End of January: What if I am not seeing the results I want?

January is a month where dreams and goals get put to paper and to plan. We begin moving towards those plans hoping that through them we will gain new traction in our vision to connect people to our churches.

But what if I'm already not seeing the results I planned for?

Believe me, I know what that feels like. It's kinda like looking forward to giving a gift to your kid for months and finding out that you may have bought the wrong one as they are opening it. It's disappointing. Confusing. Frustrating. Even maddening.

In Spring last year, after setting realistic, bigger goals for our First Step with Gene (That's Gene Appel-think "pizza with the pastor") and our First Step Experience (think 7 weeks of training in following Jesus), we had a near disaster. We had less than half the attendance we anticipated at First Step with Gene which fed into a First Step Experience that was the least attended ever. Our Saturday night session had only 10 people in it! It became a 7 week small group led by yours truly. The cause? We made the mistake of scheduling First Step with Gene at the same time as a Global Village event in our parking lot (complete with free food) and a small group launch with curriculum pick up.

Nuf said.

That one mistake led to a significant drop in our metrics for that season and year. However, the learnings from it led to our biggest  and most successful assimilation efforts we have ever had this past Fall and now in Winter with around 600 coming to 4 First step with Gene's and almost 300 moving through their 7 week training in following Jesus.

These kind of learnings were shared and processed at the Climbing the Assimilations Base Camp gathering that I had the privilege of hosting this month. The most incredible group of Sherpa-like leaders I have had the honor of working and serving with assembled to represent 4 different states and about 35,000 souls combined from their churches-all seeking to connect with God and each other.

All these souls need is a Guide who knows the terrain.

Two of those who attended the CTA Base Camp, Mike Frisch and Karl Duran from Yucaipa Christian Church in Ca, soaked in the collective wisdom to fortify their dreams and plans for connecting people in their community to Christ and one another. Here is what Mike just texted me last night:

Mike Frisch text.PNG

These guys are blowing me away with their drive, their heart for connecting people, and their deep call to see the church attain its potential in their community.

But make no mistake about it: Climbing is always uphill.

I've never heard of a downhill climb. Ever. Yet many times when spiritual leaders don't see the results they are praying for, the disappointment colors everything: their time with God, their home life, their joy.

Maybe the text I posted above encouraged you. Maybe it did not. Either way, as you approach the end of the first month of 2016, I am going to take the time to encourage you right now with the example of these extraordinary men:

When you are not seeing the results that you want to see, that is your cue to return to the leadership style of a Sherpa.

Sherpa climbing everest.jpg

Here are their 5 key qualities:

1. Sherpas are born to climb & connect

The lungs of Sherpas are capable of going without the same amount of oxygen you and I require. They can go to higher alititudes than we can without issue and so they carry the equipment for climbers most of the time.

In 2003 Sherpas, Pemba Dorje and Lhakpa Gelu, competed to see who could climb Everest from base camp the fastest. On May 23rd 2003, Dorjie reached the summit in 12 hours and 46 minutes. Three days later, Gelu beat his record by two hours, reaching the summit in 10 hours 46 minutes. On May 21st 2004, Dorjie again beat the time by more than two hours: he did it in 8 hours and 10 minutes!

Like Sherpas, we are a particular breed. We are connectors, protectors, meeters, greeters, recruiters, trainers, networkers, shepherds, and environmental architects. Like the Guides on Everest, we share a common DNA with one another. We think process and we get people. We were born to do this. At times, we don't reach the summit, but that doesn't change who we are. Because of who God made us to be, we have what it takes.

We were born to do this. At times, we don't reach the summit, but that doesn't change who we are. Because of who God made us to be, we have what it takes. (Tweet)

2. Sherpas are “Way-makers”

Sherpas are strategists, looking at the terrain and weather and taking the best route to the summit they can find for those on the climb with them. They carry loads for those who falter due to the high capacity they alone possess. They know when its time to camp and when it's time to proceed. They keep things simple, always knowing the next step the climber needs to take.

Like a Sherpa, do not let an obstacle spell the end of an expedition. Find a way. Start again if you have to. The only shame is not being who you are.

Like a Sherpa, do not let an obstacle spell the end of an expedition. Find a way. Start again if you have to. The only shame is not being who you are.

3. Sherpas let the environment produce the results

Sherpas have confidence not in themselves, but in the environments along the way. The terrain on Everest is what creates the experience and produces the growth in the climber, not the Sherpa. They know that the challenges and the breakthroughs along the way make those they lead able to move forward. 

Don't overestimate your abilities. Connection to the Body of Christ is the summit, not connection to you.

Don't overestimate your abilities. Connection to the Body of Christ is the summit, not connection to you.

4. Sherpas know their role in the climb

All Sherpas need to do is lead them to the next camp. They can't make the climb for them. When you are not seeing the results you wish you were, do not overestimate your calling: your role is to Guide. Their role is to climb. Your role is to help, their role is to move. You cannot make a climber. Climbing makes a climber. Just lead them by showing them their next step. That;s it.

You cannot make a climber. Climbing makes a climber. Just lead them by showing them their next step. That;s it.

5. Sherpas let those they guide be the heros

You never hear about a Sherpa when an American reaches the top of Everest with his help. It may be the 20th time the Sherpa has made the climb. Even though the climber could not have made it without him, the Sherpa gets no recognition from the world when "Joe American" reaches the summit, and that is fine: Sherpas let those they guide be the heros of their journey, the overcomers in their own story. We are privileged to do the same. Don't be discouraged if no one is singing your song. Look around: people are in fact reaching the summit because of you....celebrate them, even when you don't have as many other climbers as you planned for. More will come when they here the story from the one you helped, the one whom you made succesful-not the other way around.

You never hear about a Sherpa when an American reaches the top of Everest.

Bottom Line: Don't sweat a plan that didn't work to expectation. You're a Sherpa. Just keep guiding people to the summit of becoming a connected, serving member of Jesus' community of followers.

You got this.

  • How do you feel about your ministry of assimilation? I don't mean how it's going. I mean, how do you feel about being in the ministry of assimilating people? Does it energize you? Do your instincts find expression in it?
  • Download the Strengthfinders app and take, you and your team. Discuss how the results compare and connect to the role of a Sherpa.
  • Which of the 5 qualities of a Sherpa do you possess the most? If discussion as a team, have the team answer this one for you and each other. Which of the 5 qualities do you need to "let out" as you move into next month?
  • Pray through Ephesians 2:10 for you and your team.