Actions Always Follow Beliefs

How can you help your church transition from passive worship-service attenders to active Jesus-serving disciplers?

The failure to follow the Lord’s command to make disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 stands as possibly the single most glaring act of negligence by the Church today.

This neglect has lead to many well-intentioned families to think of themselves as an audience to be entertained at the church, rather than an army to be deployed from church.

Discipleship must function as the heartbeat of church ministry inside of every Sunday gathering and ministry program.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Great Omission, by Dallas Willard

The last command Jesus gave the church before he ascended to heaven was the Great Commission, the call for Christians to “make disciples of all the nations.” But Christians have responded by making “Christians,” not “disciples.” This, according to brilliant scholar and renowned Christian thinker Dallas Willard, has been the church’s Great Omission.

According to Willard, the word disciple occurs 269 times in the New Testament, but the word “Christian” is found three times. The disciple of Jesus stands on the pages of the New Testament as the first level of basic transportation in the Kingdom of God.


A look across the church landscape today reveals an almost insidious assumption: that people can be “Christians” forever and never become disciples. People in many churches in Western culture look at the Great Commission as something to be carried out somewhere else, particularly other countries. The assumption is that we don’t need “it” because we are basically right to begin with.

That assumption leads down a dead-end path of totally misunderstanding what it means to be a disciple of Christ, and how to become one.

However we may understand the details, there can be no doubt, on the biblical picture of human life, that we were meant to be inhabited by God and to live a power beyond ourselves.

First, there is absolutely nothing in what Jesus himself or his early followers taught that suggests you can decide to just to enjoy forgiveness at Jesus’ expense and have nothing more to do with him. How could one actually trust him for forgiveness of sins while not trusting him for much more than that?

Second, if we do not become His apprentices in Kingdom living, we remain locked in defeat so far as our moral intentions are concerned. That is where most professing Christians find themselves today. People, generally, choose to sin. But, even so, no one wants to be a sinner.

Third, only avid discipleship to Christ through the Spirit brings the inward transformation of thought, feeling, and character that “cleans the inside of the cup (Matthew 23:25) and “makes the tree good” (Matthew 12:33). As we study with Jesus we increasingly become on the inside exactly what we are on the outside, where actions and moods and attitudes visibly play over our body, alive in its social context. An amazing simplicity will take over our lives – a simplicity that is really just transparency.

Finally, for the one who makes sure to walk as close to Jesus as possible there comes the reliable exercise of a power that is beyond them in dealing with the problems and evils that afflict earthly existence. Jesus is actually looking for people he can trust with his power.

Dallas Willard, The Great Omission


A mind obscured by excuses may see discipleship as a mystery, or even something to be dreaded. But becoming a disciple – desiring and intending to be like someone – is a very common thing. If we really intend to be like Christ, it should be obvious to everyone around us.

Evaluate the health and effectiveness of your church’s current discipleship ministry.

  • What percentage of people who are active in your church are currently involved in discipleship ministry?
  • What percentage of those are experiencing spiritual transformation?
  • Is discipleship contained within the large group of our church or does it permeate into small groups?
  • In what ways are people experiencing true relationships, a sense of community, because of your current discipleship ministry?
  • In what ways are you and others in your church becoming more like Jesus because of your current discipleship ministry? Which areas are lacking?
  • How effectively is your church’s discipleship ministry training believers to meet the needs of a hurting society?
  • How are new leaders being raised up through your current discipleship ministry?

Discuss the implications of these questions with your leadership team. Outline 1-2 strategic actions to take in the next 4-6 weeks that increase health in areas of discipleship.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 51-1, published October, 2016.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.


Great Presenters Connect with the Audience by Getting Personal

There is really no situation much worse than finding yourself caught in a presentation or conference where the person speaking has something important to share, but remains clearly unable to share it. Those moments are a great reminder that, in order to reach someone with the message of the gospel, we first must be able to capture his or her attention.

As a church leader, you may be confident and used to speaking in front of audiences of all sizes. However, truly connecting with people requires more than confidence and experience. Great communicators have a plan for developing their message to present it in a compelling and engaging way.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – TED Talks by Chris Anderson

For anyone who has ever been inspired by a TED talk…

…this is an insider’s guide to creating talks that are unforgettable.

Since taking over TED in the early 2000s, Chris Anderson has shown how carefully crafted short talks can be the key to unlocking empathy, stirring excitement, spreading knowledge, and promoting a shared dream. Done right, a talk can electrify a room and transform an audience’s worldview. Done right, a talk is more powerful than anything in written form.

