ACCOUNTABILITY PITFALL #4 & Putting Church Time Ahead of Family Time. #PersonalExperience

by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD, Church Revitalizer MagazineAug. 1, 2018.

Family Time vs. Church Time

Finally the fourth area is the important aspect of carving out time with your earthly family and your heavenly family (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). During some of my most successful years in ministry my children were young. And though they had have great memories from their childhood, I wish I’d spent a bit more time with them. I could have had more deep dialogues with them. I could have known them even better. And this is good not only for our earthly family, but our heavenly family as well.

Solution: Later in my years as a turnaround pastor I found that I benefited greatly by taking two days off every week to be with my early family (recreation) and my heavenly family (in scriptural meditation and prayer). On those two days every week I did no church business. I viewed those days as a sabbatical. If God, the all powerful creator of the universe took off a seventh day to rest (commanding it upon his children as one of his 10 commands) then I need something more regular and restful than a couple of partial days off each week.

These four principles helped me not only survive ministry, but enjoy it and thrive in it.

Read more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/spiritual-formation-helpful-vs-hurting-disciplines-how-to-thrive-in-ministry-by-choosing-the-best-spiritual-practices/

ACCOUNTABILITY PITFALL #3 & Being Viewed as an Expert and Not an Equipper.

by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD, Church Revitalizer MagazineAug. 1, 2018.

Equipper vs. Being an Expert

As ministry impact increases, people often start to look to the leader as “the expert.” This can be exacerbated when a church is struggling and looking for any help. The result is that the congregation and the leader may put too much of the burden upon the leader.

As a result, turnaround leaders tend to undertake the most important things themselves. They tend to do most of the preaching themselves, they tend to do most of the organization themselves, they tend to run the meetings themselves, they tend to do most of the evangelism themselves, etc. etc. An all too common result is a burned-out pastor and a church that feels even less likely to turn around.

Solution: As pastor your job is to equip the believers for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12-16). When turning around client churches I have found it most helpful to get people’s eyes off of the pastor as expert, and start seeing the pastor as their trainer and equipper. An important personal discipline for the turnaround pastor is to train and delegate to others important tasks rather than trying to do it all oneself. This means seeing the potential in people and even giving them the chance to flounder at times. It means having less perfection in our churches and more opportunity for participation.

QUOTE: It means having less perfection in our churches and more opportunity for participation.

Read more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/spiritual-formation-helpful-vs-hurting-disciplines-how-to-thrive-in-ministry-by-choosing-the-best-spiritual-practices/

ACCOUNTABILITY PITFALL #2 & Mentoring Others, When You’re Not Being Mentored Yourself.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D, Church Revitalizer Magazine, Sept /Oct 2018.

Mentee vs. Being a Mentor

… In my personal life I found that as my ministry increased, others wanted me to mentor them. Not only was I honored, but I was told I had the gift of teaching and therefore I enjoyed mentoring others.

But the times when I suffered the most were when I was mentoring others but no one was mentoring me. In my town I sought out the lead pastor of a large nearby church. And though we were very theologically different, we became fast friends and he became my mentor. Later he went on to become the president of a nationally recognized theological seminary.

In the times we spent together in his kitchen, I realized the challenges I was facing he had already faced years before, and he had insights from the encounters. In much the way Paul mentored Timothy (1 and 2 Timothy), a more experienced leader can bring needed encouragement to a pastor who is encountering daily frustrations in turning around a church.

Solution: Find a mentor and submit to being a mentee. No matter how long you’ve been in ministry, there is probably someone who has encountered what you are encountering now, and can offer perspective and biblical insight. The New Testament precedent is a one-on-one relationship with someone who has already countered the challenges which a turnaround pastor is daily encountering.

QUOTE: I suffered the most when I was mentoring others but no one was mentoring me.

Read more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/spiritual-formation-helpful-vs-hurting-disciplines-how-to-thrive-in-ministry-by-choosing-the-best-spiritual-practices/

ACCOUNTABILITY PITFALL #1 & Being Autonomous Without Also Being Accountable. #Acts15

by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD, Church Revitalizer MagazineAug. 1, 2018.

I have coached hundreds of churches in the past 20 years, I’ve come to believe these four areas of personal discipline are critical for not only having an impact in ministry, but for being happy as well.

Accountable vs. Being Independent

Usually when a church needs to be revitalized, it gives the turnaround leader a great deal of control. And why not, if the church has been failing under its previous strategies and tactics, then shouldn’t the new shepherd be allowed to implement their own approach?

