Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Grace Staff Culture (Part 3)

It is true that we desire a Christ like character in each of our team members here at Grace as noted in my previous blog. But, we are also desirous to have a "COMPETENT" team in all areas of our ministry.

The competence factor revolves around our belief that God gives abilities, talents, passions and spiritual gifts to each and every one of us. We also belief that these are incredibly diverse which in my opinion is a very good thing. In a ministry our size, we need diversity in the skill sets present within our staff. The competence piece of the puzzle for me carries with it three main ideas as we both look to hire and grow our current staff.

First, as we move forward I am always evaluating what positions need to be filled and what skill set do we need when filling that position. For example, I was hired to be a pastor at Grace and not an IT specialist. Why? Because my passion, training and gifts lie in pastoral ministry and not technology. I appreciate technology and I'm trying to learn more about it on a regular basis, but I could never maintain or grow the technology side of our ministry because I don't possess the skill set or passion for it. Thus, with any position, we seek to define carefully what our needs are as a ministry and place the right individual in that area.

Secondly, the competence factor plays into how we choose to move forward. In a culture that is rapidly changing, we acknowledge here at Grace that so too does the skill sets and positions we need. The Grace Church staff cannot function and do church like we did five years ago as systems and technologies must grow with our ever growing ministry. Thus, some of the skill sets we once needed become outdated and new ones are required. Therefore, it is my desire to continue building a staff that is very fluid and flexible with a willingness to grow, train and be equipped in new areas. I'm a firm believer that we are never too old to learn something new and become proficient and skilled in something other than what we are used to.

Thirdly, I've learned for me personally and for others that doing our work with excellence is much easier when we feel like we are adequately skilled and passionate about what we are asked to do. Staff can become very demotivated if their tasks on a daily basis are laborious and out of their comfort zone. This produces mediocrity in performance which is unhealthy for both the individual and the organization as a whole. To hire and place people in their area of skill and competence will increase creative thinking, passion and productivity in every area of ministry.

I'm a firm believer that we must strongly look at the competence factor because I believe God has called us as His Church to do everything with excellence. Christ Jesus gave His very best for us and it would be wrong for us to do anything less. I believe it is only right to grow and fill our staffing needs with people who possess the right competencies (skill sets) in that specific area. Anything less produces mediocre results which is anything but excellence for the Lord. Every one of us has been given talents, abilities, passions and gifts from the Lord and it is my goal as the Grace Staff moves forward to create a culture where our staff is being used in their area of competence for their betterment and the betterment of our ministry as a whole for the purpose of bringing glory to God!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Grace Staff Culture (Part 2)

As I noted in my previous blog, it is essential that every staff member at Grace be sold out to "Meeting and Moving." It is the heartbeat of our church and thus must be the heartbeat of those that daily serve on staff at Grace.

I also noted that there are four "C's" that also define who we are as a team. When I was hired as one of the Pastor's at Grace back in 2007, Pastor Scott addressed each of these four C's with me.

The first "C" we look for in our current team and any potential team member is CHARACTER. I was recently reading a current article in my University's magazine (PBU TODAY) and Dr. Herbert Hirt stated this "Leaders must grow to spiritual maturity and reflect Jesus in order to be the model for those aspiring to grow up in Christ." It is my personal desire to reflect Christ in all that I do as I know that my life reflects both Him and the Grace Church family as one of its pastors. But, this is also my desire for our staff. We as the Grace team must seek to reflect Jesus in all that we do which means we must take seriously the call to be men and women of character. This article also shares some of these thoughts as I define character for our staff.

First, we must be skilled at what we do but not at the cost of caring for our church family and one another. I always marvel at the words of Paul when he states that Timothy was one of the only one's he saw who was genuinely concerned for the welfare of God's people (Philippians 2:20). Being a staff of character means we possess a genuine concern for the church family at Grace and one another. I'm always watching to see how our staff treats each other and the church family. I'm looking for staff members that are desirous to go the extra mile for each other not because they have to as part of their job but because they possess a genuine concern for their teammate.

Secondly, I believe our staff must be passionate about the Word of God. (2 Timothy 2:15) The study of God's Word is essential for the formation of a Christ like character. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Every staff member must be actively engaged in the personal study of God's Word and be enthusiastic about it within our team. There is nothing more rewarding than to hear staff members talking Scripture within the office and looking together to see how it applies to their lives. It's amazing how little office gossip/chatter/negative talk takes place when our tongues are full of Scripture.

