7 Natural Barriers to Sustained Church Growth


In church planting, we defied the rules of growth for several years. There are “rules”, which when they happen will naturally stall growth. We were convinced they didn’t apply to us. What we learned is it just takes more time – sometimes.

Recognizing these early and addressing them is key to sustaining growth and momentum.

Here are 7 natural barriers to growth:

Facilities –  There is something to the 80 percent rule of capacity. When your attendance at in service reaches 80 percent full you will eventually begin to stall. It’s not immediate, but it is eventual. In church planting we defied this one for several years. We were convinced it did not apply to us. And it didn’t for a while. I am still convinced it can be addressed without the only solution being building bigger facilities, but leadership must be intentional. One way we addressed it was to use “fullness” as a part of our vision-casting. It works for a time but eventually one of these other barriers begins to occur.

Mindset – When the resistance to change is greater than the need for change you can expect growth to stall. It doesn’t matter if it’s a church plant or an established church — eventually people get comfortable with the way things are and traditions begin to take shape. When you begin to alter those traditions some people will naturally resist. To continue to grow leaders must consistently challenge the norm and encourage healthy change.

Burn-out – It could be volunteer or staff burn-out. In a church plant, after people have spent so much time setting up and tearing down, eventually they grew tired. The key is to find ways to motivate them again or continually add to the volunteer base. And, doing both is probably the best option.

Complacency – When people no longer seem to care if growth occurs or not. They may be satisfied or passive, but their attitude is always contagious. This is why leaders must continually cast and recast vision. It’s also why we must continually embrace change, because “new” stirs momentum.

Country Club small group Bible studies – I’ve noticed this one is often overlooked in the established church — especially when church growth has already plateaued. Whenever a group sits together with no new people entering long enough they become closed to outsiders — even if they think they are not. Newcomers can’t compete with the inside jokes and confidential information the group has already developed together. One way to address this is by continually starting new groups. Some churches “force” or strongly encourage groups to break up and start over with new people.

Leadership void – Continued growth requires new leadership. There will need to be new initiatives, creative ways to do things, and simply replacement of the leaders who move or quit. One key to sustain growth is a successful leadership development program.

Leadership lid– This one is the capacity of the senior leadership. If a leader is controlling, for example, there will be a cap. The church will be defined to the leader’s personal abilities. When leaders realize they have reached their personal lid they must be humble enough to admit it and seek help from others. Empowering and delegating become even more important. (Of course, they always are important.)

These are some I have observed — and experienced personally. I’m certain there are others. The biggest mistake I see leaders make, and I’ve done this as well, is to deny they are issues. They may be subtle for a tune but if you wait until they are obvious the damage will be much more difficult to address.

7 Questions to Ask Before You Post on Social Media

typing laptop

There is no doubt the impact of social media on our society. It’s huge.

It seemed strange the first time I heard a news story refer to a Twitter feed as a “source” of information. Now it’s commonplace. Employers often review a person’s social media prior to hiring them. Friendships are made and lost through what’s posted online. Who would have thought that just a few years ago? We now “follow” those we are most interested in and “unfollow” those we aren’t — yet we remain “friends”. The number of “likes” and “favorites” determines some people’s sense of well-being or worth for a day. Crazy.

But, it’s the culture in which we live.

More than likely, most of those who are reading this post will make a post of their own today. It could be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any of the other dozens of forms of social media. And, if not posting for yourself — you’ll be reading the post of another.

With so much activity it seems harder to know what to post and when. One thing I do frequently in my profession is help people think through making the right decisions in life. I don’t want to make decisions for people, so many times I use questions to help them process on their own. I thought I’d provide some questions to think through your social media posts.

Here are 7 questions to ask before you post on social media:

Who is going to read this?

Think through future employees, friends of friends, family members, etc. It’s amazing how many times I didn’t know someone was even keeping up with me comments on something I have posted.

How will it impact the reader?

How would it impact you if you were to read something like this? Would it hurt your feelings, make you angry, or would it motivate or encourage you? There’s nothing wrong with simply being funny or sharing something of interest — even helping to shape public opinion. But, a mature person (certainly a believer) thinks through how others will be impacted by what we post.

