Training up an Army

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We launched our church site in Sandhurst 18 months ago. It takes 160 volunteers every month to put on our Sunday meetings at Sandhurst and as we started with a team of about 40 volunteers, we had to train up lots more people very quickly in every kind of area. We’ve seen new tech team, new worship leaders, new kids teachers and welcome team. We’ve seen people get on board with publicity and preaching and hosting the meetings and leading life groups. Every area comprises of new people that have been trained up to further the vision of our site.

I was reading Genesis 14 the other day and it struck me how Abram had trained people up and was preparing people to protect this nation that God had promised.

“When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.”

(Genesis 14:14).

There hadn’t been a war at this point, there hadn’t been much conflict but Abram was ready. He hadn’t just trained one or 2 people, he had trained up 318 people. He had built a whole army and was prepared.

Our teams all follow a really simple way of training others in whatever area they are working in. It’s from the book “Exponential” by Dave and Jon Ferguson:

  1. I do. You watch. We talk. As an experienced leader leads a team, an apprentice takes time to observe him or her. Within a few days the two should meet to discuss what the apprentice has observed. This debriefing time should include three simple questions: (1)”What worked?” (2) “What didn’t work?” and (3) “How can we improve?” This time of debriefing needs to continue throughout the process.

  2. I do. You help. We talk. In this phase of development, the leader gives the apprentice an opportunity to help lead in a particular area. For example, if someone is being developed to lead a student ministry small group, the leader might ask that person to lead the prayer time while the experienced leader leads the remainder of the time together. Again, this experience should be followed up with a one-on-one to talk.

  3. You do. I help. We talk.Now the apprentice transitions from supporting or helping the leader to taking on most of the leadership responsibilities of the team or group. If a person is being apprenticed to lead a team of sound technicians, he or she will operate the sound system and provide leadership for the other sound technicians. The more experienced leader now begins releasing responsibilities to the new, developing leader. As in the previous steps, the leader and apprentice leader should meet regularly to debrief the ministry experience.

  4. You do. I watch. We talk.The apprentice process is almost complete as the new leader grows increasingly more confident in his or her role. Consider how this step might look in a children’s ministry. A children’s group leader, at this point, would give his or her apprentice the opportunity to fulfil all the functions of leadership, with the more experienced leader now looking on and watching the new leader in action.

  5. You do. Someone else watches.R They talk. This is where the process of reproducing comes full circle. The former apprentice is now leading and begins developing a new apprentice. Ideally, the leader who has developed and released several apprentices will continue to work with those leaders in a coaching capacity.

One day, we’d like to launch another site from our Sandhurst site perhaps in Fleet or Farnborough or Aldershot which means that we’ll need to train up 160 volunteers to go and launch a site which will bring the gospel to other parts of the South East of England. So we’re investing and training people now. We’re on the look out for new site pastors who can lead these sites, for new life group leaders who can build community in these areas. We know that if you want to be successful in the battle, you’ve got to train people up.

Exponential

Courageous Feedback

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When I was at university, I took a module where your results were simply “pass” or “fail”. Pass mark was 40% and I put in the work and passed. But they didn’t tell me my mark – just that I had passed. They didn’t attach a feedback sheet, about where I did well and where I could improve. Just “pass”. And it was so annoying. I wanted to know whether I had just scraped by or passed with flying colours. I wanted that criticism or comment or praise or reaction. I learned that I like feedback. I want to know how to get better. I want that pointer on how I can grow.

Feedback keeps propping up in various shapes and forms during my days at the moment. We’ve had review meetings after Christmas going through feedback from our festive meetings, we’re compiling a Sandhurst Review of the church congregation that Ben and I lead and I’ve been getting personal feedback too as I’ve been doing 360 performance reviews. And it’s been helpful. And it’s been hard.

Feedback takes courage. It requires us to be vulnerable. You need to be vulnerable enough to listen to the feedback and vulnerable enough to risk initiating those hard conversations, being emotionally exposed and venturing into uncertain territory.

And I’m convinced that these conversations are worth having. Feedback leads to transformative change. We are all desperate for feedback as we all want to grow. These conversations were never meant to be easy, they’re supposed to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is necessary for growth. When we got marks and feedback at school, report cards and exams results, it was always a little unnerving but it was there to help us to recognise areas we were great at and areas to focus on improving.

In our formal review meetings in the office, we split it into 2 sections:

Which parts were great

Where there were opportunities for growth.

We’re building a culture where we know that we’re all on the same team. We all take ownership for the problems. We recognise strengths and celebrate those as well as addressing how to combat weaknesses. If someone’s held accountable, there’s no blame or shaming or pushing the problem towards other people.

Feedback should be a conversation. Any written feedback should be there to initiate dialogue, where you’re sitting on the same side of the table, you know that you’re on the same team and the problem is in front of you. You take the barriers down and are less likely to be defensive and self-protect.

I want to work at developing a culture of feedback. I want to learn to take it well and to offer it to others in a helpful manner. I want to get better at asking for it from my peers and inviting comment. At requesting for advice and being open to opinion. Feedback is hard and a really tricky area to negotiate but honest, vulnerable, “sitting on the same side of the table” feedback inspires growth and progression and is hugely valuable in the end.808c0b9577ae7679de95aca30a3b117e

Questions of a Healthy Leader

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I’ve been leading our Sandhurst Site at Kerith with Ben for a little over a year now and I have discovered that a large part of leadership is about questions. Either asking questions or answering them.

