June 17, 2018 § Leave a comment
In many ways, Western Christianity is now a solution in search of a problem. We are a victim of our own success, having effectively worked ourselves out of a job by eliminating the “pain points” of Judaism, paganism and animism while diffusing most of our benefits into the culture. Like a technology-centric startup, we now find ourselves in the awkward situation of trying to define (or worse, create) problems that need our solution.
The alternative is to go back to the customer discovery phase. Who is our customer? What are their most important jobs to be done? What is the “impossible” thing that, if it could be done, would change everything for them?
What is it that the world most needs? Especially from us?
July 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
Last week I had three major epiphanies about growth while preparing for our weekly meeting. While largely inspired by my work at Kingsway Church, I’ve found these insights also very relevant for my professional and family lives.
I. Why We Grow
the marketing leader is the one in the organization who is most passionately committed to growth
Since I become Growth Pastor at Kingsway Church a few months ago, I’ve been wrestling with what “growth” means — particularly the tension between “intensive” growth (helping existing members grow deeper in Christ) and “extensive” group (bring more people into the church).
When I read the passage above, it hit me like a lightning bolt. I finally understood what I was supposed to be doing, and why God placed me in this role.
You see — in case you didn’t know — I’ve spent the bulk of my professional career doing Product Marketing. At my company, this covers both the inbound (product definition) and outbound (product advertising) aspects of Marketing. In other words, one person makes sure we have the right product for the market AND makes sure the market knows about it. I’ve never understood why many companies split those roles in to, as that makes it extremely difficult to close the loop.
From that perspective, intensive and extensive growth are really just two sides of the same coin. My job is to define what it means to be a member of Kingsway Church, so that people inside know what they’re supposed to do and people outside know what we’re inviting them to become. Easier said than done, of course, but at least I now have a clear vision what I must do (and a deep well of relevant experience and role models to draw upon).
II. Where We Grow
What makes Pixar special is that we acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view; that we work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable; and that, when we come across a problem, we marshal all of our energies to solve it.
Amen! This was also a key message of Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders
This was enormously validating for me, because of I often feel like a royal pain in the neck because I obsess over failure. I hate failing — even though I consider it inevitable, given our finite minds and fallen nature. I cope by trying to squeeze every last ounce of learning from each failure, so that I can fail better the next time around. It seems the only rational response.
Alas, very few people seem to share that obsession. In fact, I get the distinct impression that most people prefer to forget about failure, or attribute it to “bad luck”. I’ve always wondered whether I was being unreasonable.
But no more. I still need to work on being more compassionate, sensitive, and gracious. But I will no longer feel ashamed of my desire to “marshall all our energies” to “work hard to uncover these problems”, because of Pixar’s evidence that confronting failure is surest route to sustaining creative excellence.
III. How We Grow
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
This all came together for me when I listened to the audio recording of Romans 12 on my YouVersion app. I was focused on verse 2, where it talks about “renewing” our minds — the same Latin word as “innovate!” I was stunned by the connection with verse 3 — that renewing our minds and approving God’s will is somehow connected to NOT thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. Which is intimately tied to accepting our places as just one of the members of Christ’s body.
This also shed light on a problem in information theory I was wrestling with at the time. Our brains can only process a few concepts at a time, and even those are often based on incomplete facts or mistaken interpretations; the same is even true of the computers and robots we build! The solution is not to ‘think more highly of ourselves’ by attempting to get a perfect picture of the world, but submit to our role as merely one of many.
- We innovate by learning from others who see things differently.
- We grow by confronting unpleasant truths that hinder creativity.
- We inspire others to grow by showing them how (and why) we grow.
Easier to say than to do. But at least I’ve learned how to say it.
October 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
In less than twelve months, together with the Holy Spirit, we have completely reinvented Kingsway Church. While our overall numbers may be the same, we have spread to two new neighborhoods, dramatically expanded our pastoral staff, and filled much of our congregation with renewed vision for reaching our communities.
What if that was just the beginning?
October 11, 2012 § 2 Comments
That is, we start with a shared belief that vision ought to be:
- Effective: timely, clear, actionable & aligned with the organization’s overall purpose
- Spread: distributed from the core leadership out to every member
- Owned: each person takes responsibility for how they implement that common vision
Working from there, we can adapt techniques from, e.g., Scrum, that will help our organization achieve that goal.
