Are You Simply A Volunteer Or Are You Called To Ministry?

Photo by SJU Undergraduate Admissions

Photo by SJU Undergraduate Admissions

Volunteerism vs Calling

I’ve been involved as a leader in church ministry for the last 16+ years. I’ve had as many as 35-40 volunteers at any given time under my direct leadership during this 16 year period. Throw in the typical ministry churn that takes place in churches, and I would guess that I’ve seen 250-300 volunteers pass through my ministry alone.

As I’ve worked in the church world during this time, I can clearly see who shows up as a result of a spirit of volunteerism, and who serves because they feel the calling of the Lord to be a part of ministry. I’m not talking some crazy, mystical “God spoke to me in a dream after eating pizza last night” kind of experience, either.

Here’s what I have observed over the years:

  • Volunteers serve only when it is convenient. Called ministers serve during times of convenience as well as inconvenience.
  • Volunteers put in a “half-hearted” effort. Those called by God give their very best effort.
  • Volunteers want to quit at the first sign of a problem. Called ministers will dig in and persevere.
  • Volunteers can always find lots of reasons to complain and be unhappy. Those called of the Lord serve with a spirit of joy and thanksgiving.

In my own ministry, I was recently reminded of the importance of the call into ministry for those under my direct leadership.

3 Important Reminders For Our Call Into Ministry

  1. Each one of us has a calling into ministry. Being a part of a specific ministry is more than volunteering. Hopefully, we have not been begged or coerced into using our gifts and abilities for ministry. We’re either called by God or we’re not called, and that’s okay. If God does call us though, we need to be obedient to that call.
  2. We are simply “stewards” or managers of our calling. In other words, “our individual positions are not really our positions.” Here’s what I mean: God has placed you in a specific position at a specific time in your church’s history. Right now, you’re responsible to be the best manager of your specific calling until the Lord decides that calling needs to change. All of us need to lead well, today, and then we need to do an awesome job of handing off the baton to the next called person sometime in the future.
  3. The mission of the church or a specific ministry must always move forward. This should be the primary purpose behind our calling. God will see that His purposes are fulfilled whether or not we remain faithful in our calling. We may even be moved on by Him to a different mission. Always keep your focus on the overall mission of your church body as well as your specific ministry calling.

Questions: Have you been obedient to your own personal call into ministry? How well are you managing the position God has called you to right now? Are you focused on God’s mission for your life and ministry, or are you selfishly focused on your own agenda?

Leveraging The Power Of Systems For A Successful Life Or Organization

Photo by Aristocrat

Photo by Aristocrat

What Are Systems?

What does Prestonwood Church, the human body, the United States Government, Apple, Inc., and even the Starship Enterprise all have in common? They are all composed of numerous systems.

When I speak of systems in this post, I am primarily defining these as coordinated methods, plans, schemes, or procedures.

For a comprehensive definition of systems check out Dictionary.com.

Systems often share common characteristics, including [Source: Wikipedia]:

  • A system has structure, it contains parts (or components) that are directly or indirectly related to each other;
  • A system has behavior, it contains processes that transform inputs into outputs (material, energy or data);
  • A system has interconnectivity: the parts and processes are connected by structural and/or behavioral relationships.
  • A system’s structure and behavior may be decomposed via subsystems and sub-processes to elementary parts – and process steps.

Systems Are All Around Us

Systems are everywhere. Some are the natural creation of God. Some are the invention of man. In the end, though, we couldn’t survive without them. Here are some real-life examples.

Human Body: God has created our physical bodies with their own unique systems – nervous, respiratory, digestive, muscular, skeletal, urinary, endocrine, and reproductive.

Transportation: our streets and highways have clearly defined rules and systems in place that include signage, stop lights, right of way, vehicle speeds, highway entrances and exits, and so on.

Government: city, county, state, and federal each have their own unique, established systems. For example, our federal government is composed of three branches – executive, legislative, and judicial. And, within each branch of government, there are organizational sub-systems in place in order to maintain as smoothly a flowing government as possible.

Business: businesses are composed of numerous systems including customer service, lead generation, purchasing, hiring, shipping, accounting, payroll, collections, and custodial.

Why Systems?

Well running systems are important to the health, vitality, safety, and growth for both individuals and organizations.

Consider your own physical body systems that I referenced above. Each system works independently and interdependently. If just one of these systems is functioning improperly, it impacts the other systems in some way. For example, the urinary system removes waste from the body. If this one, seemingly small system is not functioning properly, waste builds up in the human body and begins to shut down the other major body systems. Not good.

Also, consider the most successful organizations. Why are they so successful? Why do they run so smoothly and run large profits? Because they have incredible CEO’s? Yes, leadership is important. But, the greatest organizations have established great systems that propel the organization forward, even in the absence of the best leaders.

Show me any thriving, energetic, growing, productive person, family, business, or organization, and we should be able to uncover multiple, excellent systems in place. Great systems running in the background of our personal and professional lives simply and efficiently allow this to take place.

Got Systems?

How about you? Do you have systems set-up in your personal life? Do you have established systems in your work environment? If you lead an organization, have you ever given much thought to your current systems? Who put them in place? Were these intentional or purely accidental systems that evolved over time?

