Help Me or Help You? Staff Development

Not much time to blog today - I'm at one of the church members' ranch houses in central Texas with our Sr. Pastor and the teaching team from another church in the area. We're studying through the book of Malachi for a Summer series that both churches will be doing.

Most of the time out here I've been terrified the theme song from Sesame Street's "Which one of these is not like the other one" is about to start playing. These guys are a fountain of knowledge and wisdom, and I feel like I'm drinking from a fire hose.

But the fact that I'm even here is a direct result of the fact that our senior pastor buys in to the philosophy I've been talking about all week. He's constantly allowing me to be exposed to significant conversations he's a part of in view of helping me be best equipped to have significant ministry.

Help you or help me? Open-handed

Monday I talked about our commitment as a staff to help others have significant ministry, rather than seeing them helping to make our ministries significant. The first way that fleshes out is that we resist the urge to be staff heavy. Yesterday, I talked about how that mentality forces us to be simple - not program driven.

A third way our ministry philosophy impacts ministry here is that it allows us the freedom to be open-handed with our people.

I'm amazed at how many of my pastor friends see the church down the street as the competition. We don't see the church down the street as our competition - we see them as partners who are uniquely-equipped places for some people to have great ministry. And our belief that we exist to help others have great ministry allows us at times to free people to serve elsewhere if that's where they're a better fit.

We've got several key leaders who are extremely gifted in leading small groups, but who lead small groups as a part of Bible Study Fellowship. Sometimes, it's extremely tempting to ask those people out of BSF to lead our small groups. But we have to resist that urge. Our ministry isn't about building our ministry - it's about equipping and empowering people to serve in the work God is doing in the world... and we have to be comfortable with the fact that God is working in places outside our church's four walls.

About six months ago there was a girl involved in our singles ministry who was a teacher and cheerleading coach in a suburb of Fort Worth nearly an hour away from our church building. She had a tremendous ministry with a bunch of cheerleaders there, but traveled two or three times a week here to be involved in our stuff during the week. She was a high caliber leader, who could have been in leadership with any number of our stuff, but we ended up encouraging her to get plugged into a great church where all her cheerleaders attended. Today, her ministry is even stronger.

How can we let good people go to other churches when we need leaders here? Because we firmly believe God will always send us more leaders if we're faithful with the ones He sends us. Again... it isn't about forcing people to be a part of our thing. We don't have a corner on the "God market" in Fort Worth. And we're comfortable holding the people God gives us with an open hand.

Help you or help me? Simplicity

Yesterday I talked about our commitment as a staff to help others have significant ministry, rather than seeing them helping to make our ministries significant. The first way that fleshes out is that we resist the urge to be staff heavy.

Another byproduct of this philosophy is that the church program structure is necessarily simple. Scott Hodge had a good blog on simplicity not long ago. People are often surprised when they come to McKinney and realize what we don't have. They're shocked when we don't offer classes or groups every night of the week. After all, we're a big church.

But our desire to help others have significant ministry necessarily means we can't ask people to show up to the church every night of the week. We don't have Sunday night church. We do have mid-week Bible Studies, but only one night a week. We don't exist to get everyone out there in here... we exist to get everyone in here out there.

We can't be program driven because of the staffing situation we've chosen - we don't have the man power to run something at the church every night of the week. And that's by design. We've made a conscious decision to shut off the lights at the church building most nights of the week, and send them into the world instead. (Okay... that was cheezy... sorry).

This committment forces us to evaluate what is working and what is not, and spend our time there. We can't do everything, so we have to figure out what is most important. And we always try to err on the side of "programs" that are transferrable to someone's neighborhood. If I can take a Bible study, teach it to ten or twenty of our people, with the idea that they are able to turn aroudn and teach it to five or ten of their coworkers, or neighbors, or family members, I'm going to do it every time. And I'm going to favor that kind of "program" above a flashy mid-week thing that gets everyone here. Those things are great, but their influence is limited in the big picture.

We exist to help others have significant ministry. That means our ministry structure here needs to be simple, so we don't complicate and compromise our peoples' ministry there.

Help you or help me? Staffing Decisions

I briefly mentioned something in my post last Thursday that I wanted to expand on because in my mind it's a pretty big philosophy decision McKinney Church has made in the past. We work really hard here to make sure that the church reflects our commitment as a staff to help others have significant ministry, rather than seeing them helping to make our ministries significant.

