The Vision Room Launches Today

Auxano’s Vision Room goes live today.

For almost as long as I have known Will Mancini, he has dreamed of the Vision Room. When I first met him in 2008 at a conference we were both speaking at (courtesy of Karen Butler, editor of Church Solutions magazine), he was talking about it.

In dozens of conversations since then, he has continued to talk about it.

In February of this year, he was still talking about it – and in the same breath, asking me to join Auxano as the Vision Room Curator.

I’m still like a kid in a candy store about that…but, here it is:

You can read Will’s official welcome to the Vision Room here.

You can read my initial take on being the Vision Room Curator here.

Of course, I’m sure that will be changing as the dream has become reality…

But for now, the Vision Room is live and

 

Come on in, look around, but just don’t be a Guest – register your own MyVisionRoom and let me know what you think.

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The Guest Perspective

Along with Network Navigator Jeff Harris, I am onsite this weekend in Houston, TX, conducting Guest Perspective Evaluations for two clients. Jeff and I spent time Saturday cruising the communities around the two churches, conducting a “windshield survey” of the areas.  Even though we have also spent time in the digital world of Google Maps, it’s always great to see and experience first-hand the neighborhoods of the churches we are working with.

On my flight out from Charlotte early Saturday morning, I continued reading Andy Stanley’s newest book Deep and Wide. It’s a great book for a bunch of reasons, but I’m going to pull a few quotes out here for their relevance to what Jeff and I are doing today.

Every Sunday people walk onto your campus and determine whether or not they will return the following week before your preacher opens his mouth. And that’s not fair. But it’s true. The moral of the story: Environment matters.

Environments are the messages before the message. The messages your environments communicate have the potential to trump your primary message.

By the time I (Andy Stanley) stand up to deliver what is traditionally considered the message, everybody in our audience has already received a dozen or more messages.

The quality, consistency, and personal impact of your ministry environments define your church. To put it another way, your environments determine what comes to mind when people think about your church.

I think we should determine the messages our environments communicate. We should choose the messages before the message. It’s our responsibility to shape the way people view our local churches.

The moment a church, or even a group of leaders within a church, catches a vision for capturing the hearts and imaginations of those who consider themselves unchurched or dechurched, environments take on new significance.

The longer you’ve served where you are and the longer you’ve done what you are currently doing, the more difficult it will be for you to see your environments with the objectivity needed to make the changes that need to be made. The shorter version: Time in erodes awareness of.

Every one of your ministry environments is being evaluated every week. Based on that evaluation, some people choose not to return. Additionally, every volunteer and staff member is evaluating the success of his or her particular environment against some standard. If you don’t define what excellence looks like for your staff and volunteers, they will define it for themselves. And when you don’t like what you see, you will only have yourself to blame.

Stanley’s words are a powerful reminder of just how important your Guest Experience is.

I’ve got my talking points for the Guest Perspective Evaluation with the Executive Team:

Environment matters.

Time in erodes awareness of.

Those phrases, with several hundred images and about 5-7 minutes of video, will make for a very interesting time come Monday morning.

Washington DC Walking Tour

I was in Washington DC for the “Greening America’s Congregations” Conference on September 13. The conference was held at the Executive Office Building next to the White House, and concluded with a reception at the National Cathedral that evening. As I am a history buff, I took advantage of being in DC by staying an extra day and taking a quick one-day walking tour of some of my favorite memorials and museums.

Here are just a few of my favorite photos:

The US Capitol

 

The Wright Brother’s First Airplane at the National Air & Space Museum

 

US Air Force Predator, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – my son is a Sensor Operator on the updated version, the Reaper

 

US Capitol viewed through 2 of the 50 flags encircling the Washington Monument, being flown at half-staff in honor of the deaths of US Embassy staff

 

The Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool

 

Wall of 4,048 gold stars at the WWII Memorial, each one representing 100 Americans who gave their lives for freedom

 

The Lincoln Memorial

 

A tribute left at the Viet Nam Memorial

 

President Obama flying from the White House on Marine One

 

Vision Clarity at the White House

 

Watching the Scoreboard

Last night I was watching preseason Sunday Night Football – maybe not quite the real thing (the Panthers played their starters for the first half only; ditto with the Jets), but to the teams playing, it’s real enough. They’re out there to play well, help their team score, and be ahead at the end of the game.

Couldn’t you say some of the same things about the church?

Congregations have long measured success by “bodies, budgets, and buildings” – a record of attendance, the offering plate, and the square footage of facilities. But for growing, healthy churches, the scoreboard can’t stop there.

Maybe it’s time for a new scoreboard – one that reflects transformation, not just information.

LifeWay CEO Thom Rainer and LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer led one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind to understand what sets “transformational churches” apart from others. In their book “Transformational Church“, they take us to the thriving congregations where truly changing lives is the standard.

As a part of my responsibilities with Auxano, I am working with LifeWay and their Church Partners network. Transformational Church has been an integral part of their work for the last two years, so I thought it appropriate to take a deeper look into the material.

After distilling down their research, Rainer and Stetzer found three principles that were common to transformational churches. These principles transformed people to look like Christ, congregations to act like the body of Christ, and communities to reflect the kingdom of God.