If the turnaround leader did not have much control in their previous ministry, this can exacerbate the situation. I’ve noticed that some leaders may undertake a turnaround because they look forward to having some independence. When congregations are desperate to survive, they may give inexperienced turnaround leaders carte blanche to do what is right the leader’s eyes.

This dual empowerment can be good if the leader is skilled, experienced and equipped to be a church revitalizer. And after all, equipping the church revitalizer with the skills necessary is the purpose of Church Revitalizer magazine. But if a leader is still learning about the dynamics of a turnaround church, the resultant independence that the congregation bestows upon the leader can be the the leader’s undoing.

Recent news stories have pointed out that ethical failures in pastors often seem to be the result of too much independence and not enough accountability. The turnaround pastor and a struggling church’s desire for someone to lead the congregation out of its marginalization, can inadvertently give the leader so much independence that the leader does not have the accountability or professional oversight needed.

Solution: If you are a turnaround leader, then seek out accountability. Don’t just seek out like-minded peers who are going through the same professional and spiritual battles. And just don’t seek out one person, but rather seek out a group of individuals that can give you guidance.

QUOTE: Recent news stories have pointed out that ethical failures in pastors often seem to be the result of too much independence and not enough accountability.

One of the thorniest questions the early church had to battle was what to do with Paul’s new ministry to non-Jews. This was a substantial and divisive issue. However, Paul submitted not to an individual, but to a council of godly leaders which we know today as the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). Having an accountability to a godly group not only sharpened Paul’s theological insights, but also gave him a platform of accountability that would help most of his detractors overlook his former life as a persecutor of the faith.

Read more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/spiritual-formation-helpful-vs-hurting-disciplines-how-to-thrive-in-ministry-by-choosing-the-best-spiritual-practices/

SPIRITUAL FORMATION & Helpful vs. Hurting Disciplines: How to thrive in ministry by choosing the best spiritual practices.

ARTICLE Whitesel CR Helpful vs. Hurting Spiritual Practices

by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD, Church Revitalizer MagazineAug. 1, 2018.

Having pastored in small, medium-size and mega-churches (as well as planting a church) I realized there were certain spiritual disciplines that when embraced my life and ministry flourished. I also realized that when I ignored them my ministry became difficult and unstable.

Church Revitalizer Personal Disciplines.jpegHaving coached hundreds of churches in the past 20 years, I’ve come to believe these four areas of personal discipline are critical for not only having an impact in ministry, but for being happy as well. 

Accountable vs. Being Independent

Usually when a church needs to be revitalized, it gives the turnaround leader a great deal of control. And why not, if the church has been failing under its previous strategies and tactics, then shouldn’t the new shepherd be allowed to implement their own approach?

If the turnaround leader did not have much control in their previous ministry, this can exacerbate the situation. I’ve noticed that some leaders may undertake a turnaround because they look forward to having some independence. When congregations are desperate to survive, they may give inexperienced turnaround leaders carte blanche to do what is right the leader’s eyes.

This dual empowerment can be good if the leader is skilled, experienced and equipped to be a church revitalizer. And after all, equipping the church revitalizer with the skills necessary is the purpose of Church Revitalizer magazine. But if a leader is still learning about the dynamics of a turnaround church, the resultant independence that the congregation bestows upon the leader can be the the leader’s undoing.

Recent news stories have pointed out that ethical failures in pastors often seem to be the result of too much independence and not enough accountability. The turnaround pastor and a struggling church’s desire for someone to lead the congregation out of its marginalization, can inadvertently give the leader so much independence that the leader does not have the accountability or professional oversight needed.

Solution: If you are a turnaround leader, then seek out accountability. Don’t just seek out like-minded peers who are going through the same professional and spiritual battles. And just don’t seek out one person, but rather seek out a group of individuals that can give you guidance.

QUOTE: Recent news stories have pointed out that ethical failures in pastors often seem to be the result of too much independence and not enough accountability.

One of the thorniest questions the early church had to battle was what to do with Paul’s new ministry to non-Jews. This was a substantial and divisive issue. However, Paul submitted not to an individual, but to a council of godly leaders which we know today as the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). Having an accountability to a godly group not only sharpened Paul’s theological insights, but also gave him a platform of accountability that would help most of his detractors overlook his former life as a persecutor of the faith.

Mentee vs. Being a Mentor

This means being a mentee, in addition to being accountable. But often turnaround leaders are tempted to be the mentor more than the mentee. In my personal life I found that as my ministry increased, others wanted me to mentor them. Not only was I honored, but I was told I had the gift of teaching and therefore I enjoyed mentoring others.

But the times when I suffered the most were when I was mentoring others but no one was mentoring me. In my town I sought out the lead pastor of a large nearby church. And though we were very theologically different, we became fast friends and he became my mentor. Later he went on to become the president of a nationally recognized theological seminary.

