Program Mindset vs. Ministry Mindset

In Col 4:17 the Apostle Paul says, Tell Archippus, “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”  I read that verse on the beginning of a walk to my office. I began to think about how this verse applies to me personally and my church team.

In a leadership podcast, Andy Stanley was talking about healthy staff team members.  They “Get Things Done, Are in the Right Position, and Work interdependently” as a team.  A staff team needs to understand the difference between a “program mindset and a ministry mindset” to evaluate the ministries of a church.   I wrote down some differences on my list but asked my staff team to contribute to our list.  Here are the results.

Program Mindset

A program mindset says that a program exists for itself.  The program is more important than the impact on people.  We have done this for 150 years, so it is good for people now. A program mindset says that a program never dies.   This kind of thinking assumes that programs exist for the leaders rather than people in the program.  Leaders in a programming mindset have fallen into a rut and even become hysterically historical about what has happened in the past.  They are past-oriented rather than being honest about what is happening in the present.  They say if we keep doing what we are doing it will get better.  The false hope or fantasy that we can continue riding a dead horse or that horses can be resurrected is the fallacy that program people fall into to resist the change that needs to happen.

With no visible results, there is no vision for the future.  Programs with this kind of thinking tend to be competitive with other ministries, ask for money regularly and develop an unhealthy inward focus which centres on a few people to the exclusion of others.  This kind of thinking leads to pride and isolation from other ministries especially those ministries that might be created out of a genuine need to make a difference in people’s lives.

Ministry Mindset

Ministry mindset churches exist for others, not for the leaders of a program or ministry.  They are flexible, fluid, can change as the ministry environment changes.  Those with a ministry mindset cooperate and partner with others.  Evaluation and feedback are welcomed.  They give away resources and are useful in training others in all aspects of discipleship.  This kind of ministry is not born out of competition or the suspicion of others within the church.  Ministry mindset churches create ministry communities that are outward focused.  While program mindsets build protective bubbles or fortresses, those with a ministry mindset break through these barriers or bubbles to have a more significant influence and impact on people. They are not afraid to bring light into dark places or risk new ways of doing the ministry.  Methods or means of doing ministry are flexible.  Our message is absolute.

I am not saying that churches should not have some internally focused programs but all programs or ministries in the church need to have substantial outreach opportunities.  Four questions that can measure the effectiveness of any given ministry area.  Are they winning the lost in this area of ministry?  Is this program building believers?  Are the leaders of this ministry equipping workers?  Lastly, are they popping, training and developing more leaders?  If the answers to these questions are negative, then you will have to make the clear call.  Some programs need to die.

Greater discipleship happens when our departments have regular outreach opportunities.  Churches need to do a few ministries well.  As a church grows, it will need to have fewer ministry focuses.  Less is more with programs that are not competing with other for staff, resources or time.  Ministries need to be active and efficient in their results that hold to the precise goals and ministry benchmarks agreed upon by the mission priorities and leadership of the church.

No ministry is more important than another nor is a ministry more spiritual than another.  For example, one group might say prayer ministry is more important than the preaching of the Word,  Worship or children’s discipleship.  Maybe you have some comments on the differences between a programming mindset and a ministry mindset.  A ministry mindset is always pursuing the mission of Christ because it is focused on people.

The staff team and the church that has a ministry mindset continue the mission priorities of Christ to make disciples of all age groups.  The Lord wants us to complete the work he wants us to do.  This might help us understand the difference between making effective ministry and those just taking up space on our church calendars.



