The Great Recovery – My Thoughts

I was on vacation last week so I did not get to see The Great Recovery launch event live. I watched it this morning and I am blown away. If you thought you had seen Dave Ramsey on fire before, wait till you see him in this event. If you did not see it live, you can view it here:

I love the message of The Great Recovery. As I write this post, the politicians in Washington — all sides — are debating how to solve the budget and debt ceiling issues. I watched only briefly last night because I just cannot listen to any more “blah, blah, blah” political posturing from Republican and Democrat alike without proposing a viable solution. I’m just sick of it — all talk, no real action. Dave Ramsey, on the other hand, is proposing a real, workable solution — The Great Recovery. Restoring the hope of the world as embodied in the church. Living lives based on Biblical values as it relates to our finances. Restoring America one life at a time. Having the courage to face our challenges and work our way out not just wish our way out. Putting our hope in God as our provider, not Washington, DC.

I am really grateful God has raised up a courageous, faithful man like Dave Ramsey to speak up and bring us this message. Count me in. It’s that simple.

I am joining The Great Recovery movement. Join me. You’ll be glad you did!

Guest Interview: The Lampo Group

Over the last ten months, I have gotten to know some of the folks at Dave Ramsey’s organization, The Lampo Group. I love not only what they are doing, but also how they go about it. I asked Debbie LoCurto, Vice President of Financial Peace University for Church, Military, Spanish, Momentum, and the Individual, for a few minutes of her time. Here is our conversation.

Jim: I see a lot of churches offering Financial Peace University these days. Any theories as to why it is so popular?

Debbie: Dave presents the material in an interesting and entertaining way using real life examples. People can relate. Then, he gives baby steps to help people walk out God’s principles. It isn’t easy, but people see hope.

Jim: What kind of results do you typically see from a person who goes through FPU?

Debbie: People have a budget that works for the first time in their lives. Couples are communicating about money and therefore sharing their future dreams and goals. And when folks really learn that 100% of everything they have belongs to God, they begin to live their lives differently.  Financially, the average family eliminates $5,300 and saves $2,700 during the 91 days of the class.

Jim: What is Momentum? How is that different from offering FPU classes?

Debbie: FPU is a DVD-driven small group accountability course that brings life change. Normally 10 to 20 families go through the program at a time, and as you can see significant life change happens.  Momentum is a culture change within the church to move the church to true biblical stewardship and generosity. Momentum starts with a workshop led by Dave’s team and teaches churches to tie people’s giving with the mission of the church.  Momentum uses FPU as the education/life change course for their congregation, but it doesn’t stop there.  The church then has a common language to take their congregation from tippers to tithers to outrageous givers so Kingdom work can be done.

Jim: Why is the parent company called The Lampo Group?

Debbie: Dave really wanted this company to be God’s company, so when he went to name it, he began to pray.  He thought of a lot of different names but most of them modeled what the world was doing…like The Ramsey Group.  But he felt impressed to look up the word LIGHT and found Matthew 5:15 – don’t hide your light under a bushel.  In the Greek, light in this instance is LAMPO, so he called our company, The Lampo Group.

Jim: What is the mission of Lampo?

Debbie: The Lampo Group, Inc provides biblically based, common sense education and empowerment that gives hope to everyone from the financially secure to the financially distressed.

Jim: Lampo has a pretty neat operation. Talk about the culture you guys get to work in.

Debbie: Dave knew he did not want employees—People who come late, leave early and steal while they are here. He wanted folks that felt called to this mission. He wanted team members. So from day one of his business he did not hire anyone who was just looking for a J-O-B.  From there, Dave knew if the company was going to grow, he had to make sure that anyone in the company could make decisions or answer questions like he would. So, he began teaching a leadership class to our team. He covered everything from customer care to marketing to making the call. So Dave has built a team culture with an entrepreneurial spirit.  We get the job done, while caring deeply for our team and clients. He now teaches this course to small business leaders/owners around the country. It is called EntreLeadership.

Jim: What’s in the near future for Lampo?