Will they understand my intent?

It’s more difficult to communicate intent in a written format. In person you would have more opportunity to explain yourself, use hand and facial gestures to help clarify, etc. Read it back to yourself and think like someone else who may be reading it — maybe someone who doesn’t know you well.

Can it easily be misconstrued or taken out of context?

Remember, you only have what’s written. There’s no “background” to the story or supplemental information. Will they “get” what you’re intending to be “got”?

Do I want this around for a very long time?

Because once it’s posted — it’s forever.

Am I acting in anger, frustration, or vengeance?

We seldom communicate most effectively when we act out of emotions. We usually say things we wouldn’t say under more “normal” circumstances. Do you need to hold the post until your emotions have calmed and see if you still feel the same way?

Is this the wisest way to express myself?

Or, is there a better way to accomplish what you hope to accomplish? For example, if it’s really aimed at only one person, would it be better to make a phone call? If it’s addressing a larger concern, is your post going to make things better — or further add negativity to an already tense situation?

These are just suggestions. You may also read 7 Ways Christians Should Behave Online or 12 Ways Christians Can Be Less Mean.

Are there any questions you would add to help us discern better posts?

5 Things I Learned In Sending A Son Away To College

A vector illustration of father helping his teenage son moving to a new campus

We are well into our years as empty-nesters. Both of our boys have finished college, one is in grad school, but both are supporting themselves and on their own.

I loved the time with our boys at home. We had great relationships. They were (and are) two of my best friends.

The first son attended a local college and lived at home most of the time. It was a different season, but we still got to spend a lot of time together. The youngest went to school 8 hours from home.

I’ll never forget the feelings of driving away from him freshmen year. Wow! It was painful. I mourned. I cried. It was a deeply sad occasion. If you’re going through that now — I’m praying for you as I type this post.

In the process of him leaving I learned a few things:

It was much harder than I thought letting go. My counseling background tells me I began a mini-depression about a month before he left and it was a few months afterwards, probably shortly after the first semester ended and the Christmas break ended, before I felt “normal” again.

I prepared my boy, but not my emotions. I am not an extremely emotional person. This changed the day I said “goodbye”, got in the car and drove back home. I was an emotional wreck.

It is never the same, but it can be better — at least in some ways. I missed seeing Nate terribly, but our talks became even more open and honest than when he was at home. As he grew to be a man, our relationship became deeper, more personal.

I couldn’t wait for his calls/texts/emails. There was a charge in my spirit when I looked down at my phone and saw it was Nate. I longed for communication. When our boys were at home we had disciplines — such as a nightly meal — where we could discuss the events of the day. We couldn’t expect those every day from college. And, most days they didn’t happen — but when they did it was golden.

It began a new phase of life for Cheryl and me. Our parenting is not over, but our role has changed. We began to make new dreams — just for the two of us. We enjoy our time with our boys when we are with them, but we love our life together. It’s a good season.

Shortly after Nate went to college I wrote him an email and posted it here. You can read the post HERE.

For some things I have learned in parenting, see this CATEGORY.

7 Ways to Better Ensure Your Email Gets Read

Young man receive mail over tablet

When our youngest son was in college I realized he wasn’t reading all the emails he should have been reading. A few times we almost missed paying some fees he had due for college, which could have made him miss some deadlines for school.

You see, Nate’s a busy college student. He’s consumed with school work, church activities, and a host of social activities. If you want to lose his attention quickly — send him a really long email.

And, I don’t think it’s just my son. I see it as a trend among a younger generation. They don’t read all the emails they receive. I talked to one millennial recently who said if his inbox gets too full he just deletes a bunch of emails — without reading any of them. He figures they’ll text or call if they need something quickly — or send another email.

I hear some people my age — the age who received some of the first emails long after we were adults. Some would say that’s rude. Inconsiderate. Uncaring. Unprofessional.

And, yet, I feel a certain kindred spirit with our younger generation.

I can’t complain, especially because of my son, because he’s wired like me. He is always busy doing something, hates unproductive time, and some emails — if they tend to ramble — simply don’t capture his attention. I realize it’s ultimately our problem, not the sender, but to us it almost seems a waste of time to process an email which could have been written with the same information in a much shorter form.

