7 Critical Abilities of Senior Leaders

female leader

I have held a senior leadership position for over 20 years and been in leadership over 30 years. In this post, I want to express some things I’ve observed (and experienced) as some of the critical abilities that a senior leader must have to be effective.

The intent of this post is not to appear arrogant as a senior leader, as if I have qualities others may not have, although I’m confidant some will take it that way. (Isn’t being misunderstood part of being a senior leader at times?) I’m not afraid to admit my weaknesses — of which I have many — but there are certain abilities senior leaders need to do their job well.

And, you may not be able to understand that completely until you’ve served as a senior leader. That’s true of many things in life. Take parenting:

  • I remember how many people told me I wouldn’t understand parenting until I was a parent. They were right.
  • I remember how many people told me I should enjoy parenting at every stage of life while my boys were home. It passes fast. They were right.
  • I remember how many told me that I would adjust to being an empty-nester. They were right.

The point is that sometimes we can’t understand something until we experience it firsthand.

That’s the way it is with being the senior leader in an organization.

When I was a mid-level manager in a large corporation, I remember questioning why senior leadership made some of the decisions they did. Looking back — indeed — I would have made some of them differently. But, many times I can see why the view from their position motivated them to the decisions they made.

All leadership is challenging, but the senior position is a pressure unlike any other. Show me a small business owner, a president, a senior pastor or CEO and I’ll show you someone who carries — in an organizational leadership sense — a heavy burden.

I’ve learned — from observation — that some are qualified to lead from that position and some are not. Some want it. Some don’t. Some know it. Some don’t — often until they try.

I’ve also learned that a senior leader will struggle in the position when they lack some of these abilities — until they grow in them. And, one can grow in them — if they are willing to learn. To be most effective they must be aware of where they need to develop and continually be working towards them. These may be important abilities for all leaders — but they are critical for senior leaders.

Here are 7 critical abilities of senior leaders:

Ability to quickly and strategically think big picture

The senior leader doesn’t have a choice but to think big picture for the organization — at all times. There are lots of decisions made in a day and each of them could be huge. The impact of a senior leader’s decision often impacts everyone in the organization. He or she must learn to “think strategically in the moment“, realizing the impact — and the weight — of their decisions.

Ability to remain steadfast during adversity

The senior leader must continue to stand strong when everyone else is running from the problem. Especially in times of crisis or controversy, the organization and community around will look for leadership. A senior leader doesn’t have the choice of burying his or her head in the sand when troubles come to the organization. (By the way, I learned this one the hard way and wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to unquestionably keep a confidence

The senior leader usually knows things that aren’t ready to be released or talked about publicly. He or she must be trusted to keep these confidences. A senior leader must learn how to answer questions and address issues of importance to people without divulging confidential information. They must not say what people want to hear just to be “liked”. One of the quickest ways to lose trust as a senior leader is to develop a reputation as one who “talks too much”. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to fully release control and delegate

The senior leader must wear many hats and oversee all areas of focus within an organization. He or she must be able to trust others and take risks on people to so growth can continue apart from the senior leader’s direct involvement. Delegation is important at all levels of leadership, but for the senior leader it is not an option. In fact, the best leaders I know give the implementation of the vision away freely. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to see all sides to an issue

The senior leader can’t always have things their way — or play favorites for any one way, but must balance all the needs within an organization. This is another part of thinking strategically in the moment. Since an organization is built with many separate but equally important parts, the senior leader must view every scenario as it relates to each part of the organization. In a business, as an example, those who are in charge of sales and marketing are just as important as those who keep track of controlling costs. In a church, the music ministry is just as important as the discipleship ministry. (I wrote about that HERE)

Ability to make unpopular decisions

The senior leader must make the wisest decision possible — for the entire good of the organization — based on all the information he or she can gather — even when that means the decision will not be popular. And, that’s hard. In fact, at times it can produce a loneliness of leadership that keeps many from being able to handle the senior leader position. Leadership involves change and some people can navigate through the reactions people have to change better than others. (I previously wrote about the Emotions of Change. Senior leaders must learn to expect and deal with all of them.)