Debbie: For the church department, we want to take the next several years and really raise awareness for church leaders to teach TRUE, biblical stewardship. There are over 800 scriptures on money and possessions. People need to hear these scriptures and apply them in a radical way to their lives. When we align our lives with His word – it changes things! Also, later this fall, Dave has a new book coming out, EntreLeadership. If you lead people, it will be a must read.

Jim: All right, here’s the big one people want to know. What is Dave really like?

Debbie: What you see is what you get.  If you listen on the radio, you can hear his heart of a teacher when a first time caller has a question, but you can also hear him really tell someone straight up that they need to fix the issue. That is how he is at the office. He encourages us to excel and holds us accountable to our dreams.  Dave is an incredible leader. He often says, “if you are going to put a fish on the back of it, you better drive it right.”  He demands that we take on personal responsibility and do our work as unto the Lord. He is transparent giving us the good, the bad and the ugly and involving us in making decisions. He is the most generous man I have ever met.

Jim: I am not surprised to hear that. That is exactly the way he comes across. Thanks so much, Debbie, for taking time to give us a “behind the curtains” view of The Lampo Group! Keep up the great work!

The Indispensable Ingredient

I was in San Diego a couple of weeks ago to attend the Harbor Presbyterian MultiSite 3.0 conference. It is not a big conference, but I was impressed with the depth and breadth of the wisdom and counsel offered to the attendees, most of whom were planters or multisite campus pastors.

My friend, Dick Kaufmann, is the founding pastor of Harbor Presbyterian. He was Executive Pastor of Redeemer Church in New York before leaving for San Diego a little over ten years ago to begin Harbor Presbyterian. Today, they are a thriving multi-site church reaching San Diego for the Kingdom in a meaningful way. Dick is one of those guys who doesn’t say much, but when he does, you probably ought to pay attention.

The last session of the two days was an open forum Q & A. It seemed to me that a proverbial tsunami of information had been shared, so I asked the question — “Among everything that has been shared, are there any 1 or 2 factors that rank above everything else in establishing a viable, gospel centered church plant?” Dick was the first one to respond and here is what he said.

“To me, there is one indispensable ingredient. It is the personal holiness of the senior leader. Churches do not fail because of the lack of giftedness, bad preaching, poor location, wrong strategy, though these factors can have an impact. However, if the senior leader is not committed to a lifestyle of gospel-centered personal holiness and that leader has a moral or integrity failure, the collateral damage is huge. So, to me, that is the indispensable ingredient.”

Yep, that’s it. Dick nailed it.

The one indispensable ingredient — personal holiness.

Everything else is a distant second.

Thanks, Dick, for reminding us how important this is.

Talking Multisite with Jim Tomberlin

I had a chance to catch up with my friend, Jim Tomberlin, recently to ask him a few questions. Jim is a leading voice on multi-site churches. He began his multi-site church journey in the mid-1990s when he was the senior pastor of Woodman Valley Chapel. In 2000, he went on to pioneer the multi-site model at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. Since 2005 he has been consulting and coaching churches in developing and implementing multi-campus strategies.

I posed a few questions and here is what Jim had to say.

A lot has changed in a short period of time. I can remember, not too long ago, when multi-site was a new concept. Now, it seems everyone is talking multi-site. What is a common misconception about multi-site?

When people hear multisite, they tend to think megachurch and video sermons. Yes, some multisite churches are also megachurches. However, the reality is that megachurches (weekend attendance of 2,000+) comprise only a third of all multisite churches nationwide and only half of all multisite churches utilize video to deliver their teaching content.

Is it easier for a new church to start out as a multi-site church or an established church to become multi-site?

In the long run, it is definitely easier to start out as a church with a multisite mindset than to transition a church from a mono-site mindset to a multi-site paradigm. The older and larger a church is going multisite, the more difficult it is to move to a multisite paradigm.

What are the challenges of each?

Older and larger churches will tend to be more “mothership-centric” and view multisite campuses as “satellites” that revolve around the hub campus. They function as a church with multisite campuses. Younger and newer churches that start with a multisite mindset tend be more “community-centric” and see themselves as a church of multisite campuses. Both can and do work, but ultimately a church of multisite campuses will have less inter-campus relationship and management challenges. Starbucks and Target stores have a central headquarters, but you don’t get the sense that their local stores are satellites of headquarters.

