5 Insights I Have Learned About Failure

20130723-163412.jpg

I deal with people who feel like failures. Everyday.

It could be because of relationships gone bad.
Business setbacks.
A personal life — that was private — but is not anymore.
Bad decisions intentionally done or bad circumstances — out of their control.

All of that and more — failure.

One reason people seem to identify with my teaching is that I’m not perfect. I’ve made lots of mistakes. I didn’t enter the ministry until I was 38 years old and that was plenty of time to learn valuable life experiences by failure. (And, I haven’t quit making mistakes in ministry.)

Here’s what you need to understand though.

I’ve had failures — but I’m not a failure.

Because I got back up every time I failed.

Along the way — through failure — I’ve gained some insight into failure.

There are some misunderstandings about failing that you don’t necessarily knowing during the failing process.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned about failing:

Not everyone is talking about you. This is a critical understanding, because it sometimes feels that way. As a result, sometimes you avoid people — even though you may need people in your life now more than ever. Sometimes you refuse to get back in the game — even to attend church — because you assume you’re the news on people’s mind. Yes, some people may be talking about you — for a while — but not for long. I’m not saying you aren’t important, but there will be a bigger story out there soon. Trust me. And, yours won’t be the flavor of the month for long. And, for those who do like to talk about others — I’ve learned they are often trying to shift attention from their own failures. (You can also remind them it is a sin to gossip.)

Your attachment to the failure may never fully go away. That’s hard, but it’s true. Rahab was always known as a “harlot” in the Bible. She kept her title. When triggered in someone’s mind, they may remember your failure for years. History books record great failures of people with great success. And, I’m not sure it should be our goal to completely lose that failure reminder. It’s a way we can demonstrate grace. We can be an example to others who have failed — and are seeking hope. God uses our failures as a source of strength for others. But, whether or not people can label you a failure will depend on how you respond to failure — how you proceed after the failure.

God loves you more than you can imagine, even when you fail. In fact, in my experience with failure, whether it was by intentional sin or through no fault of your own, it breaks your heart at some point. My Bible says God is close to the brokenhearted. And, your failure is what makes you a great candidate for grace — something God loves to extend to those who will receive it.

Forgiving yourself may be the most difficult thing. It’s true. The hardest person to forgive for failing is almost always ourselves. We usually hold our failures against ourselves much longer than the world does. And, the enemy loves to use that principle against us too. Why not? It works, right? But, forgiveness is a choice. Receiving God’s grace is a choice. Moving forward is a choice. Choosing your next steps wisely — that’s a choice too.

The best days of your life may be after the failure — not before. Wow! If only I could have understood that during some of my darker moments due to failure. If you refuse to let failure control you and you allow God, by His grace, to shape the rest of your story you may just experience some of your best moments of life in the days ahead. That’s my story. And, for that I’m thankful.

Obviously, no one should ever desire failure so they can learn from it. But, failure is a part of living in a fallen world. The key is to not allow failure to be our dominant identification. That’s determined by what we do after the failure.

What have you learned from failure?

6 Resume Mistakes Pastors Make and Tips for Correcting Them

PylonAndBigHole_image

I don’t do a lot of guest posts on this blog, but my friend Dr. Jennifer Degler. Jennifer keeps putting together great ones that I want to share. Here’s another. Jennifer served on the search team that brought me to Immanuel. She shares from her experience.

6 Resume Mistakes Pastors Make and Tips for Correcting Them

Having reviewed over 700 resumes while serving on a pastor search committee, I saw the good, the bad, and the oh-my-goodness-what-were-they-thinking. Here are six common resume mistakes pastors make and tips for correcting them:

1) Taking credit for what God did: Most commonly seen in statements like “I increased attendance from 300 to 600” or “I increased giving 20%.” Unless you personally drove 300 additional people to church each Sunday and wrote a really big check, you didn’t increase attendance or giving. You preached, supervised staff, planned worship services, etc., and then God did a work in people’s hearts that led to them attending and giving at your church. It would be more correct (and humble) to say “attendance increased from 300 to 600” or “giving increased 20%.” (Side note: don’t go too far in the other direction and trip over yourself in an effort to give God the glory, as in “attendance doubled, praise the Lord from whom all blessings flow!” This just makes you look overly excitable.)