Ability to embrace healthy conflict for the good of the organization

Wherever there are people there will be conflict. The senior leader can’t shy away from conflict that is critical to maintain the health of the organization. The senior leader must recognize the importance of allowing times of conflict to strengthen the organization. They shouldn’t go looking for conflict, but not run from it either. It’s a delicate balance at times. (I wrote about ways to address healthy conflict HERE.)

If you don’t have these abilities — don’t quit leading. Although, if you would after reading one opinion blog post maybe you should. (Just saying.) I don’t have all of these perfected. I’m very much a continual work in progress. But, I do believe it’s important to recognize areas of improvement and seek ways to grow as a senior leader.

I’m sure there are others. These are from my observations and experiences. What is missing from my list? What would you add?

Make this post better: Share examples of ineffective senior level leaders you’ve known and which of these were lacking from his or her abilities.

Easter Reminder: Don’t Look for the Living Among the Dead

empty garden tomb

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you.

Luke 24:5-6

Easter reminds me that I often make the mistake of those who were seeking the crucified — now risen — Christ.

I look for the living among the dead.

I look at my past mistakes and think I can’t recover.

I look at my failures and think I’m defeated.

I look at those who cast doubt upon me and think they speak truth.

I look at my inadequacies and think I’m limited.

I look at my problems and forget that His mercies are new every morning.

I look at my struggles and think I’m limited to my own abilities.

I look at the circumstances of the world and feel all hope is gone.

I look for the living among the dead.

Let Easter remind us that we serve a RISEN Savior!

He’s on His throne. He has a plan. He has not forgotten us!

The tomb is empty!

Still.

Let’s live that way!

It is Truly A Good Friday

cross

And at three Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

Two scriptures this Friday before Resurrection Sunday! Two scriptures to remind us!

You and I, the children of God, will never be forsaken by our Father God.

That’s why Jesus went to the cross!

Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!

Nothing!

While Jesus breathed His last breath all of Heaven was on edge. Never before had there been such an occasion. The Son, loved and adored by all the angels, but especially by the Father, was about to give up His life.

At the hands of an angry mob, but under the will and direction of the Father, Jesus had been mocked, beaten, bruised, and hung on a cross to die.

He was whipped so we could be healed.

He had placed upon Him the sin of all the world. The Bible said the wages of sin is death — and Jesus’ death was unlike any other. (I have often thought, He was more dead than any man had ever been — since His death was the result of all sins, past and present, which are ever committed.)

Perhaps worst of all, God the Father — perfectly Holy, as was the Son — had to forsake His Son.

Since God can allow no sin into His presence, and since Jesus had become sin, the Father had to forsake the Son. God turned His back on Jesus to avoid looking at His sin. Wow!

As a dad, I can’t imagine.

God foresook His Son, so that He would never have to forsake you and me.

Through the shed blood of Jesus, and through His bodily resurrection, you and I, by faith, by believing in Him, receive the eternal, permanent commitment.

Permanent commitment.

He will never forsake us, because Jesus paid the price at the cross!

No matter what you are going through — no matter how tough life seems right now — no matter what your circumstances — no matter what you have done — if you are a follower of Christ — God will never forsake you!

That’s good news today! And, that’s truly a Good Friday!

7 Small Changes That Produce Huge Results

Plant Sequence

Sometimes the small changes reap the biggest results.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that I’ve often done things the wrong way. I’ve tried to make huge changes in my life only to quickly fail. I didn’t keep going. I stopped. Overwhelmed. I tried to change too much too soon. It didn’t work.

What I have learned is that when small changes are repeated over time — not only are they easier to implement — they tend to stick longer. I’ve made some good habits in my life simply by starting with small changes.

Here are 7 small changes that produce huge results:

Read one chapter of a book each day.

This is gold. Most people would like to read more but they never seem to find time — or make time. Leaders are readers, right? Establishing a discipline of one chapter per day will get you averaging a couple dozen books a year. That would be an improvement for most of us. And, it usually only takes about 15 minutes per day.

Two glasses of water each morning.

This may sound small, and that’s kind of the point of all of these, but this has proved to be huge. I started this months ago. It’s a great way to wake up in the morning. Apparently we wake up needing hydration. I squeeze a fourth to half of a lemon in mine. I’ve been told that works wonders. I can’t swear by that, but it does improve the flavor. I crave this now. It wakes me up more than coffee — and I love coffee.