Just being honest. I don’t read all the long emails I need to read. At least not in their entirety. Sometimes I miss details, because the email was too long to process or was so poorly written. I never check my Spam folder. I quickly divert emails to other people if I think I’m not the right recipient. And, an email in all caps — please no.  

That’s my honesty. And, for some one who holds responsiveness to such a high value it bothers me not to thoroughly read and respond to each one. It seems, however, I constantly get a ton of chapter length emails. Over the years the volume of email keeps growing yet my time to focus on them hasn’t. It has prompted me to think through what I believe helps an email get read. I certainly want my emails read. If I’m sending it I must believe it’s important enough for someone to take time to read it.  

If you want to ensure I read your email — and maybe other busy people —  people like me who receive literally several hundred emails a day — I want to share some suggestions. Please understand, I’m being brutally honest here trying to help. I realize some who read every line of every email they receive can’t understand. But, everyone is not like you. Yet, I assume you want your email read also.

Here are 7 ways to better ensure your email gets read:

Make sure your name is clearly listed in the FROM line

I am more likely to read an email from an individual than I am an organization or a group. I know it’s probably not fair, but if it’s coming from an “organization” I assume it applies more to the masses than to me personally. If I’m covered up with emails I’ll pay more attention to the ones that are from a person rather than an institution.

Make the recipient — ME

I’m less likely to read an email addressed to a group, even if the group is summarized by your name. I’m okay with being in the BCC line for a hidden group list, but if I see a group of 20+ addresses in the “To” line I’m probably assuming it’s not as important I read it.

Write a great subject heading

“Hey” is probably not a great one. The subject line needs to capture the reader’s attention enough to want to open the email — and read it. Give me some clue the general purpose of the email and what I can expect to learn from it. And, a FWD message rarely excitedly grabs my attention — especially if FWD is in the subject line.

Get started immediately with the main idea

Similar to the rules of writing a letter, you should instantly begin dealing with the subject of the email. If you’re inviting me to something — say that immediately. If you have a suggestion — tell me you do. You can explain later, but you need to hook the reader into the email early.

Give pertinent details, but don’t write a book

Please — don’t send an email just to ask me to call you. That’s so unfair that I have to wonder what you want. Tell me the basics in the email. Just don’t tell me the basics and everything else you every thought about the basics — plus three stories to go along with it. Again, the length of an email is critical to ensure it gets read. I often suggest people write bullet points. Sometimes they help make the email easier to read.

Another way, especially where the email has to be longer is to have two sections. The first section has “just the facts” section at the top with bullet points of pertinent facts,followed by a longer section for those who may want to read more detailed explanations. The person can read all they have to know in a couple minutes and then scan down to learn more details about items about which they are interested.

Finally, I especially appreciate if the absolute most pertinent information — such as dates, times, or the one single question or point you’re making — is highlighted or made bold in the email.

Read before sending

Before pressing send, read the email aloud. Listen for how it sounds. Email can be terribly misunderstood and this helps. Also, look at the overall length of the email. Would you read it? Or, would the length encourage you to put it aside for a later read — or skip it altogether? Remember many — maybe most — may read it on a smart phone and the email will appear even longer.

Give the option to ask questions

Close your email with the opportunity to ask questions if the reader wants more details or information. Even better — if appropriate — provide links in your email to websites or pages with additional information.

The more emails we send and receive, the more important it becomes that we write better emails. Writing emails which are to the point and concise ensures a greater chance of them being read. I would assume this would be a goal if we are going to take the time to send one.

Now your turn to be honest. When you receive a really long email, how do you respond?

What would you add to my list? What ideas do you have for writing emails that get read?

4 Ways Leaders Create Capacity in the Organization


Great leaders know the more capacity the organization has the more potential it has. And, when the organization begins to exceed its capacity for too long things eventually stall. To spur growth — increase capacity.

Therefore, one of the best ways a leader can impact an organization is to create capacity so the organization and its people can grow.

