Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Leadership (6)

This is the sixth in my series of articles on leadership. We have been exploring the application of five lessons for leaders in the 21st century. They were developed by Joel Barker in a video called Leadershift. This series of articles provides my perspective on the lessons and their application to the local church setting. In the last lesson (in mid July) we explored the impact of our leadership style and how it affects our productivity as a leader. The last of Barker’s lessons is we must create shared vision to build bridges to the future.

I have worked with a number of churches, denominational organizations and Christian ministries as they sought to think strategically about the future and their ministries. I believe the heart of the strategy planning process is the development or refinement of the church’s mission and vision statements. Not everyone defines “mission” and “vision” in the same ways. I define a “mission” statement as a statement of identity or purpose. It is a statement that defines who we are and why we exist. I believe a “vision” statement is a statement of direction or destination. It is a statement that describes where we are going or the direction of our journey.

The mission statement should be brief, clear, and powerful. The vision statement should be concise and motivating. However, no matter how clear and powerful your statements are or how comprehensive your plan is, unless your congregation and church leaders come to share the vision it is unlikely any real change will take place.

Remember the definition of a leader. A leader is someone you choose to follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself. People have to choose to follow you. If no one is following, then you are not leading. We are leading the people of God on a journey of faith. We are attempting to move from where we are to where we believe God desires us to be. Leaders build bridges that enable people to make the trip.

There are many pastors who have given up on the journey because they have been unable to lead their congregations to share the vision. I understand their frustrations. It is so much easier to settle into a maintenance situation than to explore a fresh vision for the future. In reality “maintenance” is what makes many congregations comfortable, but leadership is not about comfort.

My experience is that it is much more than “approving a plan” or passing a recommendation at the business meeting. It is real ownership of the vision. I have rarely seen this happen unless the church leadership is personally and vitally involved in the process developing or discovering the vision. The church must come to adopt or own the vision. They must believe the bridges proposed will make the journey possible. They must be convinced the vision represents God’s will. They must see the ministry potential the vision creates, and they must be led by a leader whom they trust because he or she has “shared” the discovery process with them. I want to encourage pastors not to give up. The congregation does not have to get to their destination today or even tomorrow. They just need to be moving toward a shared vision of God’s plan for their ministry. Don’t stop building bridges to the future.

Missouri Baptist University Lecture Series

I attended the fall lecture series today at Missouri Baptist University at the invitation of their president, Alton Lacey. Their guest this year is Dr. William Willimon, Bishop of the United Methodist Church Conference in North Alabama. For twenty years he was Dean of the Chapel and Professor of Christian Ministry at Duke University. Dr. Willimon has authored more than sixty books and his Worship as Pastoral Care was selected as one of the ten most useful books for pastors by the Academy of Parish Clergy.

In 1996, an international survey conducted by Baylor University named him one of the Twelve Most Effective Preachers in the English-speaking world. Bishop Willimon, orginially from South Carolina and raised at Buncombe Street UMC in Greenville, SC, received a B.A. from Wofford College in 1968, an M. Div. from Yale Divinity School in 1971, and an S.T.D. from Emory University in 1973. He has also received several honorary doctorates. He married Patricia Parker on June 7, 1969. They have two children: Harriet and William.

I participated in a pastor's retreat with Dr. Willimon a few years ago. He is a gifted speaker and skilled church leader. I am sure serving with university students for twenty years helped to refine his gifts. A university or college setting is a tough audience.

Following his message I participated in the clergy luncheon and informal discussion with Dr. Willimon. The group had a good discussion on a range of subjects including worship styles, reaching the younger generations, and the lack of "church growth" in North American. I appreciated his insights and perspectives. You can follow his blog at http://willimon.blogspot.com/.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Windermere: 50 Incredible Years

I wrote the following article for our Message page in the next issue of Word&Way.

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of joining approximately 500 Baptists from across our state in celebrating 50 years of ministry at Windermere Baptist Conference Center. It was a wonderful time to renew friendships, remember special moments and give thanks to God for a very special place. When the Baptists of Missouri purchased Windermere 50 years ago, no one could have imagined how God was going to use this very special place to change the lives of so many.

I began attending events at Windermere when I was just a boy. Our family went to a conference and stayed in one of the old Spring Valley family cabins. It was long before many of Windermere’s older facilities were even built. Through the years I have attended many events, conferences, and workshops at Windermere. In fact, a few years ago I attempted to add up the nights I had spent on the campus of Windermere and discovered that I had spent almost three years of my life at Windermere. That is pretty good for someone who was never on their staff. The events included Royal Ambassador Camps, youth camps, retreats, training conferences, Big Mac conferences, Bible Preaching Weeks, Mission Conferences, BSU retreats, Deacon retreats, Director of Missions events, Music conferences, and many others. I began as a child and then progressed to youth and student events. I brought groups from the churches and associations I served. Later I came to Windermere as a conference leader for the Home Mission Board and the State Convention.

I saw my first copperhead snake at Windermere, and I learned to ski at Windermere. I grew and learned more about my commitment to Christ at Windermere. It would be impossible to recount all the times God’s Spirit has touched my life through the ministry of this special place and those who served there. Windermere really is a place where God is Building Lives!

During the weekend celebration the Windermere Board of Directors announced the naming of the Lakeview Lodge for Don and Marion Wideman. More than 10 years ago I had the privilege of following Don Wideman as executive director. Don’s leadership was instrumental in the development of the Windermere Board of Advisors and the redevelopment of the Windermere Campus. By the time Don came to serve Missouri Baptists many of Windermere’s older facilities needed to be updated. The campus had a lot of deferred maintenance. In addition Windermere needed new facilities to meet the changing conference needs of groups from across the Midwest. Don’s vision and leadership began a process that the Board of Directors has continued. I am grateful Windermere has named the beautiful Lakeview Lodge for the Widemans.

I have visited many Baptist conference centers across the nation, and Windermere is one of the finest conference centers anywhere. If you have not been to Windermere recently, you need to bring a group from your church soon. It truly is one of God’s masterpieces.

Over the past several years some in our state have sought to undermine and destroy Windermere’s ministry. I am proud the Baptist General Convention of Missouri continues to provide financial support for this ministry, and we are thrilled it is available for our conferences and events. Windermere still needs our support and help. In addition to the gifts of our convention, Bettie Jo and I give to support Windermere’s ministry every month. We want this conference center to continue their important ministry for the next 50 years. This anniversary year would be a great time to make a special gift to Windermere. Let’s celebrate by helping to ensure the future of Windermere’s ministry.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism

The Baptist Center for Ethics will release their new video “Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism” on October 1. The Baptist General Convention of Missouri will be sponsoring a couple of screenings of the DVD in October or November in our state. We will also be making copies available to our churches. I am very grateful for the work of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

I am serving this year as chairperson of an ecumenical organization called Missouri Christians Against Racism and Poverty. We are committed to helping people of faith become more effective advocates for justice. I hope your church will want to share this important video with your congregation. We will provide information regarding how to order a copy from our convention office as soon as they are available.

The DVD will come with a 35-minute short-version for community screening which might be followed by a panel discussion and a 47-minute long-term version for use in church educational experiences (Bible study or discipleship training). The longer version is designed to use over a four-week period. The DVD will have an accompanying online discussion guide for the long version and a secondary Web page with a large volume of articles. The DVD will also have extras for those who want a longer discussion experience. The link below is a video clip excerpt from the soon to be released video which highlights the Repentance and Reconciliation Service held at the Ghana slave castle in 2007.