The Feedback Loop

Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).

One of the best ways I know to grow as a leader is to ask for feedback from the people around you. When we ask for feedback AND give our peers permission to be honest, we will grow.feedback

When I first arrived in Kansas City as a church planter I struggled to get my bearings. I led in the military and in the corporate world. But ministry was a different challenge. Six months after the launch of Restore I found myself sinking. I was stuck as a leader. My attitude sucked and I was ready to call it quits because it didn’t appear (at least to me) that I was wired to lead in a church plant.

A trusted friend suggested I go to each of the leaders on my team and ask them to help me grow. While the idea of being vulnerable wasn’t pleasant, I knew it was the only way to get to the next level. What I learned in my feedback conversations was both painful and illuminating. Since then I’ve been able to navigate my weaknesses better while building on my strengths. Had I not allowed my peers to be honest with me, I am not sure I’d still be in ministry.

What about you? Asking for feedback–honest feedback–can be scary for everyone. We really don’t want to be honest and you really don’t want us to be honest. Most of us are going to hold back from telling you what we really think. Unless you give us permission. So give us permission. Assure us that while being honest may be uncomfortable for the both of us, we are helping you and you are grateful. Tell us you’ll listen and nothing we say will damage your relationship. Tell us you appreciate our wisdom and insight. And you need to really mean it.

Now you can’t ask everyone for this feedback. This is a sideways kind of thing. Ask your peers–people you’re doing life with. But once they’ve agreed to meet with you ask hard questions like:

  • What are my weaknesses as a leader?
  • Where do you see me faltering or failing?
  • What’s the hardest part about working with me?
  • What are my strengths as a leader?
  • What do you see me doing that I need to stop doing?
  • What will it take for you to follow me?
  • What am I not doing that I need to do?
  • What do I need to do to take my leadership to the next level?

And then give us permission to talk. Follow this pattern:

  1. “Tell me…”
  2. “Tell me more…”
  3. “Ok–what haven’t you told me.”

I write down what I hear so I can process it all later. What you do with all the stuff you hear is up to you. For me it’s gold. I learn and grow from it.

Once the conversation(s) are over be sure to establish the loop by asking others or asking for feedback later. (I ask people for feedback at least once a year.) Build this into the rhythm of your leadership life.

If you lead a team I want to encourage you to foster a culture of feedback. I am convinced if more planters would ask for feedback and establish these loops our teams would be healthier and our churches stronger.

Oh–one last thing. Don’t expect honest feedback if you really don’t want it. If this becomes a charade of merely going through the motions then don’t bother. You’re not really looking for feedback.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever asked for feedback from your teammates? How did it go?

15 Tips for Buying Gear for a Church Plant

pciGear is important and purchasing it deserves the planter’s full attention. While gear might seem mundane, God uses gear to help people find their way back to Him. And if you’re not wise in your purchases and overspend you could jeopardize the financial viability of your plant.

I’ve spent much of the last couple of weeks helping my friend Josh order equipment for our Brookside launch.  This will be our third mobile location. Josh is doing all of the work and he’s doing a great job. He’s asking for help and feedback and that’s where I come in. I am his sounding board. I am helping him make the big and small decisions about what to buy and when. It’s not that he’s afraid of making decisions. Rather he values input from out team. His vision is to operate our Brookside location lean and mean. Josh wants to do his part and he wants to leverage the common wisdom of our team. These are Kingdom resources after all and he wants to invest them wisely. I am grateful for his attention to this process.

I’ve helped purchase gear for all of our locations and for other plants and thought I’d pass along what I’ve learned:

