Does Your Leadership Use “Relational Intelligence”?

June 8th, 2010

relational-intell.jpgSaccone, Steve. Relational Intelligence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2009.

 BV652.1.S23 2009          ISBN: 978-0-471-43869.5

Steve Saccone is a campus pastor with Mosaic [church] in Los Angeles and professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds an M.A. in Transformational Leadership.

Like many of the books that have come from Mosaic staff, this is a series of sermons by Saccone, McManus, and others at Mosaic. One can easily feel the Mosaic “vibe” in the writing.

The first section of the book lays out the concept of relational intelligence and the first chapter is an introduction to the idea of human economy. Relationships and the influence that accompanies them are what make the world move. The author also states that relationships prove the existence of God. Throughout the chapter, Saccone uses several well-fitting personal illustrations, and it is apparent early on that the intended target is leaders, most likely leaders in the religious community.

In the second half of the first chapter the author gets around to actually defining relational intelligence:

Relational intelligence is the ability to learn, understand, and comprehend knowledge as it relates to interpersonal dynamics. [p. 20]

He likens it to one’s IQ and even provides a link to his online relational intelligence assessment ( The assessment is free and provides a reference point for the reader as he or she delves into the descriptions of the six relational geniuses described in the second section. Since the author believes relational intelligence can develop as one improves decision-making, personal interactions, and team building, the assessment can also provide a tool for measuring growth.

In defending the importance of relational intelligence, the author quotes the Harvard Business Review as saying that self-awareness is the most important key to effective leadership and an effective life. There are three habits which, if practiced regularly, will aid in self awareness and self development:

1.      Learn to Access the Perceptions of Those Around You. People are usually unaware of how others perceive them. All people, especially leaders, need to learn to seek out people who can give them honest, accurate feedback. Incidentally, the online assessment tool can also be used by others to provide 360-degree feedback for the reader. In other words, ask others to rate you using the tool.

2.      Learn to Activate the Reflective Mind Within You. Take time regularly to reflect on relationships, particularly with those one leads.

3.      Write Clarifying Statements. This habit involves learning to identify blind-spots. The author provides links to some websites that have other helpful assessment tools.

The second section, and bulk of the book, describes six types of relational geniuses. The author states that this list is not exhaustive and he doesn’t cite any empirical studies he used to determine them. One must assume that his taxonomy is anecdotal; however, this does not assume that it is inaccurate. The book devotes one chapter, about 20 pages, to each genius.

The Story Collector

The Story Collector is good at showing real interest in people and in asking great discussion-starting questions. They seek to know people through conversation and draw people out through learning about their dreams, life history, and personhood. The Story Collector looks for ways to connect his or her own interests to the other person’s interests (or to what makes the other person interesting). Story collectors see everyone’s life as a walking novel waiting to be read with anticipation.

At certain points, the author does a great job of helping the reader see the benefits of relational intelligence. For a leader in a faith community, this is one of those reasons:

Leaders who take time to get to know what is most sacred about people will also be invited to have the most sacred kind of influence in people’s life. [p. 77]

The Energy Carrier

The Energy Carrier is the person who can change the vibe of the room. Energy Carriers know how to assess the tone of a group of people and how to adjust that tone to create energy and benefit the group. The author believes anyone can be an Energy Carrier because everyone carries their own energy. What sets Energy Carriers apart is their ability to avoid two energy killers and access two energy catalysts.

The first energy killer is the appearance of alertness. This manifests itself as forgetfulness. A person can appear to be alert on the outside and give coworkers, supervisors, and those they lead the idea that they are paying attention, but on the inside they are tuned out.

The second energy killer is distraction. This killer deals with being “all there” or wholeheartedly invested in the other person or situation. The author appeals to the Great Commandment in Mark 12 and has a brief set of questions to help the reader determine if one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength are fully tuned in.

The first energy catalyst is externalizing one’s internal energy. This is how an Energy Carrier changes the tone of a group or conversation.

The second is capitalizing on the moment. The Energy Carrier knows how to see pregnant or important moments and use them to energize the group.

The Compelling Relator

The Compelling Relator is the cure for boredom in the world. Compelling Relators interest people. The author believes anyone can become more interesting by following four strategies:

·        Dare to Be Controversial When the Moment Calls for It

·        Refuse to Be Irrelevant

·        Change the Way You Communicate

·        Activate Your Passion

Some of the salient points from this chapter include:

·        The more interesting we are as people, the more compelling we become as leaders.

·        We have all the power to ensure our relevance to others.

·        Passionless people are boring people.

·        The more passionate you are about your mission, the more interesting you’ll become in your leadership.

The Conversational Futurist

Conversational Futurists see where conversations are heading. They perceive the streams, patterns, and courses. They are not afraid to move the conversation forward. They don’t let it circle around the same old subjects and ideas. They formulate their thoughts before they speak. This helps them control the conversation and help it rather than be controlled by it. They are also in conversation with God at the same time, praying for discernment.

Futurists are not afraid to take risks in conversations. They are unwilling to simply tell people what they want to hear or let the conversation go where the other person wants it to go. They lead it to a helpful place.

Futurists look for signs and patterns in a person’s life and direct conversation to address it. This can happen with good signs (like an emerging leader) or bad signs (like addictive habits or poor choices). Finally, they listen for the assumptions people make and address them or event-reverse them where needed.

The Likeable Hero

The author is a little cautious here, as he is quick to point out that likeability is a means, not an end. He also warns that likeability is not just manipulation, nor is it really necessary to be a successful leader, but it does help.

He describes five signs of likeability:

1.      Approachability – being relationally inviting, accessible, and approachable.

2.      Stickiness – maintaining consistent, long-standing, loyal relationships.

3.      Rapid trust formation – creating relational space where rapid trust can be formed.

4.      Friendliness – exuding relational warmth and kindness, not necessarily being extroverted or charismatic.

5.      Flexible optimism – embodying a high, yet realistic, level of optimism about work, life, and relationships.

The Disproportionate Investor

This chapter takes on a double role. The author describes the Disproportionate Investor as one who is willing to invest in others more than take from them. Investors can be identified as those who energize others.

