• Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Ministry Strategy

    Being Called Together For Kids and a City

    Brian ( on the right) and the staff at Cafe Mosaic, one of Overflow’s non profit social enterprises

    In 2007, Brian Bennett (former SpringHill summer staffer) and his wife Cindy packed up their belongings, along with their young children, and moved into heart of Benton Harbor, Michigan to plant a church.

    If you know anything about Benton Harbor, it’s a city that unfortunately resembles many small, Midwest cities where the loss of industry, and the work that goes with it, has gutted the life of the community. Abandoned buildings, struggling schools, broken families, and the loss of human dignity and hope that poverty so mercilessly steals away, all fills the Benton Harbor landscape.

    It’s into this city that Brian and Cindy have brought the hope and dignity that only comes through Jesus Christ. Their church, Overflow, has brought the Good News to Benton Harbor through the Word and the deeds of its church family. And in 5 short years under Brian’s leadership, significant work, impacting the lives of many in this broken community, has occurred.

    This past week, Todd Leinberger, our Great Lakes Vice President, Jeffery Wright, President and CEO of Urban Ministries Inc and Chairman of the board of Circle Y Camp, and myself met with Brian to discuss, pray, and dream about how our respected organizations could help Overflow in its ministry to the children and young people of the Benton Harbor community.

    The story of how the four of us, and our organizations, have come together is for another post, but it’s because of this story that we sense that God may be leading us to work together in such a way that the transforming power of Christ is brought to the lives of 1000’s of young people of Benton Harbor area.

    I’ll keep you posted to how this story of possibilities unfolds.

  • Leadership,  Ministry Strategy,  Organizational Leadership

    Eat Mor Chikin – Family Owned Corporations

    Last week I had an experience that momentary carried me back to my first job out of college, working for Steelcase, Inc. in Grand Rapids, MI.

    The moment of déjà vu came on a tour of the Chick-fil-A headquarters in Atlanta, GA that our peer learning group, the Chicago 7, had the opportunity to take.

    It happened because, like Steelcase back in the 1980’s:

    It obvious Chick-fil-A’s corporate office and its employees clearly show the values and mission of the company.

    That Chick-fil-A is also on a fast track of growth in terms of sales, stores and markets.

    And Chick-fil-A places a high value on its employees and store operators. For example, Chick-fil-A encourages its employees to use, free of charge and during working hours, the on-site health and fitness center, and provides all employees free meals in the corporate dining room (I had grilled tuna).

    But I as I listened to our tour guide, Andrea Lee, talk about the company and its leadership, that’s when my déjà vu was strongest.

    You see, Chick-fil-A, like Steelcase’s first 75 years, is family owned and family lead. The Cathy family believes their company’s purpose is something more significant than just a return on stockholder’s equity. It’s clear they believe Chick-fil-A can and should improve the lives of its employees, store operating partners, the communities it operates in, and of course its customers. It seems chicken is just a means to a greater end – that end being inspired people, stronger families, better communities and ultimately – glory to God.

    It’s a vision, I have no doubt, if held to, will continue to bring great returns on investment, not just to the stockholders, but more importantly to all the lives Chick-fil-A touches. And it’s a vision worth emulating.

    Order S. Truett Cathy’s book here.

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader,  Organizational Leadership

    Discovering Vision

    “God’s will is more about who we are than what we do or where we go. Being always precedes doing.” Enoch Olson, SpringHill’s Founding Director

    Over the past few months I’ve been deep into the journey of discovering SpringHill’s vision for its next season of ministry. I’m on my second round of meetings with our staff, board and other involved constituents. Meeting with these committed, intelligent and insightful people is inspiring. I have no doubt God’s speaking through SpringHill’s community of people.

    But exactly what is vision? It’s a term that’s used differently by different people and organizations. So it’s important to know exactly what you’re after if you’re on the journey to discover your vision.

    At SpringHill, we use vision to answer the question “what does God want us to become, as a ministry, over the next 10 to 25 years?” We like to say vision answers the “Be” question and not the “do” questions (effective organizations need to answer both types of questions – click here to read my post on the 6 Key Questions Every Organization Needs to Answer).

