Riding Coattails

You probably know someone who has done it.  The person who rides the coattails of someone else through life.  Maybe they have a great boss that carries their entire department and allows some underachievers to coast along noticed.  Perhaps it is a gifted pastor who God uses to grow a church, and because the church as a whole is growing the department of the staff leader by default grows along with it.  Sometimes this gets noticed and corrected, often it can overlooked.


Obviously, people skating by is not how it is supposed to be.  In the book of Acts, which is in the Bible, we read where the early church begin to grow rapidly.  The church was growing so quickly in fact that some of the basic things the church was supposed to be doing, like feeding widows, started to fall through the cracks.  Realizing that something needed to be done, the apostles called a meeting and decided that they needed to find some new help to take care of the things that had begun to slip.  In Acts 6:3 we read how they found their new help, “Now look around among yourselves, brothers, and select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.  We will put them in charge of this business.”

Building Trust as a Leader

Seth Godin is quoted as saying, “Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust.  Then you can worry about the rest.” For the church leader the saying should probably go something more like “Pray. Earn trust. Pray. Earn Trust. Pray. Earn trust.”  Either way, the reality is, if you are trying to lead people somewhere one the first things you are going to need do is earn their trust.  Even before people can be sold on the vision and goal, they are going to size you up and decide whether you are someone that merits being listened to.  If you don’t earn their trust, they will quickly move on.


The trouble is that many want-to-be leaders never earn the peoples trust, or if they do manage to earn it they squander it away.  They may have great ideas and a vision of accomplishing something great, but they cannot earn and keep the trust of the people long enough to build a team to accomplish the goal.  I am sure there are many ways that trust is earned and kept but here are but four necessities for building trust as I see it:

10 Things Churches Should Learn From Ikea

I’ll admit, I love Ikea.  My first trip to Ikea was less than a year ago when I went to the store in Thessaloniki, Greece.  Since then I have been back to my local Ikea in Avon, Massachusetts, dozens of times.  Honestly, after visiting Ikea so many times I think there are a few things the church could learn from how they run their stores….

1. There is Something for Everyone – Although I have been to Ikea several times now, I have probably only bought furniture 3 or 4 times when I was there.  So, why would I go to Ikea if I am not going to buy furniture?  There are a few reasons, but the biggest one is because my son loves Ikea.  After entering the store the first thing you see is the children’s area.  At Ikea they will watch your kids for you while you shop (nice perk for parents).  Inside the play area there is all sorts of stuff to climb on and play with, there is always a movie playing, and there is a staff that will color and do all sorts of stuff with your kids.  In short, my son loves going to Ikea, not because of the furniture, but because they have an awesome play area that he enjoys.  And, even if your kids decide to stay with you, there are all sorts of mini kids areas throughout the store, where they can play while you shop and look around.

Most stores are not like this.  You walk in and you have to strap you kid down in the cart, because that cart is the only place for them.  Even worse is that many churches are like most stores.  They have no where for kids to go when they show up.  And even if they do have a class, they are boring and kids don’t want to go there anyway.

2. Family Oriented – Not only are their certain spots in the store for you kid, but the entire store is designed to accomadate families.  Two things stand out here.  First, family bathrooms throughout the store with clear signs pointing the way.  Any parent with a child who is having an “emergency” can appreciate this.  Second, their kids meal is about half the cost of a McDonald’s happy meal and is probably 200% more nutritious.  Not only is a good value, but they have a special area where kids can eat their lunch and watch TV and interact with other kids.  Everything from going to the bathroom, to eating, to actually shopping for furniture is designed with the family in mind.

Many churches may have children’s ministries space, but what about the rest of the church?  Family bathrooms?  Crying rooms?  Nursing mother’s rooms?    It wasn’t Ikea, but I was recently at a restaurant that had parking for “Expecting Mother’s and Mother’s of Toddlers.”  What a great idea.

3. Make It Easy for the Customer – When you walk into Ikea the first person you usually meet is the greeter, and not only does he or she greet you, but they hand you a shopping bag.  This doesn’t seem like anything big, until you walk into a BJ’s one day looking for a cart only to realize that all the carts are kept outside, and so you have to walk back out into the cold.

Are churches making things difficult for people?  Do they make it easy to get involved in a small group, get involved in ministry, to give, etc…  Or are people walking right back out the front door looking for a cart?

4. Clear Direction – I don’t believe I have ever been lost in Ikea.  Despite the fact that my local Ikea is 2 giant floors of products, I have never had to wonder which way to go, or where something is, as there are maps all over the place.  Even if you did somehow get lost, all you would have to do is look around and you would probably see a kiosk somewhere near you that has a map of the whole building and each department.  Second, not only are there maps, but there is only one way to go.  Most stores you walk around any which way you like, but at Ikea you start at the beginning and just follow the one isle to the end.  It’s the only official route. There are even arrows on the ground pointing you in the right direction, and clear signage everywhere telling you where to go.

