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In my conversations with current church leaders through Slingshot Group, or future church leaders through Leadership Pathway, I have found there are basically six essential factors that all of us are looking for when we are considering what is next. These are elements that can help draw us to that next position in ministry.

Place, Boss, Team, Church, Challenge, and Salary 

1. The Next Place. There are zip codes that are desirable places to be. There are towns and cities where family lives, or perhaps where our roots once were.

2. The Next Boss. We’ve read the cliché: People join organizations, but they leave their boss. This is so true. We are looking for a good connection, and someone’s leadership that will help us to thrive in a new position.  

3. The Next Team. Have you ever sat down with a group of people for a meeting or a meal and just felt right at home? We leave these encounters thinking things like I’d hang with that group again – they seem to really have a great vibe together. Or perhaps there is a lot of talent and shared experience within a team that we desire to join.

4. The Next Church (or organization). Sometimes we are looking for a vision we can really get behind, a shared philosophy or deep passion.  

5. The Next Challenge. Leaders love to solve issues. Great leaders run toward a problem, if they feel they are uniquely gifted or qualified to address it.

6. The Next Salary. God knows our context. He knows our needs, and sometimes they change within our family, or season of life.

Here’s the Real Question: Will you ever be able to get the job you want, in the place you desire, working for the boss you love, on the all-star team, at a great church you really resonate with, tackling the perfect challenge, and all for the right compensation?

The majority of the time, I would say no. There’s no perfect church. There’s no perfect candidate, and there’s no perfect scenario in your future.

I caution candidates to never move for just one reason. Just the dollars, or just the location, or just that perfect person you believe you want to work alongside. I have worked with some in those very scenarios, and when that one reason goes away, they are set up for a disappointing, and usually short, stay.

On the other hand, I have seen candidates find two, three, or four of these six factors to align, and they begin to use language like I believe God is calling us to…

So, take a look at the six elements for a place that you may be going to next, and prioritize them. What is most important to you, and/or your family for this next season of life? Prayerfully consider these before getting onsite with a potential next employer. It may actually help you see more clearly through all of the factors that go in to making the decision of where you may be going next.

"OMG! My Kid Is Thinking about Ministry!" 4 Things to Consider...

"OMG! My Kid Is Thinking about Ministry!" 4 Things to Consider...

I’m of the age now that some of my childhood friends are reaching out about their teenage kids. While they have a thousand voices to get expert advice on every topic a parent will face, I tend to get the question about ministry-specific-preparedness.

It goes something like: My daughter went forward last summer at a conference and said she wants to be a youth pastor. She’s a senior. What should she do in terms of education? Or My son has been volunteering with the student ministry guy at our church, and now says he wants to be like him…who should we do?

OH NO…!

First of all…if your kid is awesome, shows early signs of leadership, is an instigator, troublemaker, influencer, and could go do anything with their life…CONGRATS! Yes, that’s who we need in ministry, let’s do this!

I tend to blog the conversations I have over and over. And this is one of those conversations. I know parents have an ocean of information they are digging through with their high school students. I know this because we’ve had two successfully navigate high school, college, and real-world #adulting on their own, and we’ve lived to tell about it.

Here are five things (and there are probably 137) to keep in mind if your high school kid really is wanting to prepare for ministry. By “ministry” I mean fully employed vocationally at a local church someday. I don’t mean: being light in the dark, business as mission, blooming where you are planted, or even non-profit leadership. I’m talking about being compensated someday to be on staff at a local church in a role other than Senior Pastor. 

I tend to say these four things over and over:

1. Start with the end in mind.
Which is the goal: diploma or employment at a local church? There’s a huge difference. (If the goal is diploma, you don’t need to read the rest of this…)

2. The college choice means less than you think.
Christian College, State University, Seminary, or other…or even none?

3. How they use these next four years means everything.
We need wise people in ministry like never before (and it helps if they’re smart, too!)

4. They must do 2 intense years at a dynamic, growing, reach-oriented church.
The final, most important, ingredient if your answer to #1 is employment.