2) Inflating attendance numbers: Do not report your Easter Sunday attendance as if it’s your average attendance. If you say “Sunday morning worship attendance increased from 60 to 200” the pastor search committee (PSC) will interpret this to mean 200 people attended your church service each week. If your church reports numbers to your denomination, the PSC will request those reports, and what your resume says should match up with what the church secretary reported. It may be more accurate to say “Sunday morning worship attendance increased from 60 to an average of 150 with a high of 200.”

3) Forgetting your resume’s audience: In many cases, PSC’s are composed of professional people over 40, with an average age close to 50. Design your resume so it will appeal to people in this age bracket. Your font should be no smaller than 12 point. If you are a younger person, do not assume all committee members will have your level of technological comfort. Don’t waste your time on a clever, high tech resume that can only be viewed as a Powerpoint or Prezi type presentation.

4) Referring to preaching as teaching: See #3 above. Perhaps because of the relatively new title “Teaching Pastor,” people below 40 may refer to preaching as teaching. People aged 50 and above typically view preaching and teaching as two different activities. If you gave sermons, call it preaching. Otherwise, the PSC may think you were teaching a class each Sunday.

5) Wordiness/Being repetitive: As in “planned, organized, and led three mission trips.” Yes, our God is a trinity, but that doesn’t mean you need three descriptors or verbs in each sentence. Wordiness exhausts your reader. Brevity is next to godliness when it comes to resumes. Which of these do you find clearer and more powerful? “My objective is to pastor a life-giving, Jesus-centered, disciple-making, sending, welcoming to all, outwardly reaching church” or “My objective is to pastor a welcoming, Jesus-centered church that makes and sends passionate disciples.”

6) Not checking references’ contact information: Before you send out your resume, provide your references with the contact information you plan to provide for them. This way they can check for accuracy and their preferred methods of contact. Do not assume everyone is okay with you giving out their cell phone number. Medical and mental health professionals may be particularly protective of their personal numbers, so always confirm their preferred numbers for contact.

5 Common Struggles Among Young Pastors

iStock_000000053566XSmall

I recently spent several hours with a group of young pastors. It was a cross representation of church planters and pastors of established churches. Healthy churches and unhealthy. Growing, plateauing and declining. Most were new in their positions and I expect all these churches will be growing soon. Sharp group.

We talked about a lot of issues, but one of our longer discussions was when I asked them what their greatest struggle in ministry was at the current time. There were some incredible consistencies — actually more than I anticipated. Very different churches and very different pastors. Similar struggles.

Here are the 5 most common struggles they shared:

Personnel issues. If the church has any paid staff other than the pastor there will be issues for the pastor. I’m finding this portion of our work more demanding than ever. The longer I lead the more complex this issue becomes, simply because of the changing laws and regulations placed on places of employment — including the church. I always advise younger leaders, especially those without a background in this issue, to seek professional help in this area, even if it has to be from outside the church.

Navigating bureaucracy. I think this is a particularly heavy burden on younger pastors. The generation entering the ministry is much like the generation entering the secular workforce. They want to do something, not meet about doing something. I share their heart, but granted this is one of the hardest ones to address. (Of course, the church planters weren’t the ones with this struggle as much.) I often advise young pastors in established churches to write some of their best sermons around casting vision of how we should spend our time as pastors. Jesus seemed to teach and model quite extensively about our need to reach the lost. The Bible doesn’t record a lot of His time in committee. Acts gives good models of leadership and serving the people. People in the first century seemed to do a lot of the work we’ve placed on professional staff.

Balancing ministry and family time. This has always been a struggle. And, frankly, it should be. We need to work hard — that’s a good Biblical principle — and we need to protect our family. There’s another great Biblical principle. It requires a healthy art of balancing our time. This younger generation of ministers, however, and I think it’s a good thing, won’t automatically let the ministry trump their family. Ministers from my generation and older generations sometimes did. And, many from these generations have told me they wish they hadn’t after it was too late. My advise to the younger pastor is to keep the heart for the balance, be very intentional with their schedule and use of time and cast vision to the church continually of why they’re not at everything and why they’re family is so important. The church needs that message too — as they are equally in the struggle.

