Develop Leaders in 3 Basic Steps

All 4 Riggins kids on the beach

Our family recently went up the coast to Santa Barbara. As we were walking along the beach I heard my 6 year-old son Lincoln, in his excited, high-pitched voice say, “Daddy, I’m following you by walking in your footprints.” I said, “Cool.” A few quite seconds later he ran past me and began walking in front of me and said, “Now you walk in my footprints Daddy.” So I did. After a couple of minutes with his confidence growing suddenly he took off running and shouted, “Dad! Let’s go!”

Though I didn’t do anything significant in this illustration it is a perfect picture of leadership development.

Identifying potential leaders is half of the battle. The other challenge is developing them. Here’s a simple 3-step framework that could be helpful:

    1. Let them watch you lead
    2. Watch them lead
    3. Hand it over to them

Like my son step two “watching them lead” may initially slow you down. However, when done well the new leader will be running and potentially faster and further than you.

Here is a great 15-minute leadership development podcast by Andy Stanley entitled “The Power of Apprenticing.”

Pastors: 5 Ways You Can Protect Your Personal Pursuit of Jesus

You chose ministry because of your love for God. Now a few years have gone by and it’s another Monday morning. How do you protect your personal pursuit of Jesus regardless of what’s going on in your ministry?

  1. Separate your relationship with Jesus from your ministry. Make your private discipline for you not a message. Remember Jesus’ love for you has NOTHING to do with your ministry results.
  2. Get away and worship at other churches. At your church you’re “on” answering questions, solving problems, critiquing the service, supporting others, etc. When you visit other churches for worship – don’t evaluate – just worship Jesus.
  3. Take a personal Sabbath. You are just as valuable to God when you are doing nothing as when you produce. God loves you when you are resting in Him on the Sabbath.
  4. Establish a rhythm that works for you and your family. God creates everything for rhythm (Sun, moon, ocean, calendar, etc.). Discover when you can take a Sabbath every seven days. Rick Warren said he would “divert daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annually”. Unplug by stopping, resting, and delighting (Going outside, reading, hanging out with other people, etc.), and contemplating (worship). This is a day to refresh and fill back up. When you’re finding a healthy rhythm you’re a better person to be around! Slow down. It takes awhile to slow down your spirit.
  5. Practice the presence of people. Take the time to speak positively into the lives of others. Express gratitude of others regularly. A heart of gratitude prevents negative thinking. People aren’t an interruption to your ministry – they are your ministry. (Eliminating the distraction of technology may be helpful.)

For more information check out Replenish Ministries lead by Lance Witt, former exec.pastor at Saddleback Church. Replenish focuses on helping ministers “live and lead from a healthy soul”.

Confession: I’ve Decided to Cheat on My iPhone

The apps on my iPhone that I use constantly are: hootsuite, twitter, wordpress, facebook, email, texting, and calendar. The other apps that I use regularly are: camera, iTunes, dropbox, evernote, kindle, maps, and notes.

After one year, I have never been more happy with a phone! Seriously. It’s amazing! It has exceeded my expectations in every way. Yet I have never been more distracted by a phone. My iPhone has taken more and more of my attention. That has bothered me for awhile.

This week I had to have a difficult conversation. I’ll tell you more about that but first the problem:

My iPhone constantly invites itself to family functions and interrupts me and us. My iPhone often comes to dinner and rudely interrupts our family meals. My iPhone jumps up between me and my wife during some of our conversations. When my kids are trying to get my attention my iPhone refuses to let me go. At coffees and lunches with friends, my iPhone continues to seduce my attention. My iPhone is needy. My iPhone is insecure and refuses to give me any space. Stinkin’ iPhone!

Andy Stanley wrote a great book entitled “Choosing to Cheat”. The premise is that we all face the dilemma of finding balance between our work life and our family life. At times we will have to cheat one or the other. The wisdom is to cheat the right thing.

So I’m choosing to cheat time on my iPhone. As much as I love it, people win.

So I’ve already sat my iPhone down and had the tough conversation. This included telling my iPhone that I am reducing it’s voice in my life by leaving my phone on mute almost exclusively. I’ve also informed my iPhone that after work it will go on the charger and I will check it once before bed and that’s it. It is also no longer invited to dinner. It will be placed upside down during meetings. I even went so far as to inform my iPhone that it will be nothing but a clock to me during those meetings. It was a hard conversation.

I know my iPhone’s tendencies will be to try and seduce me but I choose others. If you’re a person, I choose you. Will you choose me?

You Should Quit!

