Archives For Matt Steen

Half StaffOn November 13, 1989 a thirteen year old boy came home from school to find his father home. Knowing his father was home several hours early, he instantly realized that something was up… and his father told him something that would have a significant impact on the rest of his life. That was the day that I learned my aunt had killed my three cousins before killing herself.

The impact of that day has affected our family significantly… and the memories associated with it are forever etched in my mind. Over the next few days we watched as my aunt was discussed on television, phrases like manic-depressive were thrown around, questions were asked, and tears were shed. The phrase “I should have realized” was spoken in hushed tones, and answers were sought out. During the funeral, I sat between my uncle and my grandfather… putting my arm around my grandfather to comfort him as he sobbed uncontrollably.

Since that day many explanations have been given about what went wrong, many discussions have taken place about what drives a person to kill her three sons before taking her own life, and while many of…

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A few weeks ago I was a part of The Nines conference. During my presentation, I spoke on the importance of social justice in the church, and how it really is an evangelistic effort. Last night, while sharing dinner with our community group, a friend shared how he thought that recent events on Long Island gave the church an incredible opportunity to care for people, and share Christ with them… I couldn’t agree more. Earlier this week, Theresa and I shared an experience that confirms this:

As many of you know, in the aftermath of Sandy there were (still are) a great deal of homes without power. One of those homes was across the street from us. While we waited for their power to come back on, we made sure that they had the electricity they needed to heat their home and provide them with a modicum of normalcy in the midst of an extreme situation. We made sure they had a hot meal, that their generator was topped off with fuel, and checked in with them on a regular basis. When their power came back…

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How Do You Define A Win?

By Matt Steen

Two weeks ago, while at Catalyst, Andy Stanley rocked my world.

Talking about how we define our “wins” in the ministry world, he shared that for North Point a win on Sunday morning is when an unchurched person shows up, is helped, and comes back next week with a friend. He went on to share that there are people who have an issue with that definition because it doesn’t include anything about people accepting Jesus, to which he responds a win has to be something we can control… and we can’t control whether someone accepts Christ or not.

In the evangelical world we are taught early on that successful ministries lead people to Christ. We are often evaluated on the number of conversions and baptisms that have occurred in our churches, which causes us to evaluate ourselves on those same metrics. While I have nothing against conversions and baptisms (seriously, I’m a fan!), I do wonder if Andy isn’t on to something when he sets his win as something that his team can control.

As we were preparing to plant the church in Baltimore, I spent some time selling cars….

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DinnerWith all the difficulties of last week, Theresa and I got to watch something pretty cool happen.

Every night last week, somewhere around sixish, a car would pull up in front of our house, and out would come one of our friends carrying a culinary delights. While the food was amazing, the best part of the experience for us was that we had the opportunity to tell the story of these meals to our neighbors, friends, and family.

As neighbors asked about the deliveries, or as as family asked about the origins of dinner, we were able to tell them about how our friend Caitlyn, from our community group, made the lasagna we were able to share a little bit more about our church, our friends, and our faith. While many in our family, and in our neighborhood, are still a little unsure about their feelings on the whole church thing, over the last week they have gotten to see a side of the church that is not caught up in culture wars, political campaigns, or controversy.

So often, as we get caught up in the weekly grind of creating our Sunday morning…

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Lid Off Your ChurchA couple of weeks ago I was given a copy of Tony Morgan’s new book to read and post a review for today. Last week was the first time in two years that this blog has gone dark for more than a day or two. My life changed significantly last week, and I look forward to sharing some of what has happened, and will happen over the course of the next several weeks.

I am a church geek.

I love connecting with churches, getting to learn their stories, seeing what makes them tick, and helping better pursue their calling. Through the years, I have gotten to connect with churches of all shapes and sizes, doing church in all different ways. While I have never experienced two churches that were exactly the same, I have found one common link between churches that are successfully doing what they have been called to do: a healthy senior leadership team.

Now, before you write off the rest of this post, realize that every church has a senior leadership team. Whether you are a church of twenty, or a…

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The idea of clarity, simplicity, and the gospel has been following me around lately:

  • Last night in one our coaching cohorts (FYI, a couple spots are available for the next cohort) we were discussing the idea of clarity in ministry, and the need to refine our defining values before we can share them with those we are leading.
  • A few weeks ago I took part in a training program that started off by asking us to share the gospel with someone in no more than ninety seconds.
  • This weekend I listened to an interview that Craig Groeschel did with Bill Hybels, where Bill challenged people to use five words to express the Christian message… Bill’s words were Love, Evil, Remedy, Choice, Restoration.

Clarity is powerful.  Being able to clearly state what, and why, you believe allows you to act boldly and decisively, both as you lead and follow.  With all the marinading I have been doing on clarity, I decided that I would take the challenge and express the Christian message in five of my own words:

  • Love: I would agree with Hybels that it all starts with love.  A loving…

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Church PlantingMany of you know that I helped to plant a church in Baltimore called The Garden Community.  Planting a church was an incredible roller coaster ride, teaching me about dependence on God, effective leadership, how to care well for people of different backgrounds, and my own spiritual condition.  A friend of mine once told me that everyone should start a church at least once in their lives.  While I may not fully buy into that line of thought, I do highly recommend that if you are called to do so that you pursue it with everything in your being, and don’t stop until you hear God telling you to.