Love Thy Body – Dr. Nancy R. Pearcey

Love Thy Body, is Dr Nancey R. Pearcey’s latest book, that does answer the hard questions about Life and Sexuality that everyone seems to be confused about in our society. Each chapter unlocks one of these questions and answers flow from Nancy’s effective research, her clear writing which is undergirded with arguments and truth bombs from secular sources that challenge the progressive or athiestic worldview about the body. This book is a must-read for everyone in the church and community that are dealing with the questions surrounding human identity, euthanasia, abortion, the hook-up culture, and other issues destroying the strong family foundations that have formed and blessed our society. This book is a treasure of Biblical truth to deal with the denial of moral absolutes pervading our society regarding healthy relationships. A Biblical world view is promoted that our body is spiritually redeemable and the temple of the Holy Spirit when we understand the healthy Biblical freedoms and boundaries that God has given us to have a proper identity. This book will assist you in choosing life instead of the death culture that has infiltrated the beginning of life, the end of life and everything in between since we are people made in the image of God; body, soul and spirit.

The Perfect You – Dr Caroline Leaf

Dr Caroline Leaf’s book, The Perfect You is an in-depth blueprint to understand personal identity. When we second guess our status, value or worth as person we misunderstand the worth we have in a relationship with Jesus Christ. This book gives excellent resources to understand that each person has been given a clear purpose and identity from the Lord who created us all unique and how the Lord restores and redeems us so we can fully understand our God-given identity in Jesus Christ to fulfil our purpose, calling and mission as children of the Lord. Includes some great exercises and the unique Qualitative (UQ) assessment tool.

Wisdom for Hiring

Here are a few things that I have learned through assisting other organizations and for searches for staff personally.  Hopefully, these can assist you in your search to find the right person for your staff team.

  • Take more time than you think you need. Sometimes it takes longer to find the right person to be a part of the team.  A wise friend said, “Do not hire the first person who sends in their resume; be discerning!”
  • The recommended “Super Star” is not always the best servant leader.
  • Ask about salary and benefit expectations before you reveal your budget for this position. This will tell a lot about the character and motives for the position seeker.
  • Make the position’s responsibilities clear with expectations laid out both verbally and in the job description. Clear lines of who they report to and who they will be working within this position need to clear for the candidate.
  • As the process narrows, have 2-3 interviews with key staff members and the board to determine fit and to gain further input into the discernment process. Be fair and communicate often with candidates. Too many candidates have been lost to organizations because the search team leaves the potential hire “Blowing in the Wind”.
  • Keep getting feedback from the candidate through emails, phone calls and Skype calls to keep the search process going.
  • Ask clear questions to help understand the long view potential with this candidate. How long do you see yourself in this ministry?  What areas of education or training do you see yourself needing to develop this area for the long haul?  What do you need from me on a regular basis as your supervisor or leader for you to be successful in this area of ministry?
  • Have you done enough background checking on this candidate? Go beyond the references given and ask for others.   Check online, get a police check, become their Facebook friend or follow them on Twitter.  Go beyond their previous position and check out their track record with other businesses or ministries.  If married, take time to get to know their partner.  If they are not willing to move or they are hesitant about the position they will influence your potential hire.
  • Finally, what does your gut say? Are there hesitations, red flags or questions that have been avoided or fuzzy?  Talk to some trusted friends or colleagues.  Let them met your spouse and get a response from them on the candidate.  My wife has given me great insight and wisdom regarding a new hire.
  • Take the candidate out to a restaurant and see how they respond to those that serve them.  What is their attitude like in a public situation especially to those that serve them?  Do they show gratitude easily? Is the attitude one of entitlement?
  • If these questions are giving you a green light to hire, hire them.
  • Have a probationary period and give them the authority, responsibility, accountability, resources and most important the healthy relationships needed for them to be a success for the organization that you lead.
  • Provide an outside coach or mentor to assist them in adjusting to the new culture and position in the first year.  The first year experience determines what happens in the years ahead.
  • What do you think?  Is there any other wisdom that might be helpful in this post?


Keeping Your New Hire on the Team and Healthy

I have talked to a number of young leaders recently who I have coached over the years and some senior leaders who are also dealing with the area of hiring well and keeping staff healthy.  There are a number of things coming out of those conversations and my own observations working with a staff, I want to share in this post.  It is really a follow-up to last weeks post.

