If I Like the Music at Your Church That's a Problem

If I Like the Music at Your Church That's a Problem

If I like all the music at your church that’s a problem. I’m 46. You shouldn’t be aiming your Sunday morning expressions of worship and outreach to dudes like me. If you do that, then that actually means you are spot on for 36 to 56 year olds, and there’s probably very little real measurable evidence that lost 20 somethings are being found at church.

The church is still having the same conversations we had in ’92 when drums first arrived on the scene in my band at my church. Or in ’93 when we introduced “drama” into the service, or in ’00 when I was taking drama out, or in ‘97 when I killed a choir by accident (sorta wink-wink), or when we first faded to black, or dimmed the house lights, or rented moving lights and set the fire alarm off, or turned our bad system up louder and louder, or put in a video projector that weighted a million pounds, was as big as a VW van and cost six figures.

The conversation comes from our own brothers and sisters in Christ. More frequently today it’s even coming from leaders of other churches, and it goes something like:

I don’t like it and this ain’t right.

Christians even younger than me are sniping at leaders in their 20’s because they don’t like it. They don't like the form, and they just wish it could be like it was in the ______ (fill in your decade). Used to be you had to be super old and the janitor at the church to snipe at a young worship leader and try to get them fired. No more. 

Story time:

For the past couple of years I have gathered up some college kids and pilgrimaged back to where I spent a good deal of time in the 90s doing ministry.  The phone pics of my last visit are posted here.

I gotta be honest, the low end is so freaky loud it makes my chest hurt, the lighting is an assault on my senses, and I don’t know the music and I hardly keep up.  I looked at the college kids I was with and I mouthed, “this is awesome” in the middle of the opening tune. They laughed.

But I stood there with tears in my eyes thinking two things:

First, I know that what we did in the late 90s SUCKED compared to this. I am not delusional. But I looked across the aisle, and a diverse church of all colors and ages are singing out best they can. So I put my hands in the air (which I don't do often)  just like that twenty-something cool Asian guy across the aisle and yelled out “thank you God.” Many of these people have no idea even how to worship (do I?), and most are still new to religion.  I mean, until 12 minutes ago they didn’t know there was such a thing as “Christian” music.

Secondly, I get tears in my eyes and try not to cry in front of these college kids, and I think I played a little part of this. God used me and some of my best friends to lay some track. See, I remember the first time in the old room when we faded to black and someone asked “Why did we do that?” I remember when goofy music and static par cans were cutting edge ministry.  It was different it was changing. God was reaching people and he was using us in our own little way.

Now thousands upon thousands of people know Jesus at that church because some leaders continue to be more concerned about those not yet there. What if we hadn’t pushed as hard as we did in those days?

And I also remember Christian people saying “I don’t like this.” Just like they’re saying in 2017. 

If you are catching the heat at your church please understand that forty-six year old privileged Christians like myself will be fine. If I like the music at church that seems problematic. I don't care if 50 is the new 30 it's still 50, and there's not a ton of future for your church when everybody is 50.  And honestly, can we be real...this is about 12 minutes of my week, and...shouldn’t I be serving in the nursery or parking cars anyways?

So in the midst of all the sniping and negativity that flies around, here’s an encouragement to worship leaders and pastors who are reaching out and reaching downkeep creating, keep innovating, and keep reaching out to lost people who are younger and younger. Figure it out cause this is one you - you have the ball.  Some of us are tossing it to you.

There aren’t many of you doing it today, but you know what? I’m actually believing there were fewer of us doing this in the 90s!

Keep turning it up. Keep boldly asking guys like me to help fund the thing that’s going to move the needle on evangelism and discipleship in your church. Challenge people like me to serve somewhere, and hey if it's not in the auditorium it won't be as loud anyways, right?




The Lumineers, Chasing Awesome, & Sunday Mornings

The Lumineers, Chasing Awesome, & Sunday Mornings

I haven't seen the Lumineers live...yet.  Mainly cause if I can't sit on the front row I don't wanna go. I'd rather pay hundreds for a good seat, than to sit up stairs looking down at the top of HVAC ducts in an arena, and I don't have hundreds for a good seat.

