Monday, October 22, 2012


There I was in a fast food restaurant.

The workers were scurrying around like ants.  Counter people were taking orders.  Food preparers were busy squirting condiments, wrapping burgers, and dipping hoppers of fries into scalding oil. Some of the personnel wore headsets, talking to invisible people in the drive through and running back and forth between the window and the "food is ready" station.  It was all very efficient.  Run it in slow motion with a little chamber music, and it would have looked like a carefully choreographed dance routine.

I woman behind the counter (I deduced that she was a manager) walked back and forth between the drive up window and the screen that the workers look at to track the orders.  She glanced back at something else and then announced something to the crew.  I couldn't make out what she said, but suddenly the staff let out a collective cheer.  Food workers were high-fiving, counter staff had energized smiles on their faces, and everyone seemed to work a little faster and a little more efficiently, and a little....I don't know, happier.

Later, I found out what had happened.  There are standards as to how fast orders have to be filled, especially in the drive through.  The manager discovered that her crew, on average, was accurately filling the orders for the drive through faster (by a matter of seconds) than the standards.  She shared the news and everyone, whether they were directly connected with the drive through or not, shared in the excitement and accomplishment.

When leading teams of fellow servants, whether you are a children's pastor, director, lead teacher (or any other position in the local church for that matter), it pays huge dividends to share the victories.  A spiritual victory tends to encourage and energize.  You might say, "Hey, everyone, Lori shared the gospel with little Kenny in class today and he professed his faith in Jesus!"  Suddenly, everyone is pumped up, whether they have any connection with Lori's class or not.  Or maybe three more kids visited your program this week.  That's something to cheer about.

Not all victories are so obvious, so it's up to you to look for things.  "Hey, the deacons said we could use the left over paint for the classrooms!"  "The air condition is working again!" "One of our moms brought us donuts just because she appreciates what we do."  Sometimes, it's the little things that bring the most excitement.

Of course, there needs to be balance.  The key to this is do it often enough that it provides the shot-in-the-arm that your team needs, but not so often that it produces a little sigh.  But if you make it a point to share and celebrate the big and small wins together on a regular basis, you'll inject some renewed energy and enthusiasm into your team.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I came across a video on YouTube which reunited the stars of the Broadway musical Phantom of the Opera. Although we could slice and dice and chop the whole genre of musicals apart, there is no question that some songs have entered our artistic culture.  Plus, I love a well-sung song.

During this video, there are a couple of significant points.  At the beginning, famed composer Andrew Lloyd Webber introduces the actor/singer who originated the role of the Phantom: Michael Crawford (who also starred in one of my favorite movies: CondormanYes, I am a geek). He is obviously touched by the response of the crowd as he is recognized for the trails he has blazed. The other point comes during the performance of "Music of the Night" (it starts at 7:40 is you just want to skip to it).

On stage during the video are four of the actors who have played the role of the Phantom over the years.  They take turns singing different portions of the song, to the enthusiastic reception of the crowd. And then, as the music draws near to its climax, out walks the man who is the new Phantom. He is greeted by his predecessors as together they finish the song.  But just as we think this deep moment is enough, Michael Crawford returns to the stage to both honor the new Phantom and be honored by the new Phantom.

I know you're all waiting for the "deeply significant or ultimately practical" point to all this.  Here it is:

Never underestimate the power of transition.
Did you ever wonder why there is so much pomp and pagentry as Presidents are sworn in? Because it shows an orderly transition of power. It's done slowly and deliberately, with Inaguration Day events that seem to never end! Can you imagine the outgoing President simply leaving without a farewell or the new President taking the oath of office and then dismissing the crowds?  Citizens would wonder, "What just happened?"
Sometimes the turnover in ministries is so rapid as to leave people bewildered.  Of course, there are times when a volunteer or staff member has crossed an unacceptable line and needs to be shown the door as quickly as possible. But at other times, the best thing that can happen is that the new and the old let the class, the group, or the congregation know that there is an orderly change, a passing of the proverbial baton. 
There are various ways to accomplish this.  Here are just a few:
  • Going away and welcoming parties
  • Formal introduction of the new staff member by the outgoing staff member
  • Slide show acknowledging the accomplishments of the departing staff
  • Passing on some symbol of the position: a gavel, a big stick (yup, been in that kind of ministry!), or a hat.
  • Leaving notes with tips and advice in unexpected places.
There are no doubt other transitional techniques, but you get the idea.  Whatever you do, if at all possible, harness the power of the transition.  It quiets anxieties, helps get everyone on board for the upcoming changes, and lets everyone know that the ministry will continue.  After all, U.S. Presidents do it and Phantoms of Operas do it.
What things have you done or been a part of doing to ensure a great transition?