In the times we spent together in his kitchen, I realized the challenges I was facing he had already faced years before, and he had insights from the encounters. In much the way Paul mentored Timothy (1 and 2 Timothy), a more experienced leader can bring needed encouragement to a pastor who is encountering daily frustrations in turning around a church.

Solution: Find a mentor and submit to being a mentee. No matter how long you’ve been in ministry, there is probably someone who has encountered what you are encountering now, and can offer perspective and biblical insight. The New Testament precedent is a one-on-one relationship with someone who has already countered the challenges which a turnaround pastor is daily encountering.

QUOTE: I suffered the most when I was mentoring others but no one was mentoring me.

Equipper vs. Being an Expert

As ministry impact increases, people often start to look to the leader as “the expert.” This can be exacerbated when a church is struggling and looking for any help. The result is that the congregation and the leader may put too much of the burden upon the leader.

As a result, turnaround leaders tend to undertake the most important things themselves. They tend to do most of the preaching themselves, they tend to do most of the organization themselves, they tend to run the meetings themselves, they tend to do most of the evangelism themselves, etc. etc. An all too common result is a burned-out pastor and a church that feels even less likely to turn around.

Solution: As pastor your job is to equip the believers for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12-16). When turning around client churches I have found it most helpful to get people’s eyes off of the pastor as expert, and start seeing the pastor as their trainer and equipper.  An important personal discipline for the turnaround pastor is to train and delegate to others important tasks rather than trying to do it all oneself. This means seeing the potential in people and even giving them the chance to flounder at times. It means having less perfection in our churches and more opportunity for participation.

QUOTE:  It means having less perfection in our churches and more opportunity for participation.

Family Time vs. Church Time

Finally the fourth area is the important aspect of carving out time with your earthly family and your heavenly family (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). During some of my most successful years in ministry my children were young. And though they had have great memories from their childhood, I wish I’d spent a bit more time with them. I could have had more deep dialogues with them. I could have known them even better. And this is good not only for our earthly family, but our heavenly family as well.

Solution: Later in my years as a turnaround pastor I found that I benefited greatly by taking two days off every week to be with my early family (recreation) and my heavenly family (in scriptural meditation and prayer). On those two days every week I did no church business. I viewed those days as a sabbatical. If God, the all powerful creator of the universe took off a seventh day to rest (commanding it upon his children as one of his 10 commands) then I need something more regular and restful than a couple of partial days off each week. 

These four principles helped me not only survive ministry, but enjoy it and thrive in it.

Bob Whitesel DMIN PhD has been called “the key spokesperson on change theory in the church today” by a national magazine and ranks as one of the nation’s most sought after church health and growth consultants. An award-winning author of 13 books, he founded an accredited seminary (Welsey Seminary at IWU) and created one of the nation’s most respected church health and growth consulting firms: ChurchHealth.net

Read the article in Church Revitalizer Magazine here … https://issuu.com/renovate-conference/docs/magazine_sample_for_everyone?e=14225198/64015141

BAND MEETINGS & Think You Have Lots of Friends? Nope: Science Says We’re Lucky to Have 5 #DunbarNumber

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: English sociologist Robin Dunbar has researched small group dynamics more than anyone, finding a small group of 3 to 4 friends is crucial for a healthy social life. John Wesley 250 years earlier stressed the same thing. Welsey emphasized the importance of groups of 3 to 4 called, “band meetings.” For more on modern equivalents of the “band meeting” search these words on this wiki.

Think You Have Lots of Friends? Nope: Science Says We’re Lucky to Have 5

Research shows that while you’re close to 100% sure certain people are your friends, only 53% of the time do they agree with you.

By Jeff Haden, Inc. Magazine, 8/8/16.

…Now imagine I ask all the people you list to make a list of their friends. Think you’ll be on all those lists? Probably not.

In fact, only about half the time will the people you consider to be your friends consider you to be a friend. (And of course that also means that only about half the time do you consider someone who thinks of you as a friend to be your friend.)

…according to Robin Dunbar you don’t have the time to have dozens of friends. Because of that, Dunbar feels we have different layers or slices of friends: one or two truly best friends (like your significant other and maybe one other person), then maybe ten people with whom we have “great affinity” and interact with frequently… and then all sorts of other people we’re friendly with but who aren’t actually friends. In total, “Dunbar’s number” says you can have about 150 people in your social sphere.

…And that means, if Dunbar is correct, that you can only have a handful of true friends. That means some people you think of a close friends don’t see you that way at all.

So why — apart from making you and I wonder how people really feel about us — does this matter?