Here are 4 ways a leader can create capacity:

Paint a void

Allow others to see what could be accomplished. Leaders help people see potential — in themselves and the future — they may not otherwise see. This can be accomplished through vision casting and question asking. It may be helping people dream bigger dreams of what could be next in their own life or for the organization. It could be through training or development. Extra capacity energizes people to find new and adventuresome ways of achieving them.

Empower people

When you give people the tools, resources and power to accomplish the task and you’ve often created new capacity. Many times people feel they’ve done all they can with what they have. Provide them with new tools — maybe new ideas — assure them they can’t fail if they are doing their best. Continue to support them as needed. Then get out of their way.

Release ownership

Let go of your attempt to control an outcome so others can lead. Many people hold back waiting for the leader to take initiative or give his or her blessing. The more power and ownership you release the more others will embrace. The more initiative they will take of their own.

Lead people not tasks

If you are always the doer and never the enabler then you are not a leader. More than likely you are simply an obstacle to what the team could accomplish if you got out of the way. Many leaders don’t see this in themselves. Frequently ask yourself: Am I leading or am I in the way? And, if you’re brave enough — ask others to evaluate you — even anonymously.

When the leader creates capacity the organization and the people in the organization increase their capacity — and things can grow.

5 Secrets of Church Revitalization

Typical Rural Icelandic Church under a blue summer sky

I’ve written frequently about church revitalization. As one who has planted a coupLe churches, I know the challenges are unique. One thing I’ve noticed is the number of pastors who enter revitalization thinking the church just needs new leadership. Or better sermons. Or them. 

I’ve learned there is so much more.

Here are 5 secrets of church revitalization:

Have a clear vision. 

You have to clearly know where you are heading. What does a revitalized church look like? Specifically what does this church look like?

In my experience, unless you are starting over completely, people need to be able to “connect the dots”. It must make sense where you are going. That means whatever is next will likely have some similarity to the past. You can’t take people too far from the root DNA.

Keep in mind, vision doesn’t change frequently — if ever. For a church, a vision might be “to make disciples”. The next season after revitalization will still be to make disciples. There may have been some time since people experienced that in the church, but it’s likely still what can motivate them. If the church has a deep heritage in missions, the future will likely need to have a strong missional aspect.

Honor the history. 

Hopefully this theme is clear from the previous point, because it’s paramount. I’m convinced you simply cannot be successful if you don’t at least attempt to honor the past. I frequently say rediscover don’t reinvent.

Unfortunately I hear so many pastors who go into a church as the champion of everything new. They alienate people who have given their heart and life to the church — making them think everything they have ever done is wrong. These pastors can never seem to get traction.

One of the single biggest days in the life of the church since we’ve been in revitalization was the day we had a “homecoming” type of day and invited the two former pastors to attend. It seemed to rally all aspects of the church. If there were “sides” they seem to come together this day. I knew we needed this to occur if we had any hopes of moving forward successfully.


What can you do new which will reach new people — without hijacking the church?

How can you build momentum?

Whatever you do it will almost always involves change. In fact, I’m not sure you can define revitalization without some form of change.

The end goal should be to create a healthy environment for sustained change and growth.

Ask questions such as:

What are we doing which requires more effort than the results produced? (Eliminating things gives you margin to do better things?)
What are people no longer excited about doing? (These usually zap energy from other things.)

What is something everyone gets excited about at this church? (You can usually build upon these. For example, our church gets excited about big events.)

What is one thing we can try next? (Keep a list and try several of them — not all at the same time.)

If money was no option, what would we do? (This question can often help build momentum for something you can do.)

This is where you get the best minds in the room and brainstorm. These people may or may not be the current leaders. I wouldn’t even be shy about inviting people from outside the church. They could be from other churches — in the community or outside the community. (We visit with another church every year to learn from them.) Or, what if you asked people in the community what they would look for in a church? You don’t have to implement their ideas, but you might just learn something. (I spent a lot of time the first year talking to community leaders.)

Attack your fears.