If I asked you to name the top 2-3 critical success factors for making multi-site work effectively, what would they be?

The three most critical factors of a successful multisite strategy are a compelling reason/vision for multisiting, a high capacity campus pastor leader who bleeds the DNA of the church, and delivering the overall campus experience as good or better than the sending campus. If any of these three are lacking, the multisite strategy will be an uphill climb.

Okay, so what’s the other side — the most common mistakes churches make in trying to become multi-site.

Not having a compelling vision for multisiting, leading out with a follower rather than a leader, launching too close or too far, under-delivering the campus experience, not embracing the paradigm shift from a mono-site to a multi-site paradigm.

I see you have a new ebook. What’s in it and how can I get it?
My free eBook “125 Tips for MultiSite Churches and Those Who Want To Be” is the distillation of my 15 years as a multisite pioneer and church consultant. My multisite journey began for me as a senior pastor of a megachurch in Colorado, got me invited to pioneer the model at Willow Creek Church in Chicago, and propelled me into full-time multisite consulting nationally and internationally. I have been tweeting a daily multisite tip for several years and have compiled these tips into an eBook in an easily accessible topical manner. The eBook also includes helpful articles I have written over the years and features a snapshot profile of ten successful multisite churches. You can read and download it here:

Great insights, Jim! Thanks for taking the time.

Organizations Are The Way They Are…

…because of the way they are.

I have seen it any number of times but it really crystallized for me in the last few days. Organizations, including and especially churches, do not end up the way they are by accident. It happens on purpose. The excellent church continually finds ways to do things better and reach more people. Other churches struggle just to maintain whatever they have and some do not even do that. Why does the excellent organization seem to make the right call almost every time and the mediocre entity seem to seldom make the right call?

The people, theology, thinking and systems all contribute to it. If nothing changes, nothing changes. The entity becomes stale and replicates itself over and over. On the other hand, the excellent entity keeps itself fresh and continually reinvents itself to adapt to changing circumstances. Whatever your church or organization is — for better or for worse — will replicate itself internally until there is a significant change of some kind.

You could peg it all on leadership and, to some extent, that would be true. But leadership alone is not the issue. I could show you churches who have had several leaders in recent years and the result of the church is the same. That begs the question of culture. Yes, that is probably an issue, too, in a number of cases. Culture matters more than vision. Bad culture trumps great vision every time. But there is more.

Churches make choices. Remaining the same is a choice for the most part. Challenging the status quo to effect change for the better is a choice, too. For there to be change, something has to change.

Sometimes, the change that is necessary is “major surgery” of some kind. More often, it is something not so major. Perhaps just a change of perspective for the senior leader or a team of leaders. Conferences are good and can provide a spark. Consultants can provide an additional perspective. But real change is more grass roots than that. You have to see it in action to be persuaded it will really work.

There are any number of ways you could do that, but here is one suggestion.  Find a church that is like what you want your church to become — missional, evangelistic, global missions, community outreach, worship and arts. Whatever it is you want to see change in your church, find a church who does that well and go spend time with them. Better yet, if they are local, arrange to swap places with the senior leader for a couple of days. In other words, you go see what makes their church tick and vice versa. Then sit with each other and share your observations. You’d be surprised how illuminating this can be.

Change does not happen all of a sudden. It takes time. But the decision to change can happen right now. For Christ’s sake, if your church is stuck, find a way to get unstuck. You don’t have to be the way you are. You can effect change.

Organizations are the way they are — because of the way they are.

Should The Jobless Tithe On Unemployment Benefits?

The Village Green section of Christianity Today magazine which presents answers from leading Christians to pressing questions. CTI asked me to contribute to this question for their March 2011 edition. Here is what I said.

Yes, with generosity!

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the recent economic meltdown is long-term unemployment, a reality in which many thought they would never find themselves. For the first time, hardworking, well-intentioned individuals are paying their bills with the income they receive from government checks instead of their profession or trade.

During these tough times, it is easy for churchgoing, typically responsible Christians to fall off the radar as they deal with the shame of being unable to provide for themselves or their families. In these times, it is more important than ever that Christians seek out pastors, leaders, and friends who can provide loving community and accountability to be faithful stewards in times of hardship.

