Protect the Past While Envisioning the Future

Does your church dream more about where you have been than where God is leading you?

Have you ever looked around to realize that your church might be living today by focusing on yesterday?

Many churches long for the past, dreaming about the “good old days.” When faced with questions that are not easily answered, or walking through times of trial and doubt, churches, like people, often want things to be the way they used to be.

The problem is, the past has gone. While we may look back and respect it, and maybe even at times revere it, we cannot live in the past, especially when circumstances demand answers for the future.

If you are interested in learning how to lead your church away from the past in order to focus on what God has ahead, protect the past while envisioning the future.

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THE QUICK SUMMARY – Church Unique by Will Mancini

Church Unique, by Will Mancini, describes a new kind of visioning process designed to help churches develop a stunningly unique model of ministry that leads to redemptive movement. He guides churches away from an internal focus to emphasize participation in their community and surrounding culture.

Mancini offers an approach for rethinking what it means to lead with clarity as a visionary. He does this by explaining that each church has a culture that reflects its particular values, thoughts, attitudes, and actions and then shows how leaders can unlock their church’s individual DNA and unleash their congregation’s one-of-a-kind potential.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Bold aspirations must be rooted in the values and visions that have come before. For you to be alive and in touch with God’s work in the world, you were necessarily touched by the vision of others who came before.

Leaders should look for the artifacts of vision every day within their specific ministry contexts. An ongoing discover of uncovering and appreciating the visionary contributions of past and present help prepare your own unique vision to take shape.

Visionary leadership is the art of protecting the past as we champion the future.

We must listen carefully to the ones who have gone before us and learn about their vision. How does their vision intersect with what God is calling us to do? What artifacts of vision exist in the past that can be used to support our vision of the future?

Uncover the creation story – all vision has a creation story, the events and the passion that birth the idea of a better future. Visionary leaders uncover every creation story in the lineage of the people they are influencing.

Collect the hidden gems of vision vocabulary – in the articulation of past vision, there are key terms that live large with meaning. They are “words within the walls” that often stay undiscovered or unpolished. Consequently, they are under-noticed and under-celebrated.

Find the “Hall of Fame” memorabilia – Behind the pictures on the wall, the stained glass windows, and the sound system of your church home are the stories from the people who have forged the character of your church. These “hall of fame” memorabilia speak stories to your church’s uniqueness.

– Will Mancini, Church Unique

A NEXT STEP

Dedicate 20 minutes at the beginning of your next three team meetings to discuss the three vision artifacts listed above.

Meeting Number 1: Uncover the creation stories – the problem with most stories of the past is that they remain in rough form, half-buried in the conscious of the organization with few people who can recall a God-moment that got it started to begin with. If your church is more than five decades old, there may be few, if any, living members who were present at the birth of your church.

Create a plan to recover lost or half-buried memories of your church’s creation stories from long-term members, attic crawl spaces, newsletter archives, or historical documents in your community. The end result should be documented, sharable stories of your church’s birth and ensuing growth that serve as momentum to move forward into what God has for tomorrow. Example: Use significant historical changes like a relocation or renovation to fuel vision for significant changes that lay ahead.

Meeting Number 2: Collect the hidden gems of vision vocabulary – as your teams complete the work of uncovering the creation stories, alert them to be intentionally looking for words and phrases that are often repeated or seem to have significance attached to them. Make sure the teams collect these words and phrases for others to see and enjoy.

As you review these words and phrases, consider how they may be polished and integrated into the living language of your church today, as a way of honoring the past while honing language for the future.

Meeting Number 3: Find the “Hall of Fame” memorabilia – as your teams complete the work of uncovering the creation stories, also alert them to listen for mentions of items and objects to which others have attached importance. Most importantly, record the stories behind those objects that give them significance. Make sure the teams note these items and importance. An old window, chair, or other random object could serve as inspiration from where we have been to get where God is leading.


Not all history is bad, and not all future opportunities will be good. It takes discerning leaders to impartially and prayerfully evaluate “the way things used to be” in order to lead toward the future that God is calling you to create.

If your church is going to remain a vital outpost of Great Commission Transformation in your community, remember to protect the past while envisioning the future.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix Issue 22-1, published September 2015


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.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

What Account Do I Draw From to Pay Attention?

Last fall I had the opportunity to be a part of The Adams Family Adventure – a week-long trip to Walt Disney World for my immediate family of fifteen: six children and nine adults.

All week long I had the most fun watching the rest of the family as they experienced Walt Disney World, most for the first time. We captured that trip in over 3,000 images, whose primary purpose was to bring up stories from our memory from that single image.

