One of the Worst Leadership Mistakes We Make as Pastors (And Leaders)

complaint

There are many leadership mistakes we make as pastors. I’m certain I make one nearly everyday.

This post is only about one mistake. One of the worst.

And, frankly, I’m as guilty of this one as anyone. I think most of us are prone to making this mistake. In any realm of leadership.

Here is one of the worst mistakes pastors make in leadership:

Pursuing the few negative voices in lieu of pursuing the majority supporters.

Have you been guilty of that mistake?

Be careful. There is a Biblical principle here.

“Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6)

When we place our focus on the few negatives, it injures everyone.

We cater to them.
We try to appease them.
We worry about them.
We neglect the greater good.

And, in the end, here’s the strange part I’ve seen –

We usually find out that nothing we could have done would have made them happy anyway.

Wasted energy.

And, in the process, everyone loses.

The bottom line is that this mistake drains your energy as a leader and keeps you from investing fully in people who are believe in the vision, support leadership and are ready to help you build a great church.

It’s counterproductive. At best.

Be honest with yourself.

Is your leadership of the church being dominated by a few negative voices?

That said, we should listen to negative voices. We grow that way. I have written before that I even listen to anonymous voices. I’ve written about the Right Ways and the Wrong Ways to respond to criticism. I’m not afraid of criticism. I just believe we just have to be careful that we filter them in a healthy way.

For example, when you deal with critical people, ask yourself:

  1. Are these people generally positive, supportive people — or are they negative, divisive people?
  2. Is what they are saying helpful? If you took their suggestion, would it improve the overall vision of the church?
  3. Do they represent a larger audience — or are they lone voices? You need to know if the criticism is representative or personal.The fact is some people will never be on board with the direction of the church and you can’t do anything about that. Sometimes they represent a larger audience.

Your answers should change the weight you carry and the attention you give to their complaints. And, frankly, the amount of time you allot to appeasing those complainers.

I know. Heavy post right? And, if you’ve been yielding to the few negative voices it might even sting a bit.

On the other hand, if you’re one of the negative voices — the kind who is wasting everyone’s time — well, you don’t like me much right now. I just called you out. Sorry about that.

7 Helpful Skills for Pastors Leading Growing Churches

racial diversity

I came close to titling these “essential” skills, but I knew that was unfair. God can and does work through all different types of people. But, He has appointed some to be leaders, some teachers, etc. And, I know this from my experience working with and hearing from dozens of pastors each month. There are some great pastors who admit they aren’t skilled at leading the church.

I hear it at least weekly — “I know how to teach and cafe for the people, but I’m simply not always sure how to lead.” And, yet they recognize the value in and the need for leadership. They aren’t afraid of church leadership, as I’ve written about previously.

I believe there are some helpful skills for those who want to lead a church to not only care for and disciple the people in the church now, but actually grow and be healthy at the same time — where there is momentum and unity and excitement around the vision of the Great Commission.

Here are a 7 helpful skills I’ve observed:

Networking – For definition purposes, this is “the cultivation of productive relationships”. It is the ability to bring the right people to the table to accomplish the mission and it is invaluable for any position of leadership. This is true inside and outside the church. One place where good relationships are proving helpful in the community, for example, is within school systems. With the right people, churches can make significant missional differences in their community with school relationships. Those relationships are formed through networking. And, the possibilities here are endless.

Connecting – If the church is large or small, the best leaders bring people together. When a new person comes into the church, it’s important that they be able to connect quickly to others. First, the pastor needs to meet them, but that isn’t enough to really make people feel connected to a church. Good leaders connect them to people within the church, or help create systems of connection. They value connectivity — creating healthy, life-changing relationships in the church – and see that it is a natural, but intentional part of the church’s overall mission.

Visioneering – Good leaders are able to cast a picture beyond today worthy of taking a risk to seek. They may not always have all the ideas of what’s next — they should have some — but they can rally people behind the vision.

Pioneering – To lead a church by faith, a leader has to be willing to lead into an unknown, and take the first step in that direction. People won’t follow until they know the leader is willing to go first. Momentum and change almost always starts with new — doing things differently — creating new groups, new opportunities — trying things you’ve not tried before. Pioneering leaders watch to see where God may be stirring hearts and are willing to boldly lead into the unknown.

Delegating – No one person can or should attempt to do it all. It’s not healthy, nor is it Biblical. This may, however, be the number one reason I see for pastoral burnout, frustration and lack of church growth. Good leaders learn to raise up armies of people who believe in the mission and are willing to take ownership and provide leadership to completing a specific aspect of attaining that vision.

Confronting - If you lead anything, you will face opposition. Period. Leadership involves change and change in church involves change in people. And, most people have some opposition to change. After a pastor is certain of God’s leadership, has sought input from others, cast a vision, and organized people around a plan, there will be opposition. Perhaps even organized opposition. Good leaders learn to confront in love.

