Set the Pace 03 A Step Faster

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind': US celebrates 50th  anniversary of first moon landing

1% faster is the difference between being first at the Tour de France and 76th. That’s a big difference. A small increment can change a lot of things.

From 1945 to 1954 the world record for running one mile was 4 minutes and 1 second. It seems impossible until Roger Bannister decided it was not! He got specially designed lighter shoes, he started training in a number of different ways, and he broke the 4 minute mile in 1954. Within six weeks, several others had managed it. You see when you speed things up, others are inspired and challenged by that!

Now what does that mean for your church – if you could do twenty things in your church or ministry (or business) 1% better, your whole church would be 20% better. A small increment can change everything, a small step forward can be a giant leap forward!

Two years ago Google changed the shade of their toolbar to a shade that was fractionally lighter, but it increased how many people clicked and it increased their income significantly. A minor change can have a big effect. We are living in a generation where we want to have grand, dramatic gestures that play out on Facebook and Instagram and get views, but really what we need is to just increase our pace slightly, and move slightly faster, and inspire our people to do it. Greg Mohr stopped calling visitors to his church “visitors” and started calling them “guests”. That is a minor change, it takes very little effort to start that change and have your team of ushers and leaders do that – but it meant a lot more people who came to his church stayed and were discipled. A small change often is more achieveable and more fruitful than a grand gesture.

Success in life is not linear. You get 1% more excitement, you get a lot more than 1% more results. Interest is compounded over time! Growth will always in ministry start off slower than you want, but over time if you keep setting the right pace, it will be more growth than you expected or dreamed of (Ephesians 3.20 is still true!). Making a small change is less exciting than winning the lottery or being the next GOD TV sensation, but it is what is going to produce lasting fruit, sustainable fruit and help your people think and grow and be discipled.

I am currently planting churches far sooner than most people think it should be done. There are recommendations on the size of the mother church, and so on, but the way I am doing it, all of our people from the early days of Tree of Life have experience of a family of churches, going to conferences together, sharing pastors and leadership, sharing wisdom, praying for each other. That has been invaluable over lockdown but it is invaluable at any time. That is the power of small increments, small steps forward. Now to do this you need discipline, you need to be making disciples, you need to be raising up people who will say “guests” rather than “visitor”, you do not need ushers who are going to say what they like when they like. You need people who see the bigger picture.

You will also need a lot of patience. Dyson made 5126 vacuum cleaners that did not work. It was model 5127 that worked and made him a multi-millionaire. Persistence and patience are what win! Model those values yourself and impart them to your leaders and you will be able to say “hey, we can change this part of our ministry” – we can do this slightly better – make the changes and watch the growth explode!

Set the Pace 02 Speed It Up!

Bucks Fizz are reuniting for a virtual Eurovision performance

Part of your job as a leader is to speed it up when it needs speeding up. That is something we must have the skills to do. Some people, maybe most people, will go too slow when doing something essential and if we perceive something is going too slow we need to pace set as leaders. Most humans are not good at setting their own pace – they go too fast or too slow, mostly too slow. We need to work out the right speed as leaders, and prepare our people to go at that pace too.

The most important skill in speeding up the pace for a task in your organization is empathy. You have to be able to understand what pace the people around you are going and what speed they would actually be more comfortable going. A super-dooper speeder-upper understands that pace is done by people, so he learns about the people.

Now, he does not take the pace from other churches, other people, other businesses, but from what the Lord is showing him and what the people can do. But if you are needing to change, refocus or handle a problem pace is so important.

When the lockdown started I knew I had to get my people online. I had to get the Word of God into them, I had to get them hearing notices because they were not getting a notice sheet anymore, I had to get them out of panic and walking forward at a dignified pace. I needed to speed some things up for people. You need to speed up some processes!

Amazon Prime can deliver anything you want in the UK next day! So when your team takes three weeks to reply to an enquiry about whether your church is online, you have failed that person in their mind. They are comparing you not just to other churches, but to other companies, and other experiences they have had! If another church had a more streamlined website they might have gone there.

One of the biggest hindrances to the pace of change in any environment, but maybe in a particular way so big in most churches is the history of the group – “this is the way we have always done it”. There are people in your church whose minds must be changed for you to progress, and that can take time. You can go too fast, but often we are going too slow and need to speed things up. I believe nearly every church in the UK should be growing faster, not slower. You need to speed up the pace and inject that faster pace into your people! Be fast, but not harried and hurried! People need your message, they need you to contact them, they need you to have some pace about you. When lockdown started, our team called over a thousand people, at least eight hungred of them twice. I did not make many calls, I was working on technology, I was writing messages, I was sending emails, but as the leader I set the pace for those calls and injected some life into volunteers to get them done. I praised publicly those doing loads, I shared stories on our social media and in sermons about successes, and I increased the pace because that task was essential and time-sensitive. When you have time-sensitive tasks, you need to set the pace.

The only thing that should stop you moving faster is your integrity. Growing responsibly is important too! You should also pause to plan, and pay attention to details. This is all part of setting the pace. If the pause button is pressed, you as the leader should be tbe one pressing it. If something is working, you should be disseminating what is working and letting people know and celebrate that win. If something is not working, you should be stopping it and quickly. These are times you need to set the pace.

You need your empathy to know what pace people can handle as well. To be a good pace-setter you need to understand the speed your people can be fruitful and not harried. You need to up the pace, but not so much that people cannot have a healthy life-balance. There’s not really a right or wrong answer to this, you need to know that some people are superstars and can do a lot more than you might think possible. There is one volunteer in our church who does so much, and is at the top of his game in business. I have often asked his wife – do you see your husband enough, because if not, I will take church responsibilties off him, but he really is that fast! Other people if I put that workload on them as volunteers it would be unkind of me. You need to understand people to be able to set a pace. It is that simple.