Exercise as a part of your daily routine.

You don’t have to run a marathon to maintain health. Just being active when you can will do wonders. Park further from the building. Park on the opposite end of the mall from where you’re going. Take the stairs if possible. Walk while you talk on the phone. I take frequent “mind” breaks and walk around our office or my neighborhood. I’ve even asked people to “walk” with me as we meet about something. I find myself interacting more with our staff because I’m all over the building during the day.

Spend 10-15 minutes in prayer and reflection.

You may wish you could pray for an hour or dissect the book of Romans like the spiritual giants you know. (I’ve learned they aren’t always as “mature” as we think they are. Knowledge does not equal maturity — obedience does.) But, what can you do? When I began a daily discipline of investing in my spiritual growth it was like I put fertilizer on my soul. It’s amazing what God can do with a seed of interest invested in knowing Him.

Take 5 minutes to plan the day.

At the beginning of each day — before you begin your first task — spend some time prioritizing how you will do the work. You’ll be so much more effective in your day if you’re working from a plan.

Routine your week.

Of course, there are no routine weeks. Life happens and it doesn’t happen routinely. I have found, however, when I have some idea of what my week should look like I am more likely to see some semblance of a routine. For example, I know that Mondays and Tuesdays are going to be meeting days. I plan my schedule around it. If someone asks to meet with me I try to steer them towards Monday and Tuesday. This frees up Wednesday as my primary day to write and prepare for Sunday. I keep Thursday fairly open for meetings but more for last minute meetings — depending on how my Wednesday preparation goes. I can push to Monday or Tuesday if needed. Friday I use for a catch-up day. I’m currently re-evaluating my routine, but having one helps me to have a more productive week. I’m certainly more prepared for the things that happen to interrupt my routine because I attempt one.

Make a list.

Feeling overwhelmed? Make a list. I realize the pushback against living by lists. I get it. You can become so scheduled that life is no fun. But, when you learn to manage your lists effectively, it can give you more freedom than you have now. You can even put “fun” on your list. When you have a list you can choose to tackle the hard ones or the easiest ones first — I typically go for the easiest — because it does something powerful to your mind and momentum when you get to check something off your list. You want more.

With several of these I now do far more than what’s listed, but this is where it started. For example, everyone seems to know we need to drink more water, and my small change has made me crave water even more. It actually keeps me more alert during the day – which is been a huge benefit to my productivity.

Another example: I also exercise — a lot — but it starts with a small mindset change of being active throughout the day. My body naturally desires activity, because I’ve planted that into me through a small change.

Small changes repeated over time. Huge results.

10 Secrets of Many Senior Pastors

Shocking

I get to hang out and know many senior pastors. I have a great heart for them and understand, firsthand, some of the pressures, frustrations and joys, which are unique to the role of a senior pastor. In my recent blog survey, over half my readers are in ministry and half that number are senior leaders.

When I first shared the points in this post a few years ago it was at a conference for executive pastors. I was asked to give my perspective as a senior pastor, since each of them reported to one.  Specifically, the request was to share some things about senior pastors they may not know. I honestly didn’t realize what I was sharing would be so revealing for some of them. They didn’t know some of these about their senior leader.

And, granted, I can’t speak for every senior pastor in every church. I can only speak in generalities from what I know and personally experience — in my life and among the senior pastors I know. Thankfully, this blog platform and my personal ministry has afforded me access to hundreds of senior pastors.

I share this post simply for the purpose of understanding. I know and have felt the extreme love most of the church has for it’s senior pastor. I’m grateful for that in my own life. Hopefully this helps you love and understand your pastor even more.