Following – Ultimately, it’s all about Christ. I can’t lead people closer to Him — certainly not be more like Him — unless I’m personally growing closer to Christ. But, following also involves allowing others to speak into my life. It means I have mentors, people who hold me accountable and healthy family relationships. Good leaders have systems in place that personally keep them on track. Self leadership — and following others who are healthy — keeps a leader in it for the duration.

That’s my list. Or, at least seven on my list.

What would you add?

12 Ways Christians Can be Less Mean

Mister nice guy

I wrote a post recently encouraging Christians to be less mean — especially online. It was called “When Did Christians Become So Mean?

It seems to me, we’ve lost some of our civility when it comes to what we post on social media. We are quick to blast a company that we feel has wronged us. We criticize people — right on their Facebook page. We load the comments of a blog post with crushing blows.

Surely you’ve seen it. The web has made it much easier to be a critic.

But, it’s also in public. I’ve seen Christians I know act like jerks in a restaurant or grocery store. I consistently hear of bosses who serve smiling on Sunday but are mean to employees during the week.

It all has to hurt our witness as Christians.

The post got a little attention.

Actually, some people, proved the need for the post by the way they responded. :)

Still others asked for some suggestions of how we could improve — some even wanted examples.

I decided not to share specific examples. In my opinion, that would be mean. So, you’re meanness will remain anonymous in this post. If you are mean, most likely others already know your name. :).

I did decide to share some ways we can be “less mean” online.

Here are a dozen suggestions:

Consider others better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)

Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)

Love one another (John 13:34)

Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32)

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (James 1:19)

Treat others as you would want to be treated (Luke 6:31)

Have the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5)

Remember kindness leads to repentance. (Romans 2:4)

Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit. (Psalm 34:13)

Honor everyone. (1 Peter 2:17)

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)

Just a few of those should improve the quality of our online involvement.

And, finally, a bonus one:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Those are some of my suggestions.

Got any others?

My Greatest Success in Life

success

I was interviewed recently for a leadership podcast. One of the questions took me by surprise at first. I have been interviewed for this type of thing many times and so answers usually come fairly easily. They didn’t this time. At least to this question.

The question:

What has been your greatest success in life and what did you learn from it?

Greatest success? That goes contrary to my normal thought process. I don’t think I’m keeping a mental record of that. I guess I should more often. I didn’t have an easy answer.

The first answer that came to mind:

Apart from knowing Christ and being known by Him…

My greatest success has been failure.

And, in addition to that, the ability to get back up and try again.

Having had time to think about the answer I gave more — I’m sticking with it.

You see, I have had lots of failure. I’ve been on the bottom several times and, by God’s grace and through commitment and perseverance, I always climbed back.

I’ve gained my greatest lessons from life through the hardest times of my life.

And, something tells me I’m not finished learning.

I’m not sharing that to boast about anything in my life. I share it to encourage you. You may feel discouraged today. You may have just about lost all hope. You may feel a complete failure — like the best of life is past for you.

It’s not! You can stand strong again. By God’s grace — and through commitment and perseverance.

That’s almost always the story of people of success. You often only see them when they’re standing, but you didn’t see the times they fell. 

Your greatest success in life may be your ability to endure through the hard times — even through failure — get up and move forward again. 

The Church Afraid of Leadership

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Leadership and the Bible

The more I write about leadership and the church the more my critics say I shouldn’t.

You knew I have critics, right?

I get push back for focusing so much on leadership on this blog. It’s like I’m being blasphemous. Like pastor and leader shouldn’t go together. Like I should discount the years of leadership experience and schooling God has blessed me with — and guided my life into — and just focus on being a pastor. Because, again, some don’t think the two can coexist. Good pastors can’t be good leaders. Right?

Those critics say Jesus is the church’s leader.

Well, I agree. Completely.

They say no one can claim expertise as a leader.

I agree again. (especially in the context of me).

Some even say we are never called to be leaders in the Bible. That servants, not leaders is the model.

Now, I disagree.

Not that we aren’t to be servants. We are. But, I disagree that leadership is not a Bible concept. It’s throughout the Bible.

If one wants to make the case that leadership isn’t defined well in the Bible, I can agree. I have an advanced degree in leadership. And, it wasn’t clearly defined there. We are still trying to adequately define it today — inside and outside the church. John Maxwell says leadership is influence. I agree, but other leadership experts have broader definitions. I’m not looking to the Bible to give me a definition either.

But, we find leadership throughout the Scriptures. You can’t miss it. However you define it.

From the creation of man, God gave Adam tremendous responsibility. God seemed to delegate leading the Garden to Adam. He couldn’t have “messed it up” had he not had some authority to make decisions.

