What If Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks?

Growing up in a pastor’s home, I was around church and ministry all the time.  And being around church so much, it wasn’t until I went to college, and eventually launched out as a pastor myself, that I started to realize ministry was so much more than just ‘having church.’

In fact, this one aspect of ministry that I want to focus on, is one of the more incredible components of the gospel and God’s work to redeem mankind through His church.  Here it is:  God can teach old dogs new tricks.  What does that even mean?  Well, as the saying goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  It’s not talking about an ‘old person’, but rather that once a person has a way of doing things, it’s pretty impossible to undo that way.  Because of this in the church world, we often label people.  Because while we preach and say we believe that God can transform, we are far too often hesitant to practice that truth.

And this is one of the things that often frustrates me about how ministry is done in some circles…or as Andy Stanley illustrates from Popeye’s perspective…this is one of my “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands it no more” issues.

Here it is:  those that have messed up, not measured up, or screwed something up in the past are bound to do it again, so don’t give them a chance to even try it again. 

When this approach is taken, it’s usually from the perspective of ‘we want to do things with excellence.”  And I am totally on board with that!  But what if God wanted to develop something ‘excellent’ in that person that you just wrote off?  What if God was actually dropping a ‘diamond in the rough’ right into your lap, and you just labeled them ‘damaged goods’?

If you’re in a leadership role in a church…can I encourage you to give that guy or girl another chance?  That doesn’t mean you’re naive to that person’s shortcomings, but are you willing to help them work through them, or is excellence such a strong value that the ‘old dogs’ aren’t worth your time?

I’m so thankful that God didn’t see me that way, and I’m sure you’d say the same.  Take time not just to recruit talent to your team, but take the time to develop talent in those that are already there.  You might be surprised what God can do when you allow him to teach ‘old dogs new tricks.’

The Development of ‘The Voice’

Over the last few months, I have been enjoying NBC’s new show, “The Voice” for it’s unique approach to developing artists.  When I first started watching the show, I thought it was just NBC’s version of American Idol, but soon realized, it is so much more than that.  I know it’s just a show, but below I listed some of the core ideas in the approach the show took in developing the up-and-coming artists that I really appreciated, and you may like to:

  1. Development was the priority.  This may sound kind of obvious, but so often strong leaders can miss this point.  Rather than striving to develop, they strive to further their cause, vision or organization at the cost of developing their people.  The Voice was so impacting because each of the four all-star coaches (Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton, & Christina Aguilera) were as concerned with developing their artists as they were that they might win the competition.  The principle I saw here is developing people should always be a priority, not just getting to a destination.
  2. Fame was a tool not a goal.  As is true for most reality shows, superstars use them to continue to further their own careers and reputations.  In this show, that was NOT the case.  Each of the coaches were adamant in using the fame they had and pushing their artists to the forefront and allowing the young artists to shine in the spotlight, rather than themselves.  In doing this, these superstar artists actually further endeared their fans to them, and even caused some of us to become new fans.  My wife and I had never even heard of Blake Shelton before this show, and now my wife can’t stop singing his hit, “Honeybee”.  The principle that stood out was when you are given a platform, be willing to share it and watch that platform grow.
  3. The coaches invested more than just skill, but heart. Each of the coaches met with their artists numerous times, and in those meetings, they were not simply giving tips and “How To’s”, but they were actually opening their hearts and investing costly emotion into these up-and-coming artists.  Blake Shelton made the statement on the last show that his final artist, Dia Frampton, had actually become like a member of his family.  I don’t ever remember hearing that take place in any other competition reality shows like this.  I loved the emotional investment these coaches made and the lasting relationships that were established.  The principle is that, although costly, combining skill development with emotional investment will produce a person not only skilled but walking forward toward success with a valuable advocate at their side.
Maybe you didn’t watch the show (you can watch episodes on Hulu here), but what do you think?  Do these principles apply to your leadership or life?  Let me know what you think here.
And if you’re wandering, the winner of The Voice was Javier Colon – check out his music in iTunes here.

Ready to Launch

space_shuttle_launchIf you’ve ever watched the launch of a space shuttle you know how meticulous they are in their preparation.  They go over every little detail with a fine tooth comb, making sure the shuttle is ready for launch.  They know that one panel or structure that is out of place can send the mission in the wrong direction.

The same should be said in the launch of a new church.  Often church plants can launch before they’re really ready.  As I alluded to in my post on Monday, we use preview services leading up to the launch to allow for this preparation time.  Without this time, a new church plant might experience significant, rapid growth during their launch but not be ready for it.

Think of it this way.  Imagine building a house before the foundation is ready.  Although the house might survive, chances are better that by the time you get to the roof, there will be some noticeable problems.

Preview services allow you to build teams.  Each month you’re adding to your teams.  Each team is recruiting new members.  Not only does this connect new people into your church as you prepare for your launch, but just as important, it helps you build structure and lay a foundation for your future growth. So when this is done properly and the teams are building, your church will be ready to support the new growth you have.  The house (new growth) will be built on a solid foundation structure (your teams).

This is often where churches hit their growth barriers.  They don’t grow because they couldn’t handle significant growth if it was given to them.  You want to plant a healthy church?  You want to see your church experience healthy growth?  Develop your teams.  Develop your leaders. You grow leaders, you will grow your church.

Empower & Release

In ministry, and especially in church planting, it can become extremely easy to always be ‘doing’. We have a God-inspired vision of establishing a church or reaching a community and we just put our heads down and work. This work ethic and willingness to persevere is a key component of any good church planter but it can also be their greatest downfall.

One of the most glaring barriers in a church plant is a lack of leadership development. This lack is often the result of a ‘doer’ mentality. We think, ‘if it’s going to get done then I need to do it myself.’ That may be true right now, but in making that decision you are undercutting the development of others around you.

Remember this key principle of ministry: “Ministry is more about empowering and releasing then it is about doing.”

What do you think? Is it easier to always be doing rather then empowering?

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