Will Mancini discusses vision clarity for church leaders.


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will-manciniWill Mancini is a former pastor turned consultant and really a friend of local church leaders.  His goal is help all church’s experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. He’s worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing mega-churches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. Will is the founder of Auxano, the creator of and the author of Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision and Create Movement. Today’s podcast is full of insights on the importance of clarity in understanding the “why” as a church and how to leverage that to make a difference in your community.

Will Mancini // [Website]  [twitter]

Interview Highlights //

00:57 // Will shares a bit of his personal background

03:07 // Rich reflects on his experience with the classic Barna book

04:05 // Andy explains why sometimes a vision has no impact

06:21 // Will talks about a church that needed clear vision to manage differences in campus

08:40 // Will’s company leads churches to define a vision frame

09:48 // The process that Auxano takes you through as a church leadership

14:05 // Rich recalls a recent example of strategy misunderstanding

16:00 // Spend time dripping vision

17:59 // All about Auxano

20:10 // “You are born an original, don’t die a carbon copy.’

Lightning Round Highlights

Helpful Tech Tools //

Book Worth Reading // Center Church by Tim Keller

Inspiring Ministries // Mountain Park Community Church in Phoenix, The Cove in North Carolina

Inspiring Leader // Cat Stevens, Craig Groeschel, Andy Stanley

What does he do for fun? // Mountain biking or snowboarding, reading and hanging with the family watching movies.

Interview Transcript //

Rich – Well, good morning.  Welcome to the unSeminary Podcast.  My name’s Rich Birch, the host here and I just want to say thank you for taking time to spend some time with us.  Today we’ve got a real treat.  On today’s show we have Will Mancini.  He is the clearest guy I know.  Church clarity expert, author, consultant, really friend of the local church in a lot of ways.  Will, thanks so much for being on the show today.

Will – Hey Rich, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for inviting me.

Rich – Will, why don’t you tell us about you, your business, your book.  Tell me about who is Will Mancini.

Will – Well, gosh.  I’m just an unchurched guy growing up.  Came to Christ in 8th grade.  Wound up going to a Bible Church in the North East area of the country, in Pennsylvania.  Basically got called to ministry as I was finishing a chemical engineering degree and did the whole seminary route.  Started to study church planning stuff.  One of my old mentors Aubre Malphurs there, church planting stuff.  And really joined a recent church plant my first assignment out of seminary and that was in Houston. Never planned to stay down there.  I made a mistake Rich and I told God I was only wanted to go to Texas Seminary and then I wanted to leave.  Just loved the idea of doing something knew at that time in the mid/ late 90’s.  Was part of a local church staff, experiencing the blessings of being in a growing suburban area in one of our larger growing cities.  And so it was out of that experience we had brought in consultants.  Some were good, and some weren’t frankly.  And I was really fascinated though with that role on the other side of the desk, when we brought in what I call now, a strategic outsider, to help.  So I was so fascinated with that that I started learning a little bit more.  I started shadowing guys who were doing stuff like that.  And there wasn’t a whole lot in the church space, but I found myself gravitating toward helping churches with strategy, and clarity and vision related stuff. If you can imagine at that time, around 2000, there was really a lot of outdated practice in the vision space.  Strategic planning as a classic approach was dead.  The Barna book was 20 years old and no one really cared about that.  The church growth stuff had kind of eclipsed and people were moving on from that.  I was just trying to help guide one church well, and slowly started helping others until it became a full time vocation.

Rich – Ya, I remember early days in my ministry career, that Barna book that you speak about, it just being dogeared.  ‘We all just need to have a vision statement.’  And to be honest, went through some of those early, I still remember as a young pastor, associate pastor at a church, my senior pastor looking at me a bit strange thinking, ‘Common, this is super important’ and we had a big retreat, we went away.  And it was the classic deal.  We got this really snappy sounding vision statement, put it on the wall and then went back to business as usual.  It didn’t really have an impact on us.  Now so why, tell me why churches should be worrying about getting vision frames or getting clarity for who they are? How is it not just that kind of thing that sounds really good, sits on a wall and has no impact on anything?

