It’s the time of year when resolutions and plans, hopes and dreams, are pasted on our mirrors, stuck on our walls, or presented in PPT strategy sessions. As an organizational leader and an individual the problem I have with resolutions is not the planning—it’s the execution!
Recently I was at an event where the speaker had written “flawless execution” alongside the diagram of his talk. Wow, that got my attention. Can you believe the first thing he said was he wasn’t going to do the talk he had planned. He spent the next twenty minutes of his sixty-minute time slot talking about himself! His info, when he got to it, was good. But we lost one-third of his time! His problem wasn’t his planning—it was his execution!
Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy in their book Execution say, “Execution . . . is a discipline of its own.” Here are four ideas that can help you and your team practice the discipline of execution in a way that makes sense, gets the job done, and doesn’t make us feel like failures.
I have a friend who was a naval navigator. He once told me, “Navigating is easy. As long as you know where you are leaving from and where you are going to everything in between is fluid.” Fluid planning has the why, the reason for our plan, as its starting point. Its ending point is what we want to accomplish. If our why is strong and our what is appropriate everything that lies between is the fluid plan.
One of the major breakthrough events in my life was when I accepted the idea that consistency is not king. And that’s not an easy idea to accept. We’ve all been told the fable of the tortoise and the hare—right? But life doesn’t come at us consistently. Life comes in waves, in fits and starts. Inconsistent action gives us permission to let our energies and focus meet the demands of life while returning us again and again to the action necessary to achieve results. Inconsistent action reduces the guilt that paralyzes us and which can eventually so demotivate us that we quit.
Reality is hurtful because it’s the force we’re always having to adjust to. Reality refuses to leave us alone. It interferes with our plans (which are obviously great because we made them). The hurt of reality, however, is primarily felt in relation to our unwillingness to accept its presence. The more we resist reality the more pain it applies. Instead of viewing reality as the enemy accept reality as a constructive guide. Reality rewards us when we work with it and redirects us when we get out of sync.
A plan is an act of courage in and of itself. But, as soon as we make a plan public, from the moment we take the first step, fear climbs onto the seat beside us. Fearful courage accepts the fact that fear and courage are companions. So when you feel the fear creeping up on you look around to see where courage is. Courage is not the absence of fear, it is acting in spite of it.
Flawless execution is probably the mythic unicorn of strategic planning. I pray these four ideas encourage you to keep on executing your plans for the good results you want to accomplish.
Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work. —Peter Drucker
A Church Planting Story - Chapter 5
Planting a church is about gathering community. Jared and Laura made purposeful connections and also let the Holy Spirit go to town to pull together a group of people who were ready to live like family, to be like Jesus, and to work hard to make Missio happen.
The church launched at Northgate Community Center at the end of April 2018. The room was filled with team members, friends from far away, and people from the community. Guillermo, a custodian at the neighborhood elementary school, stood up and told about how Missio has already poured into the lives of families at their school. This was a complete change in attitude from the first time he met Missio. Let’s just say his expectations from people who called themselves Christians were very, very low. You’ll have to ask Jared to tell you the story sometime.
Moving from Launch into the long growth phase of church planting means recasting vision over and over again. There’s no end date that you’re ramping up for, so you keep recasting vision for things like presence and deepening presence. It means developing a consistent rhythm for small groups, Sundays mornings, and service. It’s like creating a mini launch three times every year.
Remember back at the beginning of this story, we talked about Jared and Laura going to strategy lab? Initially it was to take their dream and turn it into a plan. But that plan was built on a framework that wasn’t there yet. So, after a couple of years, they went back to Strategy Lab with some experience under their belts, and rebuilt the plan using what they’d learned along the way.
Just recently, they went to Strategy Lab for a third time, this time not as a dream, but as a church. They were able to work on their yearly calendar and set goals for Christmas, Easter, and the start of school.
This little church has a big heart. Twice this year, they’ve given their whole contribution to support their neighborhood elementary school. They’re feeding hungry people, giving warm coats to people who need them, and shining God’s light in a corner of our country that proclaims itself to be “beyond” its need for God.
But light speaks.
Here’s what one Google reviewer has to say:
“This place is the Light of God, pure and simple. All are welcome. Every single being. Which is what church ought to be everywhere in my oh so humble opinion. A far cry from what we see out there in much of the church these days. Here -one is received, nourished and so cannot help but want to deliver the same to those in their every day."
