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National Conference 2018 Educational Experience
Theme . . . ALL IN 
Session Two, Article Two

He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life
will no longer live for themselves.
Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
2 Corinthians 5:15 (NLT)
If YOU ARE WHO YOU ARE captured the content of the first two articles I recently offered, then WE ARE WHO WE ARE is the meat of the current two articles (the approximate text of the teaching I provided at National Conference this past May 2018). In the last article we introduced the shift from “me” to “we.” We noted the nature of the corporate Body, the congregation. We considered the initiative we must undertake to learn about “we.”
Let’s think about your current practices . . .
Assess the leadership structure for function. Who actually leads? We’re not talking about the model in the bylaws. We’re thinking in terms of the real leader: pastor, people, a church boss; maybe no one, each thinking the other is. Sadly, we can easily find examples of each model.
     How is decision-making processed? Again, we’re not talking about what is in the bylaws. We’re talking reality: power position rules, congregational votes, or allowing inactivity to make choices for us. (The debate over fixing the roof versus painting the bathrooms ends when the roof leaks and dissolves Martha’s grandmother’s donated-decades-ago handmade, ceramic nativity pieces.)
      Assess the discipleship process. (That would be the process of making reproducing disciples.) How do you disciple? Not the tool (NAVS, 3DM, 4TD, etc.), but the method. Are you “destination” focused? Are you discipled when you complete ABC or attend XYZ or know QRS? Are you “direction” focused? Are you being discipled, that is, heading toward and becoming more like Jesus.
     Congregations will focus on one model or the other, discipleship as a destination or discipleship as a direction. The destination model produces people who know, but who might not know what to do with what they know. The direction model tends to produce people who know Jesus, who are becoming more like Jesus in how they do daily life.
Further, it is also essential for the pastor/leadership team to know the people. Who can do what functions? Who carries which passions? Who has transferable skills and abilities?
If you use a survey, you will realize results between 5% and 30%. Check the experts! If you use interviews, your results will be closer to 100%. Pastor, bite the bullet and schedule time to talk with each and every member of your leadership team. Create a list of questions, get to know your people. (Drop me an email – [email protected] – I’ll send you my interview questions.) You could take this survey even deeper into your congregation by having church leaders visit with each individual or family.
Let’s think about possible assessment tools . . .
You need to know that there are many possible tools and agencies designed to meet you where you are and take you where you need to go. This is just a sample of what is available.
  • Natural Church Development   (NCD)
NCD is an assessment tool that involves a survey taken of actively involved church members, a report that identifies strengths and weaknesses in various aspects of church life, and coaching to process the shifts necessary to realize greater congregational health. There is a fee.
  • Show Me Health   (NCD lite)
The Show Me Health assessment tool is similar to the NCD except the surveys are one-page per area of church life. It is usually self-administered, though outside coaching is advised for best end results. This is free! Which makes it attractive.
  • GRIP-Birkman Assessment   (GB)
This two-part assessment looks at the whole person . . . the natural man/woman and the supernatural (in Christ) man/woman. Fee-based, the GB helps the individual see himself more clearly, as well as others around him/her. Team play is also a key aspect of this tool.
  • No Silver Bullet   (by Daniel Im)
Daniel Im takes us on a valuable journey toward a new life for our congregations. Ideologies that impact church systems and discipleship are studied; options for health and growth are explained.
  • Gary Kuehner and the Church Health Community Team
Our own team of practitioners and experts are available for conversation, assessments, and coaching. Gary can be a good first step as you look for tools to lead you to new heights in ministry.

     I like the GRIP-Birkman Assessment, a self-revealing assessment, in that you define yourself. Birkman measures the natural man/woman, who you are under the skin, what you might be wired to be or to do. Your report provides a self-portrait, your interests, preferences, needs, and behaviors. Your Leadership GRIP addresses your spiritual empowerment, you under the Holy Spirit’s power. This helps you identify “how you are powerful” for/with God. (NOT how powerful you are!) Your report addresses your spiritual gifts (Holy Spirit enable-ments for service), team styles (how you work with others), and body building roles (what you bring to the team for ministry). This is NOT a pass-fail type of test. It is more of a self-discovery tool. And to learn about your team.
We also need to think about the work ethic/culture of your church. The pastor. The people. The community you have become.
            What do you expect out of the pastor? To complete or satisfy a detailed job description? Honor Ephesians 4? OR some of each? On call ALL OF THE time, always connected? Or do you help him be healthy to better serve the congregation? “Take your day off, pastor!”