What a great time to be in your twenties! (those of you who are in your twenties). I watch the Lumineers and I realize rock n roll is now acoustic, authentic, unpretentious, approachable, and it's about fair trade coffee, being vegetarian, and good conversation.

The Rolling Stones were in their early 60's before they valued such things.

Yet some things remain the same when you're in your twenties. I watch the Lumineers (on my TV from home) andI come back to what we all still have in common:

// Gathering
We want to be with a large group for something bigger than ourselves. We have stuff in common. We're going to stand in line, stand in the rain, we won't be denied. When I watch on my TV with my fair-trade-free-range snacks I am at a distance. If I was in the middle of the crowd we would be together and I would belong.

// Anticipation
The lights go down, we stand to our feet and scream.  It's crazy, but it's still universally true. What's going to happen first? What's going to happen next? My daughter told
me about "this and that, how cool, how awesome..." after seeing the Lumineers recently.
She sounded like me and my friends a couple decades ago. 

// Joining
When prompted and led well we join in and sing our guts out. We continue to do this don't we? And honestly here's a thought: the BEST PERFORMING ARTISTS know how to get us to join in. Ahh...in my twenties it was Dave Matthews and Sting, in my thirties it was John Mayer. This might be cheesy, but I'll never forget Prince leading an arena together with the house lights up and only an acoustic guitar. Now it's the Lumineers and there's nothing like it!
// Craft
Stuff done well like the arts, killer audio, great visuals, amazing lighting, musicianship, singing on key, programming that paces well and takes a crowd on a ride, and working at it and thinking it through, practicing til your fingers bleed, writing a great song, decades of preparation,
...and three and a half minutes of payoff where everyone joins in cause this is awesome.

Now...those of you who know me well know that I WILL pay hundreds to sit behind the plate with Kristin and the kids, and sing take me out to the ballgame a bit pitchy (speaking of things that never change).

You also know that this is not a post about a band that I love (although I have listened to Cleopatra often...mainly cause I think my son in law sounds just like them).

Those of you who know me have already filled in the blanks and you know I'm poking at what we seem to have lost on Sunday mornings. We oughta own these things. If it can be better on Sunday morning it ought to be. Look at a peacock, a sunset, and the color of your kids eyes, and then explain why Sunday is lame.

Church guys will say, "people in their twenties aren't drawn to __________ " (fill in the blank of what Church guys don't want to do).

But man, I watch a video of thousands camping out and screaming their guts out to Cleopatra & I wonder if I believe all those blog posts, tweets, and experts who've led us to abandon awesome when Christians get together.

I'm not talking about "entertainment" on Sundays. Those of us that lit the fuse on that stuff back in the early 90's cringe when we look at where it took some of our friends. But a response that just ignores what "normal" is, is just dumb, it's weak, and appears to be just lazy.

Don't do what we did in the 90s. Do what you do today.

I get to be around these awesome college students who are thinking about ministry, and I continue to tell them to work hard, glorify God, have a deep understanding of the Word, love people, Love Jesus, but also do the best you can with your craft and in a phrase...CHASE AWESOME. I can't own this conversation. This is for the twenty somethings on stage Sunday morning. Those of us who are a couple decades ahead should cheer them on, help pay and pave the way, show them the mistakes to avoid, but inspire them to get after it.

Nobody is going to fill an arena to sing their guts out to uninspired and predictable. The Lumineers and their management folks know this.

Nobody is going to fill a church for uninspired and predictable either.

The Friday Review

The Friday Review

I got a new computer last week. (btw check out Apple's leasing program...) and this led to cleaning out old apps, notes, pics, and videos of cats.

I came across this Evernote from over a year ago.  The notes were from a lecture by an Anglican priest named Todd Hunter. I was at a gathering about residency in Chicago. This lecture followed up with some good butt-kicking by a personal coach which led to some big admissions and decisions.  

