UNITY & A Leadership Exercise to Design Unity Celebrations for the Multi-venue Church

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/4/15.

A tactic of a leadership collage should be to minister to as many cultures (generational, ethnic, affinity, etc.) as feasible.  But, you should likewise have a plan for unity services as a tactic of your leadership collage.

But, here is a warning.  Unity services should not be about the event, but about the effect … of helping congregants appreciate that we are different generations with different cultural tastes.  Thus, don’t have a unity service or unity event because you have a low-attendance Sunday coming up, but host a unity event so you can help the congregation appreciate all of the cultures present in the church.

Some churches have a combined unity service on every the Fifth Sunday.  Others like Saint Thomas’ Church of Sheffield, England had a weekly Sunday Evening Service which is a unity encounter for its nine (9) different cultures.  I suggest if you have two or more worship services, you have a unity event at least once every three months.

So, how do you plan to do it?

A Leadership Exercise:

First, settle on the right goal. A unity event is not about combining services for a low-attendance Sunday (holiday weekends) but about “helping congregants appreciate that we are different generations with different cultural taste.”

Secondly, do some research on what others have done to create unity celebrations.  Use the Internet, your network of friends or just brainstorm with colleagues.  Here is a link to the story of St. Tom’s Church in Sheffield, England and my experience at their Sunday evening unity events.

Thirdly, create a plan.  Share with other leaders some ideas about how you will, or have seen others create real unity events, where people see the differences in cultures … and then come to appreciate each culture more. Make a personal plan from this.

Some of you may have seen how Greater Traveler’s Rest Church in Georgia famously held a unity service every Thanksgiving season to celebrate their different generational cultures.  Because they used secular music, the pastor (a friend of mine) received threatening letters. Thus, the video I formerly posted here is gone.

But, below is a URL of a video of the entire service, showing how one church does it.  Greater Traveler’s Rest Church is an African-American church and they were influenced by a colleague of mine:

So create a plan regarding how your church could localize and customize a “unity” experience that would be appropriate for your culture.  It probably wouldn’t happen like the video in your church, but it might in some 🙂  If you need a little shot of enthusiasm as you near the end of your course, you may want to watch the video again 🙂

NEED MEETING & A Leadership Exercise to Assess, Rather Than Guess, Nonchurchgoer Needs

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 11/30/15.

Our sharing of the Good News should be founded upon an authentic concern for meeting the needs of those who don’t yet have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Most Overlooked Part of our Strategies

A need-meeting foundation is often the most often overlooked aspect of our outreach strategies  But it is central to it, for remember it is by reaching out and meeting their needs that we demonstrate God’s love, grace and offer to be reconciled.

But, most church leaders tell me then don’t know how to assess needs in their community and thus they just guess.  But, this is an extremely ineffective planning tool for it results in a lot of ministry failures with resultant burnout of the volunteers who worked so tirelessly only to discover the strategy (not their efforts) was misplaced.

A Leadership Exercise

To help colleagues, clients and students find tools for need assessment, they undertake the following leadership exercise.,

Each person conducts an online search and finds one tool that can assess the needs of the unchurched. (And give us a link so we can check it out too.) Then each person writes four paragraphs:

Paragraph 1:

Each person looks at the outreach process (i.e. marketing) and tells why assessing needs should be Step 1 in your four step outreach (i.e. marketing) strategy.  Download this presentation from The Church Leader’s MBA: What Business School Instructors Wish Church Leaders Knew About Management (Ohio Christian University): HANDOUT ©BobWhitesel MARKETING

Paragraphs 2, 3 & 4:

  • Each leader shares a one paragraph overview of the tool’s strengths
  • Then each leaders shares a one paragraph overview of the tool’s weaknesses.
  • Finally, each leader shares a one paragraph overview of how they could implement this tool in their ministry.

This exercise will not only help you discover innovative need-assessment tools for your ministry, but it will also make you more attune to the needs of your community.

So, in this leadership exercise, do a little sleuthing and share with others the best and brightest ideas for discovering the needs of those who haven’t yet been reconciled to our heavenly Father.

MEASUREMENT & A Biblical Leadership Exercise To Help Leaders See Why Counting Is Critical

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/27/15.

In leadership courses we must look at the important (but often disregarded) strategic tool of quantitative analysis.  Yes, that means numbers.  Now I know you have heard that numbers aren’t what discipleship should be about, and that is right.  Numerical growth (according to Acts 2:42ff) is just one of four elements of biblical church growth.  According to Acts 2:42 there are four arenas of church growth (growth in maturity, growth in favor, growth in unity, and growth in numbers … which, by the way, Luke reminds us that it is God who provides the latter).

A Leadership Exercise.

But church leaders often shy away from numbers except when absolutely necessary. And that is unfortunate because numbers are used in the Scriptures to demonstrate God’s move.

To uncover this, undertake this short leadership exercise.  First, share with other leaders some of the insights that knowing the numbers might give you about your ministry.  Each leader should give two insights (with one paragraph each, for a total of 2 paragraphs) about how knowing the quantitative growth of a ministry can help lead that organization, be it a church, para-church ministry or non-profit.  But, don’t just be brusque in your reply.  Go into a  bit of detail, and tell how knowing the numbers can (and potentially will) help you chart the strategic future of God’s mission.  Use a few scriptures to support your ideas.

Then secondly, share in one paragraph why you think leaders don’t want to know the numbers.  Give some responses that you have heard, and then give me your replies.  Again, a paragraph is sufficient.

Share your results with other leaders and comment upon their responses.

That’s it.  Just three (3) paragraphs for this leadership exercise. But, the insights on why we should (and why we don’t) know the numbers can be insightful.

NEED MEETING & A Leadership Exercise To Learn About Needs of Non-churchgoers

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/13/15.

I’m writing this while attending the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) conference. At this conference we try to seek out new ways to find needs in our communities and to then meet those needs as a demonstration of God’s love and His Good News.

