Category Archives: Leadership

Church Building Security

Recently in my area there have been a series of vandalisms of churches. For the most part the incidences seem to just be graffitti, but I am sure things could get worse. Also, over the years, there have been a number of shootings, child abduction and molestation cases, church burnings, and various assortment of other violent and non-violent crimes on church properties. Since 9/11, physical security has become a focus for most Americans, and churches are no exception.

Like the majority of our government buildings, churches have their doors wide-open. The difference is of course that churches typically do not have the onsite security to handle the types of tragedies that occur when sinful people decide to do Godless things. For the most part, churches are prepared for Sunday and Wednesdays, but lack the resources to safeguard the properties and persons in the church when the building is wide-open through the week and overnight.

With this recognition also comes a reality that much of our Christian heritage developed in a much safer period in history, wherein stealing and a sundry of petty crimes were primarily committed against the church by undiscerning boys looking for something other than boredom. One must also consider that our faith has developed a culture and attitude towards outsiders and those who may harm us that is best summarized in these three scriptures (NKJV):

Luke 6
Vs. 27 But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.

Mark 10
Vs. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”

Acts 12
Vs. 5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

So it was with a bit of shock and disappointment recently that I received the following all-staff email request from our HR Director:

… Also, as a reminder, we encourage all visitors to come through the main front-doors of the church, as the back doors are only unlocked certain times during the week. We are working on signs for the door but please instruct anyone trying to enter in the back when the doors are locked to please go around and enter through the front doors. While it may seem like an inconvenience it may help to prevent someone from entering the church who did not have the right motives.

Now, I don’t know about you, but some Sundays I could be made to enter through the front door for lack of “right motives”. This whole deal concerns me because in it we seem to have lost some confidence that God in his sovereignty and his favor will protect us from our enemies, or Glorify himself if he chooses to remove that protection. I don’t mean to sound uncaring, but the reality is that God moves and works in us through difficulty and pain. If He were to allow (note I have not said “cause”) this church to be attacked by gunmen with assault rifles, would He be any less God? Are we lacking faith by deploying our own security measures to prevent such a thing from happening? I am not proposing that we are… but I am saying that like many things in life, it is the condition of our heart that God cares about.

In this case, is the collective heart of our church leadership depending on God for his protection and mercy while putting reasonable security measures in place to prevent the inevitable? Yes, inevitable. I suggest that if we are making a difference, we will be attacked… there will be attempts to sift us. Each attempt will makes us more determined, more faithful, and more dependent. Some would say my position is extreme and lacks wisdom, and it may. I am just saying, I would take an open door church over a “protected facility” any day. Let God sort it out, because there is not a single thing we can do to thwart His will, whether it be active or passive. If he desires to remove his protection so as to accomplish a purpose of His, not a single device of our own can prevent the tragedy.

The HR Director continued:

All visitors, excluding individuals for counseling, will now be signing in at the front-desk and issued a name badge to identify them when in the building. This was implemented to assist us in knowing who is in the building during normal office hours, as security and protection for children, volunteers, and staff is of utmost importance.

vidcam.jpg I think the next step will be metal detectors and x-ray machines, as we already have a security camera literally around every corner. I don’t think anyone monitors it though, mainly just for recording whatever ends up going wrong.

Good Intentions

Romans 7
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

So, right, I can’t exactly blame my not following up on my last post as the sin within me, but this text does describe how I am feeling at the moment.starfish.jpg

Good intentions. I am full of them. I intend to honor my wife in a big way every day, but do I? No. Every day for the last month, I have intended to connect with old my buddy, but have I? No. (sorry Blake) Just as I intended to make great grades and eat better in college, I intend these days to make more money and do more ministry. But do I? Do I really?

The answer is of course an precarious NO. I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate! And there are no excuses. There isn’t anything precarious about the no. I can’t say… ah, that is “my sin man” and I can’t help but fail since there is nothing good within me. I have to accept responsibility for my failures. I should not blame my circumstances, my family, my ministry, or my finances for my dropping the ball on what is better. Mediocrity. I hate it, yet I find myself in it.

I do intent to follow through on my last post to write seriously about web ministry. I have good intentions, and I hope to deliver… even if later than promised. Expect it in the next few months… and hold me accountable to it.

Refreshing Interviews

Rarely in an interview with a potential employer do you have a discussion and it goes well.

By “discussion”, I mean that you feel valued and encouraged to continue on in who you are, and the potential employer walks away with something they didn’t have before. Some piece of wisdom or an idea which they had not conceived just yet. This makes the time equitable for both sides. A discussion interview is a dialogue between equal parties. It has elements of the sweet talk of a guy courting a girl, but also elements of an online compatibility test wherein the data is the data and the fit is the fit.

nowhiring.jpgBy “well”, I don’t mean that you come off as the best person for the job, or that you were completely impressive, or that you get to the next step. “Well” for me means that both parties are equally candid and transparent… being authentic about what they are looking for, their weaknesses, and what they are doing to improve. Whether an interview becomes a discussion or not is completely based on the interviewer’s approach and mentality. The most healthy/well interviews are those where both parties are secure and confident of their person and mission.

