Growth is NOT Automatic

Everyone needs a plan!

Growth is NOT automatic.  No matter what area of your life you are referring to, growth doesn’t just happen.  Your physical growth is based upon proper nutrition and exercise.  Your intellectual growth is based upon planned learning and ever increasing intellectual challenges.  Your spiritual growth is based upon time spent with your Creator and time in his word.  Your emotional growth is based upon the quantity and quality of your relationships with others.  In other words, growth must be planned.  It must be nurtured and fed.  It must have a design.  For growth to happen in your life, it must be INTENTIONAL!

If growth is not automatic and if growth must be planned, then what is your plan for growth?  Do you HAVE a plan for your personal growth?  Or, are you just living life on autopilot, hoping that growth will happen as you go through the day-to-day moments of life?  Most people go through life without a plan for growth.  But, successful leaders have a plan for growth.

In developing your plan for personal growth, consider the following…

  • Schedule a TIME for growth. Put an appointment on your calendar every day that is set aside for your personal growth development.  It may be 10 minutes, or it may be 30 minutes, or even an hour.  Start small, but place an appointment with yourself every day to work on your personal growth.  Guard that time and don’t let anyone schedule over top of it.
  • Set up a PLACE for growth.  Whether it’s your office, or a room in your home, set up a place to develop your personal growth.  Have all the materials you will need right there (i.e. books, notepad, pens, highlighters, etc.).  Having everything you need in one place at all times will save you valuable time having to go and search for what you need each day.
  • Decide WHAT you are going to do.  Is it a DVD or a book study, or audio files you want to listen to and take notes?  Whatever it is, make sure that it lines up with your goals for your life and vocation.  Since I write a leadership blog, I am a firm believer that your personal growth strategy should be focused on developing your leadership skills.  Growing in the area of leadership will help you improve every other area of your life.

At a recent training event for The John Maxwell Team, our leader, John Maxwell, challenged each of us to develop a personal growth plan based around one of his books entitled “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.”  I want to share that plan with you.  Take the plan, buy a copy of the book here, and make this your strategy for personal growth for the next 12 months.  Or, choose another study and make a plan of your own.  Using your own plan or John’s plan really isn’t the focus.  The focus is MAKE A PLAN – AND WORK THE PLAN!

Here’s John’s plan for The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth…”

  • Week one:  study chapter 1 – The Law of Intentionality
  • Week two:  study chapter 5 – The Law of Consistency
  • Week three:  study chapter 14 – The Law of Expansion
  • Week four:  study chapter 15 – The Law of Contribution
  • Months 2-12:  study one of the remaining chapters each month

Make a plan for personal growth and work the plan.  Your business and/or career will only grow to the extent that you grow.  If you raise your level of leadership ability through developing a personal growth plan, your success will increase exponentially.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get started right now with your personal growth plan.  Then, come back to this post and share in the comments section what you are learning and how your personal growth plan is helping you develop as a leader!


Leading a Culture Shift in Your Organization

Part 2: Define Your New Culture

Leading Culture Change

In the first article in this series, I stated that the culture of your organization is either propelling you forward or holding you back.  As we explore and evaluate the culture of your organization, you will begin to see a pattern emerge which leads to one of those destinations – forward toward your vision, mission, and goals; or, the inability to accomplish those goals no matter how great the vision and mission.  Your organizational culture is what makes the difference in which direction you are heading!

(If you haven’t read my first article, click here.  Then, complete the Culture Exercise listed in the action point section of the article.)

After you have evaluated your current culture, you will need to ask Am I getting the results that I need to get in order to fulfill the vision, mission, and goals of my organization?  As you look at the list that you created in the Culture Exercise, you need to ask that question first.  If the answer to that question is a resounding “yes,” then your focus needs to be on strengthening the culture that currently exists.  If your answer is “no,” then you need to define the new culture that will help your organization reach those results.