Here are 10 “secrets” about many senior pastors:

  • Leading from this position is overwhelming at times. We know Christ is ultimately in charge, but we also know it often seems everyone is looking to us to have all the answers. And, we know we don’t always have them. (Granted, some senior pastors are more honest about this than others.)
  • People tell the senior pastor all kinds of things about what is happening in their life or in the lives of others — many we would rather not know sometimes. And, frankly, some things we don’t need to know — such as gossip, rumors, and information they don’t have permission to share. Many times it’s in the form of a “prayer request”. We don’t always know what to do with this information. (And, again, in total frankness, some senior pastors have abused this information and hurt people in their church.)
  • Most pastors walk with a degree of uncertainty about our abilities to do the work we feel called to do. We intellectually know this is designed by God. It keeps us in prayer and walking by faith. But, we are human and the demands upon us and our insecurities in them can also make us question at times whether we have what it takes to do the work before us.
  • Many senior pastors fear the possibility of failing in their role, so they thrive on the encouragement and prayers of others — almost to a fault. They can become very insecure. If they aren’t hearing constant positive feedback they can begin irrational questioning how people feel about them.
  • A senior pastor’s insecurities can cause them to become overprotective of their reputation and position. At extremes it may even cause them to react with poor leadership, such as playing politics with leaders in the church or using information as power.
  • Senior pastors face the same temptations and occasional spiritual dryness as everyone else. This means we need accountability, but are often afraid to seek it.
  • The pastor’s spouse is sometimes the loneliest person in the church and often feels extreme pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations. Pastor’s children also feel the weight of expectations from the church. Many have told me they feel everyone is “watching” them.
  • The pastor too can experience loneliness — sometimes severely. The encounters through this blog with some senior pastors has revealed that some pastors have no true friends either inside the church or outside.
  • Pastors seldom know who we can trust, which is why we become guarded and may appear harder to get to know. Most senior pastors have been burned by someone they once trusted. Many senior pastors have seasons where it feels the staff, church leaders and congregation are talking about us behind our back. I’ve been asked more than once how to respond when they walk in a room and conversations suddenly stop.
  • Many senior pastors never really feel off from their work. They struggle — without discipline — to enjoy a Sabbath. Sunday keeps coming and there always seems to be one more person to contact. They feel the expectation to be everywhere they are invited and have a hard time saying no, even when it interferes with their family time.

Granted, not every pastor faces each of these, (that’s why the title says “many”). These type things often come in seasons. And, of course, some churches are harder to pastor than others. When these “secrets” are at an extreme it explains why depression and burnout is common for many senior pastors. And, if you need a Biblical example  of this happening in leadership see 1 Kings 19.

I came into ministry later in life and so I know how it feels to be a senior pastor, but also to be a leader in the secular world and a non-vocational church leader. I believe that experience has protected me against some of these. But even still, some of these are real for me at times too.

Other pastors, for reasons on this post, will not want you assuming these things about them. In talking with dozens of senior pastors each year, however, I know this is a representative list for “many”.

Senior pastors find joy in our work and, thankfully, most of us know we are in the center of God’s will vocationally. I don’t intend to take anything away from that in this post. We serve in a called position, so we are doing what we have been asked of God to do.

When I share any post like this I have come to expect three things. First, someone will email to ask me if I’m okay. I am. Thank you. This is a good season in ministry and I’m serving in a healthy church. Second, I’ll receive a lecture on the need to depend on Christ for these issues, which only further demonstrates my points. Third, there will be someone who will say that these “secrets” are no different from any other person in the church. That may be true, but I can’t speak for everyone else.

Senior pastors are to fully rely on Christ’s strength, as is every other believer. This is just a reminder that we happen to also be like Elijah — ”a man just like us”. (James 5:17)

Pastors, anyone honest enough to agree? 

Please know I’m praying for you as I post this.

10 Scenarios to Help Determine if it’s Time to Quit

Job loss concept

How do you know when it’s time to leave an organization?

In a previous post I wrote “Leave Before You Have To”. Sometimes it’s more damaging to stay than to quit.

I am asked frequently to help someone think through the decision of whether to stay or to leave their current position. Obviously, if God calls you to stay somewhere, you should stay. Period. No questions asked. If God calls you to it — even when you’re miserable — you stay.

But many times, in my experience, we stay for the wrong reasons. We stay for a false sense of loyalty. We stay because we are afraid. We stay because we don’t know what we would do if we left.

The following are some times to consider leaving. I think these may apply if you are in a church or business setting.

This decision should never been entered lightly. I believe in loyalty. But, when careful consideration and prayer has been given, there are some common indications it’s time to move on to something else.