Now, before you shoot me an email about how there are more important things than these five (like loving Jesus, reading the Bible, character, serving the least of these and 47 other things) I say to you I totally agree. I’m simply speaking into the topics that land at my feet. There are way smarter people than I to help your student navigate those other 47 things.

My life mission is to help those who want to do this go out and do this with their life. I’m always trying to find the best/next steps for those who want to pursue it. One path does not fit all, but there are patterns and best practices and steps that will greatly enhance ones' potential to navigate successfully vs. being taken out early on the path.

Over the next few posts, I’ll blow out each of these topics. In the next post, we’ll discover how students need at least to try to start with the end in mind.

 

The Perfect Ten

The Perfect Ten

"...and not only be a great singer, but also killer musician, a pastor of people, kind hearted yet excellent, administrative but artistically minded, creative, a songwriter, and put others before themselves, amazingly talented yet humble..."

And so begins another conversation with a church leader looking for the gifted worship leader that they cannot find. 

Every day I'm speaking with leaders who are looking to make a worship leader hire. I do this work with The Slingshot Group, who is a leader in these efforts with churches nationwide.   

Reality is, when looking for talent, we all want "everything." But none of us have that skill set. To help all of us, I developed this worksheet.  It is designed primarily for those in churches smaller than 2,000.  If this is you...take a look and see what you think.  

Let me know how you think it could be better. 

 

 

Kingdom Assignments

Kingdom Assignments

Occasionally I hear a story about "someone who went somewhere and preached for 45 years..."

Those stories are great, but they are few and far between. Our world grows smaller with each generation. 

My wife and I have viewed life as a Kingdom assignment. Most Kingdoms have a King, and the Kingdom I serve is no different. He tells us what to do and we do it. Even at the risk of relationships, family, friends, favorite restaurants, life routines, and the like...

Along the way I've had some amazing people help me discern, pray, and think through these Kingdom Assignments. This is why I love my work with Slingshot - it enables me to pay this forward.   

Sometimes we could all use help as we navigate our next deployment.

 

How Well Do You Know...

How Well Do You Know...

I remember I was about 35 years of age and was sitting in a boardroom (or was it bored room?) watching a friend lead a church through Paterson’s Thinking Wavelengths.  Up until this point in my life I had done some spiritual gifts tests, some other personality types of things, but had never seen this version of this test.  It was a light bulb moment for me as I began to have thoughts like “no wonder I get bored once things are built and running more smoothly…” etc. etc. I was lost in my own world and of no good use to the board room the rest of the day.

Who knows, maybe I was just in a place to listen. Maybe I was more open that day to hear what I needed to hear, but it was a game changer for me.

We all live and lead out of perspective.  Perspective is gained through experiences. Those experiences that transform us the most tend to be the ones of which we are most passionate. That day in that boardroom was a transformative experience for me, and one which continues to be an area of passion for me.

Risky statement:  “Team fit issues are always the employees fault.”

Many days a week I hear I just don’t fit in here. Or it’s expressed as they’re just so…and I just am…and it’s time to move on…and when I look at their work history they’ve moved on every 18 months for the past eight years and I wonder are they learning anything or are people today as clueless as I was 11 years ago?

It’s amazing how many 45 year olds have never taken Meyers Briggs, DISC, Strength Finders, or have even heard of Thinking Wavelengths.  And yet they are going to run to the next employer with all this pent up angst that no one understands them.

If you haven’t invested in these types of tests today is the best day to do it.  If you haven’t sat with someone who has known you for a decade or more and asked them to affirm or deny the results, then today is the best day to do it.

Knowing who you are beyond the surface, AND understanding the implications of it in your work history will save you the same frustration at your next place of employment. God has uniquely wired, crafted, and gifted you to be of use in His world. This is His story that we are characters in. Understanding your perspective and part will help you take the next best steps.

Don’t learn these lessons the hard way like I did. If you are younger than 35 and reading this you have a head start on me. That’s a good thing.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Christian University Adventure

Bill & Ted's Excellent Christian University Adventure

Many days I’m looking at resumes of 18 – 25 year olds who want to be in ministry. I’m typically doing this for Slingshot for a full-time placement at a church or for some sort of residency consideration. Some are still enrolled at undergraduate institutions or seminary, while others are graduates.