Take a moment to right down your thoughts as you answer these questions.  What does that new culture look like?  How do I get from here to there?  Then, begin by working through the following steps:

  • First, define what “there” looks like.  What results does your organization need to accomplish in order to fulfill the vision and mission, and to meet the organization’s goals?  This is where you need to define what a “win” looks like.  Clearly define what results your organization needs to achieve.  If it is a certain number of parts produced on a production line each hour, then define exactly what that number is for your team.  If it is increased customer service, then clearly define what that means for your team (i.e. every customer receives a greeting with a smile).  Whatever your “win” is for your organization, it needs to be clearly defined in this step.
  • Next, what actions do the members of your organization need to take in order to achieve those results?  What actions will each person need to do on a daily basis that will produce the results that your organization needs?  In the case of the customer service example above, you may expect every employee to smile every time they greet a new customer – both in person and on the phone.  You may teach them a certain phrase that you want them to say as they greet the customer.  Whatever the result is that you are looking to achieve in your organization, define the actions that will get you those results.
  • Third, what new beliefs do they need to embrace that will help them act in such a way as to achieve the expected results?  In order to influence the actions that your team needs to do, define what beliefs they would need to hold in order to achieve those actions.  In many ways, this is a difficult part of the culture change process.  Here, you need to define a list of beliefs that will influence the actions that will drive the results.  What beliefs do the members of your organization need to adhere to that will influence them to act in the way that produces the results your organization is looking to accomplish?

Keep in mind that you ALWAYS act out your belief system.  Beliefs always follow actions, but not always words.  You can say that you believe a certain way, but your true beliefs will be shown by what you do.  Many times they are aligned perfectly.  Many times they are not.  In order to understand what a person believes, look at their actions.

  • Finally, what new experiences do you need to bring to your organization that will help define this new belief system?  One of the best ways to develop a new belief system is to take the members of your organization to visit a company that is doing what you want them to do.  Another way is to bring in a coach to train them and expose them to other ways of thinking and doing.  (Check out My Services page to see if I can help you in this area.)  Try to make a list of 3-5 experiences that point them toward what you are attempting to accomplish with your organization.

Culture change is a difficult task.  It takes great thought, preparation, and planning.  Most organizations can benefit from an outside coach, trainer, or speaker to assist in the culture change process.  As a member of the John Maxwell Team, I specialize in leadership development and culture change.  If I can help you in any way, please contact me.


Take the list that you created from the Culture Exercise in my last article.  Lay out a new sheet of paper with the same four headings:  Results, Actions, Beliefs, and Experiences.  Now, underneath each heading fill in your responses for this NEW CULTURE that you want to create.  Take the information in the article above and answer those questions for this new culture.

Next week, we will compare the two lists and begin to learn how to Lead a Culture Shift.

Roadblocks to Maximum Potential in Your Church or Organization

road blocks

Just last week I was privileged to participate in a webinar by Dr. Sam Chand about the 11 Roadblocks to Maximizing Potential in your Organization.  Dr Chand gave his permission for his listeners to share this information with their friends and networks.  Below, you will find his list (in bold) along with my comments regarding his list.  You can reference his entire video by clicking here.

