Tag Archives: leadership

Leadership

Think of someone who has had a profound influence in your life. A parent, a teacher, a coach, a minister, a supervisor, an older friend, a mentor, a speaker, or a writer. Was their influence expressed or experienced the same way with each one? Of course not. Some led with forceful personalities or authoritative position. Some were far more subtle. Some are connected to significant events while others modeled their influence incrementally over time. Each one made a contribution to your life. Some of them were perhaps negative models, poor teachers, or bad examples. We are shaped by our influencers, both good and bad.

Now, think about those with whom you have had influence. Younger siblings, friends, classmates, teammates, colleagues, employees, young believers, students, and others. What impressions have you left in the lives you have touched? We would have to admit that there are some instances, some relationships we wish we had handled better. We could have had a more positive impact in the lives we have intersected.

Someone said to me this past Sunday, “But I’m not a leader.” In the purest sense of the word, our ability and availability to influence others makes us leaders. All of us have people in our lives who think our opinion is important, who value what we think or say, who watch to see how we handle circumstances. A Midwest farmer saw his young son trying to match the footprints his dad had made in a late snow. The little boy had to leap to reach the next impression in the snow. The farmer said to himself, “I’d better watch where I step.”

Leaders have to do that. They need to watch where they step because someone might be trying to follow. How do we increase our influence, improve our example? We get better.

That is one of the reasons that the Global Leadership Summit means so much to so many. When leaders get better, everybody wins. Our commitment is to not only positively affect our church, but to assist people to be better leaders in their homes, their businesses, their communities. That’s why we signed up to be a host site for the Summit.

It’s not too late to register, utilizing our special program – “50 for $50”. Our members are able to register for a special price until July 7. Then the price goes up. While we have over 125 total registered so far, only 30 of those are Wieucans. Invest in yourself, support your church, become a better leader. We all win!

Thank you, Church. Your response to our circumstances has us moving in the right direction. You can see in the newsletter the results of this past Sunday’s gifts. Please remember that we must look at our situation with a long view. One Sunday of generous giving is  a wonderful start, but this is more like a marathon than a sprint. Biblical stewardship is not a single action that results in a stronger financial position. Biblical stewardship is a decision, an act of the will, a display of discipline about the whole of life. How we manage our time, talent, and treasure demonstrates our understanding of who the owner is and who the trustee is.

We begin a new series this weekend, “Putting on the Character of Christ.” When I was seven years old, I was saved. Since then, I am being saved – being transformed by His work in my life into the person He wants me to be. Paul wrote: “I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be” (Philippians 3:12).

It makes sense to me. Tell me a pursuit in life where you stop learning, growing, improving, and evolving. We should expect, even demand that we mature as Christians. The process occurs in the midst of the tests and trials of life. Paul noted that the tough times should cause us joy because of the gains we experience: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with hope” (Romans 5:3-5).

To put it another way, God is all in for us. Are we all in for Him?

Calling Wieuca’s Leaders! Our 2nd annual Leadership Retreat occurs November 7-9 with special guest, Dr. Doug Dortch. Doug is an outstanding pastor and leader who will inspire and challenge all of us who have accepted the mantle of leadership in our church. This is also a great opportunity for those looking for a place to serve. A part of our weekend will be a spiritual gifts assessment session that might be helpful in the discovery of your abilities that match leadership possibilities. The retreat starts with dinner (please make reservations in the church office or through Pam Jernigan pjernigan@wieuca.org).  Sessions will take place on Friday evening and Saturday morning. Doug will be preaching on Sunday. Circle this important date on your calendar.

Be in your place this Sunday for Bible study, fellowship, and worship. Invite a friend to join you!

Love. Learn. Live. Evaluate.

40 Days HERO

From February 2nd-March 9th, Wieucans of all ages met once a week in homes scattered all over North Atlanta for fellowship and Bible study. Our six-week, in-home Bible study experiment used a study called 40 Days in the Word. We asked our 40 Days participants to fill out a short response form at the conclusion of our experiment. Since then, we’ve been pouring over the responses, and this is what your fellow church members had to say.

On a scale of 1 to 10, participants rated their overall experience as a 9, with the vast majority of responses clustered in the 8-10 range. Overall, 40 Days was a VERY positive experience for our members.

Similarly, with only one or two exceptions, all of our participants expressed an interest in participating in another small group study in the future.

When asked, “Was your 40 Days experience different from your Sunday morning Covenant Group experience? If so, how?” our participants shared some great positives from our experiment. Here’s a sampling:

“More intimate.”
“More structured.”
“More good, open discussion.”
“More time for visiting and more time for discussion.”
“Smaller, more intimate environment.”
“More personal. I felt more comfortable sharing.”
“More intimacy, and that’s GREAT!”
“Share lives more closely in small group.”
“More focused.”
“Discussion easier to understand, no ‘right and wrong’ answers.”
More engaging. I wish more people could have participated.”

