5 Minute Mentoring: Leading Change More Effectively

A helpful chart for processing changes

goldfish seeking a change

Leading change in a local church is a tough task.  Just about any pastor has one of these stories:

  • a needed change that crashed and burned after it was presented to a church board…
  • a “church boss” who couldn’t bear to see their pet program canned…
  • a brilliant plan plan shot down by failure to process it properly with key leaders…

An indisputable fact: Change COSTS.  Financially.  Spiritually.  Emotionally.  Chronologically.

So how can we help ourselves know which changes to take on, and help people process them?

Here’s a helpful chart shared with me by my “brother in the Gospel” Darrell Underwood (MS, USAF, Ret.), who pastors a church plant in Clovis, NM called Servant’s Heart Chapel.  From his years of work in Process Improvement for the Air Force.

#3 – PICK Chart: Leading Change More Effectively from Darrell Stetler II on Vimeo.

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How Living In the Urgent Can Kill Your Creativity

And how to reclaim your life from the stress...

If you haven’t read Stephen Covey’s excellent book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” you’re missing out.  Out of the many helpful things in the book, here’s one I have found most useful:  Covey’s distinction between URGENT things and IMPORTANT things.

  • Urgent things shout at you – flashing lights, ringing phones.
  • Important things will not – maintenance, relationships, planning.
  • Urgent and Important things must be done or things will fall apart immediately.
  • Important, not Urgent things must be done or things will fall apart eventually.
  • Urgent and Important things are like filling up with gas when you’re on empty.
  • Important things are like changing the oil after 3,000 miles.

He draws a matrix like this:

Quadrant 2 graphic

As you can see, Quadrant 1 is Urgent & Important.  Quadrant 2 is Important, but not Urgent.

Now, think about your life in terms of this diagram.

I think of Sunday as a Quadrant 1 day.   If you don’t lead worship, don’t preach… if you fail to do whatever your core activities are, there will be an immediate negative effect.  Some activities eventually change quadrants.  For instance, sermon prep is a Quadrant 2 activity, but Saturday night… it’s moved up.

Here’s why it’s better to do activities while they’re still in Quadrant 2:

1. Living in Quadrant 1 is exhausting.

Living your whole life in Quadrant 1 means you’ll be like Mario, leaping from crisis to crisis, barely escaping destruction at each turn, always inches from disaster.

It means not being able to sleep because of the stress of upcoming deadlines.

That’s exhausting.  Better to live in Quadrant 2, where you do important things before they move into Quadrant 1.

2. Relaxed thinking is better than crisis thinking.

You do better quality thinking when you’re relaxed.  Research is clear: You make better quality decisions when your stress is lower.

In his ground-breaking book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell tells of a study where college students were brought to a snack table, and offered a choice between healthy snacks (fruit, etc) and unhealthy snacks (cookies, cupcakes).  Half of the students were given a phone number to memorize and repeat back after the snack.  Those students were much more likely to choose the unhealthy snack.  Why?  They defaulted, under even that mild stress, to choosing what was immediately rewarding, instead of what was smarter.

3. Creativity flows better when you are not in urgent mode.

Ever think that your creativity goes up right before the deadline?  It doesn’t.  Your desperation does.  You may produce, but it’s not your creativity that gets your sermon finished!  It’s shame, and the potential embarrassment of having nothing to say.

It’s not more creative, it’s just… finished.

Instead, take time and focus early in the week to get in a creative flow.  (I’ll be writing more on this soon.)  You may not think of yourself as a particularly creative person, but I bet that you’re more creative when you aren’t “under the gun.”

4. Creativity is useless when you have no time left to execute.

In Quadrant 2, when you think of a really creative way to present a sermon, you can do it.  You can find that prop, create that Powerpoint, locate that great historical story, find that song that complements, think of that person whose testimony should be shared.

But in Quadrant 1, even if you think of it, you often don’t have enough time to do anything about it. I’ve been there too many times, finishing up a sermon on Sunday morning, when I realized – “You know what would be GREAT?!… ah, never mind, I don’t have time to do that this morning!”

Don’t do it.  Commit to living in the Important, not Urgent.

One final thought:

“What if I’m already overwhelmed?  How do I get into Quadrant 2 when Quadrant 1 is already so full?”

I’m glad you asked.  You can’t just stop doing Quadrant 1 activities.  Everything would fall apart, because they really ARE important!  There are only 2 places that you can find time to do Quadrant 2 activities at first: Quadrants 3 & 4.