I think you should quit! Your church might be better off. Why? So you can start again.

In order to “begin” a ministry, you must either begin something brand new or re-start something that was stopped.

There’s nothing like the excitement surrounding the first game of the season, the first day of school, or the first show in a new tv season. There’s natural momentum when anything new starts.

Churches spend lots of time trying to create momentum by beginning brand new ministries. Sometimes it works for the short-term but rarely for the long-term.

Maybe a more effective way to generate momentum is to strategically QUIT. Temporarily stopping then re-starting a ministry creates the same “starting momentum” as a brand new start but costs much less time, money, and energy.

Here are three practical ways I saw North Point Ministries do this:

1) Encourage small groups to take the summer off and then relaunch big in Fall

2) Use the summer to bring in guest speakers, develop speakers and focus on “one-off” messages and then launch new multi-week series in Fall with primary speaker

3) Scale back children’s ministry in summer giving volunteers less responsibility and then relaunch volunteer recruitment/training in Fall (simplifying w/o lowering quality)

In the Fall, starting momentum would be captured simply because there is a beginning. So what could you strategically quit to honor volunteers with some down time and create starting momentum?

Why Being a Warrior is NOT Enough

I want to be BOLD. I want to stand before God some day and say, “I tried”. I love watching movies like Braveheart and Gladiator where the warrior prevails! In fact, people who are passive sometimes bug me. Why? I want to charge the hill and be inspired by others who are charging the hill!

But this pass week I read a verse in Scripture that I . . . well . . . didn’t initially like. Seriously. I knew it was true which bothered me even more. This truth was going to require me to change.

Wanna know the verse that bothered me? Here it is.

“Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” Prov. 16:32

What? Being a warrior isn’t supreme? Apparently not.

Two caveats about this truth: 1) Passivity shouldn’t be mistaken for patience. 2) A warrior-like drive is God-given.

God is the ultimate warrior. Yet throughout Scripture His patience is more glorified.

So I want to be BOLD. But I’m learning that God smiles when I exercise boldness in a patient, discerning way. 

Here are 5 practical examples of boldness vs. boldness with patience:

1) Make life-changing decisions vs. making life-changing decisions while seeking counsel from others further down the road.

2) Cast a compelling vision vs. casting a compelling vision multiple times until it is understood by the entire team.

3) Desire big changes in spiritual life vs. desiring big changes in spiritual life and accepting that it won’t happen overnight.

4) Choose financial independence vs. choosing financial independence by embracing long-term discipline (self-control).

5) Pursue “big impact” ministry vs. pursuing “big impact” ministry while resisting the urge to initiate everything in 1 year.

For me, this means allowing my passion (sometimes emotion) to fuel my dreams. But embracing patience in the execution of those dreams.

People vs. Production

Last summer I had a chance to interview with several great churches. I thought I’d share one awkward interviewing moment.

It began with a skype video call. My interview for the campus pastor position would be with the three-pastor executive team of a growing multi-site church.

I placed the call and in moments the three pastors showed up on my computer screen. Immediately the Lead Pastor said, “Hi Mark we use the ‘simple church’ approach. Our mission is …. Tell me: What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of our approach and our mission?”

Then I heard a loud pause and noticed there were 6 eyes staring intently at me. Their faces had just popped up on my computer screen and I was trying to take in everything my eyes were seeing like “That guy’s shirt looks cool. Why is that guy sitting like that? How do I look?”

Then my brain switched gears and I heard myself say, “I love your mission and how you define success. But I’m curious to hear how you measure it? Oh, and I love the ‘simple church’ approach.”

The pastor had asked a great question. It revealed a lot about the church and their passion. He knew my answer would reveal a lot about me. That was the goal of the interview right? But is it the complete goal?

After the interview, I felt like my production was valued more than I was.

I know the Pastor had a lot on his mind. He knew how important this interview was and he didn’t want to waste any time on “small talk”. Later I learned he really is an incredibly nice man and they had a call scheduled before and after me so their time was tight.

For me the awkwardness of this interview was feeling like my production was valued but I was not. Again, I know this is not the heart of this pastor. (In Seven Habits, Covey distinguishes production vs. production capacity.)

2 Lessons I want to learn from this:

  1. I must value people more than their production
  2. Believing Lesson #1 is not enough. I must work hard to make sure others understand I value them over their production.

10 Easy Ways to Put Laughter & Discovery Back into Your Faith

I was sitting on my bed with my wife looking at the pictures she had taken over the weekend. There was a common “problem”: Our kids were blurry in the pictures. But when your kids are a blurry because they are running and having fun you don’t mind.