11 Roadblocks to Maximizing Potential in your Organization:

  • Momentum could be a bad thing – contrary to John Maxwell’s viewpoint that momentum is your best friend, Dr. Chand suggests that it can be a bad thing due to all the chaos that it brings to your church or organization.  However, if your develop new systems to handle the chaos, it is a welcomed friend.
  • Measuring the wrong things – the metrics, or measurements that we use in our churches are putting the emphasis on the wrong things.  For example, attendance and finances do not give us a picture of the health of our church.  They just tell us how much money and how many people we have.  They do not give us an idea of how we are doing with our mission of “making disciples of every nation.”  After all, what you reward gets done.  If we reward attendance, we’ll have more people, but we won’t necessarily produce disciples.
  • People in the organization don’t feel responsible to fulfill the vision – when people feel that it is the responsibility of the pastor or church leaders to do the work, it makes it nearly impossible to achieve the vision for the church.  Instead, pastors and church leaders need to learn how to communicate the vision to the entire congregation in such a way as they begin to “own it” and seek to help it reach fulfillment.
  • Unresolved conflict – conflict creates an environment in which the Holy Spirit is not free to work in the lives of the people.  Conflict must be identified, addressed, and resolved in order for the church to move forward.
  • Too much mercy – we can be so gracious and merciful that we fail to address the changes that need to happen for the church to maximize its potential.  Mercy must always be a part of any change initiative, but it cannot be the deciding factor that makes us back off of the necessary change.
  • Failure to leverage peer pressure – peer pressure doesn’t end with puberty.  It is something that we face all our lives.  Utilize it as a tool to help move the church forward to its new and better future.
  • Lack of personal improvement plans – let’s face it, most pastors and church leaders have NO plan for personal improvement.  The fact that you just read that sentence tells me that you are not most pastors or church leaders.  What is your plan for personal improvement?
  • Lack of resources – this is a reality with the small to mid-size church.  However, we need to use our God-given creativity to learn how to do more ministry with less resources.  Perhaps, we need to reallocate resources to the areas that will help the church maximize its potential.
  • Deadlines are too flexible – every time a decision is made, ask what needs done and who is responsible to see that it gets done and by what time or date.
  • Lack of support from leaders – if the leaders in your church are not behind the new initiative, it won’t happen.  Spend time getting your leaders on board.  The amount of time spent with leaders prior to launching a new initiative is directly related to the success of that new initiative.  Enough time equals success, but too little time equals failure.
  • Packing for where you’re going – always be thinking about where you are headed and what you will need with you get there.  Begin “packing” those things in your organization now.  Then, we you arrive at your new destination, you’ll be ready to enjoy it.

While this is a quick summary of the lessons taught by Dr. Chand, I want to encourage you to listen to the entire video presentation and ask yourself which of the roadblocks are you facing as you lead your church or organization?


Why New Ideas Fail

It's not what you think!

New Idea image

Consider this. A pastor goes to a conference to learn about the new ministry that launched a church forward in growth. He immediately implements that new ministry in his church, only to discover that it does nothing to spur on the growth of his church. The pastor is discouraged and the people become less willing to accept a new idea in the future.

Or, a manager learns of a new strategy for his organization. He roles out the new strategy in his department and it meets with so much opposition that he eventually moves things back to the way things were before.  The manager wonders why it didn’t work and the employees see yet another failed attempt to change the organization.

Both of these scenarios play out every day in our churches and businesses.

In both cases, they have learned the one reason many new ideas fail:  we fail to take into account the culture within which we are attempting that change effort.  In his book Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration, Dr. Samuel R. Chand identifies 5 types of cultures that can be found in your church, or your organization.  They are (the titles are Dr. Chand’s and the descriptions are mine):

  • Inspiring – a culture in which new ideas and ministries are enabled to flourish
  • Accepting – a culture in which new ideas and ministries are easily accepted and have opportunity for success
  • Stagnant – a culture in which new ideas and ministries are not easily accepted and have little chance for success
  • Discouraging – a culture in which new ideas are resisted and attempting new ministries is discouraged
  • Toxic – a culture in which new ideas have no chance of success due to the dysfunction in the organization

When attempting new ideas in your church or organization, you must take into account the culture of the organization.  Asking the following questions will help you determine the potential success or failure of your new idea.

  • Is the culture of my church/organization ready to accept this new change initiative?
  • How can I best implement the new idea within the current culture? 
  • Is there a better change initiative that I can implement within my current culture?
  • Do I need to change my current culture before implement my new idea?

When looking at your current culture and your new change initiative or idea, take the time necessary to investigate the potential success of that idea within your current culture.  Not sure how to do that?  Then, I want to encourage you to participate in my new FREE Webinar on culture change.  I want to share with you some of the things that I’ve been learning about changing the culture within our churches.  I’ll be announcing the details in a few weeks.  For now, be certain that you have subscribed to my website by filling out the form at the top right of this page.  You will be notified as soon as registration opens for this FREE Webinar.  You’ll also receive a free e-book as my way of saying thanks.