A Leadership Exercise.

Here is a leadership exercise designed to help you uncover unmet needs in our communities that ministries can meet.

I know you understand that we must become skilled in polling the opinions and needs of our mission field (those we are reaching out to) and not just our congregants.  I often am disappointed when I hear that church leaders polled the congregants to discover when they should add another service.  What they are doing is getting the input of people who already attend their church.  Now this is fine if you are adding another service because of the onset of sociological strangulation, and thus you are targeting your existing attendees.

But if you are evangelistically reaching out to unchurched people (like every church should be doing according to Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:19ff), then we need to become better acquainted with the needs, opinions, and attitudes of unchurched people within the scope of our reach.  And, the best research is quantitatively based, not anecdotal .

Thus, in this leadership exercise, share some innovative ways that your congregation, or another ministry, has ascertained the needs and wants of the community they serve.  With students, I usually grade these postings on relevance and quality.  Thus, a student said, “Church A asked some people on the street,” this response describes a strategy that will not be very effective due to the small size of the sample.

Therefore, this leadership exercise is looking for good, creative, and powerful tools that churches are employing to reach out and ascertain the needs of the unchurched.  This may mean that you have to do some sleuthing, either on the Internet, among colleagues, or with denominational offices.  But then bring to this discussion some of the best ideas for understanding the unchurched person’s needs and wants.

FACILITIES & Floor Plans That Promote Multiple Venues (a leadership exercise)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 11/13/15.

QUOTE: “As you know, Sunday morning continues to be the major time that unchurched people are the least busy and when they will visit a church.  Thus, we should offer as many culturally relevant worship encounters as possible, to lead as many different cultures as possible to an encounter with Christ.” 

A Leadership Exercise:

This is a leadership exercise designed for churches (or students) who are considering facility expansion.  It is designed to help leaders think creativity about church designs that will equally promote church expansion and health.

Search on the Internet and find a church floor plan (i.e. the diagram of the floor/room layout an architect might use).

The floor plan should be one that promotes multiple worship encounters.

In other words, the floor plan should allow:

  • multiple worship encounters (services) to be held at the same time,
  • so that 2+ (the more the better) different worship services in different styles could be held at the same time,
  • with a minimum of congestion before and after the encounters.

This is a fun little exercise to look for church floor plans that allow a church to hold multiple worship services at the same time. Be sure to look for floorplans that allow people to enter and exit as well as have spaces for fellowship between services. And, it should also be a floor plan that allows several sub-congregations to worship at the same time in different styles in and different parts of the same building.

Post a paragraph about why you think this floor plan promotes multiple worship encounters.

Here are some hints for finding church floor plans:

  • Many churches will have “maps” of the church available under “newcomer” or “visitor” information on their website.
  • Churches that are building new facilities will usually have floor plans on their website too.
  • Church architects will often show church floor plans on their websites (but be careful, as you noticed in your reading my research has led me to conclude that most architects who build churches build them in such as way that they do not promote multiples services).
  • Also, if any of you have hints about where other leaders could find such floor plans, share those URLs here too (more points can be garnered).
  • A good way to do this is to search the Internet for “church floorplans” and look through the images you find.  Then pick one that you think would promote multiple simultaneous worship options.  Logically in my courses, the best examples garner the most points.

Surf the Internet for a floor plan that promotes multiple worship encounters at the same location and share that floor plan with a one paragraph explanation about why it promotes multiple worship encounters.

Then comment on at least two other leaders’ diagrams/analysis bringing in 2-3 relevant textbooks and 3-5 relevant outside sources.

As you know, Sunday morning continues to be the major time that unchurched people are the least busy and when they will visit a church.  Thus, we should offer as many culturally relevant worship encounters as possible, to lead as many different cultures as possible to an encounter with Christ.

WORSHIP & Three Reasons for Worship Wars and Three Lessons to Learn (A Leaderhip Exercise)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/11/15.

In the popular leadership exercise on “Worship & A Leadership Exercise to Untangle Worship Controversies” I’ve noticed that worship disasters often result from:

  1. lack of preparation,
  2. lack of understanding (of a different culture),
  3. and/or lack of focus (i.e. the goal of connect people through worship, to God with resultant evangelism).

Thus, here a few thoughts from the professor.

1.  Encourage your people to take more time than you think you need to prepare for worship events.  This means more time in prayer, practice and evaluation in addition to preparation.  Often people think that “If we provide it they will come.”  And they are right, if we provide an “authentic connection” with God, they will come.  But often our connection is weak or distorted.  It is like that mobile phone company commercial that intones, “How many bars do you have?”  Thus, we need to make sure our connections are strong and static free before we try to link people up.

2.  Next, ensure that your leaders fully understand the group they are reaching out to via your worship expression.  This is why in the textbook I suggest having different worship committees, over varying worship expressions. The purpose for this is to ensure that indigenous worship expressions develop.  In addition, help those involved in worship to understand how divisive this subject can be. This is because it deals with something very personal: a persons connection I with God.  And, few people want that connection severed or damaged.  As I mentioned in an earlier posting this has to do with an understanding of the nexus between Christ and culture.  Remember, this means we must “sift” culture, judging some elements and affirming others, with the goal the transformation of the whole. That is why I have found some of the best people to get involved in cross-cultural ministries and strategy teams are missionaries.  They are trained in the regimens and procedures of (as Dr. McGavran would say) “building bridges” to other cultures over which the Good News can travel.

3.  And finally, don’t forget that the goal of worship is to encounter God.  It is like it says in Good to Great, get the “right person on the bus.”  Instead … get the right goal on board.  In addition, for some people this worship experience can be a cathartic event in their life’s focus, and thus worship can be a powerful conduit for evangelism.  Always be prepared to encounter this, with incorporation strategies ready.