Here’s what that might look like:

  • Turn off the phone.
  • Block Netflix.
  • Shut off talk radio.
  • Turn off the TV.
  • Use Stayfocusd to keep off Facebook.
  • Get off Youtube.
  • Turn off your wireless access altogether for 3 hours.

And do something Quadrant 2.  Like this:

  • Prepare for NEXT week’s message.
  • Prep for a series that’s a month away on your sermon calendar.
  • Invest in a key relationship.
  • Learn something new.
  • Do that item you’ve been putting off.
  • Check your calendar for tomorrow.
  • Schedule lunch with someone.
  • Pray.

I think you’ll find that if you’ll do this for a week, Quadrant 1 will be slightly smaller, and Quadrant 2 will be slightly larger.

Now, imagine 6 months from now, if you did that every day!

A Pastor’s After-Easter Action Plan

The songs have been sung, the message has been preached, the celebration is over… and the pastor is tired.  I know.  You definitely need to take some time off this week.  But here’s a short list of actions you should take to make sure that your efforts leading up to Easter Sunday don’t go to waste.

A Place to Start for Small Church Pastors

1. Follow up on spiritual decisions.

If someone came to know Jesus, that’s of paramount importance.  Check in with them, confirm their decision, share your joy, communicate your availability, answer questions.

2. Take care of the administrative details.

This is the “unsexy” part of your week, I know.

  • Entering guest cards into the database…
  • writing follow-up letters…
  • communicating “thanks” to your team…

Those kinds of things may not feel like exciting things to do on an emotionally exhausted “morning after Easter,” but paying attention to these kinds of details is exactly what will put you in a good place for the future.  If you have recruited administrative help, this is a good time to make a list of tasks they need to take on.

3. Keep the conversation going with guests.

Use information you’ve captured with your guest card to communicate a couple times with guests from Sunday.

  • Send them a personal thank you note (we do ours hand-written, with a little gift card to a local restaurant inside).
  • If someone asked for info on a particular next step on your guest card, then that could be a next step they’re motivated to take.  Follow up on that.
  • Find a way to “wow” guests with your love.  After all, “By this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:35

Due to a couple rounds of sickness in my family, I have delayed launching my Guest Follow-Up Coaching program & releasing the ebook I’ve written.  Join my email list to know as soon as it launches!

4. Clearly communicate a general next step.

In today’s world, it’s doubtful that people are suddenly 100% committed to coming every Sunday from “now ‘til Jesus comes.”

Lifetime commitment to your church is probably a tough sell after one Sunday.  It’s like a store owner asking you to only shop at that store after your first visit.  Probably not gonna happen.  It’s better to communicate a specific next step people can take if they were attracted by what you offered on Easter.

It’s probably best not to have 6 next steps.  Simplicity and clarity mean you need to decide about 1 next step you want new guests to take.  Is it:

  • Come to a membership class?
  • Show up at a relationship-building event?
  • Come to your church dinner next week?
  • Volunteer at your outreach event to kids?
  • Attend the start of your new series next Sunday?

5. Do a review with your team.

I wrote about this in my post “The Easiest Way to Continually Improve Your Outreach.” Check that post out.  The best way to make sure all the lessons of this Easter get learned and captured is a quick review of:

  • What went right
  • What went wrong
  • What we can improve next time
  • Who’s responsible for it

6. Thank God & your team.

You didn’t do this Easter alone.  Even if it was a bit less than you hoped for, people labored to make it happen, and it wasn’t a waste in the eyes of Heaven.  So spend some time thanking God in faith for what he’s doing, and how he’s going to continue that work.

Then make a few phone calls or write a few thank you notes to people who made the weekend happen.

Here’s to small church pastors, who labor faithfully… thanks for what you do for God’s Kingdom!

I’m going to make a checklist for this post, and give it away.  What other steps should I include after Easter?  Tell me in the comments below.

How to Not Waste Your Easter Crowd

Every pastor knows that Easter and Christmas are two Sundays that are most likely to attract the unchurched and the de-churched to attend. You probably have given thought to your Easter services already, since we’re just a few weeks away.

Between now and Easter you’ll probably

  • brainstorm ideas
  • decorate the Sanctuary
  • rehearse special music or programs
  • recruit prayer warriors
  • pray God does something great

But have you built systems to capture what God does?  Or will your guests who walk through your door that Sunday… walk back out until next Easter?  What can you do to keep from wasting the big day?  Here are four ideas you need to think about in advance:

1. Capture their information.

As I’ve written before, one of the biggest regrets I have about some of my early outreach efforts, was that I didn’t know the power of harvesting information.  Without the ability to continue the conversation, those one-time guests… slip through your fingers.  One of the best ways to show concern and care is to get someone’s info and keep the conversation going.  When you get someone’s info, you’re practicing what Seth Godin calls Permission Marketing.  It’s the permission to continue the conversation, to build trust.  Whether it’s a pastoral visit, a text, a phone call, or a personal note, you’re working on the relationship.