Will – Ya great question Rich.  The truth is Rich that there are a lot of apparent needs that we have in the church.  We have financial needs, space issues, and staffing issues, and we’ve got all these highly concrete things that are right in front of us.  I believe it is easy to get distracted by what I call the fruit level issues.  If you imagine a tree, there might be some root level issues. Henry David Thoreau once said ‘There are a thousand people who hack at the branches of evil, for every one who hacks at the roots.’  Turn that around and say there are a thousand ways we are trying to grow fruit on our ministry tree, by fertilizing the branches if you will, rather than looking at the root issue.  So fundamentally, I believe that most of the pastors I meet are visionaries.  Period.  They are called, they know it, they’ve got stuff beating in their chest that they want to do for God.  But you need more than just a general sense about the future, make great progress.  So what I believe fundamentally is, in most leaders lives, there’s some level of clarity, there’s some clarity piece that they’ve not thought through or articulated well for the team together and that’s hindering progress.  My passion is that every leader I meet there would be this unhindered, seamless, sense of progress that’s always bubbling forward, and  moving ahead.  But three’s usually a dam on that possible white water stream.  And so we are just trying to find where that clarity work has not be fully massaged through and grappled with as a team.

Rich – So now, part of the conclusion is people really need to interact with you and your organization.  So we will get to that and how they can contact you and all that.  Now we have church leaders from all different types of churches, from church planters up to the brand name churches listening in. What would be some initial steps?  Probably all of us can I identify that we need some clarity around vision, why we exist, what are some initial steps that every church should take in this area?

Will – I think to address that question Rich, let me connect that last point I made to a story and then move ahead.  Last week I was with a church in SanDiego.  They have about 5 sites.  A really vibrant, growing church.  While I was debriefing with about 12 staff we had a very interesting thing happen.  Across these 5 campuses, they do something a little counter intuitive in the worship service.  About 15 minutes in after the worship, they do a 5 minute coffee break.  Everyone dismisses.  It’s a full on get up, hang out and have some fun.  And for most churches it’s really a disruptive element.  But for these guys its just a part of their casual, southern California vibe. Watch this happen at 5 totally different campuses, different venues across the cities …it was interesting, in one of the venues, when they released to go up, no one left.  The atmosphere, the point in the flow of the music, no one wanted to get up and leave.  There was an awkward pause and someone had to get up and say ‘Hey, this is the time where you are now dismissed.’  What was really natural at one campus, felt really unnatural at another campus.  So in the behind the scenes conversation, that campus pastor is ready to chuck that little 5 minute piece because he sees it as something that is impeding the flow of his worship.  All the other campuses, it’s part of their DNA if you will.  So here you’ve got this one little snap shot of what happens hundreds of times a week potentially in a staff.  And that is, ok, is that a campus constant, is that a philosophy of ministry conviction, or is that just a practice that’s tied to a deeper conviction that every campus could really have the freedom to do what they want to do there.  That’s just an illustration of how much a microscopic piece of where clarity matters.  Most churches haven’t defined values, or campus constants in a way, that brings a lot of freedom and flexibility to this is the core of who we are, this is where you have a lot of latitude of expression.  Coming back to your question now of how do you get started, we really created the vision frame as one very practical litmus tool.  If you were to go and scan some of the stronger thinkers in organizational dynamics, you’ll find that healthy organizations have about 4-6 questions that they’ve really defined well together.  We’ve, on behalf of the local church, from the church, for the church, we’ve said here are the 5 best questions that churches probably ought to answer as a part of their code, or their DNA, set up that little tool and say ‘Guys, if you can’t answer those 5 questions in a clear, concise, compelling way as a team, this is a great little check list to have some of practical conversations to get us started, and hammer out something with clarity.’