The Holy Spirit of God does the real work of the church. No argument from me on that, but God enabled men and women to lead.

Moses was a leader…

David was a leader…

Ruth was a leader…

Joseph was a leader…

Gideon was a leader…

Nehemiah was a leader…

Phoebe was a leader…

Paul was a leader…

Esther was a leader…

Joshua was a leader…

Men and women God called to lead — sometimes reluctantly at first — humbled themselves before God knowing that without Him they could do nothing. They stepped out where no one else had gone before and guided people to a God-ordained victory. They used their influence to move people to a greater reality than they could have imagined.

That’s leadership — by anyone’s definition.

Jesus’ instructions were to make disciples — not wait on God to make them. Do something. Lead.

Pastor, don’t be afraid to call yourself a leader — or to lead!

And, every time you lead, you’ll find some critics. All leaders do.

The Downside of NOT Being a Controlling Leader

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I have a pet peeve about leadership. Actually lots.

But, this one is especially strong.

I have a pet peeve against controlling leadership.

I hate it. It’s so counter-productive to progress. It holds the team back from reaching it’s full potential. It stifles leaders. It never builds healthy teams.

And, the fact is if I allowed myself I could easily be a controlling leader. In fact, command is a “strength” of mine, according to Strengths Finders assessment. It can quickly become a weakness.

So, I discipline myself against controlling leadership.

I delegate.
I purposively bite my tongue.
I allow people to do things differently from the way I would do them.
I don’t micromanage.
I yield to others on my team.

And, when we remove controlling leadership it empowers people.

It means people take initiative.
They make decisions without me.
They proceed on their own.

But, that can create problems for the team.

It often causes miscommunication.
It can lead to fragmentation of the team.
It frequently brings frustration.

People lead. That’s no surprise. It’s what they’ve been empowered to do. But, many times they lead in different directions. Sometimes they lead too quickly. Often they lead into their own agendas — even outside the direction of the rest of the team.

And, the only way to keep that from happening is to be a controlling leader.

So, we have to learn to live in the tension.

We have to get better at keeping others informed. As leaders, we have to keep the vision in front of us and keep directing the team towards it, without controlling. We have to be better leaders.

It’s a constant challenge.

It’s even messy at times. But, it’s best.

Facing Adversity and Being in God’s Will

man praying

Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. 1 Samuel 19:1

David was minding his own business one day, tending sheep, when God called him to be a king. Talk about a God moment.

He didn’t ask to be king, but God said he was the one. He turned out to be a great king. Imagine that? God made a good pick! David had a heart modeled after God’s, according to the Bible.

So, since God had chosen to bless David in such a way, why do we later find Saul trying to kill David?

In fact, for some time Saul chased David. David hid out, all alone, which is the setting we find him in during the writings of many of the Psalms. David was God’s choice for king and yet he was placed in incredible adversity.

What does this tell us?

I think it says to me that sometimes God’s will for us will find us in the middle of trials in life.

That’s right. His will for our lives.

More importantly, I am learning that I cannot determine whether I am in God’s will based on whether or not my life is peaceful. Just because I have trials in my life, doesn’t mean I am not in the center of God’s will for my life.

I love how Alistair Begg once said it.

“We should not seek to confirm God’s will by the absence of adversity.”

Think about Biblical characters who faced great trials.

  • Abraham who faced the trial of leaving his homeland, then the years of infertility.
  • Moses wandered in the wilderness forty years.
  • Joseph was sold into slavery.
  • Ruth lost her husband.
  • Nehemiah had to fight off naysayers.
  • Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den.
  • John the Baptist was beheaded.
  • Paul wrote some of his best work in prison.

All of these great servants of God faced persecution, heartache, and trials beyond most of our imaginations. Yet, all them, during the adversity, were right where God wanted them to be, in the center of His will.

Yes, we would all like life to be peaceful. It is true that we can have inner peace and joy even in the middle of the storms of life. But God has not promised us a life free of problems.

In fact, we can be perfectly within His will and still be facing adversity. It is often through the process of life’s difficulties that God makes us more like Jesus., teaches us more about Him and ourselves. Our character is defined in

Trust Him today, regardless of your circumstances! He is always working a plan!

For more devotional thoughts, click HERE.

7 Ways I Stay Forward Thinking as a Leader

man looking

One of the responsibilities of a leader is to be consistently looking forward for the organization. A leader has to continually be asking the question: What’s next? That’s a critical key to continued growth of the organization.

The problem for me comes with the immediate demands on my time. The now cliché statement goes “Sunday’s coming” is always true for a pastor. There are always immediate needs of people in the church. It seems there is something that continually occupies my immediate attention.

Still, if our church is to continue to grow and face the challenges of a changing community, I must discipline myself to pick my head up from the daily routines to think long-term.