After reading this post, take this opportunity to evaluate your personal, business, and organizational systems. Perform a whole systems audit. What’s working great right now? What systems could use an overhaul?

It probably seems like a lot of work on the front end, but the end results will be worth that hard work. Take the time now to fix or create systems to propel your life and work from okay to awesome.

7 Keys To Establish A Culture Of Excellence

Photo by Quasimondo

Photo by Quasimondo

The Priority Of Excellence

When I consider great people, organizations, and companies that exist today, I am impressed with their commitment to excellence. They have a passionate desire and drive to put excellent work out into the world.

Apple, Inc. creates beautiful products that challenge the status quo. Fox News is communicating fair and balanced news in a powerful way. Andy Stanley is “communicating for change” in the world of preaching, teaching, and writing. Michael Hyatt is creating a Platform empire!

The work that these people and companies create didn’t happen by accident, either. Their work has been the best of the best. They have been committed to a path of excellence in all that they do.

Because of that commitment to excellence, they are at the top of their field.

7 Keys To Excellence

As I look at excellent companies, organizations, and people, I observe seven keys to excellence that are practiced religiously:

  1. Excellence is a decision. Excellence doesn’t happen by accident. Excellent people and organizations have made conscious decisions that they will put excellence into everything they do.
  2. Excellence requires strong leadership. If you want to establish a culture of excellence, then you must recruit and train excellent leaders. The best organizations don’t just have one strong head leader. There is at least one additional layer (and usually more) of quality leaders that are heralding the vision of the CEO.
  3. Excellence is communicated regularly in a variety of ways. Try putting excellence quotes in your blogs and newsletters. Pepper everyday conversations with thoughts on excellence. Establish a culture where excellence is expected at every level – from the bathroom to the board room!
  4. Excellence requires enthusiastic energy! People are drawn to energy. If you and your team are energized by what you do, then people will follow you. They will buy into you. They will be peak performers for you. They will give you excellent work.
  5. Excellence is hard work. Achieving excellence in anything won’t be easy. You’re going to have to put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into all that you do. The more hard work you can put in on the front end, the bigger the payoff for you and your organization on the back-end.
  6. Excellence is detailed oriented. If you desire to achieve excellence, then you’re going to have to take out the magnifying glass and really dig into the details of your projects, products, and organizational structure.
  7. Excellence in anything must be practiced consistently over time. You can’t have a “one and done” seminar on excellence. You must constantly communicate and practice excellence in everything you do. You must become a quasi-religious zealot and inspire everyone in your sphere of influence toward this subjective destination of excellence every day.

Other Keys To Excellence?

How about you? Are you an excellent person? Are you a leader within an excellent organization? What do you think of my list of seven keys to excellence? Do you have additional keys that you would like to share?

If so, please leave me a comment below. Thanks!

How Do You Define Excellence For Yourself Or Organization?

Photo by Chandra Marsono

Photo by Chandra Marsono

Excellence Is Subjective

Excellence is a moving target. Depending on the time of day, our physical health, how rested we are, as well as a number of different factors, we will perform at varying levels of excellence.

Also, depending on how well we have prepared ourselves as well as the people around us, this will determine how excellent we can perform in a given task or project.

Typically, though, we end up measuring our excellence through the prism of a model or mentor. Let me give you two examples from my world.

Models And Mentors

For many years now, I have conducted volunteer church orchestras. Whenever my musicians need to learn a new piece of music, I normally play them a very clean, solid demo recording of this new music. This gives them a “standard” from which to learn the song. My orchestra now has a “benchmark” for which to strive for to play the song with excellence.

Now, will my volunteer orchestra ever hit the demo recording level of musical excellence? No, probably not, but at least they understand how a particular song should sound. They get the sound of it in their musical ear, and they will do what they need to do to try to reach that same level of excellence. Even though they probably won’t reach the same level of excellence as the model, they are at least inspired to a higher level as a result of having a model to compare their playing ability to.

Let me give you another example.

Photo by apgroner

Photo by apgroner

As an orchestra conductor, I have had a number of excellent teachers, mentors, and role models. I have learned a tremendous amount about conducting from all of them. I have practiced really hard to become at least as good of a conducting musician as they are. They have served as a benchmark of excellence for me. They have pushed me to at least their level and beyond.

A really cool thing happens though, when you start moving beyond demos, models, mentors, and benchmarks. You and your organization start blazing a new trail of excellence in whatever you do. You become the standard everyone else is trying to reach!

Best In The World (or pretty darn close)

The ultimate goal for you as an individual or as an organization should be to become the best in the world. Why settle for third or fourth place? If you believe that you have the capacity to become the best in your area of expertise, why not go for it?

As you strive to become best in the world, be on the lookout for those who have already established themselves as best in the world. Hold them up as your standard of excellence.

Then, see if you can meet and surpass their level of excellence. Look for unique ways you can differentiate your level of excellence from theirs. Take your personal or organizational excellence up to the next level so that you can stand out from the crowd. Move into the arena of best in the world and watch others follow your leadership.

It’s a cool place to be. Go for it and see what happens!