Thus, worship disasters provide us a framework through which to see alternative courses of action, parallel outcomes, and adjusts to strategy.  Don’t forget to analyze your failures as well as your successes!  Sometimes the former are more revealing .

BUDGETING & When Does Pledge-based Fundraising Work? A Leadership Exercise.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/11/15.

Sometimes churches have budgets that are generated by a congregation “pledging” their giving for the upcoming year.  The church then budgets according to the level of pledges it receives.

While this can be a valid way to set budgets, it can also have some caveats.  On this issue one of my student’s once wrote, “we ran with this system and I hated it. I felt that it was way too restrictive and left little room for God to move.  The budget was set strictly on what was “pledged” – vital ministries were cut. Some of the leaders got tired of me pushing and asking “how big is your God?” – and I did so without the idea of getting stupid and jumping into huge (none-God-lead) increases just for the sake of it. So over time we have totally moved away from any pledge drive. Our budgeting process begins in prayer and we go with the increases we believe God is calling us to. I also preach/teach the tithe –and sense we have moved to this the giving has actually been better than it was when we were just pledging.”

The pledge-system he describes is really a type of “line item budgeting,” where a “faith promise” now takes the place of just incrementalizing last year’s budget.  As Butler noted (2010, p. 71) a strategic budgeting combination of line item and zero-based approaches creates a more holistic approach.  Butler calls this “strategic budgeting” (ibid.).

J. D. Berkley writes, “The system has drawbacks, however.  It is so very cut-and-dried that is lacks the emotion and spontaneity that enlivens much Christian giving. Events arise that genuinely inspire giving, but if the church is locked into a rigid one-ask system, the moment is lost. Needs cannot always be anticipated…” (Berkley, 2000, p. 37).

Herein is a key weakness to the pledging approach. The pledging approach works best when a new “project” is about to be launched.  It can be a new program, a new building, a new staff person, etc..  Subsequently (and regrettably) churches often get caught in a cycle of launching new ideas (c.f. a new “building project”) to stimulate giving, because this (rather than the Good News of God’s missio Dei) inspires giving.

A Leadership Exercise:

Describe a time when you witnessed this type of “budgeting by crisis” or “budgeting by vision.”

What were the outcomes?  Give a paragraph to each.

  • Positive outcomes:
  • Negative outcomes:
  • Lessons learned:

Works Cited
Berkley, J. D. (2000). The Dynamics of Church Finance. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

WORSHIP DISASTER & A True Story of the Senior Rebellion – A Leadership Exercise

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 11/10/15.

Here is a humorous story which I received permission to share anonymously.  I hope you enjoy the humor (and can relate to the scenario).

A Leadership Exercise:  

Once you have read the story can you tell what stage and triggers the church encountered (for more on stages and triggers of church polarization click on GROUP EXIT & Preventing Group Exit During Change and Group Exit Articles or see my books “Staying Power” and “Preparing for Change Reaction.”


Subject: Howard’s Worship Disaster

The Mountain Top Church (a pseudonym) desired to attract and maintain young families with children and youth. Understanding that the future of the church was at stake, they decided to introduce a more contemporary worship service. This would include a worship team with guitars, a key board and several singers. We were able to get three people to plan guitars, one lady brought her new keyboard to the service, and we had two other singers. The idea was to “blend” the old with the new. All in all, we had 6 on the worship team, they worked well together and spent plenty of time practicing, and our hopes were high.

When did the mistakes begin? The church board approved the new style and gave the go ahead for this new format, emphasizing that we must also include some of the hymns of the church, as well as the new praise songs. They encouraged the worship team to spend time in practicing and they would begin advertising in the church and community. The mistakes began prior to the implementation of the new format of the service.

What were the primary mistakes, and what should have been done differently? The primary mistake was that, while we did advertise the new format, we did not seek the advice of the seniors. In doing this, they felt left out and were not in favor of this move, which created a whole other set of problems. While we did not need the approval of the seniors, in looking back, I believe that, as the pastor, I could have met with then to explain why we were making the change and how it could be an advantage to the church, both immediately and in the long term. I have to believe that had I spoken to the seniors before hand, this tragedy could have been averted.

What was the aftermath? As we began to implement this new style, we began to sense that the seniors were not happy, they all sat together with a scowl on their faces and refused to sing the choruses. I was okay with this at first, thinking that they needed time to get used to a worship team and the different approach. However, I was very wrong and about the third Sunday into this new format, as the worship team began to sing opening choruses, the seniors began singing a hymn, loudly! I stopped the service, thinking that they didn’t understand where we were, thought that I had things on track and we began again. The same thing happened, this time with the help of the piano player! This went on for three weeks; finally I had to address this problem from the platform. Grateful that there were no visitors, I spoke to the whole congregation, not wanting to single any one person out, telling them that the format was approved by the board and that we would proceed in that direction, incorporating hymns and praise songs within the service. If anyone was not comfortable with the song being sung, they could refrain from singing, but be respectful of those who were singing. To make a long story short, the end result was that all but two seniors left the church, and this left a gaping wound that simple wound not heal.

MUSIC & Comparing Troubadours from Different Cultures. A Leadership Exercise.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/10/15.

A friend of mine, Dan Kimball, encouraged me to listen to some of the lyrics of John Mayer. I first thought he said “John Mayall” a great blues-rock musician from England in the 1960s (http://www.johnmayall.com). But, he meant the more modern singer John Mayer.  As I listened to this latter day troubadour, I found a very poignant song by this young songwriter that juxtapositions generational predilections.

Here are the song lyrics from two representatives, each of a different generation (in fact I included this comparison in my book “Preparing for Change Reaction”). Weigh the lyrics of Boomer musicians Paul McCartney and his colleague John Lennon, against the Postmodern Xer lyrics of John Mayer:

Getting Better by Paul McCartney and John Lennon (The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band (London: Parlophone Records, 1967).