How many churches make it difficult for people, especially first time visitors, to figure things out?  Where to park, where to sit, where that Sunday School class is at, where their kids go, is there even something for their kids?

On a spiritual level, how many people are lost wondering which way to go after they make their first visit, accept Christ, get baptized, etc…

5. They Are Flexible – There is an official route for going through the store, but there are also short-cuts for those who don’t want to take the official path.  Want to cut from bedrooms to bathrooms without having to go through dining rooms?  Not a problem, just take the short-cut.  There is the official path to make it easy for the first-time guest, but are short cuts for those who are more familiar with the store.    They make it easy for both types of people.

Are churches flexible in their approach, willing to give a bit to make it a bit easier for more people?  Or is their favorite two lines, “That’s not how we do it here”, and “This is the way we have always done it”?

6. The Unexpected – Today Ikea surprised me.  Jack and I got to Ikea a little early.  They open at 10, but we pulled into the parking lot at 9:45.  I was content to sit in my car waiting for the doors to open, but I kept noticing people going inside.  I thought I must have misunderstood the opening time, so I got Jack out of the car and we went in.   When I walked in to my surprise the greeter told me the store wasn’t officially opening until 10:00, but they were serving complimentary coffee in the cafeteria for those who got their a little early.  Contrast this with standing outside the post office waiting for them to unlock the door, 5 minutes after they were supposed to open.  Again, today, Ikea surprised me with a nice little perk.

Is church the same boring routine every week?  Or do we do things that mix it up every once in a while?  Small things like gifts for mother’s on mother’s day, and graduation gifts to graduates, go a long way in mixing things up a bit.  Bigger things like Christmas and Easter productions are important too.

7. Attention to Detail – Today I saw one of the Ikea employees cleaning the high-chairs in the cafeteria.  She wasn’t just quickly wiping down the seats, but painstakingly cleaning every square inch of every highchair.  She cleaned the legs, under the chair, the straps, everything.  Here is the crazy part….she wan’t cleaning dirty highchairs, she was actually going back through a stack of clean ones double checking to be sure they were acceptable for customers to use.

Are most churches content with good enough, or do they go the extra mile and re-clean the clean highchairs just to double check?

8. They Let You Take the Experience Home With You – Okay, I’ll admit I am a sucker for the Swedish meatballs they serve.  Those things are amazing.  But what makes them even better is that I don’t have to drive all the way to Ikea to get them, they sell them in their grocery section, which means I can buy them, bring them home and enjoy them anytime I like.

Are Sunday services everything your church offers or is there something for the rest of the week?  Home Care Groups?  Ministries?  Does your church encourage you parishioners to develop their spiritual life beyond attending church?  Are there materials for kids to take home and work on with their parents?  Or, is Sunday morning all their is?

9. It is Possible to Keep The Bathrooms Clean Even With 1,000’s of People Using Them.  Enough said.

10. They Don’t Assume You’re Smart Enough to Figure It Out – Today I noticed a small sign in one of the windows of the cafeteria.  The sign wasn’t selling any products, but rather was explaining that Ikea puts plants on the roof of it’s building to help keep its heating and cooling costs down, which helps the environment.  To be honest without this sign I would have never known this.  I probably would have thought they were doing it because it simply looked cool.

I think many churches assume a lot.  They assume that people understand what baptism, communion, raising of hands in worship and a host of other things are all about.  I wonder how many people sit through a church service, but miss out on so much because churches are assuming they understand everything that is going on?

Again, I love Ikea and I think churches could learn a lot from looking at how they run their stores.  In fact, I am sure there  is even more to learn than what I’ve listed here.  What did I miss from looking at Ikea?  What other lessons can a church learn from looking at other companies and organizations that are doing things well?


Save the Shoes

Small acts of kindness can really touch someone. Even if it is something as small as saving their shoes….

If you can’t see the video, click here.

What small thing have you done today, this week, or even this month that made a big difference in someones life? What small thing could you do that would make someones day?

The Wrong Goal

“He [Christ] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.  To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”  – Paul in Colossians 1:28-29.

Photo courtesy of © flickr.com/photos/bpc009/3286015968/

Many churches are short-sighted.  Many focus entirely on the number of people they can get out to church, and not on the spiritual growth of the people sitting in the pews.  Don’t get me wrong, it is important to count how many people are coming out to church.  As the old axiom goes, you should “Count people, because people count.”  Every person is an eternal soul, and if the number of people coming out the church is not growing, or worse is getting smaller, then there is a problem.  A large Sunday morning attendance though, is only a small part of the picture.