This book explains how the miracle of powerful public speaking is achieved, and equips you to give it your best shot. There is no set formula; no two talks should be the same. The goal is for you to give the talk that only you can give. But don’t be intimidated. You may find it more natural than you think.

Chris Anderson has worked behind the scenes with all the TED speakers who have inspired us the most, and here he shares insights from such favorites as Sir Ken Robinson, Amy Cuddy, Bill Gates, Elizabeth Gilbert, Salman Khan, Dan Gilbert, Mary Roach, Matt Ridley, and dozens more — everything from how to craft your talk’s content to how you can be most effective on stage. This is the 21st-century’s new manual for truly effective communication and it is a must-read for anyone who is ready to create impact with their ideas.


It’s one thing to give a good presentation that your audience seems to enjoy. It’s quite another thing to create a unique, exciting, and memorable experience that has your listeners on the edge of their seats, and more importantly, ready to act.

Would you like to make a lasting impression on your listeners? What if you could design an experience that leaves them in deep thought, changes their worldview, or best of all, changes their lives?

In order to do something like that, you have to connect with your audience.

Knowledge cant be pushed into a brain. It has to be pulled in.

Before you can build an idea in someone else’s mind, you need their permission. People are naturally cautious about opening up their minds – the most precious thing they own – to complete strangers. You need to find a way to overcome that caution. And the way you do that is to make visible the human being cowering inside you.

Hearing a talk is a completely different thing from reading an essay. It’s not just the words. Not at all. It’s the person delivering the words. To make an impact, there has to be a human connection. You can give the most brilliant talk, with crystal-clear explanations and laser-sharp logic, but if you don’t first connect with the audience, it just won’t land. Even if the content is, as some level, understood, it won’t be activated but simply filed away in some soon-to-be-forgotten mental archive.

Five suggestions to make that vial early connection:

Make eye contact, right from the start. Scientists have shown that just the act of two people staring at each other will trigger mirror neuron activity that literally adopts the emotional state of the other person.


Show vulnerability. Willing to be vulnerable is one of the most powerful tools a speaker can wield.


Make em laugh – but not squirm. Audiences who laugh with you quickly come to like you.


Park your ego. The purpose of your talk is to gift an idea, not to self-promote.


Tell a story. We’re born to love stories. They are instant generators of interest, empathy, emotion, and intrigue.

Chris Anderson, TED Talks


To help you develop the concept of connecting with your audience, practice the following exercise the next time you are speaking.

A few moments before you prepare to step up to the podium or center stage to speak, pick one person in the room to focus on – for example, a young man in the middle of the room about halfway back.

Think about that man. What does he know and need to know in order to respond favorably to your message?

As you begin to speak, make eye contact with the man, and as you do, reach out toward him with an appropriate hand gesture. As you hand extends, your body will naturally follow. As you lean forward, your head will dip into a head nod, which will cause the man to nod back to you involuntarily. In order to maintain your eye connection with him, you will have to look up through your eyebrows, causing them to rise, making your features expressive.

When you practice the actions above while speaking, you are setting the tone for the rest of your presentation by making a connection to your audience.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 52-1, published October, 2016.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

What Happens When Your Vision is Too Rigid and Can’t Account for Change in the Environment?

Most pastors will invest more time on preaching preparation for the next month than they will on vision communication for the next five years. How about you?

That quick experiment is a great way to introduce a special two-part SUMS Remix devoted to the visionary planning problems you must solve.

Will Mancini, founder of Auxano and author of God Dreams, has never had a pastor disagree with him about the simple time analysis above. Most quickly nod with agreement, and understand that something is not quite right about it.

Of the many reasons (let’s be honest… excuses) given, one of the most important is that no one has shown the pastor how to spend time on vision planning. That’s what God Dreams is designed to do. Central to the book’s process is the Horizon Storyline, a tool leaders can use to connect short-term action steps with the long-range dream, while leveraging the power of storytelling to make the plan stick.

Vision Planning Problem #8: The plan is too rigid and can’t account for changes in the ministry environment.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – What Matters Now, Gary Hamel

This is not a book about one thing. It’s not a 250-page dissertation on leadership, teams or motivation. Instead, it’s an agenda for building organizations that can flourish in a world of diminished hopes, relentless change, and ferocious competition.