Me used to be angry young man.
Me hiding me head in the sand.
You gave me the word I finally heard.
I’m doing the best that I can.
To admit it’s getting better, A little better all the time
To admit it’s getting better, It’s getting better since you’ve been mine.
Getting so much better all the time.

Waiting on the World to Change by John Mayer (John Mayer, Continuum (New York: Sony Records, 2006).

Me and all my friends we’re all misunderstood.
They say we stand for nothing and there’s no way we ever could.
Now we see everything that’s going wrong with the world,
And those who lead it.
We just feel like we don’t have the means,
To rise above and beat it.
So we keep waiting, waiting on the world to change.
We keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change.

A Leadership Exercise:

What do you think these lyrics can tell us about each generation?  And, can the plaintive muse (of John Mayer) be Christian (can you cite Biblical support), or adapted as such?

Write down your thoughts and share with other leaders (or fellow students).

Note:  As you may remember, I’ve included these lyrical comparisons in my book, “Preparing for Change Reaction: How To Introduce Change To A Church” (The Wesleyan Publishing House, January 1, 2008).  If you are interested, you will find in that chapter questions for discussion to get your lay leaders discussing this topic.

FINANCES & A Leadership Exercise on the Dilemma of Restricted Funds

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/61/15

I designed this leadership exercise to help leaders wrestle with tactical decisions that arise from donations that are given (or “restricted”) for a specific purpose.

Leadership Exercise:

DILEMMA:  Lee gave $5,000 to the church with a restriction* that it be used for the youth ministry program. The youth ministry had been in need of funds, and the pastor had even publicly solicited monies for this fund.  However, recently the church boiler has stopped working and with the approach of winter the boiler must be repaired if the church is to remain open (and the youth to have a place to meet).  The boiler repair will cost $5,000 and the church administrative board sees no other place to get this money other than to use the money that was restricted to the youth program.

YOUR ADVICE:  Now, what would you advise this board to do?  Do an online search for laws that govern such restricted giving in your state.  Then, using some online references tell us what you would recommend the church do in this dilemma of restricted funds.

* Some people might call the funds that Lee gave “designated” funds, but actually they are “restricted” funds.  A student once summarized this by saying “a board designates, a donor restricts (Hammar & Cobble, 2006).  If the donor restricts, then the only option is for the board to ask the donor to remove the restriction for use with the repair.  If the board designated money, then it can undesignate the money at any time.  For example, if they create a youth ‘fund’ and allow contributions to be made to it, than the board can decide to undesignate the youth funds and reclassify the funds however they want.  It all has to do with who is initiating the special use.”  This is a good summation.

Hammar, Richard R., & Cobble, James F. (2006). The 4-Hour Legal Training Program: For Church Boards (CD edition). Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today.

For further reading:

Here are some interesting resources that students have discovered on this issue:

Click to access lwcF_PDF_Hamilton_DesignatedFundManagement.pdf


And, sometimes churches will receive a donation that is intended to directly support an individual, such as a teen going on a mission trip.  Here is what one student found about this: “From the IRS Website: ‘The law allows a taxpayer to deduct a contribution or gift that is to or for the use of a qualified organization (section 170(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code)). A religious organization, such as a church, is generally a qualified organization. However, for a contribution to be deductible, the church must have full control of the donated funds and discretion as to their use. This ensures that the organization will use the funds to carry out the organization’s functions and purposes. Further, to deduct a contribution, the donor’s intent in making the payment must have been to benefit the charitable organization and not an individual recipient.’ (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-wd/09-0038.pdf)
(Caveat:  remember, this is an exercise designed to help you find and locate financial advice and consul.  This exercise is not meant to create anything legally binding. Always consult professionals such as accountants and lawyers.)

WORSHIP & A Leadership Exercise That Untangles Worship Controversies

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/6/15.

Worship can be a controversial area. This is in part because it deals with the intersection of Christ and culture.

Cultural anthropologist Charles Kraft, building on foundational concepts by Richard Niebuhr in the book “Christ and Culture,” argues that the most theologically defensible approach is what Kraft calls: Christ above but working through culture.  Eddie Gibbs explains that “such an approach represents a deliberate self-limiting on the part of God in order to speak in understandable terms and with perceived relevance on the part of the hearer. He acts redemptively with regard to culture, which includes judgment on some elements, but also affirmation in other areas, and a transformation of the whole.”

A Leadership Exercise:  

Describe in one to two paragraphs a Worship Controversy Case Study.  This is an example of some worship practice, liturgy, observance, act and/or event that was controversial.  Give the details in a paragraph.

Then wait for another leader to add to it.  You do this by reading another leader’s case study (that hasn’t been answered yet) and answer the following question:

Missiologists tell us that we must evaluate, sift, and either affirm or judge cultural practices.  This is what leaders must do as budding North American missiologists: analyze someone else’s case study by evaluating/sifting it, and then either judge it or affirm it.

End your remarks by giving your rationale for your conclusions.  This will probably take one to two paragraphs.

The Results:

Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can often see things that we are too close to the scenario to notice.  Thus, this leadership exercise allows your colleagues to assist you with cultural sifting and critiquing

Notes on the instructions: Additional thoughts in blue are embedded [below] in the earlier instructions:

Describe in one to two paragraphs a Worship Controversy Case Study.  This is an example of some worship practice, liturgy, observance, act and/or event that was controversial.  Give the details in a paragraph.

Describe some personal cast study. Something you have witnessed.  Tell about it in one paragraph.

Then wait for another leader to add to it.  You do this by reading another leader’s case study (that hasn’t been answered yet) and answer the following question:

Missiologists tell us that we must evaluate, sift, and either affirm or judge cultural practices.  This is what leaders must do as budding North American missiologists: analyze someone else’s case study by evaluating/sifting it, and then either judge it or affirm it.

Look at another leader’s case study by “evaluating/sifting it, and then either judge it or affirm it.