It was challenging, affirming, and soul soothing.  If you do anything around coaching, traveling, living on the road, selling, consulting, higher-ed, trying to impress others, etc etc then you know that so much of your life can easily be disordered desires as described below.

The grammar is incomplete...but you'll get the idea....

How do we find safety and security in this culture? vs. How do we ground in God?

"I am always safe in the Kingdom of God” Don’t ever make yourself secure on other people’s back. If I have to have a bad conversation…I just remember I’m always safe in the Kingdom of God.

The Lord is my Shepherd…Fill me with Love, help me be present in this group of people, give me the gift of teaching, this is not rhetoric.  You then can secure me for your good. But if i’m trying to root myself in your  thing. 

"A failure of nerve”  Freedman, a jewish rabbi spoke of a “A non anxious presence.” Healthy leadership has capacity to obtain clarity about their own vision and they have capacity to separate themselves from emotional processes (sabotage).   How do i react to emotional processes, how do i expose and be vulnerable. 

So we can’t let an egalitarian vibe se us aside. We need leaders.  How do we put ourselves on the line?

Ignatius spoke of “indifference” is a key way to deal with leadership malpractice. we have an attraction to created things (health, agreement, people liking us) it pulls us towards us instead of God.  

We can secure ourselves to our sword (Peter) but this is a disordered desire. But if we are going to lead well in this era from an inside out holiness then we have to deal with disordered desire..  

The only thing we can desire is God. EVERYTHING else is indifference. This is kinda like Jesus preference “let this cup pass…” even Jesus had a preference…these things must become an indifference.  I want to know Gods will and do it.

We must have an ongoing relationship with the spirit of God. I do not need approval of people to be safe and secure.


Stuck on Residency? Here Are Three Guiding Principles

Stuck on Residency? Here Are Three Guiding Principles

The title for this post could be “You Should Start a Residency Program at Your Church Even if You Aren’t Ready” because I know some great churches who keep putting off pulling the trigger.

I blogged here before about the importance of residency, and why churches should move beyond short internships. Recently, I’ve had a few conversations with church leaders that I know would be great providing oversight to a resident leader, but they simply couldn’t get approval from their executive teams. “We’re not quite ready,” is the typical response.

If you answer yes to the following questions I think you church is the type of church that should jump in:

Is our church advancing?
Is our church a place where I believe someone could learn best practices for ministry?
Do I have a staff member who has proven they are a developer of people?

Let’s face it, you can talk about it, write some sort of curriculum, and try and engineer out all of the issues. But guess what you’ll be doing at the end of the first year of residency? You can guess that you'll be changing and tweaking it! So don’t spend too much time on isolated development because you will have gaps.

Church Leadership Residency is a journey. It’s one leader coaching a younger leader on how to navigate ministry. Education is linear…experience is fluid and will be forever changing based on temperament and personality of those involved.  


Since “activator” is in my top five of Strength Finders, allow me to help push the topic by offering simple concepts of how to do get a residency going:

1. Start Small. I think one idea that keeps churches locked up on this topic is that they study marque residency programs at massive churches (there are a couple out there & we need dozens more) that have been running for a decade or more, and they know they can’t do that.

Here’s my encouragement: start with ONE resident. See if you can form best practices and take great notes for the future.

2. Find Partnerships, Coaches, and Models. They’re out there. I’m personally working on Leadership Pathway. We will have coaching helps, and a program available by fall based on the learning of the last four years.

3. Choose the Developer & Avoid the Need. If your average church attendance is around 1250 (give or take 500 people) you probably have somewhere around ten to thirteen FTE on the team. Some of these teammates are killing it, and some probably need help in their week-to-week ministry.

My advice is to identify the staff member who has proven to be a developer of people and start there. This may be the strongest/best looking department on the team, which may cause questions.

Remember: you must want more for the resident than from the resident. This is not about helping out a weak ministry.