Scripture does not speak directly to the topic of tithing on an income that is not your own, so I am reluctant to say firmly, “Yes, give this much.” But the Bible has much to say on the subject of generosity and gratitude.

There are four questions church leaders and others can ask to help someone struggling with tithing on their unemployment benefits.

• Do you see unemployment benefits as part of God’s provision for your life?

• Are you continuing to practice generosity in every area: time, talent, and treasure?

• How does giving a portion of your unemployment benefits differ from giving apportion of your “employed” benefits?

• Would giving a portion of your unemployment benefits demonstrate gratitude that God is providing for you in this season of your life?

Generosity is a condition of the heart. As resources come into the hands of a generous person, he or she can’t help giving them away. It’s second nature. A lifestyle of generosity should not stop when times are hard. If anything, tithing when income is low reinforces gratitude and trust, as it reminds the giver that God can use even the smallest gift to accomplish his will. It also reminds me that I am always dependent on God for my sustenance, whether I have savings in the bank and a regular paycheck or not. This is where Christian community should be most apparent, in encouraging and supporting each other to live out generosity in tough times.

I’m not going to argue that a specific percentage be given, just as I wouldn’t in responding to an employed individual. That is between the individual and God. Living a generous lifestyle is not an obligation but rather an opportunity. It is something I get to do for God’s kingdom, not something I have to do.

As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:7–8, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

GENERIS Expands Leadership Team

Allen Walworth, co-owner of Generis with Jim Sheppard, is transitioning his share of Generis to Brad Leeper, who becomes President and Principal. Brad joined Generis in 2001 and quickly became adept at working with churches in their generosity and stewardship matters. In his 10 years with the firm, he has established himself as one of the top stewardship and generosity consultants in America. Allen will remain as a consultant working with church and ministry clients and will continue as part of the management team of Generis.

Jim Sheppard, CEO and Principal, said, “I am grateful for Allen’s contribution to Generis. As a result of our three years of partnership, Generis is strongly positioned to continue its momentum and influence in this important Kingdom work. I am delighted Allen will continue to be part of our team. Generis is very fortunate to have someone of Brad’s ability to assume Allen’s position and responsibilities. We have a strong belief in collaborative strength — the power of ‘we.’ The reality is it expands our leadership team and makes us stronger. I look forward to many years of successful partnership with Brad and to working with our expanded leadership team in serving churches and ministry organizations.”

For video message, click here: GENERIS Expands Leadership Team

Staffing Your Church

Selecting and hiring church staff is one of the most crucial decisions a senior leader will ever make. Vanderbloemen Search Group has carved out a niche by specializing in corporate quality executive search for churches. Justin Lathrop founded and heads up, a search firm that has shown enormous abilities in searches for positions in the middle of a church org chart like childrens and student pastor searches. Recently, HelpStaff and the Vanderbloemen Search Group united. Their merger has broadened the capabilities of the  Vanderbloemen Search Group so they are now able to help any church fill any position. I recently had a chance to visit with both William and Justin to get their thoughts on what they are seeing in church staffing. Here is our conversation.

1. Is there any particular big trend you are seeing in the way churches are being staffed?

We’re seeing lots of new staff positions emerging that haven’t before, particularly among the larger, innovative (and smart) churches we get to work with. My hunch is that their innovations will become much more common in the near future

For instance, several of our clients are now employing a Pastor of Social Media. It’s a step up from simply having person who is good with social media to a person who has pastoral skill and is good online. This position often covers online campuses, like our friend Brandon at or Nils Smith at Community Bible Church in San Antonio.

Another new staff position we are seeing is a Pastor of Generosity. This is pretty much a Chief Fundraising Officer that has pastoral skill. When Jud Wilhite and the folks at Central Christian asked us to find this position for them, it showed me a new reality: (1) lots of new believers are coming to growing churches, (2) new believers don’t usually give or tithe, (3) dollars are tight everywhere, and (4) the Senior Pastor cannot  ask for money all the time. Smart churches are hiring folks to help close the gap, just like hospitals, charities, and universities have for years. I know you all have been our in front of your sector doing some key thinking about raising generosity and generous cultures. Seems like the idea is catching on.