This is not a book about doing better. It’s not a manual for people who want to tinker at the margins. Instead, it’s an impassioned plea to reinvent management as we know it—to rethink the fundamental assumptions we have about capitalism, organizational life, and the meaning of work.

Obviously, there are lots of things that matter now. But in a world of fractured certainties and battered trust, some things matter more than others. While the challenges facing organizations are limitless; leadership bandwidth isn’t. That’s why you have to be clear about what really matters now. What are the fundamental, make-or-break issues that will determine whether your organization thrives or dives in the years ahead.
Solution #8: The Horizon Storyline allows for unseen changes. 


Many classic strategic plans assume that the immediate future will resemble the recent past. Anyone alive in the 21st century knows that this assumption is no longer valid. We simply must be ready to adapt to major changes in our world from culture and politics to communication and technology.

I’ve never met a leader who swears allegiance to the status quo, and yet few organizations seem capable of proactive change.

The Christian church in its various forms, and the great universities it spawned, have proven to be some of humanity’s most durable institutions. From the beginning, they have been missional at their core – but as change accelerates, they will have to become even more so.

As institutions mature, the positive thrust of mission diminishes and the pull of habit strengthens – until one day, the organization can no longer escape the gravitational field of its own legacy.

What’s true of churches is true for other institutions: the more “organized” and tightly “managed” they are, the less adaptable they are. Not surprisingly, the most resilient thing on the planet, the Web, is loosely organized and lightly managed, and so was the first century Christian church. The lesson here? To thrive in turbulent times, organizations must become a bit more disorganized and unmanaged – less structured, less hierarchical, and less routinized.

Gary Hamel, What Matters Now


On a chart tablet, make three columns:

  • Things we are presently doing, but should stop
  • Things the church should be doing
  • Things we are doing well

Take 15 minutes for the team to individually consider these categories. Have each person select his or her top two in each category and write their initials by them on the chart tablet. Do not allow comments until everyone is done and the list is complied.

Talk through each item and rank the list. Be sure to include the “whys” and “why nots” in your discussions. After the exercise, discuss what action steps, if any, should be taken.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 48-3, published July 2016.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

How Do Great Leaders Keep Their Team Focused and Execute Decisions Well?

What’s at stake if teams don’t make better team decisions? From a long list of potential answers, four stand out:

  • Lost time: Poor team decision-making simply burns more time. It may be more time in the meeting itself, because there were no collaboration guidelines. Perhaps it’s lost time outside of the meeting in hallway conversations, because ideas weren’t fully explored or vetted.
  • Dissipated energy: Poor team decision-making leaves questions unanswered and half-baked solutions in the atmosphere. We don’t know exactly where we stand or what we’ve decided. The thought of revisiting an unfinished conversation itself is an unwelcome burden.
  • Mediocre ideas: Poor team decision-making fortifies our weakest thinking. Innovation is something we read about but never experience. We cut-n-past the ideas of others, because we don’t know how to generate our own. We traffic in good ideas and miss great ones.
  • Competing visions: Poor team decision-making invites an unhealthy drift toward independence. No one has the conscious thought that they have a competing vision. But in reality, there are differences to each person’s picture of their future. It’s impossible for this divergence not to happen if there is no dialogue.

So, how do you start to create a dynamic of collaborative decision-making?

Utilizing cognitive diversity.

A groundbreaking book that sheds new light on the vital importance of teams as the fundamental unit of organization and competition in the global economy.

Offering vivid reports of the latest scientific research, compelling case studies, and great storytelling, Team Genius shows managers and executives that the planning, design, and management of great teams no longer have to be a black art. It explores solutions to essential questions that could spell the difference between success and obsolescence.

Throughout, Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone share insights and real-life examples gleaned from their careers as journalists, analysts, investors, and globetrotting entrepreneurs, meeting successful teams and team leaders to reveal some “new truths”:

  • The right team size is usually one fewer person than what managers think they need.
  • The greatest question facing good teams is not how to succeed, but how to die.
  • Good “chemistry” often makes for the least effective teams.
  • Cognitive diversity yields the highest performance gains—but only if you understand what it is.
  • How to find the “bliss point” in team intimacy—and become three times more productive.
  • How to identify destructive team members before they do harm.
  • Why small teams are 40 percent more likely to create a successful breakthrough than a solo genius is.
  • Why groups of 7 (± 2), 150, and 1,500 are magic sizes for teams.