Superficial, distant, and less than meaningful relationships can lead to feelings of insecurity and loneliness… which can increase your risk of illness and death just as much as obesity, alcoholism, and smoking.

That means the key isn’t to have more friends. The key isn’t to try to have a tons of friends. The key is to have three or four really, really good friends… and then, of course, plenty of people who aren’t necessarily friends but are fun to be around, or result in a mutually beneficial relationship, or share common interests….

You don’t need to be less friendly — you just need to nurture the most important relationships in your life…

Read more about ways to do this at … http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/think-you-have-lots-of-friends-youre-wrong-science-says-were-lucky-to-have-5.html

ACCOUNTABILTY GROUPS & How Jon Weist Recreates Wesley “Band Meetings” #Exponential #TheWesleyanChurch

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 4/25/16.

In partnership with the Exponential East conference, The Wesleyan Church holds an “Ignite” pre-conference sponsored by their Department of Church Multiplication and Discipleship.  Here are thoughts gleaned from Jon Wiest (church planter and current church revitalizer):

“We have four congregations plus multiple gatherings (mid-sized group), small groups and accountability groups of 3-4 like Wesley’s band meeting.”

“We have all this information about church organization, but when it comes to discipleship we don’t have a clear answer about ‘How do you do that? What do they do?’ We are changing the way this church thinks about this.  Now they think about these steps:

  1. It starts with the Bible. Everyone reads two chapters a week and then we write down our thoughts. We have a bookmark to remind us about 10-questions (Wesley?) we ask people to answer.
  2. Three people in a group walk through the bookmark and we share one of the journal entries regarding how God spoke to us this week.  Accountability groups recruit individuals to join one of these “discipleship groups.”
  3. Prayer for the unchurched is part of this.  We see discipleship as including evangelism, so that evangelism takes place here.  We formerly did an attractional strategy which forced people down from Sunday attendance downward in this process. Our process is upward instead, where they come into this discipleship group and then get involved in bigger fellowship-orientated small groups and gatherings and our four congregations.

This creates a culture of discipleship throughout the organization.”

ACCOUNTABILITY & 5 Elements of Holding Team Members Accountable #HarvardBusinessReview

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  Ensuring that people meet goals in a measurable, yet passionate way, is an important skill for every leader. Here are the five points for creating task-oriented accountability gleaned from Peter Bergman’s recent Harvard Business Review article.

The Right Way to Hold People Accountable

by Peter Bregman, Harvard Business Review, 1/11/16.

… So what can we do to foster accountability in the people around us? We need to aim for clarity in five areas:

  1. Clear expectations. The first step is to be crystal clear about what you expect. This means being clear about the outcome you’re looking for, how you’ll measure success, and how people should go about achieving the objective. It doesn’t all have to come from you. In fact, the more skilled your people are, the more ideas and strategies should be coming from them. …
  2. Clear capability. What skills does the person need to meet the expectations? What resources will they need? If the person does not have what’s necessary, can they acquire what’s missing? If so, what’s the plan…?
  3. Clear measurement. Nothing frustrates leaders more than being surprised by failure. Sometimes this surprise is because the person who should be delivering is afraid to ask for help. Sometimes it comes from premature optimism on both sides. Either way, it’s completely avoidable. During the expectations conversation, you should agree on weekly milestones with clear, measurable, objective targets. If any of these targets slip, jump on it immediately. Brainstorm a solution, identify a fix, redesign the schedule, or respond in some other way that gets the person back on track.
  4. Clear feedback. Honest, open, ongoing feedback is critical. People should know where they stand. If you have clear expectations, capability, and measurement, the feedback can be fact-based and easy to deliver. Is the person delivering on her commitments..?
  5. Clear consequences. If you’ve been clear in all of the above ways, you can be reasonably sure that you did what’s necessary to support their performance. At this point, you have three choices: repeat, reward, or release. Repeat the steps above if you feel that there is still a lack of clarity in the system. If the person succeeded, you should reward them appropriately (acknowledgement, promotion, etc.). If they have not proven accountable and you are reasonably certain that you followed the steps above, then they are not a good fit for the role, and you should release them from it (change roles, fire them, etc.).

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2016/01/the-right-way-to-hold-people-accountable

ACCOUNTABILITY & How to Customize Small Group Questions to Meet Needs

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/6/15.

Fostering accountability in small groups is important, but can be challenging.  We are so accustomed to putting up barriers, false facades, etc.

But, what if you customized a list of accountability questions relevant to your personal weaknesses and strengths?  These questions would be personalized to your situation and that of your accountability group.