2. The role of the strong Executive Pastor, a COO type of position, seems to be expanding. What do you see in that area?

Executive Pastors searches make up about 40% of the searches we do, so we are seeing more and more models for the role. The common denominator I see in all the models is an increase in authority, responsibility, and implementation of the vision. Lead/Senior Pastors seem more intent than ever on casting vision, protecting their preaching preparation time, and getting out of the way for a strong XP/COO to get the ball from point “a” to point “b.”

3. What about multi-site? Any particular challenges there?

Many Campus Pastor roles don’t involve weekly preaching so the perception is that communication isn’t important. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The ability to communicate is greater than ever before.

Because of this perception, it is difficult for churches to get the right communicator that doesn’t view campus pastoring as a purely administrative role.

The Campus Pastor is a role that is here to stay. As the number of campuses at churches mushroom, staffing the role is more difficult than ever.

Bil Cornelius and I were visiting some time back about innovative ways to staff small campuses in small towns with superior leadership. A whole lot of new models are emerging in response to this crucial need.

4. Looks like there are a lot of Baby Boomer pastors leading mega churches. Are they thinking about succession? That’s a big looming issue, isn’t it?

I think succession is THE looming issue in the Church. It’s also the most common search we lead now.

The fact is, we are all interim pastors. And a whole lot of key churches are going to face pastoral retirement in the next 10 years. You know, retirement is only mentioned once in the Bible. It had to do with requiring the retirement of priests. It’s so natural for a Pastor to love his job and church so much that he doesn’t plan for the day he’s not there. But it will happen. So we are spending loads and loads of time working on this and have been blessed to receive a high measure of corporate training on the matter. Getting to help churches through that process is a rare honor and one we are taking very seriously.

7. I see you announced some big news about a week ago. Tell me about it? What prompted the partnership?

I’ve known Justin for about as long as I’ve been doing search and watched his company grow. He’s a great guy with a real gift. I’ve also noticed that he’s really good at mid-level searches, which were searches we weren’t really focused on. We talked for a while about referring searches to each other and then it dawned on us that it would be better to do this together. So now, we never have to tell a client “we can’t help you.” Whether it’s our traditional Senior and executive level searches or mid-level, we can help staff the Church. And we love getting to do that!

Great stuff, guys. Thanks William (@wvanderbloemen) and Justin (@justinlathrop)! You can find them at

Home Field Advantage

The World Series started this week and there is a lot of talk about who has home field advantage. There is a distinct advantage to playing at home. In fact, the benefit of winning the annual major league baseball All Star game is that your league gets home field advantage. There are 7 games, so one team gets 4 at home and the other team gets 3.

In the world of non-profits, the church has a home field advantage of sorts. The church is the only entity in the not for profit world that has the opportunity to look its people in the eye 52 times a year. Yeah, I know people are more mobile than ever and the definition of a regular attender is now 2 times per month, which is a lot lower than it was 8-10 years ago. But the fact remains, the church sees its people face-to-face more than any other entity in the non-profit world. This is what I call the “home field advantage.”

This advantage has always been important, but it is more critical then ever to developing and growing generosity in the post 2008 era. The effect of the economic meltdown of late 2008 has been to reframe the rules for raising ministry support. Donors are still willing to give, but they are vetting the choices they have for their charitable giving more than ever. Because of the home field advantage, the church has a distinct opportunity to stand out.

The question for church leaders is, what do I do with that advantage? Six things come to mind as important.

  • Build trust: All charitable funding is given in an atmosphere of trust. Leverage the weekend worship experience by building trust in all you do.
  • Cast (and re-cast) vision: People have to be constantly reminded of the vision of ministry of the church. There are three types of reminders — blast (fire hose), soak (garden hose), drip (soaker hose). There is an appropriate time for each. Use the blast sparingly and follow with soak and drip to make sure your people absorb it.
  • Shape culture: You can have great vision, but bad culture will cause problems in implementing it. Culture is never neutral — it is either for you or against you. Make sure you are always shaping culture so it is working for you.
  • Demonstrate impact: More than ever before, in the post 2008 money environment, givers are vetting the choices for their charitable dollars. Impact is like “ROI” — where givers see it, they direct their charitable giving. You have the stories of impact, but they are probably hidden in the numbers. Make sure you pull back the numbers and tell the stories of impact.
  • Enhance relationships: After trust, relationship is one of the most important factors in a giving decision. Build relationships while people are on site at your church. Make sure there are ample “met and greet” type spaces throughout your facility or campus.
  • Highlight good stewardship: Churches that practice good stewardship with the money that is given them earn the respect of givers. Let your people know about key decisions you make to be more effieient in the use of the funds entrusted to your church.