  1. Pray about the gear you need. And when it arrives pray over it. Invite your team to pray over it. Don’t skip this. Remember, God uses gear to help people find their way back to Him.
  2. Create a budget and keep to it. Seriously, don’t even bother buying equipment until you have done the hard work of hammering out a budget. You will spend much more than you can afford without a budget.
  3. What are you trying to accomplish with the gear? Understand this before you purchase gear. Just because the church sent you has an $5,000 digital sound board doesn’t mean you need one. Gear needs to be contextualized for the space where you meet.
  4. When in doubt, buy used or refurbished. There’s no rule that says you need new stuff. Free is good as well.
  5. Ask for stuff. It’s worth your time to call up local churches in your tribe (or not) and ask them if they have any equipment. Don’t promise to take it. But go look at it. Several planters I know have done this and scored big.
  6. Ensure the gear fits and suits your space. Create a map of the space and measure it to ensure your gear fits the space. Ensure signs aren’t too tall or too short, tables are long enough, lens of your project has enough distance to the screen, etc.
  7. Talk to other planters about what they bought and why. Visit other church plants to learn more about the gear they use. Get their input and ask for their opinion. Learn from them.
  8. Don’t go with one stop shops rights away. Compare prices. It’s worth your time.
  9. Schedule enough time to order all of the equipment. It’s going to take time to order (like months) to decide on the gear, order it, organize it, to train volunteers etc. Ensure this is all built into your launch plan.
  10. Ask for help from people with expertise in the areas. Example: If you’re buying sound equipment get help of an audio engineer etc.
  11. Ask for help from your team. But ensure your ministry team has oversight over the purchases for their area and that you maintain oversight of your ministry team. For instance, allow your children’s director to make purchases but ensure he or she adheres to the agreed budget.
  12. Never turn over the decision-making for a purchase of big-ticket items to someone else. During this season the planter needs to be involved in making the big decisions.
  13. Ask for additional financial support for certain gear. Be creative. For instance, when Mission Church launched they asked everyone on their launch team to purchase a chair for themselves and someone else. This small investment created great buy-in.
  14. Remain on budget. Seriously. A budget is a road-map. Stay on the road. Every dollar you don’t spend on gear is another dollar you can keep in the operational budget.
  15. Insure your gear. Please do this.

What have you learned about purchasing gear that can help the rest of us? Have I missed something? I’d love to hear from you.

Interview with Church Planter Dave Jane — Washington, Illinois (Part 1)

jane_familyI started Mission Glue for one reason: to help church planters plant healthy reproducing churches. One way to do that is to hear from practitioners. I want to interview church planters who are actually planting churches. You may not have heard of them but they have learned a ton and can teach us much.

I recently had the privilege of talking to Dave Jane about his church plant project. Dave will be planting Connect Church, in Washington, Illinois in May. Dave is planting with five families. He and his wife will go through church planter assessment in a few weeks. I am grateful Dave is willing to share his journey and insights with us. And I am humbled by the opportunity to work with him. I know we will all be inspired and encouraged to hear his story.

What circumstances led you to believe God was calling you to plant a church?

I have served as Associate Pastor in a fairly large church (1400) for the last few years. During a discussions with my senior pastor he challenged me to seek God to find a place where I could lead. He doesn’t see himself stepping down for at least another five years, and felt I was at a great stage of my life and ministry (42 yrs old. In ministry for 19 years) to step out and lead something. As my wife and I prayed we really felt God speaking to us about planting a church in the community we live in. The community she grew up in.

Describe the cultural ethos you hope to create in your plant.

Washington, IL is the city we’re planting in. It is a suburb of Peoria, IL. Home to Caterpillar world headquarters. The average age in Washington is 39. The average income is $72,000. Our primary focus is to reach the unchurched (I know that should be every churches prime focus, but…….enough said). As we target the unchurched we will be focusing primarily on families. We will strive to have a great program for kids. We will make sure that the teaching is practical. We will strive for creativity and excellence in everything we do.

How are you serving the community? What difference will your church plant make in the community?

Washington is a great, tight knit community. We plan on being very intentional in serving our community. I plan on connecting with the schools to find out what the needs are, and working as a church to meet those needs. I also intend to be a church that has a large community presence. Be in the parade. A booth at the fair in the summer. To be as creative as possible to make sure people in Washington are aware of who we are.

How are you developing people: staff, volunteers, launch team?

We started with 5 families (including mine) that were committed to being a part of the launch team. We met together several times to plan out the informational meeting. At that meeting we had 110 adults show up who were interested in learning more about the church. We presented the vision, and since then we’ve had commitments from another 22 families to join the launch team. Over the next 3-4 months we plan on meeting twice a month corporately and twice a month in small groups. In the small groups we will be going through the book Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley together. We will also be building community and starting to pray for friends and neighbors we plan on inviting. In the corporate gatherings there will be some worship, teaching and vision casting, discussion and prayer. Nearer the time of launch we will start to assign different volunteer responsibilities. We would like to find someone asap to fill the role of Children’s pastor so they can be developing volunteers and vision for their area.

How are you raising funds? What have your learned about raising funds for your project that can help the rest of us?