The chapter morphs into a description of the kind of person who is worthy of investment. This is really more of the focus of the chapter. The assumed idea is that the Disproportionate Investor is very careful in choosing those in whom he will invest.

The author notes one of the unique properties of Mosaic, that no one is hired at the church who is not first a member and volunteer. All hiring is done from within. There are two reasons for this. First, the church can focus more attention on developing leaders; indeed, it must if it is to survive. Second, anyone who is hired has been vetted over the years as a volunteer. Everyone is fully committed to the mission.

The author refers to his own work in developing the Protégé Program at Mosaic. He lists six characteristics he looks for in protégés.

1.      Generative – they must generate good in themselves and others.

2.      Grateful – they must value people’s resources and express it.

3.      Teachable – they must desire growth and be humble to learn new things.

4.      Missional – they must have a calling and believe in it.

5.      Strategic – they must be wise in the use of resources.

6.      Resilient – they must be able to push through when the work is tough.

Summary Observations

After taking the online assessment, one might expect a little more practical application in the book. While there were many practical points and tips, they were often difficult to find. Consistent with the Mosaic vibe, the work relies heavily on story and on the experience of the journey rather than on the end product of becoming a relational genius. This is neither good nor bad; it will simply speak to certain personalities more than others.

The lack of research listed in the book is disappointing. One cannot tell if the information was collected from original data, gleaned from other research, or simply a distillation of the author’s observations. If it is the latter, the author may still have an intuitive grasp on relational intelligence.

In the end, the book is worth the read if for no other reason than to help interpret the online assessment.

Book Summary – Lost & Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them

May 19th, 2010

lost-and-found.jpg Are younger generations unreachable by most current churches? Maybe so, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Ed Stetzer and team interviewed hundreds of the younger unchurched and dozens of churches that reach them to find the answer. Here’s a summary and review of the resulting book: Lost and Found.

Stetzer, Ed. Lost & Found. Nashville: Broadman & Holman. 2009

ISBN: 978-0-08054-4878-8                                                                                                  


Ed Stetzer is director of LifeWay Research, one of the sponsors of the study. His coauthors are Richie Stanley, leader of the Center for Missional Research at NAMB and Jason Hayes, young adult ministry specialist at LifeWay.


In the introduction, the authors state that the book is not about church dropouts. It is about the younger unchurched and how churches are reaching them. It is based on research done by LifeWay and CMR in 2005 and 2006-2008. They also note that among the general population, about 14% of this demographic (18-29 year olds) attend church. This is contrary to the 4% normally quoted.


The first major section of the book deals with the raw data from the original surveys. The research turned up four archetypes of the younger unchurched: always unchurched, dechurched, friendly unchurched, and hostile unchurched. It must be noted that any one individual could fall into one or two categories. At the end of the first chapter, the authors start a “lost and found story,” a fictitious account of four young adult friends, one from each category. The story will be woven into the end of several chapters.


The researchers asked the younger unchurched several series of questions dealing with their beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Christian church. Other questions touched on their opinions about individual Christians, how churches might reach them, personal spirituality, heaven/hell, spiritual guidance, and relationships with Christians. Many of the questions were cross referenced by subcategories of ethnicity, education, former church attendance, and marital status. Anglos tend to be the most hostile while African Americans are the most positive.


The sampling was surprisingly positive toward Christianity. While there are notable exceptions, the group has a high belief in God, Jesus, and the Bible, but they have a pluralistic view. Their negativity shows up with regard to churches where they believe they will not receive any essential teaching and where their lifestyles will not be approved or accepted. Individual Christians receive a more positive treatment. Almost 90% said they would engage in a discussion about Christianity with a Christian friend and over 60% said they would study the Bible with a friend.


As for churches, only 31% said that the type of music mattered to them and 58% would attend a church is they believed that the people truly cared for them as a person. Yet, only 17% would consider turning to a church for spiritual guidance. Most would seek out an “inspirational person.”


Finally, almost half (46%) openly admitted that Christians get on their nerves. This prompted this response from the authors. It is hard to imagine that 46% of respondents would be willing to say that Jews or Muslims get on their nerves. Simply put, we have a reputation problem. [45]


The research separated the respondents into those under 30 and those over 30. Chapter 3 looks at much of the same data, separated into the younger and older components. Happily, the younger group has a slightly better few of God, Jesus, and even the church. The research suggests that they are somewhat more open to the gospel, but not by much.


Each section ends with a “talking points” style wrap up.

The second section deals with a continued in dialogue with a sampling of the younger unchurched conducted after the initial research. The conversation uncovered four markers of young adult ministry that comprise the section.


Marker #1: Community

The researchers used a storyboarding process where they listened for key themes. They grouped and regrouped these themes using sticky notes until they came to the four broad markers. The marker of community was typified by the broad theme of Together Is Better. The response to this is obviously that a church needs to build authentic community and communicate it quickly to the younger unchurched. One way to do this is through the concept of the “third place.” Many church facilities will not be able to become third places, but the church can co-opt other third places (like Starbuck’s) to reach out.


Three quotes are worth repeating.


To create security, we must first be willing to step into a great deal of insecurity. [81]


If a young adult never saw community modeled in his or her own home as a child, that has a huge impact on their efforts to gain community as an adult. [81]


Rather than behave/believe/belong ministry, we must move toward a belong/believe/become model. [84]


Marker #2: Depth (and Content)

The second marker comes from the broad theme of Let’s Go Deeper. Depth may be particularly difficult in a postmodern world. Depth seems to go hand in hand with the logical approach to study and apologetics. But young adults want depth that they can then plumb in their own way. Depth is found not only in detail, but also I transparency. Teachers, apologists, and friends need to show how Scriptural knowledge has affected them or how they struggle in their own way with understanding.


This kind of depth seems to fly in the face of the attractional church’s desire to put teaching into easy to digest bites. Not that they can’t go together, but there has to be room for dialogue, struggle and discomfort.


