Trending: More Business Executives Caught Going to Prison

Sandra Dillon: December 13, 2017


Darin and Sandi Caught Good 2017-12-07

Business Executives Caught For Being Good

I heard a statistic that the top three fears that people have are (1) public speaking, (2) public dancing, and (3) going to prison. If true, I guarantee that the thousands of business executives, who have paused from their work schedules to volunteer with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), would wholeheartedly disagree with that third claim. In fact, I would bet they would say spending a day in prison with PEP men is more fulfilling than the work they do and successes they’ve had.

If you don’t believe me, I’ll let photos tell the stories that words cannot describe. PEP was founded in May 2004 and operates exclusively in the Texas prison system. Their first class started at the Hamilton Unit in Bryan, Texas, and then in 2008 moved to the Cleveland Correctional Facility, north of Houston, which is where many of my colleagues and friends volunteer.Graduates of this program receive a certificate from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, but the PEP men aren’t learning only business skills. They will tell you the most challenging part of the program is Leadership Academy, where they do a deep personal dive into character and come out transformed men. The program starts with leadership, because people cannot be successful in business long-term without having a solid foundation of character underpinning their decisions and actions.

If you want to learn more about this program which is transforming men, families, and communities, I’d love to introduce you to the PEP Chief Empowerment Officer (CEO), Bert Smith, and his senior leadership staff. Even better, I would love to take you to prison, so you can hear firsthand testimonies from the men and servant leader graduates. Ask me how you can get yourself a Get Into Jail FREE card.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership, business development, and sales.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help organizations engage all their colleagues.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com.

The Lenses of Leadership

Bill Hybels: The Lenses of Leadership

Global Leadership Summit 2016

Bill discussed four types of eyewear that every leader should try on and decide how well the lenses are working to correct his/her leadership vision.  The first pair are the red hot passion lenses which beg the question, “Are you presiding over people or energizing people to get from HERE to THERE?” Studies show that a leader gets a Bill Hybels40% performance differential from motivated versus unmotivated people.  How does a leader get more passion? Passion is typically inspired by a dream, outrage, or extreme frustration which forces one to become an unstoppable force to create change.  When you put on your ruby red eyeglasses, how filled is your passion bucket?  Are you satisfied with the passion you have in life and how you are leading in your workplace and family?  If you are not satisfied, what are you going to do about it?  After all, it is the leader’s job to fill his own passion bucket and no one else’s.  If you don’t know where to start, pick up a book of interest, go to places that stir your soul, or hang out with passionate people.  Passion can be contagious!   Help just one person, and you will be surprised how your passion bucket begins to fill.

The second pair of eyeglasses to try on are the shattered lenses.  How many leaders are operating in or perpetuating a fear-based organization versus honoring people and building well-functioning cultures that are performance oriented!  Organizations will only be as healthy as the leader’s desire and intent.   Sometimes the shattered lenses are so close to the leader’s eyes that s/he cannot see clearly what the culture has become.  If the leader’s true heartfelt desire is to lead and love well, how does a leader get a true perspective?  If you are a work organization, you can hire an independent firm to survey the culture.  If you are leading your family, you can ask trusted family and friends for feedback without rebuttal or justification.  What many leaders forget, as they strive for results, is that God only values one thing—people.  God has entrusted leaders with his treasures—his people.  Sometimes leaders lose sight of the journey and its people while trying to reach a goal.

How can a leader both coach and support people to be all that God intended them to be? The first step is to increase self-awareness and expose their talents.  Some people have never self-reflected or taken inventory of their talents and don’t know where to start.  If you don’t know what you’re really good at, ask those who are closest to you.  Most of your friends, family, and coworkers have already done an informal assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. After all, they typically discuss this in small groups around the water cooler or coffee bar.  What can organizations do with this knowledge?  How about matching people’s strengths with roles that would take advantage of those strengths and minimize the impact of weaknesses.

The third pair of specialized eyewear are the performance self-adjusting lenses.  All organizations typically come together for a purpose, which usually includes setting and achieving goals whether formal or implied.  Companies have goals for revenue, profit, safety, and customer satisfaction.  Even families have goals such as raising healthy and independent adult children.  Churches have goals such as the number of people served or number of members who have joined.  In general, the speed of the leader equals the speed of the team in achieving those goals.   This correlation begs the question of how can goals impact the speed of the team and what adjustments do leaders need to make?  Bill professed that WCC was once a goalaholic church, with too many goals and not enough people to carry out all the good ideas and initiatives.  You can imagine the results from goal overload, because many of you probably work in that environment today.  Burnout? Feeling a lack of appreciation?  Life becomes more about the goals and processes versus the people and the relationships?  How can a leader adjust, get his/her team to perform at higher levels, and boost the morale of the team all at the same time?  These are not opposing forces; leaders just need to readjust.