It can seem daunting to revitalize a church — especially once you actually start making hard decisions. People can be intimidating. In fact, when you change some things, you’ll find people can be mean. You will likely have to face some direct confrontations. People you thought were the sweetest Christians may smile at you on Sunday and give send you the nastiest email Monday morning. Some may grandstand at business meetings. Others will work behind your back. (All true for me — and more.) 

You have to love the calling you have to revive a church more than you love popularity — or an absence of conflict. And, you have to have patience and tenacity.

It will take longer to realize change than in a church plant. Much longer. Usually the longer the church has needed revitalization the longer it will take to see improvement.

But, know this. There are usually those in the church desperate for change and solidly behind you. You have to look past the loud negative voices to find them. That requires faith and perseverance. (In my experience, God rewards those who faithfully serve.)

Forgiveness and repentance. 

If things were done wrong in the past — lead people to recognize and admit them.

I felt the need to preach on forgiveness and unity — a lot — in the early days of church revitalization. And, I challenged people when I heard bitterness or anger.

Closing thoughts. 

Church revitalization is had. But it is so needed. And, there are so many Kingdom opportunities out there. 

And, these aren’t “secrets”, even though I used that in the title. Yet, they aren’t always our natural reactions in church revitalization. We tend to want to do all new things. We ignore conflicts, rather than address them. We back away when things get too difficult.

Let me know other “secrets” you have learned or observed in church revitalization.

If you’re attempting revitalization now what has been your biggest struggle?

4 Ways to be a Church for Dummies

dunce cap

Several years ago, while pastoring a church we planted, I received email feedback from someone who attended our church. The lady had not grown up attending church very often, but wanted to learn the Bible and about “the things of God” (her words). The part of her email which caught my attention most was when she thanked us for being a “church for dummies“. (And, again, that was her term — not mine.)

I laughed at first but then I wondered how I should receive the remark. I decided to contact her and ask for a better explanation. She was gracious and explained she used to leave church more confused than when she arrived. After attending our church for a year, she was starting to understand the Bible and wanted to continue learning more. In the past, she could never seem to understand what it took to “fit in” at the church or become involved. With us she was already in a Bible study and serving as a greeter.

She concluded by saying she was thankful for a church which challenged her to grow in her faith, made her feel welcome — regardless of her background — and helped her easily get involved in the life of the church.

Wow! I took it as a high compliment!

As I processed the meanings behind her statement, I thought of a few reasons she may have felt as she did about our church.

Here are 4 reasons she might call our church a “church for dummies”:


We taught truth everyone needs to know, but we tried to use language people who grew up outside the church could also understand. If there were Biblical terms not common to everyday language we tried to explain the word rather than assume they knew it or leave them guessing. We shied away from an insider language.

Our goal was to first engage the heart, create a passion for knowing Christ more fully and being like Him, then provide them with resources, environments and service opportunities which help them grow as a believer. We knew engaging their heart first was a key to helping them take ownership in their individual spiritual growth process.


We tried to help people apply the timeless truth of God’s Word to their life today. We wanted them to take next steps in life according to the truths of an unchanging God. The Bible is not only historical, but also practical and applicable to everyday life, so we tried to help people understand how to adapt their life to the truth of Scripture.

We used illustrations to relate truth to people, much as Jesus used parables. The illustrations we used were mostly from current, modern day and very transparent examples of how God works in a person’s life. Whether a personal story from our life, someone whose life was changing in the church or a video element we purchased, examples of real life help people better understand the Bible and how it should impact their life.

Simple strategy

Our strategy was simple. And repeated constantly. Gather. Connect. Serve. (In the church where I serve now we adopted a similar strategy: Gather, Grow, Serve). We wanted people to quickly know how we functioned as a church. We consistently shared this strategy. There were banners for each one. It was shared weekly from stage. It was in all our publications. You would have had a hard time being in our church and not know these three words.

Easy entry points

We tried to make fun try points into our strategy easily accessible.

Gather: We used good sign and lots of people to make sure when you arrived on campus you knew where to go and what to do. Our campuses were in school buildings so it was a necessity, but it proved to be a blessing to new people. We consistently heard good things about our first impressions for visitors because of how welcome they were made to feel.