Marker #3: Responsibility

The authors note that this marker was more difficult to identify. The key statements and images of those interviewed didn’t fall into a single category as clearly as the others. The broad theme is “Let’s Make a Difference.” This corresponds with the general observations that many authors and leaders have made about the younger generations and was predicted by Strauss and Howe in Generations over a decade ago. One unique observation in the book is that, “Service is quickly becoming an entry point into Christianity.” [109]. The authors also note that the desire to make a difference is also tied to the desire to connect. Younger generations want to make a difference together.


The authors note that while younger generations believe that the church is not concerned about physical suffering, social justice, and meeting needs, it is simply not the case. The church has not done a good job of making it known. Perhaps this is because this was not a “selling point” to previous generations, but it is now. A church that will reach younger generations will have to provide opportunities for them to serve each other, serve the church, serve the community, and serve the world.


Marker #4: Cross-Generational Connection

Probably, for the first time in the history of the Christian church, generations do not worship together. [124]


This rather startling quote highlights the lace of cross-generational connection in many, many churches. With the increased fracturing of today’s families, younger generations feel increasingly isolated from other generations even within their families.


The thrust of this marker moves beyond just intergenerational connectivity to more of the issue of mentoring. The broad theme is “Bring Us Together.” Younger generations really want connection. They desire to be connected to the ancient. One LifeWay survey showed that young adults preferred cathedral type church building over modern ones by a 2 to 1 margin. Candles, tapestries, stained glass, and liturgies appeal to many in this generation. They are also drawn to stories. So personal stories, such as might arise through person connection to an older person, bring together some sense of the “ancient” and the story.


The third and final section seeks to be a compendium of ideas for churches on how to reach and lead younger generations. The authors bring examples from a few churches that have experienced success with young adults.


How Churches Are Creating Deeper Community

Citing Jim Collins in Built to Last and Guy Kawasaki’s blog, the authors simply say that churches must create and model community using a variety of tools. The chapter presents one important thought for many pastors.


I am shocked by the number of pastors who say that community is the place where lives are transformed and that being plugged into a small group is what they want for every member of their church, yet they are not in one themselves. [150]


Some pastors may use their elder board or an advisory team as their small group, but if the church promotes a base design small group system for the members, the leader ought to participate in it also [reviewer’s thought, not mentioned by the authors]


How Churches Are Making a Difference through Service

The authors list a few simple ministry options for churches, but they spend most of the chapter discussing whether young adults serve more often than boomers and whether young adults are too busy to serve. To answer the questions, yes, they serve more often than boomers, and no, they are not too busy to serve. As with any generation, a church has to find the avenues of service that are at convenient times and worth the cost (of prep time, time from family, and energy) to young adults.


How Churches Are Leading Young Adults to Experience Worship

This chapter seems to be about how churches are using different music and different worship styles to reach young adults. This may fly in the face of the research data that said many young adults don’t care that much about the music? Certainly other churches have found other means. The authors choose to focus on music style alone.


How Churches Are Delivering Content

This chapter focuses on the main weekly service. Again, certainly there are other churches that have found small groups, short term studies, mentoring, or other means for delivering content. The authors really limit content delivery to preaching. The total thrust of the chapter is an argument over whether churches should use expository or topical preaching. The authors state at the beginning that young adults can be reached by either one. So the bottom line is use the one that fits the church the best and is most effective for reaching. At best, use both as best fits the individual message.


How Churches Are Connecting Young Adults

This is one of the most disappointing chapters. It purposes to be about connection, but connection is limited to electronic connection, mostly online. There is no mention of small groups, authenticity, or community. However, there is a discussion of web sites, online journaling, internet campuses, worship videos, and texting, with cursory mention of YouTube, Twitter, and email. There is not much even about blogging.


How Churches Are Being Cross Generational

This chapter dwells way too much on music. The authors state that “many have concluded that the only way to make everyone happy is to create separate services for traditional, blended, and a plethora of modern choices [of music].” [189] In the end, they do come to a brief discussion on cross generational small groups. There are a few examples of how churches are being cross generational, but the best part is the section on why they should be.


How Churches Are Being Authentic

Somehow, younger generations have claimed the corner on authenticity. Perhaps this is because older generations have focused on excellence, show, and “doing it right.” It’s not that authenticity was absent (though sometimes it may have been). It was just that the “excellence” overshadowed the authenticity. Stetzer finally said “Excellence can be an authenticity killer.” [204]. The three aspects of authenticity are discovery, cultivation, and sharing.


How Churches Are Leading with Transparency

This is similar to authenticity. For a leader to be transparent (in an appropriate way) the leader must have self awareness, vulnerability, honesty, real excellence (not at the expense of authenticity), and put time into it.

The self awareness section may be the most helpful for many leaders.


Usually leaders who are unaware of their true nature, habits, and shortcomings are the ones that drive people crazy and damage their leadership credibility. [211]


The authors provide some great questions to help leaders become more self aware.


How Churches Are Leading with Team

A rather week chapter for the end of the book, this chapter gives a few example of how to build a team and provide a little rationale for using a team approach. In short, don’t silo. Work together. This has very little to do with reaching younger generations as opposed to just doing a better job as an organization. Leading with a team will help a church do better no matter what the target audience.



This is a sometimes tedious read without much in the way of practical suggestions. For the church struggling with reaching young adults, it can be an eye opener. For churches already involved in actively reaching young adults, it may provide some ammunition for the battle, but mostly it just confirms what those churches may already know.

Book Review: Missional Renaissance

May 11th, 2010

Last week I had the sad privilege of officiating a funeral for a 24 year old man from my church, a young friend who typified the kind of “missional” personality that Reggie McNeal believes is the future of Christianity. Had you known this young man, you would have been impressed and challenged by him. Many other young men and women I know were changed by contact with him. I think of him as I post this book review. This post is dedicated to Jesse Schaeffer,  a missional man whose short life leave a very long legacy.


