Monday, June 25, 2012

Bill Hybels’ hardest years

As one of the founders of Willow Creek Community Church, Bill Hybels knows the sacrifice that comes with starting a church. At the 2012 Exponential Conference on April 25 in Orlando, Florida, he spoke with church planters about their early successes and struggles planting Willow. And he invited his wife, Lynne, and two grown children, Shauna and Todd to join him for the interview.

“The first five years after Willow started were one of the hardest experiences of my life,” Bill shared with church planters. “I did a lot of scrambling. In the first five years it was like 25, 100-yard dashes a day.” 

Willow Creek began meeting in a theatre in Palatine in 1975 with approximately 100 people in attendance—most of them from a youth group who had met in the suburbs of Chicago. After six years of steady growth, the church took a leap of faith and committed to build a building at its current location in South Barrington. 

“When I look out at a crowd like this and see how many of you are in the first five to ten years of a church plant, I just want to sprinkle pastor dust all over you and wish you well,” he said. “I think [church planting] is inherently messy. I think it’s inherently confusing. I think it’s inherently complex. We can help, and council, and bless each other, but one of the toughest things I’ve ever been through is the first five or ten years of planting Willow,” he said.
It was hard on his family, too. “We didn’t have anybody giving us any direction or council,” Bill’s wife, Lynne said. “We weren’t a part of any organization. There were no church planters’ organizations that we knew of back then.” 

But as a family they were still able to make some good decisions. “We made a decision that if we had to choose between disappointing people in our congregation or our kids, we would disappoint the congregation because if they don’t like us they can go to another church, but our kids are stuck with us,” said Lynne.

“It was important for us to keep focused on our family while building into the church we were planting,” said Bill. “When our two kids arrived, nothing ever touched me as deeply. The thought of leaving these kids in the jet stream of a fast-moving church was unconscionable to me,” he said. “[My family] is my ultimate, lifelong small group. They are my permanent community. What do you have when you drive away from your church after 35 to 40 years if you don’t have an ultimate community?”

With a belief that after a church planter has established the fundamental commitments and isn’t going to quit, Bill believes it is becomes a matter of managing the commitments. “The idea of bailing on this, and I don’t mean this unkindly, I think it’s the coward’s way out. I think it requires more courage to be a covenant keeper—your covenant with your calling to God, your covenant to your marriage, and your covenant to your children,” he said. “I had to pray to God, that unless you take my life or release me from my call at Willow, I’m going to serve this church with my heart, soul, mind, and strength every day. I’m not breaking that covenant.”

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William Ury: A Yes Man Says No

The co-author of Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (1981), William Ury knows a few things about mediation. For 30 years, he has served as a negotiation adviser and mediator in conflicts around corporate mergers, wildcat strikes in a Kentucky coal mine, ethnic wars in the Middle East, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union, and even family disputes. With former President Jimmy Carter, he co-founded the International Negotiation Network, an organization dedicated to ending civil wars around the world. Along the way, he has taught negotiation skills to thousands of corporate executives, diplomats, labor leaders, and military officers helping organizations reach mutually beneficial agreements. 

Getting to YES focused on finding acceptable solutions through “principled negotiation.” 

But after nearly 25 years of getting to yes, this yes man said no. As the father of a baby with serious medical problems, he realized that in order to make positive choices about her health, he would have to oppose new medical procedures that he felt were inappropriate.
In The Power of Positive No: How to Say No & Still Get to Yes, Ury offers the following tips:
  1. Uncover your deeper YES (a core interest, need, or value), express it to the other person, and stay true to your yes.
  2. Deliver a respectful NO. Keep your tone neutral and matter-of-fact and empower your NO with a Plan B.
  3. Negotiate to a healthy YES. A healthy YES yields a positive outcome. Follow your NO with a positive proposal and facilitate a wise agreement.
  4. “In order to say yes to what’s truly important, you first need to say no to other things,” says Ury. “No is the new Yes,” he says. “And the “positive no” may be the most valuable life skill you’ll ever learn.”  
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

5 Ways to Embed Evangelism in Your Culture

Few people would claim that evangelism comes naturally. In fact, for most, it means taking risks and stepping outside their comfort zones. But Christ doesn’t ask those with the gift of evangelism to be the only ones to share their faith. He asks all of us. When it comes to embedding a culture of evangelism in a church, it boils down to this:

1. Live a lifestyle of personal evangelism
Pastors can engage in very specific steps to embed a culture of evangelism in their church, starting by living it themselves. When the pastor and the leadership of the church are fired up about living a lifestyle of evangelism, they are sending a clear message to the congregation that it is a priority.

