Leading a Healthy Church Culture - Lesson 16

Primary Handles (Part 2)

Primary Handles, Part II

Rick Sessoms
Leading a Healthy Church Culture
Lesson 16
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Primary Handles (Part 2)

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This is a summary version of the Christ-Centered Leadership class in the Certificates section that includes a study guide and additional resources.

Dr. Rick Sessoms
Leading a Healthy Church Culture
Primary Handles (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:01] The fourth area is what we measure. Now, this is a little bit tougher to get your arms around, but it's so important. Let me try to unpack this. Again, this is descriptive. What it basically says is what we measure. What we objectively observe is what becomes important to us. In fact, the converse of that is it is important to understand that if you don't want something to be important to be valued, just stop measuring it. Now, if you come in to church on Sunday morning, I know in my church, uh, uh, and this is typical. So it again, is not necessarily criticism, but is I open the bulletin on the back page of the bulletin are two pieces of information that are measured every single Sunday. What do you suppose those are? How many were there the previous Sunday and how much money came in. So noses and nickels. It's easy to it's easy to measure those things. Right. But guess what becomes important in terms of the church? It's how many people are there on Sunday morning and whether or not we're making the budget. And so it's not that those things are necessarily unimportant. That's not my point. But if we want other things to be important, if we want them to be valued, we must figure out a way to observe them, whether or not they're happening. To give an objective criteria for whether it's actually taking place. So much. Without it being too much a machine. Absolutely. But take, for example, integrity again. When we talk about integrity, we want integrity to be part of the church. We want spiritual maturity to be part of the church. Those things are tough to measure by any standards, aren't they? But I want to say that if we haven't figured out a way to objectively observe whether those things are happening or not.

[00:02:12] Then. Then we run the risk of defaulting to those things that we do measure when we're under pressure. That makes sense. That's the key point. And so you don't have to measure it, but don't expect it to hold up under pressure. If we haven't figured out a way to measure. I'm sorry. Well, let me give you an example. I'm glad you ask. There was. I went to work for Trans World Radio in November of 2000. And at that point, the the organization was looking for leaders. In fact, they had gone through a process of selecting their next CEO president. And because the choices were so slim from within the organization, the man who became president was a fine man. But. But the choices were so slim that the board, the first mandate the board gave the new president was to initiate to launch a leadership development program within Trans World Radio Global. And so I was the first person that the president elect, this guy from the U.K., hired to do that. And when I took the job, I started to ask questions and there was no track to run on. There was, you know, it was just about developing leaders and that and a and so I ask what kind of leaders? And there was no answer for that. And how are we supposed to do that? Well, there's no answer for that. And so it was a blank slate, a totally blank slate when we started. And I thought, you know, I was going through some of this stuff and had learned some of these things in the program that I was in at Regent University at the time. And and these things were rumbling in the back of my mind. What we measure is what we value, what we measure, what we value, what we measure, what we value.

[00:04:02] And I was looking at this and thinking, well, we've got nothing. And so we're supposed to be developing leaders. So the first thing I did was I spent about, well, let me back up. There was a there was one of the the key executives in Europe. He had heard a talk and he had he had said, well, let's let's start using the term servant leadership within Transworld. He liked the term and he was an influential person. So he said, let's let's use servant leadership. And I said, fine, whatever you want to call it. So now let's figure out what do we mean by servant leadership. So I spent about a year and a half working with people all over the world to identify what what is a definition. And we can. It was seven key elements challenging the process, inspiring a shared vision. Some of the things that Quess and Posner have taught, some of the things that we put together from a Christian multinational nonprofit and so on, so and so on. So we came out with is this this grid for understanding what, what, what servant leadership is. And even at that point, we were thinking, well, big deal, you know, we now have this definition. And I was thinking, well, now people will start jumping through the hoops. They'll start wanting to be this kind of a leader. It didn't happen. And so we were about two years in this process. I was scratching my head and this is still ringing in the back of my mind. We are what we measure. We are what we measure. Measure determines values. If you want it to be important, you got to figure out a way to figure to objectively observe it. So I said, okay.