First, let us break a myth held by some leaders, which is that people are uncomfortable with performance feedback.  Truth, people want to know that their senior leaders are proud of their progress.  Truth, people want to know how they are doing and where they stand.  Truth, people want clarity and can accept negative feedback, if the truth is said with the spirit of love.  It is essentially cruel not to provide goals and give feedback.  Second, if you can embrace these truths, the next step is for the leader to set the vision/mission for the organization and then ask the team what the goals should be.  Each department should be empowered to develop strategies, decide and own measurable goals, and celebrate the successes.  If you have too many or two few goals, you will not have clarity.  Entrust your team to find the perfect balance to prioritize and focus on the win.

What is in your leadership rearview mirror?  The fourth pair of eyeglasses that Bill perched atop his nose were the legacy lenses.  Have you peeked lately into your rearview mirror to see what you have left behind as you moved people from HERE to THERE?  At least on an annual basis, leaders should reflect on their legacy, self-evaluate, and learn how to do better.  Leadership is about energy, and Bill suggested drawing an energy pie to determine where you are putting your energy: work, family, church, community, others, etc.

God designed us to flourish holistically, and in many cases we are putting all our energy into our work.  How do you need to redistribute your energy across the pie slivers? What areas should remain untouched, which need a do-over, or perhaps one or more just need a make-over?  It is never too late to change the course if you act now.  Legacies can change in an instant, and the proof was in the simple yet powerful story of the thief on the cross next to Jesus who said, “Jesus remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And he [Jesus] said to him, “Truly I say to you, today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43).  As Bill reminded us of that short Scripture, he also mentioned that 43 prisons were watching this leadership summit live.

Regardless of your religious background, your profession, or your family status, everyone of us is a leader. Global Leadership Summit is a golden ticket for some of the best leadership perspectives, insights, and best practices to become a better leader.  If you get 5% better as a leader by investing two days at GLS, is it not worth it?  GLS will be hosted on August 10-11, 2017 at over 600 locations nationwide.  Visit https://www.willowcreek.com/events/leadership to learn more.

Leaders Are Servants


The Essence of Global Leadership Summit (GLS)

How do you summarize the information and inspiration that are captured and released upon those who come to Willow Creek Church (WCC) in Barrington, Illinois, for the annual Global Leadership Summit (www.willowcreekglobalsummit.com) or on those who choose to spend two days in a church, prison or other venue across the United States and Canada to soak in the wisdom and blessings via satellite streaming?  I struggle with how to convey the power of GLS to transform your thoughts, thinking, and behaviors towards becoming a better leader.  As Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek, passionately loves to say, “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.”  My response is, “Amen! I want to hear more.”

IMG_0340For those who may never have heard of GLS, let me briefly describe the value of this annual two-day personal investment of your time?  In a nutshell, GLS brings together leaders, who are moving forward, learning, struggling, and succeeding in their fields of leadership, who have a servant heart, and who desire to share with the world their knowledge, so people can become better at leading themselves, their families, colleagues, and their communities.  As such the speakers come from diverse backgrounds and cover leadership in faith-based organizations, political arenas, businesses, and other non-profit government organizations (NGO). There is something for everyone.  The messages transcend religion, culture, and lifestyles.

Past leaders whose names you probably recognize include Jack Welch, Jim Collins, Ed Catmull, Brene Brown, Tyler Perry, Carly Fiorina, Louie Giglio, General Colin Powell, Mark Burnett, and Condoleezza Rice. Many other speakers, who may not be as well-known as CEOs and celebrities, were just as impactful in their research findings and areas of expertise.  GLS 2016 did not disappoint and included some new and returning favorite speakers advancing new topics.  This year’s lineup included Bill Hybels, Alan Mulally, Melinda Gates, Jossy Chacko, Travis Bradberry, Patrick Lencioni, Chris McChesney, Erin Meyer, John Maxwell, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Danielle Strickland, Horst Schulze, and Wilfredo De Jesus.

In order to give you a taste of GLS, I have summarized and provided commentary on one key message shared by Bill Hybels.

Bill Hybels: The Lenses of Leadership

Bill discussed four types of eyewear that every leader should try on and decide how well the lenses are working to correct his/her leadership vision.  The first pair are the red hot passion lenses which beg the question, “Are you presiding over people or energizing people to get from HERE to THERE?” Studies show that a leader gets a Bill Hybels40% performance differential from motivated versus unmotivated people.  How does a leader get more passion? Passion is typically inspired by a dream, outrage, or extreme frustration which forces one to become an unstoppable force to create change.  When you put on your ruby red eyeglasses, how filled is your passion bucket?  Are you satisfied with the passion you have in life and how you are leading in your workplace and family?  If you are not satisfied, what are you going to do about it?  After all, it is the leader’s job to fill his own passion bucket and no one else’s.  If you don’t know where to start, pick up a book of interest, go to places that stir your soul, or hang out with passionate people.  Passion can be contagious!   Help just one person, and you will be surprised how your passion bucket begins to fill.