Connect: To promote Bible studies, we had Bible study fairs where leaders of different groups set up a booth and people walked through all the options. These were highly promoted “big” days in the church. We even fed people lunch at times as an incentive to attend the Bible study fairs. Groups were mentioned from stage every week. As pastor, my job was to weave groups into messages frequently to highlight their importance.

Serve: To get people to serve we set up a booth which allowed you to sign you up to serve immediately. It was positioned in a premium place in the school where we met. You couldn’t get to the service without seeing it. We wanted people to know they could find their place among us. We had open positions available every week which needed to be filled. We also posted “job openings” in our publications for various positions. We created “test serve” days where people could try out a job before they committed. We allowed people to shadow a seasoned volunteer for a while before they launched on their own.

I’m in an established church now, but we are attempting to be a “church for dummies”. And, people who aren’t. If we’re doing our job, then people who are mature in their faith or people who are new to faith or still exploring faith can discover truth and be challenged to adjust their lives to that truth. Everyone should be able to find their place to grow and serve.

I now don’t mind being labeled a church for dummies. In fact — the term has since grown on me a little.

How does your church help people outside the faith or new to faith learn and grow in faith?

7 Pieces of Advice I Give to Young Pastors

Two People Having A Conversation

I started in ministry much later in life. I was 38 when I began vocational ministry. But, I love the opportunities I have to invest in young pastors. I’m encouraged by what I see in this generation of pastors entering church work. They want to learn and grow from older leaders.

I consistently try to convince them I’m not the guy to listen to, but they keep asking for advice, so I keep sharing. One question I’m asked frequently is very generic: What advice would you give to someone just starting in ministry?

Well, there’s a bunch probably, but I have a few I go to frequently.

Here are 7 pieces of advice I give to young pastors:

Become a wisdom seeker

Fall in love with wisdom. Keep reading and studying. Keep growing personally in your walk with Christ, but also surround yourself with wise people. As a pastor, people will look to you for lots of wisdom and answers. Many times you won’t know the answer to give them at the time. Obviously, you ultimately want to hear from God, but unless you are a quicker listener than me or God speaks to you faster than He does me, you’ll be caught in the hall or in a meeting sometime where you’re presented with a situation you didn’t see coming and need immediate answers. God encouraged us throughout His Word to seek wise counsel. Make it a point to always have mentors in your life. In my 50’s I still have mentors. They are simply older now than the mentors I had when I was in my 20’s. (If you need help, read THIS POST.)

Prioritize your life

You’ll be pulled in many directions. Make sure you have a plan for your time and center it around what you want to accomplish and where you want to be in the years to come. Don’t neglect your family for the ministry or destroy your ministry for temporary pleasures of the world. (You might read THIS POST on balance in life.) Priorities should be in place before the world throws all it will throw at you. You’ll have lots of opportunities to do many things. Make sure you can look back someday and see you at least attempted to do the right things.

Learn the secret of contentment

You’ll need it. There’s a draw in ministry towards bigger and better. I believe in dreaming big dreams. You’ll never have a dream for yourself bigger than God’s dream for you. But, you’ll be encouraged to compare numbers (and I think numbers matter, but not they are not most important.). Most likely, unless your name is Stanley, or Noble — or some other we tend to compare ourselves to — you won’t have the largest church or the fastest growing church. Learn to be content with who God has made you to be and what He has called you to do. And, be thankful for where He has allowed you to be at the time. If you want to compare — compare yourself to God’s call upon your life. Are you being faithful to that call to the best of your ability?

Intentionally invest in others

You can’t call yourself a disciple-maker unless you are personally making disciples. I understand the fact that your teaching on Sunday will be building disciples, but the Jesus model involves intentionally investing in a few people at a time. Jesus concentrated most of His energy on 12 guys and even more on three in His inner circle. Shouldn’t we do likewise? Always be intentionally and personally mentoring a few. It will keep you close to people in the trenches of life and help you build more solid leadership in the church.

Keep moving forward through the disappointments of life

You will have plenty of setbacks. Life and people will disappoint you. You’re going to be a leader of people and so you’ll find plenty of critics along the way. The only way to avoid that is to do nothing — and that’s not even being a leader. At times you may fail to understand what God is allowing to happen in your life. Keep the vision of your overall calling to God in mind and push forward, regardless of the obstacles which come your way.

