Archives For Geoff Surratt

Controlling Leaders

I have always been fascinated with leadership. I read leadership blogs, buy leadership books and watch leadership videos. I love the leadership concepts the church has leveraged over the past 30 years for Kingdom effectiveness. Lately, however, I have been struggling with the disconnect I see between some of the leadership models in the church and the leadership model Jesus presented. This struggle was brought to the forefront by Simon Sinak’s latest TED Talk. (I highly recommend watching the 12 minute talk at the end of this post). What struck me was that Sinak seems to better define biblical leadership than many pastors, including myself. To quote Jesus’ brother James out of context, “These things ought not be.”

In response to a disagreement among his followers over who should be on his Executive Team, Jesus sums the model of leadership Sinek proposes this way:

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be…

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Sales Pitch

Because of my undiagnosed allergy to the inside of an office I spend a lot of time hanging out at coffee shops and restaurants. Most of my fellow nomads are people conducting business, and every day I see “the turn” executed at tables around me. For the uninitiated let me explain the turn. You invite a potential customer to meet you for coffee. When they arrive you engage them in small talk feigning interest in their stories about work, family and life in general. After an appropriate amount of time passes you steer the conversation toward what you actually want to take about; an amazing opportunity, a business proposition or potential investment. This is “the turn”, the moment when the real purpose of the meeting comes out. I see the disappointment on faces as they realize the salesman doesn’t really care about them, he just wants to pitch. There’s  a turn in process at the next table as I type. (Read more about Ron Popeil, the master of the turn here)

Now that my wife is the CEO of a large non-profit we get turned a lot. People invite us to…

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I am excited to release a new (free) e-book, The Effective Church. There is a lot written about how to be strategic, innovative and cutting edge, but the bottom line for any church is how to be effective. How can we leverage the resources God has given us to make the most impact on our community? In this free e-book I share some common sense (and not so common sense) challenges and solutions for the church that wants to reach people far from God in their neighborhood. This is not a book to read as an individual, but a workbook to dive into as a team.

Topics include:

  • Five resolutions your church should keep
  • How to leverage Christmas and Easter
  • Cracking your church’s secret code
  • Rescuing Sunday School (sort of)
  • Fixing your terrible signs
  • Why visitors don’ come back

Each chapter includes discussion questions for teams to dive deep on what their church does well and where they can improve.  You can download The Effective Church (and other free resources) here. Let me know if the book is useful, thanks!

Download Now

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Two of the constants in my life are an adversity to change and constant change. I like variety, but I also like consistency. I’d prefer my kids never grow up and I never grow old. I once told Sherry that someday I’d like to be buried in our backyard in South Carolina. That was two states and four houses ago. As much as I dislike change I know if I really want to make a difference in the world change is inevitable.

I once had a boss tell me he loves change, but after working for him for about six months I realized he didn’t love change; he loved changing everybody else’s life. He was as adverse to personal change as the rest of us. Improvement always requires change, but real change is difficult and painful. So if we want to change the world, and we do, how will we do it?

Here are six axioms (None of these are original. I have placed my source after each)  I have learned over the years that guide me in leading teams in effecting constructive change:

The hardest…

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I heard it again today, “Only Senior Pastors can understand the incredible pressure a Senior Pastor is under.” I have no reason to doubt the statement or any way to gauge the level of stress a Senior Pastor deals with. My only experience as the top dog was for 2 1/2 years in a small church in Texas. I’ve lost count of how many pastors I’ve met with, but my perspective is mostly second hand. From what I’ve observed, however, the lead guy is often in a pressure cooker.

At the same time I don’t think most Senior Pastors understand the pressure their staff is under. While they may have been a staff pastor at one time, the “curse of knowledge” says they probably don’t realize that they don’t remember what its like to not be in control. So for all the Senior Pastors here’s a peak at the pressure they bring to the staff.

Seven Senior Pastor stress inducing phrases

“We’ll figure it out”
Translation: I come up with ideas and you figure out how to execute them. I can’t be bogged down with the details.

“Its a…

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ConfusionCan you imagine what it would be like to walk into your church for the very first time? Not as a veteran church attender or someone steeped in American Christianity, but as a complete rookie to the church experience.

As you walk into the lobby you see signs like “Worship Center” and “Connect, Grow, Serve” but you have no idea what they mean. You follow the crowd into what appears to be the “Worship Center”, and when the music starts you stand when everyone else does. The band is singing songs you’ve never heard before, but you notice a few people around you singing along. You mumble through words on the screen to try to fit in. Other than the National Anthem at a ballgame the last time you were involved in group singing was 7th grade choir. That’s an experience you never thought you’d have to repeat.

Finally the band finishes and everyone sits down. The stage lights focus on what appears to be a large bathtub. A girl about 10 or 11 climbs into the bathtub while an older guy addresses the crowd saying something about “baptism” and “profession of faith”….

