WORSHIP & A leadership exercise comparing worship in different eras (Yikes! The 80s are Back ;-)

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This is an exercise about understanding how different cultures worship. My students enjoy it, so I thought I would post it here. Here is how the leadership exercise works:

Watch this video:

It is a humorous video that actually teaches an important cultural lesson too. It is by the Christian band called Glad. They were known for great vocals (and probably also for 80s haircuts 😉

(the video seems to have disappeared, but here is the audio version.)

But aside from their fashion statement, the group makes a good cultural point in this video. Write down a paragraph regarding the point of their video in your mind.

This is an exercise to allow you to dig deeper into cultural patterns and why they differ. So what is the lesson from this video about culture, when we recognize culture is comprised of behaviors, ideas and products (Hiebert, 1997)?

Here is a more recent version of the video to will enjoy also:

And, for a final bit of humor here is a puppet ministry visualizing the song.)

MUSICAL PREFERENCES & They May Crystallize Around Age 23.5 According to Research (A Leadership Exercise)

Every culture is made up of behaviors, ideas and products (Christian anthropologist Paul Hiebert defined culture as people who join together because of “shared patterns of behavior, ideas and products.”1. One of the most powerful and cohesion-generating products is music and the celebration that accompanies it.

Holbrook and Schindler’s research suggests that a musical preference begins to crystallize in the early 20s and hardens throughout the rest of a person’s life.

This is important to know when attempting to understand worship wars. Rather than trying to attract people to into adopting music from a different culture, it might be more helpful to find touchstones and points of agreement between the music of their youth and the music of your youth.

So if you’re trying to reach out to another musical generation, begin by studying the music of that generation’s 20something years.

Try this leadership exercise to see if this research can be confirmed with your team members.

A. Ask your team members to share the year in which they were born.  If do not want to do so, graciously excuse them from the exercise. Try to get at least two or three participants.  Write down their birth year next to their name.

B. Next, ask your leaders to name their favorite musical groups and/or singers. Write these down next to their name. Each person should select three or four examples.

C. With your team (or later on your own if you prefer) go online and locate in which years  those musical groups were the most popular.

D. Then correlate the year range of artist popularity with the period in time when the team member was in their 20s.

E.  Finally, ask yourself, “Was there a correlation?”

There seems to be so, about 60 to 70% of the time. This is enough to say that Holbrook and Schindler’s research may be partially reliable and valid. But of course, more research is needed. That’s why I ask my students to undertake this leadership exercise. It can add to their experience and to their  emerging theses (a thesis is basically a scholarly hunch 🙂 And at the very least, it can make them more sensitive to the musical products that are prefrered by members of their teams.

1. Paul Hiebert, Cultural Anthropology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1976), p. 25.

2. M. B. Holbrook & R. M. Schindler, “Some exploratory findings on the development of musical tastes,” Journal of Consumer Research, (1989) 16(1), p. 122.

ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR & My Guide to How Org. Size Affects Organizational Behavior, Structures & Management

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/29/16.

To lead an organization, you must first understand how the organization “behaves” and then begin to “manage” the “organizational behavior.”  Here are comments about church organizational size, behavior and management edited together here from my writings.

Organizational Behavior & Structure

To lead an organization you must begin by analyzing how the organization behaves.  It is like a child, you adjust your parenting as they grow and behave differently.  So, to lead a church effectively you must first step back and watch how the organization behaves.

The first step in doing so is to look at how the church is made up of many smaller groupings.  Some of these groupings are small groups (around 12 people, but they can get larger), clusters (groups of 20-75 with an extended family focus) and sub-congregations (group of 30-150, notice the overlap) that function as tribal group focusing (usually) around celebrations.