The second pair of eyeglasses to try on are the shattered lenses.  How many leaders are operating in or perpetuating a fear-based organization versus honoring people and building well-functioning cultures that are performance oriented!  Organizations will only be as healthy as the leader’s desire and intent.   Sometimes the shattered lenses are so close to the leader’s eyes that s/he cannot see clearly what the culture has become.  If the leader’s true heartfelt desire is to lead and love well, how does a leader get a true perspective?  If you are a work organization, you can hire an independent firm to survey the culture.  If you are leading your family, you can ask trusted family and friends for feedback without rebuttal or justification.  What many leaders forget, as they strive for results, is that God only values one thing—people.  God has entrusted leaders with his treasures—his people.  Sometimes leaders lose sight of the journey and its people while trying to reach a goal.

How can a leader both coach and support people to be all that God intended them to be?  The first step is to increase self-awareness and expose their talents.  Some people have never self-reflected or taken inventory of their talents and don’t know where to start.  If you don’t know what you’re really good at, ask those who are closest to you.  Most of your friends, family, and coworkers have already done an informal assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. After all, they typically discuss this in small groups around the water cooler or coffee bar.  What can organizations do with this knowledge?  How about matching people’s strengths with roles that would take advantage of those strengths and minimize the impact of weaknesses.

The third pair of specialized eyewear are the performance self-adjusting lenses.  All organizations typically come together for a purpose, which usually includes setting and achieving goals whether formal or implied.  Companies have goals for revenue, profit, safety, and customer satisfaction.  Even families have goals such as raising healthy and independent adult children.  Churches have goals such as the number of people served or number of members who have joined.  In general, the speed of the leader equals the speed of the team in achieving those goals.   This correlation begs the question of how can goals impact the speed of the team and what adjustments do leaders need to make?  Bill professed that WCC was once a goalaholic church, with too many goals and not enough people to carry out all the good ideas and initiatives.  You can imagine the results from goal overload, because many of you probably work in that environment today.  Burnout? Feeling a lack of appreciation?  Life becomes more about the goals and processes versus the people and the relationships?  How can a leader adjust, get his/her team to perform at higher levels, and boost the morale of the team all at the same time?  These are not opposing forces; leaders just need to readjust.

First, let us break a myth held by some leaders, which is that people are uncomfortable with performance feedback.  Truth, people want to know that their senior leaders are proud of their progress.  Truth, people want to know how they are doing and where they stand.  Truth, people want clarity and can accept negative feedback, if the truth is said with the spirit of love.  It is essentially cruel not to provide goals and give feedback.  Second, if you can embrace these truths, the next step is for the leader to set the vision/mission for the organization and then ask the team what the goals should be.  Each department should be empowered to develop strategies, decide and own measurable goals, and celebrate the successes.  If you have too many or two few goals, you will not have clarity.  Entrust your team to find the perfect balance to prioritize and focus on the win.

What is in your leadership rearview mirror?  The fourth pair of eyeglasses that Bill perched atop his nose were the legacy lenses.  Have you peeked lately into your rearview mirror to see what you have left behind as you moved people from HERE to THERE?  At least on an annual basis, leaders should reflect on their legacy, self-evaluate, and learn how to do better.  Leadership is about energy, and Bill suggested drawing an energy pie to determine where you are putting your energy: work, family, church, community, others, etc.

God designed us to flourish holistically, and in many cases we are putting all our energy into our work.  How do you need to redistribute your energy across the pie slivers?  What areas should remain untouched, which need a do-over, or perhaps one or more just need a make-over?  It is never too late to change the course if you act now.  Legacies can change in an instant, and the proof was in the simple yet powerful story of the thief on the cross next to Jesus who said, “Jesus remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And he [Jesus] said to him, “Truly I say to you, today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43).  As Bill reminded us of that short Scripture, he also mentioned that 43 prisons were watching this leadership summit live.

Regardless of your religious background, your profession, or your family status, everyone of us is a leader. Global Leadership Summit is a golden ticket for some of the best leadership perspectives, insights, and best practices to become a better leader.  If you get 5% better as a leader by investing two days at GLS, is it not worth it?  GLS will be hosted on August 10-11, 2017 at over 600 locations nationwide.  Visit https://www.willowcreek.com/events/leadership to learn more.

The Treasure Map in Navigating Business Cultures


How many times have you wondered whether the person you were talking with really grasped the meaning of your message as well as its intent? What was your response? Did you summarize your point again with the hope that this time they would get your message? Do you look for validation that you’ve been heard correctly? What does it mean when people just politely listen, say nothing, and gently nod their heads while you speak? The answer? It depends on the environment in which the person was culturized.