Rich – Well you do you want to talk us through maybe 1 or 2 of those questions?  Or the ones that maybe seem to create the most tension within a local church.

Will- It’s funny Rich, depending on where we are with the church, the context, you can get really hung up on any of these.  The two that listeners would be most familiar with would are the classic idea of a mission and value statement.  So what’s important is now what you call those, but the framework and common definitions as a team. We would say mission is what you are ultimately supposed to be doing.  Most churches answer that in a generic way and they’ve really not pushed through to kind of a unique articulation in their time and place. The other statement is of values.  We would say, what are the top 4 guiding convictions to why you do things the way you do things at your church.  And again, most churches have a very generic, and too long of a list of those so it doesn’t really create a breakthrough dynamic for the team.  I am thinking of another church we just worked with in Phoenix.  And I will give you another example of a mission and values that were articulated in a very robust and very precise way for them.  Their mission is inviting the distracted and disinterested to realize their role in God’s story.  And so that very particular word choice there to articulate the great commission.  And then they have three values they talk about.  They don’t call it values, they call it their personality as a church.  They want to be a place that’s safe yet fun, excuse me, safe yet dangerous is the first one.  A place that’s intentional yet fun.  And they want to be a place that’s humble yet confident. And that’s who they are as a people of God.  Those are the first two clarity pieces Rich that we would use.  The second two, and these are all part, these are 4 kind of questions that we use to frame the vision.  We talk about framing up clarity.  The other two talk about how do we do it.  And so we encourage churches to draw a picture of how they accomplish their mission on a broadest level.  And that picture would be basically, what are the most important events and things that you would encourage people to go to.  Or call it a missional map.  Just give me a real practical….Let’s all lead from a practical picture of a ….. Where does a worship service fit into everything I want someone to do as a growing follower of Christ, or however you articulate your mission.  That’s a fun one to work through.  And the problem there is most churches are over programmed and under-discipled so until we’ve really thought through that process a lot of sideways energy can occur in a church’s programming. And then the final one Rich, and for listeners who feel they are in a growing church, they have a healthy staff team, they might have a lot of that initial clarity, mission and values figured out, I think the last side, the top of the frame, we call it measures.  Outcomes or results.  This is where most effective churches really benefit from the checklist and the vision frame.  Most churches, even healthy effective churches really have never articulated what kind of disciple is their church designed to produce.  So having this clear portrait of a disciple is really powerful.  I’m thinking of one church that we worked with in SanAntonio and they have a statement that we worked with called the ‘How We Live’s.’  This church, I think they are running about 6000, very missional, running a kind of decentralized church, blessing the city.  They have these how we live statements.  They talk about Listening To God. Speaking a Blessing. Talk about Downsizing to Maximize.  They say Keep your Passport Current.  They say Peel the Onion.   And as an example, peeling the onion is having two or three people that you can go all the way to the core with and really be authentic with and have significant accountability with, but over the years, they just drilled, these are the outputs or outcomes.  This is what a disciple does there, and they can actually Rich, measure that if they want to.  So they are not just measuring attendance and dollars that come in every Sunday, they’ve got some teeth in terms of measuring how many times did you have lunch with someone to share the gospel this month.  And that’s something that people can count, and celebrate and build stories around.

Rich – You know it’s funny, just this week I had in my local context, I had one of these kind of strategy, really misfits grinding internally where, it’s funny how this stuff connects to super practical issues.  We do in a couple campuses we offer coffee on a Sunday morning.  We don’t offer it across the board and around our coffees there are these little clutches.  You know at Starbucks where they have those little holders with the logo on them.  It’s funny because we did those last year and I thought they were a great part of, kind of a part of a strategy form a communications point of view.  And we come up to this year and we had to buy some new ones and the campuses were like, ‘We don’t want to spend money on those.  It’s not worth it.’  We ended up having this conversation where I’m like, ‘No this is why this piece is important to the overall strategy. It’s bigger than just a little piece of paper around a cup.’  And I find if you can’t drive your strategy, your vision, your mission, your measures even as you were saying, down to that level, it’s hard to move forward as an organization.