Three Organizational Structures in Most Churches

Small groups:

  • Size: around 12 people, but they can get larger
  • Focus: intimacy, accountability
  • Ministry: UP-IN-OUT (typically):
    • IN = strong
    • UP = moderate
    • OUT = weak


  • Size: groups of 20-75, usually a cluster of formal (or informal) small groups
  • Focus: an extended family feel of interreliance and task orientation.
  • Ministry: UP-IN-OUT (typically):
    • IN = moderate
    • UP = moderate
    • OUT = strong


  • Size: group of 30-150, notice the overlap
  • Focus: function as a tribal group (Dunbar Group) often focusing around celebrations
  • Ministry: UP-IN-OUT (typically):
    • IN = low
    • UP = strong
    • OUT = moderate to strong


More Details About Small Groups, Clusters and Sub-congregations

Small Groups

See these articles on small groups: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/?s=small+groups


The St. Tom’s Example:

In fact, Mike Breen (former rector of St. Tom’s Church in Sheffield England where cluster terminology developed) told me in a personal conversation that “Clusters are like the movie: My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  That is because the cluster is made up of many nuclear families, which we call small groups, and this network of nuclear families creates an extended family feel – that’s what we call a cluster” (personal conversation, Peak District, UK, May 2005).

In Mike’s mind you could think of the small groups as each a circular grape, and when you get a bunch of small groups together you got a “cluster” (often sized 30-75).  So, a cluster is a network of small groups linked by a tribal or extended family identity.

But, Mike and his colleague Bob Hopkins felt the key to healthy clusters, is to “missionalize” these clusters is by addressing three elements.

Online you can find the book by Bob Hopkins and Mike Breen titled “Clusters: creating midsized missional communities” (3DMinistries.com and Alderway Publishing).

Dunbar’s Number:

An Introduction to Dunbar’s Number (from Whitesel’s Facts & Trends interview):

“Churches are taking advantage of Dunbar’s number,” says Bob Whitesel, a professor at Indiana Wesleyan University and church growth expert. Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, found humans can comfortably maintain only around 150 stable relationships. Beyond that, says Whitesel, “relationships don’t seem to have much depth.”

This is why he believes many churches stall around this plateau. “Once it gets bigger than that, people stop inviting others because they no longer know everyone else at church,” he says.

It’s incumbent on large church leaders to capitalize on smaller groups that organically emerge in the church. Whitesel calls these “sub-congregations,” and they mirror other numbers Dunbar found in his research. Groups of 50 can unite around a task, such as the music ministry or preschool volunteers. Small group gatherings of 15 have the feel of an extended family, and groups of five are intimate connections.

These numbers have been seen not only in sociological research but also in church history, Whitesel says. “In the Wesleyan revivals, every leader had to be involved in what they called ‘Band Meetings’ of five individuals. Larger groups of 15 were called ‘Class Meetings.’”



A sub-congregation is a group within the church, that functions, in Asbury Professor George Hunter’s words, as “a church within a church.” (For a definition of a sub-congregation, click HERE)


…I have noted in some of my other wiki- postings (CLICK HERE), that sub-congregations form as a natural “organizational behavior” and that we must recognize them if we are to “manage” their behavior. Thus, I think many students have found it helpful to look at their emerging sub-congregations (which are currently of small group size) so they can manage them into growth and eventually a full-fledged (and larger) sub-congregation.

The idea of sub-congregations is found in church organizational writers such as in my books (2000:25-30; 2007:50-71) as well as:

Eddie Gibbs (I Believe in Church Growth, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981: 276-280),

Pete Wagner (Your Church Can Grow, Oregon, Resource Pub., 2001:101-102 ),

Larry Richards (A New Face for the Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan 1970: 34-35)

George G. Hunter (The Contagious Congregation [Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press] 1979:63) of which Hunter said that every congregation is a really “a congregation of congregations” (p. 63).

Many non-consultant leadership writers are largely unaware to this because they are students of leadership but not necessarily of organizational behavior.  Most management scholars believe that you must first understand an organization’s “behavior” before you try to manage it.  Thus, while working on my Ph.D. at Fuller I had Kent Miller of Michigan State as a professor (he is a Professor of Strategic Management there). Dr. Miller stressed that church leaders often fail at leadership because they don’t first analyze and understand the organizational behavior they are trying to manage.  All that is to say is that the writings on this are not massive (but they should be).

The student also wrote, “But I also notice that the sub-congregations that I do have (boomer’s and GenX) seem to be moving together well – at what point do you beginning looking at their inherent differences and start strategizing for it?’”

SUB-CONGREGATIONS & How To Use Them to Grow a Small Church in Just 6-Steps  Take a look at that posting.  Also, here is a quick synopsis:

1) Locate emerging sub-congregational cultures in the community.