A typical story of two such candidates (I’ll call them Bill and Ted) I encounter from two different Christian universities looks much like this:

These guys are pretty rare. Both felt a call to ministry that was affirmed from their youth pastors in high school.

Both are very passionate, called, driven, love Jesus, say “yes, sir” a lot, return emails within an hour, and have had above average interactions with me.

Both are graduating in May with undergraduate Christian ministry degrees from respectable Christian universities.

The first student, “Bill" is studying online at a well-known Christian university and is graduating in May.  He has been online for virtually all of his education and will actually complete his degree on a traditional timeline of 4 years in May at age 22.

The second student, “Ted” will have had four straight years at a prominent brick and mortar Christian university. He, too, will graduate in 8 semesters at the age of 22.

Both will have massive student debt that neither really want to talk about, but that’s for a different article. People much more important than me are working to address that very topic.

But, I’d like to evaluate how ready each are to serve a local church after completing their respective programs:

For the past four years, Bill has served at three different churches. All three times he began as a volunteer and was then asked to intern. He was on his own for housing and living expenses, which means getting part-time jobs, having to “figure it out.” He has stories of being given more responsibility, leading middle and high school students, growing a ministry, and being asked to stay at each location. He told stories of being led, coached, developed, and managed well by leaders at each of those churches.

Ted has been a favorite of the administration at his brick and mortar school. He traveled 2.5 years for the college as the front man for their premiere worship band. He had a good opportunity, and he did an outstanding job. He has great references from his college. They are so proud of him.

I would call both candidates above average. Both have enough "talent" to believe they are worthy of the position at a local church.

One church jumped at Bill’s resume. They are saying things like, “He has experience—he’s done this! He’s been to staff meetings, working through those relationships. He’s led a couple hundred middle/high school students every week for two years at a prevailing church. He’s done difficult things, stuck it out, and he keeps showing up.”

Unfortunately, even after four years of private Christian Education, it is difficult for a church to get excited about the prospects of hiring Ted. He’s actually just now ready for a residency that Bill was doing during his sophomore year of college.

Both sets of parents would be thrilled for their 22-year-old kids to land this ministry position.  It’s a great “starter ministry job” with 44k salary and benefits. Bill or Ted could probably spend a long time at this church. There is a proven developmental path, a commitment to hiring millennials, and long-run staff leaders ready to turn this over to the next generation.

I don’t tell this story to pick on the brick and mortar institution, nor to promote the national Christian university online program. I don’t think either school is better than the other. You’ve heard of both. Both are nationally recognized major Christian universities.

There’s no one size fits all when it comes to developmental paths for 18 – 25-year-olds. They are as unique as snowflakes and thumbprints.

HOWEVER...

There are trends we simply cannot ignore. Those of us who are guiding, coaching, leading 18 – 25-year-olds who desire ministry must realize a few things, in particular.

- Accelerated experiences, sooner, rather than later, that mimic and mirror eventual reality are best every time. In other words, embed freshman into servant/leadership roles on church staffs. Do this early, in a culture of feedback and evaluation with a trusted and developer leader on that church staff.

- Opportunities are not enough. An “opportunity" used to be "enough to prepare. It (sorta kinda) worked for me in the late 80’s / early 90’s, but we now have to elevate this beyond just an opportunity into developmental activity. And there’s a huge difference between the two. Playing football at the park is an opportunity. Joining a team and having a coach make you better is developmental activity.

- It's about deeds done. Churches that are the ideal places to begin in ministry are hiring “deeds done.” Without real, developmental experience and good references, a college nor seminary graduate is NOT hirable at the right local church where development will continue.

Bill and Ted are both awesome people, and I believe they both could have a long run of ministry ahead of them. But only one is ready today at graduation, and it’s because of his prior experiences.

These two stories are quite common, and this reality drives me to serve 18 – 25-year-olds and the local church, in a continued and evolving way.

Churches probably won’t ask about GPA, but they will always inquire about:

- Skill level (building teams, discipling others, doing ministry, showing up on time, work ethic, and other character traits)

- How much practical experience did this student have on a healthy and growing church staff, and what does that “intern boss” say about him?

