Back from the Holidays

Our holidays were wonderful, and we hope yours were, too. We had the great privilege of celebrating my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, my dad's 73rd birthday, Christmas, and New Year's. Lots to celebrate!

Here are my parents and our family below, as well as Gil and I, my sister, Sheri's family, and my youngest sister, Sonya, and her husband, Brian, at the anniversary celebration.

One of the most meaningful parts of the anniversary celebration was the tributes that were offered. My sisters and I each wrote tributes and read these to our parents at the celebration dinner. Many family members, relatives and friends also sent tributes prior to the anniversary. We read excerpts from these to my parents and presented them all in a beautiful scrapbook that they could keep for a special remembrance of this event.

Eph. 6:2-3 teaches that honoring our fathers and mothers is the first commandment with a promise! God promises you "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." What a great secret to longevity and a way to heal many broken relationships between parents and children!

Don't know where to begin? Dennis Rainey, President of Family Life Ministries, and Dave Boehi have written an excellent resource on developing a tribute to honor your parents. For more information or to order your copy, click on the "The Best Gift You Can Ever Give your Parents."

Of course, most important of all was the celebration of our Lord, Jesus, our Savior and His birth. We are thankful to be His children and to have a part in His great plan to build the kingdom.

Maximizing Tomorrow's Leaders Today
Is your Church's Leadership Culture Healthy?

What makes a church's leadership culture healthy? I, along with two senior pastors, Chuck Larsen of Country Bible Church in Blair, Nebraska, and Will Langstaff, of The Servant House in Lewisville, Texas, recently studied a mega-church in Texas to evaluate this very issue. Our team interviewed the senior and executive pastors, the staff and elder board members, reviewed the church's history and related documentation, and attended the Sunday morning worship service. We evaluated three areas to determine the "health quotient" of this church:

1. the way all staff members were treated, including the senior pastor, as well as ministry and mentoring opportunities afforded to female leadership

2. the level of involvement the church invested into community service

3. the processes the church used to handle its financial resources

A Church's DNA
As the DNA of every person makes him or her unique, so does the DNA or leadership culture of a church make it unique and clearly reflect its health or its lack of health. Every church, like every person, has a journey of growth over its lifetime. There are milestones along the way that are key turning points in the life and growth of the church. This dynamic Texas church experienced several turning points during its growth that significantly enhanced the health and focus of its ministry.

Let's dig deeper into the culture of this church and learn the steps the church took to become the healthy, vibrant church that it is today. Join us as we journey with them from the past to the present.

The Church's History
In the early years of its 46-year history, this church showed severe signs of a lack of health. From early on, all recall that the church culture included a very controlling elder board. The board, made up of businessmen, did not want to take risks, was not open to change, and created a high-control atmosphere in the church. There was one extremely negative board leader in particular. Tensions often ran high between the elder board and the senior pastors. These tensions became so extreme that in one instance, the senior pastor was punched in the face by an elder. He was also reminded by an elder that there was a gun in one of his pockets and shells in the other. The elder warned the senior pastor to always remember the guns and the shells weren't too far apart!

Another example included an instance when three of the strongly controlling elders who were not serving, including the former chairman of the elder board, began criticizing the pastor and stirring up trouble, calling prayer meetings to pray for the pastor's deficiencies. Over time, due to the difficult working environment, several pastors departed the church, due to firings, being forced out or new opportunities presented to them. During one of the more significant church splits, several of the controlling elders departed to begin a new church, taking 30-40% of the congregation with them.

Yet all was not lost. The split gave the church the opportunity to begin afresh. A leadership culture cannot truly change until the leaders change. That change can either be brought about by internal change in the leaders themselves, or by their replacement with new leadership who hold a broader perspective. The split facilitated the departure of some of the leaders who were preventing health and growth in the church.

Real Change
All Become Empowered to Serve

Once leadership was in place in this church that valued empowerment, growth and health, real change began to take place. The two most significant changes are best described as first, a leadership culture that now empowers men and women in leadership, and second, a leadership culture that has dramatically changed its focus from "internal only" to "externally-focused" on its community and the world. The major evidence of the empowerment of men and women are the opportunities that have been given to female leadership in ministry. Several women are now in places of leadership on the staff in the missions, women's and children's areas. The leadership is focused on giving both male and female volunteers more opportunities to lead, and especially working to place more females into leadership and to mentor them in their ministries.

Community Service Now a Priority
The major evidence of the church's new external focus is seen in the church's recently adopted motto. It is not currently in their written documents, but it's embraced by all the staff and everyone we interviewed was aware of it and totally supportive of it. As the church's executive pastor stated, "We want to love our community so well that if we were failing, they would raise the funds to keep us in business."1

Increased Financial Stewardship
For the first 26 years of its existence, the church did not keep detailed records or develop a budget. This clearly indicated a low level of emphasis placed on the budgeting process and its relation to the mission and vision. The following year, the church developed a $230K budget, after a desperate year of financial challenges. During this time, the elders met each Monday to determine who would and would not be paid.2 They always found it a challenge with building debt and adding staff. At that time, one of the pastors described the financial operation of the church as "triage." That led him and a relative to create and develop a financial system for budgeting and monitoring income and expenditures.3