In this globally-based workforce with intertwined business relationships, the most effective and successful leaders will be culturally savvy. They will first understand their culture, the culture of those with whom they work, and adjust their style with specific strategies to bridge these cultural gaps. Although technology will continue to be an important element shaping the business landscape, those who understand how to successfully influence people across cultures will be valued and highly sought after by companies.

Early in my career, I experienced firsthand being part of American business teams who left negotiations with Asian companies, either questioning how well the meeting went or being overly confident in the outcome based on their own cultural lenses. Only when we returned home did we learn we hadn’t made as much progress as we thought. How can a team or even an experienced business person successfully navigate these international waters?

culture-map-book-coverThe answer lies in reading the treasure map of cultural behaviors, which Erin Meyer spoke about at the 2016 Global Leadership Summit (GLS) at Willow Creek Church. Meyer (2014) has studied business cultures and seen “the sad truth…that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work” (Meyer, 2014, p. 10). Meyer concludes that without cultural literacy your default position will be to judge or misjudge others through your own cultural lens and assume that differences, controversy, and misunderstandings are rooted in individual personalities.  The truth? Cultural patterns of belief and behavior frequently impact our perceptions, cognitions, and actions (Meyer, 2014).  In her book The Culture Map, Meyer defines the eight scales that map the world’s cultures and their location on the continuum.

  • Communicating: low-context vs. high-context
  • Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback
  • Persuading: principles-first vs. application-first
  • Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
  • Deciding: consensual vs. top-down
  • Trusting: task-based vs. relationship-based
  • Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoids confrontation
  • Scheduling: linear-time vs. flexible time

Today we no longer fly to another country to experience different cultures, because diversity sits in the office next door. You may be an American supervisor of an ethnically diverse group whose style reflects the United States Culture Map. Believing in treating everyone equally, you may be left confused when trying to coach each of your team members who come from China, Japan, Asia, and Eurograph-us-culture-mappe. You may wonder whether your coaching is making any impact outside of your circle of American colleagues. Your coaching style is likely straightforward with specific concrete examples (low-context) to back up your feedback couched with soft qualifiers (slightly indirect feedback). You probably sandwich negative feedback between two positives. Your Dutch subordinate expects direct feedback, so he may likely misinterpret the degree and importance of your message as he expects you to be straight forward with any negative criticism. You may feel frustrated at his lack of effort and progress in affecting change. Perhaps, you may even start to stereotype Dutch behaviors based on repeated experiences with that ethnic culture. It’s not uncommon for people to routinely experience a clash or misunderstanding of cultures. If we learn about culture, suspend judgment, and build bridges between these cultures to facilitate trust, communication, and ideas, we would harness the potential of every team member.

Giving and receiving negative feedback is a necessary component of business but sometimes riddled with insecurity for both the giver and receiver. How should constructive criticism be given and taken? How should feedback be delivered to get the best result? How much feedback is lost in translation? How do the words absolutely, strongly, kind of, and sort of play out when delivering criticism? The answer depends on the culturalization of the giver and receiver. Certain phrases and qualifiers have different meanings. Take for example a British colleague providing feedback to his Dutch counterpart. He says, “Please think about that some more,” implying “That’s a bad idea.” A Dutch or German colleague, who expects and is comfortable with direct negative feedback, would likely interpret that as “It’s a good idea.  Keep developing it.”

culture-map-tableIn business etiquette classes, we are instructed on the ceremonies which demonstrate respect. In Japanese business culture, it’s customary to exchange small gifts with visitors and present a business card with both hands towards the receiver who respectfully reads it upon presentation versus immediately putting it into his portfolio. Americans easily embrace these cultural mannerisms but fail to realize how communication and language may be used differently.

Frequently in my coaching practice, I reference scales ranging from 1 to 10.  Regardless of the attribute measured, when an issue between two people is greater than 2 units apart anywhere on this scale, the two parties will need concentrated effort to resolve their differences. Meyer (2014) confirms my informal conclusion when she states that “what matters is not the absolute position of either culture on the scale but rather the relative position of the two cultures” (p. 22). Relative positioning determines how people will view each other.

Meyer’s (2014) first piece of advice when interacting with someone from another culture is to “listen before you speak and learn before you act” (p. 27). Understand how culture will impact the conversation.  For example, the United States is the lowest context culture with Japan having the highest context in its communication. In simplest terms, the people culturized in America tend to communicate literally and explicitly. They value clarity and place accountability of the intended message on the communicator to accurately convey the meaning of the message (Meyer, 2014). On the other extreme, Asian cultures often convey messages implicitly which requires the listener to read between the lines. Good communication is layered and subtle, and the responsibility of its accurate transmission is shared between the sender and receiver. The Japanese have been culturalized over many generations to become skilled at “reading the atmosphere.”