My exercise to foster this includes just three steps…
Take a look over the following lists of accountability questions from influential Christian leaders.
Build your own list from the most germane questions below (or other lists you find),
Then, share your tailored list with your accountability group.

To help you create this list, I will reference (below) a list of accountability questions curated by my friend Ed Stetzer:

These lists are from Cultivating a Life for God (Church Smart Resources 1999 pp.125-131)

(retrieved from http://www.edstetzer.com/2009/07/accountability-groups.html)

Typically, these questions are asked in groups of 2-3, are specific to men or women, meets regularly, and hold each other accountable.

John Wesley’s Small Group Questions:

1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite? 
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
3. Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?
4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work , or habits?
5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
6. Did the Bible live in me today?
7. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
8. Am I enjoying prayer?
9. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
12. Do I disobey God in anything?
13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
16. How do I spend my spare time?
17. Am I proud?
18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I going to do about it?
20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?
21. Is Christ real to me?

Wesley’s Band Meeting Questions:

1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting? 
2. What temptations have you met with?
3. How were you delivered?
4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
5. Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?

Reference: John Wesley’s Class Meetings: a Model for Making Disciples, by D. Michael Henderson, Evangel Publishing House, 1997, pp. 118-9
Chuck Swindoll’s Pastoral Accountability Questions:

In his book, The Body, Chuck Colson lists the questions used by Chuck Swindoll.

1. Have you been with a woman anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising?
2. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?
3. Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material?
4. Have you spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer?
5. Have you given priority time to your family?
6. Have you fulfilled the mandates of your calling?
7. Have you just lied to me?

Neil Cole:

1. What is the condition of your soul?
2. What sin do you need to confess?
3. What have you held back from God that you need to surrender?
4. Is there anything that has dampened your zeal for Christ?
5. Who have you talked with about Christ this week?

——————————————-

The questions I (Ed) use are from these cards (http://www.cmaresources.org/ltg) from Church Multiplication Associates. I keep one in my Bible.

The ten questions are as follows:

1. Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and actions? 
2. Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?
3. Have you lacked any integrity in your financial dealings this week, or coveted something that does not belong to you?
4. Have you been honoring, understanding and generous in your important relationships this past week?
5. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?
6. Have you given in to an addictive behavior this week? Explain.
7. Have you continued to remain angry toward another?
8. Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune so that you might excel?
9. Did you finish your reading this week and hear from the Lord? What are you going to do about it?
10. Have you been completely honest with me?

ACCOUNTABILITY & My Learning Exercise For Leaders To Evaluate Their Accountability

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/6/15.

Accountability!  As church leaders we know we need it.  Still, there is something in us that makes us want to chaff at the idea of answerability, perhaps for fear of tyrannical abuses.  In my chapter “Missteps with the Centrality of Christ” in the book Growth by Accident, Death by Planning (Abingdon Press) I suggest that having loving, compassionate, and genuinely altruistic guidance is necessary if we are to grow churches that are guided by healthy pastors.

Here is an exercise I’ve developed to help you understand how you are doing in this area.

GBA_Med11.  Do you HAVE an effective accountability group?  If so, describe how it functions in one paragraph and share what you wrote with someone.

or

2. If you do NOT have an effective accountability group, describe in one paragraph what an ideal accountability group might look like and give some steps to fostering one.

This is a great short exercise to help us learn from our friends various processes, principles, associations, and structures that can help us stay connected during the growth process with our mission field, our family, and our Lord.

DIRECT REPORTS & The Breaking Point is 10-12 Direct Reports

by Lighthouse: A Blog About Leadership & Management, 7/4/15.

The breaking point: 10-12 direct reports

We’ve had managers of all levels of experience and team size use Lighthouse to help them manage and motivate their teams and the common pattern we’ve seen is managers struggle most with more than 10-12 reports. It’s at 10-12 people that the complexity and demands become too great for even a well-trained, experienced manager. Just look at the diagram above and how a team growing from 6 to 10 people causes the lines of communication to grow from 15 to 45 (and 66 by employee #12!). But don’t take my word for it, here’s what some experts have said:

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, has a “2 Pizza Rule” which really translates to ~8 people, since a pizza is normally cut into 8 slices and 2 slices per person is a reasonable amount.

Michael Lopp, author of Rands in Repose, uses the formula 7 +/- 3, which crucially takes into account how much time you could be committed to in 1 on 1s with everyone on your team.

Tomas Tunguz, VC at RedPoint Ventures deep dives into the concept from many sources to conclude “roughly 7″ and explores how “Span of Control” and “Span of Responsibility” impact it.

The consensus appears to be that double digit team sizes are generally a sign of trouble for a manager. So what do you do? Start developing leaders on your team.