Here are what I consider the most powerful suggestions:
- Adopt a mindset of continuously developing and implementing new visions
- Care about improving how we do things, not just what we do
- Maintain a written backlog of “things worth doing/changing”
- Innovate in seasons of 4-8 weeks, tied to, e.g., a sermon series
- The leader (pastor) prioritizes 1-3 items from the backlog to focus on each season
- The team owns the vision (together) and its implementation (individually)
- Define the conceptual goal and practical metrics in terms of the value delivered to the customer (e.g., God)
- At the end of each season, celebrate what was accomplished (“thanksgiving”) and reflect on what did or did not go well (“confession”)
To me, the key is moving from strategic once-a-year vision-and-budgeting meetings for leaders towards tactical “sprints” that mobilize the entire organization (congregation).
This pace may sound a bit exhausting, but that very awareness forces us to alternate “productive” and “relaxing” sprints to keep the whole community healthy. It is already too easy to fall into ruts where some people never do much while others are continually burning themselves out. A good process should make explicit important issues that were previously implicit, so we are forced to consciously manage them.
September 28, 2012 § 5 Comments
The modern church is typically structured like a 20th-century business, with distinct, mostly autonomous departments focused on executing an agreed-upon “business plan” that changes very slowly over time. The church adds a layer of relationship and prayer, and relies on volunteer labor, but overall mostly matches the model invented by Alfred Sloan at GMover 50 years ago.
The important thing to realize about this model is that it is optimized
for better doing the same thing over and over again — what’s known as
“disciplined execution.” This is contrast to “rapid innovation”, which
is better done by small, high-performance teams.
For years, management theorists assumed that a single organization could not do both. This split is somewhat reflected in the historic distinction between “church” (execution) and “parachurch” (innovation).
In the last decade, a new approach to managing software projects has
emerged called “Agile“, which has achieved remarkable success at doing both
disciplined execution and rapid innovation. The key cultural values
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
If that sounds a bit foreign to the church, try reading it as:
- People and relationships over processes and tools
- Transformed lives over written agreements
- Glorifying God over fulfilling the Law
- Responding to today’s culture over following tradition
The critical term is “over”: the items on the Right side are still valued, but are explicitly subordinate to those on the Left.
Further, there is an ongoing movement called Stoos to apply these practices beyond software to the general problem of organizational management. Interestingly, many of the attributes of “Stoosian” organizations matches what we want to see in our churches:
- The workers, not the leaders, “own” the work they do.
- The job of leaders is to articulate the needs and desires of the Customer (in this case, God) in way workers can fulfill.
- The measure of work is not how much we do, but how much value we deliver to the Customer.
- Everybody takes responsibility for improving how we do things, not just what we do.
I believe there is enormous opportunity for the church to radically improve how we “delight our Customer.” Below are some early attempts. I look forward to further dialogue around this issue.
Agile/Scrum in the Church
- Agile Church: Slides and Case Studies « The Blue Room
- Scrum — it’s not just for software anymore « Agile Raven Blog
- Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples
- Scrum in Church: Saving the World One Team at a Time
Excerpt from “Scrum in Church”
The ways we organize ourselves, the structures we create to order our lives, and our work, reflect our deepest theological understandings. How is power understood? Does it flow from on high? Does it emerge from the people? Does it take a completely different configuration? Who benefits? What is most highly valued? What cognitive styles are preferred? What or who is on the margins? What is not seen because it cannot be imagined? Who is not “like us”? How do we treat them?
One of my favorite questions as I enter a congregation is “How does power flow around here?” One answer I’ll never forget is, “Well, it’s sorta like water in a bathtub, it sloshes.” We laugh, perhaps in recognition?
In short, the ways we live, what we do, and how we do them reflect one’s deepest values.
January 17, 2009 § 3 Comments
Our church needs a new website, and I’m worried they’ll go with a Flash-based option just because it looks nice and seems easy to use. Â So, I put together a list of (I think) HTML-based church website design/hosting solution with full WYSIWYG editing, as well as decent social networking and media sharing solutions.
- Powerful Web Publishing – CityGates
- Professional Custom Web Design Portfolio with Good Clean Website Design Samples – OurChurch.Com
- vCHURCHES Church Website Online – Samples
- Church Hub – Church Hub Powered Website
- Church Website Hosting – ThisChurch Features
- Church Websites Case Studies – increased church membership, cost savings | WebMedley
- Church Website Design | Beautiful Dynamic Church Sites You Control
- Ekklesia 360 : Church Content Management System (CMS), Church Websites > Case Studies
- ChurchCMS :: Features
- Church Website Design | Content Management CMS | Christian Ministry Website Design and Redesign | Elexio
- my flock â¢ Demo Church
In addition, I found a few good galleries and reviews:
- Great Church Websites || My top 25 church website design tips
- 50 of the Best Church Website Designs | Vandelay Design Blog
- Great Church Websites || Directory search results
- Cool Church Websites :: Church Communications Pro | Church Marketing | Church Web Design
- Church Technology Review Â» Church CMS