Case Studies, Church Challenges, Leadership, Questions Coaches Hear

Is This Church Plant Going to Make It?


New Zealand All Blacks Fan!

The church planter looked down breaking eye contact, I think, to slightly shield revealing the pain in his heart. He and his wife have put themselves passionately, prayerfully and consistently into birthing a church.
And not just any church but a family of diverse ethnicities. And not just mulit-ethnic but reflecting a broad spectrum of socioeconomic levels of the urban transitional community where the people live. I picture a cross. This church is at the center of being a reconciling gathering horizontally (diverse peoples) but also vertically (economic levels).

Most churches I work with, even in very diverse communities, are more like a small circle than this cross effort. A small circle where economically and racially everyone looks pretty much alike. What this leader and his wife have been attempting is much more like ministry often pictured outside their passport country where one is required to learn language, cultures and especially values and expectations very different from their own. And these same elements are also very diverse right in the community. Just go stand in the grocery store and watch people struggling to understand and navigate when one can hear five different languages competing.

So why is the church plant at such a fragile place right now? The planter feels it is probably a combination of his failure to motivate and call out a commitment from the core that have gathered around the vision, and a lack of commitment by the core. Most of them, an ethnically diverse group, have enjoyed studying biblical themes of reconciliation and unity. They have enjoyed learning to appreciate the diversity God had brought together. They liked the idea of a church demonstrating the radical love of God. BUT (don’t you hate it when there is a ‘but’ in the paragraph), they have failed to step up to pay the price of actually becoming an incarnational witness in the community. The price is too high, competing with other legitimate values of — for example, finishing a graduate degree, getting a job, concern for the quality of schools for their children, resulting in a lack of margins because life is just too full. They are tackling a work often attempted by full time cross cultural workers with a less than part time offering. After all most middle class North American church volunteer leaders can do what is expected in ten hours or less a week (and that includes 3 or more hours just receiving services the paid staff shoulder).
The vision and calling for this urban work simply exact a higher price.

So what will happen? Well you pray… a lot… and keep doing what you can do and what you can challenge others to join you in doing and see what happens. You trust God is bearing fruit in individual hearts whether the picture of a church that is in the heart of the leader and his wife ever blossoms into reality. You seek to simply obey God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and leave the results to God.

What do you think? What is God’s perspective?

Leadership, Questions Coaches Hear, Resources

Church & Parachurch Partnership – An Exciting Time to be Alive!

Have you ever observed a pastor complaining about parachurch staff members being leeches who drain finances and leadership from the congregation?

Have you ever heard a discouraged parachurch staff members share of how tired they are of being viewed as the “competition” by church leaders?

As a leadership coach I hear these and similar concerns from both groups.

Here is a short article written as an open letter — in the style of the New Testament Epistles. May it prompt dialog, prayer and teamwork between those serving in both types of organizations.

Download the article for free by clicking here!

Leadership, Questions Coaches Hear, Resources

How Critical is it to have an articulate written out statement of VISION for the local church?

Often when I do leadership training events I give participants seveal 3×5 cards to use to submit questions to me at any time during the days we are together. These often help me customize and adjust presentations. I find that often one written question echos the thoughts of many in the same event.

Everywhere I go churches are working on mottos, vision statements, mission, core values, foundational beliefs, strategic plans — the list goes on and on. I also see confusion and wasted time debating definitions for the above terms. When I work with a church or parachurch organization I try to absorb their language and not introduce more confusion or complicate the communication.

But as I look through the Bible I observe the following:
1. God calls his people individually and in groups to walk by faith with Him.
2. The walk often involves a journey or tasks to accomplish together with God doing the heavy lifting and His children responding to His lead.
3. Often faith comes in as essential because God does not provide “up front” information on the destination, how resources will be provided, how barriers will be removed, etc., As they take the next step He calls them to — more provision becomes available.