Developing leaders. This one seemed true regardless of the style of church. And, in my experience, it’s true in most organizations. We are always in need of new leaders. You can’t grow or even maintain without consistently developing new leaders. In a practical sense, leaders come and go, die or burnout. But it’s also difficult to grow and develop as a body without growth in the number of leaders. I advised them to start systematically and strategically developing new leaders now. In fact, I think it’s more important that you have a system — even if it’s not perfect — than to do nothing. People typically learn best by doing. So, at the least, in the absence of a formal leadership development program, start giving people you see with potential assignments to lead — and let them develop with on-the-job training.

Handling critics. Again, this one was shared less by the church planters, but the interesting twist is that the criticism church planters received was typically from outside the church. Pastors in established churches seemed to receive most of their criticism from inside the church. (There’s a whole blog post needed on my thoughts on that one.) But, either way, one thing all leaders have in common is criticism. Lead anything and critics will find you. You don’t have to go looking for them. (I love the passage in Exodus 24 where, as Moses was going to the mountain to spend time with God, he made a plan for how to handle disputes among the people.) Because leadership involves change. And change always changes things. (You got that, right?) People often respond to change with an emotion — it could be anger, frustration or sadness — but it comes to us as what we’ve labeled criticism. I’ve learned sometimes it isn’t as much against the leader as it is against their sense of loss, but either way it hurts. I always remind young pastors and leaders that we must find our strength in our calling, our purpose and in the pursuit of the vision God has placed in our hearts. We shouldn’t ignore criticism. We should filter it. (And I’ve written on the right and wrong ways to respond to criticism.) But, we should not let criticism control us — in our leadership or in our emotional state — even though that is sometimes the intent of the critic. Part of leading is learning how to stay healthy even in the midst of criticism.

I love my time with this group and plan to repeat it. I’ll share more as I experience more.

Let me ask, was anything surprising about the list?

I also wondered, are seminaries addressing these issues? Should they?

7 Words of Encouragement in Church Revitalization

White country church

I’m a church planter. Having planted two successful churches, my heart is to see more church plants launch and do well. I think once church planting gets “in your blood”, it’s always there.

A couple years ago, however, God called me into an established church in need of some revitalization. (Actually my first church was a revitalization church.) It’s been an incredible couple of years. God has blessed us in so many ways. It’s harder than church planting — just being honest — but its very rewarding in so many ways.

I’ve encouraged numerous young leaders to not ignore the opportunities in church revitalization. As much as we need new plants — we need to revive some existing church — a lot of existing churches.

The work of revitalization is similar to church planting. We are starting some things new. We are building momentum around a vision. We are constantly looking for new leaders. But, its also incredibly different. There are unique challenges in church revitalization. As I’m learning things, I’m trying to pass them along.

Here are 7 words of encouragement in church revitalization:

Don’t high-jack the church – You can change a church where it can experience growth again without taking away the DNA of the church. That means you may not be able to make every change you want to make. It may mean you move slower than you want to at times. But, the general culture of the church — at least the one that has lasted for generations — should not be on the table. Now here’s the if — and this is the big if — if the culture or DNA — or part of that culture — is one that is destructive to the future vitality of the church then it needs to be changed. If the church is opposed to any change, it chews up and spits out pastors, it’s structure is so archaic that it just doesn’t work anymore — change it. But, if it’s just a flavor of who the people are — it is probably best to leave it alone. For example, if it’s a church that has a history of loving big events, don’t kill all of them — find a way to make them work for Kingdom growth.

It will take longer than you think it does. To them it’s likes rocket pace and to you it feels like snail pace. In church planting, you can change in a week. That’s usually not the case in revitalization. Take time to bring people along that have invested years in building the church. Over time, when trust is developed, it will get easier, and you’ll be able to move quicker.