2)  Mentor an indigenous leader from the culture you identified in Step 1 who will bring together a small group for Biblical discipleship of this indigenous culture.

3) Get the existing small group to plant another group like themselves. Don’t try to force them to divide. Rather, encourage them to reach more people by starting another group like themselves at another time or place. This is called “seeding” a new small group, where a couple leaders and a few people volunteer to start this new small group.

4)  Cluster or network your small groups at least once a quarter. By this I mean get your small groups from the same emerging sub-congregation together at least once every three months for unity building.

5)  Create more small groups as new ones approach 12 in attendance.  Use the small group “seeding” strategy of Step 3 above.  And, use Step 4 to keep these new small groups “clustering” once a quarter with other small groups of their cultural sub-congregation.

6)  Once you have a total of 50 people in your small group network, or cluster, create a new and regular worship encounter for them. This then becomes the new worship encounter for this emerging sub-congregation.  (Notice that like John Wesley, small groups [class meetings] are created before big worship gatherings [society meetings].)

I am usually stretching students with ostensibly non-traditional strategies, but the typical strategies (making everyone melt into an indistinct grey-green cultural goo) is not working.  And, the strategy I outlined above is working in churches that are growing amid disinterested and unfriendly cultures, such as St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield England (http://www.sttoms.net ).

Size How it Affects Organizational Behavior/Structure

McIntosh Typology:

Gary McIntosh in “Taking Your Church to the Next Level: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”  In the book and conference he outlined Church levels as such:

The Relational Church: 15-200 worshippers
The Managerial Church: 200-400 worshippers
The Organizational Church: 400-800 worshippers
The Centralized Church: 800-1,500 worshippers
The Decentralized Church: 1,500-plus worshippers

Whitesel Typology = McIntosh + Dunbar

Gary McIntosh has helped by delineating different types of churches. But he knows that I disagree with him on one aspect. And that is that you don’t have to have that number of worshipers to be that type of church. In other words, some of us have seen churches that are overly organized in the 150 range. And we have seen churches that exhibit all the hallmarks of the centralized church in the 300 range.

What I think is a key is that churches can be “decentralized” much before they’re up to 1500 worshipers. What Gary is saying is that churches typically are decentralized once they get over 1,500 worshipers.

But, I have seen many churches that are over 1,500 worshipers which really are structured like an organizational church. Gary knows I disagree with him and that is because I tend to work with more different varieties and sizes of churches. But I think the personalities of these five churches are valid … but just not that these personalities are limited to these size ranges.

Now, why is this important?  It is important because the “decentralized church” is for McIntosh the goal of churches.  And, I agree.  I just think you can be “decentralized” for health and growth much earlier … even around 100 attendees.

Continue reading

FINANCES & The LESSON From the Leadership Exercise on Restricted Funds

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 4/21/16.

There is an important leadership lesson from the leadership exercise titled: FINANCES & A Leadership Exercise on the Dilemma of Restricted Funds.

Don’t worry if you didn’t get it right the first time.  Most people don’t.

You see this lesson is … that we tend to look at such dilemmas from the viewpoint of the organization and not the individual.

Most leaders describe how they would explain to the donor the needs of the organization. Very few of leaders in this exercise delve into the donor’s needs and reasons for the donation.

  • Perhaps the donor himself had been impacted by youth ministry and it had changed his life.
  • Or perhaps the donor had a misspent youth and didn’t want other young people to experience the same thing.

In most leaders’ responses the focus is on explaining to the donor the good reasons why the organization needed his money. Often responses revolved around the leader trying to justify that, “if the boiler is not dealt with, there would neither be church nor youth meeting” (a student’s own words).  Sometimes leaders even seem to be offended if the donor didn’t relinquish control and wished him well in another church if he did not agree with them.

But we need to be reminded that the church is people and it could still meet in another locale, as could the youth.  The boiler was chosen by me as an example because it directly represents the “physical” needs, not the “spiritual” needs of a faith community.  Both are important and linked, but the latter trump the former.

In our rush to feed the organization, do we miss feeding the spiritual needs of people?

Not many of my students get the right answer and their grade often reflects that. They understand that’s only fair … and they wouldn’t want me to grade any other way.

