Three Unspoken Promises a Leader Makes

The end of the year is here and now is a great time to reflect on 2010, and how you did in all aspects of your life.

Not the least of these is how you handled this trust we all share called “church leadership” over the last 12 months.

It’s my prayer that none of us take our roles for granted (not now, not ever).

In fact, I just recently read a great article from Coaching Alum (and my friend) Hal Seed that deals with this very topic:

Three Unspoken Promises a Leader Makes
By Hal Seed

Stepping into leadership can be exhilarating and daunting at the same time. Newly-minted leaders find themselves asking, “Will people follow me? Will they like me? Will I be able to accomplish anything?” Those and a dozen other questions run through their minds.

Meanwhile, followers are asking a reverse set of questions. They want to know, “Is this person trustworthy? Do I want to follow him (or her)? Do I like where they are going?”

Underneath this unspoken exchange is a covenant that all leaders make with everyone who signs up for their cause. Like the questions, this covenant is never verbalized and almost never brought to the level of consciousness. But it’s there, and if you’re going to be a great leader, you need to own it and live up to it.

The leader’s unspoken covenant has three promises:

1. If you follow me, I will make your life better.

2. If you follow me, I will take you where you cannot go without me.

3. If you follow me, I will care about you.

When a follower decides to leave a church, cause, or movement, it’s almost always because one of these three promises has been broken.

Years ago, Kelly asked me to pray that God would give her a baby. Lori and I had experienced some years of infertility, so we knew the pain she was enduring. I prayed often and fervently, but, no baby. A year later, Kelly quietly slipped out of the back of the church. Promise #1 was broken: I hadn’t made her life better.

It didn’t matter that I was incapable of making her life better. Only God could have repaired her reproductive organs. A better life was the unspoken expectation. Without a baby, we had a breach of contract.

A more realistic expectation is that I, as leader, will take the Kellys of this world to places they cannot go on their own. Had Kelly stayed at New Song, she would have seen over 7,000 come to Christ, countless marriages and families helped, and lots of other divine interventions as well.

The easiest deliverable is the “I will care about you,” promise. Leaders often feel stretched thin, but when a parishioner is in a crisis, they expect you to respond. A few years back, a lady in my church lost her sister to spina bifida. Her sister (Diane) and family were long-standing members of Saddleback Church. I was impressed to learn that Rick Warren delivered on promise #3. He showed at Diane’s hospital bed a few days before she died. Promise kept.

On the upside, making people’s lives better, taking them where they cannot go on their own, and caring for them are why we got into leadership in the first place. One of my greatest joys is Scott Evans, a friend ten years my junior who two decades ago made the decision to follow me to San Diego and help me plant New Song. Today he’s the founder of Outreach, Inc., a company that serves churches and ministries nation-wide. He knows that if he had stayed at his computer-industry job, he’d be half the man he is today.

Another is Jim Britts, a man twenty years my junior who has served on my staff for the past nine years. Jim’s passion is youth, and he’s got a talent for screenwriting. He recently released his first film [To Save A Life], which is changing lives all over the world. Jim would have been a success at whatever he put his hand to, but with my encouragement, he’s achieved great things in both youth ministry and the film industry. Nothing could thrill me more.

As New Song has grown, I’ve found it harder to express care to everyone who’s following. Sometimes I don’t hear about people’s sorrows until long after the fact. But when I can look them in the eye within hours of their loss, or pick up the phone and pray for them, those small acts of care go along ways towards fulfilling our covenant.

It’s easy to get busy and forget the unspoken promises we’ve made. Now that they’re at the forefront of your consciousness, how are you doing on them? Think for a minute about the most impressive person in your church, cause or movement. Is your leadership making their life better? Are you taking them somewhere they couldn’t go without you? Have you expressed your care for them lately?

Unfulfilled promises can lead to deep disappointments, whether the promises are ever spoken aloud. But a promise fulfilled is a tree of life, and a great spur to even greater leadership. Because when a leader thinks about making lives better, taking them to greater places, and caring for them, well, that’s what Jesus thinks about and does for each of his followers..

Hal Seed

How are you doing with these three promises?  How to do you plan to “take people where they can’t go without you” in 2011?

Do you have a plan to keep growing personally, so you can help your people keep growing?

Would you consider allowing me to help you grow in 2011? My new Senior Pastor Tele-Coaching Network begins February 24, but the Early Bird Deadline is December 31st (see the PS below for more details).

Click this link to read more and Apply Now:

P.S. Don’t forget – Apply for my Senior Pastor Tele-Coaching Network before December 31st and you can receive over $840.00 in Additional Bonus Resources, including:

  • The Breaking Growth Barriers Workshop OR Planning Worship Services for Life Transformation($499 Value)
  • Free Webinar Passes for all CLI Webinars between Now and February (up to $147 Value)
  • Autographed copies of Activate and Maximize ($47.97 Value)
  • Free Dinner for you and your spouse with Nelson and the CLI Team on the night before the September 2011 Live Event($150 Value)

$843.97 Value – Just for beating the rush – Submit Your Application Today:

Eight Ideas for Reaping the Fruit of Your Vacation Bible School

By Hal Seed

How do you measure the success of your children’s ministry outreach events?

Lots of churches sponsor programs that are at least partly designed to attract children who are not currently part of their fellowship. Vacation Bible School is a prime example. Churches put herculean efforts into drawing unchurched kids to their VBS programs. If that’s one of the purposes of your VBS, how do you measure whether you accomplished the goal?