McNeal, Reggie. Missional Renaissance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2009

BV6018M395 2009                                                                                        ISBN: 978-0-470-24344-2


1.     The Missional Renaissance

Outlining and laying the groundwork for the rest of the book, McNeal uses the first chapter to present his three missional shifts which will make up the bulk of the book. Comparing these shifts to similar shifts during the Renaissance, he believes that three contemporary phenomena are fueling the shifts. The emergence of the altruism economy (as evidenced by the rise in corporate charitable giving) dictates that churches must shift from the internal to the external. They, too, must be altruistic. The search for personal growth (as evidenced by life coaching) fuels the shift from program development to people development. Ministers, who have been traditionally prepared to manage the church and run the programs will have to learn to coach people. The hunger for spiritual vitality leads churches to focus on Kingdom leadership rather than Church leadership. This seems awfully close to the first shift. The main difference is that the church cannot worry and what builds the church and drives the ministry. It must look at the Kingdom results.

2.     Missional Manifesto

This chapter serves as the basis McNeal describing what a “missional” church really is. He says that for many years a church has been perceived as a place where certain things happen, a vendor of religious goods and services, and a body of people sent on a mission. Mrs. led to a rather inward focus by most churches. Even those churches that consider themselves “on mission” tend to think of it as being their mission rather than God’s mission. The missional church will be in incarnational church rather than an attractional one.

McNeal uses the central part of the chapter to present a series of short exegesis of several Scripture passages through a Missional mindset. The chapter closes with a few descriptive paragraphs of the Missional church.

People are created in the image of God.

God is on mission.

God’s mission is redemptive.

God’s mission is always being prosecuted in the world.

God doesn’t postpone his mission, waiting for the church to “get it.”

God is up to something new.

The people of God play an important role in the mission of God.

The Kingdom is a future that provokes a crisis.

The missional expression of church will require new metrics to measure its vitality.

Missional expression can grow out of the current church, but is not limited to the current church.

3.     Missional Shift 1: From an Internal to an External Focus

McNeal presents this first missional shift as a series of transitions.

From Church-Centric to Kingdom-Focused

The church has to realize that it is not the center of God’s universe.

From Destination to Connector

The church is a connector, linking people to the Kingdom of God.

From Thinking We Are the Point to Being Absolutely the Point

The church has to come to the place where it makes itself so valuable to the world that the people of God are valued, too.

From Attractional to Incarnational

This is an issue of DNA. A church can be both attractional and incarnational, but McNeal notes that it is much more difficult to add incarnational DNA to an attractional culture than it is to incorporate attractional components into an incarnational approach. [51]

From Member Culture to Missionary Culture

Churches need to seek to produce missionaries who go out and penetrate culture.

From Proclamation to Demonstration

Though McNeal doesn’t use the verse, this is very much related to Tsunami Student Conference theme for 2010: 1 Peter 3:18 about loving in word and deed and not just in speech.

From Institutional to Organic

Moving from institutional does not mean that the church ceases to be an institution. It still has to have infrastructure and organization, but the focus of the church has to change. People don’t “go to church,” they are the church.

From Reaching and Assimilating to Connecting and Deploying

From Worship Services to Service as Worship

Missional churches tolerate a wide range of “worship.” Worship happens not just on Sunday morning but throughout the week as the people of God in a rack with their communities.

From Congregations to Missional Communities

Most churches could sponsor several missional communities that would not be a part of the regular Sunday gatherings.

4.     Changing the Scorecard from Internal to External Focus

McNeal takes interesting and helpful tack in arranging the scorecard along the allocation of resources. Some of McNeal’s suggestions move quite a bit away from traditional evangelical Christianity. Some even border on a liberal social gospel. This is not to suggest that McNeal wants to move away from evangelism, but that he wants to include as many “idea starters” as possible. Here are the main areas. For each, he includes several suggestions. Only a few are included here.



·        Include community ministries possibilities in leader’s rolls.

·        Create a staff position to coordinate community development.

·        Place church offices in places other than the church.

Other People

·        Publish a list of community needs.

·        Keep track of volunteer hours.

·        Assign people to minister to multifamily housing complexes.

·        Adopt a school.


·        Include community service time as work time for staff.

·        Begin church planting with the community calendar.

·        Help people track their service hours.


·        Partner with schools.

·        Allow other churches to use the facilities.

·        Look for off-site facilities that could be used for community service.

·        Use the facilities in entrepreneurial ways.


·        Devote more money to community ministry.

·        Tithe part of capital drive us back to the community.

·        Partner with businesses.

·        Write grants.

·        Create nonprofit organizations.

·        Create foundations.

·        Allow people to contribute to community causes through the church.


·        Use social networking to connect people to community ministries and for sharing stories.

·        Post-community needs on the website.

·        Conduct community webinars.

5.     Missional Shift 2: From Program Development to People Development

The second missional shift is a crucial next step to the first. If a church makes the first shift to an external focus but does not shift to a people development focus, the external focus will become simply another program that will train people’s time and energy. McNeal believes that the program — driven church is a result of the service economy that developed in post-World War II America. At this time Americans began to outsource many of the unpleasant tasks that they had neither the time nor the inclination to accomplish. In the church, this meant that people no longer to responsibility for their own spiritual development and for the spiritual development of their families.

To accomplish this second Missional shift. The church again must make several transitions.

From Standardization to Customization

Once, churches worked to standardize their offerings much like a franchise. One could count that First Baptist Church of City A would look much like First Baptist Church of City B. The world of the 21st century is a world of customization. From iTunes to Starbucks to DVR’s, people choose what they want based on their individual preferences.

From Scripting to Shaping

Ministers are taught to script. They learn to delineate the steps of spiritual maturity and guide people down a path. However, people today “feel increasingly qualified to craft their own spur to quests.” [97] McNeal uses the illustration of the gym and a personal trainer. It is in the gym’s best interest to help people develop their own plan for physical development.

In the program-driven church, you began with programs and look for people to make them happen. In a people development-driven culture, you begin with people and then use established programs or whatever else it takes to help them grow. [99]

From Participation to Maturation

Participation does not ensure maturation. People don’t naturally grow just from attending services. Churches have to measure the right outcome.

From Delivering to Debriefing

Many attractional churches rely on the one-way flow of information. People attend the services or Bible studies and download the information. Churches should debrief people after ministry or mission participation.

From Didactic to Behavioral

From Curriculum-Centered to Life-Centered

The question here is how do churches who abandon curriculum avoid the outcome of pooled ignorance?