Teams—we depend on them for both our professional success and our personal happiness. But isn’t it odd how little scrutiny we give them? The teams that make up our lives are created mostly by luck, happenstance, or circumstance—but rarely by design. In trivial matters—say, a bowling team, the leadership of a neighborhood group, or a holiday party committee—success by serendipity is already risky enough. But when it comes to actions by fast-moving start-ups, major corporations, nonprofit institutions, and governments, leaving things to chance can be downright dangerous.

Research has concluded that people think differently from one another. But even when we accept that fact, few leaders give it much consideration when teams are formed. As a result, everything looks good on paper, the team members’ talents dovetail neatly, everyone gets along well and yet in action, the team just doesn’t work.

When it comes to teams, traditional definitions of “diversity” are meaningless. Cognitive diversity – how people think – is all that matters.

“Dream teams” don’t always perform as well as teams composed of lesser players who exhibit great chemistry do. All effective teams include individuals who can function together as the “brain systems” required to achieve the group’s task.

It’s not enough for resumes and personalities to match. In fact, doing so may be the worst thing you can do. Given the choice of a team that is a rainbow of races and cultures but whose members all went to the same or similar universities, and a team entirely composed of African American women (or Asian men) of different ages, classes, educations, and personality types, you are far more likely to have success with the latter.

To help foster this concept, leaders need to:

  • Know their own preferences, weaknesses, strengths, and understand how their own style can stifle creativity.

  • Help team members learn and acknowledge their intellectual preferences and differences.

  • Keep project goals front and center, and schedule time for divergent thinking (generating multiple options) and convergent thinking (focusing on a single option and its implementation).

  • Devise guidelines in advance for working together. For example, establish a rule (and get team members’ agreement) up front that any conflicts will not get personal and that any reasons for disagreements will always be stated.

Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone, Team Genius


When your team is stuck and can’t decide on moving forward, try the following exercise to evaluate ideas according to their level of innovation, their desirability, and feasibility.

  1. Write the idea or decision to be made on a chart tablet, and divide your team into three groups. Here’s the kicker: As leader of the team, try your best to place members of your team into groups that would not be their first choice. Give them 30 minutes to do their group work.
  2. The first group evaluates innovation – is the idea new? The group should evaluate the idea as:
    1. Disruptively new (might cause major consequences)
    2. Totally new (people might become familiar without major consequences)
    3. Improvement (improves something in a way people haven’t noticed before)
  3. The second group evaluates the desirability. Do people want this idea? What kind of needs are fulfilled? Evaluate the ideas as:
    1. Proof of need and desire – there is evidence of need and desire
    2. Assumed need and desire – there are high chances of need and desire
    3. Unknown need and desire.
  4. The third group will evaluate the feasibility. How will the idea be developed? Evaluate the idea as:
    1. Highly feasible
    2. Moderately feasible
    3. Not feasible
  5. At the conclusion of the group discussion period, bring everyone together and have each group report the highlights of their discussion, listing them on the chart tablet in the three areas of innovation, desirability, and feasibility.
  6. Utilize the newly discovered information to move forward with your idea or action.

The above exercise was adapted from 75 Tools for Creative Thinking, Booreiland

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 49-3, published September 2016.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

Photo by Climate KIC on Unsplash

Is Your Vision Caged on Paper?

Most pastors will invest more time on preaching preparation for the next month than they will on vision communication for the next five years. How about you?

That quick experiment is a great way to introduce a special two-part SUMS Remix devoted to the visionary planning problems you must solve.

Will Mancini, founder of Auxano and author of God Dreams, has never had a pastor disagree with him about the simple time analysis above. Most quickly nod with agreement, and understand that something is not quite right about it.

Of the many reasons (let’s be honest… excuses) given, one of the most important is that no one has shown the pastor how to spend time on vision planning. That’s what God Dreams is designed to do. Central to the book’s process is the Horizon Storyline, a tool leaders can use to connect short-term action steps with the long-range dream, while leveraging the power of storytelling to make the plan stick.

Vision Planning Problem #1: You craft a vision statement, but it’s not meaningful enough to talk about after it’s been written.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Illuminate, by Nancy Duarte


With these words, Apple Inc., and its leader, Steve Jobs, catalyzed a movement. Whenever Jobs took the stage to talk about new Apple products, the whole world seemed to stop and listen. That’s because Jobs was offering a vision of the future. He wanted you to feel what the world might someday be like, and trust him to take you there.