Read more at … http://getlighthouse.stfi.re/blog/developing-leaders-team-grows-big/?sf=eyvzx

ACCOUNTABILITY GROUPS & Can They Hide What Should Be Public Knowledge? #USAToday

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “USA Today published an article worrying that accountability groups could become the locale for hiding public sins from public scrutiny.  Using the example of the Washington-based Capital Hill house on C Street, the writer wondered,

C Street is a Washington base for The Family, a secretive Christian group that prays together — nothing wrong with that — and holds each other privately accountable for straying from Biblical values. Again, nothing wrong with that — unless the secrecy overtakes things that should be public knowledge, such as hush money payments a la Sen. John Ensign or vanishing to visit a mistress in, say, Argentina, Gov. Mark Sanford style. (See Rachel Maddow’s interviews with Jeff Sharlet who roasts The Family in his book by that name).

Now, I’m not taking a side on this issue.  I just want to get leaders thinking deeper about not only the importance of accountability groups, but also the ramifications if something comes up in a group that should be public knowledge (or if something comes up that is illegal).”

Take a look at the article from USA Today (below):

———-

Does ‘C Street’ give ‘accountability groups’ bad name?

USA TODAY, Jul 16, 2009 by Cathy Lynn Grossman.

Retrieved from http://content.usatoday.com/communities/religion/post/2009/07/68494598/1#.VPdaGHaXK7o

Does the Capitol Hill house on C Street — home to several congressmen although it eludes property taxes by being listed as a church — give prayer “accountability” groups a bad name? Should elected officials seek God in secrecy while hiding sins from public scrutiny?

C Street is a Washington base for The Family, a secretive Christian group that prays together — nothing wrong with that — and holds each other privately accountable for straying from Biblical values. Again, nothing wrong with that — unless the secrecy overtakes things that should be public knowledge, such as hush money payments a la Sen. John Ensign or vanishing to visit a mistress in, say, Argentina, Gov. Mark Sanford style.

(See Rachel Maddow’s interviews with Jeff Sharlet who roasts The Family in his book by that name).

But millions of men and women belong to small prayer and accountability groups where they read and discuss Scripture together and hold each other to truthful living in God’s name. Remember Promise Keepers, the men’s group that hit a popularity peak in the 90’s? It stressed accountability groups heavily and even if PK no longer packs stadiums for rallies, many of those small groups continue to enriching lives.

But the original purpose of privacy was never to shield nefarious behavior. As it says on one church site among scores that talk about the importance of such groups:

The secrecy of such closed groups isn’t rooted in anything nefarious. As Carter Shotwell, pastor of a Lake Pointe Church in Rockwell Texas, writes:

The point is that members are available for one another. Members are aware of one another’s struggles and temptations; they commit to pray, listen, and support as needed. They also ask difficult questions of one another. This level of interaction is only possible in a closed group.

Where this goes astray, as it says in the Christian-focused World Magazine look at C Street and its two adulterous alumni, is when members mistake when to stay silent:

Cstreet2x-mug-shot Rev. Rob Schenck, who leads a Bible study on the Hill inspired by C Street, wrote on his blog Friday that “all ministries in Washington need to protect the confidence of those we minister to, and I’m sure that’s a primary motive for C Street’s low profile.” But he added, “I think The Fellowship has been just a tad bit too clandestine.” Schenck has himself sent a letter to Sanford calling for his resignation.

But as Ed Stetzer, director of Lifeway Research, says,

It’s good to have a safe place. It’s better to have a safe place that helps you live right.

LifeWay has no numbers on how many Americans belong to “accountability groups” although small study groups overall are hugely popular. One in four people say they meet with 20 or fewer people as “a primary form of spiritual nurture,” Stetzer says.

An accountability group, Stetzer told me today, is intended to promote love and good works.

I think C Street was trying to do that but, accountability groups are only as good as the truthfulness of their participants.

On his own blog, Stetzer lists many of the questions asked in such groups. Reading scripture is stressed, but so is confronting the essentials of righteousness. Most question lists — and variations go back decades — end with something similar. People ask each other, “are you being honest with me.”

Alas for John Ensign and Mark Sanford, no one seemed to consider whether anyone is honest with their spouses or with voters. Should the C Street men have pushed their adulterous prayer partners out the door?

DO YOU … belong to an accountability group? Should elected officials seek God in secrecy while hiding sins from public scrutiny?

WESLEY & How to Create Accountability in Small Groups

by Bob Whitesel, 3/5/15

I’ve found that often times small groups lack an accountability function and instead mutate into venues in which people “don’t want to hurt any feelings” (and true accountability does happen). But, there are questions that can be asked, formats that you can embrace and things you can do to encourage a deeper level of communication in small groups.