Celebrate the history while shaping the future. Don’t pretend that everything old is bad. It’s not. It’s what has helped the church survive as long as it has. It may not be working as well right now, and there will likely need to be changes, but some of the old things were and are good things in principle. Recognize that, acknowledge it, and people will be more likely to at least appease good changes.

Recognize the sense of loss in change. It’s the number one reason change is resisted. (I wrote a whole post on this subject.) Don’t ignore or underestimate how big of a deal change is to some people. Be humble. Considerate. Compassionate. That doesn’t mean don’t change. It does mean don’t change assuming it’s “no big deal”. It is.

Love the people even when you don’t love everything about the church. You may not like some of the structure of the church or the process you have to go through to make change. But you must love the people. And, loving the people will help you lead the transitions you need to make. Years ago, God convicted me that if I focus most on loving Him that loving people in any church, any city, or any setting will be easy for me.

Don’t let a few critics determine your self worth. You’ll have critics. Make no mistake about it. And, some aren’t very nice in how they offer it. You will have to make hard decisions. Very hard decisions. (Don’t make them without input, but make them.) But, you will be making changes that impact people  (as all changes do) — people who have been at the church for years. You may know the changes are needed. They even me know the changes are needed. But there will be resistance. And there will be angry people. And when people are angry they say and do things they may not do otherwise. But, here’s what you need to know. If God called you to it you can be assured there are usually more supporters than detractors. The detractors just often have stronger vocal chords.

Rediscover more than you reinvent. You may need a lot of changes to be vibrant again. Most likely, however, in spite of where they are today, the church has some positive moments in their history. If not, maybe it’s time to close some doors and redistribute the Kingdom dollars elsewhere. (How’s that for honesty?) But, I’ve found most churches have had better days. Help the church rediscover the heartbeat of the times people loved — when things were healthy, lives were changing and Kingdom growth was occurring. Build momentum as you celebrate the emotions and the passions from the good days of their heritage. Lead people to rediscover that joy they once had for the mission.

Those are just a few things for now. I’ll share more as I learn more.

10 Realities Every Young Leader Needs to Hear

IMG_2497.JPG

I work with young leaders everyday. I have two incredible young leaders as sons. (Here’s my picture with them a few years ago — taken the day we moved to Kentucky.)

Occasionally, when I am talking to a young leader something becomes apparent. They often think what they are experiencing is unique. And, more surprising than that, they think perhaps their struggle is no longer mine — like somehow I’ve outgrown them.

That’s what prompted this post. I’ve included a few tips for young leaders I’ve learned along the way.

Here are 10 realities every young leader needs to know:

At times you will feel overwhelmed. You know that feeling, right? Like you can’t get it all done and you’re not sure you know where to start. Those feelings don’t ever leave you completely as a leader. There will be seasons where they are stronger than others, but if you’re doing anything of value you will occasionally feel overwhelmed. They are a part of life. Something you’ll never outgrow.

You’ll not always know what to do. You don’t ever get to a point in life where you’ve learned everything. You get better at some things. Okay — lots of things. Wisdom and experience has its benefits obviously. But, regardless of your age — if you’re doing anything productive — you’ll learn something knew everyday.

Seldom will you be 100% certain. You’ll always have an element of risk in your life. You will be forced to move forward by faith. That is a good thing. It keeps you grounded and on your knees before God.

Sometimes it’s just for the learning experience. And that’s huge. If you put all your effort into something and it doesn’t work — or its not as good as you thought it would be — it’s easy to get frustrated. But, the process will teach you something. And, the value of the learning experience is huge. Never miss the life principles intended for you.

You’ll many times feel under-appreciated. There will be lots of things you do that no one will notice. Great things. Trophy-deserving things — and people will act — it will seem at times — like no one noticed and no one cares. And, that may not be true. They may simply be living a full life like you are — overwhelmed like you are — and it just passed by them. But, it leaves you feeling under-appreciated. And, like all leaders, eventually we have to find our reward in the knowledge and personal satisfaction of our work well done as much, if not more, than the public recognition of that work.