End your remarks by giving your rationale for your conclusions.  This will probably take one to two paragraphs.

Basically explain why the other person’s case study you decided to address was controversial. Also explain what behaviors, ideas or products run counter to the principles of Christ (i.e. sift or differentiate between the elements that run counter to the Good News and those that support it). Finally, tell if you agree or disagree with the participants. 

POSTMODERNITY vs. MODERNITY & A Leadership Exercise to Discover How We Lead Each Differently

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 11/3/15.

In the first half of this leadership exercise (available at this link https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/out-group-members-a-leadership-exercise-of-listing-people-who-feel-left-out/) we discovered how people become outgroup members, i.e. they don’t fit in with the majority of our congregants. And this can be caused by their age and outlook.

Let me explain a bit more about these differences, and then as a leadership exercise you can give a one-sentence reply about which culture you are primarily addressing. (I use the term “primarily addressing,” for all churches have a mixture of cultures. But, I am looking to see if you can identify the primary culture you are leading, and then I am looking to see if your mini-handbook is designed for that culture).

This is a very brief overview, so here goes.

When talking about leadership, the term “modernist” usually means a more top-down, position-based authority with a command-and-control structure. Younger generations, under 35 usually, often eschew this type of paternal leadership, and opt for a more collaborative and consensus style. The postmodern style is thus slower, based upon consensus-building and emphasizes the importance of entry-level leaders rather than executives (see Mary Jo Hatch, “Organization Theory: Modern, Symbolic and Postmodern Perspectives,” Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 43-55).

Here would be a (very) short comparison:

Modern Leadership
> Authoritative
> Command-and-control
> Leadership mystique
> Executive leadership is lauded
Postmodern Leadership
> Collaborative
> Consensus-and-partnership
> Leadership authenticity
> Entry-level leadership is lauded.

Here are a couple paragraphs from ORGANIX: Leadership For Tomorrow’s Church (2011, p. 6) explaining more about the difference:

At one time, there was a line of thinking that autocratic leaders could more effectively lead an organization than any other type of leader. Churches led by autocrats will sometimes grow rapidly in times of crisis or hardship, but in the long term rapid church decline often results through firings, unresolved conflict, lack of accountability and group exits. An autocratic leader can help a church survive a time of crisis, but once that crisis ends the same autocratic attitude can rapidly drive down church growth.

Ground-breaking research in the 1930s demonstrated that successful leaders usually practice a style of “democratic” or “consensus-building” leadership. Not surprisingly, millennial leaders prefer a “consensus-building” style of leadership. “We build from the bottom up, where people, not leaders, receive the most attention,” one young leader in England told me. “Your generation builds from the top down, but that doesn’t create health … or unity.” Millennial leaders sense that if there is disagreement, a synthesis must be discovered. Sometimes synthesis is fostered by choosing to disagree, other times by compromise, but always through a type of nurturing.

Now, with these understandings about the difference between modern leadership styles (which typically lead older Gen Xers and above) and postmodern leadership styles (that typically lead younger Gen. Xers and younger), towards which will you focus your future leadership?

Write down three leadership actions you will do differently and whether each action is orientated toward leading modernists or postmodernists.

My purpose is not to make you investigate both styles of leadership, but to ensure you consider appropriate scions based upon which culture you are leading. Thus, my purpose is two fold:

1. I want you to think about which culture you are leading, and ensure that your leadership is orientated toward leading that culture.

2. And, I want you to be sensitive to the fact that different cultures (whether ethnic, generational, affinity, etc.) have different ways of being led.

That’s it for this leadership exercise. Just one paragraph

In Church Quake!: The Explosive Power of the New Apostolic Reformation (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1999, chapt. 4) C. Peter Wagner agues that effective leaders should emulate his pastor who controls 65% of a $5 million church budget. I have known Dr. Wagner for years and consider him a mentor. However, I have also observed that rapid church growth associated with autocratic leadership best works during times of crisis subsides (e.g. start-up processes such as church planting, unexpected catastrophes, etc.). My research has lead me to theorize that decline after a church crisis may be directly proportional to the autocratic traits a leader has exhibited. In other words, an autocratic leader can help a church survive a time of crisis, but once that crisis ends the same autocratic attitude can rapidly drive down church growth.
2 This can be a “hands-off” approach (i.e. laissez-fare) or an “autocratic” style of leadership, c.f. Kurt Lewin, Ronald Lippitt and Ralph K. White, “Patterns of Aggressive Behavior in Experimentally Created Social Climates,” Journal of Social Psychology (London: Taylor & Francis, 1939) 10: 271–330.
3 This initial growth that an autocratic leader can bring to a church in crisis, in my opinion misleadingly led Pete Wagner to conclude that such autocratic style is usually preferred for church growth to occur.
4 For more on how conflict often leads to group exits in autocratically led churches, see Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave The Change Over Change, And What You Can Do About It, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002).
5 Under the “G” in ORGANIX we shall see that blending together a collage of different backgrounds, ideas and interests is the way the millennial leader creates consensus and innovative routes forward.

Speaking hashtags: #NewDirectionChurch

POSTMODERNS & Do They Have To Experience It – To Believe It? A Leadership Exercise.

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 11/2/15.

A student once remarked that is was difficult to get younger generations to give.  He stated, “I find the challenge today is to get the younger generations to also find the value of supporting the ministries of the church with tithes and offerings.  Longevity will also depend on this aspect of financial health.”

Here are my thoughts on this.

Regrettably, younger generations usually do not give until they have been touched themselves by the ministry of the church.  This is because Postmodern-influenced young people gain knowledge through experience.  Thus, telling them (via preaching, Bible studies, etc.) that tithing will help the needy will not affect them very much, until they have been needy and the church helped.  Thus, I often encourage less preaching on the topic of giving, and more fostering of giving experiences.