John Wesley faced such problems.  Attached is an article I thought you might enjoy about the relational nature of his small groups:

Click to access Joel_Comiskey_Methodist.pdf

Wesley required followers to attend “class meetings” usually of 6-15 people, but he also encouraged for accountability the participation in “bands” which were usually under six people. They were more intimate, and thus could offer more accountability.

Below are the frank questions that he encouraged be asked at every band meeting (taken from Joel Comiskey, “Wesley’s Small Group Organization,” http://www.disciplewalk.com/files/Joel_Comiskey_Methodist.pdf cited above and extracted with permission from Joel Comiskey, History of the Cell Movement: A Ph.D. Tutorial Presented to Dr. Paul Pierson; the entire tutorial (including bibliographical resources for notes) is available at: http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/articles/tutorials/cellHistory-1.html

  • What known sins have you committed since the last meeting?
  • What temptations have you met with? How were you delivered?
  • What have you thought, said, or done which may or may not be sin?

CHRIST & 6 Steps To Keep Him Central As a Ministry Grows #GrowthByAccidentBook

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 4/20/2004.

Here is a six-step prescription for keeping Christ central in the lives and ministries of both congregants and leaders.

  • Stay rooted in … the Word. Daily and generous doses of Bible reading and reflection are a beginning point for being grounded in servant leadership. God’s word should serve as our strategic guide (Psalm 119:105), because as Proverbs 16:17 reminds us, “the highway of the upright avoids evil; he who guards his way guards his life.” But, allotting time for study only when preparing for sermons may rob Scripture of this meditative and regenerative power. Thus, make time for the Word in your daily schedule, your informal pursuits, your pastimes…and your plans.
  • Stay rooted in … prayer. Prayer should be as pervasive as study of the Word, i.e. a part of your daily schedule, your informal pursuits, etc.. Eddie Gibbs calls this “respiratory prayer” for it is “the kind of regular, habitual praying that is the spiritual equivalent of breathing to sustain life.”[i]
  • Stay rooted in … ministry. Regular participation in hands-on ministry can help thwart a misalignment of priorities. A leader who is repeatedly involved in addressing people’s most basic needs, and doing so in the uncertain climate of human imperfections and sins, will by necessity need to maintain a close link to his or her power source, God’s Holy Spirit.
  • Stay rooted in … accountability. Some denominations utilize “staff-parish committees,” or “human resource teams” to provide an accountability link between the congregation and the pastor. Other churches have denominational oversight that provides this function. However, often these groups only address skill development, overlooking spiritual development. If they do so, they abdicate half of their responsibility. And, in some situations these groups may have evolved into an committee that cannot, or will not, do this. In all scenarios an accountability group is in order. However, the discomfort of such groups often causes Christians to avoid them. Researchers Dotlich and Cairo point out “discomfort signals that different viewpoints are being aired … that teams are grappling with difficult problems in the most open ways possible.”[ii] Proverbs confirms this, reminding us “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). A final excuse is that participation in an accountability group might damaging a valuable personal relationship. Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Temptations of a CEO, warns that “ironically, this only causes the relationship to deteriorate as team members begin to resent one another for not living up to expectations.”[iii]
  • Stay rooted in … your mortality. Every leader should be preparing for the day he or she passes the baton to one’s successor. Though you bear the baton for a while, God’s picture is bigger, and one day (maybe sooner that you think) you will pass that baton. Researcher Jim Collins calls this “setting up successors for success.”[iv]
  • Stay rooted in your priorities. Following the above steps can help a leader keep his or her priorities aligned correctly: God, family, and ministry.

Excerpted from Growth by Accident – Death by Planning: How NOT to Kill a Growing Congregation by Bob Whitesel.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004, pp. 153-161.

  • Though not for public distribution –  if you like this chapter consider supporting the publisher and author by purchasing a copy.

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[i] Eddie Gibbs, Church Next: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 135.

[ii] Dotlich and Cairo, Unnatural Leadership: Going Against Intuition and Experience to Develop Ten New Leadership Instincts, op. cit., pp. 141-142.

[iii] Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002), p. 213.

[iv] Jim Collins, Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t, op. cit., pp. 25-27.

MENTORING & Why having that nearby megachurch mentor you isn’t always a good idea

By Bob Whitesel July 7, 2014

I’ve noticed that newly planted churches will often approach a large church or mega-church in their area and seek to create a mentor-mentee relationship. On the surface this seems like a good idea, for the planted church can learn from the flourishing larger church nearby. However I’ve noticed some caveats that you must consider before undertaking this relationship.

