Monday, November 5, 2007

Creating a Safe Place for Friendship to Happen 1: Unconditional Acceptance

If friendship is going to be part of the ecology of the church, then we'd better learn how to create a safe environment where these friendships can flourish. This is going to be part 1 of a series of posts that reflect on what's needed for us to create an environment of friendship.

I think it all begins with unconditional acceptance. Jesus created a safe place around him because there was rarely a person he did not delight in and accept. The worst of the worst not only felt comfortable with him...but they actually sought him out! I think the only people he kept his distance from were the the people who kept projecting an image of righteousness; an aura that they had it all together. I believe that Jesus knew that a safe environment would not be possible if such people were part of the group.

In the same way, an ecology of friendship is built on an environment of unconditional acceptance. I hope our groups(s) will become places where the newest of people will feel that they are delighted in and accepted as they are. This will be the first step towards trusting each other as friends.

Perhaps, delight is the place to start in accepting one another? To take joy in one another is the essence of delight. Delight is not something you can conjure up or pretend to have. You can tell if someone genuinely delights in you. You can literally see it in their eyes.

And so, delight, then, begins in our own hearts. We need to be asking God to put a genuine love in our hearts for people. This is not an easy task. There are many people that I would like to say, "Grow up!" Or, "Hey, the universe doesn't revolve around you!" Or, "Please get the the corn cob out of your ass...ASAP!" I know. I know. Doesn't sound like I'm delighting in too many people right now. But hey, for the most part, I do keep those comments to myself. But that's the point of this paragraph. I need to ask God for a genuine love for people every @#$%! day!

Gosh, I hope that there's a group somewhere out there that will accept me the way I am right here...right now.

Creating a Safe Place for Friendship to Happen 2: Unwavering Commitment

If friendship is going to be part of the ecology of the church, then we'd better learn how to create a safe environment where these friendships can flourish. This is part 2 of a series of posts that reflect on what's needed for us to create an environment of friendship.

I think a safe environment begins with an unwavering commitment to remain friends no matter what. Leaving is not an option. Abandoning one another is not an option. Suddenly becoming "missing in action" is not an option. Switching groups is not an option...that would be as absurd as leaving your family to join someone else's family!

Acts 2:42 describes the early church as being devoted to several things, one of which is the fellowship. I do not believe that this necessarily refers to their commitment to a congregation. Rather, I believe this meant that the early church had an unwavering commitment to each other; to the group they were a part of which met in homes every day.

This is going to be a huge challenge here in Ottawa. Ottawans are used to transient relationships. With Armed Forces families moving every four years or so, the social climate in Ottawa has become cold and uncaring. People are courteous and polite towards one another but very superficial.

As church here in Ottawa, I think it would be awesome to model relationships that are unconditional and unwavering. It doesn't matter what kind of jerk someone else may have been during a gathering, we should show that we are still devoted to one another. As someone who has been that jerk before, I would appreciate not having to walk on eggshells when I'm in a group as a recovering jerk. :-)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Friendship as Core Value

Many of the core people in SOULNET are those who are relatively new to the Ottawa area. Lately, conversations have centered around a need for developing real friendships with people who can be trusted. Ottawa is a lonely place. It seems that most Ottawans are not really interested in getting to know other people. There is a coldness and superficiality among the people of Ottawa that makes those of us who are used to open friendships feel isolated and alone.

I wonder if this is a cultural issue that needs to be addressed by the gospel. Perhaps a contextualized gospel engages this coldness and superficilaity by creating an ecclesia that is rooted in friendship that is marked by authenticity and grace?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Leadership Institute Philippines 2007

Here are some pics from the Leadership Institute I did in the Philippines.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Back from the Philippines

I just got back from the Philippines. It was an amazing experience. There were times of testing but also times when God just blew me away! I'll be posting pics here as soon as I get them from some friends.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Four Secrets of Great Team-Based Leadership by Dave Ferguson (Lead Pastor, Community Christian Church)

There are some things you would never say out loud, even though you know they are true. If you uttered these secrets people would probably misunderstand you. Or maybe you'd decide they aren't really true after all. So you keep your mouth shut, and they remain secrets. Fourteen years ago, five people — a childhood friend, a college roommate, a brother, a friend-of-a-friend and I — made up the team who pioneered the adventure called Community Christian Church (CCC). We started as a team partly because of a shared dream and partly because it sounded like a lot more fun doing it together than doing it on our own. And from the beginning when it was just the five of us until today where there are more than 3,000 of us at three campuses, CCC has always been led by teams.