And if you’re going to keep working on it, the core of a guest follow-up strategy is your connection card.

Connection Card front 2013 FINAL

If you need one designed for you, why don’t you let me do it?


One week from today, I am launching “7 Steps to a Killer Guest Follow-Up System” coaching!

It’s a 60-day coaching program that teaches you how to keep more of your guests and follow up with them effectively.  That coaching program includes:

  • an e-book that will walk you through the steps for setting up a guest follow-up
  • 10-minute weekly coaching videos on each step
  • 1 hour weekly assignments until you’re up and rolling
  • helpful checklists & volunteer job descriptions
  • Tons of done-for-you resources you can edit
  • Your very own guest follow-up card
  • and lots more!

CLICK HERE to be notified as SOON as it’s available!

2. Give them something to come back for.

I know that God has to draw them to Jesus… but He may want to use your plan to do it!  So plan to give them every reason to come back!

  • Start a new series on Easter, or the Sunday after.  Announce it on Easter.
  • Have promotional materials available for that next series.
  • Schedule a church dinner the following week.
  • Do a 30-day Church Attendance Challenge.

This is going to take pre-planning.  Look over the graphic designs (paid and free) on CreationSwap.com.  Get someone to design a postcard or series graphic for you on Fiverr.  Get it printed up in advance with GotPrint.com or VistaPrint.com.

3. Follow up on them intentionally.

What kind of contact do you have with your 1st time guests through the week after they visit?  For many churches, the basic plan is, “Give them a generic pencil, and tell them we hope they come back soon.”

You’re going to need a more intentional, on-purpose plan.  How about one that:

  • Captures their information consistently.
  • Follows up with multiple touches – email, letter, gift, phone call, text
  • Tracks what you’ve done and keeps people from getting “lost”
  • Helps you follow up for 4 straight weeks, whether they return or not!

That’s what my “7 Steps to a Killer Guest Follow-Up System” Coaching teaches you to do… and tons of the work is already done for you!

4. Have something ready for those who decide to follow Jesus.

This is something I used to do better.  Lately, I’ve dropped the ball, and it’s time for me to pick it back and up and run.  So I’m in the process of re-working our New Believer Packet.  When I’m done, it will include:

  • A Bible in a readable translation (not everyone has one!)
  • a letter from the pastor
  • an encouraging message on DVD
  • a helpful booklet on getting started as a Christian

It doesn’t have to be perfect.  But you should have a plan!

If you believe that God is going to answer your prayers and send the rain, shouldn’t you bring an umbrella?

There you have it!  In the comments below, let me know which of these you need to “level up.”

The Simplest Strategic Planning Process for Your Church

Some fancy terms that get thrown around in the world seem complicated — but really are more simple than you might think at first.  One is “strategic planning.”  It can sound scary.  It leads to lots of questions:

  • What if I don’t have any strategy?
  • What if our plan doesn’t work?
  • How do we know what is best to do?
  • What if we don’t have a mission?
  • How detailed are we supposed to go?

Entire books have been written on this subject.  And they’re great.  But I’m guessing most pastors on this list don’t feel that they have time to read an entire book on strategic planning… and don’t feel like you have the time to do a “deep dive” into a process even if you did.  One strategic planning resource says “… a good rule of thumb is to plan on spending 3-4 months developing a complete strategic plan.”

That might be nice in their world, but mine is too full of pre-marital counseling, training greeter volunteers, and preaching 3X per week.

But what if it doesn’t have to be scary for your first experience?  What if your first try could be rather simple, be accomplished in a few hours, and then you could learn and build on it the next time?

That’s what this post is about.

Strategic planning is basically 3 things:

  1. Recognizing and recommitting to your mission, vision and values.
  2. Creating a set of goals & actions you believe will help you fulfill the mission & vision.
  3. Creating measurements that will help you figure out whether you accomplished it.

So here’s the simplest process I’ve ever seen, just to get you started for 2016.

Step 1: Gather a few influencers, and lay out an agenda. (15 minutes)

Get the right people in the room.  You want

  • people with influence
  • people with ideas
  • people whose influence you want to grow.
  • people who are “yes, and…” people, not “yes, but…” people.