Check yourself against this list. Which of these things are you doing? And not doing?

Don’t ignore the home field advantage. Let it work for you in the post 2008 era of developing and growing support for your church.


I had a lot of choices for what I might talk about on Leadership Network’s “The Nines.” I spend a lot of time in churches with church leaders and their people. I gave a lot of thought to it and I have chosen one that is simple and, to a lot of people, pretty obvious. It is right under their nose. My only fear is that it is so simple, you might not see the great potential of it.

The reason I chose it is that hardly any churches are doing it. For the few that are, it is a game changer. I mean a TOTAL game changer.

So here it is.

I call it UNLEASH. Simply put, it is releasing the full potential of the high capacity people God has placed in your church. People who are pure difference makers — wherever they go, they make a difference with their leadership, their influence and their finances. In many cases, there is latent, powerful potential waiting to be released and these people are waiting for the church to make the first move.

First and foremost, let’s get one thing clear. This is not a money ploy. Though these people are probably the most financially blessed in your church, this is not about reaching them for their money. It is about reaching them for the difference they can make. It is a ministry strategy that will enhance the lives of these people and will greatly enhance the ministry effectiveness of the church.

This is a total win/win. They need the church and the church will greatly benefit from what they have to offer. It is a match made in heaven!

So what does this look like?

First, they need the church. Because of their success, our tendency is to believe high capacity people don’t need a lot of attention from the church. Wrong! They have all the problems of people who have less capacity. They have children issues, spouse problems, addictions, relational issues and spiritual malnourishment just like everybody else. And they have a whole host of issues that are unique to them.

Now, just so we are clear, this is not about violating the teaching of favoritism presented in the book of James. On the contrary, it is about reaching out to a category of people who are more like to fall through the crack of the church than to be shown favoritism.

Jesus suggested in 3 of the 4 Gospel accounts  that these people are so at risk that they need extra spiritual care. You know the teaching. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Financially blessed people are high risk for missing eternal life. It is important for the church to reach out to them.

The other side is that high capacity people — difference makers — have a lot to offer the church. It is important to hear their voices as you lead your church.

They are successful. For many of them, they lead large organizations and they know how to make big decisions. They can empathize with the Senior Pastor who sometimes feels “lonely at the top.” These difference makers have a very high percentage of being right. They weigh risks and examine ideas carefully. In short, it would be foolish to ignore them in leading the church.

So how do you go about doing this?

First, you have to find them. This is pretty easy. Most of them have identified themselves by who they are in the community and other places.

Once you find them, you have to create environments where you can build relationships with them. It might be a dinner gathering or something similar. Don’t let the group get too large. If you have too many of them in your church (that’s a good problem to have!), break them up into several smaller gatherings. Get them together periodically — not too often, but just often enough. Use this time to cast vision (and re-cast vision), build trust, enhance relationships. Let them see the ministry from the Senior Pastor’s cockpit to give them a glimpse of where you believe God is leading your church. They are used to the view from the cockpit — trust me — they do it every day.

Most importantly, create opportunities where you can listen to them, especially when embarking on new initiatives. Let them help you vet key moves before you pull the trigger. These people can help you see the full spectrum of the good, the bad and the ugly about new ideas. You may not always like what they say and you may not always agree, but you will never regret listening. I promise you that.

So that’s it. UNLEASH. Releasing the latent potential of the difference makers in your church.

Very simple, but very powerful.

Good for the people! Good for the church!

A total game changer.

Try it!

God bless you.

(This post was transcribed from the vidoe I did for Leadership Network’s “The Nines. Here is a link to the video: )

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