Lizette Beard: [00:00] Podcasting from Nashville Tennessee, this is “Keep Asking,” the weekly podcast that helps you dive in a bit deeper and wider into the research providing insight into today’s church and culture. Hello. I’m here today, with my colleagues from LifeWay Research, Scott McConnell and a very special guest, Todd Adkins.
Scott McConnell: [00:37] What? I have to point out that Lizette just wrote down Todd’s name. She knows Todd. But somehow she thought she might forget.
Todd Adkins: [00:46] There’s a picture. There’s a picture next to it too. I’m like, is that for reference? Do you really not know?
Lizette: [00:53] It just helps me focus. I can already tell this is going to be an abusive podcast.
Todd: [00:59] You’re going to need a lot of help with focusing.
Lizette: [00:59] All right. So my hope is that we can get our listeners some good insight from Todd, the guru of leadership development, and some maybe wisdom from your days as an executive pastor. When we think of our listeners, we’re thinking of, a lot of times, ministry leaders, the folks that you network with all the time, who are helping churches.
[01:26] We know we’ve got some pastors, some church staff, but then also nonprofits, people leading and working. So we thought you can be very helpful.
Todd: [01:39] I’ll do my best.
Lizette: [01:41] A quick jumping‑off spot is, in your role here at LifeWay, leading teams and as executive pastor, I know that you really like personality tests and…
Todd: [01:53] I love them.
Lizette: [01:54] emotional EQ kind of thing and all that. Here’s where I’m making the tricky connection to research. You’re researching people. You’re compiling information about them.
[02:08] What is it that you’re pulling in? You’re really into this. You’re always thinking about all these connections.
Todd: [02:15] Yeah, my favorite thing to do is profile people and mess with them.
Todd: [02:19] It’s true. You know this from hanging out with me.
Lizette: [02:23] Right. Absolutely. Let’s run with that and then we’ll try and put a redemptive twist on it there for you.
Todd: [02:33] I’ll put a redemptive twist on it, in the very beginning. As church leaders, we have one job. That’s to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. It’s to recognize that, in the church, especially in the last hundred years, we treat baptism like it’s the finish line not like it’s the starting line. People know Ephesians 2:8-9, “This by grace that we’ve been saved.”
[02:56] But they forget to add on to that 2:10, which says we’re God’s workmanship and we’re created in Christ Jesus and he’s prepared specific things for us to do. Far too many times we treat people like they’re warm bodies or they’re there, it’s almost like the people are there for our process, not our process to grow them and develop them as for the people.
[03:26] We get that backwards a lot. I don’t know. I’m just passionate about seeing people become who God created them to be.
[03:35] How does that all fit into personality? When you begin to overlap several tools, you still can’t put anybody in a box ‑‑ certainly with one tool, but even multiple tools ‑‑ because God is hopefully continuing to grow them, to develop them.
[03:52] Hopefully they’re continuing to grow more Christ‑like. Over the course of time, that’s going to naturally change. That’s going to change them. But having those tests are really good starting off point to help people understand where they can do the most damage in the Kingdom.
[04:08] I know, based on my personality type, I’m going to be able to position myself well to do the most damage for the Kingdom. If I know that, as far as how my team is wired, I can know how to do that. I can also keep it from damaging our community, because I can say, “Hey, you know this person there’s approach to conflict is going to be attack and overwhelm.”
[04:34] This person is going to make excuses and shift the blame. How do I deal with those people differently? Even if you look at the way Jesus interacted with Mary and Martha on the death of Lazarus, in one case he wept. Shortest verse in the Bible.
[04:49] It really depends. With Martha, he was business. With Mary, he wept. Because that was their different personalities. He treated them differently.
[05:02] It’s important for us, as stewards of God’s most precious thing, his church, it’s important for us to do all we can to understand the people we serve and get them to their next step.
Lizette: [05:15] Excellent.
Scott: [05:17] Often times it seems like leaders just are expected to know things. Yet tools, like you’re talking about, actually get them from possibly knowing somebody from a distance.
[05:31] Yes, that that person came to our church. They know their story a little bit, but actually knowing them enough to use them well is a completely different setting.
Todd: [05:40] Yeah. Again, it doesn’t replace actually sharing a meal together and sharing time together and working side‑by‑side with someone.
Lizette: [05:51] I wanted to ask there, when are you dialing into the data? Even though you may be talking and hanging out with someone, when are you reaching over into the data pool and what are some situations where you’re like, “I’m not pulling from that. I need to go with gut instinct the relationship.”
