Archives For leadership

Henrietta MearsWednesday, October 23rd would have been the 123rd Birthday of Henrietta Mears.  In commemoration of Miss Mears’ impact and contribution to ministry, I thought it was only appropriate to share a passage of scripture that she often cited.

In Joshua 1: 2,3 God says to Joshua:

“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.”

Henrietta Mears led Hollywood’s First Presbyterian Church Sunday School from 1928-1963, founded Gospel Light Press (1933), Forest Home Camp (1938), and GLINT. I don’t think that Henrietta Mears would have wanted for us to eulogize her achievements or her memory—as the passage says “Moses my servant is dead.”   In the same way that Moses vacated his position as the visionary leader of the people of Israel and passed it on to Joshua, so did Henrietta Mears. We cannot, as glorious as our past is, we cannot relive our past.  But it can inform and inspire our future.  It must inform and inspire our future. Although Moses was dead, Joshua would now enter the land that God had promised and take it. Taking the land wasn’t some sort of “name it and claim it” process, it was real work. While God fought many battles for the greatly outnumbered and untrained soldiers of the nation of Israel, they were still required to take the land.

Miss Mears took this passage literally. When she decided that the resort that would then become Forest Home was what she wanted—people thought her dream was impossible.  But, no one advised Miss Mears except God.  She believed that a training ground was needed to train the next generation of leaders that would take the Gospel around the world.  In spite of how impossible the dream seemed, she took the land. She went out and walked the property and asked God for every part of Forest Home her foot touched.  Through the prayers and gifts of 100′s of people, Forest Home was purchased for $30,000 in 1938.   It seemed that Miss Mears got what she wanted.

Today, I believe for the organizations that Henrietta Mears founded and the church in general, that God will give us “every place that the sole of [our feet] will tread upon”.  However, I believe that it will require work.  And, I also think it requires a return to the principles that Mears’ vision and leadership were based upon.  Don Williams in a message to the College Department, in June of 1963, summarized the core of Henrietta Mears’ vision as four things:

  • a Christ-centered Gospel
  • a Bible-centered church
  • a Mission-centered vision
  • a People-centered ministry

Here are some quotes from Henrietta Mears on each of these.

On a Christ-centered Gospel:

Growing youth is a vine seeking a trellis.  If you do not strike a pole around which a vine can climb, and to which it can cling, then it will trail along the ground.  This is just what is happening to youth today.  They reach out the tendrils of their senses and desires, and finding nothing to lift them up they crawl along the ground.  Strike the Lord Jesus Christ as a stake in the midst of young life, and see how this Presence will lift the child.  His personality will become  an integrated one around this great Savior and Lifter of men.  Put a child’s face between your hands and lift it heavenward.  Let him see the Savior “whom to know aright is life everlasting.”  Let the Light of the Word shine into His heart.

[We] must continually point pupils to Christ and the necessity of a commitment to him.  Christ says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”  When we teach Him we teach everything.  We will never be satisfied until we see young hearts and lives committed, not to his teachings, but to Him.

On a Bible-centered church:

Do you teach the Word of God?  The Bible is the living seed that brings life.  We are born, fed, enlightened, equipped for service, and kept by the Word of God. Youth must know how to use this Chart and Compass.  Are you presenting the Word to each life and heart. Other things may be good, but this is the best.  Always specialize in THE BEST!

We have a statement that the Word is the seed.  This is what we, as teachers, will sow.  God has given us His Word but there is a false impression that all of God’s Word can be adapted to every age.  I believe the Bible clearly teaches that the Word contains “milk” for babes, “bread” for youth, and “strong meat” for men.  It is not all for everyone.  I believe it would be impossible to adapt the teaching in Revelation, for instance, to a six-year-old. . . . So there are portions of God’s Word beyond the realm of the experience of the child, but there is much that is within his grasp so that nothing need be substituted for the Bible in teaching him.  The Seed is the Word; this we know.  But good seed can be lost on the wrong soil.