My research on this began during my years as the Minister of Church Growth and Evangelism of a mega-church with dozens of planted offspring. As I talked to the leaders of these planted churches I found that though the relationship with the mother church had began with positive intentions, most now had deteriorated because of three factors.

Recently I consulted for one of the nation’s most well-known congregations. In the process I analyzed it’s many planted churches and satellites. And I found the same three conclusions that I had discovered 30 years ago.

The following observations can help large churches and planted churches avoid these three missteps.

First, the mega-church operates with a different leadership style, because it is a much larger organization. Many mega-churches have not been a small church for many years, even decades. And though the leaders in mega-churches are skilled at leading large organizations, their expertise in start-ups is usually in the past and in a different era. Thus, mega-advice can often be focused on hiring, firing and targeting a niche market. These are things that the small church often does not have the ability to undertake.

Secondly when a crisis arises in the mega-church (as will always happen at some time – be it moral, fiscal or transitional) the mega-mom will often focus mostly on her needs. The small church’s cadre of 50 to 100 people can be viewed as a way to help stem the exit tide in the mega-mom. Thus, in times of crisis the mega-church will often give advice to the planted church that favors the mega-mom.

And finally there is an important caveat regarding the planted church. The planted church often seeks a relationship with the mega-mom because subconsciously the planted church hopes to connect with people who are passing out the back door of the mega church. Often those people are looking for a smaller church environment, but I have shown in my book “The healthy church” that mega-churches can be healthy too, by having small groups and missional communities. Regardless, the caveat is that the offspring (often even unconsciously) seeks to attach itself to the mega-church in hopes of some of it’s mega-success rubbing off.

So what should be done instead? Let me propose three options.

First planted churches must have accountability and mentorship. Church planters and their leadership teams must be involved in a denominational accountability/oversight group or have a network that provides this. The pressures of entrepreneurship often take a toll on families and friendships. Accountability and mentorship are critical.

Secondly, relevant mentorship best occurs when the mentor church has recently grown to the next size level larger than the mentee church. Therefore, the mentor can offer more appropriate advice to the church plant. Gary McIntosh suggests three simple sizes of congregations. Most church plants are in the “fellowship size” and they resemble a group often called the Dunbar Number group (search www.ChurchHealthWiki.com for info on the Dunbar numbers). This church is under 150 attendees, and that is where most church plants reside. The next size larger is the “administrative church” according to McIntosh. This is the church in the 150-300 range b A growing and recently planted church from this size range would make a good mentor. This mentor will understand the situation of the planted congregation for not long ago the mentor church was in the same situation.

Thirdly, it is critical to have mentors that do not have any potential to benefit from problems in the church plant and vice versa. In other words, the mentor-mentee relationship is best served with each church is not in the same area or has a vested interest in the other. Thus, there is no inadvertent pressure to trade or assimilate congregants through transfer growth.

And so, the best mentors for church plants may not be the large church nearby … but rather a healthy, growing and slightly larger congregation that would not stand to benefit from transfer growth.

Mentorship is critical for planted pastors … but who you choose must be accountable, anointed and relevant. Too often if relationships are not founded on these principles it can undercut the health of both mentor and mentee.

SMALL GROUPS & Keeping Them Safe and Legal

by Sam O’Neal, SmallGoups.com, 6/4/14

“Accountability and liability protection are an important aspect of ministry in today’s church. And that should include small groups. With topics ranging from food preparation to transporation to safety for children in groups, this downloadable resource will provide your church with forms and policy recommendations that can help protect both your group members and your ministry.

How to Use This Resource
Take a quick peek here to maximize the content in this training download.

Read more at … http://www.smallgroups.com/downloads/training/bestchurchpractices/bsg57.html

ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR: The hidden value of organizational health—and how to capture it

SVG_Q2_Org_Recipes_ex1.ashx?mw=510The hidden value of organizational health—and how to capture it:  New research suggests that the performance payoff from organizational health is unexpectedly large and that companies have four distinct “recipes” for achieving it.

by Aaron De Smet, Bill Schaninger, and Matthew Smith, April 2014

The organizational-health index tracks nine dimensions of organizational health, along with their related management practices.

Read more at… http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/The_hidden_value_of_organizational_health_and_how_to_capture_it

ACCOUNTABILITY

Authority in the Local Church
by Scot McKnight

“The volatile combination of (a) emotionally needy, narcissistic leaders appealing to (b) naively receptive followers (c) corporate, institutional settings proves to be a set-up for the abuse of ministerial authority (256-257).”

Read more at …http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/03/14/authority-in-the-local-church/