I received a great question recently.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t give a good answer.
Or, at least, not the answer they were seeking. They wanted an answer that would solve the issue. I couldn’t give that answer.
This individual is being asked to do a part-time job at the church plant he attends. It would be launching a new ministry within the church. As with most plants, there is a limited budget, so they can’t afford to pay him. He agrees with the church’s philosophy to mostly have volunteers instead of paid staff. He believes, however, that this position is too involved to be volunteer — especially for his current life situation. He feels he should be paid if he agrees to take on the challenge, but the leadership disagrees.
He asked me if I would write a post about when a position should be paid and when it should be volunteer.
Here is my answer:
I wish I could tell you there are hard set guidelines here, but there aren’t — in my opinion. So much of this issue depends on context.
The post I would write, and I think I might, would be more on principle than anything.
It depends on the church and the individual. And, both should be part of the answer. And, the answers don’t always easily mesh.
First, what is best for the church?
For example. Some churches are almost all volunteer. Sounds like this church plant is that way. So, I would want to know about other similar workload positions in the church. Are they paid or volunteer?
It’s dangerous to start paying one person and not another with similar workloads, unless there is a valid reason for doing so. It causes tension and disharmony.
At the same time, churches have to make decisions that are best for the church long term. Once a decision is made to start paying for a position, that usually locks the church into having that position and the ministry for a long time. If that person leaves the church, most churches will look for someone to replace them. It becomes a part of the annual budget process. That is a big commitment, which should be considered. The same is not necessarily true of a volunteer position.
Then it also depends on the person.
Can that person commit that much time and be volunteer? Some can and some can’t.
I know one very large church — several thousand people attend each week — that has a volunteeer executive pastor — and he is full time. He’s a self made millionaire and didn’t want the church to pay him. Obviously, this is an extreme example, and most churches couldn’t do that, but there are times the person simply doesn’t need the income for their volunteer efforts. That’s okay — and a huge blessing to the church.
I also know a church that had a single mom as a key volunteer. As her role grew she needed to be paid in order to handle the extra time she could have worked elsewhere and her child care. The church felt it would have been taking advantage of her otherwise.
A church has to think what’s fair and equitable for the church and all the individuals involved.
I advised this gentleman that I would probably be asking myself if I could afford to do this for free or, if I’m going to invest my time — in fairness to myself and family, do I need to be paid?
The church needs to be asking a fairness question too, because it impacts more people than just this one person. If they pay him, will that open up a need to pay others with similar workloads? Will it set a precedent for this ministry and others?
But, that brings up a few thoughts about answering these type leadership issues:
I always try to go with principles first. What’s the larger principle guiding the individual decisions? Sometimes it helps to think in those terms.
I try to think big picture. Almost every decision impacts more than one person or one situation.
I am careful not to lock myself into one answer — on non-Biblical issues. One problem I have with a strict policy is that it often keeps the church from individualizing their response based on the unique set of circumstances at the time. In the case above, whether positions should be paid or volunteer, there are always parameters to be considered beyond that which a rule can be clearly written.
Those are a few thoughts — long answer to a shorter question.
But, aren’t most leadership issues like that? Many times we find it easier to write hard, fast rules than to do the harder work of thinking bigger. Without the rules it’s messier too, but that’s why we need good leadership — to navigate through the messy to get to the best.
What do you think?
“I say this in love…”
You can injure a lot of people with that term.
“I say this in love” has caused a lot of damage over the years.
In church relationships…
In work situations…
It can be in person or online.
It’s often the start of some of the “best” gossip — or unfair judging. Certainly some very hurtful criticism begins this way.
I’ve been the recipient of this kind of “love” and sometimes it doesn’t seem very loving to me.
Sometimes people seem to think they can say anything — in any form — without considering the consequences — as long as they begin with that phrase.
I’ve seen people preface a mean-spirited zinger of a comment with a disclaimer of love, but it’s still a mean-spirited zinger. The way you begin a conversation doesn’t remove the need to be kind, even when offering correction or extending criticism.
We should do all things in love. That’s a command. As believers, we have to learn how to critique, criticize, complain and even rebuke people — in love.
But, let’s make sure we display love all the way through our conversations.
Not just with the first five words.
In a future post, I’ll to help us think through this issue more with some hopefully helpful tips.
We are celebrating our Easter number this week. It was a incredible day.
Whenever we talk about celebrating an attendance number, I hear the same questions — why celebrate a number? Do numbers really matter? Isn’t it about glorifying God — whatever the number?
Well, yes, it is about glorifying God — regardless of the number.