A Church Planting Story - Chapter 4
Paul tried to be all things to all people, but that didn’t mean he was all things to everyone all the time. He adapted to the place and the people he was with at any given moment “to win as many as possible.”
Jared and Laura wanted to do more than stand on the street corner and shout out that they were planting a new church. They wanted to be in people’s lives, to forge new relationships with all different kinds of people.
Jared, who lost a brother to addiction and hard life choices, wanted to be in the lives of people like that brother. So he sought out the shelters and the detention centers. He volunteered to help victims of domestic violence and to ride along with the police. He and Laura, with their neighbors, saw repeated evidence that drugs were being bought and sold right beside their house. Instead of throwing their hands up in despair, they went to work. For months, they documented cars’ makes and models, time of day, license plates, and more. When they’d amassed enough evidence, they turned it over to the police, who were able to break up a drug ring in North Seattle because of the Kings and their neighbors.
Earlier this year, North Seattle United met to worship. 16 churches from North Seattle gathered in unity and solidarity. It was exciting, energizing, inspirational.
The next morning, Jared went to his office. The sidewalk outside was littered with heroin needles. The temptation was to crash back to earth with the reality of darkness in Seattle. Jared allowed himself that initial pessimism, but then he said, “No. Let’s not be depressed by how little difference we have made. Let’s let the reality propel us to change.”
Even when they feel like they’re not making a difference, they are. They continue to address real life head on, convinced that even when they feel like there’s no movement, there is.
Jared reminds himself that the 10 months it took to break up the drug ring was about persistence. And if that doesn’t feel like they made a dent, it’s just a reminder that the enemy is strong, but our God is stronger.
We must be diligent. God will not be defeated.
A Church Planting Story - Chapter 3
When Jared and Laura skydived into Seattle in 2014 (not literally, but it was just as scary), they had their plans, their dreams, and their expectations. Piled on top of their own expectations for success, were those of their church partners, supporters, and coaches.
But moving into Seattle quickly brought a couple of truths to light. Seattleites do not easily fall into relationships with each other. The Kings were moving from Nashville, a highly Christian city where people are open to each other to a place where people are closed and suspicious. The metro area of nearly 4 million people may represent half the state’s population, but many people in Seattle feel completely alone.
To combat their own alone-ness, the Kings purposefully sought out partnerships. An early and important relationship was formed with Epic Life Church, a church with a similar vision that was a few years further along. Epic Life gave the Kings a place to belong while they put down roots and built community. Jared credits this relationship to God, who put Epic Life in their path when they didn’t even know that was what they were needing.
Beyond that, Jared purposefully forced himself into other relationships—with neighbors, with people at the gym, with anyone who might be called into service for Seattle’s lost people. The Sojourn team, a campus ministry group that moved to Seattle to work on the UW campus, brought a much-needed energy and excitement to the groundwork of Missio.
As Jared says about partnerships, “We realized early on that as Church Planters, we had to fight for relationships so that people could fall into relationships where we fought for them. That is how you find partnerships. You fight for them.”
I was praying over you this morning, asking God to open up your church for new people whom God will bring to bless you.
I regularly keep my eye open for ideas and resources to help you. One of the resources I’ve been paying attention to lately are the videos from Pro Church Daily. These guys are worth listening to. They’re classic millennials. Working with churches is what they do. They keep things short, direct, and innovative.
This morning I watched their video “How to Reach People When You’re a Church of 50 or Less.” Here’s Brady’s phrase that caught my attention:
“If you want to get somewhere you’ve never been, you need to be willing to do things you’ve never done.”
Here are three statements we talk about within Kairos that help us take those steps that move us forward to growth:
Brady’s challenge is to make this year a year to try things out.
If you want to do it, but don't think you can go it alone, we're putting together a Spring Surge group to help each other through. Click here to download a Spring Surge Preview Calendar to see if it's something you're interested in.
Let’s do it!
Establishing Gospel DNA Throughout the Body
God’s mission is to restore all things to himself in and through the work and person of Jesus Christ. He chooses to accomplish that mission through the church. As God restores us to himself, he is also restoring us to be who he intends us to be. This restoring work does not happen in isolation, but rather in and through our relationships. We do not do it alone. We need each other. One way to purposefully cultivate these relationships is through DNA groups.