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When our home phone would ring on Saturday morning I knew it was probably my future wife’s grandfather, Hubert Sparks, calling. He called my dad almost every Saturday morning. He didn’t call to complain, make a suggestion, or ask for anything; he called because he was genuinely interested in the welfare of his pastor. “Sparks here, pastor. Just calling to see how you and your family are doing. How can I be praying for you today?” The conversations were always short and to the point, and my dad always hung up feeling better. Hubert Sparks was the most encouraging man I’ve ever met.

The ministry of encouragement seems to be a lost art, replaced by the art of networking. Every relationship needs to be milked for all its worth. Who does this person know? What can they teach me? How can they help me or my organization get ahead? Lip service is given to his well-being, but what we really want is information and connection. I love networking and helping others, but I find myself getting cynical when every email, text or phone call begins,…

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I’ve always hated the “Its a Small World” ride at Disney land. I don’t know if its the incessant song, the Chucky-like dolls or just the bland predictability of it all. I prefer Mr Toad’s Wild Ride where every turn is a new adventure. Just when you think you have it figured out you are spun and around and sent off in an entirely new direction.

So I wonder why we feel compelled to sell the Christian life as more Small Word than Wild Ride? We tell people if they’ll take the six steps to a better life in Jesus their finances will improve, their spouse will love them more and their acne will clear up. While there might be bumps along the way, the more we follow Jesus the better our world will be. Sing along, “Its a Christ world after all, its a Christ world after all…”

When the cancer recurs, a husband leaves, a foreclosure happens good Christian people are devastated. This isn’t what stood in line for. What happened to the gentle boat ride, the pleasant song? They realize that the steps and keys and formulas for a better…

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Angel's PrayerMy heart as a parent breaks for Rick and Kay Warren in the tragic loss of their son Matthew. While the pain of losing a child is almost incomprehensible to me, I can’t imagine having that loss splashed across the home page of every leading news website. And piled on top are the idiots who have never met Rick or Kay, but feel now is an appropriate time to spew their special brand of evil hatred. While I can’t alleviate their pain, protect them from the prying eyes of the insatiable media or throttle the fools who attack a family while they are down, I can at least share what I know of the character of this family.

During my time working for Rick at Saddleback I saw the heart of a gentle and loving father and grandfather. Between services almost every weekend most of Rick’s grandkids come busting into the greenroom with their parents in tow looking for Papa Rick. In doesn’t matter if George Bush, Tony Blair or CNN is there, Rick has time for a game of Tubby Tubby. (For the uninitiated, Tubby Tubby is when Rick lays…

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Connection ConciergeHow do you help people make meaningful connections when they attend your church? One of the most frustrating things in finding a church has been figuring how to connect with other attenders. My wife had a great idea the other day and I wanted to pass it on before it slips into the abyss forgetfulness that is my brain. What if you had a Connection Concierge?

Most people are familiar with the Concierge at an upscale hotel. Their job is to help hotel guests buy tickets, make dinner reservations or suggest day trip destinations; basically to ensure the guest has a positive experience while they are in town. Here is a typical conversation with a Concierge:

“Can you help us find a nice place to eat tonight?”

“Absolutely. What kind of food are you in the mood for?”

“Italian sounds good”

“Excellent, here are three nice Italian restaurants in the area. I highly recommend Guido’s, their lasagna is amazing. Would you  like me to make a reservation?”

“That would be great, thanks!”

“My pleasure”

Wouldn’t it be cool to have a Concierge available at your church? A conversation might go like this:

“We’re new to the church and we’re…

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Closed ChurchOne of the most common questions I get is, “How do we know when to close a campus or a church plant?” This is really hard to answer since every situation is unique and every church has a different definition of success, but I thought I’d share the thoughts I sent to the last church who asked.

I know how challenging it is to face possibly closing a site. I don’t know that there are any hard and fast rules or guidelines as each situation is very unique. The questions I would be looking at include:

1. Is the site financially self-sustaining? If not what are the compelling reasons other sites or churches should be paying the bills for this particular site? Are we reaching a demographic that simply can’t pay their own way, or is this really a sign of poor health of this campus?

2. Are we reaching people with Gospel at this church that would not/could not be reached by another site or church?

3. What is the core challenge at this church? Do we have a leadership problem? (Then let’s bring in a new leader) Do we have a location problem?…

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I loved building with Legos when I was a kid. (If I could make a living at it I’d probably still spend most of my time playing with Legos) My experience, however, was different from most. Instead of pre-designed kits, every year at Christmas my parents gave me a bag of miscellaneous Lego parts. (They had a hookup at the local Lego factory where they could buy Lego rejects cheap.) I never had instructions to follow or a picture to guide me; my only blueprint was my imagination. From the same bag of spare parts I built airplanes and spaceships and the Empire State Building. Many battles for New York were fought in my bedroom long before the Avengers arrived on the movie screen. While my creations weren’t that ascetically pleasing, there was incredible freedom for creativity because I didn’t have a template to follow.

Legos are a different experience now. Every box is designed to build a specific model. If you want an airplane you buy an airplane model, if you want to build the London Bridge you buy the $239 kit. Everything is pre-packaged and comes…

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