Morning Roundup - May 2, 2012
Here are some things I spotted in my Google Reader this week.
The United States has many people to reach, but it is a mistake for people to say, "We need to put our efforts here, not the rest of the world." We need both-- but most comparisons show the U.S. to be a relatively religious context.
I have spent my life encouraging people to see North America as a mission field, but that does not mean we should not recognize that we have a lot more Christians and resources than the rest of the world.
So, take a look at this survey, and then remember why you want to reach people where you live-- and among the most unreached in the 10/40 Window.
A new survey by the University of Chicago has ranked the United States as the fifth most religious country.
Researchers concluded that the Philippines had the strongest belief in God, and Japan the least. The U.S. ranked fifth behind Israel, Poland, Chile, and the Philippines. The most atheistic countries were Germany (East), Czech Republic, France, The Netherlands, and Sweden.
The research also looked at changes in beliefs within each country over time. It concludes, "Belief in God has decreased in most countries, but the declines are quite modest especially when calculated on a per annum basis."
If you are not reading Tony's blog, you should be-- it always has practical and helpful advice. Here he shares on building volunteer teams (the "volunteer" makes it especially difficult).
These are the five keys to building healthy volunteer teams that I offered to the Orange leaders last week:
1. Think volunteers before staff. It's our responsibility to "equip God's people to do his work." When we're overwhelmed, our first question should be "How can we equip more volunteers?" As I've shared before, the church I've worked with that had the fewest staff members per attendees also had the highest percentage of people volunteering. They are thinking volunteers before staff, and it's working.
2. Teach shoulder-tapping. My friend Tim taught me this one. In the church, we tend to rely on promotions to recruit volunteers. We use platform announcements and bulletin ads and pleas for help. Volunteer recruitment is relational. It's one friend inviting another friend to join them in serving. Four out of five people show up to church for the first time through an invitation from a friend. That same principle works for every next step people take at your church.
3. Stay focused. This is a simple math problem. The more ministry programs and events your church offers, the more volunteers you'll need. Focused ministry means less competition for people's time and attention. People are busy. Their church shouldn't be compounding the problem. We should be helping people prioritize their time rather than making their lives more complicated.
4. Identify leaders, not doers. The church needs doers, or servants, too. But, as Jethro pointed out to Moses, we also need capable leaders. We need leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands. (See the 4 Stages of Leadership.) And, this may surprise you, but you don't have to be on paid staff to be a leader in the church. Volunteers have leadership gifts too. If you feel stuck, you probably don't need another person to get tasks done. Instead, you need another person to lead.
5. Empower people to use their gifts. We need to remember it's about the body of Christ using their gifts to fulfill God's mission. It's more about helping people be who God created them to be than it is about us finding people to get tasks done. I love this line from Tony Dungy, "I wasn't there to be their boss. I was there to help the players get better." That same philosophy of helping people pursue God's potential applies in ministry as well.
Thom always has good leadership insights and here is another helping:
Sometimes the metaphor "flash in the pan" is used to describe leaders...They appear to be great leaders, but that greatness is illusionary. Over time, the true value of the leader is made clear.
On the other extreme are long-haul leaders. These are leaders who, most often, do not begin with great recognition and fanfare. Over time, however, the greatness of their leadership becomes evident. Some will remark that the leader "came out of nowhere." Such is rarely the case. True great leaders for the long haul have been in formation for years. They work hard but rarely get recognition for a season. At some point, however, the value of their leadership begins to show.
My research team and I have examined leaders and their attributes for nearly thirty years. These long haul leaders especially intrigued us, and how they built their careers ultimately to become leaders of renown. In all of them we found four dominating traits.
Key #1: Passion
Key #2: Work Ethic
Key #3: Persistence
Key #4: Humility
Last year, I wrote an article (which Christianity Today turned into their cover story), about the value of denominations. We followed that up with some research on the perceived value of denominations-- which probably surprised many people. Now, even Relevant Magazine (a much more trendy publication-- picture CT with indie rock playing in the background) is affirming the idea in Chris Abel's fascinating article:
Denominations are, at their core, structures that help support and enable a diversity of Christians. They are not Christianity; they merely make space for different varieties of faith to flourish. If we can understand denominational labels as descriptors rather than terms of value--who is right and who is wrong--perhaps we can see beyond the walls that separate us and begin to see the beautiful diversity there is among Christians. This may not be easy, but here are some reasons it's worth trying.
2. Theological diversity
4. Financial transparency
6. Clergy education
7. We're needed