Here are 7 ways I keep myself looking forward:

Read – I try to read something everyday and I read an equal balance of leadership and Christian books. In addition, I follow dozens of blogs with a variety of focuses, from technology, to culture and leadership. I take notes of ideas sparked along the way using Evernote.

Explore – I attend several conferences each year. I go to discover new techniques, strategies and ideas, but also to network with people doing what I do. The world of social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) has made it easier to connect with other leaders and I take advantage of the opportunities and ideas presented.

Hang out with a younger crowd – I love the idealism of youth. The newest ideas always seem to come from the younger generation at the time. One reason I like to be around college students is that they keep me fresh in my thought process.

Hang out with risk takers – I often need to be where creative energy isn’t limited by practical reasoning. There’s a place for that too, and I’m a realist by nature, but I don’t want to quit dreaming the impossible either. I certainly don’t want to be around those who have “It will never happen” as their first response. That’s another reason I love the idealism of youth. The newest ideas always seem to come from the younger generation.

Invest in others – As I invest in others I am personally energized. I feel I have even more to offer and have a stronger desire to keep a fresh approach when I think others value what I have to add to the discussion.

Let others invest in me – Sometimes I have to release power to others on my team and allow them to lead me. I’m stretched to dream bigger by the people on my team. I also have several people who regularly speak into my life. I surround myself with good, creative, seasoned leaders. When I stop dreaming, I find it necessary to allow others to push me.

Rest - When I’m tired or stretched personally I’m less likely to dream.  I have to discipline myself to stop sometimes, but it’s always productive when I do. In the busiest seasons, I am most likely to build into my schedule a day away more frequently.

Exercise – The best mind-stretching time for me is when I am running or exercising. The key for me is to break the monotony of busyness and allow my mind room to think. Something about exercising gets the blood flowing through my body to my brain. On especially busy days, I try to build in an hour in the gym or on the road. I keep exercise clothes at my office.

How do you keep focused on the forward picture, without being bogged down in daily routines?

3 Tips from Jesus Recruiting Methods

Handshake - extraversio

John Chapter One shares helpful insight into the leadership of Jesus.

I’ve written previously about Jesus’ leadership style.

12 Leadership Principles of Jesus I admire

Leadership Under Stress — The Jesus Model

In John Chapter One, I saw three more principles.

When Jesus began to organize a team, He used practices which maybe helpful for us today, especially those of us who are leading teams during a transition or start-up phase. Recruiting the right people is paramount to the success of any organization and Jesus obviously was the best.

Here are 3 tips of a Jesus recruitment methods:

Recruit transitional people – Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist and then of Jesus (John 1:35, 40).

When developing a team or starting a new team, it’s good to have someone with experience in what you are doing. You need individuals who know how to do what needs to be done, who have learned how to follow, can be influencers to the rest of the team, and who have proven their loyalty. These people are valuable assets to any team.

In my current role, the associate pastor offered me his resignation before I arrived. He had been at the church 15 years or so and had weathered good times and bad in the church. I refused to accept it. Instead, I encouraged him to move into a larger office, gave him greater decision-making authority, and worked to earn his trust. He has been invaluable in my success at the church.

Allow the team to help recruit the team – Andrew found Simon — Philip found Nathanael. (John 1:41, 45) Apparently, Jesus allowed some of the disciples to help recruit other disciples. The team helped add to the team.

This is a great reminder when you are building a team, adding other team members, or replacing a team member. Get your team involved in recruiting. Their support will increase for the new recruits.

When I arrived in this current position, I made sure I had hiring authority. I think it’s critical for a leader’s success. I would have been foolish, however, not to include others in the selection process, so I had several people interview and meet with the new staff members prior to them joining our team. They helped me by lending credibility to the new staff.

Recruit people who are ready for a challenge - Some of the disciples Jesus recruited were apparently already looking for the Messiah. (John 1:38, 41, 45) They were ready for Him when He came, because they were already seeking something. Jesus recruited with big asks — basically, “Drop everything else and follow me!”

Obviously, I’m not Jesus, but I believe it is important when looking for new people on a team to find people who will buy into your vision as a leader, who will remain loyal over time and who are ready for a challenge. If you have to talk them into something, or gain their initial trust after the hire, you’ll waste valuable time before they completely commit. (That doesn’t mean their isn’t deeper levels of trust to be gained, but initially they should be convinced this is where God wants them to be.)

One practice I have continually used in recruiting new team members is to talk them out of taking the position — after I’m sure they want the job and I want them to take it. I want to help them test their hearts. I want them to know the unique challenges ahead (as far as I know them at the time). I don’t hide anything; even the less than glamorous parts. One of our newer staff members was told we were hiring on faith the first year. The budget did not support him, but we believed God would provide. He did. This was almost always the case when I was in a church plant. If they are still interested after they know all the down sides of the position then I know we will make a great team.