Here are some nuggets I learned…

  • Getting Started.  What a church planter needs to think through before heading off into the field.
  • The People You Meet.  One of the best parts of planting a church are the people you will meet… one of the biggest challenges of planting a church are the people you will meet.
  • Community Exegesis.  The context that you will be serving in is as unique as a snowflake, so how do you shape your ministry to fit the…

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Recently I started posting a short series on leadership lessons that I learn from my garden.  While I would love to say that my intention was to unpack the great mysteries of leadership that only gardening can reveal, I have to be honest and say that a big part of this is an attempt to show off my ability to grow wonderful vegetables, and hopefully a watermelon.

While I was all set to bust out amazing pictures that demonstrate how wonderfully my garden is coming along, I was devastated to see one of my broccoli plants looking a little less  than spectacular.


As I started to poke around the garden and explore some more of my plants, I made some disturbing discoveries: caterpillars, leaf miners, and cabbage loopers seemed to have been having a grand old time in my garden.  It was at this point that I had two choices:

  • Ignore the Issue.  After all, the damage was minor, limited to one broccoli plant.
  • Get Proactive.  Take care of the problem before it spreads.

I ultimately stormed off to our local garden center to purchase a…

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Turn-the-Ship-Around-203x300Several weeks ago I stumbled upon an article on Fast Company’s site about David Marquet’s book Turn the Ship Around!: How to Create Leadership at Every Level. Marquet is a retired Captain in the Navy, and is best known for engineering the remarkable turn around of the USS Santa Fe. Upon taking over the boat, David became the captain of one of the worst performers in the fleet and was given very clear instructions: turn the ship around.

Over the course of the two and a half years, Marquet changed the entire culture of the Santa Fe, turning it into one of the best ships in the entire fleet. What is even more remarkable is that he did this in a way that flies in the face of the stereotypical military leadership model of leader-follower, implementing a leader-leader strategy that encourages team members at every level of an organization to make decisions and lead where they are.

While some may glance at the cover of the book and cast it aside as a military book with…

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I love getting things in the mail.  The other day, I got a copy of Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller’s book Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life, compliments of Michael Nichols (whose blog you really need to be reading).  The book is short and sweet, I read it in a little over an hour (120 pages), and while we all know that we need to be growing as leaders… it gives a simple tool to actually do it.

The book starts off with a simple reminder that our ability to lead is dependent upon our ability to grow.  Without consistently developing our leadership abilities, we stagnate… as do the teams we lead.  Using the simple acronym GROW:

  • Gain Knowledge: Leaders need to be learning.  Whether you are reading, listening to podcasts, watching videos, or which ever delivery system works best, leaders must be constantly and consistently learning about themselves, others, their industry, and their field of leadership.
  • Reach Out to Others: There are few things that help us grow more than having to teach.  The act of preparing for a small group study or a sermon…

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Recently I posted a question on Facebook (you ought to like Church Simple) and Twitter: What are the most dangerous words in a church leader’s vocabulary?  

I had some great (and telling) responses, here are a few that got me thinking:

  • Me or I: The public nature of ministry can make it easy to get caught up in ourselves.  When “we and us” becomes “me or I” you may be in for some trouble.  Jason McNeal does a great job discussing this on his blog.
  • Hurry: Sometimes we can find ourselves in a hectic season, but if it lasts longer than just a season, we run the risk of burning out.  We need to learn how to tame the tyranny of the urgent, and the hurried mentality that comes with it.  Scott Couchenour describes it as simultaneously adopting two contradictory postures: resting faith and determined action.
  • Sure or Yes: How many times have we over committed ourselves because we said one of these without thinking?

While the responses I got were solidly dangerous, there is one word that has had me thinking a great deal lately.  This word, in…

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The Enemies of UnityWhether you are leading a church plant, pastoring a church, or whatever your context unity, on your team is a big deal.  Teams lacking in unity rarely gain any sort of momentum, and will either fail in a quick and spectacular manner (and make the news) or languish in irrelevance.  Earlier this week Dave Ramsey unpacked what he calls The Five Enemies of Unity  on the Entreleadership Podcast:

  • Poor Communication:  If one half of your team doesn’t know what the other half of your team is doing, you have communication issues.  Sharing what is going on throughout your teams (youth, children, small groups, etc) not only allows your entire team to celebrate wins, but it ensures that those who oversee your ministry to senior adults know that your youth staff really does know what it is doing.
  • Gossip:  I like how Ramsey’s team handles gossip: the first time it happens, you get sat down and warned, the second time it happens you are fired.  They have a policy of “handing negatives up, sending positives down.”  This policy has a great ring to it, but effective implementation of…

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