So — how do we live this out? Let’s think of it as taking a journey with God.
He give us a COMPASS –– These fixed points orient our maps and give us clarity and priority on what to do. These days we often debate the purposes of the church as a good summary of the compass readings that set our direction. These would be the same for all of the church. In Robertson’s McQuilkin Five Smooth Stones: Essential Biblical Principles for Ministry he uses these five:

Fellowship or Community
Evangelism NEAR & FAR
Compassionate Service

He helps us draw MAPS As much as I enjoy on-line directions I still need to call AAA and get a new city map for the places where I train and coach. WHY? A good map helps me understand the specific big picture of where I will be. I must use the compass laying on the map to orient it — but the map for a ministry helps it identify where it contributes specifically to what God is doing in that area at that time. Maps need to be updated because the context where a specific church is located changes. Maps help us plot out and understand the next destination we are approaching in our journey with God. Often God reveals what the unique contribution of a church will be by the people He clusters together. For example: A church in Florida receives missionaries back from the Arab world because of health issues and then discovers that there is a growing Arab Muslim community in the circle of influence of this same congregation. Do you think God might be providing kingdom resources for a kingdom impact? Should this shape the “map” for this church? I think it fits the compass points well. I think this could be God.

Driving Directions help me make minute by minute decisions. They are tactical, detail plans for the living well in the present moment. At West Point I am told they instruct all of their officers in training that it is good to develop a plan before going into battle — but NO PLAN SURVIVES CONTACT WITH THE ENEMY. Every officer must be prepared to constantly replan the plan once the battle begins. Ministry requires the same fluid, on-going, adjustment, and change to be effective.

A relevant, updated map and freshly drafted driving directions help the ministry prioritize choices and clearly prune and say, “No” to many opportunities in order to respond to God’s leading in the journey.

There are two truths held in tension when leaders capture, clarify and communicate vision. #1. There are some things that are true for every Christian or every Church. As mentioned above biblical purpose is clearly defined. God does tell us certain ways he wants us to choose and be that align with who we are as his people.

But the other truth that holds this one in tension is #2. Everything God makes alive he makes one of a kind. There is a uniqueness of individuals and congregations. We are a unique mix. Think of a child’s coloring book. The black outline on the page of flowers and a dog are the same in every book. But each person will select different colors to fill it in. Vision for our life or ministry looks like the colored picture; a joyful celebration of God’s clear direction with a beautiful diversity of creative life.

What are your thoughts?

Church Challenges, Leadership, Questions Coaches Hear, Resources


Care and supervision of a team of staff is critical to the health of the organization. One of the best pieces of advice I could give is work on gathering and refining GOOD QUESTIONS. Write them on your legal pad before you go to the meeting. Also discuss some questions that will be revisited at least monthly and ask them to come prepared to share openly assuring them a safe place of grace!

Bobb Biehl has an excellent brief e-mail that has given me creative ideas for coaching and supervision many times. Go to to sign up.

Questions to ask each month:

1) How would you describe your time with pre-Christians this past month?
2) Can you share an experience of helping a new Christian get established?
3) How did you invest in helping a person develop as a leader?
4) How have you invested in your personal and/or professional growth?

Coaching Questions from Bobb BiehlI have used often (note: these are slightly edited to fit my style).

1) What DECISIONS do you need from me?
2) What am I doing that is making your job more DIFFICULT?
3) What do you need to remove a hindrance or be EMPOWERED to move forward?
4) How can I PRAY for you and your family?
5) What problems are keeping you from investing the time you need in your PRIORITIES?
6) Is there anyone that works in this organization that you tend to see in terms of “US” and “THEM”? What needs to occur to get you on the same team?


Leadership, Questions Coaches Hear, Resources

What Does It Mean to Pray for Laborers for God’s Harvest?