That was the case this weekend when we took our kids on a hiking trail at Wheeler’s Gorge in Los Padres National Forest. They searched “hidden” trails, walked on slippery river rocks, climbed on big wooden logs, played impromptu hide-and-go seek, and embraced the fresh air in their playground of discovery.

I loved hearing them laugh and watching them discover. Even typing now I am smiling as I picture my kids having so much pure fun!

That made me think about God, my Father. I can’t help but think he must thoroughly enjoy hearing us laugh and watching us discover. After all, he created what we were enjoying this weekend.

When it comes to our faith it is to easy to slip into a reverent, cerebral exercise mostly devoid of laughter and a sense of discovery. That’s too bad.

So how can we include more laughter and discovery in our faith journey? Here are 10 ideas:

    1. Join a small group. It’s easier to laugh & discover with others. A small group should be a “spiritual playground” where God watches his kids laugh and discover.
    2. Have meaningful conversations with a new believer. This is always refreshing!
    3. Have a meaningful conversation with someone who’s followed God for a long-time. This is always encouraging!
    4. Have your quiet time in his creation (outdoors).
    5. Enjoy a collection of art looking for the fingerprints of God. This helps keep the “awe”/discovery active in our faith.
    6. Listen to some great music leading your heart toward God. (I like listening to Chris Botti music and envisioning my eyes “taking in” God’s throne for the first time).
    7. Read the writings of a brand new author. New language/ideas are inspiring.
    8. Spend meaningful time with people who make you laugh.
    9. Spend time with people who are curious.
    10. Schedule a regular self-imposed media-fast.

Maybe you can help by adding to this list.

Interview w/Stephen & Jennifer Clemens

Stephen (Clem) and Jenn Clemens have been married 10 years. They have three boys, Aiden, Liam and Keagan. Clem and Jenn have served in ministry for the last 6 years including leading worship, youth and children. Next week they are moving from San Angelo, Texas to join the staff team of Life Bible Church in Canton, Georgia. Clem has been called to serve as Children’s Pastor for children ages birth through 5th grade. They both have a passion to come alongside and equip families to become the spiritual leaders of their homes. You can follow the Clemens on their blog.

1) So tell us what you guys have been up to in ministry for the past several years.

God has blessed us with the opportunity to serve in various roles in ministry. Weʼve led worship, a vibrant youth ministry, and also served as children directors. We love the fact that, over the past 6 years, God has uniquely equipped and prepared us for what He has in store for us next.

2) We pursued a dream together (planting San Angelo Church). It didnʼt end like we planned. Iʼve shared my thoughts on the emotional process of closing a church. What was closing the church like for you guys?

Itʼs always difficult to let go of a dream, much less witness a church close its doors. Honestly, we were hurt and had many questions and frustrations that we were left with to try and work out. But, knowing that God was ultimately in control of the situation, gave us tons of comfort in the weeks and months ahead. For us, the closing of San Angelo Church left us asking why God would call us to something, just to turn around and remove the ministry that we were called to. We had served 6 years in different ministry environments and finally felt that we had a firm grasp on where we were supposed to serve in the church. Then suddenly it was gone. We were confused as to why God wouldnʼt allow San Angelo Church to continue. We spent many months after that pursuing the Lord and trying to make sense as to what we were supposed to do next. It wasnʼt until the dust settled, and in the next few months of whole-heartedly seeking the Lord, did we realize that God really did have a plan all along.

3) Even though you have both lived in San Angelo your entire lives, you are now moving away. Where are you moving and why?

First, let us just say that Godʼs ways are not our ways. God needed to do a work in our hearts to prepare us for where He was calling us next. We believe that San Angelo Church played a big part in helping us to discover our God-given passion to help equip parents to lead their children into growing relationship with Jesus Christ. This passion for the family, as well as Godʼs leading, enabled us to accept a ministry opportunity at Life Bible Church in Canton, GA. God has given us a peace about moving half-way across the country, and our move date is set for February 15, 2012. Life Bible Church is a growing 2 1/2 year old church about 40 miles north of Atlanta. I, Clem, will be serving as the Childrens Pastor, alongside my wife, Jenn, as the Childrens Director.

4) This move continues to include steps of faith for your family. Briefly describe the process up until now.

God has been in control of every detail of this journey. We originally applied to a job posting that was already closed for a part-time chilrenʼs ministry job at Life Bible Church. Another guy was hired to be the Children/Youth Director back in May 2011. The church thought that all the job postings had been removed, yet we discovered the posting in September and applied. Little did we know, the church had been praying for several months, that God would send someone specifically to focus on children.