Thirdly, I believe Paul's advice to the young pastor Timothy also gives us a picture of what Christ like character looks like. We look to have a staff that seeks to live pure lives (2 Timothy 2:20-21). A clean vessel filled with the Spirit will be very effective for Christ. We will only be useful for God and for this church family if we strive to be men and women of purity. We must also be a staff that runs away from the lusts of the world and run after (pursue) right living (righteousness). (2 Timothy 2:22) I'll be the first to admit that I'm not perfect and neither is the Grace staff. But, the norm we demand is that of actively pursuing right living. That's why we look to hold each other accountable when we see sin. It's not because we don't like each other, but because we are committed to having every team member become more and more like Christ daily.

It is true that all churches must constantly wrestle with philosophy of ministry in light of cultural changes and realities. But, the one thing a church staff must never compromise on is having a team of people who seek to pursue a Christ like character. Thus the first "C" we call upon our entire staff to possess is CHARACTER! Check back soon for the next "C" we look for in our staff.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Grace Staff Culture (Part 1)

As I serve on a wonderful team daily at Grace Church, I've committed myself to communicating regularly the following concepts to the staff throughout 2009. These concepts aren't new and have been tossed around by many others even in our ministry, but they represent the culture we are looking to enhance and even create amongst our entire team as we move forward for the Lord.

Of course, the primary statement that drives every decision we make is rooted in "Meeting as many people as possible and moving them to where God wants them to be." My desire is to create a team atmosphere where there is an honest understanding that every major decision we make (whether hard or easy) has gone through the lens of the above mentioned statement.

Our M & M statement drives questions and solutions that revolve around our ministries, facility, staffing and finances. We have come to a place where personal comfort doesn't drive us but rather a firm commitment to sell out to meeting and moving. Recently, every staff member has been asked once again to search deep within their hearts and ask themselves "Do I really believe in Meeting and Moving?" The answer to that question helps both me as the Executive Pastor and the staff member to evaluate whether Grace is the place for them. I acknowledge that this might seem harsh to some, but I believe it is very hard and even uncomfortable to serve on a team that filters all major decisions through our meeting and moving philosophy. Thus, I acknowledge that serving on the Grace Church staff might not be for everyone, but to serve with those who who have sold out to M & M sure gets me up out of bed in the morning with passion and excitement for the day! They energize me and help my passion for Christ and His church grow.

In my next post, I begin sharing the four "C's" that we look for in every staff member at Grace. These four "C's" will be used to measure performance but more importantly to help every member of the team keep moving in the right direction for the Lord. The last thing I want as an Executive Pastor is a staff that has grown stagnant. How can we lead a church towards "Moving" if we as a staff have grown static in our own personal walks. Thus, I hope to communicate just how important these four "C's" are to the Grace Staff Culture in my next few posts.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wow... what a Saturday

I thought it was time to provide yet another glimpse into what a day might look like for this pastor... So here was my Saturday:
  • Woke up at 5:00 AM (after not sleeping well) and decided to get the day started since there was a 1/2 day elder retreat that started at 8:00 AM.
  • My morning routine then includes a stop at the restroom, the making of coffee and letting the dog out in some very, very cold weather.
  • From there, spent some time with God in His Word, prayer and reading another portion of the "Cast of Characters" book.
  • Showered, dressed, said good-bye to Susan and left the house around 7:05 AM for the elder b-fast and meeting.
  • From 7:30 - 1:00, I was at the Eden Resort where the elders enjoyed a great b-fast together and hours worth of great conversation about the next five years at Grace. I left greatly encouraged and pumped about the next five years for our ministry.
  • I then hopped in my car and drove to the church to work a bit more. On the way spent some time on the phone with my family and found out my son had scored 14 points in his basketball game that morning. I guess he was hitting on all cylinders from the top of the key and I was very proud of him and sad I missed his game!
  • Spent a few hours at the office catching up on some work and debriefing with Scott about the morning meeting.
  • Headed home to a house full of kids and walked into a home that had some homemade beef stew cooking. Couldn't wait for supper, so I had some left over homemade lasagna in order to stretch my stomach for the stew an hour later...
  • Had my son show me his friends new Penn State jersey that cost far less than my son's. ($10.00 vs. $55.00) Ouch... that hurt!
  • Watched President Elect Obama's speech in Baltimore.
  • Enjoyed a wonderful dinner with family and their friends and then did the dishes. YES I enjoy doing dishes...
  • Took a few hours and read the book entitled "The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive" and gained some wonderful insights about leadership as it relates to my role at Grace.
  • Watched a little HGTV in HD and then headed off to bed excited about Sunday.

That may or may not sound like an exciting day to you, but that was a day in the life of one of your pastors.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tragedy into Triumph!

I'm currently using Max Lucado's latest book, Cast of Characters, Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God, in my personal time with the Lord. It has been a good experience to read the Scripture associated with the character being written about and then reflect upon the words and questions of Lucado.