In fact, our staff set a number we thought we might reach — a stretch goal — made preparations towards reaching that number, worked hard, prayed continually, led the church to do the same, but then we consistently reminded each other that we would celebrate whoever God brought Easter weekend.
And, God blessed us beyond what we imagined.
But, why is the number important? Why count people in the first place?
Here are a few reasons:
Measure of effectiveness – Who builds a house without first counting the costs? (Luke 14:28) We needed a number of how many possibly could show up in order to plan effectively. What if you were planning a meal for 6 people and 15 people actually came? Would you have enough food prepared? Probably not. So we needed a number. But, there was far too much preparation that went into planning the day not to actually count to see where we were most effective. What worked? What didn’t? How could we improve next time? We couldn’t answer those questions well unless we counted.
Numbers represent people – We know that near 90% of our community is considered “unchurched”. They don’t attend church anywhere regularly. Those are real numbers — representing real people. Numbers matter, because setting goals pushes us to be more assertive in reaching unchurched people. If we believe in our mission “leading people to Jesus” — which we do — then why would we not do everything within our abilities to help it become a reality? In fact, to know the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it — would be a sin. (James 4:17) We know we need to be on mission, Jesus told us that, and setting a numerical goal is one way that helps us accomplish that mission even better. So, we count.
Substance of celebration – When people participate in a goal there will always be a natural tendency to want to know “How did we do?”. For example, if you set a goal to lose 10 pounds, you might track along the way how you are doing. And, you don’t celebrate until you make progress towards the goal. The only way to tell how we did towards our goal of attendance is to count. Again, you should celebrate regardless of the number of people who attend, because God is actually in charge of attendance. We do preparations, but He draws people to Himself — Scripture is clear about that — but if you are going to work hard — and expect people to ever want to work hard again — you have to celebrate the hard work. In my experience, planning to celebrate actually motivates people more towards the goal. Which goes back to the other two reasons.
That’s just a few of the reasons that come to mind of why we count people. I’m sure there are others. By the way, throughout the Bible God’s people counted. They got into problems when the motive was to honor man, rather than out of obedience to God. We must guard our hearts in this area. One way I do this is continually reminding myself, as I stated earlier, that we will celebrate regardless — and that God is in charge of attendance. And, by asking myself, am I going to be content with our efforts if we don’t reach our goal? And, yes, God has and will test our motivation.
Do you have any reasons for counting you’d add?
I was asked a great question recently while visiting with a group of leadership students from a nearby Christian college.
How do you attract (and keep) “first chair” type leaders into a “second chair” position?
These young leaders are ambitious. They are ready to make their mark on society. Most are studying for ministerial positions within the church. I always advise young leaders, if they can, to sit under a seasoned leader for a while, learning all they can, before they venture out on their own. I had just offered this advice which prompted the question.
I realize that’s not always the advice a young, ready-to-go leader type wants to hear — and I get that, since I was one of those younger leaders. And, we learn mostly by failure, so there is something to be said for jumping out on your own, getting both feet wet (to use another cliche metaphor), and starting something new.
Many of these young leaders will be church planters, and we need them to be. We need more church planters. Still, if I was advising one of my own children, I’d give the same advice. If possible, sit under a seasoned leader first.
This group had been studying the concept of first chair and second chair leadership, so that prompted a good, obvious question.
(For some help with definition, if needed, the first chair leader usually has a title such as C.E.O., President, Senior Pastor. Second chair leaders have a title such as C.O.O., Vice President, Associate Pastor.)
How do you attract (and keep) “first chair” type leaders into a “second chair” position?
They followed that question with another equally good question.
They asked if I felt I could ever again be a second chair leader. At this point, they knew my history. I’ve been a first chair leader for well over 20 years.
My answer to the second question first.
Yes. I could be a second chair leader.
My answer to the second question. With the number 7 — of course.
Here are 7 ways to attract (and keep) first chair leaders in a second chair position:
Remove the lids – The real reason most people resist the second chair is they don’t want to be limited in how much they can achieve. The best first chair leaders are willing to get out of the way and let people around them lead — even if the second chair person’s success gains more notoriety than the first chair.
Empower individual dreams – If a second chair person feels the freedom to dream big dreams — even individual dreams — they’ll be fueled to continue in the role. They may have to be empowered to work on dreams that are even outside the vision of their current organization. Of course, they still need to meet all the requirements of a good second chair leader, so there should be loyalty to the place where they are currently serving in the second chair.
Let the leader build a team – Second chair leaders, who are qualified to be first chair leaders, need to have the freedom to build their own teams. They should be able to recruit and lead their own people. (Again, I can offer this qualifier in every point, but this is with the understanding that there is an overall vision that must be maintained, and ultimately that vision holder is the first chair leader.)