People are watching. If you position yourself to lead in any way, you become a target of spectators. What you do. What you say. And, what you post on social media. Some will agree. Some will not. Some will agree just to get on your good side. Disappoint them and they will leave. Some will not agree because they are jealous of a leader with an opportunity. All that said, don’t shy away from people. That’s never the right response. Just be aware. Be gentle as a dove and wise as a serpent.

Learn the words of successful leadership early. As with the previous one, the words of a leader carry great weight. Don’t make it “my” team or your leadership won’t be very successful and no one will buy-in to the team except you. A leader’s words should always be inclusive rather than exclusive. Become a fan of words like “we”, “us” and “ours”. The more you include people, the more they’ll feel included (see how simple this is) and they’ll be more likely to suffer with you for the win.

Sometimes, if we believe in something strong enough, we have to stand alone. That’s a hard reality in a world that tries to force sameness, but if you do anything of value — or believe anything strongly enough — sometimes you have to stand single until others catch on or until you find supporters. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to advisers. You should. You should have mentors and be open to constructive criticism. I never make major decisions without the input from others. But, don’t give up what you know to be right — especially those things you sense God is calling you to do — because it isn’t popular.

Great things starts with humble beginnings. Don’t be afraid of starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. That’s still a viable option — and the reward feels greater when you built it the hard way. And, never underestimate the power of a moment.

You have to discipline yourself to decompress. It’s not usually built-in to the system. During the busy seasons of life — when there’s plenty of work to do and time is of the essence — which is most of our life if we set out to be leaders, you’ll have to discipline yourself. To rest. Re-calibrate. Refocus. Rediscover the passion that once fueled you. Re-connect, if needed, to a deep intimacy with God. You have to discipline for that. You’ll seldom have a leader or a system that forces that upon you. And, it’s life-essential. Don’t neglect your soul.

These are obviously random — but in my life they’ve become realities. For some of these, if you don’t understand them, you may think something is abnormal about you. Although, I guess another reality I have learned, is that there something abnormal about all of us.

7 Thoughts for More Effective Prayer from a Stressed Out Leader Named Hezekiah

prayer

Hezekiah ruled over Judah and was a good and faithful king.

Hezekiah often became the target of warring nations. The king of Assyria, which was a much more powerful nation, made plans to overthrow Hezekiah’s kingdom. Throughout the stressful time in leadership, Hezekiah consistently used the same battle plan.

He went before the Lord in prayer — and — he followed the Lord’s commands.

Hezekiah relied on prayer to rule his life. This king knew how to pray and he prayed in a way that got results.

At one point, the Assyrian king launched a huge smear campaign against Hezekiah with his own people. It scared Hezekiah’s people.

Hezekiah heard about the threat and went before the Lord. God assured Hezekiah everything would be okay, but the Assyrians wouldn’t let up their verbal assaults. They kept taunting the kingdom of Hezekiah, throwing threats towards Hezekiah. Finally, they sent a letter by messenger to Hezekiah, which basically said, “The Assyrians are tough and they are coming for you next.”

It was a credible, realistic threat. In a practical sense, Hezekiah had reason to be afraid.

What do you do when you are backed into a corner as a leader and you’re about to face something bigger than your ability to handle?

Well, Hezekiah received the letter with all the threats and began to pray.

We find this account in 2 Kings 19:14-19

What can we learn from listening in as Hezekiah prayed?

Here are 7 Thoughts for More Effective Prayer from a Stressed Out Leader Named Hezekiah:

Hezekiah got alone with God. There is corporate prayer like we do at church, and there is prayer where a few are gathered, but probably some of the most effective prayer time of your life will be the time you invest alone with God.

Hezekiah’s prayer was immediate. His prayer wasn’t an after thought. It was prior to making his plans. We are so geared to react as leaders that it’s hard for us to go first to God. He may be second or third or when we are backed into a corner and have no choice, but we need to develop a discipline and habit to make God the first place we turn in our lives. Like Hezekiah.