As we departed four different cities on the first day of our trip, we were texting and FaceTiming about our various experiences. It was the first airplane flight for four of the grandchildren (they did great). They left their homes early in the morning, took long flights, got on a big “magical” bus, and arrived at our resort.

To our grandchildren, it must have been a little strange. From the time they came running off the bus, throughout all of the fun adventures of the week, to the goodbyes at the end of the week, they were a little overwhelmed, maybe even overstimulated about the whole process – and I began to see all over again what it means to be curious.

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You can, and must, regain your lost curiosity. Learn to see again with eyes undimmed by precedent.   – Gary Hamel

My grandchildren’s curiosity was brought sharply into focus when I recently read the following:

In childhood, then, attention is brightened by two features: children’s neophilia (love of new things) and the fact that, as young people, they simply haven’t seen it all before.   – Alexandra Horowitz

On LookingAlexandra Horowitz’s brilliant On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes shows us how to see the spectacle of the ordinary – to practice, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle puts it, “the observation of trifles.”

On Looking is structured around a series of eleven walks the author takes, mostly in her Manhattan neighborhood, with experts on a diverse range of subjects, including an urban sociologist, a geologist, a physician, and a sound designer. She also walks with a child and a dog to see the world as they perceive it. What they see, how they see it, and why most of us do not see the same things reveal the startling power of human attention and the cognitive aspects of what it means to be an expert observer.

Here’s an illustrative example as Horowitz walks around the block with a naturalist who informs her she has missed seeing three different groups of birds in the last few minutes of their walk:

How had I missed these birds? It had to do with how I was looking. Part of what restricts us seeing things is that we have an expectation about what we will see, and we are actually perceptually restricted by that perception. In a sense, perception is a lost cousin of attention: both serve to reduce what we need to process of the world “out there.” Attention is the more charismatic member, packaged and sold more effectively, but expectation is also a crucial part of what we see. Together they allow us to be functional, reducing the sensory chaos of the world into unbothersome and understandable units.

Attention and expectation also work together to oblige our missing things right in front of our noses. There is a term for this: inattentional blindness. It is the missing of the literal elephant in the room, despite the overturned armchairs and plate-sized footprints. 

Horowitz’s On Looking should be required reading for ChurchWorld leaders. How often do we fly past the fascinating world around us? A world, mind you, that we have been called to serve.

How can we serve a neighborhood or community or a block of our subdivision if we haven’t paid attention to it?

To a surprising extent, time spent going to and fro – walking down the street, traveling to work, heading to the store or a child’s school – is unremembered. It is forgotten not because nothing of interest happens. It is forgotten because we failed to pay attention to the journey to begin with.

Will Mancini, Founder and Team Leader of Auxano, the vision clarity-consulting group I am a part of, has written eloquently on the subject. In his book Church Unique, he introduces a principle called “The Kingdom Concept” with references to artist Andrew Wyeth:

 Most artists look for something fresh to paint; frankly, I find that quite boring. For me it is much more exciting to find fresh meaning in something familiar.   – Andrew Wyeth

Mancini goes on:

What’s particularly interesting about Wyeth is that in more than fifty years of painting he never tried to capture a landscape outside of the immediate surroundings of his home in Chadds Ford Pennsylvania, and his family’s summerhouse in Maine.

 Ponder this starling fact for a moment: This man has touched the world with an ability he never exercised outside of his own backyard! His creative mind and brilliant skill, turned loose for ten hours a day and for years on end, can be forever satisfied by radically full attention to the familiar.

 It seemed to me that he was doing something inherently visionary, and critically important for ministry leaders to do as well: his ability to observe his immediate surrounding enables him to discover and express meaning in life that other miss.

The role of today’s leaders is to clarify what is already there and help people perceive what has gone unnoticed.  These are the skills needed to lead a Church Unique.

Questions to Ponder

  • How do you observe the all-too-familiar in order to discover new meaning and discern the activity of God that others miss?
  • What do you look for?
  • How can you learn to scrutinize the obvious?
  • What does it mean to look for the extraordinary in the ordinary?
  • How can you lead your church to find exponential impact through a simple and local focus?

A good place to start is simply looking…

Capturing the Vision Lesson Behind Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Frequent readers of this site know of my fondness (well, let’s call it what it is – extreme fanaticism) for the genius of Walt Disney and the amazing empire that bears his name. Recently, I’ve been researching the early history of animation at Disney through various sources, mostly first-person accounts of the animators of that time.

