How to Lead a Team to Excellence

...and how not to lead a team to excellence.

Orange Excellence

Growing up, I loved a movie that involved two ridiculously dumb teenagers, Bill and Ted, which traversed the entire story of time in a time machine they found outside of a Circle-K. Every time they’d see something they liked, they’d look at each other and say “Excellent!” While their version of excellence was dripping with surfer and valley attitude, my own version of excellent has often left others wondering what I meant.

While I’d love to travel back in time like Bill and Ted, I cannot. Instead I’m one that has had to learn from my mistakes. One mistake I’ve often made as a leader is how I went about leading others on my team toward excellence. I would move too fast, not explain the steps toward excellence, and generally expect those on my teams to read my mind and do what I was thinking. My experience has taught me one very important truth. There is a better way to lead a team toward excellence.

The first step toward excellence is to communicate clearly what excellence is for your team. Every team is unique, every church is distinct, and every individual is different. Spend time defining what you’re looking for and how what you’re doing now will look different when it’s done with excellence. This step is worth spending weeks, and maybe even months, in developing the answer. Considering where your organization’s leadership has been before, where they are at now, and how they are growing in the future can help you begin to communicate clearly to your team where you need, and expect, to see excellence happen.

The next step into leading a team toward excellence is to connect your team to where you see excellence currently. What you dream for your team is probably happening on some level in other places, and it could even be within your own organization.

A few ideas here include:

  • Identify that person on your team who is an A+ volunteer recruiter and let them share their strategies in a team meeting. This will bring attention to what she does in a vocal way; and set up the rest of the team for the expectations you have of them.
  • Find another team doing what you believe you can do with your team, and make that connection happen. Take that other church staff out to lunch, on your dime, and make the connections a tangible thing. Make time to Skype in that leader from across the county and introduce their strategy of excellence to your team in a quick way.
  • Assign those on your team who need to be better, to connect with leaders and organizations that they themselves respect and see if you can get what they respect about others to rub off on their own methods and strategies.

There is excellence all around us, and as a leader it becomes your burden to connect your own team with what is out there to learn from. This may be one of the most important long-term steps you take as a leader of a team, helping everyone develop relationships that challenge the way we do things in our organizations.

The last step to truly establishing a team of excellence is to set a realistic path toward excellence. Many leaders live in their world of visions, dreams, and big plans; and skip over the more obvious questions their team is asking.

For example:

  • “What do I do now?”
  • “How does what I’ve heard and seen help me prepare for next weekend?”
  • “Could this ever happen here?”
  • “Does what I see and hear have a place in my organization?”

Not taking the time to answer the “What now?” questions for your team will leave them disillusioned and unsure of what you will be holding them accountable to. Great leaders make sure they keep themselves tethered to the “what’s realistic” part of leadership as well. Your church, your team, and your ideas won’t always play nice; and as the leader it becomes your important job to help everyone manage each other in a respectful way.

A leader of excellence takes the time to help their team see what excellence can look like for them. A leader who wants excellence in their team will go to great lengths to find and connect others to those they should be most invested in, their own team. A great leader works to break down the vision into steps that are doable, realistic, and yet challenging at the same time. The leader of an excellent team helps everyone see where their current work is helping them achieve excellence and where their current work isn’t.

It’s not a job for the fainthearted, but it is the job of a leader seeking excellence in how they engage others in the story of God’s Son, Jesus. You could travel all through time and still wouldn’t find a more important story to tell. It’s excellent!

Orange Conference Follow Along

OC Follow

This week I’ll be at The Orange Conference in Atlanta, GA seeing what is happening in and around the world of local church ministry to children, students, and families. I’ll be in breakouts, meeting with friends, and trying to update my social media feeds with those items that are curious, intriguing, and thoughtful.

Orange Leaders Blog

You’re accustomed to reading helpful leadership articles and event information from Orange Leaders blog. During conference, you’ll still receive detailed information about OC15, as well as information about Orange Tour and Orange Conference 2016, so check the blog daily. As well, we’re including recaps and notes on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday so that you’ll be able to take in some of the key concepts being presented this year. To easily see all of the posts related to OC15, click this category link.

Social Media Accounts to Follow

Whether you’re a preschool leader or a NextGen leader, Orange Leaders have accounts for you to follow on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and beyond. In addition to our brand accounts, our Orange Specialists each have Twitter accounts where you can connect, share, and learn helpful insights. Click to see all of the Orange social media channels.


