Innovating Discipleship by Will Mancini (Book Review)


So anyone that knows me knows that I am practically a junkie when it comes to ministry development and organization. I remember when I first got my hands on Church Unique. I was immediately a fan and wondered why this wasn’t  prerequisite reading for anyone that is considering launching a church or for that matter overseeing any sort of ministry. It is truly that good a book, however if your not a structure and development junkie like me. You may find it a bit overwhelming because there just seems like so much that needs to be done.

The latest book by Will Mancini, Innovatiing Discipleship seems to have hit the perfect balance in my estimation.

At 94 pages long this book is a quick read. When you dig in, you notice almost immediately that this could have easily been a two or three hundred page book. But this is a practitioners book that has had the fluff stripped away. There are no long introductory narratives or puffed up stories of his consulting success. Mancini, Get straight to the nuts and bolts of bringing vision clarity.  He uses a great equation

1+2+4+16= ∞

One Whiteboard Drawing

defined by 

Two Vision Decisions


Four Paths to the Future

that provide

Sixteen Super Questions


Limitless Ministry Innovation

In his book Mancini takes the idea of you can date the model but should marry the Mission 10 steps further. He show you how to clarify and define the mission, then how to develop a model that will get you there. Some of the things that I love about the book are the fact that the vision and footwork are left to the reader. Mancini isn’t trying to sell or pitch the latest ministry model or set of buzz words. What he does so well is showing us some of our fatal flaw in ministry design, such as our lack of clarity about results, as well as our low competency in ministry design, to name a few. He then takes you through a fantastically simple diagnostics tool utilizing seven elements in our pattern of engagements. At this point in Innovation Discipleship you should be looking intentionally forward and Mancini helps us in defining our destination and fine tuning our trajectory,

My only critique of the book is that in the beginning Mancini states that the average pastor is looking for more of the same thing the same way. In other words we want to do the same thing we always do and experience greater results. Although I agree that this is what is probably being said verbally as well as what is being expressed in actionable terms. I think most pastors really don’t know what are the right steps to take or they would, I think that there a huge population that dreams of the incredible effect that they could have in their community. But because they aren’t sure how to climb that mountain. that sit and do more of the same.  I do think that Will knows and expresses that later in the book but when you first start reading you may feel a little sting. But that very well may be intentional.

So if you are looking for a great book to get you and your church moving again, if you are looking to re-ignite your passion for ministry, or if you are looking for a truly practical guide to getting your church un-stuck, this is it

At $5.99 for the Kindle or $8.99 for the paperback you can’t go wrong.

Get your’s on amazon here.


Is the Church like a Car Dealership? Should it be?

So, I have been out of full-time vocational ministry for few minutes now.  While I have been taking some time away to pray and consider what it is that God wants to do with me, I have resolved to taking a “tent making” position selling cars. It has been a fascinating journey to say the least. The car business is an industry full of men with incredible charisma as well as incredible pain. Many of these men are full of disdain for the ideas of God, while some are desperately hoping that God will somehow show up and to rescue them from their circumstance.   And then there are a few others that have found a way to find peace in their circumstance and they strain to walk in the storm with Jesus. But one thing we all have in common: if we come to work and don’t perform, we don’t eat.  It is in this industry that I had an interesting revelation of sorts.

Recently, I attended a conference on “Mastering the Phone” for new and follow up car sales.  I have to say, all I could think  was “Ahhhh the church needs this so bad!! what have we been doing all this time?!” Allow me to explain…  In the car world, there are many ways to buy a car.  First (and the most popular way) is to drive around and look at lots full of cars. When you do this (pull up onto a car lot), the likelihood that you will buy a car is around 17%.  It turns out that this is the hardest way for a salesperson to sell a car (no prior interaction, no establishment of trust or really understanding of need). The second way to buy a car is to research (look around online, call a dealership) and then go in.  If this is the route you take, what ever dealership you end up, the likelihood that you buy increases to 45-50%.  The reason for the increase is that you have done your research, established a little re-pore and feel more comfortable with making a commitment. Or if you have been taken care of in the past and were happy with your last purchase,  you then call your previous salesperson back and share thoughts, hopes and intentions  At that point, the likelihood increases to 70%. It is pretty easy to see by these statistics that owning phone skills is critical to being a successful salesperson and having a successful dealership, overall.

