There is this interesting dynamic that occurs in nature. The dynamic of “imprinting” suggests that what we model as leaders is what people will emulate.
Imprinting, in psychobiology, a form of learning in which a very young animal fixes its attention on the first object with which it has visual, auditory, or tactile experience and thereafter follows that object. In nature the object is almost invariably a parent; in experiments, other animals and inanimate objects have been used. Imprinting has been intensively studied only in birds, especially chickens, ducks, and geese, but a comparable form of learning apparently occurs in the young of many mammals and some fishes and insects.
See Britannica article
In parenting this is certainly the case.
As our two children were growing up we read books – in fact, the kids usually could be seen with a book in their lap, under their arm or next to one of us listening intently as we read to them. Guess what our kids favorite past time is today? That is right – reading books.
When it comes to ministry and more specifically, leadership, I suggest that what we do is more important than what we say. Let’s unpack this a bit more…
- When new Christians come to faith, it is important that they “imprint” upon the Lord for protection, sustenance, and training in how to be a Christ follower. (Neil Cole)
- When modeling the practices of spiritual growth and maturity, the spiritual leader transfers those behaviors, both positive and negative, to the maturing disciple.
- When leading, the leader intentionally and unintentionally communicates what is important, like developing people, leaders who take people development seriously prioritize this behavior.
In ministry this is certainly the case.
Here is a real example from my pastor, Steve Redden of Crosspoint Church and the priority of small group ministry. When Gina and I first attended the church in 2014, we were immediately invited to a small group. We enthusiastically participated in that small group that was led by Steve and hosted in the home of another new family in the church. From the very beginning, Steve communicated his intention. His plan was to get the group going. And then sometime around the beginning of the third tri-mester he would begin his transition out of leadership so that he and Denise could begin another small group to connect new people in the church. Little did we know that Steve was preparing Gina and I to take leadership of that group. Now some years later, after a couple of significant transitions e.g. merging with another group, multiplying our group to help start a new church and assimilating a number of new group members – we are still leading that group. But back to Steve and what he modeled as Crosspoint’s priorities.
- FIRST, the importance of small group ministry.
- SECOND, the importance of leadership development.
- THIRD, the importance of being on mission
It is hard to get around this fact – People do what people see!
5 questions to discern the mission-critical activities you want to model
- What mission critical behaviors are you modeling for the leaders you are developing?
- What activities can you delegate to others that are non-essential for you to do yourself?
- What activities can you stop doing altogether that will make room for more mission critical activities?
- What mission critical behaviors do you need to do more of?
- How and when are you going to implement this change?
How we develop leaders & make disciples is changing!
You may or may not agree with this statement. However, the context, cultural moment and accessibility to people has changed. And no one really understands the new normal moving forward. My sense is that it will be different than we have been accustomed to in the past. And I don’t mean that we will all be using Zoom or some other platform more than we have previously. The racial unrest, pandemic and ensuing Stay at Home orders with the social distancing and self-imposed isolation restrictions are exposing cracks in the way we develop leaders and make disciples. Moving from a centralized to a de-centralized model of ministry has forced church leaders to think of creative strategies to be on-mission. I am suggesting that the focused attention we give to developing leaders and making disciples will be a higher priority, more robust process and increasingly nuanced than ever.
This is “Why” I am more and more convinced that we need/must always be refining how we develop people as they progress on their discipleship and leadership journey.
Which is why I am suggesting that you give your attention to these issues today, and every day, as you plant, grow and multiply! One of the ways you can do that is through the Leadership Collective. I asked Brian Wilson, one of our current participants to share his experience in a short (1 minute) video – WATCH HERE to learn from his experience.
One of the exercises we challenge participants to is to articulate their disciplemaking process in a simple “napkin exercise”. This comes at the end of the first of four phases to the leadership development process. The goal is to simplify the disciple’s journey in a transferable manner. In fact, here is a sample that Russ Sidders, Lead Pastor of Sunrise Community Church created – WATCH HERE.
Consider your personal growth and development plans for 2021. How are you taking your effectiveness to multiply leaders who will start and reproduce churches, to reach people far from God, to the next level? I hope and pray to see you in La Jolla, CA on February 28, 2021 – CLICK HERE for more information.
This blog is a slight departure from my normal topic of conversation, namely taking a coach approach to reproducing disciples, leaders & churches. It is indirectly related to those things because it addresses your capacity to stay in a good place right now so that you can continue to do those activities to expand the Kingdom of God. I want to discuss your health as the season of social distance continues, protests and violence are taking place across our country.