Here’s the reality: all day everyday folks like me are in conversations with churches of 150 to 15,000 who cannot find what they are looking for in their next hire. Disruptive change in how we prepare next leaders is a critical need in the Kingdom with no short fixes.

Don’t put this off another year. Like a lot of leadership moves you’ve made…you’ll never actually be “ready.” This will take a small risk with a lot of vision.

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.

The Green Room Read

The Green Room Read

Merry Christmas church leader…perhaps by now you are in to your 3rd, 4th, or 11th Christmas Eve service at your church. The greenroom eats have all been picked over. You ran out of Facebook and Twitter posts during the last service.

Here’s a thought: consider making a calendar reminder for the 27th or 28th to do some work on you for 2017. Don’t wait until the first day back – January 3rd – to decide how to improve in 2017. By that day you’ll be off and running. The demands of that week and a new year will be on you.

Your development is on you. No one is going to force you to get better in leadership, a craft, a personal discipline, or relationships.

If you had a painful employee review (or a good one) this past year pull it out and take a look at it. How much of that is true is about you? Where do you need to get better? Is a lack of skill inducing stress and waking you up at night? Are you yelling at your kids more this year than last because there’s a disappointment in your ministry?

Your employer, and your job is not your problem. Well I can’t speak for you – allow me to say it this way: my boss and my employer has never been my problem, but I've always had a me problem.

For me another book, blog, tweet, or conference is always nice to have, but I’ve found that coaching is the key. I wrote about it here. If your employer won’t pay for one you may have to. I know that I did and it was one of the best work related decisions I have ever made.

Pull some truth-tellers around you and get a plan together. Who knows…some of them may be right across the green room from you even tonight.

Condos, Windows, Kings and Pawns. Merry Christmas.

Condos, Windows, Kings and Pawns. Merry Christmas.

Eleven years ago this week…allow me to set the scene…

As I recall it, it was about ten degrees with a driving wind and I was three stories high in a lift trying to keep the window washing fluid from freezing on the glass.

I was done with ministry or it was done with me. I wasn’t sure, but I was wondering what happened? I had the best seat in the house at a prevailing church in Vegas and now a normal day found me washing windows, cleaning condos, doing conference calls in my crap car with a media company as I free-lanced in Chicago, and playing piano at the corner bar.

Everyone might need a ‘season to detox and unwind’ but my season was stretching a little too long for me. Friends had come to my rescue given me jobs, opportunity, and many times cash. An anonymous friend even left gifts for my kids on my porch. These are lovely people whom I am forever in debt. I will never repay it.

I have zero memory of Christmas day that year. I guess the stress of wondering if I had enough invoices out got the best of me. In those days it was the paper checks in the mailbox I was waiting on…but it was the paper bills that stacked up. My wife and kids have told me the good stories in hindsight. In fact my daughter recently told me her favorite Christmas was that year. They chimed in with memories of what they received mainly from Goodwill. What kind of freakish Hallmark movie must I have been living?

{scene change}

Now, I could take this story a number of ways. I could tell you how this season changed the way I view janitors and day laborers. Believe it or not, a filthy guy cleaning a condo gets talked at differently than a respected worship pastor of a local church. I could type pages about the faithfulness of businessmen who gave me opportunities, and the friends who gave us money. But that’s not this post.

This is for the pastors, former pastors, and those who wish they were former pastors. You are my heroes! Christmas week can be a tough one for you. In fact, you don’t have time to be reading this.

But allow me to affirm something…

 If you think God is done with you He's not. Cliché or not…I prove that.

In fifteen years of ministry I changed seats four times. Based on my sketchy work history from age 20 - 34, I probably should be selling encyclopedias door to door (not that there’s anything wrong with that! Do those still exist?)

God can heal willing hearts, and direct willing feet, and use willing hands. The last 12 years have been a ride of just accepting Kingdom assignments and being used by Him to help others. People have often said to me I want to do what you do for a living. I typically thing you have no idea…

He might just redeem your crazy journey until one day you look back and it makes total sense why all of that happened. After all, He's been at this for thousands of years, and you are just a little part of His story.

