Mistake Fail Safe

Who’s keeping you from losing your job?

Who’s the person you reach out to and say, “Can I run something by you?”

Last week I was minutes away from publishing a new blog post. And at the last minute, I copied and pasted the content into an email and sent it to a friend. I asked, “As a church member, anything here that says to you, ‘He’d be an idiot to publish this on his blog?’”

He replied, “Yes.”

And I didn’t publish a blog last week. Do you have people who can answer “yes” when you’re on the brink of stupidity?

Now, I thought I had good content for the blog post. And maybe even clever content (I can say this since you’ll never read). But I asked for borrowed perception and he gave it to me.

Do you have people who can quickly and honestly give you an assessment of something you plan to say, write, or do?

We need people who give us unvarnished feedback.

I’m not talking about accountability partners. We definitely need spiritually mature truth-tellers in our lives to help us remain grounded in scripture and spur us on to godly things. That role is vitally important. But this is a lesser issue, but still one that can keep you from misstepping in your church leadership role.

Who can you text, email, or drop in on when…

…you plan to have a difficult conversation with your boss?

…you’re about to send an email to your team that might not be taken well?

…you’re about to introduce a new element into your worship services?

…you plan to rant about an issue in the public domain of social media?

All major decisions should have a process by which you get input and feedback. But I’m talking about who you can quickly get unfiltered feedback from when you’re not quite sure about your choice. At times, we need an informal and expedited fail safe opinion.

I think we’ve all seen or heard “it.” And when they’re done with “it”, we mutter to ourselves, “They obviously didn’t run that past anyone.”

Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that gal.

These are unforced errors on our part. We need a guy/gal (or better yet a gaggle of folks) who can give perspective on an idea. Who can tell you the email is, “Really good, except for that last sentence.” And someone who’s got the experience to tell us the likely consequences for our action.

Find the people who can help you with a quick opinion. Use them, and avoid these missteps which can hinder the ministry you’re called to do.

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Filters when Management and Ministry Face Off

What’s your decision filter when you have pastoral responsibilities and leadership responsibilities that are in tension?

Can what’s best pastorally for your church not be what’s best for managing your church?

I’ve blogged tips before to help ministers fight through some of the non-preferred management tasks that typically accompany their ministry work. But this is less about tasks and more about creating a decision filter. A decision filter that can help us choose between pathways that are pastoral in nature and pathways that lean toward leadership and management.

At some point, most ministry leadership positions will put you in a place where seemingly the most pastoral thing to do is not the best thing for management of the church and its resources.  And it could be they seem at opposition.

Executive vs. Pastor

Not too long ago, I began to think through and articulate this tension using my position’s title of “Executive Pastor.” There’s a lot in my job that requires “executive” thinking and decisions. Yet, much of my job also requires “pastoral” work and decisions (luckily for me there are people I work with who are called and competent in both areas and it’s them who carry out a lot of the ministry work). And sometimes these parts of my job (title) are in tension.

For example’s sake, this tension could surface with a staff member who’s woefully underperforming. The executive side sees the need to move swiftly toward a termination plan. Whereas the pastoral side wants to pause and extend extra grace. The executive side considers how this underperformance may be impacting their teammates. How their underperformance means underperformance for the church’s ministry. Pastorally the consideration goes to the person’s family who is active in your church and what the decision could mean to their “church home.”

My pathway for solving the executive-pastor tension…

All my executive type decisions need to go through a pastoral filter. But because of job responsibility, I can’t ignore the sound management responsibility. Yet there are times when a good decision for the executive side never gets made because the pastoral side weighs more.

In other words, I’ve determined, all my executive decisions must go through my pastoral filter. But I’ve learned not all my pastoral decisions will pass muster in my executive filter.

There is work our church does that does not make that much sense in an executive world. We invest resources in things that don’t show high return. Not only a dollar return (we are nonprofit), but also not an equitable return on spiritual things based on what spiritual energy was put into them. So why do we still do some of these? It’s simple, we feel called by God to do it.

So yes, you and I need to allocate resources of money and manpower in the most efficient way possible (executive). We want our church’s efforts to go further faster for the Kingdom. But we must remember God’s economy is not ours. So yes, make decisions for both the “executive” and “pastor” roles of your work. But make sure all decisions go through the pastoral lens. It’s the pastoral lens which is defined by scripture, has an eternal Kingdom in my mind, and the great commission.

As for me, I’ll count my calling to serve Christ in the local church a loss if anyone would say of me “He’s a decent executive, but he’s poor on the pastoral side.”

Does your ministry or management filter carry the most weight?

Are you ensuring church decisions are getting pushed through your pastoral filter?

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Infraction: Ask the Humanizing Question

When they send a terse email. When they pick a (metaphorical) fight in a meeting. When they’re emotionally unengaged in an important conversation. When they make a rash decision. It’s these times when we need to ask the humanizing question.

In a previous post titled, “When a leader should confront” I suggested Ken Sande’s tip on determining whether a person needed to be confronted for some sort of poor behavior. His idea of the “humanizing question” was in that post, but I wanted to go a little further with the content.

So what’s the humanizing question? Ken Sande, in his book The Peace Maker says it this way:

“The humanizing question looks at an infraction and uses not only a situational view of the person who committed infraction, but also a dispositional view. When we feel we are wronged, we often ask, ‘What’s the matter with that person?’ instead of, ‘Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do that?’”

“Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do that?”

Whether for a staff member, church member, friend or family member, ask the humanizing question before you take your judgments or your response too far.

The humanizing question is similar to giving the benefit of the doubt. It’s a grace giving question. But when there’s an infraction this question can create enough pause to help you uncover if there’s something larger that’s going on, perhaps something with their infraction is just a symptom.

Recently, a minister from another state contacted me. He and his church’s leadership were determining whether an employee who resigned quickly, and in poor form, should be “sought after.” And not only to be sought after to be restored relationally, but restored to the position from which she resigned.

My counsel was limited, but the humanizing question came to mind…why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person resign that way? Had this employee acted like this before? Had they shown evidence of rash behavior before?

So What’s the Humanizing Question Going to do?

The purpose of the humanizing question is to help you understand if there is a cause/effect relationship with their behavior. And that information can inform your response to their behavior.

Now, that said, extenuating circumstances in one’s life does not mean fair game on poor behavior. But, grace should abound with extenuating circumstances.

What Happens After You Get Answers?

If there’s a pattern of these infractions, well, deal with it. But when the infraction doesn’t “seem like them,” or in other words, is an anomaly in their behavior, then at the least, let the infraction go. And the most, help them understand how their behavior was wrong and is being perceived.

Your discernment will allow a choice between rushing in without regard to answers for the humanizing question and letting them off the hook altogether.

If it demands a conversation, then at the appropriate time, connect with the person. Show concern for them. But also show concern for the project or person affected by their “infraction.” You could lead with something like, “In that meeting today you didn’t seem to be yourself, and I want to understand if there’s something going on…”

Rarely, if ever, do we know all the stressors in one’s life. So when possible, slow down and ask the humanizing question before trying to solve what could be a small symptom of a much larger stressor.

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