As a leader, you have the same potential to not only anticipate the future and invent creative initiatives, but to also inspire those around you to support and execute your vision.

In Illuminate, acclaimed author Nancy Duarte and communications expert Patti Sanchez equip you with the same communication tools that great leaders like Jobs, Howard Schultz, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to move people. Duarte and Sanchez lay out a plan to help you lead people through the five stages of transformation using speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols.

This visual and accessible communication guidebook will show you how Apple, Starbucks, IBM, charity:water, and others have mobilized people to embrace bold changes. To envision the future is one thing, getting others to go there with you is another. By harnessing the power of persuasive communication you, too, can turn your idea into a movement. 

Solution #1: The Horizon Storyline will teach everybody to use vision everyday.


As crazy as it seems, the problem listed above <<repeat problem>> is a common experience. The words become “caged” on paper after the vision retreat or committee meeting. The problem is that vision transfers through people, not paper.

The visionary leader must also be a cultural architect. Transforming the future is made possible because the cultural perspective is held in conscious view. While it’s possible to communicate your vision in many ways, the spoken word has the ability to grip hearts in a way no other medium can.

Only when you pull people together in a room are you able to create a unique opportunity for human connection. Speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols become your unique torchbearer kit to help communicate your dream in a compelling and desirable way, helping your travelers long for and help achieve it.

Deliver Speeches

When you deliver a speech, you have the opportunity to explain your ideas and directly address resistance to change. By contrasting the current situation (what is) with the improved reality travelers will enjoy if they embrace your dream (what could be), you’ll be able to make the future more alluring than the present.

Tell Stories

Whereas speeches structurally move back and forth between the present and the future, a story follows a single protagonist’s transformation. We remember stories because they connect our hearts and minds to an idea.

Hold Ceremonies

Ceremonies fulfill a need to express emotion collectively resulting in communal catharsis. Ceremonial acts help travelers envision new behavior or purge old mindsets so they can move forward unencumbered. Use ceremonies to mark important transitions to provide your troops the opportunity for community and commitment.

Use Symbols

Symbols are ordinary artifacts that take on meaning because they were part of a speech, story, or ceremony. They express ideas and emotions in concentrated form. Because of their resonance, symbols become the visual language of a social group. They express people’s thoughts, feelings, and values in a shorthand and sometimes highly charged way.

Nancy Duarte, Illuminate


At your next leadership team meeting, break the team into four groups. Each group will write a compelling story describing what you would like the church to become in the next three to five years. Start the story with “Once upon a time,” and be sure to reveal heroes, villains, battles and victories.

Instruct the teams to utilize all four of the methods listed above. Be sure to give as much detail as possible.

When completed, do these three steps for each:

  1. Have each group read their story for the rest of the team.
  2. Ask the other teams to specifically name what possible outcome or reality described that they like best or get most excited about from each story.
  3. Start a list of short-term actions that are do-able first steps to see that dream become a reality.

Now prioritize the first four action initiatives, assigning a key leader and completion date to each. For more on developing short-term action initiatives refer to Chapter 17 in God Dreams.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 47-1, published July 2016.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

Develop Specific Team Training to Produce Engaged and Guest-Focused Leaders

How does Disney develop the world’s most engaged, loyal, and Guest-centric employees, year after year?

The simple explanation for Disney’s success can be attributed to the levels of support and clarity of purpose found in Disney’s employee training.

Training cannot be limited to ‘Here’s what you need to do, now go do it.’ That’s not good enough.Training needs to instill a spirit, a feeling, an emotional connection.Training means creating an environment of thinking and feeling.

– Van France, founder of Disney University

The message from Van France and the many who worked with him is unwavering. Success is predicated on the following:

  • Having a seat at the leadership table
  • Being a valued part of the organizational culture
  • Moving well beyond providing merely short-lived programs
  • Being incessantly creative and willing to try new approaches to keep the message relevant, fresh, and engaging

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Disney Uby Doug Lipp

When it comes to world-class employees, few organizations rival Disney. Famous for their friendliness, knowledge, passion, and superior customer service, Disney’s employees have been fueling the iconic brand’s wild success for more than 50 years.

How has Disney succeeded in maintaining such a powerful workforce for so many years? Why are so many corporations and executives drawn to study how Disney continues to exemplify service and leadership standards?