I find it humorous that education can further exacerbate the cultural divide, by moving people more towards the extreme version of their dominant culture. Highly educated Americans are taught and encouraged to communicate more effectively in writing and orally and to take more responsibility for the messages they send. American leaders are typically rewarded for having and implementing the answers within their organizations. On the other hand, Japanese leaders are listening more to what is meant as opposed to what is said.  In my informal survey of American and Japanese business people attending a meeting, I find that at least 75% of the words spoken are by the Americans and 25% by the Japanese. The Japanese typically spend more time reflecting and reading body language and other non-verbal clues. When they do speak it typically includes more clarifying questions. Many times, my American colleagues have misinterpreted the meaning of a nod, assuming their Japanese counterparts are in agreement. In truth, head nodding is more confirmation of being heard.

In decades past, businesses have been helped by having teams take the Myers Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) (www.myersbriggs.org) and participate in team-building exercises to understand how team members prefer to communicate, process ideas, handle data, and make decisions. These business teams were more homogenized in culture, but today’s global business environment demands everyone to be equipped with a new set of skills that embrace diversity in the workplace. Meyer (2014) delves deeper into communication and evaluating than what I can do justice and also takes the reader through a journey to explore other important cultural attributes. Understanding, respecting, and working with the deep roots of various cultures will forge and strengthen relationships and performance. Culturally diverse teams will continue to populate the business landscape and every leader would benefit from learning more about cultural diversity and its impact on business success.

Reference

Meyer, E. (2014). The culture map: Breaking through the invisible boundaries of global business.   New York, NY: Published Affairs. ISBN: 978-1-61039-250-1.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a business and life coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She partners with clients to help them develop and grow successful businesses.  She also works with individuals to create their life plans and build better relationships by identifying and living out their personal values, enhancing their skills and competencies, and holding them accountable to execute their defined goals.   Sandra welcomes comments, questions, and feedback at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com.

Church-as-Business: Visioning, Missioning, and Equipping

Many pastors, missionaries, and laymen understand the Kingdom power held in the relationships of church-on-mission or business-as-mission.  However, many fail to acknowledge the power that can be unleashed when churches embrace the concept of church-as-business.  In fact, the concept that a church would be run like a business may feel unnatural, uncomfortable, and even sacrilegious to some pastoral heads and laymen.

wcom-emblem-2016-11-03People love church-on-mission, because the idea gives them a warm, fuzzy and satisfying feeling of doing good, being charitable, and aligning with the mission of the Gospel.   Most Christians think of mission as helping people in need, servicing the poor, making disciples, showing Jesus’s love, and preaching the Bible.  The concept of mission conjures up serving locally or through short-term mission trips across the globe.   Churches readily partner with missionaries, providing regular financial and prayer support to people who are called into full-time mission.  Churches extend their congregations’ reach by investing in those who are called to be the hands and feet on the ground.

In more recent times, the concept of business-as-mission has grown in awareness and popularity, as churches realize the Kingdom impact of helping third-world families and leaders develop sustainable businesses that bring economic health to impoverished communities.  The goal is to give someone a hand-up versus a hand-out—give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will feed himself for life.  Therefore, churches are sending teams into third-world countries to teach business skills and sometimes providing micro-loans with the hope of helping men and women start or improve their business acumen, build sound business plans, and grow their enterprises.

Church-as-business provides a third, yet important side of the triangle—a side that has been overlooked and missing from many churches.  Inclusion of church-as-business can propel church growth.  Why the general taboo in thinking of churches operating as businesses?  I have only theories.  One theory reasons that with most pastors and church administration educated in theology—not business, marketing, operations, and finance—they lack knowledge or exposure to understand the value of business principles at play within the church.  Another theory, is the cultural taboo associated with church and business—people should not talk about religion in the workplace, so perhaps the backlash is they do not talk or associate business with church.   A third theory is the preconceived ideology that church and business are compartmentalized enterprises with nothing in common.   Faith followers operate in businesses Monday through Friday, sometimes on Saturday, and Sunday is reserved for church service and other religious and social activities.  Our culture supports the separation of church and business based on old Biblical standards such as honoring the Sabbath, Blue laws and practices of not talking about religion at the workplace.

I contend that churches and businesses have more similarities in how they work and what they want to achieve than people may initially want to admit.  If my argument rings of any truth, churches can flourish by embracing many of the best practices identified, deployed, and further refined by businesses.  Although the product manufactured by a church may be different than a business, the strategy and processes are fundamentally the same.  With churches commissioned to grow disciples and businesses chartered to increase revenue/profit, churches can learn best practices in new business development from successful businesses.

For those who are not yet convinced that churches can learn from the business world, the table below defines the structural and operating elements which are unarguably similar between them with the only significant difference their output.