[00:05:33] So what we began doing is we began putting together a a survey, a sample survey that was a it was 42 statements, and it took these seven criteria for being a servant leader that we called at the time. I would call it crisis center leader today. But it took these these seven criteria and it created six statements. That began to unpack each of these seven criteria. And the statement was simply made. And then there were there was a lacquered scale from 1 to 10 that that somebody looking at the leader, whether it was later him or herself or somebody else, it was observing the leader could mark off. This person is not like that on the one extreme or this person is always like that on on the on the other extreme, 1 to 10. Now. It was not perfect. It had a lot of holes in it and we constantly improved it over the years. But we began to use this and we worked out a process where all of our leaders eventually started to go through this. It was a volunteer thing, but as it began to get traction and get a good credibility within the organization and began to use it, and it was what we called a multi rider analysis tool of the 360 degree process, so that the the the person that was the leader took it on him or herself and then three or four other people would take it would would do an assessment of the leader as well. And then we'd sit down and we'd unpack and explain the results and so forth. When we objectified what it means to be a servant leader. And one of the one of the issues had to do with with developing character.

[00:07:21] And so if you're going to develop character, you've got to be a person of character or the issue of integrity. So if you're interested in see the questions, I'll be glad to show them to you. But but what we began to see when we began to use that tool was we began to see the emphasis and the importance of of servant leadership begin to rise in the organization worldwide. And today, if you were to go into trends already, I'm happy to tell you that servant leadership is alive and well within that organization. The culture has shifted. And it wasn't just because of the measurement. It was it was some of these other things that were going on as well. But the fact that we figured out a way to measure whether it was actually happening raised the bar. What we discovered in the research that I did in leadership development is is developing ways of measuring is actually a leadership development tool in and of itself. It's a powerful tool because it helps people understand where they are on the radar. So this this process of measuring is so very, very vital and particularly when we're in the crunch. Thoughts? Comments. Yeah, it has been my experience and so many other things, not just laser, but this is you in things you want to improve or any number that you want to prove to start paying attention to it. And you know, just the fact that you've never paid attention to and then you suddenly start paying attention to is going to improve, doesn't just look, it's amazing, you know, even after you know. JJ without a vision, the people perish. Yeah, that's right. Plan. Plan. Well, I mean, if you don't make it a.

[00:09:06] So let's say we as a congregation say that our priority, our goal is to reach the UN, those who have never been exposed to Christ. Well, if that's what our goal is, then we need to have some sort of measure to say that we're accomplishing that. Otherwise, who knows how we're getting there. If we say we're a culturally diverse congregation and yet all we see every week are is a very monoculture. Are we really succeeding? How are we measuring what we say? That visible? That's precisely the point. Great, great examples. But sometimes people get squeamish, measuring things in church and they say like, well, this is how many people, you know, unreached people we've reached this week. And I mean, that's all. Yeah, it's a good thing. But it's kind of, you know, you wonder, is it manipulative, manipulating behavior in some way or we can't change the system to, like, bring up our numbers? Are we are we shallow because we're just, you know, oh, you're just another person. We're checking off a box here and. All right. And then you move on with your day or, you know. Yeah. So it's a it's a weird thing in church to come. At least don't at least in this church to like to measure things. But I think there's our motivations are pure. So, again, we know that our we know our motivations aren't pure at best. We have motivations as sinners. I mean, so as much as we don't want to be a business model, there's still that sense sometimes. I mean, it would be a very interesting thing if we had our bulletin like, you know, okay, we're like, you know, 28% nonwhite, Caucasian, you know, and, you know, and oh, it went up to 30%.