Own your stuff. Keep truth tellers around you. He directs your path. You just gotta keep taking one more ridiculous step forward. Some friends will think you're insane. Most won't understand. That's ok, too.

These are Kingdom assignments - it's His thing. It's not yours. Window washing, cleaning condos, playing at bars…this is the perfect run-up for consulting with some of the most amazing leaders I would have ever imagined being around.

What kind of pawn tells the King "no thanks" to these assignments?

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.


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.







Moving from Summer Internships to Residency

Moving from Summer Internships to Residency

(this is part one of a two part post)
When I began in ministry there was this thing that churches did called, “summer internships.” I started in ministry the year Bill Clinton began his first term. Many of you reading this are too young to remember Bill Clinton as President, and yet, churches are still doing summer internships.

Ways in which summer internships work:

- Cheap (yet questionable) labor
- Keeps the college student out of his parents’ basement

 Now, occasionally I’ll meet someone who is awesome and in his tenth year of ministry or something, and he’ll tell me that it worked for him. But looking more closely at the cause/effect, I would suspect that this person would have been great anyway. Did the 8-11 weeks working at that church actually help develop this individual?  I’d vote no.

We need to continue to find better ways to actually develop future leaders, and in so doing, I’d like to offer up reasons why summer internships no longer work:

 - Ministry Schedule. Summer is about camp, vacation, conferences, retreats, and some more vacation. A future leader never gets to the regular rhythm of meetings, ministry, and normal programming.

- Conflict Avoidance. Both the future leader and the supervisor are more likely to avoid difficult conversations that lead to development because, “she’s going to be gone in a few weeks.” This is probably the biggest issue. Future leaders need safe, healthy, and difficult conflict in order to grow and learn.

- Supervising. I’ve had countless Student Pastors tell me that they felt the “pressure to find something for him or her to do” every week. This is a bit tied to point one, but it puts ministry leaders (and especially youth pastors!) in a difficult spot because they tend to rely on a summer intern to help with camp. But what about the week after camp? This leads to busy work for both parties.

- Investment. Any of us can do anything for a short season. Go to Haiti for 3 weeks, exercise for two days, or be an intern for a summer.  However, when a future leader is going some place, and it’s going to be a one or two-year (even better) commitment, then it begins to feel a bit more like a tour of duty.  And we need more of that level of commitment by both parties.

So, if all you can do is summer internships, and that’s all the budget you have, then go for it.  But I’d consult you to reserve internships for people who are in-house to your church already. Consider changing it to be a leadership development next step to those with whom you are already working. Who knows, maybe an internship will open her eyes to vocational ministry. This would be a good thing, but we need something more to actually address the question of preparing the next leader.

We need thousands of churches embracing the developmental path of residency. We'll address how in the next post.





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…”

What The Boss Taught me about Worship Leadership Prep

What The Boss Taught me about Worship Leadership Prep

Bruce Springsteen is the type of artist that I might pay good money to go see, but I’ve never really listened to his music. I can hum a few of his songs that are the most popular and certainly appreciate his art. He’s iconic but not a favorite necessarily.

Yet he taught me great lesson in preparation a few years back.

I remember seeing him perform at the Super Bowl halftime show. You can watch it here.  And it was a “normal over the top” Super Bowl show. It was some months later that I was able to see the documentary “behind the scenes” look at what it takes to pull of the show.

I’m sure you’ve seen similar rock n’ roll documentaries, but what stuck out in this one was the length of time and investment that Bruce went through to prepare his spoken word at the beginning of the show.

They showed multiple clips of him working on the words, practicing the timing, and rehearsing the band over and over months in advance.

I was mesmerized as I watched Bruce work diligently on just a couple of sentences, while rehearsing those same 2 or 3 familiar songs over and over. My mind flashed back to how much effort I had not put in to writing transitions between songs or elements on a normal Sunday morning worship set. 

