 2011 — Leave a comment

I’ve heard two people refer to themselves as a “hustler.” They are ministry bloggers. And one of them is actually quoting another ministry guy. The other guy won a People’s Choice award this past year. As a Driver (refer to the Right Path Assessment) this word really appeals to me. I think of Rev. Run and other CEO types that have been able to accomplish massive amounts of __________ (fill in the blank with whatever it is that they’re passionate about) and it’s partially (only partially) due to their sense of hustle. Athletes are trained to hustle. Up and down a court, field or around a track. There’s a sense of urgency. A sense that there is a narrowing window of opportunity. So, my question isn’t are you a hustler in the sense of a swindler, crook or thief. It’s do you have hustle? Are you hustling? Are you making things happen? Are you working hard? Are you passionately going after that narrowing window of opportunity?

My Story: Dave

January 5, 2011 — 1 Comment

Dave Leal is a man that never thought he’d serve in the church. This is a portion of his story.

My Story: Dave from New Vintage Church on Vimeo.

Want to tell your story? Email us.

Last week I went to lunch with a Sonoma State University student who has been coming to New Vintage Church for a few months. He is part of the student leadership at the university and talked about a couple of leadership philosophies, that are specific to campus leadership, I hadn’t heard about. I thought I’d share them with you…

The principles of the Relational Leadership Model (RLM) are as follows

  • Purposeful – taking actions that are planned an intentional
  • Inclusive – making sure ones choices and actions are inclusive of all, regardless of race, gender, Socio-Economic Status, ability or other factors
  • Empowering – encouraging everyone in a group to participate and bring their best. Everyone has something to contribute, but this does not always come out when individuals feel that others are taking control. Individuals are more likely to enjoy or take ownership of an event or organization if they feel like they are a significant part of it.
  • Ethical – making decisions based on a positive ethical framework (of course, ethics being a larger expectation, as opposed to morals being more specific expectations, and values being what individuals personally hold to be important)
  • Process-Oriented – the journey is just as important as the end. The ideas of group process (a number of individuals coming together to discuss an issue), community (that a small group of tightly-knit individuals will stay together no matter what challenges they face), and the journey being important all fall under this umbrella.

FISH! Philosophy:

  • Be There – Be present. Don’t be on cell phones
  • Play – Remember to have fun, no matter what
  • Make Their Day – Go out of your way to make someone’s day. It will make your day.
  • Choose Your Attitude – Attitude is the thing that individuals can really control. Why go into a bad situation with bad attitude when you can go into a bad situation with a good attitude and completely change the situation?


I thought these were interesting thoughts that relate very well to student ministry and small group leaders. There’s a few overlapping themes between the philosophies above and the “5 Essentials of Effective Small Group Leaders”

  • It’s a Journey – relational ministry doesn’t happen over night, it takes months and sometimes years to gain a student’s trust
  • Time on their Turf – you’ve got to meet them where they are emotionally and spiritually…and when possible, meet them where they are literally…sporting events, birthday parties, etc.
  • Partner with the Parents – it is the primary responsibility of the parent to disciple their kids, but most just don’t know how and they are happy to have another voice in their student’s lives
  • Keep it Real – be honest, be open and don’t give “knee-jerk” answers
  • Fill up First – make sure you’ve got a growing relationship with Jesus Christ

Andy shared some leadership notes that he took while spending time with Leith Anderson a few weeks back. I thought I’d dump them on here for you to take a look at. Help me process this stuff…what do you think about it?–

  • There are chapters in a church. There are times when a Pastor needs to close a chapter in the book and open another.
  • Church surveys tend to bring up the worst and they are not always reliable.
  • Keep the same sermon to keep the same DNA in every campus.
  • Brand control is the responsibility of the Senior Pastor. It is his responsibility to define who we are.
  • The larger the church becomes, the less models there are out their to copy.
  • Staff Meetings: Everybody writes their agenda on Friday and we discuss it on Tuesday in staff meeting. Everybody submits a report about what they talked about the last week and what they want to talk about the next week.
  • Every single visitor who writes something on a communication card is given attention in the staff meeting.
  • We want to answer your questions. We want you to feel like you heard and you got a personal touch.
  • Never read unsigned letters or emails. It immediately goes into the shredder.
  • At the beginning church plants need to be based on the planting Pastor. Then it shifts as it grows into small group focused.
  • Different chapters, do different things.
  • I always hire younger.
  • In America right now, there is a major shift of older Pastors retiring. There aren’t enough young pastors to replace them.
  • An amateur says what should I say? A pro says who is my audience?
  • Discipleship is customized.
  • When do people want to grow spiritually? When they’re ready.
  • If sermons are only good 2 out of the 4, don’t expect people to invite
  • Seize an opportunity, don’t try to solve a problem
  • All of the small groups have a ministry and mission. Whenever the small groups start doing things in the community, it engages the community in a new way.
  • Staff retreats, twice a year for a couple of days and 4 times a year we go and experience something together.
  • Old people talk about yesterday, young people talk about tomorrow because we talk about what we have the most of.
  • Everything we do teaches.
  • Everybody is a member. Every person who serves, gets hired, etc…becomes a member first.
  • Breakthroughs happen when you behave like a church larger than you are.

One of things that I love about Catalyst is that they are always trying to engage you and keep your attention…even between sessions. Check out this video of some footage I took during Catalyst last week.

Catalyst has been amazing so far. Each communicator brings his own set of gifts, style, insights and pondering to the table. Each one unique and that’s why they were asked to speak.

There’s one thing I’m noticing that I hope we can change. Let’s stop asking the question, “Did you like him (or her)?” to “Is what he (or she) said true and helpful?”

Also, I’m curious to know how many pastors, communicators, preachers, teachers or leaders would say that every word they’ve ever taught or preached was %100 truth. Do you believe that is true of you? I’m really curious. Would love to hear your thoughts.