I don’t think Christ had a large group of uncommitted undiscipled believers in mind when he pictured His church.  In fact, Christ always seemed to be running the uncommitted crowd away.  Yet, many churches seem content with filled pews.  They seem to think God is happy with a full church, yet Paul in Colossians 1 says that ultimately that is not what we are working towards.

“So that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.”  That is the ultimate goal.   Mature believers, that is what churches should be counting in addition to Sunday attendance.  Not just how many people fill a pew, but also how many people are involved in ministry, how many people attend a small group, how many people are involved in personal evangelism, how many people are parenting their kids in a godly way, how many people are applying Biblical ethics in their marriage and their work, how many mature believers there are as a result of the church’s ministry.

It was to this end that Paul strenuously contended, and it should be the end that we work towards as well.

How to Pet a Porcupine

I discovered something new in a staff meeting a few weeks ago, and that is that you can pet a porcupine without getting hurt. I have never actually pet a porcupine, but I was told it is possible without a follow-up trip the hospital, if you do it correctly.


Photo courtesy of © flickr.com/photos/arthur_chapman/3986448936/

If you want to pet a porcupine without getting stuck by a bunch of quills you don’t run up and startle it.  You don’t quickly scoop it up into your hands and give it a big hug.  If you want to pet a porcupine you have to develop trust with it.  First, you hold out your hand to see if it wants to come near and sniff you. Only after it sniffs you can you pet it, but you have to do it a certain way starting at the head and petting down.  To pet a porcupine any other way could potentially hurt…a lot.

Some people are a lot like porcupines. They have quills, and they will stick you if you handle them the wrong way.    You know the kind of people I am talking about, they tend to be a bit grouchy, pessimistic, standoffish and avoid personal contact, have a tendency to complain and point out the bad in a situation, etc…  These people tend to be a lot like porcupines.  If you run up and startle them you’re going to get hurt.  If you try to pressure them into doing something you’re going to get hurt.  If you cross their path in a way they don’t like, start looking for the nearest hospital.

To pet one of these porcupines requires developing trust just like a real porcupine. No, holding out your hand to see if they sniff you is probably not the best way to go about it, but spending time getting to know them is.  Learning about their perspective, their past, their priorities can give you insight in how best to go about working and getting along with them.  Taking the time to building trust with can go a very long way, and save you a lot of pain in the end.  Just as I am sure petting a real porcupine is an amazing experience, I know that getting someone who is a bit prickly on your side can be just as fulfilling.

Also, for those who are pastors of churches and have opportunity to work with porcupines, the reality is that they are also sheep in need of a good shepherd. They can’t simply be dismissed. You can’t just steer clear of them like you might a real porcupine in the wild. You have to learn to pet them.  You have to learn to lead them. So you might as well do it the right way, and save yourself some pain.

Attention to Detail

I just had a great customer service moment.  As I was making my final arrangements for me and my wife to attend a conference the customer service agent said, “Here are just a few things you might want to know.   We have the conference room set at a certain temperature.  We think it is the ideal temperature, but some of our guests find it a bit chilly.  This may be more for your wife than you, but we thought you would like to know in case she wanted to grab a sweater….”

Now I have registered for quite a few conferences before, but I have never had one pay such close attention to detail.  I have never had one think about the temperature that they keep the conference room, realize that it might affect the type of clothing their guests would be comfortable wearing, and suggest the appropriate amount of layers.    That is great customer service.

I wish I had similar experiences everywhere I went, but I don’t.

I wonder how many times we fail to slow down, think about the experience our guests (people attending our church, shopping at our store, etc…) will have in advance, and work to improve that experience so that something trivial like a cold room doesn’t impede their experience while they are there?

Why I Love My Job

I love my job.  Not everyone can say that, but I can.  I mean I really love my job.  I love getting up and going to work.  And if I didn’t have an amazing family at home, I might just be tempted to make my office my home.

But again, not everyone loves their job as much as I do.  It’s tough for them to get motivated in the morning and head out the door to work.  Recently I came across a study in the book Linchpin which talked about why some people get motivated for work, and some don’t, which got me thinking about why I love working at the church so much.

Trying to find out what motivates people at work, Richard Florida did an experiment on 20,000 business professionals.  He asked these professionals to choose what motivates them the most.  From their responses he determined the top 10 factors that motivate people at work.  What is amazing is that my job has all 10 of these….

1. Challenge & Responsibility - Everyday presents new challenges.  One of the things I love most about my job is working with people, but it is also one of the more challenging aspects of working at the church as well.  I am challenged to find new ways to help people grow in their relationship with God, with others, and in their personal lives.