Hezekiah’s prayer was open and honest. Hezekiah was transparent before the Lord. I love the imagery here in this prayer story of Hezekiah. He took the letter, went to the house of the Lord, and spread it out before Him. I get this visual image of Hezekiah, and this letter — laying it there on the table, and saying, “Okay, God, what now? What do I do next? What’s my first move?”

Are you in a tough spot right now? You may just need to get you some note cards — write down all the things you are struggling with — lay them out on a table and say, “Okay God, here are my struggles. I can’t do anything about them. What now?”

Writing your prayer requests before God is a great idea for 2 reasons.

a. It helps you remember to pray for them.

b. It helps you to watch as God answers. We get more answers than we realize if we only ask.

Hezekiah’s prayer was honoring, humble and respectful of who God is. Hezekiah knew his place as king — and he knew God’s place in the Kingdom. Hezekiah was king of a nation and that is an important job, yet Hezekiah willingly humbled himself in prayer, because he knew his place before the King of kings.

Hezekiah’s prayer was bold. He said, “Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD…” Hezekiah had the kind of relationship with God where it wasn’t a surprise when Hezekiah showed up to pray. They talked frequently; probably throughout the day. Because of that relationship, Hezekiah didn’t wonder if God would be there when he came before Him. He knew he could ask God to act on his behalf.

The more you grow in your relationship with God, the bolder your prayers can become, because the more your heart will begin to line up with God’s heart.

Hezekiah’s prayer was dependent. In verses 17-18 he prays, “It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.” Hezekiah knew he was out of his league facing the Assyrians. From the way I see that Hezekiah responded to life, however, I don’t think it mattered the size of the battle. Hezekiah was going to depend on God. Every time. In every situation.

Hezekiah’s prayer was certain. Because it was based on his personal faith and trust in God. In verse 19, Hezekiah prayed, “Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”

Hezekiah had a faith in God that allowed him to pray with confidence. You need to understand that faith is always based on the promises of God. Some things God has promised to do — and some He hasn’t. God has promised to always get glory for Himself and always work things for an ultimate good. He hasn’t promised to rid everyone of cancer or to heal every bad relationship. Or settle every leadership issue we face.

(That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for everything. We don’t know His will, but we can’t guarantee God to do that which He hasn’t promised to do.) Sometimes we get upset because God doesn’t do something we asked or wanted Him to do but the fact is He had never promised to do it.

Hezekiah knew God had promised to save His people. He knew God had placed him in the position of authority over them. He had confidence that God would do what He had promised to do. Hezekiah trusted God to be faithful to His word so he was willing to act in faith.

What situations are you dealing with today that you know you are helpless to do on your own and you desperately desire God’s answer?

Are you a stressed out leader?

Get alone with God, spread your problems out before Him honestly, humbly, and boldly; then, allow His will to be done, as you wait for His response.

7 Bad Decisions in a Declining or Plateauing Organization

mouse trap

Recently I wrote a post about 7 tensions in fast growth situations. I have had the pleasure of leading (and am today) in churches and a business in fast growth mode. Thankfully. As exciting as those seasons are, they do produce some tension.

But, I have to be honest. Equally important, in the formation of me as a leader, is that I’ve had great experience in leading through difficult days also. Mostly in the business world — although I’ve entered a church in the midst of these days — I’ve led on the other side of the equation too. I’ve been in the decline. I’ve let when we were stagnant. It hurts. It isn’t fun.

I talk to churches every single day that are declining or plateaued. Apparently, according to some statistics, that represents about 75-80% of churches these days. And, I know there are many struggling businesses also. (I’ve been there.) So, a post addressing organization in this season is equally — if not more — needed.

And, much of what I’ve learned in this post I learned through suffering through my bad decisions. When we are in decline, or feel as if we are about to enter that season, we make some bad decisions — out of a natural reaction — during those days.

Here are 7 bad decisions in a declining or plateaued organization:

Rejecting the vision. You’ll start to question the reason you once existed. That’s normal. And, maybe it was an ill-conceived or short-sighted vision from the beginning. Something tells me, however, that’s not true and you’d be offended that I even made the suggestion. If that’s the case, maybe you just need to get more passionate again about that which you were once very passionate.