Invite their input into larger decisions – This is huge. Second chair leaders who could be first chair leaders want to play a part in the overall strategy and implementation of the organization. They have ideas. They have energy to invest in them. They want to make a difference. If you want to keep them you have to give them a seat at the lead table.
Give them a voice – This goes with the last one, but not only should they have a seat at the table, but their input should matter. Their opinion must make a difference in the overall direction of the organization. The weight of their suggestions must be valuable in making final decisions. Hyper controlling leaders will have a very hard time with this one, but it’s critical to retaining the best “first chair minded” — second chair leaders.
Don’t Micromanage – This one probably goes without saying. The best first chair leaders don’t micromanage anyone, but this is especially true if you want to attract the first chair leader types into the second chair. You certainly can and should have broad goals and objectives for them to achieve, and, again, they should be working for the same overall vision of the entire organization, but then, if you want to keep them, get out of their way and let them do their work.
Extend recognition – Don’t hog the glory. (Of course, the only real glory goes to God, but don’t be afraid to celebrate their success.)
Let me be clear, as I tried to be with the leadership students, there are exceptional second chair leaders who never desire to be first chair leaders. They are awesome! I love having them on my team. In fact, I’ll be transparent enough to say that without some of them I am very ineffective as a first chair leader. You don’t want me in the first chair unless I have some good second chair people around me.
There are good first chair leaders serving in second chair positions. Keeping them is more difficult, because they are natural first chairs. There’s another blog post here on how I spot a first chair leader, but I have always had some on my team. They make me and the organization (or church) I lead even better.
Granted, some don’t even like this type discussion, especially in a ministerial context, because Jesus is in the first chair — ALWAYS — and, I totally agree with that — and to some, who don’t appreciate the concept, it my sound egotistical. I get that too. I’ve written about the church afraid of leadership previously. But, if you want to ignore the realities of organizational structures that exist in any place where two or more people are gathered, including the church, you can probably ignore this post.
If you want to attract and keep them — I hope this post helps.
Visiting a church for the first time, or after not having been for a while, can be intimidating at times. You often don’t know what to expect. You’d love to ask, but you’re not sure who to ask or even if your question sounds silly. It’s not. Probably others have the same question as you.
I was asked a question recently about what someone should wear Easter Sunday if they visited Immanuel. It was such a great question, because it made me think. What if someone didn’t come, because they didn’t know the answer? I get that. It would almost be easier not to visit than to wear the wrong thing. Less complicated. The safe choice.
This person asked. And, so I was able to answer.
It made me think some other questions people may have about visiting a church the first time. I thought of some of the more common. This post actually originated in one of our lead staff meetings. Someone suggested, “Why don’t you compile a list of of the top questions people may be wondering, but haven’t asked, and write about it?” Okay, here you go.
Keep in mind, this is written for Immanuel, but I suspect most will be true for many churches you’d visit Easter Sunday. And, I’m nearly positive about this — most pastors would prefer you ask rather than wonder and not visit at all. So, if you don’t know, ask. Please.
Here are 7 frequently asked questions about visiting Easter Sunday:
What should I wear?
I posted this answer on my Facebook recently. At Immanuel Baptist Church, you’ll see all styles of dress. Some will wear suit and tie and dresses and hats for women. Some will wear jeans and t-shirts. We may even see shorts if the weather is warm enough. To answer your question, choose an outfit you already own, one you feel comfortable in, and join us. (No speedos please, but that’s just a personal request, otherwise, you’ll be fine. )
What will we do? What can I expect?
We will have a fairly typical worship schedule. We will sing some songs, have a short greeting time, I’ll share a message (my intent will be to share hope), we will sing some more. We will attempt to have a blend of songs and music all ages can enjoy. And, yes, in full transparency, and in case you’re wondering, we will receive an offering. Our offerings support the full range of ministries we offer in the church, community, and around the world. You are not required, however, to participate during this time unless you choose to do so.
Will you embarrass me?
I certainly hope not. It will be a primary goal not to do that. I don’t personally like to be embarrassed when I visit somewhere new, even in a church — and I’m a pastor — so my goal is to create an environment that is comfortable for all. You WILL NOT be singled out as a visitor. We don’t make visitors stand, raise their hand, or even fill out a card if you choose not to do so. (You certainly won’t be asked to sing a solo, unless you sing really, really loud — and then you’re on your own. )
How long will the service last?