According to the former chairman of the elder board and 25-year board member,

The focus on money was very low-key. Occasionally, the elders might make an announcement that the church was a little behind, and to please pray for the church finances. Now, they have urged [the senior pastor] to talk more about giving. Years ago, the church almost split when they switched to passing the offering plates rather than having a box in the back. [The senior pastor] has become much stronger from the pulpit on the topic of giving.4

[He] described the church's approach in a later capital campaign:

Besides preaching in-house on the topic of giving, they worked through the topic in small groups over 3 month periods, and then asked people to make a 3-year pledge. They felt this process was more effective than any other outside assistance they had. They noticed that when the 36 months were up, that level of giving became the norm for people. People just transferred their giving originally designated for the building fund over to the general fund once the building campaign was complete. 5

This strategy created a "river of resources" for the church to grow. After the church's finances were on track, [God created] a season of explosive growth that eased the prior financial crunch.

On the Road to Health
The church's current senior pastor gradually began making these changes in the leadership culture when he assumed leadership of this church almost 20 years ago. The steps the church has taken have brought it to a place of great health, vitality and impact on its community and enabled it to develop a much healthier leadership culture. It has also ventured into new and creative ministries involving outreach, empowerment of all in leadership, resource development and management. We believe these changes have led this church to a place of greater health and effectiveness in building the kingdom and provide valuable lessons for other ministry leaders as they strive to serve most effectively.

Would you like to learn more about this church and their journey of change to a place of health?

The Story of a Texas Mega-Church

Click here to order your copy of this case study

Please let me know what issues you would like to hear about in the next newsletter, such as hiring or managing staff, inspiring volunteers, or preventing burnout, for examples. I'll do my best to address your concerns! I look forward to speaking with you all next month.

Many prayers and blessings to you all,

Leadership Tips is a monthly e-zine written and published by Suzanne Martinez, founder of SFM Consulting & Associates, LLC. Our purpose is to help leaders develop healthy leadership cultures and relationships - cultures that promote growth and optimize individual and organizational performance.

You may copy, forward or distribute this e-zine if this copyright notice and contact information for Suzanne Martinez is included.

Suzanne Martinez
SFM Consulting & Associates, LLC
Reston, VA 20194

Copyright ©SFM Consulting & Associates, LLC, 2006.

Would you forward this free e-newsletter to others who would benefit from it? For a free subscription, you can sign up at Please help us get the word out by forwarding this issue to others. Thank you!
Leadership Tips
January 2007
Vol. I, Issue 2

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Is your Church's Leadership Culture Healthy?

Would you like to learn more about this mega-church's 46-year journey from an unhealthy leadership culture to one that is thriving today? A team of three ministers recently studied a dynamic Texas church to uncover its secret keys to health and growth. The team evaluated the church's leadership culture, its ministry philosophy, and its 46-year church history.

This 35-page academic case study provides unique perceptions into the overall spiritual health and subsequent growth of this church. All pastors, elder boards, and church leadership teams will be able to glean valuable insights they can apply to their own churches to lead to greater church health and effectiveness.

The Story of a Texas Mega-Church

For more information or to purchase your copy

Upcoming Teleseminars
Keep watch for upcoming tele-seminars on the topics we're discussing in Leadership Tips!
More details to come...

Healing the Heart of Your Church
Another excellent resource for pastors on developing a healthier leadership culture is called Healing the Heart of your Church.

Like people, a church can become sick and traumatized from past sins in its corporate Body. The destructive effects of these past sins can linger for decades, hindering the present and future work and growth of the church. Healing the Heart of your Church explains this phenomenon and lays out a clear strategy to address these wounds and lead the church to a place of healing and greater effectiveness for Christ.

Healing the Heart of Your Church

For more information or to purchase your copy

Preview of February Issue:
In February's issue of Leadership Tips, we'll address the critical area of keeping couples' marriages healthy in your churches. Part of this process is prevention - helping couples to make good decisions before committing to marriage. The other part is strengthening and enriching the marriages of those who have already taken their marriage vows. You'll learn how to help them take their marriages from "good to great."

Developing a marriage mentoring ministry staffed by volunteer leaders in your church is an excellent way to do this. I'll show you how in February's Leadership Tips!

Pastor's Corner

Would you like to advertise your needs in this e-zine? Pastors contact my office on occasion to make other church leaders aware of position openings in their churches or needed resources. For more information, contact suzanne@

About Suzanne

Suzanne France Martinez
Founder & Principal

During the last 20 years as Suzanne served in the marketplace and in ministry, she learned to excel amidst the pressing demands and challenges of leadership in each setting. Suzanne's passion is to help leaders develop healthy leadership cultures and relationships - cultures that promote growth and optimize both individual and organizational performance. Suzanne desires to help leaders renew and refresh their vision, attain new levels of leadership excellence, and build healthy and strong leadership organizations.

Copyright ©2006 SFM Consulting & Associates, LLC

1 Executive pastor interview held on August 1, 2006.

2 Former elder board chairman and 25-year board member interview with Suzanne Martinez, Charles Larsen and Will Langstaff on August 3, 2006.

3 Communications Pastor interview with Will Langstaff, July 27, 2006

4 Martinez, Suzanne, "Informal notes on her interview with [former chairman of the board of elders]", dated August 22, 2006, 5.

5 Ibid.