The other day I read the chapter on the apostle John that was entitled "Tragedy into Triumph." Lucado took time to quickly review the life of John with Jesus and came to the conclusion that John followed hard after Jesus because of love. John had experienced the love of God deep within his heart and thus could not help but run at lightening speed to the tomb where Jesus had been buried when he was notified the body was missing. It was there that John learned that God has the ability to turn tragedy (death on a cross) into triumph (resurrection from the dead) through empty grave clothes.

As I thought about that this past week, I could not help but reflect upon the last five years for the Auld family. There has been a lot of personal heartache and brokenness, yet in it all there was God. It was God who drew near to us, the brokenhearted and turned our tragedy into triumph.

There was time in my life when I wasn't sure if I would ever be in pastoral ministry again because of some of the hurt my family and I received at the hands of a church. Yet, as I serve at Grace I do so many years later with a passion for pastoral ministry and a passion for Grace Church's future because much like the apostle John, I've experienced the wonderful love of God deep within my heart.

As the vision plan for Grace is unveiled over the next few months, I can't wait to see what God is going to do in and through us as a church body and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. For you see... God has turned my tragedy into triumph and now that I've experienced this first hand my confidence in a gracious, loving God overflows as I witness His mighty hand at work amongst us as the Grace church family!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Live Webcast @ Grace?

This past week, I enjoyed watching Perry Noble and Tony Morgan from NewSpring Church do a live webcast on Thursday afternoon. As I watched the live feed and the live questions being asked, I thought to myself "we can do that!" So... I immediately got some of our staff looking into what it is going to take for us to do this in either March or April of this year. The good news is that they feel we can do it and do it well which is very exciting to me.

Now... why do it? Great Question... I'm glad you asked!

1) I believe that technology can be used to reach and touch the lives of people that could never be reached before. It's true that the Internet and technology can be used for evil means, but we must never overlook the importance of utilizing whatever we can to Meet and Move as many people as possible.

2) I believe that continually communicating our passion, vision and purpose on a regular basis in different formats is crucial. It is crucial because we all get so easily distracted and need a constant realignment with what God is trying to do in and through us. It is also crucial to use various formats as people have different learning styles.

3) I believe that Grace Church has its most exciting days ahead of us and Pastor Scott and I can't wait to share our vision for Grace during the month of March. Now I realize that some of us on staff have had more time to sit and chew on the future of our ministry, so we are wanting to provide a forum where others can also interact with our Sr. Pastor in real time to catch his passion for the future of Grace. A LIVE WEBCAST can help us do this.

So, here's how you can help... take some time this week to start spreading the word that Grace Church is looking to do a live webcast in the Spring so as to interact with our church family and communicate our vision for the future to our community in real time while you enjoy the comfort of your home.

Ah... it's fun to dream and think about the future together with you as we expand our capabilities for meeting and moving! I don't understand all the technology involved, but I think it's cool and can't wait to keep utilizing more and more of it!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

My Primary Citizenship

This past Sunday, our Sr. Pastor began a message series entitled "Hail to the Chief". The series launched with a talk from Romans 13:1 that called upon us as Christ followers to honor, respect and subject ourselves to the leaders (i.e. new president) that God establishes over us.

Needless to say... this message has sparked some interesting dialogue amongst some within our church family with our Sr. Pastor. As I've given thought to this series, I cannot help but come back to one of my foundational grounding points for life that I find in Philippians 3:20-21 which states: "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body."

As I walk and journey on this earth, I seek to do so through the Biblical lens that defines me first and foremost as a Christ follower. It's true, we all possess earthly citizenship's, but for those who have trusted Christ to be their Savior, our primary citizenship is of a heavenly nature in that we belong to the Body of Christ. With this in mind, it becomes much easier to obey passages like Romans 13:1 because I recognize that this journey on earth that has me subjected to the rulers and authorities God has placed over me is temporal. It's true, those who are in authority over me may someday prove to be as wicked as Nero in Paul's day, but I still must seek to see all leaders through the lens of Scripture because my ultimate citizenship is in heaven.

It's good that we hold strong political views and seek to voice our opinions in a country that values freedom of speech, but I must never let my political views trump the kingdom principles of God as one of His citizens.

As Paul wrote to the Gentiles in Ephesus... "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:19-20)

I guess my ultimate desire is to daily reflect the truth that I am a citizen of heaven by the way I live out the kingdom principles reflected in Scripture.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Gold Medal Hockey Night in Canada

Every year, Christmas and New Year's brings something special to those of us who grew up in Canada. It is the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) Jr. Hockey Tournament. It's great hockey that sees teams made up mostly 18-19 year old future NHLer's who gather from all over the world for this tournament.

Tonight was a special night as Canada played Sweden in the gold medal game. They were playing to tie their record of winning five years straight. One of the special elements to this years tournament was Canada's semi-final win against Russia where they scored a tying goal with just a few seconds left in the game. From there they went on to win the game in a shoot out which catapulted them into the gold medal game. There was a lot of cheering and screaming from the lazy boy that night.