  • Clear Job Description

Having a clear job description brings clarity to what you want this person to do on your team.  It must describe the position with its responsibilities, authority and accountability.  Does it really communicate what I want this person to do? When you give the responsibility of a position to someone give them the authority to get the job done within clear boundaries with clear lines of accountability, who they report to and who if any report to them.  Working relationships need to be clear in the job description. Keep it simple.  Could you get this job done with the time allotted? Is it fair and challenging to the individual who is going to get this position?

  • The Role of Senior Staff and Board

Current leaders (Senior staff and Board) need to become cheerleaders, permission and resource givers rather than withholders who stifle creativity.    In the words of one of my friends,  “we need to allow the continuous tweaking of work areas so that ripples of positive change and growth can happen in the organization”.

I was with a young leader recently where their senior leadership team continues to hold him back and hinder his new ideas to improve the area he has responsibility.  These leaders are committed to status quo solutions and continuing to “ride the dead horse” of past programs or methodologies. This has frustrated this young leader.

So are you cheering your team on?  Are you serving them so they can be successful?  Bless them and Cheer them on even in their mistakes.

I remember one of my young leaders who made a mistake that cost us some money.  My only question after his truthful confession was: “What were the lessons you learned”?  He shared them clearly.  My response “was not do it again”!  My response was “Ok, great, let’s keep going we have a lot of work to do.”

  • New Leaders try New Ways

Let new leaders loose with the freedom to try new things. Too many organizations and leaders have “Baptized their methodologies”. Our message is absolute,  but our methodologies are flexible and fluid to get the job done effectively and efficiently.

Recently I was with a staff person from another organization where the status quo is shutting down the potential of this leader and the ministry they serve.  Let young leaders loose with good feedback and encouragement.  Let them try new ways because new staff members see the blind spots and go beyond the “groupthink” or status quo of the current leaders.  New blood on the team brings a freshness, health, and new ways to alleviate or get old problems solved.

  • Major on the Major  

Give people one major thing to do.  They might be able to take on a minor role because of their leadership capacity but make it clear what is the majority focus you want them to do.  I met a young leader who has had more responsibilities added to their current job.  This has resulted in only 40% their main role being completed. This is not fair to them, he is a great servant leader but his present employer is going to lose them without some correction. Along with this too many leaders in their position are dabbling and being distracted by the trivial or minor issues facing them.  Keep the main thing the main thing. Help your staff to let these time wasters go so they can concentrate on the main thing.

  • Develop Ministry or Work Teams

Staff members who are overseeing an area need to develop a ministry or work team.  They are hired to develop people because the team leader who develops others expands their own capacity.  Each staff member or leader needs to be developing at least 3 other people so that they can give away areas to people who can carry them further.  Who is on your team?  How are you developing this team?  Who is missing from your team? What resources does your team need to get the job done?  These are the questions senior leaders need to be asking.  These questions are necessary to keep your team leaders from trying to do it all.  Be clear on the purpose of this team and the length of time they need to accomplish their work.  They also need deadlines on how long they need to be on the team.  Along with the purpose being clear, they need from you the 3-5 core objectives/goals this team needs to accomplish.

  • Give Away

One of the questions on a weekly basis I often ask myself, what are three things I can give away today or this week to extend my leadership capacity of the organization I serve.  I realized long ago I get more accomplished through leaders who are forming teams. This gets more people involved.  Leaders who try to micromanage or try to do it all themselves will soon burn out and stagnant their leadership and responsibility.  In fact what I have seen as I give something away to a capable staff member is they will do better and more creative work.  Bless them and thank them for this great work.  They have saved you time and taken something off your list.


Hope this helps you on this Friday afternoon.




The Seven C’s of Choosing Staff or Leaders

As I work with and choose leaders, there are key aspects that are important to consider.  Years ago, my mentor, Dr. Gordon Stephens talked about three areas: Character, Competencies and Chemistry.  I also heard the first three, plus one additional, Culture, in a conference with Andy Stanley at Northpoint Community Church a few years ago.