The Disney University, founded by Van France, trains the supporting cast that helps create the world-famous Disney Magic. Now, for the first time, the secrets of this exemplary institution are revealed. In Disney U, Doug Lipp examines how Van perpetuated Walt Disney’s timeless company values and leadership lessons, creating a training and development dynasty. It contains never-before-told stories from numerous Disney legends. These pioneers share behind-the-scenes success stories of how they helped bring Walt Disney’s dream to life.

To this day, the Disney University continues to turn out some of the most engaged, loyal, and customer-centered employees the business world has ever seen. Using the lessons outlined in Disney U will set your organization on a path of sustained success.


After Disneyland had been open for seven years, Van realized the 1955 model of orientation and cast member training that had been so successful during Disneyland’s early years was no longer sufficient. He faced a paradox: preserving the past while preparing for the future.

France knew that he needed to identify and preserve the components of orientation and training that had led to such heady success during Disneyland’s first seven years:

  • Friendly environment
  • Creative presentations
  • Useful content

He had to balance these fundamentals while preparing cast members – including managers – for a much more complex future, driven by the following factors:

  • Consistency – everyone must attend the new-hire orientation program
  • Systems – specific on-the-job training must follow the orientation program
  • Continuing education – supervisors and managers needed leadership and communication- skills training

The time was right for Van to build a bridge to the future of training for Disneyland. The time was right for the Disney University.

Even the lowest-tech, bare-boned and budget-challenged training program will get the job done as long as hearts and minds are captured. Training programs reflect organizational values and health.

Despite the resources at their disposal, too many training departments struggle to provide an educational experience that survives beyond the walls of those very classrooms or the pages of their training manuals. And too many training departments fail to get employees’ support of concepts, strategies, guidelines, rules, regulations, ideas and procedures presented during training. To overcome these problems, the heads of organizations and training departments might first address these questions:

  • “Why aren’t the standard operating procedures of our company followed?”
  • “Why is it so hard to sustain the momentum we had during training?”
  • “Does the training team have a seat at the corporate table?”

The content of training programs, the individuals who teach, the employees who attend, and the way employees are supported outside the classroom reveal much about organizational culture. Many organizations would benefit by simply looking at what their training activities (or lack of training activities) are telling them.

1) Is innovation encouraged? To what extent is creative, out-of-the-box thinking fostered, both in the training environment and on the job?

2) Is organizational support found at every level? Are leaders, from C-level executives to front-line supervisors, aligned with the training team? Is their support overt and enthusiastic? Do Operations and Training staff collaborate to ensure effectiveness of content and delivery methods?

3) Is employee education valued and non-negotiable? Or, is training the first thing cut when budgets are tight?

4) Is entertainment incorporated into training and education initiatives? Is training engaging and practical? Are experiential training techniques that have enough “shock value” (simulations, role-plays, exercises) employed to get maximum involvement from all trainees … even the introverts? Entertainment, effectively used, has a place in virtually any training environment; it helps transform theory into action and boring into memorable.

Yes, the Disney University benefits from having iconic mascots such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. More important, the Disney University enjoys the Four Essentials outlined above. How many of these Essentials does your training team enjoy?

– Doug Lipp, Disney U


What Are Your Circumstances?

Identify: How do you set the stage for success to ensure sustained enthusiasm for team development?

  • What values in your organization are nonnegotiable? Identify them.
  • Why are those values in place?
  • What benefits do the values provide your organization and team members, even the parking lot greeters?
  • Which values are the strongest? Which are the weakest?

Apply: How are the values of your organization brought to life?

  • How are they communicated to team members? How often? By whom?
  • Does everyone know the values?
  • What happens when these values aren’t upheld? Are there consequences? Exceptions?
  • How can the values be more effectively conveyed throughout your organization?

Training leaders to be Guest-focused has to be an inside-out proposition (starting from your core values) with top-down implementation starting from your senior leadership team. Set aside time in your next team meeting to review your values and craft a next step for including Guest welcoming training as you:

  • Hire new staff;
  • Meet regularly with staff and leadership teams;
  • Recruit new volunteers in each ministry;
  • Welcome members into your church

We have drawn exclusively from the Disney organization to demonstrate how to create a memorable Guest Experience because they are an unquestioned leader in creating an unforgettable first impression. We understand why some organizations may be reluctant to use these concepts, but take a moment to think beyond the Disney organization to focus on the potential impact of the principles suggested above.

Creating a memorable Guest Experience is an important first step in your next first-time Guest returning again, and prayerfully realizing the transformational power of Jesus Christ as a fully-involved member of your church.