A hashtag is a means by which you can follow a subject matter or conversation on social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook (public posts), Instagram, Google+ and more. A hashtag is our connection to you. It’s how ministry leaders and Orange hears your ideas, questions, and insights. Every time you use the hashtag for The Orange Conference —#OC15—there’s a group of leaders listening and learning from you. Join the conversation.

Be aware that no person or company can “own” a hashtag. Therefore anyone can use a hashtag for any material they choose to publish. Orange takes no responsibility for unseemingly content published using any of these promoted hashtags.

Twitter Searches to Follow

Whether you have a Twitter account or not, you can still follow the Twitter conversation by following searches.

To follow a search, simply go to, search for the name, subject or hashtag you wish to follow, and bookmark the search. Refreshing the bookmarked search page will allow you to stay on top of the most recent posts on your desired topic.

Tip: At the top of the search page, you can choose to view the “Top” posts for your search, or you can choose to see “All” posts for your search.

Recommended Searches For Those Attending OC15:

Twitter: #OC15
Twitter: #JustAPhase
Instagram: Using the search feature indicated by the magnifying glass in the app, you can search for names, hashtags and subjects to see recent posts.
Facebook: In the search function at the top of the newsfeed, enter any search term or hashtag to find related posts.

Recommended Searches for Those Not Attending OC15:

Twitter: #OC15Live – You’ll be watching the Live Stream at home, right? See below for details.
Twitter: #OC15
Twitter: #JustAPhase
Instagram: Using the search feature indicated by the magnifying glass in the app, you can search for names, hashtags and subjects to see recent posts.
Facebook: In the search function at the top of the newsfeed, enter any search term or hashtag to find related posts.

Twitter Lists to Follow

Each Twitter user has the ability to create lists of people from which they want to see posts. Orange Leaders has created a couple of lists you can follow that you may find useful.

If you have a Twitter account, you can “subscribe” to lists so that you have access to only that particular group of Twitter accounts via your “Lists” menu. To find the Orange Leaders’ lists, go to, click “Lists.” Next, click the list name, and on the left, click to subscribe. Subscribing to lists gives you access to this group’s updates via your Lists menu in your account.

If you don’t have a Twitter account, bookmark the following URLs:

Speakers at Orange Conference 2015
Orange Bloggers at Orange Conference 2015:

How to access/view Twitter accounts without opening a Twitter account.

If you’re not interested in following lists, or bookmarking searches, you can still find information from your favorite authors or speakers on Twitter without having an account—provided the person you want to view has a public account.

To read a public Twitter account, go to and search for the person’s name or email address, if you have it. Or, if you have the person’s account handle, for example @OrangeLeaders, simply add /OrangeLeaders (removing the at-symbol, @, and replacing it with a forward slash, /) to the end of To go to the Orange Leaders account page without having an account, in your browser’s URL address bar, type

Live Stream and OC15Live Hashtag

Once again, we are excited to offer non-attendees a Live Stream experience throughout OC15. Watch from the comfort of your home or office or favorite restaurant—provided that WiFi is available.

Be sure to RSVP today, and watch this blog for updates and the soon-to-be-released schedule!


For those who like to get a little more technical, the web and phone application, IFTTT (If This Then That), can provide hacks for gathering resources, information and contacts.

Click to view Orange Leaders’ IFTTT recipes.



5 Reasons Easter at Your Church Still Matters


In just a few weeks many across our towns and cities will gather in churches to celebrate Easter. More appropriately, we’d say that some gather because their mothers asked them to attend; but for the most part many feel compelled to remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is a good thing.

I’ve served in the local church for over a decade now, and have seen the the great, and unfortunately the regrettable approaches to celebrating this holiday together. It’s easy as a church staff insider to get lost in the organization of a day with 3 times the normal responsibility, and it’s also easy to forget that what we are doing on this weekend of all weekends matters.

Here are 5 reasons to make it worth the effort this year:

1. People far from God feel safe to be in your church. I’ve seen opportunities on Easter where those that have felt far from knowing Christ have used the holiday to approach Him in the safety of the numbers that Easter presents.

2. People close to God need the reminder of what it means to celebrate the resurrection. Many could go on and on about how we don’t talk enough Jesus in our churches, but I won’t go there. Instead let’s remember that Easter of all Sundays, is the one weekend that we are without excuse to put Jesus front and center.