Here are 10 scenarios that may indicate it’s time to leave:

When God has freed you from your commitment – I believe God’s call is ultimately to the person of Christ, not to a place, but there are times God has us in a specific place for a specific season. You may only be a leader for a season. If you sense God has released you to pursue other positions, it may soon be time to leave.

When your work is finished – It could be that you’ve accomplished what you were sent to accomplish. I once wrote about leaders needing a challenge to stay motivated. If you have become too comfortable, it may be a time God is preparing you for a change…a new challenge. (Read more of that thought HERE.)

When your heart has left the organization or it’s vision – Sometimes you need to reenergize your heart. If God hasn’t released you from the position, for example, then you have to find a way to make it work. In many cases, however, you are freed to move elsewhere. You shouldn’t harm the organization by staying when you no longer have a heart for the mission. If you’ve quit having fun, don’t keep making life miserable for everyone else.

When you can’t support the leadership – You need to know where the power rests in the organization. It’s nearly impossible to change the organization working against an ingrained power structure. Ask yourself, “If it’s always going to be like this here, would I be content staying?”

When your family or personal life is suffering, because of the demands of the organization – If you have to neglect one of them, your career or your family, in twenty years, which do you hope it will have been?

When your mind starts working against the mission of the organization – If you would rather see the place fail than succeed; it could clearly be time to go.

When your relationship with co-workers or leadership is damaged beyond repair – You should try to work out these differences, you certainly should offer grace and forgiveness, but when it is obvious a professional relationship cannot be mended, it may be time to move forward with your life.

If the organization or senior leadership is venturing into immoral or unethical practices – Don’t get caught in the next news scandal.

When you find yourself physically ill if work crosses your mind – On the weekend (or when you are off work), if the emotional stress is greater than you can handle, you may need to protect your health over your career.

When you don’t have the energy to pull your own weight – For whatever reason, whether it’s because you’ve given up, you are bored, or just can’t keep up the pace, if you are dragging down productivity and you don’t have the incentive to improve, perhaps it’s time for a change in your workplace.

Please understand. I’m not a quitter. God may leave you in the miserable environment for a season…or even years. He certainly did for some of the men and women in Bible history. I also believe that the times described above are not always to be viewed as negative experiences. Sometimes God uses the difficult experiences of life to draw us to Him and to open our eyes to the next opportunity He has for us. I would have never made some of the moves I’ve made in life…that I know now were of God…had it not been for my miserable situation at the time.

At the same time, I believe there are times a false sense of loyalty, co-dependency or irrational fear keeps us from moving forward even though God is not holding us to the position. In my opinion, protecting our heart is more important than protecting a professional position. I wouldn’t make a decision solely on just one of these scenarios, but if numerous of them apply…

Consider this list as it compares to your situation, then ask God to confirm in your heart:

  • If you are free to leave.
  • If now is the time.

What would you add to my list?

You might also read: Discerning a Change in Ministry Assignment

5 Tips For Leading Strong-Willed People

Stubborn donkey

Have you ever tried to lead someone who didn’t want to be led?

The same children that were labeled “strong-willed” by their parents often grow up to be strong-willed adults. Perhaps you know one. Perhaps you are one.

(I know one personally — me!)

But, have you ever tried to lead one?

It’s not easy.

In fact, I’m convinced many strong-willed people end up leading just because they couldn’t be led — and yet they probably didn’t need to lead. But, no one ever learned to lead them.

And, I’m not sure I am an expert. But, I have some ideas — since I’m speaking to my own kind.

Here are 5 tips for leading strong-willed people:

Give clear expectations

Everyone responds best when they know what is expected of them. That is especially true of those with strong opinions of their own — shall I say — those of us more stubborn people. If you have a definite idea of how something needs to be done and you leave it as an undefined gray area — we will redefine things our way. Keep this in mind with strong-willed people: Rules should be few and make sense or they’ll likely be resisted or broken more often.

Give freedom within the boundaries

Once the guidelines and expectations are established, allow people to express themselves freely within them. That’s important for all of us, but especially for strong-willed people. Strong-willed people need to know they can make some decisions — that they have freedom to explore on their own.