From Growing into Service to Growing through Service

The attractional church starts with attending a service and culminates with participation in mission/ministry. The missional church often starts with ministry first.

From Compartmentalization to Integration

The missional church helps people see that the real arena of spiritual life is not the church, but all of life.

From Age Segregation to Age Integration

This is something that many youth ministers have been promoting for years.

6.     Changing the Scorecard from Measuring Programs to Helping People Grow

As with missional shift #1, McNeal devotes a chapter to providing some idea starters for changing the scorecard with missional shift #2. He uses the same broad divisions as with the first shift. Again, only a few suggestions are included here.


·        Number of people growing in their prayer life.

·        Amount of time spent in prayer during services and meetings.

·        Number of people being prayed for both inside and outside the church.

·        Number of answered prayers recorded.

·        Number of prayer request received from the community.

Ministry Constituency

·        Number of people reporting improved marriages or friendships.

·        Number of people involved in mentoring.


·        Leaders involved in life coaching or mentoring.

·        Leaders with intentional learning agenda.


·        Time spent debriefing people.

·        Amount of time spent celebrating faith stories.


·        Reduction of corporate debt.

·        Number of people reducing debt.

·        Number of people with a well or estate planning or family budget.


·        Percentage of facilities used for personal growth.

·        Number of external or additional venues.


·        Number of people engaged in online learning or online coaching.

·        Number of life change stories on websites.

7.     Missional Shift 3: From Church-Based to Kingdom-Based Leadership

McNeal recognizes that his primary audience for the book is the paid clergy. For this reason he approaches this third missional shift from the standpoint of the clergy member who may be worried about losing his job. He points out that the first-generation church was not simply a church of Pauline and Peterine. Nor did it include just the apostles. As with the other two shifts, he presents his arguments as a series of transitions.

From Church Job to Kingdom Assignment

Kingdom leaders must be willing to act out their call in arenas other than the four walls of the church. For many this will mean taking secular jobs in which they become localized pastors and chaplains. This is certainly not a new concept. Ideally this you should come more from the members moving from passive participation to lay leadership and marketplace ministry.

From Institutional Representative to Viral Agent

This shift is mainly a move from talking about ones job and church as an institution to talking about God and the Kingdom.

From Director to Producer

Kingdom leaders must be willing to let ministry happen without their direct supervision and to fill more of a role of encouraging and empowering others to minister within the community.

From Reliving the Past (the Historian) to Rearranging the Future (the Journalist)

Simply put, leaders must not focus on what was, but on what can be and should be.

From Train and Deploy to Deploy and Debrief

This deals with leadership training for clergy.

From Positional to Personal

This is what John Maxwell has been saying for years, leadership is at its best when it is based on the personhood of the leader and not on the position alone.

McNeal closes the chapter with some frequently asked questions.

What is the role of the traditional church in the Missional movement?

How will you maintain doctrinal” orthodoxy if you’re all in your own communities doing your own thing?

What is the role of the clergy in the missional movement?

How can I earn living doing what you’re talking about?

What about my call?

8.     Changing the Scorecard from Church-Based to Kingdom-Based Leadership

McNeal divides this final scorecard into four major areas.

Paradigm Issues

These issues deal more with the personhood of the leader. His suggestions include relationships with non-Christian and non-church people, personal service, life coaching relationships, and intentional growth plans.

Microskill Development

These include coaching, storytelling, conflict management, transition leadership, listening skills, celebrating others and self, missionary training (training people how to become missionaries), and praying.

Resource Management

These are essentially the same resources used in the two other shifts: prayer, relationships, time, money, technology, and personal property. McNeal includes suggestions in each of these areas.

Personal Growth

  • Self-Awareness
  • Family Development
  • Emotional and Spiritual Health
  • Physical Health
  • Financial Health


McNeal predicts the following changes in Christianity when his three missional shifts take place.

·        Disinterest in institutional cultural Christianity will accelerate.

·        Churches that thrive will become more externally focused.

·        An explosion of missional communities will occur.

·        Missional communities will order their lives around communion, caring, and celebration.

·        Increasing numbers of Jesus followers will live out their missional expression in the context of their family and work environments.

·        Churches will sponsor and celebrate these new expressions of “being church.”

·        Many leaders of the missional movement will not be clergy.

·        Many clergy will be able to transition their current ministry assignments into missional expressions.

·        Many clergy will not be able to make this transition in their current church rolls and will have to take secular jobs to fill their call.

·        Current dominant affiliations will be replaced by those of common compassion and life orientation.

·        People who resist these developments will likely “miss the party.”

Should Students Be Able to Text During Family Dinner?

May 4th, 2010

A new survey by gives insight into parents and techno gadgets. The survey looks at the following questions.

  1. Are parents Facebook friends with their teens? Surprisingly to me, the answer was only 48%
  2. At what age should students be allowed to have social network pages (e.g. Facebook or MySpace)? 8% of parents said under age 8 while 26% said over age 18.
  3. Should students be able to text during family dinner? Again, surprisingly, about 2/3 of parents of teenagers said that it was okay.

So here’s the question I’m posting for you today. Do you think that parents should allow texting during family dinners?

For me, it’s a no brainer. Family times are so rare for most families. Dinner is a fantastic time for families to talk. In fact, one study, the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health and Development, found that dinner time was one of four 0ptimal times for family emotional connection.

Student Ministry and the Supremacy of Christ

April 22nd, 2010


Ross, Richard. Student Ministry and the Supremacy of Christ. Bloomington, IN: Cross Books. 2009

LOC Control # 2009936948                                                                           978-1-6150-7055-8

Date Read:  January 2010


Richard Ross is professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. While he was at LifeWay he was the architect of True Love Waits, YouthLink 200 and the Turning Hearts Tour. He is the author of over a dozen books on student ministry. His website is


It has been several years since anyone has produced a well rounded, comprehensive strategy book for student ministry. Given the huge changes in church strategy, youth culture, and technology that has diversified student ministry in the last decade, a book like this is a daunting task. Richard Ross has produced what may be the best attempt at a widely received resource.


