THE HARDEST PART OF PLANTING A CHURCH SO FAR: MAKING YOUR OWN WAKE

Ever since we started planting a church, people always ask me a question.

Usually the questions are something like “How’s it going?”, “What’s it like?” or “What’s been the hardest part?”

I think the last question is the one I get asked the most. I thought today I would elaborate on that a little more and tell you what the hardest part has been thus far in our experience. (This answer could change, but for now this is what I thought of.)

The hardest part of planting a church has been making our own wake.  If you don’t know what a wake is than you obviously have never been around a boat or waterskiing and wakeboarding. Wake is defined as “the track or path left behind a ship”.  It’s the part behind the boat that isn’t as bumpy and is really easy to ski inside of.

Previous to this adventure in my life I have always ridden in someone else’s wake.  For the first 18 years (and closer to 22 if I am being honest) I rode in the wake of Ron and Jeanne Artrip.  Oh what a comfortable glorious wake that was.  I miss those days.  For the next couple I rode in the wake of my school, other pastors, ministries, etc.

When I went on staff at Grace Church they already had a name, a building, 1000 people, and a youth group. We saw some cool growth and had great opportunities but I could go anywhere on the north side and name drop the church, another staff member or even reference we were the church next the YMCA and not have to go outside of their wake. I could do things in the community and even when I was meeting new people they still knew of our church or they still connected me to someone they knew in our group. I pushed myself and coached soccer and met people, but there were already guys on the soccer team at our church so looking back I was just the cherry on top of the equation. The kids in our youth group were often already connected to the church and their mom and dad wanted them there.  Rick Nuzum had gone before me as a great pastor and I rode in his wake.

Until I moved to Hilliard I had never really had to make my own wake.  In life, in ministry, in relationships we were always grafted in and were able to flourish, and that has been hands down the hardest adjustment.  It weird not knowing anyone in this town and not often seeing people you know at Kroger.  Its unfamiliar when people ask you where you work or why you are buying things and you name-drop a church that has no notoriety.

It won’t be that way for long. We are working hard to make in roads, to build relationships, and build a brand. We are working hard as a church, staff, and family to build a wake.

I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is WHAT we are called to and this is WHO we are called to. We knew that we didn’t know anyone down here. We knew there were people in Hilliard who needed Jesus and we chose to move here out of obedience and enthusiasm.  I’m not upset about it; in fact I am really excited by the challenge.  I’m just answering the question for the closet planters who ready my blog and haven’t gotten the courage to jump yet.

A LOOK BEHIND THE CURTAIN

The digital era is great because you can expand your platform for influence, ministry, friendship, and impact in so many avenues. Between websites (blogs), Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and countless others you can communicate as much or little as you want to.  I’ve heard it said before that the trap in this is still being authentic. We all want to put our best foot forward, but at what point are we being fake and not admitting our humanity?  You use the best pictures of yourself and throw away the rest; you put only your good ideas on your blog, you tweet and Instagram moments when you are a good dad and husband leaving out the rest.

I admit I am as guilty as anyone at this. It got me thinking, I should make a list of areas that I have messed up or need some work in.  Might be a little weird, but I figure it’s at least a step towards balance and provides a look at the real me.

  1. I AM NOT GOOD AT CONFRONTING PEOPLE. I have gotten better at this the older I have gotten as it becomes more and more necessary, but it does not and will not ever come naturally for me. I like people to like me and if that means letting them tell me what to do or hijack my vision I have been known to let that happen. I still remember this whole concept being so foreign to me when I first encountered it in a memorable way on Operation Barnabas as a 17 year old.  Its not always easy or comfortable, but sometimes the most loving thing, best thing you can do is to confront someone.
  2. I AM STILL LEARNING TO MANAGE PEOPLE –  I like to delegate but after that as it relates to working with people, bringing out the best in them and pushing them to be great, I don’t know that I have it figured out yet. I think in my years in ministry I have put people on an island with some food and water and said “good luck” without coming back to check or teaching them to make a fire.
  3. I HAVE ELEVATED PEOPLE TO LEADERSHIP TO QUICKLY – Normally I am intuitive but there have been times I have put people in positions they didn’t need to be in just yet. It might be because there was a need and the spot had to be filled, or it could have been that I wanted to believe the best in them.  If I am being honest sometimes elevating someone you have worked with can even validate your own ministry and impact for those looking on.  Whatever the reason I haven’t fallen victim to this a time or too.