    We also believe that there are certain truths about God centered visions, including:

    1. You discover visions not manufactured them.
    2. In mature organizations like SpringHill, vision does not come to just one person but is expressed through the community of constituents involved with and committed to that organization.
    3. Thus to be shared, a vision requires the input from all of an organization’s constituency groups.
    4. The leader’s job is to discover and articulate the vision of God from the voices of the community, the reality of the world, history, and an understanding of the future.

    My ultimate goal in this process is to discover God’s vision for SpringHill’s future and do so in such a way that it will be a shared vision, one that everyone committed to SpringHill will work passionately to see become a reality.

    In my next post I’ll walk through the specific steps I’m taking in this discovery process.

  • Ministry Strategy

    Thankful for Faithful Supporters

    After a four-day business trip to Indianapolis Denise and I took advantage of the spring like weather in northern Michigan and walked around camp (last weekend we snowshoed around camp). As we walked around Copper Country I reflected on the incredible support SpringHill has received over the decades.

    Incredible support comes from incredible people who believe in what God has done and is doing in and through SpringHill. They align with the answers to the 6 key questions I’ve been writing about over the last couple of weeks. There’s a mutual commitment to making the answers to the 6 key questions a reality.

    It’s important to understand that at SpringHill we include in our definition of supporters – volunteers, prayer partners, ambassadors, and donors. Every person who falls into one or more of these categories is absolutely critical to our effectiveness. We’ve been blessed over the years to have many people in all four groups.

    While in Indianapolis I, along-side Craig Soderdahl our Regional Vice President and Kate Wilson our Regional Development Representative, met with friends of SpringHill who included corporate donors, long time supporters , former and current board members and staff, and over dinner, a group of future camper families, prayer partners, ambassadors, volunteers and donors.

    Each meeting in Indianapolis was a powerful reminder of the essential role our supporters play in SpringHill today and into the future. The walk around Copper Country reminded me of the critical role our supporters have played over the years. So whether it’s past, present or future, on this early spring day, I’m deeply thankful for our supporters and what they’ve done and do for SpringHill, kids and Jesus.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    Peter Drucker on the 6 Key Questions Every Organization Needs to Answer

    Jason Hoffer our New Frontiers/TST Director passed this Peter Drucker quote to me from some reading he’s been doing – Management, Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. It perfectly applies to the discussion in my previous posts about the 6 Key Questions every organization needs to answer, and specifically the answers to the last four Key Questions – “why do we exist?”, “what makes us distinct?”, “what do we want to achieve in the long-term?” and “what do we want to become?” Drucker says…

    “It is not easy for the management of a successful company to ask, what is our business? Everybody in the company then thinks that the answer is obvious as not to deserve discussion. It is never popular to argue with success, never popular to rock the boat. Sooner or later even the most successful answer to the question, ‘what is our business?’ becomes obsolete. Very few definitions of the purpose and mission of a business have anything like a life expectancy of thirty, let alone fifty years. To be good for ten years is probably all one can normally expect. In asking, what is our business? Management therefore also needs to add, and what will it be”

    Notice Drucker’s language of both “doing” (i.e. Mission, BHAGG & Brand) as well as “being” (Vision). Drucker understood that the answer to the last four questions will change over time if an organization and its leaders stays attuned to the world around them.

    And I wholeheartedly agree with Jason’s comment about the contemporary perspective of Drucker’s thoughts – “that was written in 1974 – I can imagine if he were to write that now those years would be dramatically fewer”

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    The Framework – The Next Two Questions Every Organization Needs to Answer, Part 4

    Once an organization answers the first two of the 6 Key Questions – “what do we believe to be true?” and “what’s important to us?” it then needs to answer these questions –

        Why do we exist?

        What makes us distinct?

    The answers to the first two questions, though absolutely critical, do not make an organization unique. But the answers to this second set of questions begin to highlight the essential distinctness an organization brings to the world.