In the first of a multi-part post on the book, here is a brief overview:

Discern

Missionary Mentality – church understands the community and will minister in contextually appropriate ways to reach local people with the gospel

Embrace

Vibrant Leadership – leaders showing passion for God, His mission, and its transforming power on people

Relational Intentionality – deliberately connect with one another; accountability, encouragement, long-term relationships

Prayerful Dependence – natural disposition of communicating with God about the hope for transformation; dependence on prayer rather than a program for prayer

Engage

Worship – expectancy; knew something great was going to happen; trusted God to deliver transformation rather than the musicians to deliver a good show

Community – activity of joining lives together through ministry systems

Mission – God’s mission to make disciples of Christ and to engage the world as Jesus calls; understand disciplemaking as the normal sate of the Christian’s life

Stetzer and Rainer develop these three categories of transformation as a loop that can be entered at any point.

 Principles of the Loop

  1. Connecting to the loop – all three categories and seven elements are necessary parts for a transformational ministry, but churches can begin anywhere.
  2. Cathartic Experience – the change to a transformational mindset begins with a moment of decision that is beneficial and liberating.
  3. Convergence of Elements – churches with transformational disciplemaking allow for a free convergence of all the elements.

Tomorrow: Discern

Listen to Their Story

Every community has a story – a unique story. Every community has a character, a “feel”, and an attitude shaped by its own peculiar events and circumstances.

courtesy switchboard.nrdc.org

courtesy switchboard.nrdc.org

Does your church want to make an impact on your community in a meaningful way?

Listen to their story first.

Don’t rush in with your plans and dreams and schemes for what you want to accomplish. First, you ask what’s the story? What are the real issues, the real problems, the real needs?

  • What are the unique needs where God has placed us?
  • How are these needs reflected socially, economically, ethnically, environmentally, politically, and religiously?
  • What arena of our community is the furthest from the utopia that God wants to restore?
  • What special opportunities are found within our immediate sphere of influence (within a half-mile)?
  • What burning issues are alive in the public’s eyes and brought to attention by the media?
  • What needs and opportunities do the industries specific to our area create?
  • What is the most significant change in our community in the last decade, and what need does this create?
  • What are the largest community events, and what needs or opportunities do they create?
  • Because of our specific location, what solution could we provide that no other church does?
  • How would we describe the “atmosphere of lostness” in our community?
  • What is the creation story of our particular community, and what insight does this afford?
  • Does the history of our community bring to light any spiritual strongholds?
  • What one positive change in our community would have the most dramatic effect in people’s lives?

He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame. Proverbs 18:13

30 Years Ago…

30 years ago this week I was just finishing up the first year of my master’s program at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. I was also employed by SBTS as an audiovisual technician, and I was working the convention in two roles: running the multimedia program for the Seminary’s alumni luncheon, and serving as a photographer for the Seminary’s new President, Roy Honeycutt, who had just been named the Seminary’s 8th president.

I was also a part-time staff member of one of the largest SBC churches in the state, serving as Minister of Media for Highview Baptist Church in Louisville. The pastor did a live radio show every afternoon during drive time, and using that connection, I was able to do live radio news reports throughout the convention.

1982 was still the “early years” of the controversy in SBC life, so there was a lot going on at the convention. I love history but am not a historian; I wrestle with theology but am not a theologian. This post is not about what happened in SBC life during the early 80’s – history records it.

This is about today.

I am in New Orleans this week, once again attending the Southern Baptist Convention. A lot has happened in 30 years…

This time around, I am attending the SBC Pastor’s Conference and the Convention as an Auxano team member. My role at Auxano includes that of convention manager, coordinating our team at convention events. I will also be working in the Exhibit Hall area, in the LifeWay exhibit where Auxano has a white board conversation space.

Last night I served as host of the Green Room for the Pastor’s Conference. The Green Room is like a speaker’s lounge, where the speakers and family can relax before and after an event. As it was father’s day, the opening lineup consisted of father and son teams: Bailey Smith and J. Josh Smith; Don Wilton and Rob Wilton; Ronnie Floyd and Nick Floyd; and Tony Evans and Anthony Evans. It was great meeting these men, and since several of them were Auxano clients, we caught up on where they’ve been – and where they’re headed next. Exciting stuff!

I will be Tweeting as time allows (@auxano) and also trying to make notes for later reflection. I would love to hear any comments you might have about the SBC, the past 30 years, and where you are today.

Clarity Solves the Visionary’s Dilemma

The problem with most visionaries is that they see a world that doesn’t exist.

It’s not so much of a problem until they try to explain their vision to the rest of us mere mortals. They can imagine products or services not yet invented. They can envision a way of living different to the way we live now.

Yet they can’t always get it out in a way that anyone can understand.

Simon Sinek, author of the book “Start With Why,” has a great post here on the visionary’s dilemma.

Here’s a quote that pretty much sums it up:

A vision, no matter how brilliant, will only ever see the light of day if others, those less visionary, are able to also see the potential. It is a person’s ability to paint a picture of something that doesn’t exist in words so clear that others can clearly picture it themselves without any confusion or uncertainty that matters most. It is at that point that an idea can inspire people to act. To share the idea and to help bring it to reality.

His formula for explaining the vision in words everyone can understand is pure gold:

  1. Words that require thinking should be avoided, words like “convergence,” for example. When someone says that in a sentence, I have to furl my brow and really pay attention.
  2. Explain why it matters, not what you’re doing. Who cares if you’re “developing applications for mobile devices…blah blah blah,” why should I care?
  3. And most importantly, always, always speak as if you’re describing an image. A picture. A scene.

And finally: And, after all, it is why you have your vision, not how you intend to create it, that inspires.

Leaders in ChurchWorld ought to be visionaries – and many are. Just make sure you are able to speak to that vision, and communicate it to others with clarity.