We know there is nothing wrong with our textbook, the Bible.  It must be in the way we have presented the great facts and teaching of the Word.  When we consider the reasons for the tragic lack of interest that exists in the study of the Scriptures, we will have to admit that we have committed a spiritual crime.  We have made children say, “When I don’t have to, I’ll never go back to Sunday school.  There’s nothing there for me.”

On Mission-centered Vision:

Do you enlist for Service?  Are you helping youth find God’s plan for their lives.  We let them go out on an uncharted sea.  Let each one know that he is accountable to God for his life, and that the Lord has a place for him in this world.  What is more exciting than finding God’s plan in one’s life? Nothing gives greater satisfaction than the sense of building according to that plan.  Several hundred young people from our college department have found God’s plan for their lives and are today engaged in fulltime church vocations both at home and abroad.  But hundreds more have found that God’s will had led them into professions and business and the ministry of teaching.  Christ has all commissioned officers in His service.

Our duty is to enlist lives for the Lord and Master, and every opportunity is seized to accomplish this all important task.

We are training young people for world leadership in answer to Christ’s command, that they should “Go in to all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

On People-centered Ministry:

A good curriculum should be Christ-centered and child-concerned; the Bible should be our only textbook.  We believe that the child’s life experiences must be based upon the foundation of God’s infallible Word.  We must give him facts so that he will know how to build his life correctly.

Good curricula are written by those not only acquainted with the Bible but with the characteristics and need of the child himself.  It is just as necessary for the farmer to know his soil as it is for him to know his seed if he is to gather a good crop.  So the teacher must know the child’s heart in order to be effective.  It is important to remember that you are teaching children not materials.

The things that Henrietta Mears built ministry upon haven’t changed.  I believe future ministry still rests upon these four ideas.  What do you think?

Paper People Family BWAbout a year ago I was talking with a kidmin ministry leader and mentioned something about “family ministry.”  His response to me was, “Well, there are a lot of different opinions of what family ministry is, so I just don’t pay much attention to it.”  He spoke this as if that was all there was to say about that . . . end of topic. As I was thinking about his response, I began to realize that there has been so much talk about how to do family ministry (i.e. whether kids should be a part of corporate worship, whether there should be children’s church or Sunday school or not, whether family ministry means family events, or just having programs for every individual in the family) that most outsiders have confused how family ministry is implemented with what family ministry really is. This is not so surprising when most pastors think of ministry in general as a program–and, most kidmin pastors present a particular program as family ministry.

We are all guilty of confusing our models with our mission and our programs with ministry.

So, here is what I believe is true north as a family ministry leader:

Family ministry means that I spend equal amounts of time on two things:

  1. Creating a system that ensures that every child, teenager, college student and parent is connected with someone who feels responsible for knowing their next spiritual step and encouraging them to take it.
  2. Helping parents become active participants in their child or teenager’s spiritual formation.

That’s it. I run everything we do through that grid.  How are we helping parents become active participants in their child’s spiritual formation? How are we ensuring that everyone who walks through the door of the church is getting connected in a close personal relationship with someone who feels responsible for knowing their next spiritual step and encouraging them to take it?


StepsPeople are not born in crowds, nor do they die in masses.

It’s very easy to get caught up in our models of church ministry, a menu of programs or even trying to satisfy all the felt needs of people in the church. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter whether you call it Sunday School, small groups, Bible Fellowship, 101, 201, 301,401, 1 Million and 1. The primary issue is not what model of ministry or what program, but what is happening to people?

Have we created a path for the unconnected to get connected in a relationship with someone who sees themselves as responsible for knowing and helping them take their next spiritual step?

I think we sometimes spend too much time programming to move crowds through programs instead of helping individuals move to higher levels of intimacy in strategic relationships.  Because I don’t have experience with every model of ministry, I’m assuming some models are more relational than others. I’m just guessing, small groups are probably better at connecting people in relationships than classes. If a person focused on relationships they could probably make any model work, but some may require more work than others.