The main thing I want to communicate is that you as the leader must remain mindful of your health. You can break down health into three broad categories: physical, mental, spiritual. In the following I hope to address each to a degree.
Let me pull back the curtain back a bit and share what I do as part of my physical health, which has implications for the mental and spiritual areas as well. Below is what I have continued throughout this season of social distancing and a few things that I’ve incorporated as part of my routine. The main thing I have adjusted like you is, who I do these activities with prior to lock-down.
Stay Active - Example
Mountain Bike: 3 mornings/week (Mon/Wed/Sat)
Stretch & Breathing Exercises: 2 mornings/week (Tues/Wed) – contact me direct if you want more information @ email@example.com
Walk: 1 morning/week (Fri)
Pull-ups + push-ups: 6 evenings/week
The point is, stay active!
You probably have figured this out for yourself, no doubt. If you need to rethink what you are doing, this is as good as time as any. If you are just starting out, I would suggest going slow at the beginning, like walking up and down stairs, taking a stroll around the block or low level calisthenics.
Here is a resource to reflect on ways to stay in a good place as you lead from home by Greg Groeschel – Leading from Home (practical insights how to lead well during the season of social distancing): CLICK HERE.
For those of you who are reeling over the violence, protest and injustices going on in our society and globally, I would like to give you a simple challenge that will impact your spiritual and mental health. One very practical thing you can do is to “reach across the aisle”. The aisle I am referring to is the aisle that separates one people group from another people group. Let me pull back the curtain back a bit and share our family experience.
Reach Across the Aisle - Example
For the last several years our family has been blessed through the relationship of our friends – who just so happen to have a very different background than us. They are committed to their faith – we share similar values. However, their daily experience is very different than our daily experience – simply because of the tone of their skin.
Typically we do something fun together every couple of months. Most recently, we have practiced socially distanced conversations in our backyards over the last 6 weeks. Covid-19 was an obvious focus but then the death of George Floyd, protests, violence, politics and solutions were discussed. Our coversations have been rich and real!
We have learned about the unique opportunities we have that our neighbors do not share. We have learned that our friends live with an underlying fear that we can’t fully appreciate. We have learned how much we genuinely love and appreciate each other.
My challenge to you today – reach across the aisle!
The point is, do something!
Here is a resource to reflect on how to love better and reach across the aisle, an interview by Carl Lentz & Bishop T.D. Jakes – Hillsong East Coast: CLICK HERE.
I would love to hear how are you managing your health? Please share your thoughts below:
Apollo 8 was the first crewed spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit and the first to reach the Moon, orbit it, and return. Its three-astronaut crew—Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders—were the first humans to fly to the Moon, to witness and photograph an Earthrise, and to escape the gravity of a celestial body. Re-entry is the final phase for the Apollo spacecraft and re-entry can be fraught with extra-ordinary challenges, like in Apollo 13. I highly recommend the film “Apollo 13” if you haven’t seen it!
The internet is bursting with ideas to help businesses, schools and churches re-enter following the Shelter at Home phase we face with Covid-19.
As I’ve been interacting with church planters, pastors, denominational and mission executives – I’ve listened to real concerns, thoughts about the challenges of social distancing and future steps to reopening. One leader I coach (who has given me permission to cite his letters to his constituents) has offered wise counsel on several Reopening related topics. Neil Lebhar has served as the Bishop of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) since his consecration in 2010. We have been in a coaching relationship since July 2014.
Recently Neil led a devotion with his Executive Committee and one of the leaders shared this insight from Devi Sridhar, a public-health expert at the University of Edinburgh.
“Everyone wants to know when this will end. That’s not the right question. The right question is:
How do we continue?”
Neil used the motif of Apollo 13 and showed the clip of the control room when things didn’t go according to plan. One of the first things the NASA team did was assess the situation. They asked, “What do we have on the spacecraft that’s good?” From that initial understanding of the materials on board, the crew worked with the engineers and essentially “duct-taped” a safe re-entry. Referencing Philippians 3:8-16 Neil assessed the losses, gains and future aspirations for followers of Jesus.