Slightly more than an hour. I’d love to say an hour, but sometimes the service ends up being an hour and 5 or 10 minutes frequently. At the most, you’ll be with us for an hour and 15 minutes. (Walking to and from the car time and all.)
What time should I arrive?
That’s a great question. And, I’m really trying to help when I suggest you get here a few minutes early. Maybe even as many as 10 or 15 minutes early. It takes a little while to make your way through our building, especially if you have children to check into our children’s areas or this is your first time. We especially want you to find a seat where you are most comfortable (some want up close — some want in the middle), and you’ll feel more acclimated to the room if you have a few minutes to adjust before the service begins. We have a special Easter bulletin you can be reading while you wait for the service to start.
Do you have something for children?
Absolutely. Birth through 5th grade have their own activities designed especially for them. They will enjoy a worship experience that will engage them at their level. Of course, we don’t keep you from bringing children with you in the worship service if that is more comfortable on a first visit, but our experience is that they truly do enjoy the service designed for them. Either way, we love when entire families join us Easter Sunday.
Can I only come one time? Really, for what am I signing up when I come Easter Sunday?
There’s no obligation beyond Easter Sunday. It’s a “free look”. Promise. Being honest, we do ask you to fill out a contact card and, if you do, we will follow up with you. And I hope you do. I love seeing who God brought to us as visitors. I love meeting visitors. But, even if you fill out a card, we allow you to tell us how you want to be contacted. Phone, email, social media, or visit — or none — you tell us. We won’t put any unfair pressure on you to ever come again. We hope you will, and we’d love if Easter triggered that desire in you, but that’s your call — not ours.
I hope that answers some questions of those who think about visiting our church. I’d be honored if you are our guest.
What other questions do you have? Seriously, I’d rather you asked.
Easter. It’s a time of year when churches have an opportunity second only to Christmas in attracting visitors. Hopefully all of God’s churches will be packed Easter Sunday. That’s my prayer.
We’ve had months of praying, planning and preparing. We’ve done all we can do, but God is ultimately in charge of all that happens in our church — and yours.
I’m often asked, however, what I hope to accomplish on Easter Sunday — such an important day in the life of any church. It could seem overwhelming if we try to accomplish too much in one day, so what do I, as a pastor, have at the top of my list of goals for Easter Sunday.
I shared a guest post with Lifeway’s pastor blog about 7 ways a church can prepare for Easter. In this post, I want to share what I actually hope we accomplish on Easter Sunday. Only 7 things. If we accomplish nothing else, and there are probably many other things we will accomplish Easter Sunday, I hope Immanuel Baptist does these 7 well.
Gospel is shared – Duh! But, after we’ve made all the preparations, it would be like inviting people to a turkey dinner with no turkey if we don’t share the Gospel. Once we’ve worked hard to gather people into a room, we must not neglect to share the simple truth that Jesus lived, died, and rose again and by Him and through Him alone we can be saved. We must give people an opportunity to hear the Gospel — if for the first time or one of many other times. The Gospel is Good News for all people. All times. After all, that’s what we are celebrating Easter Sunday.
People feel welcome – I hope everyone who enters the doors of our church feels welcome. Regardless of what they are wearing, what side of town they came from, what they do for a living, their education status, whichever “side of the tracks” from which they arrived — let them feel the genuine love and kindness of God’s people. There will be those who don’t feel “worthy” to be in a church Easter Sunday (because they don’t yet understand than none of us are apart from grace). What better day to “love one another” than Easter Sunday!
Next is highlighted – I want people to leave knowing where the church is going next. For example, we will be studying some of the Psalms in our next series. People need to know that — in hopes that they’ll want to return.
The church is presented well – This is the Sunday, even more than others perhaps, where I hope our people are willing to sacrifice for visitors. I told our deacons Sunday night I hope they are the ones willing to move to the center of an aisle first, to make room on the ends of a row for visitors. I hope Immanuel people help visitors in the parking lot, even if they’ve never before worked in the parking lot. I hope people who seem to be looking for the bathrooms don’t have to look long before someone helps them. I hope the building is cleaner than ever. (That’s why we have a cleanup day scheduled Saturday.) Just as when visitors come to your home for the first time, this is the time to be ready to receive guests warmly. I also want to answer as many questions as people may have about the church, so we are printing a special bulletin designed to give insight to visitors about who we are, what programs we offer, and easy places where they could quickly become a part of Immanuel.
Our people are encouraged – I hope people who call Immanuel their home church — even if they’ve been there over 70 years (and some have been) or just arrived in the last few weeks (and there are lots of those), will leave encouraged by what they experience Easter Sunday. I hope there will be a God-honoring pride that we did all God would expect us to do to present an atmosphere conducive for people to ultimately hear the Gospel. I hope they’ll be challenged for the days ahead and willing to sacrifice and serve even more, directly as a result of what God allows to happen Easter Sunday.