Step 2: Review your mission & vision. (15 minutes)

For the purpose of this post, I’ll assume you have a mission and vision.

Mission is why you exist.

Vision is what you will become, or the impact you will make.

Our mission: To help people Love God, Love Others, & Serve the World.

Our vision: By the year 2020, we will:

  • Grow to a total attendance of 1,000 at all sites.
  • See 500 people filled with the Spirit.
  • See 500 people in community groups.
  • Plant 5 churches in US cities.
  • Help plant 5 churches in other countries.
  • Help equip and support 10 international pastors.

Write your versions of mission and vision on a piece of posterboard, and post them visibly in the room where you’re meeting.  Ask them to rate their commitment to it, or if they think it should be changed.  Then pray over it and continue.

Step 3: Do a SWOT analysis. (1 hour)

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats.

Strengths & Weaknesses are internal (in your control)

  • – What do we do well?
  • – What do we not do well?

Opportunities & Threats are external (not in your control).

  • – What could really boost us if we took advantage of it? What’s going on in our location we should be involved in? What needs exist around us that we could meet?
  • – What could really hit us if we don’t watch out? What has the potential to limit our growth? What’s going on in our location that’s not good for us?

Don’t try to solve problems yet!  Just identify them and move on.  Just recognizing them will help you be clear as you go through the next few steps.

Step 4: Split up your mission.  (5 minutes)

In our example, it would be:

  • – Love God (worship & discipleship)
  • – Love Others (fellowship)
  • – Serve the World (ministry & outreach)

Step 5: Brainstorm lists of ideas for each area. (1 hour)

As fast as you can, list as many ideas as you can.  This is not the time to evaluate or judge, just write ideas.  Go until you have anywhere from 10-30 ideas for each area.

In the previous example, if it’s “Serve the World,” you might have 20 ideas:

  • * start a food pantry
  • * advertise on Facebook or with Google
  • * do street preaching
  • * prayer station ministry
  • * do an evangelism class
  • * teach people to invite others
  • * create better church invitation materials
  • * plan big outreach days like Friend Day
  • * invite a high-powered evangelist
  • * plan more outreach-oriented sermons
  • * go door-to-door calling
  • * do a prayer walk in the neighborhood
  • * Improve the church sign
  • * kindness outreach at the local skate park
  • * We Care Ministry

Step 6: Organize ideas into groups. (1 hour)

Some of the ideas you brainstormed will naturally group together.  List them together in boxes on your whiteboard.  Usually, you will see 3-4 groups begin to emerge.  For instance, in the above list you might group them into:

  • Marketing (church sign, materials, Facebook, door-to-door)
  • Training (evangelism class, inviting training)
  • Good Works (We Care, kindness outreach, food pantry)
  • Events (Friend Day, outreach sermons, invite evangelist)

You’ll want to phrase them as sentences, such as “Execute a church Marketing Plan” or “Provide quality training to our congregation.”  Any ideas that are by themselves and don’t fit into these groups, you can set aside for now.

Step 7: Trim your ideas into a list of GOALS. (1 hour)

Decide which ideas under each group are achievable & worth your time and money.

These ideas you commit to will become your GOALS.

Step 8: Under each GOAL, write out 5-10 ACTIONS you can take. (1 hour)

These ACTION STEPS should be phrased as completely as possible, in SMART Language.  That stands for:

  • * Specific
  • * Measureable
  • * Action-oriented
  • * Realistic
  • * Time-based (deadline)

“Improve church materials ASAP” will not cut it.  “Dan will submit design for a new church invitation materials by April 9th” is far better.

Step 9: Ask influencers to team up and adopt one of the GOALS to champion.

Teaming up builds in accountability & assures more gets done.  Adopting a goal builds in ownership and increases buy-in.

Step 10: Print copies for everyone, ask them to highlight ACTIONS they’re responsible for.

This is why step 8 is so important.  Action steps are necessary to make sure people know EXACTLY what needs to be done, and when it will be expected.

Step 11: Schedule your next follow-up meeting in 30 days to measure where you stand, and see what’s next.

For a bonus, text people at the 15 day mark and tell them you’re praying for them, and ask how it’s going.  If you use Mighty Text, you can schedule this text early, of course — from your computer.

There you go.  Now, share this article with 3-4 people in your church and tell them, “I’d like you to be in the room when this happens!”