It may seem like a semantic difference, but it's not semantic at all. The philosophy's roots extend to every area of what we do. This week, I want to highlight some of the decisions this philosophy has led us to make:

The first is that we resist the urge to be "staff heavy." Most churches of 3-4000 people like McKinney have full-time staffs of 40 or 50 people. McKinney has 11 full-time ministry directors, 3 full-time communications specialists, a business manager, accountant, and 4 full-time admins. We have a few part-time staffers, mainly in the children's ministry, but that's it. The more people we have on staff, the more our congregation expects the staff to do the ministry, and we're not about that. We're here to equip others to do the ministry, not to do the ministry. Our staffing decisions reflect that.

Don't we end up with burned out leaders? Honestly? Only the ones who aren't committed to the philosophy. The philosophy of equipping others to have great ministry rather than the staff equipping others to help us have great ministry gives us the freedom to not burn out if we're truly doing my job. Guys who don't get it, and end up trying to build programs and execute ministry initiatives by themselves inevitably burn out - but not because of the philosophy... in spite of it. I've got a team of 4000 gifted people who can help lead/lead any ministry initiative I believe God has laid on my heart - it's my responsibility to train, empower, and commission them to do it.

Instead of 40 or 50 guys/girls doing the ministry for a church of 4000 people, we've got about 20 or 25 people equipping 4000 people to do ministry. If we're successful in equipping those people, I like those odds when it comes to maximum impact.

Snow Day!

I live in Fort Worth, TX.

Two days ago the weatherman mentioned the dreaded "I" word: ice. I think he probably said it in jest, maybe even just to throw a little variety into his weathercast (60 degrees and sunny probably got a little monotonous for him).

He mentions that under the right circumstances there could be a slight possibility of a scenario in which a drop or two of precipitation might freeze, and the city shuts down. It's raining here today, but when I got up to go to Bible study this morning at 5:30, the temperature was a cool 35 degrees. It's somewhere around 45 right now.

It's a tough life living in Fort Worth... I'd blog more, but I'm afraid they're going to start rationing electricity or bandwidth - you never know.

Partnering with Parachurch

One of the things McKinney Church does really well is its partnerships with parachurch organizations in the community. We support several ministries in the community who are serving people we aren't equipped to serve as well - the homeless, battered women, women in crisis pregnancies, and others. Our only stipulations when we partner with them is they (1) do what they tell us they're going to do, and (2) are committed to sharing the Gospel with those they serve.

We don't require them to send people to our church, attend our church, serve in our church, or lead in our church. We want them to have great ministry where they're at, even if they go to the church down the street.

The philosophy stems from a bigger view of ministry than the local church. Our local church isn't the hope of the world - Jesus is. And if I can be partnered with someone who is sharing the hope of the world with the world, I want to do that - whether or not it adds numbers to my local church.

It's a weird philosophy for a lot of my friends in ministry, but I think it's one of the most important things we do at McKinney. We exist to help people have great ministry... people don't exist to help our ministry be great. There's a big difference.


Friday mornings are the highlight of my week. Each Friday I meet before the rooster crows with about 6 key men in the Young Adults ministry at McKinney. We read something throughout the week that pertains to life, ministry, or leadership, and then come together to discuss it.

Right now, we're slogging through a book that highlights prominent discussions in evangelical theology from both sides (everything from Calvinism/Arminianism, to the role of women in ministry). We've had some great conversations, and I think it has been a real boost in helping all of us think and lead more theologically.

One of the things I've noticed though, through this study and others I've done in the past, is that we have an innate desire... almost need to resolve all the tension in Scripture. We are drawn towards elaborate formulas, systems, and positions that purport to logically explain the way God works, and often find ourselves in a ditch.

We need to pursue all the knowledge we can about how God works, when God works, and for whom God works, but need to release ourselves of the need to relieve tension that God seems to have intended.

God could have solved the Sovreignty/human freedom debate with one or two verses. He could have solved the age of the earth debate with a quick paragraph about those pesky dinosaurs. But He chose not to. And I think we're probably headed for error if we ever get to a point in any of those areas where we think we've resolved all the tension on a particular issue.

Just a thought, but if godly, well-educated men have dedicated their life to understanding a particular issue and haven't reached an agreement, the issue might not be with their godliness... the issue might be instead with the fact that we're serving a God who transcends more systems than we think.

Creative. Not.

Funny moment on my way into work this morning.

If you read a lot, you'll remember a post when I started at McKinney Church about the vast differences between Fort Worth and Dallas, even though they're only about 20 miles apart. To narrow it down, Fort Worth is full of engineers, so everything works by a process. People here are less concerned about creativity than they are being right. To pursue excellence in a Fort Worthian's mind is to pursue correctness.