What is a DNA Group?
A DNA (DNA stand for Discipleship, Nurturing, and Accountability) Group is made up of three people—men with men, women with women—who meet together weekly to be known and to bring the gospel to bear on each other’s lives so that they grow in and live out the values of mission of Christ. Groups are not about seeking the approval of people; God’s approval—the only approval that matters—is already ours because of Jesus’ perfect life, death and resurrection.
Once formed, a DNA group focuses on the following:
PATHWAYS INTO A DNA GROUP
Jared and Laura, in listening for God's call in their life, were pulled toward London, England. They passed Discovery Lab with scores that indicated a high likelihood they could successfully plant a church once they had more experience under their belts.
Kairos helped them secure an apprenticeship with Ethos Church in Nashville, where they could learn how healthy growing church systems function. During that season, the call shifted from London to the Northwest, the heart of post-Christian culture in the US.
When a planter moves to a new city to start a church, we call it parachuting in. It takes time to settle into a new place, build relationships, learn the culture, and allow the dream and plan for the church to form within the new context.
Jared says, " We were going from Sunday-centric Christianity to Sundays being secondary at best. We were going from thousands of Christian relationships to almost none."
The Kings knew there would be challenges in making such a big move, but Seattle was looming large in the future and they needed a plan.
They attended their first Kairos Strategy Lab before moving to Seattle. And their plans looked great on paper. They were able to dream big, to think through the theories of what they hoped to accomplish, to give shape to their dream and make it a plan. Sure, it was all theory, but it was solid theory.
With all their tools in place and a team enthusiastic about moving with them, they moved their family north.
But there comes a place in every story when boots hit the pavement, when expectations crash up against reality, when a person's strength and faith are put to the test.
To be continued . . .
A Church Planting Story
Once upon a time, a man decided to plant a new church in a new city. All his plans went better than expected and in no time a booming church had grown up with no problems and little effort.
Recently a group from our church attended the Discipleship.org conference. We engaged with about 1,400 other “Discipleship First” folks to be encouraged by brothers and sisters from around the world and to hear the ways they grow disciples who make disciples.
Here are 5 key points that I walked away with from the conference:
2. The Word of God is powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrew 4:12). Make engagement with the Bible a central feature of your discipling process. What scriptures will you memorize together and why? What biblical readings will focus your attention?
3. The discipling leader sets the stage. As a discipler, you are inviting others to learn from your life. You determine the time, place, and the content. If they’re not willing to work with your schedule, they may not yet be ready to engage that level of discipling.
4. Discipling is best done in groups of 3 to 5 people of the same gender. The focus is on obeying scripture and reflecting on the interaction between scripture and doing. Being small in number and gender specific allows a greater flow of interaction, confession and accountability.
5. Any plan is more effective than no plan. There were 18 tracks at the 2018 Discipleship Conference, each led by a group with disciple making as their goal. Here are 3 of the plans presented:
A friend of mine introduced me to the acronym BHAG: By the Hand of Almighty God. In their book, Built to Last (1994), James Collins and Jerry Porras defined a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) as “a long-term goal that changes the very nature of a business’ existence.” These are the type of goals that change history, like when John F. Kennedy said, “that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”
Like a vision drives a country, I believe a BHAG is what ultimately drives a church.
BHAGs are meant to shift “business as normal.” BHAGs are nearly impossible to achieve without consistently working outside of our comfort zone. They require a commitment and confidence that moves us to persistent effort, over decades, even when the odds seem impossibly stacked against us.
The only way a church, or any organization, can pursue a BHAG dream is with a long-term plan that ties together mission, vision, and decisions into action. Without such organized, systematic planning no BHAG will survive.
Since 2009 Kairos has been helping churches think strategically about their future through a strategic planning process called StratOp. StratOp employs a series of insightful tools to help churches gain perspective on their own reality, strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately to immediate and long-term decisions that will move them towards progress on their BHAGs.
It is the persistent application of effort towards a plan that ultimately drives us towards the BHAGs God has set before us. No, we’re not doing this by our own strength or will. God is in charge. But He still asks us to do the hard work that needs to be done as He energizes the results.
If you are interested in the StratOp process, contact me at email@example.com.