Now, you might argue that Paul says in Romans 12: 8 that “If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.” (CEB)  And Paul is certainly making the point that we should strive for these behaviors because such behaviors are signs of spiritual maturity.

But, what if the donor isn’t spiritually mature yet? Are we really helping him mature by trying to get him to relinquish or change he designation?  Wouldn’t it be more helpful to go to him, listen to him and learn what motivated his gift?

Thus, I hope you will take away from this case study our lesson: that lesson is that we tend to look at such dilemmas from the viewpoint of the organization and not the individual.

If this lesson sinks in (and I know it will for most who read this) then in the future…

  • You would go to the individual spend time with him.
  • You would learn about what he wanted to accomplish with the donation.
  • You would spend more time listening and less time explaining.
  • You would spend less time considering this money the church’s money and more time understanding that the Holy Spirit was at work in this donor’s heart.
  • And you would probably end up with a more spiritually mature donor.

This is a much better and I think more Christ-like approach.

ARTS & A Leadership Exercise Comparing Excellence vs. Perfectionism

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 3/8/16.

This is a leadership exercise for clients, students and colleagues regarding how to foster more innovation and authenticity in our churches.  Let’s start this exercise with a quote from Rory Noland (1999:106):

“I think the best artist pursue excellence, not perfection.  In fact, I’d like to propose that perfectionism is more or less the evil twin of excellence. While perfectionism is destructive and man-centered, pursuing excellence is constructive and God-honoring.  Instead of pursuing perfection, we need to pursue excellence.”

A Leadership Exercise

Brainstorm regarding how to tell the difference between “excellence” and “perfectionism.” I will begin by suggesting several categories.

  1. Add at least one more category.
  2. Then share an example of “excellence” and of “perfectionism” in at least two categories.

So tell us, what would “excellence” and “perfectionism” look like in various ministry categories.  Copy what others have said to create a mega-list.

Category   > Solo song on Sunday morning (sometimes called “special music”):



Category   >  Call to worship:



Category   >  Ushering



Category   >  _____________



Category   >  _____________



Remember: add at least one (1) category and add at least two (2) examples. Your examples do not need to be under the same category.

Lessons Learned

Compare and comment upon the results. You will find that by looking at many examples you can begin to see even slight differences between “excellence” and “perfectionism.” Then you must decide which you will pursue.

Reference:  Rory Noland, The Heart of the Artist (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999).

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & An Exercise to Recapture the Dual Emphasis of Wesley’s “Method”

What was behind the Wesleyan revival’s rapid spread around the world?  A dual emphasis on two “methods” are key (and need to be recaptured today). To help discover these two “methods,” undertake this quick exercise.

A Leadership Exercise:

Search online (search on ChurchHealth.wiki too) for four (4) key words: John Wesley, poor, conversion.

Then share a few sentences about the following three things:

Firstly, share something that you learned that is new for you.

Secondly tell about something you could do in your ministry to better reflect the Wesley “method” of meeting the needs of the poor.

And thirdly, explain what you will do in your ministry to better reflect Wesley’s method of encouraging everyone to have a conversion experience.

In other words, the “method” behind “Methodism” has two important components (see below).  What will you do in your ministry to ensure you include and balance both

1) meeting the needs of the poor

2) and explaining to everyone their need for a spiritual/life transformation through the power of Jesus Christ.

This exercise will help you internalize the “methods” that led to the fastest growing revival movement since Biblical times.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingswood2018

WEAKNESSES & A Team Exercise to Help Mitigate Your Leadership Weaknesses

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 1/27/16.

Here is an leadership exercise to help you mitigate your weaknesses as you develop your strengths.  This is how you conduct this exercise.

1) Share what you perceive as one of your weaknesses.

> Pick a weakness that you think others could help you overcome.
> If the weaknesses to personal choose a different weakness.
> Each person should choose at least one thing in their leadership they want to improve.

2) Then comment on at least two weaknesses of others in your group.  At least two others will comment upon your weakness.

3) Give advice about how you have overcome this weakness and how you think they can overcome it.

This is an exercise that opens leaders up to helping one another overcome leadership weaknesses. But this discussion can also be personal. So here are the guidelines:

a)  When you share in a prescription for someone else’s weakness, use a weakness that you have also seen in yourself, but you have overcome.

b) Share the process you underwent to overcame that weakness.

c) Share how you knew that the weakness was finally overcome.