    Why do we exist? Mission

    By answering this question an organization identifies its purpose for existence by focusing on the difference it’ll make in people’s lives and in the world. Mission is an action and outcome orientated statement and should be, in part, a response to the needs of the world in which the organization finds itself. For this reason, mission may change or adjust over time in response to the unique opportunities its context presents.

    What makes us distinct? Brand (or philosophy of ministry for faith-based organizations)

    Every organization has a brand (whether intentional or accidental) – it’s the attributes which make it distinct. An intentional brand requires thinking through the attributes of its products or services which are apparent to those who experience the organization, then making these attributes a reality in every part of the organization. The brand is the tangible expression of an organization’s mission, core values and statement of faith.

    Answering these two questions is necessary for an organization to identify its unique calling and its distinctiveness in living it out.

    In my next post we’ll look at the final two of the 6 Key Questions every organization needs to answer – “what do we want to achieve in the long-term?’ and “what do we want to become?”

    To see SpringHill’s answers to the 6 Key Questions click here.

  • Leadership,  Organizational Leadership

    Creating a Culture of Commitment, Part 2

    1. What do we believe to be true?
    2. What’s important to us?
    3. Why do we exist?
    4. What makes us distinct?
    5. What do we want to achieve in 15, 20 or 25 years?
    6. What do we want to become in 5, 10, 15 years?

    In a previous post I wrote that these are the 6 questions every organization needs to answer to assure long-term effectiveness. But it’s not just having answers, its making the answers a visible reality in the culture of an organization that makes a difference.

    When the answers become a “visible reality” the organization’s members, be it staff, volunteers or donors, begin to believe in and become committed to the organization’s health and success.

    Why does this happen? Linda Hill and Kent Lineback tells us in their new book Being the Boss – The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader.

    “People relate to worthwhile purposes and goals. Most of us want to feel a part of something larger and more important than ourselves. When workers were asked how important it was that their lives be meaningful, 83 percent said ‘very important’ and another 15 percent said ‘fairly important’. That’s an astounding 98 percent to whom it was at least ‘important’. Is it important to you and those who work for you? Most likely, it is.

    The same survey revealed that less than half of all employees in every industry studied felt strongly connected to their company’s purpose. Most organizations – whether a small group or a large company – are missing a great opportunity by not focusing more on why they do what they do and why they matter to the world.”

    Has your organization answered these 6 questions and made them a visible reality in your organization? Can you verify it by commitment of your staff, volunteers and donors? If you can answer yes to both questions your organization is on its way to long-term health and effectiveness.

    To see SpringHill’s answers to the 6 Key Questions click here.

  • Organizational Leadership

    Drawing Our Mission

    Mission statements are normally expressed in words. But yesterday I had the opportunity to articulate SpringHill’s mission through a drawing supplemented by words not used in our actual statement.

    As you can see from the photo I’m no artist but my lack of talent didn’t diminish the power of this exercise. The power came in the challenge of thinking through how to communicate our mission in a drawing as opposed to the words of our statement. This 20 minute process provided me a different perspective on a mission we’ve had for decades.

    During the act of illustrating I began to see the role the SpringHill Experience plays in the life of a young person in a different way. Having a mission statement that’s often referred to and memorized can lead to a bit of staleness – illustrating it made it fresh again.

    Which led me to, once again, affirm the importance of our mission and the need to assure its continuing effectiveness.

    The exercise also provides an alternative way to communicate our mission to our key constituency groups by providing them with a fresh perspective as well.

    So on my “list of ideas we need to do” from this week with the Chicago 7 (a peer learning group of CEO’s from similar camps) I’ve added “#15. Have our marketing team create a quality illustration of our mission.”

    By the way our peer learning group’s meeting this week’s at the very cool The Leadership Studio at Muskoka Woods in Ontario Canada. It’s CEO and a close friend, John McAuley, is a part of our group and facilitating our time together. If you and your organization need a place for a retreat where you can do some great work you need to check out The Leadership Studio. I guarantee you’ll come back with more than just a drawing of your mission statement.

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