Bottomline: good Sunday Schools do this, bad Sunday Schools don’t; good small groups do this, bad small groups don’t; good Bible Fellowship does this, bad Bible Fellowship doesn’t; I’m not sure how classes do this, but it’s probably a good idea to evaluate our programming (whatever that programming is) on its effectiveness at connecting people in forward moving, spiritual-step-taking relationships.

Just because we have one or all of these types of programs doesn’t mean that on the other side of it people who participate in these programs are any closer to a relationship that will help them take their next spiritual step. Especially when we spend more time focused on orchestrating programs than orchestrating steps into greater levels of relational intimacy. In fact, there are probably programs in our churches where people can stall out relationally and yet feel like they are “winning” when it comes to church participation.

It’s tragic when church participation and spiritual growth represent divergent paths.

While I don’t think I have a complete answer, here are few things I think we can do:

  1. Figure out the best environment for people to connect.
  2. Make that environment the destination.
  3. Eliminate any programs that are not steps to that environment.
  4. Create programs that make stepping into that environment easy, obvious and strategic.

Apostle PaulMaybe the reason we have so few fathers, husbands, parents . . .  fulfilling their roles as spiritual leaders is because we have made spiritual leadership so inaccessible.

Here’s what I think spiritual leadership is:

Spiritual Leadership is assuming the primary responsibility for knowing what a person’s next spiritual step is and encouraging them to take it.

The Apostle Paul’s relationship with Timothy is often the place people go to define the relationship between a leader and a follower.  The Apostle Paul, an older more mature spiritual veteran, church planter, preacher, Apostle and Timothy, the young gifted, green pastor of a new church.  I love the beginning of Paul’s second letter to Timothy,

I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. II Timothy 1:3-12

The reason why I love this letter is because I believe it communicates exactly what I think spiritual leadership is.  Here’s a few observations:

  • Paul knows Timothy’s family.  He knew his mother Eunice, his grandmother Lois.  He obviously knew them well enough to know their sincerity of faith. Paul sees this same sincerity of faith in Timothy’s life.
  • Paul has an emotional burden for Timothy: “As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy”
  • Paul not only knows the legacy of faith in Timothy’s family but he recognized Timothy’s own faith and commissions him for ministry: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands”
  • Paul knows Timothy struggles with fear and he encourages him not be afraid, but to trust the Spirit.

Everyone needs someone in their life like Paul. Someone who knows them, knows their family context, knows where they are at in their faith journey, has an emotional burden for them and encourages them to take the next step spiritually.  That’s spiritual leadership.

Parent LeadersWe often ask parents to be the spiritual leaders in their homes.  It’s a daunting task–even for a family ministry pastor! I lie awake at night wondering whether I’m doing a good job at this–and I’m a professional church person! I wonder what the average parent thinks about it. “Is spiritual leadership just one more of the things everyone says I should do that I’m will forever feel inadequate at?”

I recently ran across a blog post listing the requirements of a godly parent.  Here’s a short list:

  • Parents must live a life which is above reproach, that is, be blameless, and have a good reputation with nonbelievers (1 Tim. 3:2); They must be faithful to their spouses (1 Tim. 3:2).  As parents display before the community and before their families behavior that is becoming of a Christian, they can truly be salt and light to the lost.
  • They must be temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, gentle, upright, holy, and disciplined, and those who love what is good (1 Tim. 3:2); As parents display the fruit of the spirit to the lost and to their children, the lost will be won and their children will gain from being discipled like Jesus.
  • They must not be given to drunkenness, or be violent, overbearing, quick–tempered, quarrelsome, pursuers of dishonest gain, or a lovers of money (1 Tim. 3:3); As parents exhibit godly priorities and character qualities their children will receive a clear idea of what Jesus is all about.
  • They must manage their own families well, and see that their children obey them with proper respect and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient (1 Tim. 3:4). As parents do these things, along with loving correction, discipline, and training, their children will be respectful and obedient.