Just a sentence or two about each will help you develop your leadership strengths by mitigating your weaknesses too.

EVALUATION & Clearing the Universal Fog Over 2 Types of Goals: Tactical & Strategic

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/11.15.

One of the primarily culprits of goals not being met is not having “measureable” goals.  And, there are two types of goals that should be measured.

TACTICAL GOALS:  Tactical goals (such as “start an  ESL program” or “launch a new small group”) are specific tactical (i.e. planning) goals that support “broader” and “wide-ranging” church goals.

STRATEGIC GOALS:  These broader, more wide-ranging church goals are strategic goals, and they could be something like: “to have more congregants involved in Bible study, fellowship opportunities and prayer meetings than last year.”  These goals are strategic goals, and they can be traced back to metrics Luke described in Acts 2:42-47. Though Luke was not saying every church needed to use these metric, he did use them himself to describe for posterity “how” the church grew after Peter’s sermon.  For more on these metrics click here … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/church-growth-a-definition-mcgavran-housedividedbook/

DIFFERENCES:  For more on the differences between tactics and strategies see … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/measurement-a-reliable-valid-tool-to-measure-church-growthhealth-organixbook/

Leadership Exercise

Here is a leadership exercise to help you think about and differentiate between these two types of goals.  This exercise will look at how we should measure individual tactical actions (e.g. start a new ministry, etc.) and how we should measure bigger strategic goals (e.g. if the church is growing in maturity, unity and service to the community paralleling the metrics Luke used).

A) Listen.  The audio attachment though prepared for my students, will give leaders ideas about how to undertake this leadership exercise.



B) Read.  This exercise will make a lot more sense if you read the pdf from “A House Divided” that is provided here:  (It is also provided to my students in their weekly course materials).   So, read the “House Divided – Evaluate Your Success” pdf and then listen to the audio recording and you should be on your way toward dispelling the “universal fog” that surrounds most church leadership (for more on the universal fog, see “A Universal Fog” and “The Facts Needed” in Donald A. McGavran’s Understanding Church Growth [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970], 76-120).

C) Discuss by answering the first two questions, and then one of the following of the following questions for discussion.

1) Share two things you learned about the differences between a tactical goal and a strategic goal.

2) Give an example of a strategic goal and then a tactical goal that might support it.

3) Which is usually easier to measure?

4) Which do leaders usually focus upon?

5) What do you think Dr. McGavran meant by the term: “universal fog?”

AN OVERVIEW of MEASUREMENT METRICS: In four of my books I have updated and modified a church measurement tool.  You will find a chapter on measurement in each of these books:

Cure for the Common Church, (Wesleyan Publishing House), chapter “Chapter 6: How Does a Church Grow Learners,” pp. 101-123.
> ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 8: Measure 4 Types of Church Growth,” pp. 139-159.
> Growth By Accident, Death By Planning (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 7: Missteps with Evaluation,” pp. 97-108/
> A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps In Your Church (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 10: Evaluate Your Success,” pp. 202-221.

I explain that church growth involves four types of congregational growth.  It is a seriously incorrect assumption to assume church growth is all about numbers.  It is only 1/4 about numbers and 3/4 about the other types of growth mentioned in Acts 2:42-47.  In the New Testament we find…

> Maturation Growth, i.e. growth in maturity,Acts 2:42-43.
> Growth in Unity: Acts 2:44-46.
> Growth in Favor, i.e. among non-Christians, Acts 2:47a.
> Growth in number of salvations, i.e. which God does according to this verse, Acts 2:47b.

For more see … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/measurement-a-reliable-valid-tool-to-measure-church-growthhealth-organixbook/

BOOMERS & Do They Prefer Excellence? Good, Bad or Does It Matter? #LeadershipExercise

DUELING QUOTES: (mega-church pastor) “Excellence attracts excellence” or (fast-growing youthful church pastor) “Authentic worship attracts those seeking authentic worship.”

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.,D., 12/6/15.

One of my former students, commenting on the “Authenticity verses Excellence” debate, interviewed a pastor of a large church in the area.  Here is the student’s research and my response. The result is a leadership exercise on “excellence vs. authenticity” in ministry.