2. Teach regularly about evangelism
Walking the walk is key, but so is talking the talk. Pastors need to teach about evangelism on a regular basis. 

3. Provide training to equip the congregation in how to engage in personal evangelism
It’s important to offer training classes that can help people learn how to share their faith. At Willow we recently began offering Alpha and Just Walk Across the Room trainings to equip the congregation in personal evangelism. And we didn’t just offer it to adults; we also offered an age-appropriate training for kids. If kids can learn the importance of personal evangelism at an early age, it can set them on that path for the rest of their lives. 

4. Vision cast the importance of evangelism every few months
Every time there is an opportunity to vision cast about the mission of the church, evangelism should be at the top of the list. When we offer support groups to those who are hurting, we want people to get healing and meet the great Healer—Jesus Christ. When we open the doors to provide immediate relief (food, clothing, etc.) in times of crisis, we want to introduce people to Christ because He is the One who meets all our needs. At the heart of outreach, there is a burning desire to see people come to faith. Don’t pass up an opportunity to vision cast to every ministry about the impact they’re having on reaching people for Christ. 

5. Celebrate!
And it’s always important to celebrate. The Bible says that every time someone crosses the line of faith, there is rejoicing in heaven (Luke 15:10). For us at Willow, every June the entire congregation gathers at the lake on our campus for a lakeside Baptism. People bring picnics and sit on blankets on the shore and as people are baptized, there is a lot of shouting, cheering, and celebrating!

Bill Hybels (@BillHybels)
Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church

Chairman of the Board, Willow Creek Association
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Friday, June 15, 2012

Going Deeper to Go Further

There is an emerging trend taking place as a new generation of Christian leaders come to the fore. We have tended to promote people into leadership on the basis of their performance, what they have done and achieved.  As important as this is, and it certainly is important, we are seeing an equal or greater importance being placed on the character of leaders.  

I recently engaged in the LIFT course, "Leading for Results", taught by Dr Henry Cloud. The title of this course may lead you to think it was about what we do to get results.  The focus of this course however was not on what we do, but who we are as leaders, our character.  The effective leader, according to Dr Cloud is the one who can go deeper in order to go further.  We need to be growth orientated, growth meaning Getting Real - Owning Wholeness.  Dr Cloud teaches us to live integrated lives as leaders, bringing the sum of our parts into a healthy wholeness. To become whole we need to go deep, own our current reality, invite others to speak truth in our lives and connect intentionally, often and intimately with God.

As the leader of the WCA in Australia, I recently invited Mindy Caliguire, Director of Transformstion Ministry at WCA to join myself and Dr Keith Farmer a retired seminary principal, psychologist and pastor to lead a series of seminars with church leaders.  Our theme was "Stop Well to Go Well." When leaders hear the call to rest and nurture their inner lives, to build their character, so they can grow and thrive, they innately know this to be true.  Can I encourage you from my vantage point as a leader within the worldwide WCA movement who engages with many leaders who are deeply tired from over activity, to consider the need to re-orientate yourself towards growth, Get Real - Own Wholeness.

Andrew McCafferty
CEO Willow Creek Australia

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Geoffrey Canada’s Thoughts on Leadership

If you saw Waiting for Superman, a documentary on the state of public education in America, you might recognize Geoffrey Canada. The president of Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), Canada transformed the organization in the late 90s into a center that actively follows the academic careers of youths in a 24-block area of Harlem. The model was so successful, that today the area covers 97 blocks. The New York Times calls it “one of the biggest social experiments of our time.” President Obama announced plans to replicate the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) model in 20 other cities in the US.

Harlem Children’s Zone isn’t simply helping children beat the odds, it’s helping to change the odds.

• Leadership by consensus sounds good, but it’s difficult because persuading everyone to do one thing is almost impossible.

• When you move away from a “leadership by consensus” model, people might not like you. They’ll think you’re in charge and want to do things your way. Being a good manager and having people like you aren’t always the same thing.