In this “Mastering the Phone” training, the instructor went over all of these imperatives (phone skills, actions and their importance) and then to demonstrate his point about the ineffectiveness of the phone skills in the industry, he proceeded to call around to the surrounding dealerships while he had the phone system piped into the conference room and show us just how horrible sales people were at pre-qualifying clientele.  In addition, no one bothered to offer help in understanding choices in vehicles, or to bring a positive perspective in the potential for treating them well on their perspective trade in.

Not only was I dying because frankly, the sales people were horrible, but I couldn’t help but see similarities in the Church. All the sales guys just hoped that the customers would come in for the big show, then they could get the “ether” (power of the experience going) and sell a car.

So I assume I might be losing some of you already for making the evil comparison of church development, and business development; but please hear me out. When people are coming to church, are we really just wanting to give them the attractional show, or is there something more that we have to provide; the idea of family and community, of care and of support. Normally we give them the big show, ask them to fill out a visitors card, then maybe we offer direction to the visitors center where we give them a free CD or a book. We stuff some brochures with limited ministry information into a gift bag, and then if they are lucky enough to be there during our small groups push, we will give them some of that as well.

After the initial visit, if you are super progressive, you send them a starbucks card in a thank you note and invite them back via email. Maybe after that you will have someone call to check out an orientation class or a new members class. But for the most part that’s it. Oh yeah, there is the stuff in the bulletin that they may look at again if they like the big show. Am I touching a nerve?

So as I listened to this trainer talk about providing the right information on the phone and website (80% of all car buyers look at your web first before they buy) I couldn’t help but think; The Church can do better. It seemed to me that we have been acting like people’s first interaction with the Church is at the service. I couldn’t help but ask; Are we are totally swinging and missing on our initial interaction? We know that most people will check out the web or call first for information before they come in? I had to check my hypothesis, So I decided I will get on-line to the “You’re New” section of some of the prominent churches in the area to see what they had posted there (for those that had them) and then I would give them a call to see how the “first touch” people did.

So here is what I found, most websites seems to be set up for the normal weekly attender. Many have stepped up and have some sort of “Your New” or “First Time” section but when you look at them with a critical eye, really they all say here is what you can expect at the big show. There is no place to interact… Its basically equivalent to the Used Car salesman saying  “Yeee haw! come on down folks we have all sorts of great cars & trucks. We will even have some balloons and coffee for ya. Go ahead and bring your kids we have a little area for them to play too.”

What would happen if we had an about you section for first time visitors? Single, Married, Children, Do they have special needs as far as parking or accessibility? Here are a list of our ministries: what would you like information on the first day? What if we allowed them to sign up to have someone meet them before service, show them how to check in their kids, explain about what might be happening that day, Communion, Special services, Get them a bible if they would like one (Or show them what app on their phone your church is going by) Buy them a cup of coffee and give them a tour, maybe we could even explain the values of small groups and give them some options in attending (maybe even introduce them to small group leaders if you have an area of interaction). You could go so far with this… You could have families sign up to have visitors sit with them or invite them to lunch later.

The possibilities are really endless. If you had people signing up to come in, you could even create the script for your designated integration specialist depending on there circumstance. They might even call and say something like “you know, I understand you might be nervous attending the first time alone and that is 100% normal. What many of our first time guests do to feel more comfortable is to invite a friend, Is there anyone you can think of that you would like to invite, or that you would like me to reach out to for you?

As I called a around the local churches, here is what I found: half had automated recordings. If you are looking for service times and directions please hit #1. The other half were quick and short with sharing service times and directions.

So I have to ask If your receptionist/ministry director/pastor answered the phone and heard someone say, “hey I’m shopping churches and wondered what time you service is this weekend?” What would your “first touch” person say? Would they say ” Our service times are at…” or, would they say

“Wow, you picked a great weekend to come in!”

“With your permission I’d like to ask you a few questions so that I can get you all the information you need to have a fantastic experience?”

Then would they help to assess the needs of the perspective attender and make sure that the right people had their name and information? Would he or she not only be able to answer questions about the mens, women, singles, youth ministries, etc… but be able to effectively promote these groups as well?

Would they say something to the effect:  “It is really important to us as a family that you feel comfortable on your first visit; would you mind sharing some of your likes and dislikes at the previous church(es) you attended?”

Do you see how this changes things? What If you were right in the middle of a capital campaign and the person was complaining about “the other churches just talked about giving money” would the person that answered the phone know how to walk them through your churches financial stewardship responsibilities in a way that was palatable, or maybe even exciting?

Of course, I haven’t even touched on the incredible follow up calls and systems that could be put in place…  Truly, the possibilities are amazing for narrowing some of the cracks that people slip through.  Although the idea of growing the church is attractive, the idea of affecting those that are having a hard time connecting should be so much more attractive.  I believe that we can do much better in gathering the sheep without a shepherd than we have in the past.