We know Jesus – the most valuable treasure in the world, regardless of losses
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith
Knowing Jesus includes both experiencing his resurrection power and suffering
10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Neil closed with this excerpt from the book “Victorious: Corrie Ten Boom and the Hiding Place”
Point people to Jesus - Betsie Ten Boom to her sister Corrie
“Corrie, never tell people that it was your faith, for people will say, ‘I haven’t got Corrie ten Boom’s faith.’ But when you tell people that it was Jesus, then they will know that the same Jesus who carried us through is willing to carry them through also. For Jesus died at the cross for the sins of the whole world, not only for us, but for all the Jews and the Gentiles of the world, and He says, ‘Come unto Me, all who are heavy laden.’ So we have a message for the whole world.”
5 Reflection Questions as you Consider Re-entry
- What indicators are you assessing for your congregation to re-open?
- How are you maintaining an unanxious presence in this VUCA (Volatile-Uncertain-Complex-Ambiguous) moment?
- What is your longer-term plan for online services?
- If you re-open and later forced to shelter at home again; what does that look like for your congregation?
- How would you describe the “win” for your congregation through Covid-19?
Please share any ideas you are discovering as you navigate this season with other leaders who are going through this time along with you, so that we can learn from each other – see below.
If you are interested to read well-informed SAMPLE PLANS FOR RE-ENTRY, Canon Jessica Jones (a member of Neil’s team) compiled 4 strategies congregations are contemplating based on CDC Guidelines – CLICK HERE.
Blessings to you and your ministry during this time!
Last week I interviewed Brian Wilson of Access Church. I asked Brian how he is helping his congregation navigate this VUCA moment – to watch, CLICK HERE. In case you don’t recognize that acrostic, VUCA stands for:
As I’ve interacted with pastors and church planters over the last month they tend to fall into one of two camps as it relates to this VUCA moment.
- Camp Survival (hunker down to weather the storm)
- Camp Shine (leverage this season for the Kingdom)
Both camps are triggered by VUCA characteristics, or combinations of…
For instance, if a leader is triggered by a shift in power, then this season is extremely stressful. This leader may be struggling to keep things within their control that are really out of her/his control. The key question for this leader is: “How can we survive?”
In the other camp, the leader sees this season filled with opportunity to try new things. To attempt things they had hoped to do someday; but are now challenged to do now! The key question for this leader is: “How can we leverage this for the Kingdom to bless our community?”
A good example of this is taking ministry online. Delivering worship services in living rooms on devices vs. engaging the BIG room, is one significant step. This has expanded the reach of many of these congregations AND is something most congregations have done for the very first time in the last 30 days.
Releasing people to care for each other in small groups, using a variety of online platforms, is another significant step many leaders have navigated. The fruit has been impressive. What pastors and church planters are discovering across the country is that leaders:
- can be trusted
- can provide care
- can lead effectively
Back to the two camps analogy.
Here are three questions for you to reflect on to “seize the day” during this VUCA moment!
3 Questions to “Seize the Day”
- What camp do you find yourself in today, right now?
- Are you content “camping” there?
- Based on your response to the previous question:
- If “no”, what can you do to switch camps?
- If “yes”, what can you do to maximize this season to help your church shine?
I’ve written two blogs in the past that you might find helpful, related to the topic of VUCA:
- Leading Through VUCA
- Coaching VUCA
None of us have been down this path before. If you are confident that you know the way forward – then good on ‘ya. For the rest of us, my prayer is that His light would illuminate the path so that you can take the next significant step to lead yourself and your congregation forward.
Several years ago I met with Brian Wilson and one statement he made back then stuck in my mind. It was in response to the notion of church planting. Brian’s response went something like this: “that is so hard, I don’t think I would ever want to plant unless the Lord made it super clear”.
Three years later, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, Brian has partnered with Him to plant Access Church – a vibrant community of Jesus followers in Menefee, CA.
Brian is a member of our Leadership Collective. Last week I interviewed him to ask how he is helping Access Church navigate this VUCA moment. In case you don’t recognize that acrostic, VUCA stands for:
As I’ve interacted with pastors and church planters the last month they tend to fall into one of two camps. Survival (hunkering down to weather the storm) or Shine (leveraging this season for the Kingdom). Brian shared his observations as he leads Access Church through this VUCA season to Shine in the midst of adversity.
Chance for the church to shine:
- Opportunity to shine brighter
- Create momentum & connection
- Be opportunists
Encouragement to Pastors:
- Leaders shine brightest in adversity
- Attend to yourself
- Come out of this stronger
Watch the entire interview – CLICK HERE.