[00:10:50] You know, we're we're going from all that diverse. Well, then now that would be I mean, to measure something like that would be is what the what the interesting part of this conversation, Sam, is that is interesting, what the church is comfortable with measuring and what we're not comfortable with measuring. It's not the fact that we're not comfortable with measuring. We are comfortable with measuring, but it's what we have become comfortable with measuring. And this, again, is simply descriptive. And you can take it to the bank. What you measure becomes what you value. It's usually what we can take to the bank. So we measure. Yeah, that's right. We measure high said to us what we reward or punish. That's right. Right. Very interrelated. And one of the challenges in church is we don't share what we're measuring. So I may be measuring how many youth are coming to you this week, and you may be measuring how many pastors came to my city school class this week. So we're all measuring things. And a challenge for for a church is if we're measuring different things and we're competing in some of that interpretation and we don't have a shared understanding. That's right. Competing stakeholders. No, that's that's crucial. That's crucial. What you're saying. Very, very true. I have I have values that I'm interpreting one way. You've got values that you're interpreting another and we're colliding over. So that can become confusing, can it? And bewildering. Yeah, that's the role of leadership again, is for leaders, leaders to to make those kinds of parameters so that we're getting on the same page. But I think a tendency that we might tend to have is to focus on the easy things like the numbers. I remember at one church I went to, they would put roses for the people who had made a decision to follow Christ that week, but the tendency was to focus on how many roses were there rather than some of the more intangibles like the stories or the ways that God was working through the church to reach some of these people and and the avenues they were taking.

[00:13:01] And I think some of the more interesting ways to measure things are more of the intangibles and how we're developing character once again, rather than simply things that we can measure. Hidden figures like tens or those repeated product verses. Yeah, the relationship. That's right. Well, when I was working again in spiritual formation in the college. Boy, people people really have a hard time when you begin talking about measuring spiritual development. It's it's one of those sacred areas in some people's minds is of off limits. And we are charged with being physical or whatever the word is when we mode in these categories. But but the simple principle is if you don't measure it. You can pretty well assume that those things that are measured will take precedence within the culture. That's all there is to it. Measuring the word measuring implies like a statistical measure. It does. You could say if we don't assess it or things are if you don't objectively observe it in some way than that, because you may not be able to put a numerical that's right value to so that you can try to come up with some scale like you did with your leadership in your questionnaire. But if you don't gauge it in a particular way, that's a great point. So it's not always quantifiable. But there there has to be a way to objectively observe whether it's going on, whether it's happening to measure. Remember, it's a tool. It's not a means to an end of our. We don't want to say That's right. That's right. You want to stop, you know, say that our goal is to memorize 100 verses or memorize this. And if we start with just that, we've memorized it. But it hasn't changed.

[00:14:52] Our ministry hasn't had an impact and we haven't had growth. And that tool that we use for that, that that relationship we have, if we just stop there. Shane calls it an embedding mechanism. Same thing. The primary embedding mechanism of organizational culture. We called a handle in the little book that we've written called Culture Graph that was supposed to bring Do you guys in? I forgot. So I'll bring it next week, but we call it handles. One of the constructs that's been helpful to me is I worked at measuring. Is to recognize that there's there's process measures and then there's an outcome measures. Can most people default instantly to the process measures because they're easier to measure to count. Like how many trainings have you done right? Many classes have you? How many people have you shared the gospel with? Exact right, exactly. Or, you know, and those are good, by the way. Yeah, they're good. Yeah. But the the the tough one to get your handle around in this one. This is the field of education. Struggles with this all the time. It is. How do you measure the outcome? Yeah, those are the challenging ones to really get a handle on because you can count how many people are in class. It's very difficult to count how many people have become educated or transformed or their character has grown. But you can you can walk in one church and you walk in another and say, okay, well, this one is significantly more mature theologically or whatever way we want to describe it. You can sit there, you can tell the differences and compare things, but it's sort of, you know, how much better or what how we you know, so you want to be able to come up with some some way of gauging and paying attention to these sort of outcome measures.

[00:16:48] But I think but the fact that you can say like, okay, ah, you know, theological understanding as a congregation want that to be a deeper thing. Okay. So you can say you can measure the process. Okay, how many like, you know, classes that our congregation attend? Or you can say, well, there's some other outcome way of measuring that, but just the fact that we're paying attention to it and and trying working our way to measure that is we're putting forth the effort. We're paying attention to that. And as a result, we're going to see growth. I mean, like it took you a long time to actually come up with the way to measure leadership growth, but you were developing leadership in the organization through that whole process trying to. Yeah, yeah. But it did take a significant league forward because of what you said previously, which I think was a very important statement, is the very fact that you're measuring it somehow almost mysteriously, it begins to take a higher level of presidents within the collective. It's just a fascinating phenomenon that that happens, which part it ties in with our responsibility, as you said earlier, for the cultivation, God is responsible for the outcome. That's right. Our call is the cultivation. And if we can use measurement as a tool to help us with our cultivation. Exactly. Not did we close the deal? Yeah, good point. Well, let me share the fifth one, and then I'd like us to look at how Jesus dealt with these five handles. This one may not surprise you either, but it's how our leaders respond to crisis. Boy, that's a big one. Leaders can carry on for quite some time when the waters are smooth. When things are going well and the organization, it just carries along.