At this point you are probably either fully convinced that I should just stick to selling cars (ouch) because God grows the church and there is no place for secular techniques. Or, maybe you are thinking we might just be able to do things better, and in which case, your mind is probably roaring ahead.

If you would like to roar ahead with me, I am going to work on putting together some information to try to help the church  be more effective with their perspective visitors.  I would love your input or at least some people to bounce ideas off of. If you are one of those people comment below and we will connect and see where God takes this.

No More Ministry Silos!!! (Developing Congruence & interdependence in Ministry)

So I have been reading The Accidental Creative: How to be brilliant at a moments notice. And let me say it is a great book. Author Todd Henry tortures you through the first four chapters, revealing so many familiar time, energy, and creativity misappropriations, it makes you a little bitter (haha). But in the remainder of the book he really starts to unpack some great practical ways the stimulate your creative abilities… love it!!!

Here is one of the key concepts that really hit me, The idea of Intelligent adjacency.

This is a concept that you see used in retail management, It means placing complimentary items next to each other, like toothbrushes and toothpaste, so that  when a customer finds one item, the proximity of the complimentary item makes it more likely they will buy both…Of course we have all see it every time we walk into the store.

What Todd does then is talk about an assortment of ideas in which you can use intellectual adjacency (grouping intellectually similar ideas and task together to your advantage)… Things like scheduling meetings back to back so you don’t have idle time in between where you won’t really be able to really engage in any significant productivity. (he brings great ideas to the table, I just don’t want to give them all away… So go get the book!!!

As I was contemplating all the great ideas as well as all the time and creative energy I’ve wasted in my life (boooo). I started thinking about how all of this applies to ministry. Certainly there is much to learn about grouping activities into intellectual streams and leveraging our time, but I can’t help but think there is a different type adjacency that we could develop.  What about conceptual adjacency.

Consider this, one of the biggest complaints by those that work in the Church is Silos.  How often do you hear “We are all working on developing our own Silos. Everyone is just working on their own ministry.” And although there may be successes, It is only short sighted. Usually the church as a whole suffers. There are a number of different potential causes and dysfunctions that can attribute to the Silo Crisis, however I think one of the main culprits  is a lack of conceptual adjacency.

Here is what I mean. lets reconsider the toothpaste isle. But instead of dental hygiene products lets bring in our ministries… Men’s, Women’s, Small groups, Outreach, Mission’s, Youth, Teaching, Discipleship, Greeting the list goes on and on.

So what fits together? (Try grabbing a paper and mapping these out) In order to really do this well, your going to have to wrestle though the idea of conceptual adjacency. Consider some of the issues that you may run into while stocking you ministry isles. Say your wanting to get involved with Treasures (a Fantastic Ministry to the women in the adult entertainment industry). Where does this go, By outreach or by Women’s ministry. By Outreach this becomes something that you do, an activity or event.Place it  by the Women’s Ministry it’s part of who you area integration into the DNA of the women’s ministry. The adjacent association brings identity to who and what you are. What lies closest to your proclamation ministry; is it Discipleship? Are you an equipping  Church? Or maybe it’s Greeting, are you are hospitality Church? Then again maybe it’s mercy ministries, are you a Social Justice Church.

Your conceptual adjacency will help to align your ministries by your deepest perceived purpose and relations. This will help bring clarity to your staff and to your members.  Assuming you do this well, you will eliminate confusion and frustration that occurs so often when you see a church promoting a ministry in word, but in reality it’s conceptual adjacency is far from its intuitive place. Imagine if you walked into the supermarket looking for a toothbrush. You go into the toothpaste isle and where you would perceive that you would find a toothbrush you find candy. You go to the manager; “What gives here? They explain that they placed candy next to toothpaste to fight against tooth decay. They placed the toothbrushes next to the coffee to scrub away stains and the mouthwash next to garlic to help with bad breath…Is this wrong? Or is this just a store that has developed its rule of  adjacency through a reactionary concept? I think it would be different and confusing for awhile but over time you would understand the product placement by embracing the underlying concept. Is your underlying ministry concept bring confusion to your staff or members?

I’m not even saying that there is a right or wrong here.  What I am saying is that if you can start to understand your current conceptual adjacency that you are operating under. If you can communicate this adjacency to your staff and members; you will start to see interrelationship within your ministries and how a interdependence and congruency can be developed.

love your thoughts,