Postmoderns recognize the validity of knowledge, by experiencing it themselves. This is because they have heard the Boomers say something is good and to take the Boomers’ word on it.  Subsequently, Postmoderns (Postmodern Xers and Gen. Y) often want Boomers (and others) to prove what they say is true by helping them experience it.

A Leadership Exercise:

To begin your leadership exercise, share a story where an experience has helped you understand the validity of a Bible principle?

Here is an example. A student responded with a question.  He said, “Yes it’s makes sense.  Could you provide an example of “fostering giving opportunities” to make sure I’m clear on what you’re saying?  I appreciate it.”

Here are my thoughts that I replied to this student.  By “fostering of giving experiences” I mean having more local ministry to the needy, so people can be personally helped by the church and thus see its veracity and validity.  In many Postmoderns’ minds this local expression of concern substantiates a ministry.

For instance, if a church has a program to help people write their resume, or find a new job; a Postmodern might in turn be helped by this.  Subsequently, the PM might feel that giving to the church had a higher priority, for they have felt their needs met by the church directly.  This however, is not like  some Boomers who might selfishly want something before they give. PMs are very different.  They look out and see so many good giving opportunities, that before they give their hard-earned money away they want to know that our charitable programs really are really working.  In addition, it wouldn’t necessarily have to happen to a PM themselves.  They might witness a friend being helped.  The key in the PM mind is that the church acts locally so the veracity can be assessed, and globally so the world can be helped.  The PM will not just take a Boomer’s (or expert’s) word that a program is working and meets people’s needs.  They want to personally verify this, before giving to it.

Many churches today focus on compassion ministry far away.  Nothing wrong with this, it is just that local ministry is needed too.  And, local ministry will validate and explain what is going on “over there.”

Finally one last illustration.  Rather than preaching about how hard the missionary life is in the field, the PMer wants to experience it themselves. That is why short-term missionary programs can be so powerful.

My friend Elmer Towns quoted his seminary’s president as saying it this way: “The light that shines the furthest, shines the brightest at home.”

Now, to continue the leadership exercise, answer the following question: “Is your church shining its light bright enough at home?  If so, how? And, is that sufficient?  And if not, what will you do about it?”

OUT-GROUP MEMBERS & A Leadership Exercise of Listing People Who Feel Left Out

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/30/15

Every organization has out-group members.  But, in churches we are charged with shepherding them too (c.f. Luke 15:11-32).

But, what exactly are out-group members?  Northouse  (2012, p. 151) defines them as “those individuals in a group or an organization who do not identify with the larger group” (ibid.).  And thus, in Northouse’s words “out-groups are a natural occurrence of everyday life” (ibid.).

A Leadership Exercise

With your leaders (or classmates) identify how you will in the future listen to such people, who often remove themselves from our midst making communication with them difficult.

The leadership exercise is to draft a grand list of “church out-group members” (i.e. out-group members we might encounter in a church).  The purpose of this exercise is to help us all see the many types of out-group members that we have in our churches and to ensure we do not overlook communicating with all of them.

Therefore, just add your list (and if a student in one of my courses, just copy the previous student’s list) of out-group members one might encounter in a church.

Here are some examples from Northouse (2012, p. 151) that can provide a structure for our list:

“Out-group members can be identified in many everyday encounters. At school, out-group members are often those kids who do not believe that they are a part of the student body. For instance, they may want to participate in sports, music, clubs, and so on, but for a host of reasons do not do so.  At work, there are out-groups comprising people who are at odds with the management’s vision, or who are excluded from important decision-making committees. On project teams, some out-group members are those who simply refuse to contribute to the activities of the group.”

To complete the leadership exercise, just fill this in the reminder of these two sentences:

  • At church, out-group members can be ….
  • For instance, they may …

That’s it.  Just add to other’s lists about 2-3 examples of church people who would fit Northouse’s definition of an “out-group member.”  Try not to use examples that you may have already used in this week’s postings, but make this an expanded list.

I’ll start.

At church, out-group members can be …. church board members who feel they are in the minority on the board.
For instance, they may … feel like the board is made up of people from the church’s dominate culture, and that they won’t listen to the out-group member. Their insights about their emerging culture can thus be overlooked.

At church, out-group members can be …. those who do not have a good grasp of Christian terminology.
For instance, they may … be confused by the theological words the pastor and other leaders’ use and thus just keep quiet to keep from embarrassing themselves.  Their spiritual maturity can thus be obstructed.

At church, out-group members can be …. congregants who felt close to the previous pastor but now don’t feel as close to the new pastor.
For instance, they may … feel useless with their knowledge unneeded and their advice unheeded. Their spiritual gifts go unused, and the church suffers (1 Peter 4:10 CEB, “And serve each other according to the gift each person has received, as good managers of God’s diverse gifts.”)

The list you develop can help your team see the many out-group members that we must reach out to and listen to if we, as church leaders, are to be “good managers of God’s diverse gifts” among the people that God sends to us.


Northouse, P. G. (2012). Introduction to leadership: Concepts and practice (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

SMALL GROUPS & A Leadership Exercise To Discover Why People Dislike Them

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/29/15.

Most people intuitive understand that accountability and discipleship take place in small, intimate groups (e.g. Jesus’ twelve disciples or Wesley’s band meetings).  And, I have some to believe that small groups are probably the most important of the three tiers in a church (congregation – sub-congregation – small groups).  But, my students and clients often say people in their church resist the idea of small groups?

If you have encountered this situation, let me explain a dynamic that is sometimes the source of this variance in viewpoints regarding the suitability and validity of small groups.  Then I will follow with a short leadership exercise to help you (and your leaders) identify where their reticence comes from,

Where does small group reticence come from?