I am not trying to throw a pity party and I am not looking for you affirm me in all the areas I just named. I just think it is healthy to be self-aware so you can get better at what you do. So lets be honest, what are you not too hot at or still working on in your leadership?

 

THOUGHTS FROM @BRANDONRIKE

Brandon Rike is a designer, friend, cousin-by-marriage, and man that I respect the heck out of.

He has a blog and recently wrote some posts (post 1, post 2) that were (kind of) about design but also about life.  I think anyone who is living in the years of 25-35 (or any age for that matter) can relate to them and learn from them.

Here was my favorite quote of all….

“I must maintain a certain amount of reckless abandon when it comes to pursuing my ideas. I must be ready to learn from failures. I must not take myself too seriously. I must allow myself regular time to do the things I love. I must not be afraid to pursue an idea that pops into my head. I must stay a little crazy. I must stay a little foolish. I must not turn my career in design into a corporate rat race job – I am an artist, and it’s okay to act like one every now and then. Finally, I must be okay with doing less freelance client work if it means that I can fulfill other passions.”

HOW TO HANDLE CONFRONTATION

I remember the first time I was exposed to confrontation in ministry.  I was a 17 year old on a summer ministry experience and decided that making a joke at the expense of a teammate was more important than him feeling self worth.  I was a prideful, team chemistry killing, sin machine.  It wasn’t the end of the world, but it did need confronted.

Anyone who wants to see growth in people’s lives they live with, work with, or minister to is going to be in situations that need confronted.  As imperfect people who represent a perfect message from time to time you will need to confront patterns of sin.

Matthew 18:15-17 is the passage that all confrontation situations should be measured up against as it gives obvious easy instructions on how to handle things. When I  am in a situation of confrontation I also like to remember some advice I was once taught that compliments the Bible’s wisdom.

Here are the rules of confrontation I was taught to compliment Matthew 18…

Compliment/encourage

There is a reason you are confronting this person so let them know that you see potential in them as a friend, influencer of people, or someone people follow.  Name something they do well that you appreciate so that you set the plate for them to hear what you are about to say.

Confront

Matthew 18 is clear on this so just follow it and speak to the person head on humbly bringing the issue to their attention in love.

I say humbly because I was recently reminded by Ephesians that we don’t just speak the truth in love and use that as a license to be insensitive or say whatever you want.  We must do it with their best interest in mind and with a humility that makes us deserve to be listened to.

(if they don’t listen you have to bring a witness and try again, but lets pretend they do for this post)

Compliment/encourage

Just like you started with a compliment, you should end with one. It is easy to jump right into the problem (once you work up the courage) and it is just as easy to harp on the problem and tear the person down, rather than guiding them and caring for them.  Make sure you don’t leave the bad taste in their mouth with your attitude or words. They might be hurt or caught of guard by your confrontation but they shouldn’t be hurt by your approach.

ENCHANTMENT BY GUY KAWASAKI

A couple of months ago I was sent a new book-ENCHANTMENT: the art of changing hearts, minds, and action by Guy Kawasaki. If you don’t know Guy you live under a rock, so here is a bio. He is a leading speaker on the topics of being entrepreneur and innovation.  I have been apart of the alltop.com ministry blog community for a few years that he founded.

The heart of the book is how to influence what people will do while maintaining the highest standards of ethics. The book explains when and why enchantment is necessary and then the pillars of enchantment: likability, trustworthiness, and a great cause.  The next topics are launching, overcoming resistance, making enchantment endure, and using technology. There are even special chapters dedicated to enchanting your employees and your boss.

Jump on facebook and take this test to see how enchanting or GREAT you are.

The reason I wanted to read this book and why I think you should care is the vision applies to people in business, people in ministry, people in the non profit world, and anyone who interacts with people (that’s pretty much all of us).