There are three more C’s, I would like to add to the list along with some key questions in this blog post. This will assist us as we are choosing staff or appointing leaders on our board, business and other volunteer service areas.

When choosing leaders so much of it has to do with:

  • Character

These are people whose values and beliefs are not just talked about they are lived out in their lives.  They have integrity, honesty and strength of who they are in their everyday decisions and interactions with people.  A few years ago my Mother gave me a birthday card with me sitting on my Grandpa Pifer’s lap when I was about 18 months old.  He was one of my heroes growing up along with my Dad and my other Grandfather.  The card was surrounded with three words: Honesty, strength and integrity.  Words of character lived out in these men’s lives were modelled for me. I also want to be known as a leader of godly character.

Key Question:  Is this person growing in and known for Christ-like character and integrity?


  • Calling

For some, this might be passion since it is such a popular word in our daily culture.  Calling is much deeper because passion can run out when the going gets tough.  A called person is persevering, they are focused.  They have been designed uniquely by God to fill the needs and develop the area of responsibility they have been assigned.  Calling is multi-dimensional.  It involves a person’s choice, their energy, skills, makeup and giftedness coming together in a God-given desire to contribute and serve the cause of Christ with clear commitment. This goes beyond moving somewhere for a job or comfortable ministry.  Fulfilling a calling can be painful, inconvenient. The motto of the called person, “If I can’t do this I die; I am willing to pay the price.”

Key Questions:  Is this person called to this role or do they see this as just another job? Are they willing to pay the price? 


  • Chemistry

This aspect is important because you want a person you are introducing to fit, contribute, and have a vital role in strengthening your team. Will they click with the other team members and mix well to assist the staff to move ahead to pursue the organization’s vision, mission and goals?  Find out how they react under pressure from others and whether they are an explosive mix or when added to the team they contribute to a healthy environment. Will adding them produce a synergy of relationships?

Key Question – Will they add to the mix of the team or will they disrupt and cause unnecessary tension and an explosion?


  • Culture

When hiring someone you need to consider the culture they are coming from and the culture they are coming to in your decision.  Do they understand what you do as an organization? What are the traditions of that business or institution?  Traditions, develop in new and older organizations. We all have them.  Will this person be able to fit into the current culture? Will they match up with the mores, shared beliefs and practices of the team?

In the church setting do they line up with the doctrinal statement, philosophy of ministry, vision, mission and ministry priorities set out by the Pastor and Elders’ board?   Attitudes also have to be taken into account along with their skills, education and expertise.  One thing you have to question is whether their qualifications, educational training and experiences stretch our current culture to align us for greater mission effectiveness and growth.

Key Questions – Will they be able to adapt, learn and grow in our culture?  Will they also stretch us to have a healthier staff culture?


  • Competencies

These are the skills and the abilities that people bring to the position to fulfil the requirements of a given job.  Look at their experience and education.  Find out who they have worked under to determine where their strengths and skills have benefitted others.  What have been their strengths and accomplishments in serving previous organizations?  What have they done?  In recent years one of the most important factors to consider is the Emotional intelligence (EI) or relational intelligence of a person as a competency.

Key Question: Do they have the skills, abilities, training and emotional intelligence to get the job done? 

  • Cognitive Abilities

As we seek staff members, we want them to be able to think, research, develop strategy, set goals, tactics and adapt while being in alignment with the mission and vision of the organization.  Does their knowledge puff them up?  Are they still teachable? Are they “lifelong learners” who have a submissive attitude rather than one of pride or superiority?  Just because a person is an expert in one area does not make them an expert in every field.  That is why good leaders will have smarter people around them to complete and improve their team IQ.  Those using their knowledge will also demonstrate wisdom in their tasks and interactions with others.  It is not about the educational degrees a person possesses but how much they have applied their education and experience to life. In other words are they “know it alls” or are they wise?