Children are safe and have fun – If parents entrust their children to our care they should be assured their children are safe and well-protected. In addition, I hope children leave telling their parents how much they enjoyed being at Immanuel this Sunday. Children have a raw honesty about them. They don’t always know the words to say, but parents know whether or not this is a place their kids will be welcomed. Children are often a huge door to the families eventual active involvement in a church.
People leave with hope – Second only from hearing the Gospel, I hope people leave our Easter services with a sense of hope. Actually, that’s my goal every Sunday. The world can be a scary place. There will be lots of brokenness among us Easter Sunday. As followers of Christ, we believe we hold the answer to hope for the world. It’s in the Resurrected Savior — whom we are celebrating — the King of kings and Lord of lords. I hope people don’t leave more confused or feeling guilty about their life, but rather they live knowing their is A Way, there is an answer — there is HOPE — in Jesus Christ!
Easter Sunday is coming. I’m praying for my pastor friends, for the church of Christ, and for those who will enter our gathering places this Sunday, joining the Church in Easter worship.
One of the hardest decision a leader makes is to release someone from employment. I’ve only known a few very callous people who weren’t extremely bothered by having to fire someone. Making any kind of employment decision comes with the sobering reality, regardless of what the person did wrong, that the decision will likely impact others who are many times innocent in the offense.
I’ve heard good leaders say repeatedly that we should “hire slow” and “fire fast”, but that’s much easier to say than it is to do.
When the offense is clear, due proces has been given and every reasonable attempt to restore has been exhausted as a leader, we must make the right decision for the good of everyone involved. Most leaders agree with that statement. Even as hard as it is to make.
If someone is a thief
If someone consistently lies
If someone is blatantly lazy
Those aren’t easy decisions, and due process, fairness, and grace still play a part, but they are often easier to clarify what needs to happen.
One of the harder decisions for me (and other leaders I’ve spoken to), but one I’ve had to make numerous times, is when I have to release someone for less obvious offenses. They aren’t black and white issues.
Sometimes it’s not for the offense but for the integrity of the organization that is at stake when employment decisions need to be made. And, many leaders miss these, because they are more difficult to clarify. (By the way, I’m writing this in an organizational sense, but this includes churches too.)
Years ago, I had someone on my team who was a tremendous producer. One of our best. He could sell anything. In a strictly bottom line — on paper sense, he made the company money. But, it was some of the external, not as easy to define aspects of his employment that made him a poor fit for the team. (He was disrespectful, never attended meetings, bad-mouthed the company, etc.)
It was hard to lose a top performer, but there were larger issues at stake.
Here are a few examples of situations I have personally experienced or walked through with other leaders.
1. The person has lost all credibility with the team. This is could be with peers, a team he or she leads, or with volunteers (this is especially true of volunteers). At this point the energy trying to repair their relationships would be too overwhelming. Everyone else is wondering why you haven’t moved sooner to make a hard decision. Sometimes it’s best for everyone if we simply start with a clean slate.
2. The person refuses to support the overall vision. They may have the skills to be outstanding, but their attitude causes them to serve as more of a cancer to the team than an asset.
3. The person has “left the building” in terms of wanting to move on to something else, so they no longer give any heart for the job. And, everyone knows it. It’s bringing down the morale and work ethic of the rest of the team.
There are others, but hopefully you get my point. Again, hard decisions. Not always easy to define.
But, making the right decision protects the integrity of the organization, the teams involved, and, often, the ability of the team to respect your leadership.
Do you have a hard decision you need to make these days? It won’t be easy. It may even be a temporary setback for the team. But, your credibility and success as a leader may depend on the quality of decision you make.
What are your “last straws” that cause you to release someone?
Acts 13:22 says, “After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.‘”
Previously I posted on this truth of David being a man after God’s own heart. (You can read that post HERE.)
The following words describe the heart of David as seen in his own writings:
(All verses New International Version)
Humble – Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie; if weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath. Psalm 62:9
Reverent – I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:3
Respectful – Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. Psalm 31:9
Trusting - The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1
Loving – I love you, O Lord, my strength. Psalm 18:1
Devoted – You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. Psalm 4:7
Recognition – I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. Psalm 9:1
Faithful – Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6
Obedient - Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Psalm 119:34
Repentant - For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. Psalm 25:11
David’s example is a great road map for how we are to live our life.
Which of these areas need your greatest attention for improvement?