I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Anaheim, CA at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure last week. In a unique dining experience while talking with Cast Members, I was reminded again of the vision Walt Disney exercised to bring Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to life.

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Tucked inside the entrance gates to Disney’s California Adventure is an iconic reproduction of the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles. One of the most important theaters in the Golden Age of Movies during the Twenties and Thirties, it represents the premier of a tremendous achievement by Walt Disney – the first full length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Though we now view Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as an animation classic, in the mid-1930’s the idea of a full-length “cartoon” was unheard of. Walt Disney took one of the biggest risks of his career, putting almost all of his resources – both business and personal – into the film. Called “Disney’s Folly” by most of Hollywood (and more than a few inside Disney Studios itself), the film opened to critical and financial success, paving the way for Disney to continue expanding his creative genius.

With critics becoming more vocal, Walt Disney knew he would have to inspire his team of artists and writers as never before.

The rest is history…

Ken Anderson, Art Director for Snow White, remembered it this way:

Walt approached a group of employees late one afternoon, gave each of them fifty cents, told them to grab dinner across the street and then return to the soundstage that evening. None had any idea of what Walt had in mind.

When they arrived and took their seats on wooden tiers at the back of the room, Walt was standing at the front lit by a single spotlight in the otherwise dark space.

Announcing that he was going to launch an animated feature, he told the story of Snow White, not just telling it but acting it out, assuming the character; mannerisms, putting on their voices, letting his audience visualize exactly what they would be seeing on the screen. 

He became Snow White and the wicked queen and the prince and each of the dwarfs.

Anderson said the performance took over three hours. One animator later claimed, “that one performance lasted us three years. Whenever we’d get stuck, we’d remember how Walt did it on that night.”

– Neal Gabler, “Walt Disney-The Triumph of the American Imagination

But there’s more to the story…

Along about the same time, Disney demonstrated his vision in another way. The new medium of television, though in its infancy, was growing.

According to Keith Gluck, writing for The Walt Disney Family Museum,

Before Walt Disney even understood the new medium of television, he still had the foresight to invest in it. Walt had learned from dealing with shady characters in the past to pay close attention to contracts. When his distribution deal with United Artists was coming to a close, he chose not to renew. UA was insisting on the television rights to all Disney cartoons. “I don’t know what television is, and I’m not going to sign away anything I don’t know about,” Walt said. He ended up signing with RKO Pictures in late 1935.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937, distributed by RKO Pictures. It was a smashing success, and was later given an honorary Academy Award for its groundbreaking achievements. It was no typical Oscar, either – the award instead was one statuette with seven miniature statuettes!

There’s one more piece to this vision puzzle…

Over a decade later, Walt’s interest in television began to develop. In 1948 he spent a week in New York with the specific purpose of watching and learning more about television. By the time he returned to the Studio, he was convinced it was just the forum to help promote his work. He even told Studio Nurse Hazel George, “Television is the coming thing.” While other movie studios were trying to think of ways to thwart the coming of television, Walt was gearing up to embrace it. 

 – Keith Gluck, The Walt Disney Family Museum

By being the first studio producer to become involved with the fledgling medium of television, Disney was able to leverage that partnership into a financing arrangement that allowed him to bring another dream to reality – Disneyland.

Walt had a grander vision of what his shows could do on ABC, and how they could be used to promote Disneyland. Despite pressure from the other studios, Walt and Roy Disney signed a contact with Leonard Goldenson of ABC, in which the network put up $500,000 in cash, guarantee $4.5 million in loans, and receive one-third ownership in Disneyland (which it later sold back to Disney).

– J. Jeff Kober, Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz

With the opening of Disneyland in 1955, Walt’s vision and imagination took on a reality that people could see, hear, and feel – an experience that changed entertainment forever.

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Walt Disney’s Vision Lesson for Leaders Today

Walt Disney’s unique vision, personalized in the telling of Snow White, demonstrated in the far-reaching aspects of a contract, and brought to life at Disneyland, can be a model for church leaders today.

When God wants change, He affects the heart of the leader first.

To help people see the invisible, the leader must first understand how to unlock the imagination. How does the leader influence the imagination? Through metaphors, blended with the art of storytelling and question asking.

If the leader has any hope of painting a memorable picture of the future, it will be with the vivid and compelling language of metaphor – living language – that penetrates the soul as much as it illumines the mind.

– Will Mancini, Church Unique

What vision is burning inside of you, a vision that can captivate your team, influence the influential, and be brought to life in your community?