            What do you expect out of the people? Do church, attend discipleship functions, serve in a ministry role? Let’s fill all the positions? OR “Fit and Flourish.” Know this? Do this? Attend this? OR live and serve out of gifting, skills and passions? Fit and Flourish is a noble goal, the right person in the right role for the right reason!
Now, it’s nice to know these many things about the individuals who make up a leadership team or congregation. But if we simply stopped here, we would still be a mile short of “actually knowing” what we’re capable of doing. The assessment tools I have already mentioned help us
identify and measure capacity for ministry.
  • This is what interests me.
  • This is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
  • That is how I get along with others.
  • This explains that behavior.
  • That is why I react as I do in certain situations.
We can develop a clever grid that plots people and skills and gifts, and assuming all things are the same, spit out lists of “functions or duties” that match. Many, perhaps most, spiritual gift inventories do just that. “If you have gift combo ABC, then you should be doing XYZ.” I think we can do much better than this!
I would like to suggest there are other details about the lives of the people who make up a congregation that must be known to best guide people toward ministry. If we are to fit and flourish we must know a few more details.
            For quite a few years, I have been playing with an assessment that goes a bit deeper and wider than that which we often grab first. I am not saying the assessments I have mentioned are somehow deficient or less than useful. I’m simply suggesting there might be more we can determine with a couple of well-designed questions.
I suggest a two-question inventory. You will note that this inventory is about people as well as about the resources these people provide and have access to as they serve the church and community. The two questions . . .
            #1 . . . What do you think are the assets and strengths of a congregation?
            #2 . . . What do you think are the assets and strengths of your/our congregation?
Notice that there is no mention of weaknesses, problems or hurdles. This is not about “what we can’t.” This is about “what we can.”
There are three focal points that apply to both questions . . .
  • people, about the individuals involved;
  • property, about your meeting location/facilities; and
  • presence, about how you are perceived by the community (your neighbors).
If you are doing this as a group activity, let people think about this.  If you rush them or speak for them, you may miss what only they can see. Don’t let silence scare you. Thinking takes time!
This is what this might look like . . .
Set question #1 before the group (You will notice that this is a generic pass at the topic. The reality is that most people can talk in the abstract or about others more readily than about themselves.) The question: What do you think are the assets and strengths of a congregation? After a while, offer the group the three focal points. Let them run for a while.
            Then set question #2 before the group. (You will notice that you have shifted thinking about “out there” to “right here.”) This is where the rubber hits the road. Now you get to talk about your own church. The question: What do you think are the assets and strengths of our congregation?
           You may have noticed that these two questions are actually the same question. Here’s the deal: You need to know your discussion group. I’ve observed that many people need to start with generic ideas (other churches) before they can get personal (my church). But not all! You might get by with one pass at the question!
Let me flesh out the three focal points . . .
  • people
    • gifts & graces (This was the content of session one.)
    • skills & abilities
      • Do you know the names of your nurses?
      • Do you know the names of your handymen?
        • Handymen you would let work on your house!
      • Do you know the names of your mechanics?
        • Handymen you would let work on your car or pickup.
    • interests & availability
    • professional skills (Which do not always overlap spiritual gifts, but are worth knowing.)
    • financial generosity (Is your church a giving church?)
      • How so?   Money?   Things?
    • stewardship of time, talents and treasures (Is your church a serving church?)
  • property
    • building & land
    • furnishings (tables, chairs, kitchen, etc.)
    • technology (internet, Wi-Fi, projection capable, anything portable, etc.)
  • presence
    • Are you known around the community (or not)?
    • Have you made a good impression on the community (or not)?
    • Do you have connections with/into the community?
    • Do you offer a soup kitchen, kids’ ministry, counseling center, etc.?
    • Do you enjoy partnerships with community services?
    • Do some of your people live in the immediate community?
The most important aspect of this kind of self-study is that the end product can be encouraging. It is possible to walk away from this activity thinking, “We are stronger than we think we are.” And this kind of discovery can restore soul-deep hope! Often, a little hope is all a congregation really needs.
Les Cool, Kingdom Extension Associate
Discussion Questions:
  • What did you hear/read?
  • What do think about what you heard/read?
  • What will you do because of what you have heard/read?
  • When do you think you will do this?
  • Who do you think needs to be part of this conversation?