In the preface, Richard sets out the fact that his life has been recently impacted by a book on the supremacy of Christ. It has set they stage for him to repackage much of what he has taught for years into a framework of the supremacy of Christ. For this reason he has given “supremacy of Christ” the top billing in the title. Do not let this mislead the reader into thinking that the content is mainly about worship. Indeed, the supremacy of Christ is the main driving force for the book, but this does not hinder the author’s passion for students from coming through. The first chapter describes the vision of what student ministry and church would look like if Christ really reigned supreme in the hearts of students, parents, leaders, and other members.

The next four chapters give more information behind the new framework for student ministry. The author states that student ministry and most other areas of ministry suffer from a poor, insufficient view of Christ. He sums it up by saying Christ has become a mascot rather than a monarch and he challenges the reader to examine his or her own heart to see if this is not so.

By tracing some of the major awakenings from both the Bible and modern times, the author draws a powerful conclusion that students are usually the first to respond to the awakening of God. He notes that in the early 1800s and 1900s there were great missionary movements. The suggestion is that the early 2000s might be the stage for another. He calls on students workers to perceive (what God is doing), prioritize (make it a primary hope), purify (confess and repent), proclaim, prepare, and partner (within denominations and areas and beyond).

All this leads up to a presentation of a new paradigm for student ministry. This is not a brand new paradigm, but the author has repackaged it, like much of the book, within the “supremacy” framework. In this paradigm the church measures the effectiveness of student ministry not through attendance, praise, absence of complaints, and comparison with other churches, through impact on the Kingdom.

Other aspects of the paradigm shift are demonstrated in the two pairs of illustrations below.

Not this                                    But this

Student Discipling - Old Model              Student Discipling - New Model

 And not this                             But this

 Student Ministry - Old Model              Student Ministry - New Model

The middle section of the book, chapters six through nine, deals with the specifics of the program of the student ministry. Again, it is not new information, but it is repackaged in the supremacy of Christ framework. One truly unique idea is concept of lead teams, a concept the author created and proposed a decade ago. Lead teams involve parents, students, and other leaders in planning, executing and owning the student ministry. In this book, the added dimension is that it frees the student minister (or key volunteer) to focus on strategy Kingdom building activity.

Prayer is another unique aspect as the author adds it to Rick Warren’s five purposes of the church. The author’s own life is a great example as he commits one hour daily to prayer. He also addresses the other five purposes over three chapters. His discussion of ministry has more to do with money and the attitudes of leaders. He some it up with this saying:

For Christ – Extravagance
For those in need – Liberality
For me – Simplicity

Mission is a somewhat more practical topic from the standpoint that the author supplies concrete and not theoretical examples. In writing about Short Term Missions (a huge aspect of many student ministries), he lists the U.S. Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Missions determined by a consortium of mission sending agencies. He also discusses Gap year programs for missions which he will develop more fully in chapter 14.

The author devotes more time to discipleship than to any other purpose. He proposes a two pronged approach to discipleship, with the caveat that parents are the primary disciplers of their children. The first strategy is the open group discipleship. This incorporates the traditional Sunday School model as well as home groups. The second strategy is 1 on 3 discipling: one adult with three students of the same sex).

The last third deals with the people involved in student ministry: the student minister, students themselves, parents, and the congregation (the senior pastor is addressed in appendix A). The chapter on the student minister (or key volunteer) explains the benefits and struggles of adopting his new strategy. It starts with the minister accepting the supremacy of Christ in his or her own life and proceeds from there to the parents of students, the volunteers working on the team and to the rest of the congregation. The book warns that the whole church, student minister, pastor, leaders, and congregation must all make the change. It even issues specific warnings of the frustrations to follow with partial change.

The chapter on students themselves is a little weaker. This is understandable since the thrust of the book is toward adults who lead students. The essence of the chapter is that students should be investing in their leaders, in the ministry, and in each other. The last part of the chapter is a brief overview of some developmental issues that could be addressed by a ministry for each grade of junior high and high school. Several sources have begun to recognize benefit of some kind of GAP year program. The author adopts this and calls it the year to Go And Proclaim.

Parent ministry has been dear to the heart of the author for many years. Much of what is here has already been published in his excellent work, Parenting with Kingdom Purpose. The chapter on parents seems to be aimed directly at the parent rather than to the youth minister. A short section in the middle provides student ministers with ideas for partnering with parents and programming for them.

The last part of the chapter goes back to the parent and mirrors much of what was covered in a program the author once led called Turning Hearst where he emphasized the need for a strong hear connection between parents and teens. The chapter closes with an intense, powerful call for parents to release their children to God to be used for Kingdom purposes.

In the chapter on after high school, the author addresses a huge problem in student ministry that 70% of involved students drop out of church for a period of time in the first four years out of high school. The last half of the chapter give a brief summary of a long standing project of Richard’s that he originally called 2 to 2 by 22 where students are encouraged and empowered to give 2 months to 2 years on formal mission by the time they turn 22. This dovetails into the GAP year idea.

In appendix A the author boldly writes to the senior pastor. Presumably, the student minister has given the book to the senior pastor to read this section. He gives the pastor specific ways in which he needs to help and introduces the new student minister job description and 40 days of change in appendices C and D. He also urges the senior pastor to communicate with the student minister as well as evaluate and defend him or her.

Appendix B contains four weeks of Scripture readings on the exaltation of Christ: who He is to us, over us, within us, and upon us.

Appendix C is simply a sample job description that reflects the book’s principles that the student ministry must exalt Christ, that it must involve parents, other adults, and students in leadership and planning, and that it must be integrated into the total life of the church.

The author is also the creator and architect of True Love Waits. In appendix D he adds some personal thoughts to the current state of the abstinence movement. The section is essentially a reminder that True Love Waits was not a one time thing and that churches should continue the message. It cautions against trusting many recent reports that lead people to believe that abstinence education does not work or is morally wrong.

Following the relative success of other “40 Days” campaigns, Appendix E lays out a plan to introduce the concepts of the book to the church starting on a Wednesday night and continuing for the next six Sundays. Each week has a suggestion for sermon topic, testimonies, and outcomes for youth and parent Bible studies. The purpose of the 40 days is not to change the church’s student ministry strategy, but to prepare the church for the change and to get the key players to commit to the change.