Focus Area Church Business
Enterprise Purpose Grow disciples Grow revenue/profit
Human Capital Members/Pastors Employees/Management
Compensation Salary/Bonus/Reward Paycheck/Bonus/Incentive
On-boarding Process Membership Classes Employee Orientation/Training
Human Capital Deployment Service/Discipling Job Responsibilities
Finances Tithing/Expenses Sales/Expenses
Infrastructure Church Facilities Offices/Plants/Warehouses
Consumers Community Members Customers
Marketing Sermon Series/Missions New Products and Offerings

Do you see the similarities in the building blocks and processes between a church and business?  Many churches, just like businesses, grow and then lose traction, slow down, and in some cases, go bankrupt.  Autopsy of a Deceased Church (Rainer, 2014) estimated that healthy churches account for only 10% of the church population, 10% are dying, and 80% are sick or very sick.   Rainer (2014) studied churches to uncover what makes certain ones thrive and what are some signs that a church is sick or dying.   Key signs of sickness include a congregation’s attitude that the best days are past, decline in worship attendance and tithing, programs and ministries which focus on members rather than outside the church, and no true sense of disciple-making.  Busyness and activity replaces meaningful purpose.  With these sobering statistics, I would expect a church to have an on-going self-evaluation process and focus on implementing best practices.

Don’t these key signs of sickness sound familiar to when a business struggles? Employees adopt a bad attitude, unmotivated employees frequently call in sick, management becomes increasingly focused on retaining employees with programs and rewards to the detriment of its customers. Employees lose focus on the business purpose and in cultivating customers. Businesses grow through innovation and a customer focus through knowledgeable, aligned, and motivated employees who understand and believe in the business vision and purpose.  They know their role in the organization and how they contribute to the goals.  Churches attract members when they focus on serving others, making disciples, and living out the mission of the church.

On the other hand, businesses suffer as customers leave and take their purchasing-power elsewhere; churches suffer when members take their tithe money and time to another church or at worst use it for personal consumption.  In the business world, studies run the gambit in identifying and quantifying the impact of best practices.  What can churches learn about best practices from these business studies? Although an internet search would likely provide handfuls of articles on best practices, I have my own list cultivated from my more than 30 years working and developing new product lines and businesses.

Leadership cannot lead unless they can define and clearly articulate for its employees and members the purpose and direction they plan to take the company or church.   First, leadership must develop a vision and mission statement as well as define the operating values that support the purpose of the church.   The vision must be detailed enough that it differentiates itself from other churches and provides a clear sense of direction for its members.  On the other hand, the vision must not be too specific that the boundaries constrain how God wants to empower and use its members.  Just as God designed individuals with specific spiritual gifts, so too has God breathed life and gifts into various churches to accomplish a purpose.  In my opinion, the weakest mission statements are those which are “motherhood and apple pie,” which deliver a feel-good message that no one can argue with and which appeals to everyone who passes through its doors.  An example would be “Making disciplines who are making disciples.” No one would disagree that should be a job assignment of every Christ-follower.  However, I expect with this vision many members would not feel equipped or understand how they will achieve that mission.  They do not even understand how they will know if the church is achieving its mission.  With so many questions, people feel left to their own devices and at worst never become truly engaged in the church’s vision, just taking from the church what satisfies their curiosity and spiritual need.

The vision and mission are critically important so people can make an informed decision to join the church, because that vision/mission resonates with them.  The church should set an expectation that all are welcome where they stand and will grow spiritually by supporting the defined vision and mission.  All churches cannot be all things to all people.   Better for a church, which is functionally its members, to define how God has called them to serve in this fallen world.  Churches are most effective when they can define what fits and what does not.  The vision/mission becomes the referee on how they will direct their resources when bombarded with endless opportunities and demands. What would be a solid and compelling vision and mission statement for a church?  If I had to describe what I would be most attracted to as a Christ-follower, below is what I would be called to join.

Vision

Build a transforming Christian army to love the world as Christ loves all

Mission

Coach leaders to crush their limiting beliefs, love who they are, and discover their identity in Christ.  This mission will be accomplished through the following:

  • Self-exploring to identify lies that are holding back personal identity and service and replace with the truth
  • Driving on world service in ways that show Jesus’s love to others and honors personal spiritual gifts and talents
  • Meeting people whether they are in their personal spiritual journey and providing information and encouragement to purse Christ as their personal savior
  • Developing and encouraging future world changes to organize and move out in service

 

The above vision/mission is detailed, yet flexible enough to move in many directions.  Visitors would have a clear understanding of what the church stands for, how it operates, what they could expect from the church in terms of support, and what would be required of them.   Hopefully, it would inspire versus confuse them!

The second most important church practice is to assimilate its members who are the human capital that fuels the outreach in the community and grows the church.   Many churches have a bunch of social and crisis-intervention programs for the congregation that attracts membership.  Caution!  All these services can be beneficial to support the rough spots in the lives of its members as well as attract others to Christ in the process, but leadership must be canvasing the landscape to ensure a healthy balance of services with their mission.   An imbalance can be a sign of a sick church.