Key Questions:  Do their knowledge, experience and education translate into wise living? Are they still teachable? 

  • Christ-Centeredness

The last aspect as I am looking for leaders is a Christ-centered or God-focused life.  Who is the centre of their life?  Who motivates them? What is the purpose of their life?  Do they have strong Biblical values?  Tough questions,  but if we are to have the right people on our teams we need people who definitely have Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives especially in the church.  Christ must be the centre as the Apostle Paul relates in Galatians 2:20.  Faith in Christ produces faithful people who are available to the work, ministry and perform not for themselves but as servants of Jesus Christ.  If Christ is indeed Lord, their attitudes are different as well.  They pulse with the life of Christ, and it is contagious to others around them.   Christ-centered leaders leave self-centred leaders in the dust.

But what about business leaders making choices about people.  Sure people who have Jesus Christ should bring an advantage to your company.  If this is not the case for you. What are the values demonstrated by a potential hire?  Where do their beliefs come from? Why do they make the choices they make? Who are they following and why? Getting to these questions determine who is really the master of their life.  You do not want someone self-absorbed but someone who is other focused.

Key Questions:  Who is at the centre of this person’s life?  Does their talk, attitudes, actions and habits demonstrate a Christ focused life? 

If you have further questions. Let me know.  If I can coach you with some tools or help in your search for the right staff people in your church or organization I will be glad to assist or direct you to the right people.

For now, I hope the seven C’s of hiring will help you in the search for the right people for your team or organization.


Compassion and Community

I heard this week, part of a CBC radio interview with a professor of religion at Duke University.  As she was interviewed, I heard again about the decline in institutional faith based organizations.  She went on to say the quote that I have often got from people. “I am not religious, but I am spiritual.”  To which I have often replied, I am not religious either but I am spiritually alive because of a life changing relationship.  That usually starts a great conversation about religion and spirituality.  If the conversation continues,  I ask more questions of the individual which allows me to talk about Jesus Christ, my life transforming relationship.   Both words: religion and spirituality in our culture are defined with selfish pursuits as their end.

As the CBC interview progressed, I did come upon some gems from the professor.  She said in her research that people are walking away from religious institutions because they are missing two key inner drivers or longings in their life: Compassion and Community. People long that these two needs be met since we are all spiritual beings as she intimated.  Individuals are not looking for dead orthodoxy, staid religious rituals or the mechanical religious forms of the past but compassion and authentic community as she explained.

The early church demonstrated both of these spiritual essentials in the book of Acts.  Take a look at Acts chapter 2 after the gospel is preached by Peter and it is received. The result is demonstrated in Acts 2:42-47.  You see these two qualities lived out as they met one another’s needs by ministering sacrificially and practically with the love of Jesus Christ. Through a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, compassion and community are the results of gospel transformation.  Without Christ centred living you will not have compassion and authentic community. Both are found in Christ.  Both are the results of knowing Christ.

Now I understand, many Christian churches are dying in North America because they have forgotten to practice these two qualities with each other and newcomers to their churches.  But like the good religious professor, they have forgotten the key person that produces compassion and community among people: Jesus Christ. There are many thousands of growing and healthy churches that do not get the media attention that are compassionate and growing in an authentic community because they are Christ-centered.

As I watch and hear the reports from the tragic hurricane that has hit Houston Texas. Compassion and Community are being carried out by thousands of people.  I am glad so many of them are people of true faith who are making a difference through Christian organizations and individual followers of Jesus. Hopefully, we can all contribute as we help our neighbours to the south rebuild.  Compassion and Community are needed in each of our lives especially in the tragedies of life.

The CBC interview missed the primary point or person necessary for these two qualities to impact people.  It is really a three point alliterated sermon.  Christ, Compassion, Community. Christ produces genuine Compassion and Community.  When Christ is the centre of our lives, Compassion and Community break out!


I hope to share the link from the interview once I find it on the search engine of