[06:15] Where’s there some tension there?
Todd: [06:21] All these tests, if you spend just a little time breaking them down, they’re pretty easy to understand. A lot of them are based on a real tendencies or they are based on opposites. I’m asking you questions and gauging, putting you in a specific place or at least, to some degree, some varying degree, based on how you answer the question.
[06:50] Once you can reverse‑engineer that, if you really understand it and just spend a little extra time on it, you can naturally begin to see some of those things in people. That’s where it melds into, “OK, somebody hasn’t taken this test but, based on how they’re interacting in this situation, I think I should treat this person like this.”
[07:11] Or, “I think I need to draw this out or I need to push more. No, I can’t push anymore on this person or they’re going to snap, one way or the other.”
Lizette: [07:24] Talking in the leadership development, can you explain about what Pipeline is? I’ll follow up with a quick question.
Todd: [07:32] Totally. I have no research to back this up.
Lizette: [07:35] That sounds like a great project we need to discuss, after this is over.
Todd: [07:41] It would be. I tell you it would be. I know I sound like a very young man. God bless you guys for thinking that.
[07:49] You’re so gracious, but I’ve been doing this for a while. Especially over the last 30 years or so, you’ve seen church practice move from maps to menus, meaning we used to have specific scope and sequence of development and of discipleship for people.
[08:08] Our background is Baptist. That was called Baptist Training Union. People will make fun of it now. I would say, “Well, hey guys, we are certainly no better for it moving from a map to a menu.”
[08:19] When I say that, I mean we basically went Book of Judges and said, “Do whatever is right in your own mind. You want a parenting thing? Go for it class. You want this? Go for it.”
Todd: [08:30] Meanwhile, as Church practice has changed from maps to menu, you also see people giving less time to the church for their own development. If you’re only getting Sunday morning, a lot of life and ministry frankly should happen between Sunday mornings.
[08:51] We have lost something. It’s not just because we lost extra time with people. It’s because we lost the scope and sequence.
[09:00] I was up in DC as an executive pastor. It’s crazy how many young adults live in that area. You would see advertised all the time, up in Baltimore, “Cruise to Nowhere.”
[09:09] A cruise to nowhere. Basically, it was a booze cruise. You’d go out. Because there’s so many young adults. If you went to the Hill right now, you’d be like, “There’s a Senator.” It looks like he’s a college professor with 30 kids around him.
[09:24] You’d be shocked that our country, the bills and the laws and everything that are being written are being written by 24‑year‑olds. It’s crazy. However, I digress.
[09:36] But they like to have a good time on the weekend, when they’re not working, so they’ve gone on these cruises to nowhere. Baltimore’s situated in Maryland. You can maybe go to the Bahamas and back, if you took four days.
[09:51] Not Bahamas, Bermuda. Yeah. No? Bahamas. I don’t know. One of those. The one that’s sticking way out there.
Lizette: [10:01] I think it’s OK. I don’t think that a lot of our listeners are signing up for booze cruises to nowhere. So I think it’s OK if we just make an assumption.
Todd: [10:04] OK. Let me just back that up. A cruise to nowhere is this. There’s no destination. There’s no ports of call along the way. You just go out. You meander around and you end up right back where you started. In many, many, many churches and in many organizations, nonprofit and for‑profit, training and development is a cruise to nowhere.
[10:28] There’s a big bucket of training. I have to fulfill so many hours, but I’m not really building competency. I’m not really building something in me to help me prepare for the next level. When you look at a leadership pipeline, you see usually an individual contributor in an organization, they’re on a team, who does their job well.
[10:49] They lead themselves well. They’re responsible for resources, all these things. They’re not a sociopath, so we put them over people, over the course of time. We do that in the church world as well.
[11:00] Now, what happens? That person sinks or swims. They flounder. They do whatever, if we give them training at all.
[11:07] We don’t give it to them until we’ve already given them the role. Rather than preparing the person for the role, we practice leadership placement and not leadership production or reproduction, so when somebody needs to be replaced, we haven’t reproduced somebody to fill in that spot.
[11:25] What Pipeline is all about is to say development is about poetry and plumbing. We’re really good poets. We’re really good at getting in front of our church and talking about some of this and talking about, “You’re God’s workmanship and you’re beautiful,” and all these things.
[11:41] Then we leave them hanging, because we have no systems. We have no plumbing to actually deliver on the dream. It’s saying we are going to deliver on the dream. Furthermore, we need to assess the things that were good 30 years ago, that were put into place, all these ministries all these things that might have fit in one of the five purposes of a purpose‑driven church.