Many churches host membership classes for those who are interested in learning more about the church or becoming members.  These classes typically provide a history of the church, explain what it is doing in its community, ask one to be part of the church, and then want to sign one up to a life or small group.  I believe a more sustainable method of attracting members is to provide the full landscape and plan, explain what the church expects of its members, and then explain how the church will partner with them to contribute.  Share the story that they are part of the story to create change and make an impact!  However, the message cannot be held at a high level.  Sell the story with enough granularity that they can see themselves as part of the team or solution.  Once they see themselves part of something bigger than themselves, the church can equip them or convince them they are equipped for action.  When people feel part of a mission bigger than themselves and buy in emotionally, their resources of time and money will follow.  Their excitement builds.

Many churches may successfully develop their vision, mission, and values, but fail to equip the congregation.  As in business, many strategies have been dead-on best in class, but the execution fell apart, and management blamed the strategy for failure.  Churches are not immune from the same malady.  Visioning and missioning is tough but relatively much easier than execution.  Visioning takes a finite amount of time and culminates in a final statement—it has an end; whereas, execution is an on-going fight for growth.  The process is fundamentally endless, and leadership may tire in trying to keep the execution ball moving forward towards the pins without it going into the side-gutters.

Many pastors preach from the pulpit on what is required by the congregation to meet its vision and mission.  First, there are requests, then more forceful pleas.  No one in the congregation disagrees, but they fail to act.  Using the former mission statement example of Disciples making disciples, everyone would agree that is an important vision for any Christian church, yet despite the pastor’s encouragement, the majority sitting in the pews feel ill-equipped to have conversation with non-Christians about their faith and Jesus. This post-modern world does not provide an environment conducive to Christians sharing the Good News with non-believers.  Most Christians are uncomfortable discussing their faith even if it means the church body does not grow (Rainer, 2014). Carter (2012) found that despite 80% of Christians feeling sufficiently knowledgeable to communicate their faith and believing they have a personal responsibility to share the Gospel, more than 60% have not shared the Gospel even once with a non-believer in the previous six months. Some have never shared their faith. These studies make the case that churches need to empower their members (employees) and provide tools, ideas, and perspectives that allow them to be more comfortable in talking about their faith and overcoming the barriers of inaction. Soul Whisperer (Comer, 2013) is a must-read for the current age.  Comer’s (2013) message breaks the long-held paradigms of evangelism and introduces more relevant coaching for Christians to share the Good News. Build a relationship, start where they are and not where you are, read what they need, and show them how God is helping you now, are all powerful ways to share the Gospel.

In addition to discipleship, members can grow in their spiritual walk by serving others. When someone asks me, “How can I find myself,” I have one and only one answer.  “Go serve.  You will find yourself in serving.”  Therefore, churches should have a variety of outlets for service.  By service, I do not necessarily mean greeter, parking guide, worship and service child provider.  Although these are important functions and membership needs to help with these services, the church should have service opportunities outside of the church that are aligned with the vision and mission.  These options should focus at a minimum within the local community, because this is the source of your new membership.  However, if the church’s mission supports a cause such as sex-trafficking or orphan care, the outreach opportunities should have no boundaries.

Does the church offer members a spiritual gift inventory?   Are there opportunities for members to apply them?  As the church grows, leadership should empower individuals and teams to carry the torch on various initiatives—similar in how businesses launch project teams with internal sponsorship oversight.  Success stories should be shared from the pulpit as a means of stimulating the quest for service.   Members are the lifeblood of the church, they are the church, and empowering them in a way to bring in new members by serving in their communities and sharing the Gospel is what the church should focus on.  Do we need another sermon from the pulpit to add to our knowledge or just encouragement to learn Jesus through serving?  Too many times I have heard, “Just one more Bible study and I’ll be ready to serve.”    We are all equipped to serve in one way or another exactly where we stand.   Our stories of service are our most powerful tools and what we use to harvest and feed ourselves.  Instead of being a spectator in the pew, be a world changer in the field.

Next, I will discuss my business thoughts in building a personal church brand and marketing.

References

Carter, J. (2012). Study: Most churchgoers never share the gospel. The Gospel Connection. Retrieved from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/study-most-churchgoers-never-share-the-gospel

Comer, G. (2013). Soul whisperer: Why the church must change the way it views evangelism. Eugene, OR: Resource Publications. ISBN: 978-1-62032-183-6.

Rainer, T. S. (2014). Autopsy of a deceased church: Twelve ways to keep yours alive. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing.  ISBN: 978-1-4336-8392-3.

The Scarlet Letter “F”


In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fictional setting of Boston in 1642, a woman named Hester Prynne must stand for three hours on a public scaffold wearing the scarlet “A” on her dress.  For what purpose?  So that she could be publicly shamed and humiliated for adultery!  For those not familiar with the classic novel The Scarlet Letter, adultery was against the law of the land and church but also an unforgivable sin whose sentence lived on until death.  Fast forward 375 years when adultery does not carry the same legal or societal stigma and where most surveys reveal that it is more common for husbands and wives to cheat than not over the course of their marriages.