Dallas, specifically North Dallas where I moved here from is all about creativity. You walk into Starbucks and see guys running their multi-million dollar dot com business everywhere you go. There, the end is in creativity - if you want to pursue excellence, your instincts are going to be bent towards developing something "neat" that nobody has ever done before.

This morning, as I was driving in I heard a traffic report from Dallas. They were talking about the accidents on the tollway - a road that runs parallel to two major roadways, but costs several dollars each way. I swear it has more accidents and traffic backups than the reagular interstates, but those North Dallas people continue to drive on it. Those super-creative people, who find a new way around anything, regularly pay lots of money to sit in traffic.

There's a point to my story - when it comes to strategy, there are multiple points on the spectrum between Fort Worth and Dallas. But it's likely that no matter where you fall on that spectrum, you've got a blind spot. You can't categorize people too closely, because you never know when they'll surprise you, either positively or negatively.

Eyes for the Person Standing Alone

One of the things we've really been working on as a young adult ministry is "developing eyes for the person standing alone." We have a big enough ministry that it's difficult to tell who is a guest and who is not. As a result, for a long time we've had several people slip through the cracks because nobody feels comfortable introducing themselves but me. It can feel as though the ministry is unfriendly, cold, and unwelcoming, when in reality that's not the case. People are just worried about introducing themselves to someone who has been a part of the ministry for years.

I've been trying to cast vision pretty hard for people to develop eyes for the person standing alone when we're together, and to engage those people in conversation.

This past Thursday, I think we had a breakthrough. We launched our quarterly four-week worship opportunity for Singles and had an above-average turnout. Throughout the entire night, I looked hard for people standing alone - and couldn't find them. But, we had almost twenty guests/infrequent attenders. Our leaders spotted those people, engaged them in conversation, and began developing relationships with them.

As a result, I got three emails this week from those guests about what a friendly, unthreatening, welcoming group we have.


I mentioned earlier that we're trying something new with our young adults this year. We're reading and teaching through the entire New Testament during 2008. I hope it will help us accomplish something significant as far as each young adult's personal growth is concerned, but am also trying to use it as a tool to help in leadership development.

Every other Sunday, a group of us meets immediately following the church service to discuss the fruits of our study. We stay two weeks ahead of the other young adults, and discuss how we can teach each passage well. We talk about whether or not a theme emerges in the section of Scripture we're studying, and how we can best teach that theme. Through those discussions, we're building Bible Study tools and teaching tools, while helping each teacher study for his lesson. It's unbelievably exciting to see these guys' work, and to process lessons as a team.

Last week, as a result of that meeting, we talked about the dangers of "Cardiomalopthaly" from Mark 5-9. We made up the word from medical lingo, which literally means "a heart causing blindness."

As we looked through the passage, we saw that cardiomalopthaly was something the disciples struggled with a lot. Read the 4 chapters and count how many times they're worried about bread. In chapter 6 Jesus feeds 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread. In chapter 7, Jesus heals a woman who talks a lot about people missing Jesus, but uses "bread" as a picture. By chapter 8 the disciples are worried about where they'll be able to find bread again. In 8:6-10, Jesus feeds 4000 people. But by verse 14, the disciples are worried about where they're going to find bread again.

Finally, in verses 17-18, Jesus calls them on the lunacy of the whole deal, and asks them: "Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see?" They had cardiomalopthaly - a hard heart that caused their eyes to miss what God was doing in front of them. And we struggle with it too.

Good stuff out of our teaching team. I think this is going to be a great year.

Pop Goes the Church

I don't have any idea why Tim Stevens asked me to read the first manuscript of his new book "Pop Goes the Church." My hunch is that it has something to do with the fact that we share the same uber-cool haircut.

But I just finished my first read of the manuscript, and I think the book is going to be worth reading. It's part "Dear Church," part "Simply Strategic Stuff," part "Made to Stick," and almost completely thought provoking.

I'd love to give you a couple of my favorite quotes, but I can't. I'd love to tell you exactly what the book is about, but I'm not supposed to. I'd even like to tell you whether or not I love it or hate it, but I've been sufficiently threatened to not let the cat out of the bag. So, I won't.

So, consider this my "nah nah nah nah naaah" post. I've read the book, and you haven't. But you will when it comes out. And you should. Like it or not.

Funerals are Mandatory...

I spent yesterday traveling to and from a funeral on the other side of the metroplex. The funeral was for the step-mother of a member of our team who finished well, but lost a battle with cancer last week.