Often times rejection occurs because people in the church have a preconceived notion of what constitutes a small group, such as a weeknight home fellowship group.  They may have had a bad experience with what they perceive as small groups in the past, if they had been encouraged (they may even feel coerced) into joining one.  You see, they will resist joining a weeknight small group because their small group needs are already being met in the Sunday School “style” of small group. Thus, they have a restricted impression of a small group, as some sort of extra weeknight meeting.  Why would they want this when their small group need are already being met in Sunday School class or elsewhere.

But, as you will notice from my books, a home fellowship group is only one type of small group.  There are hundreds of types of small groups: committees, teams, worship bands, tech crews, leadership teams, etc. etc. etc..  And, most of our churches already have them in Sunday School classes.

A leadership exercise.

  • First, if you encounter initial reticence to the idea of small groups, educate yourself on the history of small groups in the congregation.  See if there isn’t limited view of what constitutes a small group. Take a piece of paper and divide it down the middle.  On the left side, write out the history of small groups in your congregation in bulleted points (no more that a half dozen).
  • Next, in the right column describe how people in the church felt about small groups at each bulleted point. Use a Likert Scale (1 – 5):
    1. = “highly disfavorable,”
    2. = “disfavorable,”
    3. = “no opinion,”
    4. = “favorable” and
    5. = “highly favorable”).

Put at the top:  How were small groups viewed as a result of this stage?

  • Finally, create a plan of four (4) stages to educate the reticent ones (slowly and tactfully) that small groups are (per the definition above) informal conclaves or many, many different varieties.  Also address the times when small groups were increasingly disfavorable.

When congregants realize they are already in a small group and you are not asking them to join another … then they will usually not dismiss them, nor be wary of them.

METAPHOR: Is Popular Media Promoting an Orphaned Hero Metaphor In Lieu of … the Grandparent Metaphor? (A Leadership Exercise)

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/25/15.

To help pastors hone their teaching/preaching skills I use the following “preaching exercise.”

Margaret Mead discovered that grandparents better translate spiritual values down to grandkids that parents do (A House Divided, 2001, p. 51). And, most church leaders recognize the important influence that grandparents have upon the spiritual values of grandchildren.

Is the popular media creating a new and incomplete metaphor: the orphaned (super) hero?

Here is a question about “orphaned heroes,” spurred by a previous student. The student noted that in some “classic TV shows” there was a strong grandparent-grandchild story line. The student mentioned “Little House on the Prairie” as an example with the grandparents living with the grandkids.

For your leadership exercise, answer and then discuss the following questions.

  • So, today what kind of metaphor is the modern media creating (e.g. by stories in movies, books, TV, online, etc.)?
  • How does the media portray the “hero” and “super-hero” today?
  • Do they have strong grandparental ties or weak ones?

You will want to look up the popularity of the “orphan” metaphor in popular culture.  In other words, who are some of the famous “orphans” in popular culture (again, e.g. movies, TV, shows, etc.) that are serving as models for young people.  And, how prevalent are these models of “orphaned heroes?”

GROUP EXIT & An Exercise to Help You Notice When People Are Preparing to Leave a Church

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/23/15.

Research indicates there are six stages and five triggers that occur before groups exit a church in disgust.  But research also demonstrates that be altering just two triggers, you can prevent group exit.  I have written an entire book on this (Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It, Abingdon Press) as well as excerpted a short introduction from on it from my book “Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Wesleyan Publishing House) at this link.  If you have not already done so, read the link before undertaking the exercise.

For this leadership exercise, investigate how to correctly spot (and not replicate) “Negative Legitimizing Events.” This exercise is called “Locate the Negative Legitimizing Event.” It is similar to pin the tail on the donkey.

We begin with a scenario with three actors.

1  Read the story and tell us which one created a Negative Legitimizing Event.

2 Then, create your own story.

2.1  Make it about a ministry-related situation and include three characters.

2.2  Then give us three options for the person who committed the management faux paux: i.e. they created a “Negative Legitimizing Event.”

I’ll start.

Pastor H had been a proponent of Sunday evening small groups, and he had spoken on this at many denominational seminars.  Pastor H thinks Sunday evening small groups might work for this new church, and he consults a nearby pastor (Pastor D) who tells Pastor H, “you must be firm with them.  They’ve drove off other pastors and they will if you aren’t forceful with them.”  Pastor H decided that Sunday evening small groups had been successful in his previous church. Thus, he decided to announce to the congregation that everyone should go to Sunday evening small groups, even if they were already involved in committees, Sunday Schools, etc..  He announced this from the pulpit. Pastor J is a retired pastor who attends the church and was sitting in the audience.  Pastor J begins to call others congregants from his Sunday School class to complain.

Here are the options for a “Negative Legitimizing Event”

Option 1:  Pastor H tells the congregation the church is going to implement Sunday evening small groups.
Option 2:  Pastor D tells Pastor H he must be firm and forceful with the congregation.
Option 3:  Pastor J calls other congregants from his Sunday School class to complain.

Now, if you are not a student in one of my courses you can find the answer here.  But, if you are a student, please undertake this exercise before you click the link for the answer.  And, if you got the answer wrong share a bit more in class regarding what you learned.

FIGURE Staying Power Process Model p. 177

For more info see Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change to Your Church, by Bob Whitesel 2010.  The figure is from Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change What You Can Do About It, Abingdon Press, 2003, p. 177).

CULTURE & A Leadership Exercise That Can Increase Bridge Building Over Cultural Chasms

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/23/15.

Building bridges over which the Good News can travel to other cultures is a strategic intention that requires sensitivity and understanding of other different- and inter-cultural milieus.  To train leaders in intercultural understandings and bridge building across cultural gaps, I use this exercise with my students.  In this exercise, you will be looking at the efforts, effects, and principles of inter-cultural ministry.

Begin by posting one (1) paragraph on each of the following questions.

1)  Share a story from the missionary field that demonstrates how a missionary had to acclimate him or herself to another culture. Then tell us what lesson this has for helping multi-cultural churches live in harmony.

