Author Interview: Warren Bird
In February, my church's leadership team attended a conference in San Diego called The 400 Gathering. It was organized by Leadership Network, and it was a terrific opportunity to share ideas with pastors and thought leaders from across the country. During dinner one evening, our team was joined by a friendly, energetic and insightful fellow named Warren. He told us he worked for Leadership Network. Only later did I learn he is a leadership swami who has written 26 books on Christian leadership and cultural trends. Since that dinner, I have followed much of the impressive stream of content Warren Bird produces. Last month, I asked if he would be willing to spare a few minutes to be the next in the series of author interviews for my blog. Despite boarding a plane for Kenya, he was gracious with his time. Here’s what he had to say about several topics in rapid succession.
RS: You’re a researcher. All your writing is research-based. You’ve carved out a niche in the overlap of social research, leadership, and Christianity. How did that come about? Did you mean to find that niche?
WB: My life journey is clearly one God carved. I could not have prayed and imagined what it would be. I’ve always wanted to see people become disciples of Jesus Christ, but I keep discovering different platforms that better match my gifting (and which can still feed my family).
RS: Your work deals a lot with trends. Trends are, by definition, things or patterns of things that have already happened. What is yet to happen to American Christianity? What’s the next big thing?
WB: With [Peter] Drucker, I believe the best predictor of what will happen is what has happened. See the booklet Dave Travis wrote two years ago called [What's] Next, where he unpacks past trends and their implications for the future.
RS: In one of your videos, you say “I want to keep learning.” How do you learn? What are you reading?
WB: Much of my day goes to learning, from church news (mostly triggered by Google Alerts on topics like “megachurch”) to interviewing pastors. I read articles from Christianity Today and books such as the ones I tweet about via @warrenbird.
RS: Related to learning, I noticed that when you sat down with our leadership team at the 400 Gathering, you asked a lot of questions. Do you have a standard list of questions you ask church leaders that helps you see what’s going on beneath the surface? How do you decide where to poke around?
WB: No standard, just forever probing. At any given point, I have a half dozen projects I’m working on, so I’ll often “poke around” as you say to see if it’s something the church at hand has learned something about.
RS: As a small groups pastor, I’m particularly interested in how what you have to say intersects with Christian community. How are you seeing leading churches treat community differently?
WB: All get bigger by getting smaller, though they all have different terms and structures for the group life of their congregations.
RS: As a writer, I’m interested in your production schedule. You produce a lot of content! How do you manage it? Do you stick to a disciplined writing schedule or just produce as the muse dictates?
WB: I have constant deadlines such as for Leadership Network Advance articles, surveys and resultant reports, outside articles like Outreach magazine, and always a book I’m writing. I sometimes get behind. I have staff who help in various ways, from database work to scheduling appointments for me.
RS: In Teams That Thrive, you say this:
It is the diversity of thought, perspective and skill integrated in a unified fashion that enables teams to outperform individuals. A team without diversity is no better than a single individual. But a team without unity will fracture from fighting and disparate visions. Instead, true teams value, respect, encourage and combine the contributions of diverse members to create a united effort.
How rare do you find that?
WB: In strong churches, the senior team is truly collaborative, made up of several high-capacity leaders. Find a fast-growing church that’s trying to be healthy, and there’s a team underneath it.
RS: I think in that quote you were talking about all kinds of diversity — generational, political, etc. Not just racial. The churches and leaders I pay the most attention to are being very proactive with regards to diversity. But the experience we’re having at my church is that diversity is hard to get, and once you get it it’s hard to manage. What tips do you have for promoting a thriving diverse church?
WB: Value it, talk of it, celebrate each gain, keep tweaking. I agree that it’s not easy to maintain outside of situations where the entire congregation is naturally diverse, and becoming more diverse.
RS: My readers are not all pastors. Which of your books is best suited for a general audience?