The leadership team I'm a part of today — Jon Ferguson, Troy McMahon, Eric Bramlett and myself — is the finest team of which I've ever been a part. And during those 14 years there have been some things about these teams that I knew were true (I have a hunch we all knew they were true), but we never said them out loud. We might be misunderstood. We might be wrong. So we kept these as secrets.

However, now I'm more confident. I think these secrets are true, and I'm willing to risk being misunderstood. So I've decided to tell all! Here are four secrets of great team-based leadership:

The Secret About the Cause
"We are committed to the cause first and each other second."

Great leadership teams are always clear about the cause. A lot of other stuff may get fuzzy, but the cause is always very clear.

At CCC there is sometimes a lack of structure and policy, but the one clear thing is the cause. It's embodied in our mission statement: "Helping people find their way back to God by reproducing congregations, campuses, and churches that celebrate, connect, and contribute to the dream of God."

Last week my assistant, Pat, got an e-mail from a pastor requesting a copy of our staff policy manual. Her answer: "Our policy is not to make policy." I love that! Why? Policy is what happens when we can't get people to do what we want them to do because people are not championing a clear cause. Policy occurs when the ethos of a church culture is weak and the cause is not compelling.

Why all this talk about cause? Because I believe our leadership team is committed to die for the cause of "helping people find their way back to God." And when I say "die" I'm not using hyperbole. The four of us who lead CCC today are willing to die for the cause, whether it is one day at a time or all at once.

We are committed to the cause first and each other second. This is scary to say out loud. That's why it's a secret. But the truth is that it's the cause that brings us together and keeps us together. It is when we put other things or other people before the cause that we compromise what God dreamed of in the church and in the Great Commission.

I believe this is at least 50 percent of what it takes to create great team-based leadership, an uncompromising loyalty to a clear cause. There is never a great lead team when the cause is not clear!

In Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith's great book, Wisdom of Teams, they make it very clear: "The primary objective of the team must be performance results (cause), not becoming a team." One of the great mistakes is forgetting that the cause is what creates community or team. Ask yourself, "Why do men always remember athletic teams or army platoons as the place where they experienced the most genuine community?"

Answer: because a clear cause created community. The cause of winning a game created a team. The cause of defeating a common enemy created a team.

Why is it so hard for athletes to retire? Listen to them talk and you'll see it’s not the money they miss as much as the team.

The Acts 2 church was also brought together by a clear cause. It was the cause called the Great Commission that brought about koinonia or community. That first great leadership team of apostles had a clear cause for which they were willing to die.

The Secret about Community
"We don't know when we are working and when we are playing."

I love the way Eric Bramlett describes working at CCC: "Working here feels like recess." I feel the same way. Sure, there are times we fight about who gets to go down the slide first; but it's still a playground, and it feels a lot more like recess than school. In my 14 years as a part of the leadership team at CCC I don't remember one day (literally) that I looked at my watch thinking, When is it going to be 5 o'clock so I can leave work? It sounds trivial, but being a part of the leadership team at CCC is just plain fun! Working and playing feel the same!

When we are looking for new staff, my teammates have been coached to consider the three C's of character, competency, and chemistry. For us, chemistry is always the first priority, because that's what draws someone into our church culture and draws us to them.

We have a chemistry test that a prospective hire must pass. We call it the "parking lot test." The "parking lot test" is comprised of one question we ask ourselves before we put someone on our staff team: "When we drive up, are we glad to see their car in the parking lot?" If we are excited about seeing their car and knowing we will find them inside, they pass — there is chemistry! If we feel our stomach sink knowing they are inside, they fail — no chemistry! All this is to say that there is a great chemistry with each of the people on our leadership team.