I'm not the most insightful leader, or the person who finds myself with the need (or ability) to regularly bestow leadership lessons to people who read my blog (I leave that to other, better leaders). But one of the leadership lessons I've learned in my career that I think is often neglected is this: when it comes to the people you serve alongside, funerals are mandatory.

Funerals aren't fun. They're not easy. Nobody enjoys them (except perhaps the funeral director who is cashing the check). They often come at the wrong time, in the wrong place. We're launching a major initiative for singles on Thursday, and there are a lot of loose ends that still need to be tied up for that. I needed to be in the office yesterday. But I learned a long time ago, if you have a chance to serve someone by attending a loved one's funeral, you need to do everything within your ability to be there.

You show your team that you're behind them, even in their darkest moments, and they'll follow you into battle.

Is Worship an Experience?

I'm reading a book right now by two guys I really respect in ministry (Simply Strategic Growth, by Tony Morgan and Tim Stevens). The book is incredibly helpful in thinking strategicaly through different aspects of church ministry and church administration. It has 99 short chapters on how to think through everything from communicating vision to dealing with the out-of-tune soloist. I've really enjoyed reading it - if you're at all involved with administration or leadership within a church, you should buy it. But they keep using a certain phrase that I'm not altogether comfortable with even though I've caught myself using it before.

The book talks several times about inviting people into a "worship experience."

To me, that language speaks of worship as something that happens to you, rather than something in which you are an active participant. I'm not denying that worship involves experience, but I'm not sure the thing we want to be inviting people in to is primarily about our experience. We should be inviting others to participate in such a way that God experiences our worship, and that outsiders observe that.

I'm familiar with the church these two guys served at the time they wrote the book, and don't think their church reflects their wording. Although there are churches out there where worship is a spectator sport, I don't think their church is one of them. But I think the language is important enough to point out. What we're inviting people to on Sunday, I hope, is not a worship experience as much as a worship opportunity.

Resolution - Summit

Hope you have a great New Year. I don't know if you're a resolution person, but New Years Resolutions are some of my favorite things. I'm a goal setter by nature, so I love the opportunity to see a clean slate and to set some goals for a brand new year.

This year, I'm really excited about one of the "resolutions" we're making with the Young Adults here at McKinney. I'm sure the plan will morph a bit over the year because it's a brand new idea, so I'll blog about it now while we're only 1 day into it so I can follow-up later.

We've invited every one of our Young Adults (married and single) to read through the New Testament in 2008. Coincidentally, if you read one chapter a day, for five days a week, you read through the entire New Testament in almost exactly one year. I got the Bible reading idea from Watermark Church who do a Bible Reading Plan called "Join the Journey," in which they include devotionals written by members of their church on each passage of Scripture. When I was at Fellowship (ahem... Chase Oaks Church), we adopted portions of the Journey, and created Summit. Summit turned out to be one of the most rewarding projects I've ever been a part of in ministry, so when I made the move to McKinney I decided to take parts of it with me.

This year at McKinney, instead of the devotionals (which were extremely difficult to manage, edit, and publish), all of the teaching in our Young Adult groups on Sunday will coincide with the passages the group read the previous week. So, we'll be reading and teaching through the entire New Testament in 2008.

In order to accomplish that, I found 10-12 guys who I'm really wanting to develop in the area of teaching, and invited them to be a part of a "teaching team" that will stay 3 weeks ahead of everyone else in the reading, and then spend 2 hours every other week thinking through how to best teach each portion of the reading each week.

For example, our first meeting was a couple of weeks ago, and we studied through Mark 1-4 and Mark 5-9 together. We talked about how each passage breaks down (outlines), discussed the "big idea" of each passage, talked about the "tension" between what the passage calls us to do and our normal tendency, and talked about the application of the passage. Then we spent some time about how to pull off a lesson from each passage (do we want to do a survey of all 5 chapters, or is there a specific episode or verse that gets at the main idea?).

After this Sunday's lesson, I'll share with you what the teaching team came up with and how it was executed.

Each of those 10-12 guys on the teaching team will have several opportunities to teach throughout the year, so in essence, our time together is helping each of these men prepare their lessons. I also hope it will sharpen each of us as teachers and students of the Scripture. A byproduct should be teachers in our classes who are more prepared and more biblical in their teaching (if we're studying 3 weeks in advance, they're not scrambling to put together a lesson the Saturday night before they teach).

I know several churches have a team approach to studying for sermons, but haven't heard of any that do this kind of thing on a smaller level. So, it's sort of an experiment for us. But, my hope is that the end result will be a ministry of men and women who are familiar with the New Testament, and some quality leaders/teachers who can handle the Scriptures well. I'll keep you posted.