A poem by a dear lady in New Zealand Joan Suisted from her collection Sunlight and Shadows



    “Lord, send the workers out today,
    The ripened fields are all around,
    The heavy ears are bent, and break
    And lie forgotten on th ground.
    The harvest wilts beneath the sun,
    (But Lord, send someone else’s son.)”

    “Lord raise up workers for the task
    To fearlessly proclaim the Word
    To those enslaved in Satan’s power
    Who die, the Gospel still unheard.
    Lost, precious souls, who must be won
    (But, Lord, send someone else’s son).”

    “Lord thrust new workers out today;
    The few who toil are worn and spent,
    You know how earnestly they pray
    For helpers and encouragement.
    There is so much that must be done
    (But please send someone else’s son).”

    And so I prayed, or thought I prayed,
    Until he answered, with a sigh,
    “I love My Son. I saw your need
    And let Him die. Suppose that I
    Had said, “Yes, something must be done,
    But let’s send someone else’s son’?”

Case Studies, Healthy Leaders, Leadership, Questions Coaches Hear

Leaders are you Seekng Counsel or Feeding A Fire of Gossip?

Leadership is filled with problems where getting a different perspective could be helpful. After all there is wisdom in getting outside counsel says the Proverbs of Solomon. But where do we cross a line with sharing a challenge with another person that becomes gossip or other harmful speech?

Here are some questions and principles for leaders to consider before seeking advice:

1) What is my level of responsibility, given to me by God, in this situation? Does this problem really fall within my circle of responsibility? If so is it part of God’s assignment, my stewardship and contribution, to take action. Or — is it outside of my circle of my contribution but is within my circle of influence?

Perhaps the responsibility for implementing a response and solution is held by someone else or a group of leaders but they have invited me to offer my perspective and possible solutions. I may not have authority to act but God may have given me a “voice” of influence. OR — is the situation outside of my direct contribution or my indirect influence and resides within my circle of concern?

I am not sure why God allows me to see a glimpse of problems and challenges that I have little or no ability to impact. My guess is it is His call to me to pray and watch. Before I start telling others about what I see I need to begin with determining where God has placed ME in relationship to the problem and others involved.

2) Have I established a clear understanding for why I am sharing this information with the person I am approaching? In other words, what is my expectation for how they can assist me? Am I seeking clarity from someone with greater experience in these types of problems? Am I seeking support and prayer support for courage to do the right thing? Am I seeking perspective to resolve my confusion? All of these may be appropriate.

BUT — If I am seeking to unload my responsibility on another person and walk away clean; STOP! Or, if I am seeking to gather their vote and support for my cause to defeat my opposition and create division I am on dangerous ground. If I tend to frame the problem in language of “US” against “THEM” that is a good indication I am standing in the wrong place. If I am just emotionally venting I may be making the situation worse.

3) With a spouse or special friend I may just need a hug and a reminder of encouragement that God will help me. That can be very helpful if the person I am sharing with understands the contribution I need. Usually I do not need to rehearse all of the history, details or attack others in my seeking some emotional care. Those details only confuse what I am asking the person to provide.

Perhaps this axiom from Robertson McQuilkin is a helpful summary of what I have tried to frame in the three questions. “When responding to a problem seek SOLUTIONS and not VICTORIES.”

Audio, Leadership, Questions Coaches Hear, Resources

Free Consulting For Pastoral Search

Over the past several years I have received many requests for consulting when a church is going through a senior pastor transition. In this presentation I present a 4 stage journey —
Current Pastor LEAVING,
Church Grieving,
Church Searching,
Church Welcoming!

You can view the Powerpoint presentation and listen as I walk through the model giving a biblical and practical framework for this season of change. Listen to me present this to a search committee. This is 1 hour and 20 minutes of free consulting!
View by Clicking Here

You may also want to download your own copy of the Powerpoint and customize it for your search committee or leadership. I suggest your view or print note pages for my lecture notes.
Download the PowerPoint by Clicking Here

I would enjoy hearing your response to this material.