What contributes to the chemistry of a great lead team? First, complementary gifts help create the chemistry. Second, chemistry comes when we all buy into a common strategy. And third, none of the four of us can imagine doing anything else. We all have had offers to do other things in other places for more money, but we just can't imagine doing anything else.

The Secret about Chaos
"We may look crazy to you, but there is a method to our madness."

When other churches visit and see the open office concept we use, where almost all of our 35 staff are in the same room with one another, they will often say, "How do you get anything done in the middle of this chaos?" When other teaching pastors find out that we write all our messages as a team of people from not only multiple campuses, but multiple churches using video conferencing, they say, "Oh, my style would never work in that environment." I used to be concerned that outsiders might think we are crazy, chaotic, or even out of control, but now I understand that as one of our secrets.

One of the secrets of a great leadership team is that in their relentless pursuit of the cause they become a community with unique characteristics according to how God made them. This may appear crazy or chaotic to the outsider, but there is a unique method to their madness.

These characteristics are often paradoxical. Here are some of the paradoxes you would see in our lead team:

Highly Collaborative AND Very Competitive

Every person in our lead team is very competitive. We want to win in basketball, and we want to win the argument. But at the same time we know if we are going to win our part of the world for Christ (back to the cause that creates community), this will take collaboration. So we collaborate on everything. I started to make a list of things that we collaborate on, then it hit me that the much shorter list would be those things on which we don't collaborate.

Very Compassionate AND Comfortable with Conflict

Patrick M. Lencioni, in his book, Five Dysfunctions of a Team tells us that healthy teams are comfortable with conflict. We are definitely comfortable with conflict — confronting, challenging, debating, and sometimes yelling (and later apologizing). But, I also know that when I need a group to rally around me, they will be there for me. There is no doubt about it — my team loves me!

Loves Spontaneity AND Wants Accountability

"Lead with a yes" is a saying you hear from our leadership team. We love being flexible and spontaneous enough that we lead with a yes to new ideas. The new idea could be anything from going for shakes during our lead team meeting to starting a new service in a few weeks. We love leading with spontaneity and the "yes." That spontaneity however is balanced by our desire (that might be a stretch — I think we just know we need it) for accountability. We want accountability for how we are doing versus the goals we set for ourselves a year ago. We want and expect accountability for the ministries we oversee. We want accountability for our budget areas.

To the outsider we may look like an overly competitive team that is constantly fighting about our goals. But come back next week, and we may look like this highly collaborative group in love with one another. To the outsider it might look crazy, but it's just how God made us. And it works!

The Secret about Creating Culture
"We REALLY are going to change the world."

It is the lead team more than any other team that will create the culture and the ethos for a church. When you have a lead team that is clear about the cause, willing to die for the cause, and where serving feels like recess, you have created a church culture where people start to believe that we really are going to change the world!

When people get wind of that kind of opportunity, tremendous sacrifices become normal. Tim, a leader in our church, came to us and told us that he would like to take early retirement and work for the church without a salary for one year. After that year was over he wanted us to evaluate him. If we felt he added enough value to our church, then we would hire him. If not, then he would find another job and continue as a leader in the church.

We said, "Sure!" (Talk about a deal you can't refuse!) One year later, Tim proved himself so invaluable that we brought him on staff. Now he oversees hundreds of unpaid servants and all of our ministry teams. I could tell you many stories like this.

Tremendous sacrifice is normal here. Why? Because of a belief (that starts with the lead team) that this might just be the church that actually does change the world! There is a vibe in our church that we are up to something big and something special. This is not something that we talk about in a prideful manner; in fact we are very careful to make sure that God gets all the credit.

It starts with a lead team that is the microcosm of the rest of the church. They are very clear about the cause and willing to die for it. When they serve it feels like recess, and together they believe that they really are going to change the world!

OK, I've said the secrets out loud. What do you think? Do you agree, or am I just plain wrong?