Appendix F relates the book to the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study that took place from 2005 to 2007. It identified 44 characteristics that exemplary youth Ministries share. The appendix lists the characteristics with references to specific pages in the book for each.


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Book Review: Who Stole My Church

October 15th, 2009

MacDonald, Gordon. Who Stole My Church? Nashville: Thomas Nelson. 2007

228 pp.                BV600.M284 2007               ISBN #978-0-7852-2601-7


You Are Gifted

Gordon MacDonald is the former president of World Relief and a former pastor in the Boston area. He is the author of several books including Ordering Your Private World.


Who stole my church is a different kind of “church health” study. MacDonald uses a story line approach much like Patrick Lencioni. The main plot involves a medium sized New England church. It is an evangelical church associated with a major, but undisclosed, denomination. The church was once a vibrant influence in the community, but has been in decline for many years. The church is an old church, but the current pastor has been there only three years. The book chronicles the pastor’s regular meeting with a dozen of so of the long term members who are dissatisfied with the decline, but also with the changes that the pastor is wanting to make. In short, the book is about dealing with people who can’t deal with change.

The book is broken into 21 chapters, but the chapters are organized according to the weekly meetings and not by a single idea.

At times, MacDonald gets a little preachy about a topic. For example, he makes several references to asking people in advance to pray at an upcoming meeting. The idea has no bearing on the main thought of the book, but it is obviously a passionate topic with MacDonald and he believes it will be helpful to the reader. Sometimes, MacDonald takes just too much printed real estate to make a point. Such is the hard part of writing in novel style.

Each chapter begins with a sidebar describing one of the characters. It is written like a pastor’s personal notes for a personnel file. While it helps keep the illusion of the story, it really doesn’t help the plot or the thesis.

Some of the topics addressed in the “meetings” are the works of Peter Drucker and Joel Barker, postmodernism, Robert Raikes and the beginning of the Sunday School movement, and the move toward programs and institutions in the church.

The fictitious church is dealing with several problems including changing the name of the church, minimizing its denominational affiliation, and the shift to reaching emerging generations. In reality, these are the same problems so many churches are dealing with today.

When dealing with the highly emotional issue of church music, McDonald relates a moving story about Isaac Watts. According to McDonald, Watts was bored with Calvin’s psalmody. His father encouraged him to write new music for the services that Watts would like better. This new music split some churches (much like today). McDonald then asks a piercing question, “what if his father had not encouraged him to write new music?” Since many of Watts’ hymns are now cherished by older generations, the answer must come back that each generation should be allowed to write Christian music that appeals and speaks to them.

McDonald goes on to point out that there have been four music wars in the western church in the past 200 years. Isaac Watts represented the first. The others are Fanny Crosby/Ira Sanky, Gospel Quartets, and Contemporary Christian [reviewer’s term, not McDonald’s].

In summary, the book is probably not the ultimate statement on dealing with change in the church. It doesn’t give any strategy for managing or leading change unless one chooses to follow the example of the fictional pastor.

What the book does do is provide an easy, entertaining read to help open the minds of some pastors and lay leaders to the underlying issues of church change. Can one use this as a textbook for change? Probably not. Can it be the initial introduction? Yes. And if not, at least it’s a thoughtful diversion.

Book Review: The Unexpected Adventure

September 17th, 2009


Strobel, Lee and Mark Mittelberg. The Unexpected Adventure. Grand Rapids: Zondervon. 2009

286 pp.                                     BV3790.S887  2009                                                                             

The Unexpected Adventure is a different kind of evangelism book. Instead of the usually “how to” or “why you should” of most evangelism books, this one is designed for devotional reading.

Strobel and Mittelberg alternate stories of evangelistic encounters they have had. Not every story ends with someone accepting Christ. While it is always sad when someone doesn’t respond positively to the gospel, it is refreshing to read stories of faithfulness to witness even when the outcome wasn’t what was expected.

Of course, there are plenty of stories of positive responses. Some were immediate and some took place over years of contact.

Each chapter/story includes a simple action principle that the reader can to tailor ones one witnessing experience. The chapters end with a section called “stepping into the journey” where the writers address the reader directly with encouragement and interpretation of the story.

Unlike many other evangelism books, one doesn’t come away with a sense of guilt over not witnessing enough. Quite the contrary, I finished reading most chapters with a prayer that God would allow me to have the opportunity to witness more often. Rather than feeling like I had to witness, I wanted to witness.

Book Review: Help, I’m a Frustrated Youth Worker

September 1st, 2009

Help: I’m a Frustrated Youth WorkerCase, Steve. Help, I’m a Frustrated Youth Worker! Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2009         173 pp.

Steve Case is the director of youth ministries for Windermere Union United Church of Christ, Windermere, FL. He is a frequent columnist for Youth Worker Journal.

This small book is an interesting combination of humor, confession, and help. Case has been known for his humorous columns in Youth Worker Journal. That humor carries over here. Sadly, much of the humor is sophomoric (note the title of the first chapter). Case also uses his own past as illustration of mistakes that youth ministers make and of toxic churches that minister can serve. One begins to wonder how much the past toxic churches have affected Case’s perception of youth ministry.

In the midst of all this, Case does provide a few gems of youth ministry wisdom. Chapters two and three on complaints and complaining are particularly noteworthy. On the other hand, some of the myths of youth ministry (chapter 10) reflect a view of youth ministry as the marginalized ministry that was prevalent decades ago. One hopes that most churches that actually have paid youth ministers have moved far beyond that.

The book is worth a quick read and maybe a review once a year or so as a “pick me up.” The basic outline is below.

1       There’s Always Somebody Willing to Pee in Your Froot Loops

Looking Out for Number One

A)    People who pee in your Froot Loops can’t see the ministry for the trees.

B)     Understanding is the key.

C)    You’ll find complainers no matter where you go.

D)    Don’t start to question yourself.

E)     Remember, God put you where you are.

