Do You Understand Your Culture?

To understand the culture of your church plant you will need someone to tell you how they experience it. You can’t tell us your culture. Your culture must be experienced.

Several months back we bid farewell to one of our leadership residents. During our final conversation I asked him to help me define the culture of Restore. Here’s what he said:

  • Trust God: The leadership trusts God; not only trust Him but also believes that he’s at work in and through us.
  • Generosity: We practice generosity in many forms. We find ways to bless the people around us whether they attend Restore or not.
  • Feedback: Ours is a culture that offers feedback to leaders. The best way to grow as a leader is to ask for feedback from those around you. While this can be challenging, it inevitably leads to growth.
  • Investing in People: We are serious about investing in people. We truly believe that we can help each other be more of who God created us to be. We encourage each other to always be investing in another person. Period.
  • Sending: We are a sending culture. We commission people for mission and celebrate it.

Many church planters I meet tell me how they’re going to create this kind of culture or how they’re going to create that kind of culture. I am glad they are intentional about this topic. But I wonder can we really ‘create’ the culture in our church plants?

Some of these cultural pillars of Restore we did set out to create. Others, we did not. Some of them have simply emerged over time. In church planting, culture emerges from these four things:

  1. Beliefs. For the church planter this is Christology. What you believe about Jesus and the mission of the church will determine everything else.
  2. Values. These emerge from the shared beliefs of the members of your tribe or group.
  3. Practices. These are the things you do and encourage others to do in order to arrive at your values. You must be willing to do the work, spend the money, implement the system etc. to see your values emerge.
  4. Goals. Why does your community exist? What are you trying to do or accomplish?

To build culture you must be intentional your values and practices. You can’t sit down and white-board your cultural. It must emerge from practicing your values that have emerged from your beliefs.

Do you agree? How are you ‘creating’ culture in your church plant? What are those things that everyone can point to and say–that’s the culture of our church?

What a Router Taught Me About Bending and Breaking

Think about your last real challenge as a church planter. Did you bend or did you break? If you broke you need to ask yourself how you can be more resilient.

The dictionary defines resiliency as: 1) the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity. 2) ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

Challenges are going to arise. The question is how you respond. Does every problem cause you to break or are you learning to be resilient?

Several the wireless router at our office was down. Having no internet access plunged our office into chaos. To make matters worse, we had an important webinar scheduled about a key strategic event that afternoon. Because we are a church plant we don’t have an IT department. So when things break you figure out how to fix them. And that meant me.

I called our internet provides who helped me run diagnostics on our hardware. That’s when the fun began. See, I am fine with software, but hardware befuddles me. So I went to the bowels of a storage closet where we have the magic boxes with the colorful cords that allow us to stay connected to the world wide web. There the technician had me unplug cords and reconnect them. After an hour (I am not kidding) we still had not identified the problem. My clothes were covered in dust and my neck hurt. Well meaning colleagues would stop by from time to time and ask “how is it going.” Now I love my team but I had nothing nice to say so I kept my mouth shut.

After another 30 minutes of troubleshooting the technician said very kindly: I don’t think we’re going to get this fixed today for you.  I wanted to cuss and yell. I wanted to stomp on my computer. I wanted to rip every cable out of every router/modem/phone jack. Oh yeah–I thought of putting my head through the wall.

So I prayed. And reminded myself that the situation called for resiliency. This silly router problem was causing me anger and stress and I was not going to let it break me. I had already missed a meeting and now would need to rearrange a lunch meeting. But we had to have internet access for this meeting. So I went to the store and purchased all new hardware.

What I could have done:

  • Screamed and cried and moaned that I am the last guy that should be doing this sort of thing.
  • Said something mean and nasty to my well-meaning team-mates.
  • Asked someone else do it.
  • Walked away from the challenge.

What I did do to remain resilient:

  • Admit that I needed to address this IT debacle and not somene else.
  • Remind myself to be patient with everyone–including myself.
  • Be kind to the people offering to help me.
  • Put the challenge in perspective. It wasn’t the end of the world.

Resiliency means you bend but you don’t break.

So the question is do you bend or break? Broken church planters are no use to the Kingdom.

How to Catalyze Generosity to Meet Needs

You’ve uncovered a need in your community that you and your team are called to meet. Now we all know you could ask people in your church to donate supplies or fill volunteers slots to meet those needs. While that’s good, it’s boring and will hardly lead to transformation.

So what if you took it another step and helped people in your community meet those needs by catalyzing their generosity? Ahh…but there’s the gap. And that gap is the opportunity for your church plant to be a bridge into your community. Stand back because something down-rite cool and fresh might just happen.

Here are 5 things that might help your church plant bridge catalyze generosity to meet needs.