The Day I Changed the Way I Looked at the Church

The One Thing More Powerful Than Vision

Some time ago, I heard about an author Samuel R. Chand, and his book Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration.  In his book, he discusses the concept that CULTURE is more powerful than VISION in leading a church.  He writes that a toxic culture in a church can keep it from fulfilling the vision that God has given to the church.  If that is true, and I believe that it is, then we, as church leaders, must deal with the problematic cultures in our churches BEFORE we can lead them forward in fulfilling the vision that God has given us for our churches.

While reading Dr. Chand’s book, I began looking at the church where I was currently the pastor.  We had been given a great vision for the church.  As we began pursuing that vision, we began to see the toxic culture of the church make itself evident.  What had been lurking just below the surface largely unnoticed, now was a full on attack against the vision that God had given to us.

Over time we navigated the change to the culture of our church.  People began to immediately notice the change.  Within 3 months our church had grown by 25% – during the summer months when church grow experts tell us that we cannot grow.

The bottom line – I was convinced that CULTURE really does trump VISION!  

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SERIES: Living In His Presence, Part 4

Entering Into His Presence

Feel free to use the following outline in your local church.  However, don’t just use it as a last minute substitute for your lack of preparation.  Rather, study it and make the changes that God leads you to make for it to fit your local situation.

Entering Into His Presence

John 1:29-34 (NIV)

John Did Not RECOGNIZE Jesus as the Son of God


John Was LOOKING for God’s Presence


John Was Fulfilling His PURPOSE in God’s Plan


John RECEIVED a Sign from God


God Has OPENED the Way to Enter Into His Presence

 Mark 15:33-39 (NIV) 


ACTION POINT:  What is keeping you from entering FULLY into His presence?


This outline is the fourth in a 5-part series.  Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 can all be found by clicking on their links.


Discovering God’s Vision for Your Church

Vision Profile

The topic of discovering God’s vision for your church has been discussed time and again in numerous books, blog posts, and verbal conversations.  So, why bring it up again in yet another blog post?  I believe it is important because, even with the vast supply of resources on the topic, very few pastors and/or churches have a vision for their future.

I believe that many have been taught that vision is a mystical revelation from God.  So, we pray and wait.  We pray some more and wait some more.  The result is that most pastors have no vision for their church.  Add to this the truth of the scripture in Proverbs 29:18 regarding the lack of vision and we are hounded by the fact that if we can’t find a vision for our church, then the people will perish.   So, we pray some more and wait some more and most times come up empty, without a clear vision for the future of our church.

Is there a simpler way to discover God’s vision for your church that you can begin to implement right now?  The good news is…THERE IS!   

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Principle #3: The Power of 90%

The Power of 90%

Have you ever had a ministry opportunity become available to you that you couldn’t take advantage of because you lacked the money to fund the opportunity?  If your church is like most churches, the answer is probably “yes.”  Most churches spend all the money they receive each year.  Most budgets are set to spend 100% of the income that comes in during that year.  But, what if there was a better way?  What is there was a way to actually have funds available for those ministry opportunities that come along unexpectedly?

There is:  it’s THE POWER OF 90% and it’s a simple principle to remember.  When creating your church budget for the new fiscal year, most churches will either base it upon what they received last year, or add a little increase as “faith” for what God might do this coming year.  Instead, THE POWER OF 90% says:  base your new church budget on 90% of last year’s income (assuming you expect the income to remain the same or increase this year).  Then, place the remaining 10% in an “Opportunity Fund.”  This fund is money that is kept in the account and is available when those unknown ministry opportunities come about throughout the church year.

No budgeting process, however accurate and well thought through, can accurately predict every possible expenditure throughout the year.  Creating an Opportunity Fund enables you to be ready for the unknown opportunities that God may bring your way that year.  So, implement THE POWER OF 90% principle and see how it frees your church up to take advantage of opportunities throughout the year.

Note:  if your budget is too tight to start right at 90%, then make a plan to get to 90% over a period of time.  For example, in 5 years you could fully implement the 90% plan by just increasing it 2% each year.  Thus, the first year you are using the power of 98%, then 96% the second year, and so on.