2       Do You Know What Those @!*# Kids Have Done Now?

Dealing with Church Members’ Complaints

A)    Why Complain?

i)        Some people are born complainers.

ii)       Some people complain toe protect the status quo.

iii)     Some people complain because they are uninformed.

iv)     Some people complain because they feel bad about themselves.

v)      Sometimes there really is a problem worth complaining about.

B)     When It’s Your Turn to Respond

i)        God sent the critic.

ii)       Tag backs aren’t allowed.

(1)   Never respond immediately to an email.

(2)   Say, “Let me see if I’m hearing your right,” then repeat the complaint back to the person.

(3)   Promise a response.

iii)     Two magic words can work wonders: “however” and “therefore.”

iv)     Find the truth in the matter.

3       Oh, Yeah? Well, Same to You

When It’s Your Turn to Complain

A)    The Fine Art of Complaining

i)        Make sure you’re looking at the situation properly.

ii)       Inform your boss.

iii)     Be completely clear and honest about what’s making you unhappy.

iv)     Be completely clear and honest about what you want to happen as a result of your complaint.

v)      Complain to the right set of ears.

B)     How to Complain to a Parent

4       Exit: Stage Left

When It Really Is Time to Go

A)    Consider This

i)        Everyone has a limit.

ii)       It is a job.

iii)     You can have a heart for Jesus and still be fairly compensated.

iv)     They aren’t your kids.

B)     How Do You Know When It’s Time to Go?

i)        Pray…a lot.

ii)       Get advice.

iii)     Listen.

iv)     Don’t ask for advice if you’re not going to pay attention.

v)      Look before you leap.

vi)     You work according to God’s timing, not yours.

vii)   Don’t look back.

5       Getting Fired for the Glory of God

When Leaving Isn’t Your Idea

A)    Losing Your Job Is Not That Different from Losing a Loved One

i)        Denial: Why me, God?

ii)       Anger: Why aren’t you helping me?

iii)     Bargaining: I need a new ministry job, God. Now. Please.

iv)     Depression: Forget it. I’m outta here.

v)      Acceptance: I am Your servant.


6       Do Not Ride This Ride If You Have Back Trouble or a Heart Condition

When You Feel Like You’re Getting Too Old for This Stuff

This chapter just doesn’t outline well. Case talks about the myth of the midlife crisis, but just describes how one often happens. He tells a few funny stories about getting old, then he simply encourages youth workers not to give up just because they are getting older. He doesn’t address the reasons people think about leaving other than “I can’t keep up” or “it’s time.” The only real suggestion he makes it to get someone younger to mentor. This could have been a great chapter, but it’s not one of his best.

7       Religion and the Pomophobic Church

Or, Fear and Loathing in the Board Meeting

This chapter is simply about getting along with other people. The chapter refers to people in the church and from other traditions. The basic response is “try to get along.” Case provides a little help in understanding other people, but his main advice is to just take a deep breath and decide it the ground is worth dying for.


8       Carry My Rat

What? There’s Stress in Your Job?

This chapter doesn’t outline well, either. The phrase “carry my rat” comes from the image of items that cause stress are like rats that run around the office and home. When others try to unload their “rats” on someone, they add stress. Case does a decent job of describing ministerial stress in a like manner. He says that stress is normal in life and in ministry and that youth ministers just need to accept it and deal with it. Learning to say “no” also helps. He doesn’t provide much in the way of dealing with stress except to slow down and rest in and rely on Jesus. Yes, that will help, but he could have provided more. Then, that wouldn’t be keeping with the light hearted nature of the book.


9       Stuff Happens

What to Do When the Worst Thing That Can Happen…Does

A)    Start Here: You Have No Idea What You Are Doing

i)        Do not panic

ii)       If the student is in danger of any kind, respond immediately

iii)     Your students see you has someone who has answers.

iv)     Don’t case the wide blanket of “everything’s doing to be okay” over everything.

v)      If you’re dealing with a massive tragedy, expand the invitation.

vi)     You can’t for students to talk, unload, or spill their grief.

B)     Invite God

C)    God Is Not to Blame; God IS in Charge

D)    You Are Not Alone


10  Myth-Understanding

Some Lies and Truths about Youth Ministry



Youth ministry is about numbers.

Youth ministry occurs in small, quiet, one-on-one settings.

Youth ministry is about office hours.

You have to go where the teenagers are.

You can “fix my kid.”

You can’t fix a kid.

Students are servants of the church.

Students are servants of God.

Youth ministry is about helping youth become nice people

Youth ministry comes from the Greek for “messy noise.”

Youth should be present for all youth activities.

There’s no such thing as an inactive member.

Youth ministry is about giving the kids answers.

Anyone who says he has all the answers is either lying or selling something.

Mission trips are about serving others.

Mission trips are [also] about turning teens into disciples.

Youth ministry is a stepping stone to real ministry.

There is no higher calling than ministering to youth.

Case has presented some nice ideas here. Many youth workers do deal with a lot of these “myths.” At the same time, Case reveals a lot about his own mistakes and toxic situations of the past. A grounded youth minster knows that “office hours” of some sort gives credibility, stability, and connection for a youth ministry. And sometimes there just had to be rules. But, all in all, Case has presented some good arguments against some of the most common myths.


11  It’s Better to Burn Out Than to Fade Away

The Art of Winnowing

A)    The 18 Month Myth

i)        Case points out that this data has not empirical backing

ii)       The average paid youth minister (according to Group) has been at the same church for 3.9 years and in ministry for 4.2 years.

B)    Signs of Genuine Burnout

i)        No Vision

ii)       No Heart

iii)     No Prize in the Cereal Box (disappointment)

C)     Fixing the Hole

i)        Monitor your own spirituality.

(1)   You must carve out your own prayer time.

(2)   You must be part of church, not just a leader.

(3)   You must continue your education.

(4)   You must network.

(5)   You must take time off.

ii)       Remember that this is a calling.

iii)     Understand that youth ministry does not involve a method or formula. [Case maintains that while office work is necessary, it is not an office job.]

iv)     Remind yourself what your not in this business for.

(1)   Not to make money

(2)   Not to “fix” kids.

(3)   Not as a stepping stone to “real” ministry.