Be consistent

Strong willed people need boundaries, but they will test them. They want to know the limits of their freedom. Keep in mind they are head-strong. We’ve even labeled them — strong-willed. They aren’t the rule followers on the team. Make sure the rules you have — and again there shouldn’t be too many — are consistent in application. If it’s worth making a rule — make sure it’s worth implementing.

Pick your battles.

This is huge. Strong-willed people can be the backbone of a team. They can loyal, dogmatic, and tenacious — all for the benefit of the vision. What leader doesn’t want that? But, those same qualities can be where the problems start also. Don’t cross a strong-willed person over issues of little importance to the overall vision of the organization. If you back them in a corner they will usually fight back.

Respect their opinions and individualities

Strong-willed people ultimately want to be heard (as all people do). They aren’t weird because they sometimes seem immovable. But, they do resist leadership most when their voice is silenced. Learn what matters to them and give credence to their opinions — you’ll find a loyal teammate.

Be honest: Are you strong-willed? How do you like to be led?

7 Suggestions for Raising Boys Who Welcome Your Input as Adults

boy and father

People ask me all the time for advice on raising girls, and honestly, I’ve got some, but they all involve a shotgun and long ankle-length dresses, so you probably don’t want that. Just kidding. I always wanted a daughter, but God gave me boys.

And, I think He knew what He was doing. Imagine that!

I’ve learned a few things about ministering to men — and understanding myself more — by raising boys. One thing I’ve learned is that boys are desperate for wisdom. They crave it. They want someone to speak into their life — save them from making the wrong decision.

But, equally true, they are often either too timid to ask for it or they just never know to do so.

(Someone told me guys seldom ask for directions either, but I’m having a hard time believing that one. :) )

I’m close to my two adult boys. We’ve walked through a lot of life together — mine and theirs. They are on their own, have good careers, and live healthy, productive lives. They love other people with grace. Best of all, they both love and pursue Jesus actively. I couldn’t be more proud as a dad.

Gratefully, and the subject of this post, they still call me for the major decisions they make in life.

I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad when I was their age. I wanted the type relationship with my sons where they would always feel welcome and ready to learn from my experience. I’m blessed to say both my boys call me often, sometimes daily in certain seasons of their life. They want my help making life decisions. I can only credit God’s grace with that blessing.

Even still, I’ve observed there is something in them that wants to appear not to need the help at times. Something in a guy resists the need for help — even when we desperately need the help.

How do you get your sons to want to come to you for wisdom, long after they leave home?

I get asked that a lot. I have a few thoughts.

Here are 7 suggestions for raising boys:

Do activities they want to do – I spent lots of time with my boys, but I did that by assuming their interests. If it was baseball or wrestling, I loved and lived what they loved. I know dads who try to get their boys to love fishing or golf because they love fishing or golf. I simply chose my interests around theirs.

Stay close – Boys grow to become men. That sounds simple, but it’s huge to remember. They want to be independent. Some days they don’t want you around as much as others. (That may sound appealing for a moment when they are colicky as infants, but believe me you will miss them.) I tried to stay close enough that I was there when they were ready for me. Ephesians 6 says not to exasperate the children. I simply tried not to get in the way of their growth pattern, but to always be available when needed. I found I was “needed” more often that way. And, the funny thing, it almost seemed like they tested whether I was going to be there when they called.

Be fully present – Like all men I always had plenty I could be doing. I tried to let the boy’s time be the boy’s time. Children know when you’re not really being attentive. There were times my boys told me I needed to put my phone down. I listened. I wanted them to feel I was listening to what mattered to them. If my boys wanted to kick a soccer ball or throw a baseball, I did it, no matter how tired I was from a long day. And, it’s amazing how much more a boy will engage in conversation when a ball is involved.

Offer wisdom more than solutions – This is huge. I explained this more in THIS POST, but I tried to help my boys form a paradigm for finding an answer, rather than always giving them the answer. Honestly, this is harder. It’s easier just to do something sometimes. Give the answer and move on. Solve the problem. But they don’t grow that way. And, they learn to use you as a crutch, rather than develop into independent young men. Boys want to find their own way. They like solving the mystery, creating a new path, and discovering the answers on their own. I wanted them to always have access to me for the wisdom of experience, but to develop the ability to make wise decisions apart from me.

