On Tuesday I listened to the first two of "Seven Practices of Effective Ministry" podcasts with Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner and Lane Jones. They are the authors of the popular 2004 book of that title. I have heard pastors recommend this book in the last year more often than any other.
Two comments and a question:
1. I want to thank them for putting this out for free. Podcasts are great! I love audio for when I am in the car! It is great to hear the North Point folks trying to explain how they practically implement these tips.
2. I have been reflecting on how these hints apply to worship planning. It has been helpful for me.
For "Clarify the Win," I am asking: do we want to be a) more seeker-sensitive, b) have more meaningful worship, c) equip worship leaders, d) see more participation, e) have more ancient and contemporary worship, or f) see more age-blended worship? North Point tries to have their worship leaders create unforgettable experiences because they are seeker-driven. It would be good to get clear with the leadership of a church what we are trying to achieve in worship. Once we have that, they encourage us to state it simply, repeat it often and celebrate it.
They encourage intentionality in their "Think Steps Not Programs" practice. How do we make sure that worship is actually moving people where we want them to go? How does it fit with the overall plan of the church? Is it central or peripheral? If it is peripheral, nix it. In other words, there are lots of nice things we could do in worship (improve the prayer time, sharpen the PowerPoint, improve the flow of songs, etc.) but do these improvements unintentionally produce more problems in other areas of the church life? The North Point folks want everything to flow from their three environments: "The Foyer" (welcome guests) to the "The Living Room" (connect with friends) to the "Kitchen" (intimacy with family). (See also Andy's January 8&15 2006 messages "A Face in the Crowd" and "Our House" for a description of their church strategy.) All in all, I think this is excellent stuff.
3. My question is: what do we lose when we become focused? Under this strategy, a few people set the "clear vision" and other possible purposes are weeded out. Some might go too far with what the North Point people are saying and try to impose a focus or vision on their people. "Andy Stanley told me to do this! I cannot listen to you people because you are not focused on the vision - my vision."
I listened to a John Ortberg talk on Jesus, Leadership and the Kingdom of God podcast immediately after listening to the North Point material. Ortberg (quoting Jesus) emphasizes that Christian leaders do not lord their leadership over others. The North Point leaders don't lord their leadership over people but it is very clear who the leaders are and it is they that set the direction.
The North Point folks are emphasizing the motto "do less things and you will do those things better." Most of our churches need to hear this. And yet we will have further problems if we think that all of the vision and focus are going to come from the top tier of leadership. In reality at North Point, the leaders do a whole lot of listening to thoughtful and godly "regular" congregation members. Though the church seems to be led from the senior pastor, in reality Andy is also highly influenced by his conversations with regular folks.
So let's do both.
As leaders, let's pay attention to the voices of creative people, prophets, and real people. We might not always enjoy what they have to say. It may not be comfortable. They may not agree with our vision or "focus." But they may have a point that we haven't seen. They may need to tell us the truth because we are off-track. I was tremendously helped to be advised that
Sometimes your critics and the complainers are simply good leaders in disguise who need a place to plug in and unleash their gifts. The reason they are unhappy is that they know we can do better and they want to help.
The Old Testament prophets were constantly trying to make sure that the temple priests didn't get so into their rituals, efficiency and duties that they forgot the real point. I think creative, prophetic, and ordinary-Joe people often help me remember what really matters. Their criticisms of me often have some validity that I need to pay attention to.
At the same time, the North Point folks remind us that we can't be scattered and confused and unfocused because of every little opinion or criticism. We can sort through the feedback and focus on what is most important. So let's listen and focus - that seems to me to be the road toward effective ministry.
See another post about Andy Stanley here where Andy S. actually commented.
I rewrote this point on September 14, 2006.