  1. Operate with the assurance that many people in your community also want to meet this need. Your job is to bring it to their attention and help them meet it.
  2. Find local community partners that are already meeting those needs and determine if there is an opportunity to join them. If not, keep going on your own.
  3. Keep your bridging efforts small and winnable (at least initially). Under promise and over deliver.
  4. Develop a brand separate from your church. (For example: Replenish powered by Restore Community Church.) This will help catalyze your cause with people who may be reluctant to work with a church.
  5. Do the work. The point of being the bridge is to make it as easy as possible for people in your community to help meet these needs. Go door to door; gather the supplies; do whatever it takes to help people be generous. This is all going to take planning and it’s going to demand that you execute well so be sure you have the necessary bandwidth.

We call our effort to do this Replenish. I’ve written about it here. We haven’t figured it all out yet but we’re trying.

What about you? If you’re already bridging the gap between needs and generosity, I’d love to learn from you. If you’re just uncovering a need and not sure what to do next.

Consumerism Starts With You

Today millions of people will be whipped up into a frenzy of buying and consuming. It’s called Black Friday and it’s pretty close to a national holiday. Retailers and brand managers pull out all stops to get people to stand in lines in the cold and dark to buy stuff. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with getting stuff at a good price. But the drama and the lines and the inevitable stampedes of people clamoring for stuff speaks to a deeper brokeness in our culture. We buy stuff not so much for to have it but to express a reality about ourselves. This is consumerism. And for the most part, it’s in direct opposition to the values of the Kingdom of Jesus. (And isn’t ironic that Black Friday is the lead into Jesus’ birthday!) But more on that in another post.

Hear me now: There’s nothing wrong with stuff. The problem is what the pursuit of stuff does to us. Consumerism is the dominate cultural and sociological ethos of Western culture. Church planters cannot ignore this ethos if they hope to plant a church that helps people experience the Kingdom. Consumerism distracts us from seeing/experiencing the fullness of the Kingdom of God. And that’s not cool.

And while many planters want to plant a church free from the power of consumerism, many still fall trap to it.

What I’ve been learning is that consumerism begins with the planter. We’ve got to be intentional about dealing with its power in our own lives before we can help others with its power in theirs.

So Today (Black Friday) I am not buying anything. Period. No long lines for me or endless hours online chasing down deals. Instead, I’ve developed this plan for myself this Christmas season to ensure I stay focused on the Kingdom. Call it my alternative Christmas. Perhaps you might join me?

I will spend less…

  • I am going to admit that I am a consumer and I am powerless over my addiction to stuff. So I am going cold turkey and not buy anything this season that I don’t need.
  • I am going to set a strict limit on the amount I spend on gifts to others.
  • I am going to eat more meals at home with my family rather then go out.
  • I am going to sell/give-away an item that has too much power over me and give away the proceeds.

I will spend more time with God…

  • I am going to read through the four gospels and take note of all the times Jesus talks about money and stuff. Then I am going to try and live it out.
  • I am going to pray that God will help me be honest about the power of consumerism in my heart.
  • I am going to pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the strength and courage to persevere in my recovery from consumerism.

I will love others more…

  • I am going to look for opportunities to volunteer my time to organizations and causes in my community.
  • I am going to give my wife and kids more of my time rather then stuff. I am going to help my kids understand that their value is not based on getting stuff but on who Jesus is and what he’s already done in their lives.
  • I am going to try and serve someone in what they’re doing everyday.

Jesus was serious about His Kingdom. He urged us to choose Him over the world and I don’t think he was kidding around. The best way to not become a consumer driven church is to break the power of consumerism in your life.

What are you going to do this season to break the power of consumerism in your life? How has consumerism impacted your church plant?

Thank and Pray for People With Hand-Written Notes

If you’re leading people I have a question for you: How often do you write handwritten thank you cards to the people on your teams? If you can’t remember may I encourage you to start writing.

Emails and verbal affirmations don’t count here. I am talking about sitting down and writing words on a card with a pen. There’s something intimate about the act of handwriting that the person receiving the note connects with.   Not only are you missing  out on an opportunity to show gratitude but you’re missing out as a leader. People aren’t going to care about you, your vision, or your plans until they know you care about them. Leadership is a people thing. The sooner you let people know you appreciate them the better it’s going to be for everyone.

Two years ago I set a goal of writing three thank you cards every week to the people who contribute on our ministry teams. As I write I also pray for the person I am thanking.I hope my contributors  appreciate the card. I want them to know how grateful I am for each of them.

But the real benefit of writing cards has been personal. The practice has helped me grow as a leader because writing notes helps me remain grateful for people in my life. Every one of our contributors brings something unique to the table. During the 3-5 minutes it takes me to write the card, I am praying and focused on the person and thinking about the things that I can do to help them grow.

Writing thank you cards is a great way to build humility into the rhythm of the leader’s life and to thank people for being on mission with you.

If you do thank your team with handwritten notes, how often do you write them? I’d love to know the details.