Will – Absolutely.  You talked about where do you get started.  If godly people were in a room and give themselves time, times works wonders and dialogue leads to breakthrough. Usually we don’t have clarity because we have not set apart the time to have the dialogue.  We don’t do the dialogue, because we don’t have time.  But the irony is, the massive amount of time that you can save.  As a matter of fact, I just calculated Rich, if you have let’s say, three guys on your team in a given day, spend 10 minutes, in the after meeting conversation, maybe it’s 10 minutes of texting or hallway talk or whatever.  So 10 minutes of just three people, and let’s say they were just doing it with two other people, and let’s say that happened every day for the next 5 years, calculate how many 8 hour work days are lost, it’s 837.

Rich – Oh my goodness.

Will – 837 work days over 5 years because of those 9 people having that little bit of sideways conversation.  Assuming its that little neutral, benign gossip.  I think leaders have no idea how much time they save by investing a little bit in the clarity conversation.

Rich – Right, absolutely. And the flip side of that, imagine if all we did…as a leader, particularly because I am slanted a bit more towards tactics, I can just as I interact with volunteers or staff, just be like, this what we want to do.  And I am constantly trying to pull back from that and say, ‘Here’s why we want to do it that way.’  Let’s pull out the vision behind it.  The coffee clutch is one piece of it, but this is how it connects to our broader vision.   Gosh, if I were even to just reminder on the positive.  If I could take 10 minutes every day, even with a small group of us just took 10 minutes every day, just to explain why we do what we do, and how it connects to the broader vision, who it connects to the bigger picture, then that organization would be infused with vision.

Will – Here’s the heartbreaker Rich.  We can’t have those, most churches can’t have those conversations because there’s not really framed up the why, the how, the when and the last one, the where.  When you have that one pager with this dynamic clarity, it’s actually very easy to have that vision dripping happen day after day, after day.

Rich – Why don’t you tell us about your organization a little bit.  If people want to learn a bit more about you.  Give us a sense of what Auxano does, your piece of the kingdom.

Will – Sure, Auxano started in 2004.  And I started with just a couple people the first year. Most of us are all pastors.  We’ve got some support people who aren’t necessarily seminary trained, pastoral experience but we have about 25 of us and our mission is to ‘Create breakthrough clarity with church teams to realize their vision.’  And so for us the ebb and flow of our days work is just being with teams and usually 6-12 local church on a team and we facilitate sessions.  And we really have a core experience that we facilitate called The Vision Pathway which is the framing up if you will.  And most of the leaders that we work with are strong leaders, as I said, they are visionaries.  So we are not actually bringing vision, what we do is help them to better articulate better what they are already called to do.  Once we do that, we have 5 services around that.  They get a little bit more practical, tactical, but what we are doing is we are creating break throughs in some of these strategic areas.  One is, Leadership Pipeline, another is in Execution and we run a strata that connects the execution frame.  We have a Campaign Group which is taking quite a different approach than the 40 year old industry out there that has a kind of canned or templative approach and we redesigned that around the vision frame.  And then we have, the last two service, we have a Communications Tool Box, help a church brand itself around it’s vision frame.  And then we have a Discipleship Design, and when a church needs extra help in designing it’s groups model, connecting it do it’s articulated vision frame, we can come in and help them with that.  So, what we say, we use 6 key words to describe it…it starts with vision and then around that we can help with execution, leadership, resourcing, communication and discipleship.

Rich – Cool.  Is there anything else you would love to share with our listeners today?

Will – I think the big idea that drives us is that God is doing something cosmically significant, and locally specific in every church.  You are called to do something unique.  You are unique.  Your gifts and calling are unique.  We love that idea, you are born an original, don’t die a carbon copy.  Invest that time in clarity.  His vision is one of the greatest things that you get to steward in ministry.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.