At New Song, we have four distinct goals for our summer Bible camp:

1. Disciple the children of our church in an intensive, week-long program.

2. Develop leadership and ministry skills in our youth and adult volunteers.

3. Deepen our unity by asking members of every generation to serve together that week.

4. Attract unchurched families and enfold them into the family of God.

We accomplish our discipleship goal by holding a great VBS. We accomplish our leadership development goal through a good VBS staff training program, coupled with the on-the-job experience gained during the week of camp. We accomplish our intergenerational goal by recruiting teens, twenties, thirties, parents and retirees to serve. But how do we retain the unchurched families who attend our VBS? Thatis requires multiple capture strategies.

The Key: Building Relationships

In my experience, many churches put on stellar VBS weeks and hope that the fourth goal (of retaining the unchurched) will take care of itself. The truth is, most unchurched families aren’t thinking about attending your church when they enroll their kids in VBS. They’re either looking for an enriching place to park send their kids during a busy summer, or they’re letting their kids hang out with their friends at your church for the week. Church attendance may not be the last thing on their minds, but it’s close to the bottom for most of them. So, wooing the unchurched back after the VBS is over will take more than a great VBS summer program. Here’s the key: tThe majority of your unchurched VBS attendees will only return if you build a relationship with them.

Building relationships requires multiple contacts. Here are eight strategies we use to capture as many unchurched visitors as possible:

1. Greet parents every morning.

As parents arrive to drop off and pick up their children each morning, Wwe station staff members in the lobby to casually introduce themselves and make parents feel welcome as parents arrive to drop off and pick up their children each morning.

2. Give them an excuse to stick around.

We set up coffee carts and refreshment tables out front, so that parents who want to linger can do so.

3. Give them a reason to attend your church.

We make combine one of our weekend services into with the final session of VBS. At this session (which, for us, is our Saturday night service), we have the children perform songs they learned that during the week. Then, as I get up to speak, the children are dismissed for one last “special time” with their small group VBS leaders of the week. In that meeting theyThe kids receive their a camp picture, a big hug, personal prayer, and encouragement to return for church the following week. (Note: Bbe sure to have the kids return and perform one more song at the end of the service. Otherwise, some of your unchurched parents will grab their kids after the performance and leave skip this final time, and you’ll miss the opportunity to bring them the Word of God and fully sample your service.)

4. Preach a relevant message.

While the kids are with their counselorsVBS leaders, I preach a biblical message on parenting. I want our visiting parents to know that God, the Bible, and the church can provide them with practical help. Make sure to have everyone in the service complete your “Connection Card”; this will help you gain contact information for your guests without making them feel singled out.

5. Exceed their expectations.

At the end of the service, we offer a free copy of The God Questions, Gift Edition to all newcomers as a way of saying “thank you” for coming and trusting their children to us. The God Questions, Gift Edition is a simple, 45 minute read that answers the questions they’re may have asking about God. The book is valuable to them, and (at $1.99 per copy, it’s), inexpensive for us. Since it’s a gift book, I offer to sign it on the gift page for them at the end of the service. This gives me a chance to meet each parent, get their name, look them in the eye and ask, “So, do you have questions about God?” I then say, “This is a really good place to get your questions answered. I hope you’ll come back next weekend.”

6. Exceed their expectations again.

Immediately following this service, we hold a party in the lobby. The tables full of finger food provide turbulence, slowing the guests down and enticinge them to munch and mingle. We make sure plenty of staff and volunteers are there, graciously introducing themselves.

7. Add them to your newcomers list.

Since these new guests have filled out a Connection Card during the service, we are able to send them our normal usual first time guest letter and follow them up with them like all we would our other weekend guests. Being part of our database means they’ll begin receiving weekly emails from me about what God is up to in our church, another step in helping them feel like part of the church family.

8. Provide a reason to return.

We offer an incentive to return a second time by scheduling a family-oriented event a few weeks out after VBS ends. Then we’ll andpromote the event during the service and send them a personaln invitation ten days ahead of time.

None of these steps happen by accident. They require thought, prayer, and planning. VBS is such a fruitful harvesting opportunity for us that we ask our whole staff to participate in some way. We try to refine this process every year, and every time we do, we see a higher percentage of unchurched families return, give their lives to Christ, and join the church.

A few guests begin attending the very next week. A larger number return two to four weeks later. Most unchurched people can’t fathom attending church every weekend, so this pattern is normal. Still others come the first time I do a series on family, marriage, or parenting, which can be months later. This spring, a family walked up to my wife and said, “We came for VBS last summer, . nNow we’re back for church.!” It took them nine months, but today they are now fully engaged Christ-followers, growing in their faith and looking forward to inviting friends to this year’s VBS.

The Principle: Thinking on Two Levels

A gifted speaker can get dozens of children to raise their hands and pray a prayer at the end of a good week of camp, but that shouldn’t be our the goal. Jesus desires fruit that remains. Therefore, whenever possible, build systems that attract people to not just to attend your programs, but to become fully participating members of your church. To do this, you’ll need to think on two levels about your outreach events. Level oOne is coordinating and presenting the event itself.; Level t Two is capturing the unchurched who attend the event. You will change your the paradigm and approach to of all your church’s event-planning if you measure an event’s success not by how many pre-believers show up for it, but by how many of thempreviously pre-believers are become regularly attending members of your church six to nine months afterward.

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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church growth strategist, pastor, church planter and coach, consulting with churches around the world. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has personally trained more than 3,500 church leaders in over 45 denominations through live events, seminars and monthly coaching. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in Boca Raton, FL. Nelson and his church routinely appear on lists such as “The 50 Most Influential Churches” and “The 25 Most Innovative Leaders.” He is the author of over 100 church growth resources and 18+ books, including The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life, Ministry and The Difference Maker: Using Your Everyday Life for Eternal Impact, and At the Cross with the People Who Were There. He and his wife, Kelley, have one son, Alexander.

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