Eight Marks of “All In” Church Leadership Teams

Today’s post is taken directly from Faith-Based: A Biblical, Practical Guide to Strategic Planning in the Church, by Michael Gafa.

Have you ever had the experience of hearing a person say they’re “all in,” and then shortly after, when some form of adversity hits, the person is suddenly “all out?” If you’ve held any sort of leadership role you know exactly what I’m talking about!

Planning requires all hands to be on deck, ready and willing to do what is necessary.  Here are eight marks of “all in” leadership and staff teams:

Everyone is praying.
I have yet to see positive results emerge from a season of planning when prayer wasn’t at the forefront.  Conversely, I have seen amazing success when there is a shared commitment among leaders and staff to be in prayer prior to, during, and after a strategic planning season.

Conversation is marked with grace and truth.
High functioning, fully committed teams emulate Christ by embracing both grace and truth. This allows for hard but necessary discussion to take place without tearing the team apart.  Honesty and transparency are essential, but so too is unconditional grace.

There is an earnest desire to grow and improve.
Effective planning requires that we hold a sort of mirror up to assess where we are at so that we can better understand where God is leading us, and how we might get there.  Self-assessment, both personally and corporately, is painful but necessary.  The antidote to complacency is to earnestly desire to grow and improve, understanding the past and present while working toward a better future.

Collaboration is the order of the day.
There is no single person who can effectively plan on behalf of an organization. Leadership is needed to be sure, but good leadership is not so much about “doing” as it is about empowering, equipping, and encouraging others to contribute.  Collaboration is vital for excelling in formulating and executing plans.

Accountability is understood and embraced.
I have seen planning efforts fizzle as deadlines come and go with seemingly no one noticing.  If leadership accountability is lacking, success in planning will be limited at best.

There is genuine excitement around the mission and vision of the church.
While gaining widespread agreement on every plan element is both unlikely and unnecessary, it is necessary to have leaders who display genuine passion and enthusiasm for the mission and vision of the church.

There is a willingness to stop ministries, programs, or events that have run their course.
In my experience, stopping ministries, programs, or events is much harder than adding ministries, programs, or events.  Our common tendency is to add rather than subtract, but the problem is that most churches are already stretched too far. As a general rule, I advise churches and leaders that any ministries or programs they add be offset with ministries or programs that are stopped.

Change is expected and embraced.
Let’s face it: change is inevitable.  The world is constantly changing, and so must we. What worked twenty years ago, or ten years ago, or even last year, might not work this year.  Our choice is to change or slowly die. How we view change will largely dictate whether or not we are willing to change, and more to the point, whether we will embrace change as a gift or reject change as a hindrance.

Of Kings, Presidents, and Faith

“… give us a king …”
1 Samuel 8:7

In what has been for many the most vitriolic and distasteful primary election in memory, we now know that Donald Trump will be the Republican Party presidential nominee and, barring a complete collapse, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party presidential nominee. For some, this is a welcome development. For others – for many – it is anything but.

Has our nation ever been more polarized than it is today? Perhaps. But not in my lifetime. Still, it is fascinating to watch how this has played out: Scores of committed Democrats who are fiercely loyal to their party, and to the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Scores of hard line Republicans who are frustrated by the rise of Donald Trump, and torn about the prospect of a Trump presidency. Scores of Millennials who reject the status quo, and are drawn to the radical reforms proposed by a 74-year old, self-styled democratic socialist. And scores of Trump supporters drawn to the promise of “making America great again.” To quote John Lennon in Nobody Told Me, “Strange days indeed, strange days indeed, most peculiar mama.” Yea, that about sums it up.

But this post isn’t a political lament or statement. It’s not a political anything. Because while what is happening in our nation is concerning, of much greater concern – at least to me – is how Christians in North America are functioning in the midst of upheaval and uncertainty. Many are pressing on, endeavoring to live and love like Christ, advancing the Gospel through word and action. But others – on all sides of the political spectrum – have become consumed with bitterness and paralyzed by fear.

Is this surprising? Not hardly. Because while much in the world has changed over the past 3,000 years, people, alas, have not. Just as Israel demanded a king because, well, the King of Kings wasn’t sufficient for them, we too have a tendency to trust people more than God:

“If (INSERT NAME HERE) becomes our president, then (INSERT CATASTROPHIC RESULTS HERE) will surely happen. But if (INSERT NAME HERE) becomes our president, then all will be right with the world, and those good for nothing (INSERT NAME OF THE GOOD-FOR-NOTHING GROUP) will finally shut up for a few years!”

Or …

“If either of those two rascals (I could use a more severe term, but this is a PG-13 post) gets in, then this will be proof that God is judging our nation for our wrongs.”

Ouch … and ouch. This is the effect that fear has on people. Fear prompts us to gravitate to worst case, “if-then” scenarios and lose perspective that our faith is not to be put in people – or in anything we can see – but in the unseen providence of God, and the absolute assurance of God’s promises.

For those of us who by the grace of God are “in Christ” – this in spite of our ongoing propensity to sin and constant battle to live in accordance with our salvation – we are called not to be people paralyzed by fear, but emboldened by faith.

Sister, brother – your preferred candidate will not make America great again, or move America into new levels of greatness. And the candidate – or candidates – you abhor will not single-handedly cause America to fall into a massive crater dug especially for such a time as this. Don’t get me wrong – who our president is, and what our president does, matters greatly. But for people of faith, what matters most is not kings or presidents, who come and go, but God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Come what might, God is still sovereign and Christ is still building His Church – in us, through us, and at times in spite of us.

“And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey their voice and give them a king.'”
1 Samuel 8:22