Perhaps because adultery is so common, we have put the Scarlet “A” back into our pocket and now sew on a Scarlet “F”, as in felony, on every shirt lapel leaving prison.  Oh, we may not be as obvious about it in this politically sensitive world, but how we treat ex-felons, who have served time for their crime, speaks volume in what we think of these men and women.  Through our laws, community policies/practices and personal actions we have labeled these released prisoners (a.k.a. felons) with “F” as in “Failure.”   Did you know that when a prisoner is released from prison he gets the clothes on his back, $50, and a bus ticket to anywhere?  What is he supposed to do with those resources for his first night’s lodging and food?  Let’s get real.  What do you think happens next?  With no support he will likely connect with old friends who will help him back into illegal activity to put food in his mouth and a roof over his head.  And so the cycle begins again!  Statistics show that 50% of felons return to prison after 3 years and 75% after 5 years.  These are just the felons who get caught.  Why are these statistics so surprising?  They shouldn’t be.

What are the hurdles for felons who want to legally re-integrate into community?  Well, he has difficulty finding a place to live, because he doesn’t own a home.  He can’t live in an apartment complex, because management discriminates against all felons regardless of the crime, and probably, he can’t stay with relatives where he has worn out his welcome long before his prison sentence.  He can’t get a job, because he doesn’t have any decent clothes for an interview, but if he Sandi 1 Class 27did, when he checked the felony box on the application he is immediately disqualified.  What would you do?  I expect you are saying to yourself, “Well, he shouldn’t have gotten himself involved in crime to begin with?” Honestly, there is a part of me that wants to sympathize with that statement, but the other part of me knows a different story.  My other half will suggest that the difference between you and an ex-felon can be the simple fact of just getting caught.  How many times have you had one too many drinks, been legally intoxicated, and yet chose to drive home?  For those who made it home safely, we breathe a sigh of relief—no one was hurt or killed.  If you didn’t make it home, you might be in prison for intoxicated manslaughter.

So, you may think, “I see your point; it could have been me, but it wasn’t. Felons are not my problem.”  My reply is, “If you live in this country, it is your problem, because incarceration affects each and every one of us.”  Did you know the average annual cost to hold an inmate exceeds $30,000?  Did you know the real cost to the taxpayer is multiples of that when you factor in lost tax revenue on wages, welfare and aid given to families of incarcerated men, and damages from crime.  For those who are killed or harmed during a criminal act, I cannot put an estimate to the value of life and limb, but at a minimum, lost wages, funeral expenses, and medical bills could be tallied in the total cost.

So what can be done about this problem?  Well, the solution is not by any means easy or short-lived, but we can start by building awareness of the issue, investing in effective transformational programs, and crushing the felon stereotype.   The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP, http://www.pep.org) is giving prisoners the opportunity to change their lives for the betterment of their families and communities.  PEP sees the value of these incarcerated men, and along with other business volunteers, they all come along side those prisoners who are doing the hard work to transform themselves.  This program initially focuses on building authentic manhood and servant leadership and follows with building skills and training in business entrepreneurship.  When program graduates are released from prison, they have access to transitional living and support to help integrate back into society.  Over the past 3 years I have been an executive PEP volunteer and have seen transformed lives and returned dignity in the men we serve.

On April 1, 2016 I honorably participated in a kickoff session for another PEP class who were entering the authentic manhood segment of the program.  Today I received a batch of photos with thank you cards from those men with whom I had the privilege of spending the day in prison.  Yes, they teach these men how to write handwritten thank you cards, a much appreciated and overlook form of business etiquette.  When you see how hard these men work for their future, you can’t help but be inspired to partner with them in their walk.  If yoThank you cardu were wondering whether this program works, recidivism is < 7% after 3 years for those graduating from this program. For the fifth consecutive year 100% of the graduates secured their first job within 90 days.  Since PEP’s launch in 2010, 211 businesses have been started with 6 now generating over $1 million/year revenue.  That’s not failure—that spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S!

PEP is a non-profit organization operating only through donations and no government financial assistance.  The local Texas state correctional facilities welcome this program, because it works!  We can only hope that one day, the federal and state governments will fund and incorporate these concepts into the prison system as a whole.  You may not be in a position to volunteer your time or talents or to donate to this worthwhile program, but you can change the way you think about a felon.  You can start to break the felony stigma. Don’t rush to pin the “F” letter on a felon’s collar.  Ask questions.  Learn his story.  Offer support in a meaningful way.  Even the act of listening and empathizing shows compassion and can make one feel valued as a human being.  Like every one of us who has made a mistake, we hope to be judged not for who we were but for who we are actively working to be!  Embrace the PEP Revolution!


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a business, life, and marital coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She now coaches others in how to develop and execute their life plans, develop successful businesses, and build better relationships by identifying and living their personal values, enhancing skills and competencies, and being held accountable for executing their defined goals.