I had forgotten the simple fact that I was preparing for way more than the 100 million viewers for a once-a-year Super Bowl.  I was preparing for the King of the Universe, as well for those believers and unbelievers who were coming to have an experience with Him.

Do you struggle between songs to know what to say? Do you know how to move from one element to the next so that those in attendance can go with you?  Take time to work on these.

Above all, I would argue that preparation is the key. Yes, the spirit is going to move, and you should be ready, but how much work did you put in to the moments that actually facilitate a great worship experience – the moments in between the songs?

My brotha from down undah, Tim Foot, is one of the best at transitions and has written about it here.  Spend time in this area. God deserves it and so does your church.

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 ;) 

Athletics & Residency

Athletics & Residency

The NCAA and Gallup partnered together for a study that came to the conclusion that those who participate in competitive athletics generally do better in life than those who do not. 

Those of us who played sports certainly would agree.

Before you go there….YES, I played high school basketball at a very, very, very, small high school, although it was in the basketball-crazed state of Kentucky!

I learned a lot through my involvement in athletics, as did my children. Athletics can teach us endurance, discipline, playing through pain, leadership, and taking direction from an authority figure (sometimes a very loud authority figure!).

This is not a rant about the idolatry of athletics in America or the overindulgent parents living vicariously through their own kids. Nor am I here to dispute the findings of the study. I actually agree, and it makes total sense.

I am here to call us to consider applying just a little bit about what we know about athletic training to the development of our future church leaders.  Consider these six qualities we see in athletics:

1. Culture – It’s cool to be on the team. Teams have their our own lingo, handshakes, and their own nicknames for one other.

2. Exclusivity – Many try out, but only a certain number get selected.

3. Difficulty – Many quit during conditioning – the price is very high.

4. Belonging – If you do make the team, and the team is really good, it’s still a privilege to just sit on the bench. Just watch March Madness. Those guys belong.

5. Coaching – I’ve blogged on coaching before here. I recall my team despising our coach during conditioning, but in March, we overwhelmingly loved him. Continual evaluation, correction, and feedback are necessary.

6. Encouragement – High school gymnasiums, and huge arenas are filled to capacity with raving fans cheering their team on to victory. With this level of encouragement comes great accountability to succeed!

Something to Consider…
As I said earlier, I grew up in Kentucky, the home of the Big Blue Nation, Coach Cal, and the winningest team ever in Division I NCAA basketball. I would argue those dozen or so individuals should be some of the best humans on the planet after they grow up. We put millions of dollars into them, obsess over their every move, hold them to the highest level of accountability, and place them in an arena full of 24,000 people cheering them on to do their best!

Follow me around, and you’ll learn how to be a youth pastor is a mind set that is no longer effective; it would make about as much sense as a University of Kentucky basketball team with no leader, no budget, and no plan.

Developing a great athlete or team takes great intentionality. 

Kuddos to those who know it takes this same ingredient in developing a future church leader. 

Six Core Principles of Residency

Six Core Principles of Residency

I recently sat down with Andy Dykhouse for yet another cup off coffee in Omaha to pick his brain on what makes residency work well at some churches. Andy coaches youth pastors, is on the leadership team of the Youth Leader Network in Omaha, and oversees the residency program at Nebraska Christian College.

Here is the first half of our conversation:

Me: You and I have both seen churches begin residency programs in the last couple of years. Some do well, and some struggle. What do you think are two or three core elements a church must commit to doing in order to do residency well?

Andy: Residency is a hot topic. Churches are seeing this need to own the conversation in terms of leadership development. This is a good thing.

I tell churches often, though, that if they don’t have some simple things in place, they will struggle in developing an effective residency program. 

First, your lead pastor must champion residency in order for a residency program to be well worth the time, energy, and resources. This may be an obvious statement, but reality is that a resident is going to cost more than the cash he is paid. There will be times, too, when a staff member is moving more slowly on a project or an action item, because he or she is in a coaching moment with a resident. A lead pastor (or an executive pastor, if one’s in place) has to be committed to this.  They have to see that this is an investment in that student. Will the church get pay off? Maybe. Maybe not.