[00:18:42] But when the crisis comes, when there is a personal crisis or a personnel crisis or a financial crisis or some kind of crisis that hits the church. That's when everyone's radar goes way up. And they're watching the moves that the leader makes. And in those moments. Whatever happens, how that leader or those leaders respond in the crisis moment drives the values deeply, embeds the values deeply within the church culture. And if you think about how the leaders in the church that you're involved with have responded to critical moments over the last year or two, and then you think about how those are reflected in the values that people again, we're not talking about the ones that are written. We're talking about what people actually value within the church. It will be you'll begin to see the connections very, very succinctly. That makes sense. These are a bit discomforting, aren't they? They don't leave us feeling very, very well. They leave us feeling unsettled. At least they. They leave me feeling unsettled. And as I think about my own leadership and the culture that we're attempting to build in our ministry, we get focused on a lot of other things. But but these are so critical. I think I began in this session some time ago when we were talking that the primary role of a leader today is the creation and the nurture and the monitoring of culture. And this these are the primary handles that that takes place. Now, we talked about primary embedding mechanisms. These are primary handles. There are secondary ones. There are there's structure. There is there are symbols. You're logo, you're how you you know, you create your worship space, for example, all those symbols and and and things that we use to remind us of of who we are.

[00:21:19] Structure church structure is a secondary the, the furnishings, how we arrange the furniture, etc., etc., etc.. The problem is that sometimes churches get those secondary issues in the place of the primary ones and we get the cart before the horse and it doesn't do a lot of good. What happens in the best of cases is the secondary ones actually roll out from the primary ones. I've been in Christian organizations where in five years they've changed the structure five times or three times in order to try to to change the culture. And the reality is all they're doing is rearranging the chairs. It feels good for about 90 days, but then it goes. It's just something just collapses back in because these issues have not been addressed at near the same level of seriousness. Have you experienced that? We're not getting to the values or the assumptions, and we're just putting a different icing on the cake. Somebody says, like putting lipstick on a monkey. And that's a good image, because where is the same monkey dressing up a little bit? The same monkey, and that lipstick will wear off. But as we begin to drill into these five, we began to see and by the way, as and we're going to look in just a few moments, but as you think about about your own church culture, you won't really have to tell somebody that is is acquainted with these five primary handles. If if, if if they were to walk into a church and spend any time there, they wouldn't have to be told what the values are. The answers, these five questions, the responses to these five issues will will un unveil will uncover the truth about what the culture is really all about.

[00:23:37] That can be good news. It can be not such good news. Great release. Primarily handles that have to come from a positional leader rather than a leader who's leading by influence. How can you do some of these things if you're not in a position to say? That's a great question. What we're going to measure as a church? Well, I wonder, is it only from a positional position that you can? I think that's a great question. And there is always the struggle that if I'm not in a position of making decisions about these issues, then they're limited in terms of how much I can affect this. And quite frankly, as we have talked a lot with younger leaders that are in traditional organizations, that is this has been one of the struggles. The way that I would say it is that all of us, in order to be Christ centered leaders and dressing these in a sense, becomes a buffer, if you will, between the people that can tend to be above us in positions of leadership and those that we have been given responsibility to lead. And that really is about what it is to be a Christ and a leader. As you think about how Christ led, he was the buffer in many respects between those that held the authority and the power and those that needed God. And he became that buffer. It it it took him to the cross, quite frankly. But the fact of the matter is, is that in every case, if if we are willing to exercise our role as that buffer role as Christ centered leaders, that by God's grace, we're going to lead this way with the people that God has given us responsibility to influence and and have leadership with, regardless of what people up the chain and up the line may do.

[00:25:38] I believe that oftentimes we have a lot more a capacity to address these things than we may think.


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