We have a very ambitious fundraising goal of $300,000 over the next two years. I plan on trying to raise that from three different areas:

  • To connect with pastors and churches that I already have relationship with. Look for a commitment of regular support or a one time donation to help us get started.
  • To personally connect with individuals and have the launch team connect with individuals who may not be planning on attending our church, but who believe in us and our vision and would consider donating.
  • I will challenge the launch team to pray about a significant commitment over the next two years over and above their regular tithe.
  • I met with a great lady who works with a lot of churches and helps them with fund-raising. I learned a LOT from her. She advised never to apologize for asking for money.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with Dave. If you like what you find at Mission Glue, please subscribe for an email and tell your friends.

If your planting a church and would be willing to be interviewed for my blog, please let me know. You know stuff we all need to know.

12 Questions to Help You Better Understand Your Spiritual Story

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe (Psalm 107:2).

Do you know your spiritual story? I am sure you can recount the facts. That’s a start. But I am asking you to take it a step further. Have you spent time with God reflecting and meditating on the works of grace and mercy he’s performed in your life? Do you know your story well enough and do you feel it deep enough that when you tell it we want to know more? After all, your story is just your story. It’s the story God is writing on your life and you are it’s chief steward.story

I was one very far from God. One of the ways I came to know and understand Jesus was hearing the stories of people whose lives he changed–people I knew and respected. Hearing them tell me their stories of how they were transformed helped me understand how Jesus might change mine.

As a church planter you have a unique opportunity to leverage your story to help others understand Jesus.

Maybe these 12 questions might help you better understand your spiritual story:

  1. Where does my spiritual story begin? What were the circumstances and situations?
  2. What have been the situations that I’ve told my story? What is the best situation(s) for me to tell my story?
  3. What has been the conflict in my story? What are the hard parts? Am I willing to tell these as well?
  4. What parts of my story will help people see the grace and mercy of Jesus in my life?
  5. What is most important about my spiritual story? Why?
  6. What is significant about my spiritual story? What makes it unique from other stories?
  7. Am I proud of my spiritual story? Why or why not?
  8. What makes my spiritual story inspiring for others?
  9. How is my spiritual story different from other stories of my life? How is it the same?
  10. How has my spiritual story impacted people? What was their reaction?
  11. Who are the people who need to hear my story? Why?
  12. How is God calling me to use my story to help others find Jesus in the context of this church plant?

What advice do you have to help us tell our spiritual stories?

Want More Influence?

…Then do the work! dothework

See, I am convinced many church planters lack influence because they fail to do the work. Now, I know we’re putting in the hours and pushing ourselves hard. I get it. I am not saying your lazy. Nor am saying you have to do everything yourself either. I am saying there is important work that we shy away from or avoid altogether. Call it the blocking and tackling of church planting. And it’s here that we have the opportunity to build real influence with the people around us.

I realized this could be a problem during a conversation with a church planter about his lack of influence in his ministry. He felt that he was just going through the motions and that people weren’t following him.

“Why do you think this is so?” I asked. We talked some more and I asked him some more questions about the work he was doing. And then he leaned back in his chair and then it hit him. An A-ha moment. “I guess I want influence but I am not doing the work to get it.”

I found his insight honest–and utterly brilliant. Not only was he humble enough to admit it, he gave me insight into a problem I suspect many of us experience. I began thinking about some of the places where I am not doing the work.

Planters understand their need for more influence to accomplish the Kingdom work God has called them to. So we’ve got to ask ourselves is our lack influence in our teams and the communities we serve because we aren’t doing the work? Then we launch churches that struggle or fail or worse.

So I want to challenge you–what’s the ‘work’ look like for you this season? Maybe it’s:

  • Addressing a conflict in your team once and for all.
  • Following through with things you said you were going to do.
  • Serving your community in a new bold way.
  • Finally setting clear expectations for an area of your plant?
  • Finding and equipping the right leader to take over an area.
  • Being on time to all your meetings!
  • Thanking volunteers with handwritten cards.
  • Making time for prayer and meditation and not just saying you are.
  • Meeting 1 on 1 with leaders who need more time to understand.
  • Leading in a ministry for a season we’re not ‘called to.’
  • Executing someone else’s plan because it’s the right plan.
  • Admitting you’ve made a mistake, fixing it, and moving on.
  • Finish a project you know needs your help.
  • etc.

We all avoid the “hard” stuff.  But if we do the work we will grow in our influence.

Remember, there are lots of ways to do the work and that doesn’t just mean more time on the clock. Maybe you need to become more efficient. Maybe you need to hand-off any influence you have in some area to a leader. It’s up to you to figure our what doing the work and resting look like. I am not saying do everything but I am saying do the ‘work’ and my sense is you know what it is.

So what ‘work’ do you need to start doing? Am I being fair? Am I missing something? I’d love to hear from you.