Me: What happens when this is not in place?

Andy: Well, if a church doesn’t begin with endorsement from senior leadership, getting to the next level is nearly impossible. It’s essential to move forward with the second core principle, which is you want more for them than from them.

Me: This isn’t just cheap labor.

Andy: Absolutely! When churches can’t afford a “real worship leader” but instead want to sign up for residency, I have to lovingly tell them that what they actually need is either a high capacity volunteer or a part-time employee.  There is a huge difference between a developmental process –- a residency. And an opportunity.

Thirdly, this one gets a little controversial at times for me, but your church must be healthy. A healthy church is one that has meaningful evangelism, discipleship, and good staff relationships all in place.

Me: Will residents see best practices at healthy churches?

Andy: Exactly. They have to begin some place in their ministry lives with a church that is doing this. We want to start them on the right footing. This leads to a better shot at longevity in ministry.  Where you start in ministry matters. 

Read the 2nd Half of this conversation here.

Six Core Principles of Residency (part two)

Six Core Principles of Residency (part two)

This is part two of a conversation with Andy Dykhouse from Nebraska Christian College on six core principles of residency at a local church.

Andy: The fourth marker I’m looking for at a residency location is a commitment from the actual staff supervisor. Can this ministry leader develop a resident? If he has never done it, then I need to know if he or she is committed to leaning in for coaching and conversations.

Me: “Just follow me around, and you’ll get it,” doesn’t work anymore.

Andy: Correct. It’s not 1978, right? This is complex. Most of the students I’m pushing on are just juniors or seniors in college. We are accelerating their experiences. So there has to be some willingness there, and this brings me to number five—a commitment for a weekly one-on-one.

For staff members who’ve never had a resident or managed paid staff, a weekly one-on-one sounds easy, until you do it. We ask for an hour of developmental conversations weekly.

Me: Beyond the work.

Andy: Correct. Beyond evaluation of events, to-do lists, what’s coming up next week, etc. This is about that student—character issues, work issues, competency learning and coaching. It’s not easy, and it takes solid commitment.

Finally, the sixth element I’m looking for is for some sort of compensation and housing. Churches are all over the map on this one, but there has to be something there that demonstrates value.  The housing piece is tricky. So far, it’s all worked out and students wind up in good places with supportive families who view this similarly to having an exchange student living with them.  This becomes another coaching opportunity and growth edge for the resident, the staff member, and even the family.

Me: Hey, where you going? Am I buying again?

Andy: Umm...yeh I forgot my wallet again.

Two Powerful Questions to Ask Your Boss

Two Powerful Questions to Ask Your Boss

I was recently asked to come present to one of my favorite church staffs in the city where I live. I could talk on any topic and I had 30 minutes.  This is a multi-layered staff with many in their first ministry. There are also several who are in their first management/leadership role.

Hmmm…what should I have heard if I had been listening when I was first beginning on a church staff?

Well one complaint I’ve heard recently from other young leaders is that they just “don’t have a supervisor who is a developer.”  So I thought I’d take a crack at that and I presented two questions they needed to ask their boss.

1. “What are my gaps?”

Draw a continuum with two points. Point one is “where you are now” and at the other end of the line is the point “where you want to be” in a particular amount of time.  Maybe it’s the job offer after the residency is completed, or maybe it’s the move up to the next level of responsibility. 

Of course, be prepared to hear the tough stuff, and then go act on it! Your development is on you. No matter what it is, ask the boss what she needs to see from you to be able to achieve this.

After you get a short list of action items, then pause and ask....

2. “What are you not telling me?”

I firmly believe that most of us want to be liked. Especially in the local church leadership circle, and even more so when we are first beginning in overseeing staff. I remember it was really hard to say the thing that was going to sting or hurt someone I was leading even if it was for this person’s good. 

How many one-on-ones did I spend trying to say something and failing to do so? Those of us who are pastoral-leaders will especially struggle. So in recent years I’ve been coaching residents, and those new in ministry, to ask their supervisor this question at the end of a good one on one meeting (please choose a good day!).