Always Learning: What I Learned About Church From Walmart

In John Maxwell’s book How Successful People Think, the story is told of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, when the store chain was just taking off.  Sam took a couple of his colleagues, regional store managers to visit some of the competition in Huntsville, AL.  Don Soderquist (later, CEO of Walmart) related the story:

“We went into one [store], and I have to tell you that it was the worst store I’ve ever seen in my life. It was terrible. There were no customers. There was no help on the floor. The aisles were cluttered with merchandise, empty shelves, dirty, it was absolutely terrible. He [Walton] walked one way and I’d walk the other way and we’d kinda meet out on the sidewalk. He said “What’d you think, Don?”

I said, “Sam, that is the absolutely worst store I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, did you see the aisles?”

He said, “Don, did you see the pantyhose rack?”

Can We Stop Talking About Technology Like It’s An Enemy?

One of the questions I get asked frequently is about technology… about what tools I’m using, what new things I’m trying.  This week, I’m launching my first e-book: “The Top 9 Tech Tools and Apps I’m Using to Get More Done!”  In it, I share my favorite tools, and how I’m using each one.

Before you download and read it, a few words on the role of technology in your life:

Technology is not a savior or an enemy.  It’s a magnifier.

It’s kind of popular to talk about tech as a savior (“This app is the greatest thing ever…”) or enemy (“it will make you ADHD and you’ll forget how to talk.”)  But the truth is that it’s neither.  The iPhone, the laptop… they didn’t cause your issues.  They are only “magnifiers.”  They simply magnify your strengths or weaknesses.

If you were easily distracted, not disciplined, lustful & have little self-control:

  • …just wait until you meet Facebook & Youtube!  Your problem is about to be magnified.
  • …just wait until you meet the 12% of the internet that is porn.
  • …wait until you have a video game permanently implanted in your life.

On the other hand, if you are growing in focus, discipline, spiritual desire and maturity:

  • …just wait until you have an audio & text version of the Bible permanently implanted in your life!
  • …just wait until you have tools that let you capture great ideas.
  • …just wait until you have tools that allow you to keep commitments, track time, and manage details.

In other words:

…wait until you see what happens when you meet the tools & apps I talk about in this e-book!

  • Evernote
  • MightyText
  • Todoist
  • SmartReceipts
  • If This, Then That
  • Google Drive
  • Google Calendar (& Business Calendar)
  • Morning Routine Alarm Clock
  • StayFocusd Chrome Extension

And every one is free!  Or at least they all have a free level or option.

So cut out the dramatic language about technology, and just go get busy magnifying what you do best.  If you like the ebook, share this post with someone who might find that it can take their productivity up a notch!

Get the Free E-book!

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How to Build a Morning Routine – Part 2

How I Capture the Most Important Part of the Day

There isn’t one “right” morning routine.  It’s built on your values and realities.  My reality is self-employed (pastor) and 6 kids.  Yours might look totally different.  But for some ideas and encouragement, here’s a walkthru of my morning routine, from start to finish, with tips of what makes it work better for me.

If you want to read the first post I wrote on this, you’ll need to go here: How to Build a Morning Routine In 7 Steps.

First 90: Getting Started Right

10 Ways Evernote Is Making Pastoring Easier For Me

I am loving Evernote.  I had an account with Evernote for a couple years, but I confess I didn’t see the benefits & uses at the time, so I didn’t start using it. Then I read a post by Michael Hyatt on how he uses Evernote, and it opened my eyes to the possibilities. Since then, Evernote has become one of my absolute favorite tools.

It’s really useful on on a personal level — I keep my budget there, gift lists, etc. But in this post, I’ll talk about how I’m using it professionally in my ministry work. Here’s what I’m doing with it, and how it’s making my life easier as a pastor:

The Easiest Way to Continuously Improve Your Outreach

I once heard John C. Maxwell tell a story of a man who was angry at being passed over for a promotion.  “They can’t do that — I have 20 years experience!” he grouched.  “No you don’t!” Maxwell retorted. “You have one year of experience 20 times!”

Team brainstorming over their mission with coffee

If you have been in church work for long, you know: Repetition doesn’t mean improvement.  You can do something 20 times and not really be any better at it on the 20th than you were last time.  Is there a way to change that?  Is there a way to make sure you always improve, and next year really is BETTER than last?

Yes!  Follow these steps and your Christmas and Easter outreaches will improve year-over-year!

There’s only one thing you need to do, and do it early, while it’s still fresh:  Get people together… make lists.  Done right, this is REALLY FUN.  I have a blast with it every year.

I’ve heard it called in the business world AAR’s (After Action Reports).  I’ve heard it called “doing a post-mortem.”  (Hope your Christmas service wasn’t that bad!)  Whatever you call it, here’s HOW you do it: