The Art of the Handoff

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Handing off ministry duties and leadership is a tricky thing to navigate. Just like in football, everything needs to come together just right for the hand off to be successful. If you let go of the ball to soon, the “runner” will never secure the ball. If you let go too late, you’ll run into each other and the ball could be dropped. If you don’t call the play clearly, the “runner” may go one way, while you turn to the other, making the hand off impossible. There is always a risk anytime you place someone in authority. To minimize that risk and set your leaders up for success, you MUST learn to run a smooth hand off. Here are a few thoughts:

Leadership gifts aren’t enough – Just because someone is gifted to lead, doesn’t mean they’re ready to lead within your team. Until they know the play book and have established trust with the “offensive line”, handing them the ball would be risky at best.

Being talented isn’t enough – Someone may have all the talent in the world, but if they aren’t relational and can’t lead their way out of a paper bag, they aren’t qualified to lead on your team. Just because someone is athletic, doesn’t mean they’re ready to be a “running back”.

No one is a perfect leader – Sometimes even the best “running backs” fumble the ball. If you can’t be patient in developing your leaders, you probably won’t develop many. If you let go of the ball to soon, you’re not giving the “runner” a chance to be successful.

Not everyone pans out –  Every once in a while things just don’t work out. Be ready to make a switch if needed. Don’t pull the trigger too soon, but don’t keep the struggling “runner” in the game so long that the team suffers.

In the end, developing and empowering leaders is a huge ministry challenge. WE won’t always get it right and THEY won’t always live up to expectations, but remember…the season is long. Be patient with your leaders, invest in them heavily and, when the time is right, make sure they have the tools needed for a successful hand off.

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Raise, Build and Get Out of the Way

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This Sunday I had the chance to experience our worship environment from a different perspective. I wasn’t on stage, I wasn’t at the soundboard, I wasn’t running lights or video…I was simply there. When it comes to running a creative ministry, it really gets no better than watching your team do what they do…and do it well. From a leadership standpoint, there is no greater moment than when someone steps in to lead people, hits it out of the park and does so without you standing next to them.

A vibrant creative ministry, at its core, is all about raising up leaders, building teams and getting out of the way. If your creative teams and processes center around you and only you…it won’t be long before your ministry is drained of any kind of momentum. Forward motion will become a thing of the past and you will simply find yourself stuck in one place. 

Great creativity cannot thrive in one place…it needs to move, breath and expand. Great creative ministries are really no different. If you want momentum…Raise up people, build your teams…and get out of the way!

A Proud Moment

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Well here we are. It’s my 2nd to last Sunday at Vale and pretty much everything in our creative ministry has been transitioned out of my hands and into the hands of a really great team. I’ve always believed that a good leader should be raising up their replacement and this morning I was able to see that principle come to life. It was a very proud moment to stand at the back of the auditorium during sound check and here my team click.

It’s difficult to leave this great group of people that I have had the joy of serving with for nearly 3 years…but after this morning, it’s clear that they are ready to move forward and lead on their own. I’m so proud of them all.

Managing Personalities

One of my favorite things about my job is getting to deal with an incredibly eclectic group of personalities. On one side you have the “artists”…People who tend to be creative, emotional, passionate and yes…at times, irrational. Then you have the “techies”…People who tend to be analytical, detail oriented, task driven and yes…at times, irrational.

It gets even more interesting when you realize the number of “sub-groups” that exist within each of these groups of people. It sounds like it should be a giant pain in the tail, but the truth is…I love it! I love that God has created so many different personalities. I love that artists are like finger prints…no two are quite alike. I love that 10 different techies will come up with 10 different solutions to a simple problem. But most of all, I love taking 2 groups of people that have so little in common in regards to their personalities and helping them find a common ground in ministry.

These days, it’s difficult to have a successful arts ministry without finding that common ground. You can take a great music team and amplify each song with the backing of a great tech team. You can take a great video and make it greater by supporting it with a great piece of music. You can create that “wow moment” each weekend when you have people working together for a common cause. Isn’t this the way God designed it in the first place? Isn’t it true that the church is stronger when we are one? Isn’t it true that we all have one undeniable piece of common ground found in Jesus?