Taken from SUMS Remix 20-3, published August 2015

This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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Do Your Guest Experience Teams Understand the Power of a Smile?

What might be going through the minds of your Guests as they walk from the parking lot and into the worship environment of your church for the first time?

Are they nervous? Have they been on campus before? Is it obvious where to enter the building and which door leads into the sanctuary? Are they having a tough morning? Do they see anyone else? Did they have trouble finding a parking spot? Is God about to do something HUGE in their life?

Think of the last three experiences you had as a customer in a non-church environment – how did it go?

Probably not very well, according to studies done by Experience International.

Could it be the teams delivering the experience were only serving to their expectations?

Could something as simple – but powerful – as a smile change your Guest Experience?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney, by J. Jeff Kober

Now in its 2nd edition, The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney brings forward new ideas–past and present–for how to take customer service in your organization to a whole new level.

See it from the eyes of J. Jeff Kober, a foremost leader in the best business practices of not only Disney, but some of some of the top world-class organizations. You’ll see concepts not only implemented by Walt Disney himself, but by the dreamers and doers of today–creating high-tech, high-touch experiences for new generations of guests. It will leave you thinking differently about how to approach customer service in your own setting.


The smile is the universal language of hospitality and service. When guests see a genuine smile as they approach, they recognize and appreciate your team’s warmth and sincerity.

Smiling is one of the best ways to create a positive first impression, as a smile is visible across distances, even before you have a chance to greet guests with words. Your body language begins with a smile, and what better way to convey to people that you are friendly and glad to see them.

The greatest symbol of traditional customer service is a smile.

Why smile? A large body of work has been done on why smiling matters. A casual look on the Internet reveals the following about a genuine smile:

  • Makes us more attractive
  • Helps us to change our mood
  • Provides us greater attention/ notice from others around us
  • Boosts our immune system and overall health
  • Utilizes less facial/ neck muscles— approximately 16 facial for smiling and some 43 for frowning
  • Lowers the blood pressure
  • Helps make people more successful in the long run
  • Helps us stay more positive
  • Releases endorphins that act as natural painkillers
  • Boosts levels of serotonin, which regulates our moods, sleep, sexuality, and appetite
  • Acts as a natural painkiller
  • Makes us look younger
  • Helps pave our mental attitude toward a better future
  • Releases a warmer vocal tone
  • Becomes contagious with others
  • Relieves our stress
  • Makes others more comfortable in our presence
  • Triggers certain hormones, lowering heart rates, and steadying breathing
  • Helps support our immune systems and fight illness
  • Helps us to live longer
  • Becomes contagious
  • Eases the tension in an embarrassing moment

If you want your team to smile, then you need to think about what it takes. A genuine smile represents what is foundational in an authentic display of courtesy.

Jeff Kober, The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney


As noted in the quote above, the power of a simple smile to change the attitude of both the person smiling and the person being smiled at is huge. Consider working through the following actions with your hospitality team leaders, and encouraging them to do the same with their team members on a regular basis.

When first meeting a guest, be personable and friendly. Welcome them with a genuine smile, eye contact, and a warm greeting. Rehearse this with your team and consider having a warm up for teams that have contact with guests. Consider it your “engagement calisthenics.”

Before you start your day serving, take a moment in your team huddle and give each other a big smile – just in case you forgot what it looks like, Next, try a frown, next anger, next confusion, and finally apathy. It is important for you to see what guests might see every day – and how it looks on you!

Put a physical and emotional smile on your face the first 30 minutes of every day. Your mind is a neutral instrument; it cannot differentiate between real and imagined. To physically smile and dwell on the positives of work and guests for 30 minutes will change your frame of mind, your outlook, and your mood.

Put a smile in your voice each time you greet someone. It will inject your personality into your voice as well as present a friendly attitude to those people you are greeting. Be sure to give permission to team members to comment quietly if your smile and voice inflection diminish.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix #46-3, published August 2016.

I’m proud to be a part of the Auxano team, where our 15 years of onsite Guest Perspective Evaluations with over 500 churches form the basis of the Guest Experience Boot Camp. Held on August 29-30 at The Cove Church in Mooresville, NC (Charlotte), the Boot Camp will provide two days of collaborative learning that will help your church develop its front line. Up to five members of your team can attend for an investment of $1,995 for the whole team.

Learn more and register here.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.