[12:02] It was really easy to keep putting things into those categories, but are they the best thing or are they still producing at the level that they were? It’s saying there’s an opportunity cost to everything.
[12:14] Let’s simplify that. Let’s say what’s really important. Let’s make sure we have crystal clear clarity for people that are leading and volunteering in our church.
[12:25] What happens in most cases? We’re not developing people. We’re not even delegating to people. We’re dumping on people.
[12:33] You turn into, “I just need a warm body. It’s Saturday. I need two more people in this spot. I’ve got to call all these people until I can get somebody to fill in on Sunday.” Desperation is a bad look.
[12:48] So many times, we’ll get up in front. I’ve done leadership pipeline coaching with almost 1,500 churches now. When you say, “What are your biggest challenges?” they’ll be like, “The people. They won’t do anything. I get up here and I make all these announcements and whatever and they won’t get engaged or involved.”
[13:08] But then you ask them if they have a role profile. “No, don’t have a role profile.” Do you have training? “Oh yeah, we do training.”
[13:17] You scratch the surface and they do really basic onboarding, not ongoing training, if they do training at all. There’s all these things. We did a research study with you guys that was pretty telling a few years back.
[13:30] I won’t go into all that, but we’re in the position we’re in, because we sacrifice giving the ministry away on the altar of excellence. “Oh, they can’t do it as good as me.” Or, “It’s easier for me to do it.” Pride.
[13:48] We sacrifice the ministry on the altar of excellence and pride every Sunday, instead of giving the ministry away, which is our one job in Ephesians 4 ‑‑ equip the saints for work in the ministry.
Lizette: [14:02] When you’re sitting down with a pastor, who doesn’t have this in place and is maybe even overwhelmed with the idea, what are the first very basic steps to understanding it and getting your mind wrapped around, “This is where you need to head. These are some of the obstacles.” Are any of the baby steps basic?
Todd: [14:24] Yeah. Most people listening that resonate with it, I would just say it’s a cultural issue most likely and a construct issue. You may totally have a clear conviction, a clear, compelling conviction, that we are supposed to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. I want people to engage and develop and grow and all these things.
[14:48] But your culture is such that it is not created to do that. A lot of times that goes back to your constructs, your systems and processes and all these things that people think, policies, all these people that think these, “Oh, these are just agnostic things,” or, “Oh, these are just process things.”
[15:05] No. No. No. No. No. They highly inform your culture. They tell everybody what’s important and they scream things.
[15:13] Any policy you put into place screams something about your culture. Don’t put a new policy in place just because somebody did something stupid. Address that issue. Address that issue with that individual. Hopefully you’re addressing that individual, from an ongoing basis, with training, not putting some blanket policy in place.
[15:34] We want savvy people not savvy systems. In order to do that, you have to develop the individual person, which sounds like it takes a lot of time and it does, but I would say the trade‑off is this. We’re so busy doing the work of the ministry that we can’t take the time to step back and adjust our systems and processes.
[15:56] Do you guys volunteer at your church?
Scott: [15:59] I do.
Todd: [15:59] How many positions are you in? I’m in two right now.
Scott: [16:05] Right now I’m in two.
Todd: [16:06] OK. Most of the time, again, a non research‑based answer, but in my experience people…
Lizette: [16:13] We’ll call it qualitative.
Todd: [16:13] We’ll call it qualitative. Everybody’s serving in at least two. The volunteers that you have are likely serving in more than one role, in different ministries. What does it look like to a person, who is serving in multiple roles in our ministry, when they see no symmetry, no synergy across that?
[16:31] Did they get a role profile or job description? Probably not. If they did, they were probably completely different templates.
[16:39] If they had onboarding, it was different. If they had an application it was probably different applications. All these things are different. They are completely siloed in our churches.
[16:52] We look like jack‑wagons to our leaders. We do. Are they going to lead in our church? No, because I just dumped on them. They’re going to go lead somewhere out in the community.
[17:02] Then we wonder why we don’t have leaders or we wonder why this leader isn’t serving in our church. It’s because you dumped on him and now his calendar is full.
Scott: [17:11] So you mean the word empowering may not mean…
Todd: [17:14] It doesn’t mean squat. It means the same thing as organic means. Tell me your leadership development is organic and I’ll be like, “Yeah. It’s a pile of organic.”
Todd: [17:24] It’s not getting anybody anywhere. Most of your leaders, then I would say, “Tell me about your best leader. Oh, you’re organic. Well, tell me about your best leader.”