It’s no different in creative ministry. God designed different personalities, different gifts and different callings, for the sole purpose of leading people to experience God on a deeper level. The key to managing it all is found in our Christ centered common ground. We don’t always have to agree…in fact, I find that we come up with a better end product when we have healthy debate in the creative process…but none of us can deny that Jesus is the focus of it all. Keep Him in the center and you’ll find that managing it all becomes a true joy.

To Control or Not to Control

I’ve said it a dozen times on this blog, raising up leaders and delegating some responsibility is the key to a vibrant growing ministry. But what do you do when there’s an area in which that plan isn’t working so well? What do you do when something you’ve delegated begins to faulter?

For most of us, we depend on volunteers. It’s people’s servant hearts that make what we do in ministry possible. And that’s an important fact to remember. Can you hold a volunteer to the same standard that you would hold a paid staff person? Not really. You can, however, lay out clear expectations, a clear deadline for a project and take the time to review how things are going, but in the end…what your volunteer does for you, comes a distant 2nd to their real job, their family and most likely many other things in their life.

Expectations are the key. Be clear about what you expect. If those expectations aren’t being met, it’s time for a conversation. Be gracious, revise the expectations if needed and set a deadline for improvement. If things are still faultering, then it’s time for a change. Here are a few tips:

-Don’t pull the plug too quickly: I’d rather struggle in an area for a time than cut someone without giving them ample opportunity to succeed.

-Have a backup plan: If there’s a struggle, work out a “plan B”. If you end up cutting someone loose, you’ll need to have an alternate option to got to immediately.

-Have a plan for the person: No one likes being in a position of moving someone on. Do your homework, know their gifts, and show them other areas where they can serve. Go the extra mile.

-Take control and train: In the end, you may need to step back in to the role you worked so hard to delegate. There’s nothing wrong with that for a season, but make certain you have someone working that position with you. Ultimately, your goal should be to delegate that responsibility to another person.

In the end, raising up leaders and delegating responsibility should be a passion for any ministry leader. Don’t be afraid to make that investment, but also, don’t be afraid to make a change when it’s called for.

On the Verge

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Have you ever felt like you were on the verge of something incredible? That’s where I’m at right now. I’m not sure I can even put my finger on it, but I can’t help but feel that God is about to do something major in our ministry. In the last 2 years, this ministry has gone from being a group of good musicians, actors and techs to being a team of great and gifted worshippers. Watching this transformation has been one of my greatest joys in ministry. It leaves me with this feeling of anticipation in my gut.

I don’t know what it is…but God is up to something.

Knowing When to Let Go

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I’m a recovering “artist hog”…there I said it. I used to hoard my artists. It didn’t matter if you had other giftings, you are an artists and you must serve in this Artistic Ministry. Over the last couple of years, God has really changed my thinking on this.

The truth is, sometimes God calls people in different directions. Someone may be a good vocalist, but may also be gifted with children. That same person may have a family, a full-time job and little Tommy’s baseball schedule to keep up with as well. No one can do it all and I’ve come to realize that many people don’t know when to say “no” when it comes to ministry. I’ve watched people overload themselves for the cause of Christ only to create strain at home, struggles at work and have a consistent case of the “no-shows” in regards to ministry. When we try to do it all…we end up accomplishing virtually nothing.

Our vocal teams run on a 6 month rotation. If you commit, then the expectation is that every other week you come to rehearsals prepared, get up stinking early on Sunday morning and give everything you have as an artist to leading God’s people in worship. But, twice a year I’m faced with the reality that I may not keep all of these people. Every six months, I ask my team to re-evaluate their ministry commitments, lives, schedules and sanity and pray about “re-upping” for another rotation. By doing this, I run the risk of losing some people. As an “artist hog”, I used to really struggle with that. “They’re a good singer…God can’t possibly be calling them to work with youth”, I’d think to myself. Well guess what…YES HE CAN!

It took some time to recover from my “hog disorder”, but eventually I learned to rejoice when people are serving…regardless of where they are serving. I’ve learned to know when to let go. This morning I sent out the big “re-commitment email”…Whatever God does, I will rejoice in the results!