When we asked what we could have done differently to improve the experience, we also got some great feedback. Participants wanted:

  1. More training for group leaders/moderators.
  2. A better sign up process.
  3. More varied meeting times.
  4. A choice in what to study.
  5. Smaller groups. More than 10 people is too many.
  6. Flexibility in scheduling. Every week is too much with everything else we have going on.
  7. More focused groupings by age/life stage.

We also asked whether the 40 Days experiment was an effective way to build and strengthen relationships with other Wieucans. Our participants’ responses were overwhelmingly positive. They used phrases like:

“YES!”
“Christian intimacy.”
“More personal relationships.”
“Stronger relationships.”
“Better acquainted.”
“Made new friends.”
“Rewarding.”
“Loving and caring people.”
“Bonding.”
“LOVE my small group.”

As we continue to evaluate our 40 Days experiment as a staff, we’re starting to develop a few takeaways based on the totality of these responses. Here are four.

Comfortable Communities

40 Days participants responded with a great hunger for intimate, personal relationships with one another that our current structure isn’t meeting. If one sentiment came through loud and clear from our participants, it was that Wieucans are craving more comfortable settings to build relationships. Small groups and living room environments have the potential to meet that need.

Scriptural Engagement

Almost without exception, Wieucans are looking for more opportunities to engage scripture as a community. Irrespective of age, Wieucans are craving more comfortable settings to take part in practical, Bible-based discussion and instruction. Their responses show that open, relaxed and easy environments foster discussion and encourage greater individual–and group–engagement with scripture and Bible study materials.

Better Organization

We can get better at organizing small group opportunities. Communication can be clearer. Registration can be more user-friendly. Facilitators and hosts could use more up front support. Variety of meeting times and study materials is important. Keeping small groups small is also important.  Now that you’ve told us what we can do better, we’re working on how we can do it.

Clear Priorities

We need to prioritize experiences that better grow disciples over experiences that don’t have discipleship as a priority or that are less effective as discipleship builders. If we value Christian community, growing relationships, and making disciples, our church calendar ought to reflect it.  If small groups are an effective way to do those things, we shouldn’t be trying to shoehorn them into an already full calendar. Instead we should be creative about making room for groups to grow and flourish.

So there’s a summary of our first level of analysis. Our goal is to continue to find creative ways to improve connection and community at Wieuca. As we digest this feedback and continue to ask for more, we hope to improve and expand our experiment. As we do so, we covet your prayers that God will continue to bless our community.  Your first chance to provide additional feedback is in the comments section!

See you Sunday.

Creating Room For God To Lead

Over the last several weeks, a number of church members have noticed how full our calendar has been getting. They’ve been saying, “We’ve got enough on our plate already! Be mindful of how much you’re asking of the membership.” We’ve heard your voices and you’re right!

In a blog post a few weeks ago, I mentioned that traditional structures of family support are often in short supply and said that we needed to find new ways to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of families and individuals who are “often over-scheduled, over-stressed, and over-extended.”

In lives that are already full, the church shouldn’t be the one to pile on. Activity should never be confused with progress, or programming with organizational health. In fact, more activities and programming often prohibit churches from focusing effectively on core principles and objectives. Over-programming can actually inhibit progress and be unhealthy for churches and communities.

overwhelmed

If we want people to create margin in their schedules, we have to be willing to create margin in ours. And if we want to create spiritually supportive communities, we have to identify the best times and spaces for that kind of community to take root and then give those spaces priority on our calendars.

In a recent Atlantic article titled, “America’s Workers: Stressed Out, Overwhelmed, Totally Exhausted,” Rebecca Rosin quotes this advice from Peter Senge, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, about how to combat the overwhelmed, totally exhausted cultures we create for ourselves:

“Create your own community, a network of like-minded people. Humans are wired to conform—that’s why these cultural pressures, however silly they may seem, wield such power over us. So find a group that fits your values that would make you happier to conform to.”

I doubt Senge had a church community in mind when he offered his suggestion, but isn’t that what many of us are looking for in our churches–a community of like-minded people who share our values? Aren’t we looking for a community that will help us stand firm against cultural pressures and instead conform to Christian values that will give our lives more substance and happiness?

Clearing space on our calendars isn’t easy. But if we value mental health, overall wellness, and spiritual well-being, we have to do it. It means saying no to great new ideas and passing up valuable opportunities. It can even mean saying goodbye to programming and ministry projects that continue to be effective.

But it also means saying yes to greater focus and clarity. Clearing space on our calendars allows us to say yes to greater unity of purpose and energy.  And saying no provides the opportunity for our church and its members to model in our individual and collective lives the kind of balance and margin that our neighbors are craving.

