This past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Carl George to begin a year of learning. Carl is my favorite church growth guru and has written several books including How to Break Growth Barriers, Prepare Your Church for the Future, Coming Church Revolution & 9 Keys to Effective Small Group Leadership.
I’ll be honest, I could barely keep up with the hydrant of Carl George wisdom. After four pages of notes and two hours of conversation, my mind morphed to mush. Fortunately, I was able to parse six questions from our interchange that will help direct the next couple weeks of my leadership life. Below are those questions:
Perhaps you’ve come to believe that a problem-free organization is the key to a growing future. According to Carl George, it is not. Fighting fires and making small tweaks to systems that nobody really cares about will never expand the kingdom. The sirens of pastoral impulse will constantly call you away from the harbors of a strategic life, but time invested in the future always yields the highest dividends for the journey ahead.
Here’s a practical way to discover where your church or organization is headed: with stopwatch in hand, evaluate where time is spent at your next leadership meeting. Is the majority of time spent solving problems or investing in the future?
Something in my gut tightens when inefficiency happens. For example, when my children inefficiently and sluggishly load the dishwasher after a meal, I feel compelled to show them a “better way.” The only cure for my knotted stomach seems to be strong dose of efficiency. Though I’m not a fan, inefficiency isn’t always bad. Sometimes inefficiency can fuel relationship. That’s why I take the long way home after a date with my wife.
I wonder why my body doesn’t have the same physical reaction to ineffectiveness? I wish my gut would summersault every time effectiveness waned. But until it does, I must draw my attention to those tasks which prove to be most effective and calm my anxious gut to inefficiency.
I have spent countless hours of my life trying to define”good enough.” My personal bias toward excellence and bent toward perfectionism causes emotional vertigo when it comes to answering this question. I’m always wondering if the sermon was good enough, if our greeters were friendly enough and if our children’s area was fun enough? According to Mr. George, the constant pressure to transcend last week’s performance can often cause a leader to exist in an over-tense state – where you can’t even enjoy the congregation anymore.
So, how does Carl George define good enough? Simple, he defines it as “anything that moves the ball forward.” In church world, sometimes we believe that every play must be a 90 yard run (that was a football analogy in case you didn’t know). When in reality, teams become unstoppable if they can consistently move the ball 3 yards down the field every play.
In other words, are your small groups driven by the organization’s mechanical need for small groups, or are they driven by relationships within the church. Relationships are king in a small group system. And leading an organizationally motivated small group system is like trying to push a rope.
When coaches see their job as oversight, they begin to act like the lifeguard at your neighborhood pool – blowing the whistle every time someone splashes too much and doesn’t turn in their attendance reports. But when a coach see his job as leadership development the organization naturally takes on a organic flavor.
Coaching is about redirecting a player’s focus to consider what they are doing and to visualize what they are missing. In other words, one way to improve someone’s game is to get them to pay attention to their game.
I said to Carl George, “Maybe it’s a faith issue, but I’m struggling to see how a tiny church like ours could land a building anytime in the near future…the math just doesn’t work.” Carl George paused, looked me in the eye and said, “You are right – it is a faith issue. God has a building just perfect for your church, it’s just a matter of seeing it.”
And so the search begins.