The Lord has had me embedded for the last 11 years helping churches in one way or another. From this perspective, great churches cannot find the “Bills,” and the gap between preparation and “highly desired and hirable” is broadening. It’s getting worse, not better.

Finally, I don’t own this conversation; a consultant group doesn’t own it, and neither does higher education, seminaries, or a favorite residency program.  The Church owns it. It’s Hers. Sometimes she takes enough time to verbalize it, but mainly for the last few decades the Church has told us through whom she hires, fires, develops, and advances.

So if you are investing in 18 - 25-year-olds who are preparing for ministry, please keep investing. The innovation of how we prepare students cannot stop and if anything, needs to accelerate. And when we notice little wins, we need to share them with others who don’t understand why their version of a Christian college graduate cannot seem to find a ministry job.  I know “disruption” is a buzzword, but I encourage all of us in positions of influence to be as disruptive as possible on this topic. Those of us in influential positions around 18 - 25-year-olds must continue to serve them in such a way they can someday actually serve the Church by leading more effectively in ministry long-term.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiring Your Next Team Member: Six Factors to Consider

Hiring Your Next Team Member: Six Factors to Consider

[If God talks to you regularly in an audible voice or writes instructions in the sky for you…then you can just skip this one].

I was recently in a conversation with a search team leader at a local church.  It is a conversation that I have often, and it centered around the question what will it take for God to call someone to join our team? He was frustrated, as they had already been searching a long time before I walked into their conference room.

This individual was a sharp middle manager of a large technology company.  I asked him what would it take to get him to move his family cross-country to join someone else’s team? He answered that God would have to get him to do that because he loved where he was.

I said, “Great, but what would God use in your life to get you to think that it was time to move on?”  We quickly brainstormed a short list of what it would take him to move in no certain order:

1. A great zip code
Locating closer to family or perhaps a better climate might entice him.

2. A better salary or compensation package
He has three kids and is beginning to think about college and their futures. Salary isn’t everything, but he can’t afford to make a dumb move right now.

3. Team fit
Could he hang with these people over a burger and a Frisbee? Relationships are a high priority for him – number one on his list, actually.

4. Potential for influence
He’d want more influence in the new role. And he’d want the company to be making an impact in their business space.

5. Season
The organization would either need to be headed into a season of growth OR need him to help influence it to turn around. Mainly, he just wouldn’t want to join an organization that was stuck or on the way down.

6. Opportunity for development & challenge
He said he’d want to be on a team that made him better, and he’d want a big challenge. He is still looking for mountains to climb.

I asked him, “So, if an opportunity fell out of the sky with the right combination of three or four of these six things, might that be the Lord trying to move you elsewhere?”

He answered, “I don’t know, but if that happened I’d definitely have to start praying about it.”

Are you looking for a staff member? If you are a pastor or a search team leader for your church, I’d challenge you to think through how God might use your unique circumstances to find the right candidate to join your team.  How do you score your current situation in the  six factors listed above? Some you cannot change (like your zip code), but some are in your control.

In my work with Slingshot, as we do search and placement for church staffs, we ultimately want to determine if a particular candidate is “called” or not.  What I often see is how many things off this list align to help make this happen.

My point is that it’s rarely (I mean 'never') just one thing.

I believe in a God who could ring your phone tonight with the perfect candidate, but what I regularly see Him doing is working through natural circumstances and accommodating a few of these core things. THEN candidates begin to say, “Okay, I couldn’t sleep last night! We should talk more about that role. I am beginning to think God is calling us…”

Kingdom Assignments

Kingdom Assignments

It’s with great pride that I get to tell you that my wife, Kristin, will be joining the team at Discovery Church in Broomfield, CO in early January. The opportunity “fell out of the sky,” so-to-speak, in early October.

She has relocated five times for my ministry assignments in Kentucky, Vegas, Michigan, Chicago, Omaha. Now it’s my turn, and this move to Denver is another in a long line of what we have always summed up as a Kingdom work in our 24+ years together.

I couldn’t be more proud.