In October, we still hadnʼt heard anything, so we followed the Holy Spiritʼs prompting and decided to contact them. After several e-mails, we set up a conference call with the pastor and his wife. The first call lasted about an hour and a half and as soon as we hung up we looked at each other and said, “Weʼre moving to Georgia!” (We hadnʼt even been offered a job, but felt the Holy Spiritʼs leading VERY strongly.)

After that we had several other phone conversations with the elder and other members of the staff. Each conversation went well and we felt the Lord leading us in the churchʼs direction, but we all agreed to continue to be in prayer. The first part of December, we decided to go ahead and put our house on the market in hopes of selling by March or April so that we could begin preparations to move to Georgia. After being on the market only 5 days, we accepted a contract on our house for above the asking price. It looked as if God was really beginning to move this along, even though we had not even visited the church, met anyone face-to-face or received an official job offer. We closed on the house and moved in with our parents and finally went to visit Life Bible Church the first weekend in January.

Everything about that weekend was just more confirmation that God was, in fact, calling us to be a part of this body of believers. In fact, we felt completely humbled that God was calling us to such a special church with such GREAT people! The official job offer came the week after we got back from Georgia and we accepted the part-time Childrenʼs Pastor & Director position.

As with all steps of faith, God still has had many details to work out. Since the church was only able to offer a part-time position, we have needed to raise support to be able to make the move and take care of our budget expenses until we get there to find another part-time job to supplement our income. We also have had to find a rent house, as no mortgage company will loan money to a family with only one part-time job. Having said all of this, God continues to provide, as we have found a rent house, all of our moving expenses and most of our living expenses have been raised for the first 3 months that we will be there!

5) What stands out as the greatest lesson God has taught you or is teaching you in this season of your life?

Complete and utter dependence on God. God alone has been Our Provider, and He continues to supply all of our needs and more. His peace has been very reassuring. Through this whole process we have caught ourselves worrying about little things, only to turn around and see God turn all that worrying into blessings! This experience has really reminded us to go to Him first and ask before worrying or trying to do things in our own strength.

6) For others who might be considering a big step of faith, what would you encourage them to do?

We would encourage them to spend time on their knees in prayer, asking God to give them clarity and understanding of who He really is. We would also encourge them to make a commitment to daily search the Word of God and pull out scripture that encourages the soul, and claim His promises as their own. Itʼs not easy to go where God calls you to go, or daily surrender everything in your life to His will. One of the biggest sources of encouragment has been our small group. We had a group of friends that we studied Godʼs Word and prayed with together, and basically lived life together. These people encouraged us, asked the tough questions and interceded on our behalf before the Father. And last of all, commit to seeking godly counsel from someone in your life that knows you well, someone who will tell you the honest truth about a decision that your wrestling with, and who will stand in the gap and pray for you. This always a good decision.

7) As you guys take this next big step, for the person reading this blog is there anyway they could help?

Please pray for us. This transition is going to be HUGE for our family. We have never lived away from our family. Life has always been in San Angelo, TX, and so Georgia will be very different. Pray that God will bless our efforts as we minister to the people of Canton and the surrounding areas. Pray that lives would be changed and that people would discover a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray that the Lord would provide another part-time job to meet our familyʼs financial needs, or that we would raise enough support until the church can bring us on full-time.

If you would like to give to help Stephen & Jenn, click here and mark your contribution “Clemens”.

The Most Effective Way to Walk Away From God

Wanna walk away from God? Let me help. Seriously, I’m going to give you a proven method. This is THE surest way to walk away from God. It is found in these 3 simple words: Live life alone. That’s it! Guaranteed to “work”.

According to Hebrews 3:12-13, living life alone significantly increases your likelihood of walking away from God. Here’s how it happens:

  1. An unbelieving heart results from living life alone. You have the potential to no longer believe. So do I. That may sound impossible but it’s not. Life can be extremely hard and unfair. Trials, hurts, and pain can change us and our faith. Our faith is intended to be encouraged and strengthened by other people. Isolation increases your likelihood of developing an unbelieving heart. If you’re in ministry this is especially critical.
  2. Self-deception increases when you live life alone. Sin is deceptive. It causes smart people to make stupid decisions. Just like you have crystal clear insight into other people’s stupid decisions, others have clear insight into your stupid decisions. We will all be self-deceived at times. The question is will you benefit from this principle? Self-deception thrives in isolation.

None of us desire to walk away from God. But if we ever do this is most likely how it will happen.