2. Flexibility - There are quite a few things that fall under my job description.  But for everything I am asked to do I am given quite a bit of latitude in how I go about it.  I have never been required to teach a certain curriculum in kid’s church or do things a certain way.  Flexibility allows me to do what I am asked to do, and still be authentically me.

3. A Stable Work Environment - What can I say…I work at a rockin’ church, with an awesome church family, and everyday I go to work with a great team.  Things are good, and growing.

4. Money - Money is not why I chose my career path, but it is nice to be at a church that values the staff and takes care of them.  Even more than for myself, I appreicate it for my family.

5. Professional Development - Every year I get to go to at least one conference.  The church is also good about making sure  have access to new ideas through publications, and other leadership materials.  I never feel like I am under-resourced.

6. Peer Recognition - Again, it is great to be a part of a team.  We all have each others backs and cheer each other on.  We realize that when one of us wins, we all win.   There is never competition to the point where we hope our teammates fail, so that we look good.  I want to see my team succeed, and I know they want to see me succeed as well.

7. Stimulating Colleagues and Bosses - Everyday these guys press me to be better than I already am.

8. Exciting Job Content - It doesn’t get better than seeing people coming to Christ.  Then seeing people turn their lives around.  Then seeing them stay sober, their marriage restored, their relationship with their kids renewed, accomplish things they never thought they could before.

9. Organizational Structure - Calvary has a great leadership team, awesome ministry leaders, clear direction an values, and an unalterable desire to worship God and love people.

10. Location and Community - I love where I am at on the North Shore of Boston (although it is a long way from family and home).  But more than the physical  neighbored community, what I love the most is the church community.

Are you a boss or a leader?  If so, does your team environment get people motivated…or make it hard for them to get out of bed?

Unstoppable Momentum

2010 has been one record breaking high after another. Calvary concluded 2009 with an average attendance of 800.   In January, I wrote a blog post entitled “Record Breaking Weekend.”  That post highlighted a weekend in January where we had 986 in church, our highest attended non-Easter Sunday service to that date.  This past Sunday we had 1,094 in church, which was our highest attended Sunday ever…including previous Easters.

Being a bit of a geek I love to crunch numbers, and I know that having 1,094 people in church is way beyond where we should be statistically in 2010.  In fact, if average growth rates and stats held true, we should’t have 1,094 people in church for several more years.  But stats are not holding true, and there is something else going on. We have a little momentum.

Dave Ramsey says, “Focused intensity over time, multiplied by God, creates unstoppable momentum.”

Focused intensity – For over 20 years Calvary has been beating the same drum.  People, people, people, people…. Loving people, reaching out to people, including people,  ministering to people….  Calvary is laser focused on bringing people farther along in their relationship with Christ.  It is what we endeavor to do, everyday.  In fact, it is written into our core values, to “Love People.”

Multiplied by God – You can work your tail off, but if God isn’t behind your efforts, they won’t end up resulting in anything.  But when God is moving, get ready for a ride. And pray for it to continue, because one thing I have learned about momentum is that you do not take it for granted.  Without question, God is multiplying our efforts at Calvary.

Creates Unstoppable Momentum – I am praying that we are only seeing the beginning of what is going to happen in this season of our church’s life.  Although we have seen hundreds of new people come to Calvary in just a few months, I know that there are hundreds of thousands who are still without Christ is our surrounding neighborhoods.  I am praying that the momentum we are experiencing now allows us to reach more people in our community in the months. and years, ahead.

Appendix 5

I just finished reading Jim Collins’ new book How the Mighty Fall and it was a great read.  There were lots of excellent points in the book, but weirdly the part I loved the most was the fifth appendix.  In the 5th appendix Collin’s discusses how to pick the right people for your team. He comes up with six characteristics.  In his words, pared down a bit…

1. The right people fit the company’s core values. People often ask, ‘How do we get people to share our core values?’  The answer: you don’t.  You hire people who already have a predisposition to your core values, and hang on to them.

2. The right people don’t need to be tightly managed. The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you might have made a hiring mistake.

3. The right people understand that they do not have “jobs”; they have responsibilities. The right people can complete the statement, “I am the only person ultimately responsible for…”

4. The right people fulfill their commitments. In a culture of discipline, people view commitments as sacred-they do what they say, without complaint.

5. The right people are passionate about the company and its work. Nothing happens without passion, and the right people display remarkable intensity.

6. The right people display “window and mirror” maturity. When things go well, the right people point out the window, giving credit to factors other than themselves…yet when things go awry…they point in the mirror and say, “I’m responsible.”

For any team to be successful, you have to have the right people on the bus.  These are six great characteristics to look for when hiring, or looking for volunteers.