• Trying to persuade people to do things your way can be a waste of time. You might be better off to thank them for their difference of opinion, suggest they do something else with their life, and proceed with the people who are ready to move forward.

• A leader’s approach should be to respect people’s opinions and listen to the issues, but once a decision is made, people have to make it their job to carry it out. 

• Sometimes leaders have to make decisions that are risky, but risk-taking can be important in moving your organization forward. 

• A leader must drive the team to innovate. Help them figure out how to do things better and smarter. It’s a constant process.

• Innovation doesn’t last forever. In fact, it will last for about 18 months. If you don’t come back and reenergize it after 18 months, it will go downhill.

• People get excited about brand new ideas, but you must pay attention to the things that are fundamental to your business or organization. 

• Assure people on your team that there’s no negative side to bringing up a problem and asking for support. 

• To manage well, a leader must understand the underlying dynamics of a group. Be transparent with your team and that will help neutralize some of the anxiety in a group, then you can be about solving problems. 

• Be willing to learn from those who are doing things better than you are.

• No one wants to have “difficult” conversations and few are trained to do it. But a leader must be willing to tell people the truth. 

• Work with people who have struggled to do difficult things. Someone who has never experienced a setback may have a tough time working for your organization. Hire people who are the best and who are on a mission to make your business or organization better than it is. 

• Steer away from hiring people who see the job as an extension of their ego or who want to use it to their personal advantage. 

• Hire people with a decent sense of humor. Most of us work hard doing hard work and are under a lot of stress. If the workplace has a healthy sense of humor, you can take yourselves seriously and make fun of yourselves at the same time.
(Adapted from “The Corner Office” by Adam Bryant, Times Books)

View Geoffrey Canada in a segment of Meet the Press that addressed Education Nation.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

So... what DO you expect?

In the family welcome and check in area for our kid’s ministry we have a Giant Gumball machine. Children often come with their coins in hand, looking with great anticipation as they place their money in the slot, turn the handle and crouch down waiting for the Gumball to come down the chute and out the bottom. They know that every time their money goes in the gumball comes out; it’s consistent and reliable. On a rare occasion, for no particular reason, they get two, and that’s just a bonus!

These same children have expectations as they walk through the doors of our ministry. They expect to see people they know, friends and leaders; familiar faces.

They love to be known, recognised as they are greeted by name or have their birthday or some other significant event remembered. Children expect to have fun!

As leaders we expect to teach the Bible in a creative way, in a way that is relevant, memorable and applicable to our kids in their everyday lives. Our volunteers expect to be able to use their skill, passion and gifts in a meaningful way.

However, frustration and disappointment set in when expectations are continually unmet.

In ministry this is a constant tension: managing the expectations of children, parents, team, church and, of course, ourselves. Expectations need to be realistic, achievable and sustainable. We manage expectations by creating language around them; painting a picture of “what could be”. Disclosing the purpose behind these expectations helps our teams see that these are not rules; they are values.

As a ministry leader we want to promise only what we can deliver. We have a picture in our minds of what things could look like and what it will take to get there, yet naming current reality helps everyone pace themselves on the journey.

I have an expectation that each child will come to the same service every week and be in the same small group with the same leader. Currently this is not true for every child so we manage the expectations of our parents by describing some of our groups as “intentional small groups”, our preferred picture, and some as simply “small groups”; not yet where we want them to be but nevertheless meeting a need.

Being aware of expectations helps us as a leader to think more critically, and evaluate more rigorously, what we do and why we do it. Are we consistent in what we provide for our kids and families both programmatically and relationally? Do we try to have leaders in the room with whom they can really connect or do we simply roster people because that is easiest?

Our expectations will have a significant impact on the results we see. When we anticipate life change then we plan for it, vision cast it, teach for it and look for it; not resting until we see our expectations becoming a reality.

Imagine if all those within your ministry had expectations that were aligned under the one strategy?
Imagine if everyone spoke the same language and had the same end in mind. How would your reality change?

Your ministry does not stand alone. It’s not up to you to do it all by yourself. Getting others on the same page takes time, intention and strategy. Be willing to work together on a common picture with other ministry leaders. Paint the picture of what you want to see then communicate it with passion and enthusiasm.

Margaret Spicer
Children and Families Pastor