Name: Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
Page count: 224
Suggested retail price: $US 26.95, BUT I FOUND IT FOR $13 ON AMAZON. Check it out on Amazon.com
Year of first printing: 2011
ISBN: 9781591843795

3 PHRASES MY FRIENDS HAVE INVESTED IN ME

We all know there is nothing new under the sun. I was thinking today about phrases and concepts my friends have imparted to me. These phrases are not original to them but I think they tell you a lot about the personality and the friendship with that person.

1) I like the way I do evangelism better than the way you don’t-TK Kurtaneck

TK has helped teach me that evangelism isn’t a gift or option for some, but something we all need to do.  Rather than wasting time talking about technique…do it!

2) Behind every attack there is pain-Rick Nuzum

When a parent says my student ministry isn’t ______ enough, they might mean it or they might be attacking from the pain of their child not being interested in God or the church.

3) Your church is getting the exact results it was designed to get-Kary Oberbrunner

If people aren’t joining your small groups, you have to realize that the system you have in place is one that or some reason or another creates that result.

WHEN TO EMPOWER PEOPLE?

Recently I twittered the thought wondering “Where is the line between empowering others but making sure you don’t throw them to the wolves if they are under equipped or under prepared?”

Not sure I have an answer just yet. Don’t know if I will but I have made mistakes already in ministry to let people up front too early and to hold them back too long. Maybe someday I will find the balance….Maybe?

DO LEADERS ASK OPINIONS?

My friend (who I won’t air out on this blog) once told me some great advice.  He said, “don’t ask people for their opinion unless you intend to listen to it.” It sounds harsh, but when you feel God has called you to lead people it just might apply.  Moses didn’t ask the people if they should keep the golden calf because he knew God had called them to more.  Another friend of mine loves to say “Where there is no Vision, people perish.”

 

Stating the obvious-the tension of leadership is toeing that line between shepherding and vision-casting.  Leading people where they wouldn’t go is different than tugging on a leash or letting them roam.

EDIT: Some awesome comments from some great friends and thinkers on this post.  I guess I scratched an itch with this post….Or maybe overstated one side and made myself look like a non-listening idiot:)

Just some quick thoughts I wrote one night that like any blog I am going to write will be quick, simple, and incomplete.

 

 

LEARN FROM THOSE YOUNGER THAN YOU

This year at Catalyst Andy Stanley said that Good ideas don’t’ come from people over 45 years old (my paraphrase).  He said that older people do have positions and influence and need to champion the cause of great young minds and their ideas. 

While that is an exaggerated point, I think he wanted to get the word to an older audience that you have to be continuously learning from everything and everyone-including those younger, lower on the totem pole, and less experienced than you.

In that spirit I found this great article on mtv.com highlighting how an “iconic band” like U2 still strives to learn from younger people like Kanye West and Jay-Z including video footage.

I am not just a young guy saying this to let off steam. While I am not leadership guru, I am constantly thinking how I can learn to minister to high school students by learning from other high school students. It is humbling but no one can know better than their peers.

STOP DOING LIST

In his talk at Catalyst, Jim Collins’ suggested that people should have a stop doing list, more than a to do list.  For me that concept was a big shift and really got me thinking.  It got me thinking what should my ministry stop doing?

1. I must stop making things dependent on me.

I feel I am pretty good at delegation, but I joke with my staff that I want to get to the place where I could die and no one would miss me:)

I want to give things away.  Not just small things that I still oversee, but I want to give away the conception and vision process, the management, and the execution.  Until I am doing that things are still dependent on me.  Obviously there is a tension that I do this for a living, but I want my legacy to be equipping.

2. I should stop letting individuals steer the ship. 

By that I mean one critic whether a student, parent, or someone else cannot  alter what we do.  There are times and places where one person can move a group.  If you have 10 students and 2 or 3 are from the same family you might be more inclined to flex for a parent, but our ministry is past that.  This might sound arrogant, but it also means that less and less can my decisions steer the ship and change what we do when it will affect more and more volunteers and students who are invested in what we do.

3. I must stop being content with myself

If I am being honest there are times when I can sit back and be happy.  Our vision is being accomplished every week reaching students through Wednesday nights and than growing them in grace groups toward service and outreach into leadership.  I don’t want to be unappreciative, but I want to also not get complacent and think that God’s work here is done or that I have arrived.

I could come up with more and I might later. What do you need to stop doing?