Ground your theology in Jesus

There are lots of theological methodologies around. Someone will be happy to shape your theology for you. I’m not suggesting you stop growing in knowledge — in the “deeper” things of God. You should always be growing. I am suggesting you never get beyond the simple child-like, overwhelming awe of who Jesus is and how He loves you and what He did for you on the cross. Center your beliefs firmly and completely around the person of Christ. Set Christ as your end goal, desire to be like Him. Discipline your life to do as Jesus would do. Invite others to follow likewise. Let the grace, glory and goodness of Jesus shape your life and ministry.

God knows best

As a pastor, there will be plenty of voices in your life. You’ll have plenty of advice from deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers and flower committee members. Someone even has an opinion about the color of paint your office should be. Just put it before the church in a survey and test me on this. Appreciate the suggestions of everyone. Be open to suggestions and even criticism when warranted. Never assume you know it all or that you are “in control” — you’re not. I believe God uses people to speak into our lives and He allows us huge latitude in making decisions for ourselves. But, in matters of huge importance, when you are making life-altering decisions, hold out for a word from God.

Of course, this is good advice for all ages (and not just pastors), but the majority of questions I receive are from younger pastors. I’m not sure what that says about us older pastors, but it is been true in my ministry that the younger a pastor is the more willing to heed advice.

What advice do you have for young pastors?

10 Attributes of a Humble Leader

Closeup portrait, handsome, modest, young smiling man putting hands out, thank you for the compliment, but i'm not that good, isolated white background. Positive human emotion facial expression

Almost a decade ago I recruited a mentor. He was more than 20 years older than me, had been widely successful, and was extremely respected in our community. I admired his business success, his family life, and his standing in the community — but I didn’t ask him to mentor me in any of these areas.

I wanted him to mentor me because of the humility I observed in his life.

If you didn’t know he was successful — you would have never known it from him.

Humility is a desired, but often neglected characteristic of good, servant leadership. It seems in the day of platform-building and social media the more we promote ourselves online, the more the characteristic of humility is being forgotten and certainly is less celebrated. (As one who has an online presence, I consistently sense God reminding me that I’ve been on the bottom and I can return there.)

Pride is a struggle for many leaders (author included), but we must strive to bring humility to our leadership roles.

What is humility in leadership? What are some characteristics of a humble leader?

Of course, the real example of humility is Jesus. And, as I already knew, He was the mentor of my earthly mentor. Spending time with this mentor I learned a few things I am still striving to live. I haven’t mastered them, but I have better targets. 

Here are 10 attributes of a humble leader:

Dangerous Trust

Humility always demands a certain level of trust. Obviously, for a believer, it begins with a trust in God. But, a humble leader is willing to take a risk on others also, trusting them with the sacredness of the vision, even at the chance they may be disappointed with the outcome.

Sincere investment

Humble leaders know the vision is bigger and will last longer than they will. Wow! That’s a hard reality, isn’t it? But, knowing this humble leaders willingly invest in others, raising up and maturing new leaders.

Gentle, but strong

One can’t be a leader and be weak. The two — weakness and leadership — don’t go together. Every position of leadership will provide a challenge to the leader, but humble leaders have learned the balance between being gentle and remaining strong. (Think Jesus!)

Readily admits mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. In fact, we often learn more through failure than through success. The humble leader is quick to admit when he or she has done wrong and deals with the fault-out without casting blame or making excuses. And, they seek forgiveness when the mistakes they make impact others.

Forgives easily

Leadership is filled with disappointment; often at the expense of other’s mistakes. A humble leader forgives easily, remembering how many times he or she has been forgiven.

Quickly diverts attention

We all like to be recognized for accomplishments, but a humble leader is quick to divert attention to others, sharing the limelight for successes with those, who many times, may have even had more to do with the success than the leader did. They celebrate the success of others louder than personal success

Remains thankful

A humble leader is appreciative of the input of others into his or her leadership. So much so, that a humble leader naturally praises the actions of others far more than the time spent patting themselves on the back for personal accomplishments. Humble leaders recognize that all good gifts come from above.