4 Steps to Take When Your Plans Go Wrong

This past week, a major snowstorm hit the east coast dumping massive amounts of snow on the New England states.  In my town in Pennsylvania it was predicted that we would get between 8-14″ of snow overnight.  In preparation for that storm, businesses advertised they would be closed the next day, some schools would be closed, parents allowed their children to stay overnight with friends, and school teachers stayed up late knowing that they would not have to go to work the next morning.

Then, the unpredictable happened.  As the evening went on, a small high pressure system developed over our area and remained in place the entire evening.  It was snowing to the west and to the east of our location, but this small area of high pressure formed a wall that kept the snow from  hitting our area.  The result was that we had no snowfall throughout the night.  However, everyone had made plans based upon the forecast.

The next morning we discovered a very different world than was predicted just the night before.  The plans no longer worked, the strategy no longer fit the circumstances, and everyone was scrambling to figure out how to respond.  Sounds a lot like the church, doesn’t it?  We plan our plans and dream our dreams only to find out that something unpredictable has changed our world.  We are left asking the question:  “What do we do when our plans don’t work out right?”  Let me suggest 4 simple steps to take.

  • Reevaluate your plan:  Take a fresh look at what your strategy or plan looked like and what has changed in your current circumstances.  Even when things work out right, it is a great practice to continually reevaluate why you are doing what you are doing.
  • Develop a new plan:  Based upon the changing circumstances, develop a new strategy or plan.  Reevaluate your strategic goals and develop new goals based upon the new circumstances.  Our world is fluid and is constantly changing.  Many times this takes us off guard and we find ourselves behind in the game.  That’s when we need to reevaluate and develop new strategies for this changing world.  See my post on 3 Level Vision Planning for more help in this area.
  • Respond immediately:  When you find yourself off track, begin immediately taking steps back toward the right path.  The longer you wait to respond, the further you will get from your intended target.  I am famous for getting “in the zone” when driving and talking at the same time.  One time I was leading two vans full of people toward our destination at a retreat center.  Finally, one of the team asked me why we were heading the direction we were traveling when I should have taken a left turn back at a certain intersection.  The problem was that he waited 25 minutes to let me know I had missed my turn.  I learned that day the quicker you respond to changing circumstances, the shorter the time it takes to get back on the right path.
  • Learn from your mistakes:  When we miss a goal or our circumstances change, there are always things that we can learn from our mistakes.  Back to my snow storm example for a moment.  As the evening progressed, the high pressure system developed and remained stationary.  Had the business owners, parents, and schools kept an eye on the developments, they would have noticed that throughout the evening the forecast began to change and the snowfall amounts were lowered.  The indicators were changing and the weather forecasters were adjusting their predictions.  Thus, the events of the next morning would have been different if someone had kept an eye on the circumstances as they were changing.  It could have been as simple as staying up and watching the weather forecast instead of being distracted by their favorite TV show.  Most times, the predictors of change in your circumstances are there to be seen, but no one is watching for them.

Our world is changing faster than we can imagine.  Even our best predictions and goal setting efforts will fall short many times.  However, implementing these four steps will help you make sure your plan is as effective as possible and will help you make a better difference for God’s kingdom.

How will you implement these four steps into your goal and strategy planning?

The Strategic Church Leadership Process, Part 4

Strategic Church Leadership

In The Strategic Church Leadership Process, Part 1, I discussed the first two steps of the process: Clarify the Culture, and Identify the Values. Once the culture of your church has been clarified and the values identified, you can then move on to setting the goals necessary to accomplishing the vision that God has given you for your church.  In The Strategic Church Leadership Process, Part 2, I discussed how to plan your goals and focus your strategy for accomplishing those goals.  Then, in The Strategic Church Leadership Process, Part 3, I covered organizing and aligning the systems of your church, and the execution of your strategic plan.  Click on the links above to read those posts.

Now, we turn our attention to the final two steps in the process:  unlocking the creativity and evaluating the progress.

Step Seven:  Unlock the Creativity

Most pastors or church leaders make one of two mistakes regarding any new strategy:

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