Lizette: [17:33] Organic is still a system. If you are growing plants organically, there’s a system in place. If you try and oppose…
Todd: [17:40] Usually, you get the organic answer from the guys that are like, “Oh, you’re too businesslike. You’re a pragmatist. It’s just systems.”
[17:46] I’m like, “Hey, do you know this big eclipse thing that everybody was talking about a couple of weeks ago?” When does this air?
Lizette: [17:54] That’s OK.
Todd: [17:55] I’m doing future‑forward. I record a couple of weeks out.
Scott: [17:57] Yes. We are.
Lizette: [17:57] Yeah. Yes.
Todd: [17:58] You can cut that out if you want. Or it can just be anecdotal fun.
Lizette: [18:05] That’ll be fun. We’ll save it for our 500th anniversary.
Todd: [18:08] OK. So that’s a result of a solar system that keeps this tiny ball of spinning awesomeness just in the right spot, the Cinderella zone, just in the right spot. It’s not too far away from the Sun, but it’s not too close to the Sun.
[18:25] We’re not going to burn up in a ball of flames or you know die. It’s insane to say systems are not of God or systems are unholy, when we have that. We can have this conversation, because of the blood and oxygen flowing through our circulatory system.
[18:42] That’s the pushback I have on organic specifically. I usually ask them, “Tell me about your poster child leader in your church.” They’ll tell me all about them.
[18:55] I’ll be like, “Did you build them or buy them? Did you build that staff person you just talked about, or did you buy them from somewhere else?”
“[19:04] Did you inherit them from somebody who was here before you, if it’s a lay leader? Is that fruit that you helped cultivate on someone else’s tree?” is basically what I’m getting at.
[19:20] As leaders, our legacy and our job is to see that fruit grow on other people’s trees. It’s to say, “It’s not about what I do, it’s about who I develop.”
Scott: [19:31] These are good challenges. Todd, what would you say to a leader that says, “My gifts are in that visionary space. How would I even get this started at my ministry or my church?”
Todd: [19:43] Come to Leadership Pipeline. Come to a Pipeline coaching day. Download pipelineebook.com.
[19:51] If you go to lifeway.com/leadership, I think it’s under the free resources tab, there are several ebooks. One of them’s on pipeline. It outlines what we’re talking about here.
[20:05] You’ve got to get your structure and systems and language and all these pieces in order. It draws that out. We actually developed competencies, over the course of a couple years, that are core competencies meaning every leader in your church should have these competencies, things like conflict management or whatever.
[20:24] Yeah, you have to have role‑specific competencies. This guy’s an usher. He needs to know how to take care of a crying baby, for crying out loud.
Scott: [20:34] That’s good.
Lizette: [20:35] Awesome. Todd, thank you. This is always a hoot to get to hang out and visit with you.
Todd: [20:44] A hoot? All right. Any bonus questions?
Lizette: [20:45] No, I didn’t prepare for any bonus questions. I think that’s a little dangerous, if you and I just went into the bonus…
Todd: [20:54] It is.
Lizette: [20:55] silliness zone.
Todd: [20:55] There’s nothing you want to ask me about?
Lizette: [20:58] What’s the main role of an executive pastor?
Todd: [21:00] There are about six different kinds of executive pastors.
Lizette: [21:05] I think there’s one that…
Todd: [21:07] It’s getting stuff done really. What it boils down to, in my opinion, is getting stuff done, but, in a lot of cases, it’s whatever the senior pastor needs. If you are that visionary guy, you need a guy at your side that’s a good executor and can make sure that that vision is executed at every level and is carried out through the organization.
[21:30] Some guys are really good executors and they’re not terribly good relators. They may need that piece administrative.
[21:40] There’s a couple of different kinds of executive pastor. There’s actually a really good article that was from HBR on the seven different kinds of COO, that’s really good, if you could pull that, if you can find that.
Lizette: [21:55] Awesome. Thank you so much. We want to thank our listeners. Todd, how can they find you on Twitter?
Todd: [22:02] toddadkins.
Lizette: [22:03] I love it. If you have any questions, you can tweet to Todd or to Scott, @smcconn, or me, @lizettebeard, or LifeWay, @lifewayresearch.
[22:11] We ask you to join us next time for another edition of Keep Asking. Keep asking. Learn more. Do better.
Todd: [22:20] Boom.
Todd Adkin serves as Director of Leadership at LifeWay. He also hosts the 5 Leadership Questions Podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @ToddAdkins.