I just visited 1st Church. One of our larger denominational churches. I interviewed the pastor about his leadership. I came away with some great quotes and lessons. One of them was this: “Excellence attracts Excellence”. Quite honestly the idea that the organic church is more interested in authenticity than performance is new to me…I’m a boomer! I like it…I’m not sure that I get it!

My response:

I am glad you are conducting primary research with interviews.  Good for you!

And, I know you are struggling with understanding the cultural differences of the younger generation.  You see, learning about Postmodern Gen. X is really learning about another culture.

Because younger generations are a different culture, they might take your phrase and re-state it.  From my interviews (Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations, Abingdon Press) I would say that might respond:

“Authentic worship attracts those seeking authentic worship.”

A Leadership Exercise:

My observation is that excellence attracts other churchgoers (what we call in Church Growth Movement “transfer growth”, see Thom Rainer’s excellent analysis of transfer growth). Usually, these are people looking for a church that offers better music, Children’s Ministry or Youth Ministry than their church offers.

I would say from my research (Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations, Abingdon Press) that authenticity attracts God-seekers.

A church should do both, but in my mind the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19ff) emphasizes the later (reaching God-seekers) over the former (transfer growth).

Now, what are your thoughts?  Agree?  Disagree?

Either option if fine if it gets your leaders thinking about how to be missionaries to today’s cultures.

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.

BLENDED WORSHIP & Why You Should Use Both Blended Music & Heart Music

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/5/15.

Linked below is an insightful article by James Ward, an accomplished and popular Christian musician about the challenges, yet benefits, of blending cross-cultural worship. In my view, we should have such cross-cultural worship expressions. Yet I also emphasize that we need culturally diverse worship expressions too, in order to connect with what Ward calls “the heart language” (pp. 44-45) of more people among today’s increasingly diverse cultures.

And so, this is a helpful article, written by a musician/scholar who a Caucasian pastor once asked, “I want to have a parish church, uniquely positioned to meet the needs of our immediate community. How do begin to do that in our worship if our neighbors are black?” (Ward, 2012, p. 40) James Ward’s answer became the basis for this article: http://globalworship.tumblr.com/post/8744200959/strategies-for-cross-cultural-music-worship-by

Leadership Exercise:

Take a look at this article and then answer with colleagues, one of the first two questions and then also the third.

1. How can cross-cultural worship break down pejorative stereotypes?

2. How can cross-cultural worship fit into a church that is, like the example mentioned by the Caucasian pastor, seeking to reach out to a changing demographic in the neighborhood?

3. Finally if you can only answer one of these questions, answer this one. Ward says, “As wonderful as it may sound, cross-cultural worship seems not to be for everyone” (p. 46). Thus, how do you balance in a church “heart language” worship with “cross-cultural” worship?

I think Ward has some good thoughts about “heart music” which he defines in ethnomusicological nomenclature as “a musical context leaned in childhood that most fully expresses one’s emotions” (pp. 44-45).

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 .

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.

POSTMODERNITY & An Exercise to Discover Which Generation Falls in the Middle

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 5/9/15.

I have noticed a subtle, but marked difference between older Generation Xers and younger Xers.  And, the rise of postmodernity may give us a clue regarding why this happens.

In Preparing for Change Reaction, I divided Generation X into two sub-groups based upon how they fall along the dividing line between Modernity and Postmodernity.  My conclusion is that modernity exalts knowledge, while postmodernity lauds experience.

A Leadership Exercise.

Now, here is the query for this exercise.  List some characteristics that distinguish older Xers (whom I call Leading-edge Xers) and their younger Postmodernal counterparts (whom I call Postmodern Xers)?  Have each leader list 2 – 3 differences that they have observed between these age groupings (see the bulleted points below for the age ranges).

  • Leading Edge Gen. X (ages in 2017 = 43-52),
  • And Postmodern Xers, (ages in 2017 = 35-42).

Though we can divide the generations into smaller and smaller groupings, oftentimes this just makes our missional task more arduous.  But, when a generation, such as Generation X, lands smack in the middle between Modernism and Postmodernism, some important further delineations are needed.  Thus, describing some of the differences in behavior, language, aesthetics, etc. that we have observed between these following age groupings can enhance our leadership of them.

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.)

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?”