Love their friends – My boys knew their friends were always welcome in our house. They knew I’d fix them lots of pancakes on Saturday morning. They knew we stocked our fridge with every drink their friends might like, just in case our house was the hangout house for the night. They knew the doors was always wide open for anyone they brought through them. Honestly, we didn’t always approve of their choices in friends, but we talked them through it and tried to steer them towards better friends. But, we never turned away their friends. This did two things. It protected their hearts towards us. And, it helped them learn principles of grace. Over time we discovered that if we were building wisdom into their lives in other areas they would discern for themselves the wisest choice in friends.

Give solid boundaries – We were a house of grace, but boys need structure. Let me repeat that — before someone gets hurt — boys NEED structure. They need someone to tell them when they’ve gone too far in how they talk to their mom. They need someone who will counsel them when they are falling behind in school — and hold them accountable to do better. They need to know there is someone who will pull them aside and discipline them when they do wrong — and be consistent in that discipline.

Let them explore – Boys are risk-takers. Most likely we have steered it out of them if it’s not there. It’s innate. They use potty language and wrestle and bounce balls that break lamps and pee places you never thought someone would pee. They’ll jump off something and you’ll likely end up in the emergency room a time or two. But, that’s part of being a boy. And, discovering. And, growing courage and faith and the ability to be a man. Of course, there’s a line. And, I wasn’t great at finding that line. You can’t let them be too stupid (Although one of my favorite Proverbs says, “Surely I’m too stupid to be a man.”) But, you should let them be boys. That includes exploring. And, that’s a word to moms and dads.

There are probably other suggestions I could share, but if you are raising boys, you probably need to go break up a fight or stop them from jumping off something. We can talk more later. :)

What suggestions do you have for raising boys?

Every Life On Mission Matters – By Aaron Coe

Full body isolated portrait of young business man

Here’s a truth you can count on: God is on a mission to reconcile people to Himself, and this mission sweeps both history and the globe. More importantly, it includes regular, ordinary people like you and me.

But, if we’re honest, we might say we don’t feel much like we’re a part of God’s grand mission.

Right now you may be navigating a busy airport wondering if you’ll make your next flight because of a late connection.

Or perhaps you’re focused on getting the kids ready for school and just realized you forgot to make their lunches last night. Now you’re trying to hastily make peanut butter sandwiches and figure out what you’re going to tell your boss because you’re going to be late for your meeting!

By the time you get settled in your hotel room or have the kids in bed, you’re ready to kick back and watch some television. Your role as a missionary bearing the hope of the world is not exactly what you’re thinking about or how you’d describe yourself. Maybe in theory, but in practice, your mind is far from it.

WHY DON’T WE EMBRACE GOD’S MISSION?

Frankly, it’s because we have our own mission. We have our own way of calling the shots. We decide what’s meaningful or worthwhile and order our lives accordingly. Some people’s life mission is to pursue entertainment and comfort. For others it might be security and wealth. Still, for others, it is rising up the corporate ladder or being the most respected mom in the neighborhood.

We like to be the boss of our own lives.

In 21st century North America, we don’t exactly use the kingdom language we find throughout the Bible. Nor do we like to think of ourselves as living in someone’s kingdom and being subject to his rule. This is because we know the history of injustices at the hands of human kings.

In fact, when you think about earthly kings and queens, odds are you may think about some faraway, inaccessible royalty who is not even able to relate to the everyday needs and feelings of his subjects.

But what if we lived under a perfectly good and wise king whose every decision was for our benefit and eternal good?

Jesus is an altogether different kind of king. He took on the very plight of His subjects to provide a way out of the mess they had made for themselves. He is far from aloof, uncaring or inaccessible. Jesus is a king who got down into the mess of humanity and went to ultimate lengths to seek and save the lost and restore people back into His kingdom.

Jesus is the best king imaginable, because He is that perfectly wise and good king who always works everything for the best for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

TRUE FREEDOM IS FOUND ON GOD’S MISSION

As believers, this is our reality. We live not only as the subjects of the King, but also as His adopted children. Every decision He makes—from our salvation to our call to His mission—is for our own good and for the good of the world.

There is nothing more freeing than abandoning your own mission and joining the everyday mission of God.

