Getting ready to listen to Bill Hybels and praying to get some wisdom for leading my Operation Christmas Child team.---
Bill is sharing a story about how his wife said she was not cooking turkey for Thanksgiving dinner last year so he, as a great leader, decided to take over. First goal of a leader is to inspire vision and value so Bill told his family this would be the greatest turkey and he would cook it on the gas grill. He persevered and hung onto the vision.
His next step was to build a team, so he invited a staff member with grilling experience to come help him. Next he had to inspire him, which he says he did with hard, cold cash and fear.
The week before he cooked a practice turkey. Then Thanksgiving arrived and his assistant brought the real turkey and they put it on the grill. While it was cooking they fasted and prayed for the bird. Fifteen minutes before it's done he sends home the assistant so Bill can march in with the turkey.
The family is impressed and they are all impressed. Even his wife says it's the best she's ever had. Bill basks in the praise.
At Christmas his family tried to get him to cook another turkey but Bill had a higher vision. After Christmas vacation, a worker noted while sweeping Bill's back porch that the grill was on. Bill had left it on since Thanksgiving which made his turkey the most expensive turkey in the history of the world and made Bill the biggest turkey of them all. And this, he says, is why you have to follow his awesome leadership---
Starting with a parable--Luke 8--There's a guy who has a bucket of seed and is sowing it to plant a field. Some falls on hard soil, some on rocky soil and dies, some on thorny soil that gets choked out and some on good soil that grows a beautiful tree with produce.
Jesus says despite how bountifully the seed is sown, some people are closed off to it but we shouldn't get discouraged. The message is still true and some will fall on good soil and lives will change.
The math of this parable=a seed rejection ratio. Seed is rejected 75% of the time but the miracle of transformation in the 25% who accept the message is amazing. Everyone's life would be better if God was at the center of it. Bill says "I'd love to see more trees this year than last year or previous years."
If I want to see more trees next year, then I should plant MORE seed to overcome that math. I shouldn't waste a minute complaining about how few trees there are now.
Bill received a brochure from a new church that was well done and it made him assess how his neighborhood had changed. Do the new neighbors even know what Willow Creek is like? Thought about sending out a new brochure about their church.
Bill then saw a man in the church parking lot who was upset because he'd lost his cat. Bill called his assistant and alerted the grounds department to help find the cat. The man said, "You're a very nice man," then asked, "What is this place?" Bill told him it was a church and the man said, "I never noticed the sign. I thought it was a college. Do you go to church here?" Bill then invited him to come anytime but was convicted that a close neighbor didn't even know their church was there. He was moved to 'sow more seed'. Brochures were sent out to the community with a fantastic response.
Soon after that they began the Alpha Course at Willow Creek with great success. In the first class 1/3 of the people in the class came to faith in Christ. Shortly thereafter they instituted a program for new visitors called "getting started," and then taught the course "Just Walk Across The Room."
Now they're pioneering a strategy of small groups and the future of this could be a game changer for Willow Creek.
After all this--Bill thought--what if I hadn't read and pondered Luke 8? What if I hadn't read the brochure from the other church? What if I hadn't listened to the man who lost his cat?
Whether you like it or not--your organization takes its seed sowing cue from you. If you sow the same amount of seed you'll get the same result and the morale of your culture will go down and people will get bored and sleepy. Always be courageous and stay experimental. Entropy will not occur on our watch. We will fight it off with every fiber of our being. Insist on a non-stop series of experiments that will cause learning and inevitably create more trees.
We should be persistent tinkerers who are always thinking of new ways to sow seed. Bill told a new employee he wanted her to change her middle name to 'better' and try to become better in every way every day. We should get better and inspire everyone we lead to get better. Everyone wins when a leader gets better.
And let me remind you--trees are worth it. SOW MORE SEED!
On to another topic--you need to be a 360 degree leader. You need skills to lead those below you, those on your level and those above you. But YOU are the most difficult person you will ever lead.
The work habits of a leader--It's easy to see the need but not know how to order your life to make the best use of your energy.
--your greatest asset is your energy and your ability to energize others--that is what is unique about a leader
--Praying the "Leader's Prayer"--"Dear God, please HELP. I need help desperately." Bill wrote in his journal after praying this, "God, what would be the greatest 6 contributions I could make in the next six weeks to the Church you love.?" It became clear to Bill that he would need to energize some people and prioritized 6 areas of need.
He took an index card and wrote 6 by 6 on it and determined to focus on those 6 things. He felt clarity and excitement; focused in stead of overwhelmed. Went into work the next morning and prayed over them. He began to focus on those challenges and 5 of the 6 were accomplished and he was exhilarated at year's end.
In the new year he repeated the above exercise for the first 6 weeks of the year. Choose 6 priorities that will most impact your organization NOT the ones you most want to do. Again, this brought success in the first 6 weeks of the year.
He didn't change anything in his schedule to do the above but then decided to also prioritize his work schedule to reflect the focus. He decided to put 'energy bursts' throughout his day into fulfilling these goals. For the next several years he ate, drank, and slept this 6 by 6 concept. One day he realized the dreams were being fulfilled.
These days all the leaders at Willow Creek work by this 6 by 6 initiatives. They are all above and beyond the regular job responsibilities. Always looking ahead to the next 6 weeks.
Bill's current 6 by 6 list -- by October 15th--finalize weekend series; recruit leader/teacher for next ministry; how to fund a new evangelism strategy; planned giving program; how to raise 250 million dollars for an under-resourced country (missed one of the 6--sorry!)
God didn't make you a leader to respond to stuff all day. He made you to move things ahead. What is the most important contribution you can make to your organization at this time?
When you use this technique and your head hits the pillow at night you can say, "I moved some stuff ahead."
Willow Creek assigned an elder to work with Bill on this planning. One day this elder, Mike, said to Bill, "You never see yourself dying." He then asked, "Do you see yourself being the senior pastor of Willow until the day you die?"
Over the next year Mike led Bill through this planning. Here are some phases--
1) Planning--every subject matter pertaining to transition must be addressed. What is the time frame? Whose responsibility? How will the church honor the pastor at the transition? Will the pastor have any responsibilities after the transition?
2) Finding an Internal Successor--given a time frame within which that will happen. If no internal candidate is found, then they will look outside.
3) Actual Transition--18 months to transfer responsibilities to new replacement.
Bill says he is proud of his board and how they have handled this plan but it was still hard for him as the plan was made. Side note to board members--please understand how deep feelings run in the hearts of senior pastors and these are delicate conversations. Senior pastors--do the right thing for your church. We should strive to make our churches stronger after we leave them.
Concept of Moving People from Here to There
Along the journey from 'here' to 'there', when is the vision most vulnerable? (beginning, middle, or nearing the end) And the answer is----in the middle.
In the beginning there's excitement, near the end there's another burst of energy, but in the middle the vision is extremely vulnerable. You need your best vision casting and motivation in the middle.
From a career leadership position, when are we most vulnerable? In the middle years. In the middle some of the mistakes catch up with us, some of the friends leave, some ministries waver and die, there are betrayals and disappointments, deaths and economic recessions that make you vulnerable. If you are in this era, be careful. Walk with God closely.
As Bill nears the end of his tenure as senior pastor he has the excitement of wanting the last years to be rich in ministry and getting the church out of debt and leaving it stronger than ever before he leaves.
His overarching thought about leadership is what a privilege it is to be a leader. Only a small percentage of the human race gets to lead important missions. Have you thanked God recently for the privilege of getting to lead something? The worst days of leadership beat the best days of being a bench sitter.