It doesn’t hurt that that kind of balance is biblically mandated, either. Prophets warn about earthly activity that ultimately leaves us feeling empty (Haggai 1:5-9, Isaiah 55:1-2). Micah even identifies activity and industry that leaves us feeling unfulfilled as a curse or judgment from God (Micah 6:13-15). The psalmist offers us a God who leads us beside quiet waters and restores our souls (Psalm 23).  And Jesus offers himself as a place of rest for the overburdened and weary (Matthew 11:28).

Ultimately, our incessant drive toward ever higher levels of busyness belies an arrogance that refuses to believe that the church or our workplaces or our families will make it without us…and an inability to acknowledge that we need rest and restoration to be at our best for each of them. Even worse, in our habit of busyness, we can quickly begin to adopt the attitude that God needs our activity more than we need his.

Ultimately, finding margin and balance are all about leaving room for God’s activity, creating room for God to lead. When God leads, our souls are restored. I’d be happy to conform to and be a part of a community that values that.  As our pastor says, “I’d like to join a church like that.” I bet a lot of our neighbors would to.

So get some rest. Find some balance. See you Sunday.

Go To Where The People Are

John Dillinger said he robbed banks because that’s where the money was. Paul climbed the Areopagus in Athens and braved the dangers (prisons) of Rome to preach the Good News of Christ because that’s where the people were. Jesus traveled the shore towns of Galilee and taught in the Temple in Jerusalem because that’s where the people were.

As we seek to reach our community for Christ, it’s imperative that we go to where the people are; that we make it convenient for our community to find out who we are; and that we approach our neighbors through avenues with which they’re familiar. In 2014, that means we need to have a strong online presence.

Art Rainer recently posted an infographic created by WebDAM to illustrate digital marketing trends for 2014. You can see a portion of that graphic below.

20-marketing-statistics-that-will-drive-2014-e1383266737666.png

We are now one year into a renewed focus on our web presence. Because of a host of dedicated volunteers with an astounding array of talents, we have made tremendous progress this year.

In an effort to go to where the people are, our Marketing and Technology Team is committed to doing the following things as we enter the second year of our new virtual presence:

1. We’re committed to improving our video capabilities. In year two we’ll develop a system to produce simple, high quality videos to communicate with our members and to let our members share their stories directly with our community.
2. We will continue to build our Facebook and Twitter teams with a real focus on increased engagement and interaction as we seek to expand our reach into our city.
3. We will continue to fine tune our promotional efforts, working to find the right blend of print and digital advertising, and the right mixture of promotional and event-based community engagement to most effectively share Wieuca with the world.
4. As our video capabilities improve, we’ll make better use of YouTube as a third branch of  our social media strategy.
5. We’ll conduct an annual review of our website and prioritize needed updates and improvements.
6. We’re committed to praying that God will partner with us in our work and use our efforts to bless His church and our community.

God has given Wieuca people with tremendous gifts and talents. Many of them are serving on our Marketing and Technology Ministry Team.  Join me in praying that God will bless their work and leverage their commitment to make a difference for the kingdom.

Generational Conflict On The Way To The Cross

Jesus was most likely in his early thirties at the time of his crucifixion. The majority of his followers were most likely his age or younger. Meanwhile, the ruling authorities so threatened by Jesus were most likely at least one generation, perhaps two generations, older.

So the conflict between Jesus and the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees and even the Roman government was, among other things, a generational conflict. When Jesus said, “You have heard it said of old…but I say to you…” (Matt 5) what some people heard was, “What these old people are saying is wrong; I know how to do it better.”

As the millennial generation comes of age, a growing divide between generations is becoming increasingly apparent. There seems to be a larger gap between millennials and older generations than anyone expected. For example, a new Pew study suggests that the cultural gap between millennials and Gen Xers is much larger than the gap between Gen Xers and Boomers or between Boomers and the Greatest Generation.

With the generational dynamics of the New Testament in mind, let me offer a few suggestions to both older and younger generations.

Three Words for Older Generations
1. You have immense power and influence. Use it wisely. The first time Jesus preached a sermon in his home church, the congregation was so impressed that they tried to throw him off a cliff. Jesus said that he was the fulfillment of scripture and the older generation who had seen him grow up wasn’t ready to accept that God had given him wisdom and authority worth listening to (Luke 4). When you fail to accept the voices of people younger than you, it sometimes feels to them as if you’re trying to throw them off a cliff.

2. Don’t look down on young leaders. Be generous. Give them more respect than they’re due. Paul told Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because he was young (1 Tim 4:12). Some of us still read scripture today and adopt a patronizing attitude toward the wet-behind-the-ears Timothy, thinking, “Isn’t it nice of Paul to mentor him. I bet he eventually turned into a fine minister.” Admit it. Sometimes you think that way. Stop it.