Recognizes limitations

No one can do everything. A humble has the ability to say, “I can’t do that or I’m not the one who should“.

Shares authority

Humble leaders don’t take all the key assignments for themselves, but gives out prime responsibility and authority to people he or she is leading.

Invites feedback

A humble leader wants to learn from his or her mistakes and wants to continually see improvement. Humble leaders initiate other’s suggestions and feedback, not waiting until complaints come, but personally asking for the input.

Humility is not putting yourself down as a leader. It’s ultimately recognizing who you are in view of Christ and others. The danger in not being a humble leader or considering ourselves better than others, is that one day we may be “humbled”. Many of us learn humility the hard way.

What would you add to my list?

5 Secret Traits to Make a Better Leader

Young woman telling a secret to a man

When I became a leader, I had no clue what I was doing. I was a high school student and had just been elected student body president. I had served as class president and in a few other positions, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of responsibility which stretched me at that point. As president of the study body, now a senior, I quickly realized lots of students and teachers were looking to me for leadership.

What in the world does a senior in high school have to add to the field of leadership?

We were in the second year of a new school and most of the students were forced to leave their previous school to attend this one. Some went willingly, but many were reluctantly bused to a school absent of many of their friends. In my first year at the school, as a junior, I was one of the reluctant students. In my new position, I knew firsthand the need, as well as the challenge, to encourage the morale and build momentum in this new school.

(Recognizing a need is one key to being an effective leader — but I still had no clue how to accomplish this.)

Thankfully I had a seasoned leader for a principal. Mr. Huggins was a retired Army colonel who loved seeing students succeed. He became my mentor and my biggest supporter as a new leader.

(Every new leader needs someone who believes in them, mentors them, and helps them get back up when they fall.)

Through his leadership of me, I learned a few “secrets”, which helped me as student body president. I carried them with me as I entered the business world and later as I led my own businesses. I used them in an elected office. 

Even today in ministry, these same “secrets” have made me a better leader. I’ve gotten lots of practice with them and they are more comfortable to me now, but they still are pillars of my understanding of what good and effective leadership looks like.

(Good leaders learn good principles and build upon them, contextualizing them for each leadership position.)

The principles started with the investment of my principal in me.  

Here are 5 secret traits to make you a better leader:

Let go of power

The more you learn to delegate the better your leadership will appear to others. When you let go and let others lead, it will actually look like you’re doing more, because your team will be expanding the vision far beyond your individual capacity. Good leadership involves empowering people to carry out the vision. (You may want to read THIS POST as a test to see if you’re an empowering leader.)

Give up control

You can’t control every outcome. Have you learned that secret yet? Some things are going to happen beyond your ability to guide them. Leaders who attempt to control stifle their team’s creativity, frustrate others on the team and limit the growth and future success of the organization. (You may want to read THIS POST about controlling leaders.)

Don’t always know the answer

If you don’t have all the answers, people will be more willing to help you find the answers. If you try to bluff your way through leadership, pretending you don’t need input from others, your ignorance will quickly be discovered, you’ll be dismissed as a respected leader, and you’ll close yourself off from gaining wisdom from others. The best leaders I know are always learning something new…many times from the people they lead.

“Waste time” is not wasted

Great leaders have learned that spending time that other leaders may feel is unproductive usually ends up being among the most productive use of their time. (I wrote a post about this principle HERE.) Spend time investing in people, in ways that may or may not produce immediate results, and over time, you’ll find your team to be more satisfied and more productive in their work.

Bounce off attention 

The more you deflect attention from yourself to others, the more people will respect you. People follow confidence in a leader far more passionately than they follow arrogance. You can be confident without demanding all the attention or without receiving credit for every success of the team. Great leaders know that without the input and investment of others they would never accomplish their goals. They remain appreciative of others and consistently share the spotlight. (You may want to read the attributes of a humble leader in THIS POST.)

Those are some of my secrets. Thanks Principal Huggins! And, life for continually showing me these are true.

What secret traits have you learned that make one a better leader?