3. Easter is for families. Easter is a holiday, and holidays bring out the family in all of us. It’s a season that people gather with their families, share big meals, hunt easter eggs, wear pretty dresses, and show off their favorite pastels for all to see. While these things in and of themselves will not save us from our sins, they are still things that bring families together. How can you leverage that?

4. Authentic community can flourish at Easter. Just as the resurrection of Christ is celebrated, we can also celebrate those that help this special weekend happen! Easter is a great reminder that it takes a community, working through Christ, to reach a community.

5. Jesus. 


Developing Faith with Catechism


My kids are learning so much. The three of them range in age from 9 to 12 and are tackling subjects like: Electricity, Comparative adjectives, Geology, Pre-Algebra, Revolutionary War history, and have written papers on the men and women of history like Pocahontas, George Washington, and even the ancient math-whiz Archimedes.

So much learning, so much content and yet this is only the beginning.

They’ve had to learn how to use the multiple remotes in our living room, that the milk goes back in the fridge after a bowl of cereal is poured, and that you never hug your mother early in the morning before their teeth are brushed!

With all of this memory work happening in their brains, where do we begin faith conversations? How can I capitalize on their impressionable minds with something that ties them to this faith that our family holds dear? How do I make the truths of the Gospel something they can quickly recall and use when it fits their everyday life?

Devotions are a great place to start, but with late Elementary and Pre-Teens I want them to have a great foundation that we can build devotions on as they mature and age. I’ve found something that works great for our family, and the brains of the three growing kids in our house. Catechism. That’s right, you read that correctly. Catechism.

The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word katācheō, which means “to teach, to instruct.” The word is used in Bible passages like Luke 1:4 and Acts 18:25. It can be used for any kind of teaching or instruction, but it came to refer to a specific type of teaching very early in church history. In the early church, new converts were taught the basics of Christianity by memorizing a series of questions and answers. A catechism is just that–a series of questions and answers that teach Bible truth.

For example, here are some of the catechisms we’ve learned this year; and there are many more that we will learn in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Who made you and everything? God made everything and me.

What is God like? God is our holy and almighty Creator. He cannot be seen, but he has made everything we can see.

Why did God make you? God made us to enjoy him and show his glory to others.

What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news that we enter God’s kingdom through God’s cross by God’s grace.

Why does God tell us, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”? So we will rest in God and remember finished work of Jesus.

We’ve added a few catechism’s to the kids weekly spelling lists. We’ve added them to whatever vocabulary words they are learning, and I’ve thrown them into a few special “get rewarded with ice cream real quick” scenarios I create on a whim. There are many different catechisms out there, but our family settled on the wonderful NorthStar Catechism developed by my friends at Sojourn Church. You can go download a PDF of all of them and even order yourself some playing cards sized ones right now!

I think it’s pretty well stated what catechism is, and when you read over the details of them all you’ll quickly understand what they are communicating and preparing in the hearts and minds of your children. However, for clarity let me state what they most definitely are NOT.

They are NOT just another way to beat my kids over the head with more learning. They are easy to memorize, easy to learn, and fit perfectly alongside all the other things our kids have learned. If you think your own kids are not smart enough to memorize these, then you’re not giving them enough credit. It has worked for us to add catechism to what we were already asking our kids to memorize. You’ll find that they’re just different enough from what they normally memorize that it’s fun and unique.

They are NOT a way to guarantee faith in our kids. The catechisms won’t do much for their souls if learning the Catechisms aren’t marinated in their hearts by engaging in impactful spiritual conversations with their parents and others that love them. The cards are oftentimes a starting point for us, they are not the end point.

They are NOT separate from God’s Word. God’s Word is perfect and each catechism we take the time to make it clear that these answers (and many of the questions themselves) come out of the Bible. The foundation is God’s Word, and anything I can do to help bring that to the center of my kids lives, is key.

There are so many ways to teach our kids faith, and the challenge for us as parents is to find ways to make faith relevant, real, timely, and catchable to our kids. I know that the day will come when they have to decide for themselves who they will serve, but it’s my duty to help them get the right picture of what you are believing when you believe in Christ for eternity!

A strategy seeks to create an alignment between the church and the home. As much as we try to maximize the impact we have on this generation, the time a child or students spends at home plays a huge role in his or her spiritual development, not just in the hours spent there, but because of the fundamental relationship between a parent and a child. That’s why it’s important to be strategic in how we connect with parents and champion the parent-child relationship.

Reggie Joiner



And don’t forget about the special Orange Conference 2015 Registration Giveaway. Go Register Today!

Think Orange (David C. Cook, 2009)