Playing the blame game. Declining hurts and our natural tendency is to blame someone for the pain. Who wants to own this — right? But that game never has a winner. And produces a whole lot of losers. Eventually, as leaders we’ve got to own the problems — their ours to deal with now — regardless of how they started or where the original fault rests.

Trying a 1,000 bad ideas. We scurry. We scramble. We anxiously move from one idea to another . And, it’s not that the ideas themselves are bad, it’s that we go into them with no real plan and we never really locking down on anything solid. We are just punching in the air looking for any blow that lands. We will try anything and everything — if we hear it was successful elsewhere let’s do it — but we never really implement any of them well. People get confused. Staff gets frustrated. Nothing moves forward.

Not taking any risks. The opposite is also true — sometimes at the same time, but in different areas of the church or organization. We lock down. Everything. We play it safe — afraid of losing what we still have. We stop investing in anything new. We go back to the same bad ideas we left years ago. We stand still hoping the earth will eventually stop shifting. It doesn’t. It just permits the earthquakes to keep trembling and eventually get bigger. People get bored. Tradition sings loudly as a tired, worn out system, but we are too afraid to change it causes further decline.

Failure to admit there is a problem. We make excuses. We pretend everything is awesome. We label everything amazing. Even when it’s not and we wish it were. Listen, if everyone knows there’s a problem own it. Don’t run from it. That never helps. Own it.

Not addressing the real problems. We get rid of the low hanging fruit, but we never tackle the real roots of the issue. Leading towards revitalization requires hard choices. Good leadership with full punches. There’s no time to waste.

Focusing only on the losses. Things are bad, aren’t they? You know it and so does everyone else. Some days it seems nothing could go right and you go home many days feeling defeated. (I’ve been there leader — it’s tough and I’m praying a general prayer for you as I type this.) But, that may be the loudest story but it’s not the only story. There are likely some wins occurring. And, not everyone is seeing things as bleak as you are — most likely. There are people who still believe in you and the vision and they just need a leader who will re-energize them, create a good, strong, healthy plan and lead them out of the mess. Start by celebrating something. Make it genuine. Don’t overkill. But look for some half full glasses. They’re hidden behind the cloudy ones. Maybe it’s simply the good vision and foundation upon which you were formed. Celebrate that. Maybe it’s that there are some people who have weathered lots of storms and stayed in the boat. That’s worth shouting victory about — isn’t it? Focus on a win! Now! Do it! Then let’s get the rest of this party started. This is not a time for belly-aching. This is a time to get busy again!

Have you been — or are you in — a declining situation?

Please take note of these. Good days can be just around the corner if you stay faithful, don’t act stupid, and hold on for the return. I’m pulling for you leader!

(And, for the one who says, “You didn’t use any Scripture or talk about prayer at all.” I say this — having been in a declining situation before, I’d say prayer is not absent. And, most pastors in a declining setting know the Scriptures as well as in a growing setting. This is a leadership post (and mostly a leadership blog). And, that’s what this post is addressing.)

7 Tensions You Can Expect in Fast Growth

image

I’ve been blessed to be a part of several organizations experiencing exponential growth. Once in business and with a few churches, we had what was considered explosive growth.

As wonderful as growth is — and as much as we enjoy it as leaders — there are tensions associated with fast growth.

Here are 7 tensions you can expect in fast growth:

Miscommunication. There is too much activity to keep everyone informed about everything. That bothers those who are used to “being in the know”. The organization will need to improve in this area, but during fast growth, expect mishaps in communication.

Changing roles. Jobs will change. People will do things they never expected to do. There will be lots of “all hands on deck” opportunities. No one gets a reprieve from doing what needs to be done.

Power struggles. There will almost always be turf scuffles during fast growth. One potential reason is what used to be a small, controlled group of people making decisions now needs to broaden to include more people. That feel uncomfortable to some. Providing clarity of roles can help some, but continually reminding people of the vision seems to work best. Still, some simply may not like the new size of the organization — and may not last.

Burnout. There will never be enough leaders or people during times of fast growth. It’s fun for a while, but begins to wear on people after an extended period. New leaders must be recruited and developed.