3. Remember that the church made great advances before you got here and will continue to advance after you are gone.  Our partnership with God is not an equal partnership. We are not the star players on the team. Just as surely as God found a way to use you, God will find a way to use younger generations for the fulfillment of the kingdom. Make sure you’re an encourager and not a stumbling block to those following behind you (Matt 18:7, Rom 14:13).

Three Words for Younger Generations
1.  Even Jesus had trouble breaking into his profession. The first time Jesus preached a sermon in his home church, the congregation was so impressed that they tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4). Nobody ever promised you immediate recognition or success. Put in the hours. Do the hard work. Take your fair share of hard knocks. Your voice is valuable and it will be heard. Be persistent. Remember that prophetic voices of change must be coupled with the Biblical values of perseverance and self-control (2 Peter 1:6).

2. Paul told Timothy to “set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim 4:12). When Paul told Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because he was young, he also gave Timothy specific instructions about how to gain the respect of his elders. Paul’s advice holds true today.

3. Remember that the church made great advances before you got here and will continue to advance after you are gone. Our partnership with God is not an equal partnership. We are not the star players on the team. Just as surely as God found a way to use you, God will continue to find ways to use older generations for the fulfillment of the kingdom. Make sure you’re an encourager and not a stumbling block to those you’re serving with (Matt 18:7, Rom 14:13).

And I guess we all ought to remember that when Jesus got to Jerusalem, there was a cross waiting for him. Generational conflict can lead to extraordinarily poor decision making. During lent it’s tempting to say that sometimes following Jesus means ending up with our own crosses on our own hills with our own ultimate rejections.

But that would be wrong. That’s not where Jesus leads at all. Jesus leads to resurrection.

What Do You Give Someone Who Already Has Everything?

We’re starting to ask some new questions at Wieuca. Or, more appropriately, we’re increasing our focus on questions that churches have been asking for a long time. What do we have to offer our community? Where is the real need in our neighborhood? How can we serve our church members and our neighbors in a way that makes a real impact for God in their lives?

The simple answer is that we offer salvation through Jesus Christ, a supportive community for Christian growth and discipleship, and an effective platform from which to reach the unchurched.  But our answers need to go beyond what we do to how we do it.  And they need to reflect a burning desire to understand those we seek to minister to. We need to know how  to share the burdens of our community and provide God-driven answers and support to help our neighbors meet the challenges of their everyday lives.

As churches seek to be effective outposts for God’s mission in their communities, they must engage in constant assessment. The questions we ask don’t change, but the answers change constantly.

The answers change because the giftedness and capability of our congregation changes. The passion and God-given mission of our particular kingdom outpost changes. Externally, the demographic make-up of our community changes. The cultural norms and religious identity of our neighbors change.  And assumptions about and familiarity with what it means to be part of a Christian community changes.

As we start to think with renewed focus about how to best serve our neighbors, let me offer my preliminary thoughts. First, like many congregations, we serve in a community where, for the most part, the physical and material needs of our neighbors are already met, often in abundance. Most people would look at a neighborhood like ours and assume that most of the families around our church lack for nothing. I don’t think that’s true, though.

We live in a neighborhood where families are often over-scheduled, over-stressed, and over-extended. To make matters worse, traditional structures of family support like stay-at-home parents and extended families are in short supply. Although we don’t always see it on the outside, we live in a neighborhood where families often lack the social support structures necessary to make sure that their mental, emotional and spiritual health needs are met.

What if we could offer to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of our community with the same abundance that their physical and material needs are often met?

Christian community is about more than sharing in religious instruction and spiritual experience. It’s about sharing life together. It’s about chili cook-offs and movie nights and small group fellowship and basketball games in the gym and family trips to the zoo and bridge clubs and senior safety seminars. It’s about helping people create space for God and family in their lives.

It’s about providing a supportive framework for families when the treadmill starts to run a little too fast. It’s about helping empty nesters adjust to new realities—and new freedoms—when children leave home. It’s about connecting senior adults to Christian communities that provide outlets for service and fellowship.

God is present in every aspect of our lives and God is honored when we mutually commit ourselves to building supportive relationships with each other. That’s what the “Connect.” portion of our “Worship.Connect.Serve.” strategy is all about.

We’re committed to finding new and better ways for you to connect with other Wieucans because we know that as we connect with each other we give God new opportunities to connect with us and grow our community. In the coming weeks and months, look for opportunities to get more connected to this community and help us as we dream about new ways for Wieuca to meet the often unseen but always compelling needs of our neighbors. Everybody wins—God’s kingdom included—when we invest in each other.