Let’s face it, interviewing is hard work. Even when you are under no pressure to “land the job”, it can be tough. Ministry interviews are surprisingly harder than corporate positions. The ministry many times approaches you with suspicion that you are out to weasel your way in without the proper credentials… to go on and injure the ministries’ reputation. The HR hiring process supports this “guilty until proven worthy” of the job mentality, with upfront background checks and lengthy applications. Unfortunately, this leaves candidates in a place where they feel like they must put up a facade of perfection. Interview prep times become focused on what the company might want you to say instead of who you are as an individual; what your passionate about and can/can’t bring to the position.

The result of unwell/unhealthy interviews? In my estimation it is unhappy employees (who end up in roles they aren’t made for) and dissatisfied employers who don’t get what they feel they bought. It is candidates who aren’t totally sold on the ministry they go to work for or the contribution they can make. It is managers who extend their suspicions of incompetence from the interview process into the first 90 days of employment. It is skeletons in closets which weren’t revealed beforehand. An example from one church is a recent interview with a youth minister candidate who revealed he had struggled with and overcome a battle with the sin of online pornography. He was working to be transparent and completely honest with the interviewer. Ignoring the fact that the vast majority of pastors have accessed explicit material online in the last 6 months and that every man at some point struggles with the temptation of lust, the church immediately took this qualified candidate off their A-list because of his past struggle. The 60 year old hiring manager literally said, “who would say something like that in an interview, we don’t want to know about that”. There was a generational miss-match in the basic understanding of what an interview process is for.

Thankfully, over the last two months, I have had two discussion-focused interviews with ministries that seem to want this kind of honesty. I don’t know that anything will come from either of the interviews… but I am encouraged immensely to know there are managers out there who get it. Ministry folks who understand that recruiting and retaining a post-modern requires respect and an approach that makes the candidate feel they are valued and that the contribution they could make is uninhibited. Post-moderns want their lives to mean something; they want to serve something they believe in. The process is as important as the result for them… and it is unbelievably refreshing to see ministries approach the interview process with a candor, transparency, and openness which fits who we ought to be as a Christian community anyway.

49 Simple Strategies for Better Blogging

Tony Morgan has a great little list of 49 ways to blog better. In my view, these kinds of lists are great for newbies like me, as well as old hats who have been doing this for awhile.

Now recently, at the church where I work, we have had a request to set-up pastors to blog. Everyone, including Rick Warren is doing it, right? Now, my first instinct is to utter an exuberant YES! But when you start realizing these folks know nothing about blogging, or the web in general. They are content consumers, not authors. We struggle to get them to write a newsletter article. But now, they see their ministry friends blogging and they want in. So, if we do it (and we should), then this will require some training and some guidance. Note that these guys don’t just want individual blogs where they reflect and muse on ministry. They want the blogs to be the format by which they engage the constituent/member/attendee online. I may post later on all the options we are considering.

Thankfully, some others have forged ahead of us. Kem Meyer has her blogging policies/guidelines which she adapted off of Fellowship Church and IBM, Yahoo, & Sun policies. My impression is that each organization is different and desires to control the message at different levels. I mostly agree with Kem that lesser is more. I think we should have organizations where we reign folks in through real conversations where love and grace are the theme and “the rule-book” is a last resort that HR uses when all else fails. At the same time, traditional communications strategies and workflow strongly demand to control the message… so some compromise will have to be made or the blogging pastors are bound to get discouraged.

One other bright and shining resource is the future book “The Blogging Church” It has an accompanying blog which is a little helpful as well. I suspect the conversation will heat up there after the release of the book. Their blog also has a nice list of blogging churches and blogging pastors that you can check out to get a feel for how ministers are using.

When churches close their doors

As an aside: This blog may end up being more of a rant page than a valuable blog
where you learn anything. Let me apologize to my two readers. Will try to do better.

So, as the two of you know, I work at a church. I love the fact I am somehow contributing to the body of Christ daily with my talents and mad skillz. It isn’t all rosey flowers however. Working for a church which has a last century governance and management model is tough on a GenX’r. How do you think the Emergent Church movement is being fueled?

A month or more ago we had a tough thing or two that happened at our church. Our Music Minister was caught in an affair with a person from another local ministry, presumably having started the flirting in IM and consumating the relationship offline. We were all devastated. Also, a boy who was at our church was taken to jail and accused of serious charges.

As a result, our aging leadership decided technology was a risk to our staff. It was stated that we need to quit instant messaging because it was childish and a waste of time. Our head pastor said his emails would be more direct and to the point and implied we would do well to do the same and get on about the business of real ministry (emphasis mine). No more fratenizing.
After some time waiting for the “revoke of previleges”, this week our IM and access to web email like yahoo, gmail, and hotmail was blocked. This came after a roll-out of an IM monitoring/polling system that seemed to be working. The accompanying email was titled “RIP IM (Instant Messaging)”, and finished with:

“…Please note using a web based client to still IM is a violation of our network policy and it will be taken serious. If you happen to know of any IM clients or sites I missed please let me know ASAP.”

I could rant for hours about this situation, but need to choose my words carefully and not grieve the Holy Spirit here or outright sin, so instead:

They (those making the decision) don’t get it and never will. New wine into old wine-skins can’t be done.