I like being around superfast people – people who can see what needs to be done, people who can set a pace, people who can move things forward. But I am empathetic enough to know not everyone is like that. I am not being judgemental here, I am just remind you that people are not all the same. Some people take a while to catch on, but when they do they will be the most loyal people you have. You cannot burn them out at a pace that for someone else would be fine. Move things faster, and let those people handle things that are less time-sensitive.

In the Bible, there are two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos is straightforward time, the hours, days, months and years as they pass. Kairos is an appointed time for something – the moment where things have to be done. We all have kairos moments given to us by God’s grace, our job is to recognize them and get the pace going. If you change things too quickly, no one will ever agree and you will cause resentment. If you change things too slowly you will not be able to do anything of value. You have to learn how to set the pace.

In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he said that timing is one of the keys to having a great company. It’s also vital to a great church. You need to know when things are changing and respond in the right timing, you need to know when things are an urgent threat, you need to know what to do. It’s not a question of going at one speed or another, it’s going at the right speed because things are changing.

If it is a time of slow, go slow, let the people rest and heal. In a time of fast, set the pace and make sure people know why it needs to be done fast. Big changes with no time sensitive nature, you can take them slowly. You need to develop this skill.

Next week, I will give you some very solid and practical advice to speed things up just slightly. You would be amazed how much a small increase of pace can change everything.

Set the Pace 01 Leaders Set the Pace!

How long could the hare sleep and still win the race against the tortoise?  | by Krist Wongsuphasawat | Medium

One of the tasks of leadership is setting the pace for the community or group that you lead. For example, as we went into lockdown and came out of lockdown, my job as leader of the Tree of Life Family was to set the pace.

We cannot run off, charging wildly, but we cannot stay where we are. We need a healthy, dignified, safe, but bold, marching pace to advance – and it is one of the essential tasks of leadership that you set the pace in the group or community you are leading. Jim Collins in his book “Great By Choice” (I recommend it!) found out that one of the keys to the top companies in any field was this: they knew when to slow down and they knew when to move fast.

In Alice in Wonderland, the Red Queen says “it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast!”. Sometimes in life it feels like we are going as fast as we can and going nowhere. That’s the wrong pace, and that sadly is the default pace for many people – but as leaders we can set a better pace.

The key to sustaining a pace in your church, your business, your family, your community is this: you need to build and maintain momentum. Let’s use this introductory blog post to focus on this: what do I mean by setting the pace? Then we can move on and look at aspects of this in later weeks. There I am setting the pace! We are going to grab the basics first then move on. I have just set the pace by the way I am writing today. You can set the pace in your organization with the speed you do things, the speed you release information, the speed you hold meetings and conferences, the speed you move from one thing to another.

You need to deliberately set the pace. Some things need to be done quickly and efficiently and got out of the way. Other things need more time. Working out the difference and setting different paces for these different things will mean you are more fruitful. There are things you can do to speed things up and slow them down – the art is knowing when to do which!

A key point that must be made early on is this: do not look to someone else in another organization to set the pace for your organization. Pace must be individual to your leadership responsibility. Even the six Tree of Life Churches did not come out of lockdown at the same pace in the same way. It was very similar, but we are aware each church is individual. You have different challenges, different people, different gifts within your church or business, so do not set your pace with someone else. Another issue that must be understood early on as a leader is that your church, business or community cannot go at 100% pace all the time on every issue. An unrelenting, driving pace is unsustainable. That’s my polite way of saying it is stupid to push people too hard in every area.

So how can we set the pace? How can we slow down the pace? How can we make sure there are times to pause and reflect and dream? How can we “know when to slow down and when to move fast”?

The first answer is this: dream big. You were reading my blog waiting for me to say this weren’t you?! DREAM BIG! A big dream sets a healthy pace. Dream tiny and you will gather no pace, as it is too easy, so everyone goes slowly. Dream average and people will hurtle at the goal, achieve it and be exhausted. Dream big and people realize this is a marathon, not a sprint, and start to set a good pace from themselves. The second answer is this: give people a nearby target. We all do this almost subconsciously – if you are tidying a room, you go well I am 1/4 done of 1/2 of the room, and I will do the clothes next, then this, then that. We set ourselves sub-goals to keep us moving forward. As a leader we should be setting sub-goals.

  1. Dream Big
  2. Set Sub Goals

It is not that hard to get a community moving forward if you do this. Dreaming big is a great thing, because it makes people think big, it stops a lot of the pettiness that consumes so many people. I am a pastor running a church and I see it a lot in churches, people get upset over petty things. But if you are dreaming big, it is harder to let those small thoughts dominate. Eric Schmidt, the co-founder of Google, said “If someone offers you a free ride on a spaceship, you will not be asking which seat”. You need to let people realize you are the captain of a spaceship, and you are boldly going where no one has gone before, and that will instantly stop a lot of the pettiness going on in your group!

At the same time, travelling forward in space means it takes a long time to meet your goals. I have goals for 2030 and 2040 and 2050. So, those are a long time to get people motivated for, so I set sub-goals. We are currently aiming for our Dagenham church to be 300 people. That’s a sub-goal. Jack Welch, CEO of GE said “You need to eat while you dream”, and he meant you have to achieve things on the way to the big dream! That’s wisdom right there!

This is your responsibility as a leader – you have to encourage your people to dream big and at the same time give them something they can reach “soon”. Then, if your organization is doing several things – setting the pace across all of them.

You need to take some time to think about how you are going to set the pace in your life and then in wherever you are leading. Next week, I will discuss some ways to immediately add pace to something you want to achieve.