In the early stages of the site, I read something really helpful from Jenni Catron, the Executive Director at Menlo Park, about types of leadership questions. She talks about how the types of questions that you ask determine your influence as a leader.

The kinds of questions you’re asking are indicative of whether your leadership is self-focused or others-focused.

 

The self-focused leader is asking things like:

Do I fit in?

Is everyone happy with me?

How am I doing?

Will I ever be a good leader?

 

The others-focused leader is asking:

What does my team need today?

Who needs to be encouraged?

What vision do they need to be reminded of?

What is great today and how can I praise the team for it?

 

I’ve noticed that the more I focus on the needs of others, the stronger my leadership becomes. Healthy leaders are others focused. Whether it’s something that our tech team need,  encouragement to our guest services team or vision casting to our core team. Time spent asking others focused questions is time well spent.

As a new leader, my tendency is to slip into the habit of focusing on questions about myself. But simply having an awareness of the focus of my questions can help me to realign my questions and focus on those who really need my attention.

Mighty Men

Earlier this year, my friends and I did Beth Moore’s study on David.

One part that spoke to me was when David was in a series of wars fighting the Philistines again and again and he becomes exhausted. I love that God chose to keep the fact that David got weary in the bible – David has definitely gone up in my list of favourite bible characters.

 “15 Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted.” 2 Sam 21:15

Do you ever have battles that you seem to fight “once again”?

For me at Sandhurst, it’s the constant battles of …

“there’s not enough volunteers”

“there’s not enough money”

“you need to do more for children/the elderly/youth/people with disabilities/single parents/etc”

“you need to be pushing for more evangelism/ discipleship/ community/ social justice projects/ longer worship/ quieter worship/ less structure in the meetings”

 

The original word for exhausted in Hebrew is uwph. (The phonetic spelling is oof which is completely brilliant as it just sounds like a big sigh that you’d do when you’re facing the same old battle and at the end of your tank). Beth Moore says this: Uwph means “to cover, to fly, faint, flee away.” It is the overwhelming desire to run and hide.

 

This is a feeling that is very familiar to me; the temptation to flee away so I don’t have to have those difficult conversations that feel like a battle. The temptation to hide from stepping out my comfort zone to protect myself from criticism. Usually these battles rear their ugly heads when I’m sleep deprived, when things are a bit rocky anyway, when my schedule is full and I’m feeling overwhelmed.

 

So what happened? Well Abishai and David’s other men came to his rescue. David won these battles, not through his own talent, but through the talent of his team. You see David had mighty men around him. 37 in total. Warriors and Lion Killers and Armour Bearers and Doers of Great Deeds.

 

I have some mighty men in my life too. Youth Pastors and Primary Teachers and IT Consultants and Tax Men and Women’s Ministry Leaders and Charity Workers. My team on staff, my family, my team at Sandhurst, my hometeam. These people lift me up. They love me and look after me and help me when I’m weary. I can talk these battles through with them and they step in to help me fight them. People who cover me and protect me when I’m weary and close to “uwph”.

If I try and fight these battles on my own, I’ll lose. It’s God’s way of protecting me from trying to be a hero and from appearing like a hero to those around me. I depend on these mighty men in my life. He’s humbled me in order to teach me to depend on my people. God allows us to become exhausted to force us to receive help.

Are you exhausted? Are you desperate to flee, to hide and run away? Go to the mighty men around you. Heroes get weary too. There’s no shame in asking for help.

Is your Leadership Lacking?

I little while ago a read a book called Exponential by Dave and Jon Ferguson. Written in it were 12 indicators that leadership is lacking that I’ve been referring back to over and over again as a type of self-assessment.

Leadership is lacking when:

  1. I wait for someone to tell me what to do rather than taking the initiative myself.
  2. I spend too much time talking about how things should be different
  3. I blame the context, surroundings, or other people for my current situation
  4. I am more concerned about being cool or accepted than doing the right thing.
  5. I seek consensus rather than casting vision for a preferable future.
  6. I am not taking any significant risks.
  7. I accept the status quo as the way it’s always been and always will be.
  8. I start protecting my reputation instead of opening myself up to opposition
  9. I procrastinate to avoid making a tough call.
  10. I talk to others about the problem rather than taking to the person responsible.
  11. I don’t feel like my butt is on the line for anything significant.
  12. I ask for way too many opinions before taking action.

When I’m feeling timid, I’ll avoid making tough decisions, I’ll resist putting my reputation on the line, I’ll wait for others to step out and take initiative and steer clear of risks at all cost. But that isn’t what God called me to. I have a responsibility to fulfil the position that my church and that God has given me. When I’m lacking courage and confidence as a leader, I remind myself of 2 verses:

Josh 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

2 Tim 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

There are days when I feel I’m guilty of the entire list. My church has shared that this next season at Kerith is about bravery. Stepping out. Taking risks. Going against the flow. Taking initiative. These are all areas that I’m growing into. I’m a work in progress and little by little, as I reflect on this list, I’m choosing to lead. I’m making the concious decision to be brave. I’m choosing to direct and speak up and challenge and drive. And I take comfort knowing that God can do mighty things with a willing heart and an eagerness to grow.