Because of my work with Slingshot Group, I spend much of my time these days on the phone with those considering ministry moves.  I find myself saying things like, “Of course you should do this! Who else is going to step up and do this? This position is perfect for you…”  I could be speaking with a college sophomore or a 40-year-old, and the topic is the same.

I confess; it feels different as the spouse of the one considering a ministry position instead of being the “consultant” coaching from the objective chair. Here are some observations from my experience that I live everyday as the consultant and have also seen play out personally:

- Be prepared to be shocked when searching. Kristin stepped through the door to three opportunities. This was not one of them. She didn’t pursue this one; it literally fell into her lap at a happen-chance meeting over a breakfast.

- Self-awareness matters. Strength Finders, DISC assessments, Meyer’s Briggs, Paterson’s Thinking Wavelengths, and several years of experience will help candidates know a great fit when they sniff it. Kristin had looked at three other roles, and while the addresses were just as good, and the staff just as fun, this was the role that made the most sense.

- Team fit is everything. Kristin will be joining a team whose senior pastor we have known a long time.  With long friendship comes trust, and with trust comes the opportunity to really lean in to the new role.  

- With a ministry comes responsibility beyond the job. While Kristin is no Saint Paul (no I’m not going to expound on this), she’s the type of leader that resonates with a passage in II Corinthians 11 where Paul says I feel a burden for all of the churches. She not only sees the big C in church, but she sees the significance of being a female in a servant-leadership role on a church staff. She has recruited and encouraged many who are two decades younger to do this with their lives. She now has the opportunity to model it.

She could have stayed where she is in a very comfortable life, at an address she really loves, or she could answer the call to jump in to her new assignment.

Here we go…

 

I guess I need the sign-up sheet for the pastors’ wives club ;) 

Four Comments...Don't Navigate this Alone

Four Comments...Don't Navigate this Alone

This is the final post in a series of four posts where I’ve been unpacking comments I find myself verbalizing to those who are looking to make a ministry transition:

1. Don’t make a 5 to 10-year decision based on a 5-month need.

2. You gotta finish well.

3. Stay connected to the connectors around you.

And the fourth and final comment I tend to make is:

4. Don’t navigate this alone.

Have you ever checked into a hotel that has Direct TV or hundreds of cable channels? You scroll for several minutes wondering how there could be this many channels with nothing on?  Reality is, there’s a lot on; there’s just nothing on that you are wanting to view right now, at this particular time, with your current mood.

Statistically, there are approximately 10,000 advancing churches in the U.S. Most of these churches that are of any size hire good people when they find them. Most ministry leaders I know have stacks of resumes on their desk if they have posted their position publicly.  Over and over, ministry leaders tell me they refuse to post publicly because they don’t want another 80 resumes.

 Churches and candidates use trusted, connected individuals to help them. (See previous post on comment #3).

If you are just beginning in ministry, or if you are looking for a next-level position, my advice is the same. Find the objective matchmaker in the middle to help you find the right role. 

There’s an old saying preachers often say— “God is working upstream right now.” If you are going through transition please understand that He knows where you are, and He is already working through others to guide you forward.

 

Let’s all take the steps necessary to work these transitions better. There’s no reason to blow up a ministry or blow up your life while navigating these seasons of change. If you are in ministry in a local church, we NEED you to stay in ministry to continue to move forward and to grow in your leadership chops.

 

 

Four Comments...Stay Connected to the Connectors

Four Comments...Stay Connected to the Connectors

[This is the third in a series of four posts].

Seems like I say the same four things repeatedly to those considering a ministry move. In my last post I unpacked the often-used statement “You gotta finish well.”

The third thing I find myself saying a lot these days is:

3. “Stay Connected to the Connectors in Your Life.”

Who are the half-dozen most connected people that you know? Have you told them that you are considering a move? After you told them once, did you reach back out to remind them?

The “connectors” are the type of people who are many times saying, “I know a guy,” or “I know something you should try.” In the church world, these are the types of people that get asked a lot if they know of anyone looking for a ministry opportunity.

The typical problem is that they are asked this over and over, and I’ve found that it’s hard for them to keep track and remember, in addition to their own lives they are trying to live.  I’ve found that staying in people’s inbox every three weeks for any reason is a good way to stay connected to the connectors.