Confusion. “I don’t know.” You can expect to hear that phrase a lot during times of fast growth. And, many times the person saying that will be the leader. And, that’s okay. It’s part of the process. Still, this is a matter to continually work to improve upon over time.

Complacency. When people don’t know what to do — they often do nothing. That’s where leadership is needed, but in seasons of fast growth there aren’t always enough leaders to cover all the bases. If you’re not careful, excellence suffers — and few care. During seasons of fast growth, leaders need to help streamline focus, give clear expectations and hold people accountable for agreed upon goals and objectives. (Don’t ignore all structures — especially in times of fast growth.)

Stretched structures. Current structures will almost never be sufficient to sustain fast growth. The organization will never be the same. New systems and structures will be needed. Leadership must focus on development as much as it does the growth and maintenance of the organization.

None of these are reasons to avoid fast growth, but awareness is the first step to addressing problems.

And, now you know.

Here’s to fast growth! The tension is worth it.

5 Things I’d Do Differently If Raising My Family Again

Little Girl on a Swing

What would I do differently I were raising my family again?

I’ve been asked several times recently for my advice on raising a family.

The only advice I have is from personal experience. My boys are grown. On their own. Self-sustaining. Independent young men. But, everyone who knows them is impressed with my two adult sons. They are incredible.

But, I’ve been honest with all of them. Cheryl is too when she’s asked. It’s all been grace.

I do have the opportunity, however, of looking back on that experience. Parenting looks different to me now than it did then. Isn’t that how all of life works? We can only see what we can see, and when we are in the middle of something, it’s harder to see the whole picture.

And, if I had it to do over, I’d do some things differently.

Not every thing. I have great adult children. The best, in fact. Seriously. Let’s compete. I’ll win.

Okay — it’s not a competition, but if it were — just saying. :)

But, if I had it to do over — I’d do a few things differently.

Here are 5 examples:

I’d control more early. I’ve said this before and I get push back, but so much of life is built upon how those beginning years. And, every parent knows things that are best for the child early, that the child may not choose correctly left on their own. You have much control early in life. Parents often act like they have no control — they do. I’d control what they watch. What they listen to. Whether they attend church — or not. I know — bad dad. You may not think you can’t, but you can. There will be days when you can’t — and shouldn’t try — to control them. While you can — do! And, I don’t know that age when you have to move from more control to more influence, but I know it isn’t 3. I’d give them a strong foundation to pull from their rest of their life.

I would limit outside interruptions. There’d be less travel ball and outside activities. And, just less everything where lots of other people were involved. I know. That would be unpopular. Families are always on the go it seems. But, I’d make sure there was less time with a coach and more time with us, the parents. And, that’s just it. We are the parents — and those parenting opportunities pass too quickly anyway. And, it seemed the dynamics of family always changed when others were around. It often became more about others than about us as a family. And, it’s harder to really parent well in those settings. I’d be more selfish with our family time so I could increase our individual time with our kids.

I’d be more selfish with my time too. My personal time. My play time. And, my work time. I’m not saying that would be popular with my friends or even with my work — but I would be more concerned with my influence on my kids than what other people think.

I’d plan our week around church. Okay, you think this one is self-serving to me now. And, I know it’s not as culturally relevant anymore, but I’ve never met a family who was sorry they did this. (Including us.) I’ve met several families who — when it was too late — wish they had.

I’d get less upset about minor annoyances. Each of my boys did things that upset me at times. And, I often over-reacted. (Please don’t tell them — although they’ve outgrown them.) Like squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle or always waiting to go to the bathroom to the most inopportune time — even though we asked a dozen times before. (See, minor.) But, they have outgrown them. And, it wouldn’t matter anyway. They are minor now and looking back — they were minor then. I would react differently to the minors, so I could major on the majors — things like character — that really matter — then and now.

Those are quick thoughts. Parenting is hard. I’d never want to put more pressure on a parent than they already feel. Each parent has to own their parenting.

But, quick thoughts are needed in parenting. Parenting happens fast. But, the results of parenting last generations.