2)  And secondly, tell about a church that is sharing its facilities with a congregation of another culture.  For instance, you may describe how a Caucasian church is sharing its facility with a Latino church, or an African-American church shares its facilities with a Laotian congregation.  You may be familiar with such examples or you may have to do some sleuthing.  If the later is the case, go online and find an example of a church sharing its facilities with Christians from another culture.  Or you could call your denominational office.  Then you may wish to call the church you locate and ask them a few questions over the phone.  Whatever you choose the result of your inquiry should be to answer this question: What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of a multi-cultural approach?

CULTURE & Do People Get Stuck in a Cultural Time-warp at New Birth? #LeadershipExercise

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/21/15.

I’ve observed at many Boomer and even Xer churches that the congregants often prefer slightly modernized versions of the choruses and worship songs that were popular in the period in which they were saved.  And recently, I’ve seen the same things in my Millennial clients.

So, that got me thinking if people linked in their minds a “powerful worship experience” with the styles of music and worship that were utilized when they were saved.

We all know that the generation gap creates a communication gap, and so people often retreat into the familiar.  Then we look across the “gaps” and because of the chasm we often don’t quite understand those on the other edge.  But, to help facilitate growth and health we have to try to understand other cultures by looking at things from their perspective.

For example, I know many of you realize that many of older generations like to dress up on Sunday, and this may be because they remember how much of an honor it was to leave their factory workweek and dress up for Sunday.  It showed honor and respect to their King.

Today many Boomer/Xer professionals dress up all week, and thus like to be causal on weekends (I do).  Therefore, they point out that clothes don’t matter.  And they are right, they don’t … to them.  But to others who remember a long history of honoring God in this fashion (pun intended), clothes show honor to God.

I have a theory I would love some DMin or PhD student of mind to address in a dissertation.  And that is:

“Do people have a tendency to get stuck in a time-warp during the era when we were saved.”

Now, here is the leadership exercise:

  • Ask yourself, have you seen this?
  • Have you ever seen people so impacted at a time when everything just seemed rosy that they are always trying to approximate and recreate that era?

I think we all have this predilection, and thus need to be encouraged to move forward with Jesus and understand emerging cultures.  Remaining in the past makes us ineffective, and the Adversary knows it.

Below are some of the interesting (and humorous) stories from students in reply.

John C., 10/22/2015
Good question Dr. Whitesel. The answer I believe is yes. Let me elaborate. I think that when a person gets saved they remember the feelings and the experience they had and much of it might relate to the music that was used even the setting they were in. I have a friend who is now around 80. For Ernie his conversion experience happened as a young man in a Salvation Army in the South. Soon after he was enrolled as a soldier and put on this uniform. A few years after this Ernie went to The Salvation Army training college and two years later became an officer. During this time brass bands were very popular in the Army. Ernie loved to play his cornet and as a young man even played in a number of big bands in the South. For Ernie music was very important and much of his ministry revolved around music. Fast forward 50 years and Ernie is now coming to our new church plant in Coeur d’Alene as a retired minister. We decided to use a worship band to start this church with a blended music approach. The church quickly grew to 300 but Ernie was constantly on me about the music. I encouraged Ernie to start a Hymn Sing in the evenings and so he did. It also became very popular with the seniors in our community and many came from other churches for this once a month service. The common theme that I heard from all of these seniors was how much they missed singing Hymns. They would all reflect back to their younger years and how great the church was back then. So my theory is music, as well as the order of service play a huge role for many believers as they reflect back to that moment in time when they experienced conversion. I think what is missing is that church becomes an experience that some try to live over and over hoping to have that same feeling that they did when they got saved.

TRANSLATION & Are You a Mission Station or a Missional Organization? A Leadership Exercise

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/19/15.

In the 1800s and early 1900s there was a “mission station approach” to missions.  This is a fairly common term used to describe how in mission work, a foreign entity (like the Lutheran Church of Germany for example) would set up “mission stations” (such as in South Africa) to reach native peoples.

The mission station was a little enclave, sort of a transplanted European walled-city, that would provide a microcosm of European Christian culture amid the indigenous peoples of the mission field.  The language in the mission station was the language of the missionaries, and the culture was as well.  The missionaries at the mission station expected the indigenous peoples to come “into” the mission station, learn a European language, be taught about Christian culture, and accept Jesus.  Needless to say, this was terribly ineffectual.

However, it was not until the great missionary awakening, and people like William B. Carrey, Albert Schweitzer, and others popularized the more efficacious contextualization approach: where you “sift” or evaluate culture, rejecting some elements that are anti-Christ, and accept other elements that are morally neutral (see Charles Kraft’s “Christianity and Culture” and Lesslie Newbigin’s “Christ and Culture” for an extended … 300+ page… discussion on this).

A colleague of mine, Dr. Ryan Bolger pointed out in a white paper to the American Society of Church Growth (now the Great Commission Research Network) that today most churches have become “mission stations” in North America: we speak a different language, live a different culture, and we expect the unchurched people to come “into” our mission stations and adopt our culture.  This is why Darrel Guder in “Missional Church” (Eerdmans Publishing) points out that in North America we live in a culture that is hostile to Christianity … thus effectively making churches in North America missionary organizations.  (Guder’s book is phenomenal … it is a modern contextualization of classic Church Growth principles.  And, it is the most widely quoted book outside of the Bible by emerging post-modern church leaders.)

Thus, I think it strategically judicious to embrace the life of missionaries, in the North American context; doing so while embracing strategies that are effectual and successful in missiological experience and contexts.

Here is the exercise for your leaders.  A s budding missionaries, post or write down your translations of Christian-ese terms into more modern terms?

Resist the temptation to be humorous here.  This is an important exercise called “dynamic-equivalence.”   This means we must translate a word from Christian-ese into the native language in a way that is “equivalent” and “powerful” for the hearer.  Just a word and an explanation will do (you have enough work to do online this week).  But, extra insights (and points) can result 🙂