Once you have told them that you are considering a move, you don’t have to tell them over and over, but you do have to find ways to simply stay in front of them.  A conversational one-liner email about the weather, their favorite sports team, or a book recommendation is all it takes.  You’ll be surprised at some point in the future, they may respond with, “I’m so glad you reached out, someone was just asking me if I knew of someone who was looking…”

I recently received an email attached to a long thread that simply said, “Sorry about your Cincinnati Bengals,” but it was from a guy that I’ve had long talks and lots of time coaching, and it reminded me that he was looking.  Right above his email was an email from a pastor wondering if I knew of anybody. Go figure!

Connectors love to connect! Take them up on it.

 

Click here for Comment 4

Four Comments...You Gotta Finish Well

Four Comments...You Gotta Finish Well

(This is the second in a series of four posts).
In the last post, I unpacked something that I tend to say over and over to those going through a ministry change: Don’t make a 5 to 10-year decision based on a five-month need.

The second thing that I often repeat to those in a difficult season of ministry thinking about a change is:

2. “You gotta finish well.”

Your last 4 to 7 months in your current staff role should be your best ever! Leave on an upward trajectory. Bless don’t curse.  Turn up the awesome. This is especially true if you are younger than 30. It’s really hard to outrun a bad reference early in your ministry career.

I’ll never forget sitting with a discouraged youth pastor who was in conflict with his Senior Pastor. He was a good guy. They were BOTH good guys! He’d had a great decade of ministry. I told him, “Listen, if it’s not going to work out here, that’s ok…but whatever you do, don’t stay too long, get bitter, and get fired.” 

Eighteen months later that’s exactly what happened!  A youth group was blown apart, a lot of collateral damage was done, and another talented church leader was entering the marketplace to start over. Meanwhile, I have many pastors asking me if I know of a good youth pastor…

Here are a few thoughts for you for your next 6 months:

- Get extra sleep.

- Choose 5 leadership books to hone your leadership skills.

- Exercise more.

- Enter into a deeper discipleship community than you’ve been in recently where someone is mentoring you.

- Hire a ministry coach.

- Tell your spouse you need him/her to call you out for talking trash about your current church or senior pastor (or boss).

- Turn down the noise. Watch less NETFLIX. Throw away your Xbox. Have more quiet, more centered prayer, and listen intently to the Spirit’s quiet voice.
 

Do all of this while working a good process heading towards your exit. You’ll leave your current ministry with everyone thinking, “I wish he/she was staying!” 

 

Continue to comment #3

Four Comments to Those Considering a Change In Ministry

Four Comments to Those Considering a Change In Ministry

I spend most of my days in conversation with those who are thinking about a move in ministry. It’s either time to move on, time for a new challenge, or they find themselves in a season of seeking something different.

I wind up saying the same version of four things over and over:

1. Don’t make a 5 to 10-year decision based on a 5-month need.

2. You gotta finish well.

3. Stay connected to the connectors around you.

4. Don’t navigate this alone.

So let’s unpack the first comment:

1. “Don’t make a 5 to 10-year decision based on a five-month need.”

Through my work with The Slingshot Group, I’ve come to realize that it takes about 5 months to work a great process for candidates and churches alike.  If you are 43 or 26, it doesn’t matter—you need to put a six-month plan together.

Your next move should NOT be a “two year and out” position. Go someplace where you can build a great ministry. This is going to take you longer to find than you think.

I don’t know why God won’t just ring your phone with the perfect ministry position. (I guess His thoughts actually are higher than mine). But, I have seen God over and over use a truthful and thorough process to match talented candidates to great ministries that are desperately seeking.

If you can take the following steps:

- Make a financial plan. How will you pay the bills for six months without a ministry (if it comes to that)?

- Treat your ministry search like a project. Have a plan, work the plan, and stay faithful.

- Fight discouragement. I’ll talk more about this in the 2nd point, but this will take longer than you want it to, so don’t give up!


God knows your address. This takes patience, as well as homework. The reality is there are thousands of churches looking. Finding a job is one thing, finding a mission fit is something altogether different.

 

Continue to Comment #2