Transformation Agenda

Continuing the transformation journey at Starbucks – and what it can teach your organization…

Once Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz decided to return as CEO, he pulled together a team to began working on the process of turning the company’s performance around.

As noted in this post, one of the team’s key realizations was the need to focus on the ones: one cup of coffee, served to one customer, at one store. That thought drove the team to draft a transformation agenda that would be used company-wide to implement decisions.

The Transformation Agenda started with a compelling strategic vision, and was followed by a backbone of seven big moves, each with specific tactics. Here’s a synopsis:

Our Aspiration – To become and enduring, great company with one of the most recognized and respected brands in the world, known for inspiring and nurturing the human spirit.

courtesy touchworldwide.com

courtesy touchworldwide.com

Seven Big Moves

  • Be the undisputed coffee authority – Starbucks could not possibly transform the company if they did not excel and lead in their core business. Focusing on their quality and passion they exhibit in sourcing, roasting, and brewing coffee, actions included improving the quality and delivery of espresso drinks, reinventing brewed coffee, delivering innovative beverages, and increase the share of the at-home market. Undergirding all these actions was the push to continue telling their story.
  • Engage and inspire their partners – Every Starbucks partner (employee) should be passionate about coffee – from soil to cup – and possess the skills, enthusiasm, and permission to share that expertise with customers. Actions included significantly improving training and career development for partners at all levels as well as developing meaningful and groundbreaking compensation, benefit, and incentive packages for partners.
  • Ignite the emotional attachment with their customers – People come to Starbucks for coffee and human connection. Their goal was to put customers back in the center of the experience by addressing their needs, providing the “value” in a manner congruent with the brand, and developing programs that recognize and reward the most loyal customers. In the stores, that meant achieving operational excellence, finding new ways to deliver world-class customer service and perfect beverages while keeping costs in line and retail partners engaged.
  • Expand their global presence-while making each store the heart of the local neighborhood – The challenge was to grow their retail presence while striving to connect with and support the neighborhoods and cultures that each store serves. Enhancing local relevancy would mean redesigning existing and new stores, offering new products that reflected the tastes of particular cultures, and reaching out by volunteering or fund-raising to support local programs and causes.
  • Be a leader in ethical sourcing and environmental impact – Starbucks has led the way in treating farmers with respect and dignity. These efforts would expand, strengthening existing partnerships and forging new ones. They also have a goal of reducing each store’s environmental footprint and sharing their initiatives with others.
  • Create innovative growth platforms worthy of their coffee – Starbucks would grow not just by adding stores and selling coffee, buy also by extending its brand and/or expertise to new product platforms expanding or complementing coffee, such as tea, cold beverages, instant coffee, food, and the booming health and wellness market. Innovation that was relevant to their core values would be the hallmark of their transformation.
  • Deliver a sustainable economic model – Without a profitable business model, Big Moves 1-6 would not be possible. It was imperative that the refocus on customers and core also be matched by an improvement on how they operated their business. Creating a culture that drove quality and speed, managing expenses on an ongoing basis, reducing costs, and building a world-class supply chain would be the primary tactics in this area. Big Move 7 would be the most painful, least sexy, and most difficult part of transforming the company.

Launched at a global summit of 200 of Starbucks’ most senior leaders from around the world, the Transformation Agenda was in Schultz’s words “to make sure that we level set the reason we exist.”

courtesy nbcnews.com

courtesy nbcnews.com

Schultz felt ultimately that the summit helped align Starbucks’ top global leaders around two very important statements: the Transformation Agenda, which outlined what everyone at Starbucks needed to do, and the mission statement, which reminded them why.

Lessons for ChurchWorld Leaders:

  • Do you know what you are doing?
  • Do you why you are doing it?
  • Do you know how you are doing it?
  • Do you know when you are successful?
  • Do you know where God is taking you?

For a better understanding of these questions in terms of your church, take a look at the Church Unique Visual Summary here, or download it here as a free e-book.

It might just be the start of your own Transformation Agenda.

an updated post from a series reviewing Onward, by Howard Shultz

Onward

preparation for a new series coming soon on Leading the Starbucks Way, by Joseph Michelli

Print

Leadership = Vision Clarity

When I was in graduate school in the early 80’s, strategic planning processes included five-, ten- and sometimes even twenty-year plans. The past was relatively stable and indicated that things would continue as they were into the future. The assumption was that the near future would resemble the recent past. Rapid cultural, technological, and geopolitical change has rendered that assumption obsolete.