Tonight's game was incredible as Canada won 5-1 (they had a few empty netters at the end) to the cheers of the home crowd as this years tournament was in Ottawa Canada. It was one of those nights that was just plain fun for a hockey fan as these kids play their hearts out for their respective countries.
It's true... I'm a pastor who likes to present himself as somewhat composed when it comes to life, but honestly... it's just a whole lot of fun to cheer and yell at the TV when your hockey team wins! O Canada...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Susan, Toronto & The Sound of Music

Over the years, I've spent many New Year's Eve celebrations at church Watch Night services or with family playing games. Recently, I've spent many of them falling asleep on the couch as making it to midnight can be a real feat most days. But this year was special...

For Christmas this year, Susan and I decided to not waste money on gifts we really didn't need and we decided that it was time to drop the kids off at Grandma and Grandpa's house (which requires a trip to Niagara Falls) and get away for two days.

We enjoyed a Mediterranean dinner overlooking Lake Ontario with some good friends, spent some time in an Irish Tea Room in Niagara on the Lake enjoying a Scone while we debated whether or not to get some matching Irish wedding bands that possessed the symbol for eternal love. (The bank book didn't allow for the bands on this trip) We also enjoyed some time having lunch at a Tim Hortons where I got to use my new Tim Hortons Fast Pay Card that I got for Christmas. (It doesn't sound like much, but it's exciting to me...)

But... the highlight of the few days was the time spent in Toronto on New Year's Eve. It was a beautiful sunny and cold winter day (we had gotten about eight inches of snow the night before) and this multi-cultural city glistened in the sunlight. We spent some time shopping at the Eaton Centre (No Centre is not spelled wrong...) and then parked our car to pick up our tickets at the Prince of Wales Theatre. From there we walked about 10 blocks to the Old Spaghetti Factory for a fun Italian dinner. We then ventured out into the cold night (about -15 Celsius with the wind chill) to head back to the theatre. We laughed the whole way back as we shivered, ran and slipped the whole way back to the theatre. As we walked the streets of downtown Toronto, we couldn't help but reflect on all the fun things we have done in that city with one of our favorites being the Kenny G and Peabo Bryson concert we attended on our honeymoon 15 years ago.

At 7:30, we finally sat down to watch one of Susan's favorite stories, The Sound of Music. I'm not a huge fan of the musical, but I must confess that I absolutely loved the show and still find myself singing "I am sixteen going on seventeen..." for some strange and scary reason.

As we drove home to be with the kids by the time the ball dropped in New York, I could not help but give thanks unto God for my wonderful wife and the great evening at the theatre we enjoyed together. This New Year's Eve is one of those memories that will not soon be forgotten and definitely ranks there right at the top. It has also kept me determined to keep the romance alive in my marriage and enjoy every day the Lord gives me with my beautiful wife!

New Year's Resolution/Rest

Now that 2009 is well under way (4 days now...), I figured I should take some time to make some resolutions.

Resolution One: Don't make New Year's resolutions!!!

I've never really been one to make New Year's resolutions as I like to take time on a regular basis to pursue what Gordon MacDonald calls Biblical Rest in his book "Ordering your Private World". For years now, I have sought to subject myself to a rhythm of rest amongst a very busy life. Here are the basic principles I seek to apply all year round which in essence gives me resolutions or goals to help keep me on track for the Lord.

At least every seventh day, I seek to find some time to do the following three things:

1) Reflect: I acknowledge that I must take time to regularly reflect on where I've just been. I need to honestly evaluate how I have lived for the Lord in all facets of life over the course of a week or life will just blow me by. If life enters into a tail spin, then poor habits and/or decisions can become the norm if I'm not careful to engage myself in honest self introspection with the Bible as my measuring stick regularly.

2) Recalibrate: I need to take time to make sure I'm firing on all cylinders spiritually. It is an honest time to think through any changes that need to be made to my life (whether small or large) to keep me tracking for the Lord.

3) Refocus: As I prepare to face another week (another year) what are my goals/action points for the week ahead. I must determine ahead of time what I believe God is calling me to accomplish this week for him in my personal, family and professional life. It gives me something to shoot for that helps me keep God's purposes central for my life instead of self serving purposes which have a way of creeping in.

These three "R's" are something I seek to do on a weekly basis. But, they also represent how I seek to start every new year. I like to take these three "R's" and apply them to the year before me. I acknowledge a whole lot can change over the course of a year, but that is why Biblical rest (as I've defined it above) is so important to me on a weekly basis.

So I guess my only resolution for the year is to keep the three "R's" before me on a regular basis!