10 Questions With...Jim Fann

This week I sat down with Jim Fann, Director of Church Health for the EFCA & asked him some questions regarding his new book - Steering Clear. Rev. Fann has planted a church & pastored two EFCA churches in the Chicagoland area. Rev. Fann is a certified Natural Church Development trainer & has led over 1,000 leaders from nearly 250 churches in its use. He also worked with the Barna Research Group to develop the EFCA Church Health Survey.

What led you to write this book?
A couple of things. First, my goal in general is to develop practical resources that pastors and church leaders can use to help them better implement the Ten Leading Indicators of a Healthy Church. Second, and more specifically, I wanted to create a tool that pastors in Healthy Church Networks could use as a follow up to the introductory material in the Ten Indicators Equipping Guide. A lesser goal was to create a tool on Leadership Development that could be used for coaching and mentoring pastors.

Is Steering Clear a follow-up to the Ten Indicators Equipping Guide or a separate entity?
Steering Clear is a follow up to the Ten Indicators Equipping Guide that focuses especially on Leadership Development. However, it can be used as a stand-alone tool.

If your readers could only take away one idea from your book, what would you like it to be?
There’s a book called The Peter Principle that states that leaders typically rise to the level of their incompetence. I disagree. I believe that leaders typically can—and should—go to the next level in the churches God has called them to serve. It’s God’s normal pattern for ministry. There’s a price to pay, to be sure. And it’s never easy. But leaders can “reinvent” themselves and continue to grow with their ministry. That’s the central message of Steering Clear.

What authors have influenced you or the writing of this book specifically?
At the end of each chapter of Steering Clear, I’ve highlighted a single resource—what I consider to be the strategic resource—to grasp the concept in each chapter and to break through to the next level.

In your section on credibility, Paul is speaking to Timothy, an up-and-coming, young leader. Regarding leaders who may have lost credibility, or who never had it to begin with, what steps might change?
The fundamental principles are the same—character, competency, commitment to God and his Word. However, a pastor who has lost credibility will have to work extremely hard to regain it. Gordon MacDonald is a successful example. In the New Testament, John Mark is another. It can be done. But there are no guarantees.

Is there an issue you see most if not all churches struggle with regarding church health, or are most scenarios unique unto themselves?

CHANGE (he says before I can fully get the question out). Mission-based change is the most significant issue churches must not simply struggle with but master today. Given the demands of our current world, pastors and church leaders need to do three things: one, develop a biblical theology of change; two, understand the process of change; and three, became skilled agents of change. The change I have in mind, let me reaffirm, is not just change for change’s sake. It’s missional change—change that helps churches be more effective in fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission.

You describe five different types of leaders (Innovators, Initiators, Builders, and Optimizers & Renovators). Talk about how this works in a church setting.
Church leaders at every level of church life—but especially senior pastors—need to have a foot in each of two different worlds. In the first world, they empower the church to maximize its present potential. For many churches, this is the overriding concern when it comes to calling pastors or choosing leaders. It’s also the basis for evaluating their ministry. Helping churches to be presently effective is important. But it contains a hidden temptation.

The temptation is to settle in, to refuse to take the next step in healthy development. Things are working. Therefore, leaders aren’t compelled to acquire new skills, and churches tend to avoid making unwanted changes. The result is missed opportunity, disrupted progress, often worse. That’s why it’s important to add the next leadership skill to the mix, the ability to bring about healthy transformation.

In some cases, this will mean steering an inexperienced group into uncharted waters. In others, the challenge will be to abandon a “safe” yet ineffective present. In still others, leaders will be called on to contest the utopian flaw—the belief that this is as good as it gets. Whatever the case, transformation likely will be difficult and frightening—for leader and congregation alike. But its part of a leader’s calling.

Who did you have in mind when you were writing this book?

Non-superstar pastors of almost health churches—like Timothy at Ephesus. I was thinking of leaders who aren’t incompetent but who are sometimes unsure and need encouragement to take the next step. I was thinking of churches that have unreleased potential but have allowed themselves to get sidetracked from their primary task. I was thinking of the 60 to 85 percent of plateaued and declining churches in North America today.

How would the discussion guide (contained on the CD-ROM) ideally be used?
I see it being used by . . .
- A pastor as a self-development tool used in conjunction with a mentor or coach
- A group of pastors in a Healthy Church Network
- A team of elders or church leaders for their leadership growth
- A pastor and his staff
- Ministry team member leading their team

Why should someone pick Steering Clear from the myriad of other books on church health?
Steering Clear isn’t in competition with other excellent resources on church health. I’d argue that pastors and church leaders should master as many of these kinds of tools as they can. Perhaps one of the things that sets Steering Clear apart, however, is that it maps a systematic approach to Leadership Development based on Paul’s coaching relationship with Timothy. On the accompanying CD, I’ve also tried to provide a practical set of tools to help pastors take the next steps in personal and organizational growth.

You can pick up a copy of Steering Clear here for 30% off.

Category: 10 Questions with..., Leadership

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