Will Mancini, founder of Auxano and author of the best-selling book Church Unique states it this way:

Leaders must focus more on preparation than on planning.

Mancini taps heavily into Reggie McNeal’s work here. McNeal, a consultant with The Leadership Network, has written several great books. In The Present Future he addresses 6 tough questions for the church. The one of interest here is “How do we plan for the future?” The short answer is, as both Mancini and McNeal elaborate, you don’t plan – you prepare.

Planning on past actions and assumptions will lead you to cultural irrelevance, methodological obsolescence, and missional ineffectiveness. Churches looking to planning like they always have will be left answering the wrong questions at best; at worst, they will be answering questions not asked!

Church Unique is not a road map that assumes predictability of fixed points and roads that stay unchanged over time. Instead, the tools of Church Unique are more like the compass, sextant, and chronometer of the sailor who moves across an ever-changing sea. Navigating the waters of today’s rapidly changing times requires ceaseless observation and adaptation to the surrounding environment. The better (and biblical) approach to the future involves prayer and preparation, not prediction and planning.

As a leader, are you seeking vision clarity first?

>>Download a free summary of Church Unique here.

>>Download a free summary of The Present Future here.

Got Clarity?

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. – the Cheshire Cat

Where’s your red X?
You know, the spot that says “You are here.”

Looking for the shortest distance between Point A and Point B?

The answers to the above questions aren’t in Will Mancini’s Visual Summary to his book “Church Unique,” but you will be able to grasp the process that just might answer the tough questions you’re facing today.

Take a look.

Download the free e-book.

Start out on the journey…

…today!

If you are the Exponential Conference today and would like a free copy of The Visual Summary, show this post or a Tweet related to it to the guys at the Auxano booth near the Worship Center entrance (while supplies last).

Granite Etching vs Sand Writing

This  post wraps up a quick look at a section of Will Mancini’s book “Church Unique“. I’m at the Exponential PreConference event in Orlando with part of the Auxano team, and this section has been jumping all over me!

So far, it’s been all about Soul Fast Food – but now it’s down to some “solid” stuff! The real nourishment of your people should come from the vision of your Church Unique. Only then will the enduring purpose of the church reflected locally can replace the substitutes of place, personality, programs, and people.

In his book “Built to Last“, author Jim Collins found that enduring organizations have two dominant characteristic that are complementary opposites:

  • A strong conviction about core ideals that never changes
  • A clear understanding that everything else must change in order to preserve the core

If people are nourished by unchanging vision, they are more agreeable when the rules change with tactics. It takes clarity and discipline to understand which things in the organization belong to which category. But what if our people were so captivated by the granite etching that it set us free to play with sand drawings? The leader’s role is not just to communicate in both granite and sand but to show how the two components work together. The leader should help people embrace change by nurturing an emotional connection to the unchanging core vision. The leader should preserve and champion the core vision by showing people how to constantly adapt.

Our change management problems today are vision problems first and people problems second. Many leaders want their people to run a missional marathon but unknowingly feed them junk food, leaving them malnourished and unprepared for the future. 

If you are leader in ChurchWorld, don’t be part of “feeding” your congregation junk fast food – focus on the Bread of Life, and watch your church thrive and grow! When we fail to clarify and nurture the things written in granite, our people get too attached to the things written in sand. This is how the four P’s (place, personality, programs, and people) fit in. These are sand, not granite. As the fluid and flexible stuff of the kingdom they not only should change, but must change. In the absence of vision, the stuff of sand becomes the vision. In the absence of granite, sand is all we can grasp. 

What’s on Your Menu?

The last few posts on 27gen have been a closer examination of Will Mancini’s book Church Unique. Specifically, the chapter entitled “Lost Congregations” that examines how churches adapt to a vision vacuum. Using the metaphor of Soul Fast Food, Mancini challenges the church leader to examine how their structures, programs, and ministries may have become a substitute for the real meal – what God intends for the church.

To wrap this up, I simply want to restate some of Mancini’s questions for your consideration.

  • What really happens in the soul of a congregant when left in a church’s vision vacuum over time?
  • What is left to excite the heart of church attenders?
  • What then fuels the dreams of your people?
  • What nourishes the identity of those who call your church home?

God’s people have a heart for mission; we need guidance to carry it out – vision. When a church articulates and clarifies its vision, the people of God will be released in a powerful realization of God at work in their world.

What’s on your menu?

If you are at the Exponential Conference and you resonated with the Church Unique material, I invite you to participate in the Intentional Discipleship track for your workshops. You can look at a preview here.