If you grew up in church world, you know that this is a list of qualifications for a church elder found in I Timothy.  I’m all for being and doing all of those things, but I think my kids will probably be grown up before I get all of this right.

How do you define spiritual leadership?


If only . . .

June 12, 2013 — Leave a comment

if onlyIf only there were more volunteers, or I had a bigger budget, or more resources . . . Or if only this person would . . . or they would . . . or if only we had this space . . . or could do this event . . . or this program . . . or if only we could do it this way and not that . . . or if only the parents were more engaged . . . the volunteers were more engaged . . . the senior pastor was more supportive . . .  if only . . .

The problem with if only is that nothing is ever if only. If you got your if only it’s likely that things wouldn’t change much because change requires a plan.  If only is a hope, another form of waiting rather than doing something about it.

I love what Seth Godin said in his post today: “A plan involves steps that are largely under your influence and control. A plan involves the hard and dreary and difficult work of a thousand brave steps, of doing things that might not work, of connecting and caring and bringing generosity when we don’t think we have any more to bring.”

Where are you most likely to get caught in the if only trap? What’s stopping you from creating a plan to really change things?

Gaming the system is never the goal.  The goal is the goal.  Seth Godin


Todd Henry just posted his TEDx talkon his blog outlining the five areas we need to monitor in order to remain prolific, brilliant and healthy as creatives.  Great talk.  Check it out.

Pete FecteauAt any given moment I’m asked to solve a problem.

Right now some of those problems are:

  • How do we create a compelling environment for older elementary in a preschool space? (We use a daycare center for Children’s space.) How do we do this portably? (We also load in and out each Sunday.)
  • How do we engage 5th graders when our groups are too small to divide them from the younger kids?
  • How do we create consistent relationships with a rotation of small group leaders?

Leaders are in the business of solving problems. In fact, if there weren’t any problems there probably wouldn’t be a need for any leaders. But as a leader, ever feel like there are more problems than solutions? Or that your reservoir of solutions is pretty much depleted?

According to Todd Henry (author of Accidental Creative)—our ability to solve problems are tied to managing five things:

  •  Focus: Identifying what’s critical and eliminating distractions
  • Relationships: Working with others who understand the problem and committed to finding solutions. We are truly better together.
  • Energy: Managing the things that deplete our energy
  • Stimuli: Exposing ourselves to a variety of sources of information. You never know where a solution could come from, but it helps to have a plan.
  • Hours: Scheduling time to focus on solutions. Placing yourself in the path of a solution, rather than just waiting for a solution to drive by.

Your ability to create new solutions to existing problems is “largely influenced by your depth and breadth of knowledge in diverse domains of expertise.” (Todd Henry, Accidental Creative).

Our problems often demand taking the various things we have and combining them in new ways. Some call this creativity, I like to call it resourcefulness. It’s using what you have to get the job done. We do that by bringing all of the relevant information that we have at the moment to bear on whatever issue we are dealing with at the time.

A great way of ensuring that you get the job done is to constantly be adding to what you have to get the job done. Todd Henry recommends keeping a stimulus queue. Part of that is a reading plan. Here’s mine.

What do you do to ensure you have what you need to get the job done?


Ministry Best Practice from Troy Fountain, Lead Pastor of Wiregrass Church, Dothan Alabama. I promised Troy I would blog about this. So here goes.

Have you ever noticed that anytime you throw something away, a week doesn’t go by before you need what you just threw away?

Best Practice: if you throw something away, don’t empty the trashcan for a week. That way if you need it, you can pull it out of the trashcan. If a week goes by and you don’t need it—empty your trashcan.

This could revolutionize your ministry. I foresee that some tech savvy person could figure out how to apply this to digital files as well. :P

This is the best part of about conferences—nuggets of truth in the hallways. This is why I go to Orange Conference.

Much love to my North Point Strategic Partner friends