Pipelines and Pathways

Pipelines and Pathways

Much is being written and talked about concerning pipelines in church leadership circles. I hear it in my staffing consulting work from senior leaders, “One of the things we need is someone who could join our team and build pipelines of leaders for the future.”  I see it tweeted, posted, pinned,  I talk about it often, and there was even an entire conference recently about the topic of Pipelines.

Yet the words of a friend who has spent much of their adult life working with college students, and is now an Executive Pastor at a large church out east, keep ringing in my mind. At a recent strategy meeting he said:

“The next generation isn’t looking for a pipe to slide through.
They are looking for a path on which to start a journey”

So convicting. Who wants to be someone else’s commodity?

Three ways a journey into ministry is like a path…

1. We need a guide. We need someone who has walked this path before, and knows how to navigate it. They know where the great views are, and they know where the fallen tree is we can sit down on to rest. They’ve taken others down this path, and while some have turned back in years past, no one has ever died (not yet anyway).

2. It’s hard work the first time. For those of us who are not avid hikers, the first time out on a trail with an experienced person will take your breath away (and I’m not talking about just the views!). Paths get steep, the soil gets loose, and we have to work harder than we thought.

3. It’s a path for a good reason. What sometimes looks like a short cut to the newbie, winds up being a dead end. Many have come through here before and that’s why this path is worn, and its obvious. A great guide will make sure you stay on the path. Just walking the path is hard enough.

A pipeline implies that there’s pressure, and we are all moving at the same speed (hopefully fast). Reality in leadership development is that no one size fits all, and there’s very little that is predictable in the development of the skills that really matter.

While the path is the same tried and true, the time it takes to get to the destination will vary.


The Voice of God Sounded Like My Youth Pastor

I’ll never forget riding home from a weekend leadership event with my youth pastor. It was 1983 and I was bouncing along in the church van looking at the back of his head as the miles clicked off in the middle of the night thinking ”someday I want to be like that guy.” Little did I know that seminal moment as a goofy 13 year old would shape the trajectory of my life.

I don’t remember the theme, the games, if there was music, where we ate, or what we even did. But I remember every detail of the moment when he looked at me and said, “I see ministry in you.” Call it a calling, call it influence, call it what you want, but I never looked back after that comment from him. I stepped into whatever volunteer and leadership roles that I could at the local church. That moment would propel me into the next 3 decades til today.

My youth pastor intuitively knew what the people I’m around and I have come to live and breath just about every day: finding the next generation of church leadership is on us. Those of us in influential roles at the local church level have to identify the ones who have the potential to be the next generation of influencers. Carey Nieuwhof said it best recently on our campus that the Church needs more influential entrepreneurs and not just pastors. These traits begin early in life.

It is true that we must teach, train, educate, and coach new leaders in radically different ways for the future health of the church. We are tweaking it all, but we have to start with a different type of raw material to wind up with a different result.

What does an entrepreneurial influencer look like in 8th grade or 11th grade or as a 24 year-old? Those of us in leadership at the local church have to find these key moments to look them in the eye and say “I see ministry in you.”

 I guess I went all-in back in ’92 when I first sat in the balcony of the Lakeside Auditorium and heard Hybles say “the church is the hope of the world and nothing can transform communities like the church when it is lead well.”

I’m still all in.

My youth pastor didn’t take all one hundred of us on a leadership retreat. He tapped the short list. He looked beyond our awkwardness. I’m sure there were sure-bets that didn’t pan out, and long-shots that turned out awesome, but he was the mouth-piece of God into my life.

Thirty years later now, I always carry a name in my wallet of a student that I’m praying would answer the call. I get these names from current church leaders. They know best. We know who can recognize future ministry material. It’s youth pastors like the one I was blessed to grow up under, and it’s campus ministry, and next generation leaders.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to the fields.” From my perspective of where I’m embedded in the Kingdom leadership pipeline, the fields have never been whiter.