EVERY LIFE ON MISSION REALLY DOES MATTER

Recently I was reading Urban Apologetics by Christopher W. Brooks and came across this paragraph:

“The gospel should meet people at the point of their deepest confusion
and at the height of their loftiest ideals. What matters most is that we
bring Christ into every moment of human history and every point of
human concern.”

It stood out to me as describing the Great Commission at its most essential. As believers we are called into the unreached places of the world and into the deepest struggles and needs of people’s lives. Each and every one of us is called to this most noble of ambitions of making Christ and His gospel known.

Unfortunately there is a tendency for most Christians to see this as a job for church professionals and to see their 9-to-5 job, their circle of friends or their work as a stay-at-home parent as somehow outside the realm of where God seeks to make disciples of all nations.

Christians seeing themselves and their daily lives as integral to God’s mission is really the only way the Church in this generation can faithfully proclaim the gospel at the point of people’s “deepest confusion” and within “every point of human concern.”

When we choose to to join God on His mission through His church, we dare to be the everyday missionaries we are called to be. Your life has a mission. Your life on mission matters!

This is a guest post by my friend Aaron B. Coe. Aaron is a strategy and mobilization consultant and co-author of Life on Mission: Joining the Everyday Mission of God (Moody Publishers, 2014), available at Amazon.com. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronbcoe.

7 Suggestions for Challenging a Controlling Leader

Business People having conversation with colleague during break

After one of my posts about controlling leadership, I received this question:

Any chance there is an upcoming post or two on how/when/where to confront a controlling leader? Especially for those of us who have had it drilled into our heads from childhood to not question authority? Some practical, nitty gritty tips would be really helpful.

That’s a pretty big request and I’m not sure I can speak into specific situations with a general response, but I think it’s a topic worth considering.

I wrote previously. In my previous post I wrote about the 3 options with a controlling leader. They are Quit, Compromise or Collaborate. In order to get to collaboration — which most of us would want — there almost always has to be a challenge to the controlling leadership. This would be an expansion of the “challenge” thought.

I should point out that while I believe the Bible teaches to respect authority, I don’t believe it says we must ignore the abuse of authority. All children should honor their parents, for example, but respect is never an excuse for abuse. There are times when it is appropriate to confront authority. Jesus certainly did during His earthly ministry.

Here are 7 suggestions with how to challenge a controlling leader:

Discern the need – Pray about it. Talk it through with a select few you can trust with their confidence — emphasis on select few. You should make sure your perception of this leader is correct. Is it them…or is it you? Then ask this question: Is this my responsibility? Do I sense the burden to do this? Will it make a difference, and if not, do I feel compelled to do it anyway?

Consider the timing – When addressing any conflict, timing is everything. Pick a day when things appear to be going well — from the leader’s perspective. Find the least stressful, calmest time you can find. You want to catch the leader in the best mood possible. If necessary, schedule an appointment with the leader.

Plan your approach – What are you going to say? How will you say it? Will you do this alone or with someone else? You may want to write your response first and rehearse it. In stressful situations, I think it is okay to bring notes. It shows you came prepared and have thought about the issue. Make sure you show as much respect for the leader as you can. Balance your critique with ample and genuine compliments. (There are even times, depending on the expected response of the leader or your expected ability to keep your composure where I would recommend writing a letter. I wrote about how to do that HERE.)

Bite the bullet – You can keep putting it off, but at some point you’ll have to approach the controlling leader if you hope to see a change. It will never be easy, but who knows that you were not put in this place for “such a time as this” — and by this point you’ve already discerned the need to do this.

Couch in love and respect – This can’t be over-emphasized. People don’t listen to people who don’t show genuine love for them or at least the respect the things or people they love. Most controlling leaders are hungry for respect…it’s part of their problem…so if you want to gain their attention, be respectful. (Again, because I know this is difficult for some people, but being respectful does not mean being silent, just as being meek or gentle does not mean being weak.)

Be clear and direct – Know what you offer to the leader that can add value to the team — and to the leader. Have some specific areas where you can collaborate with the leader. This is very important. Vagueness accomplishes nothing. Don’t make the leader wonder what you are talking about when you confront him or her. Talking around the problem will not be clear to a controlling leader. Most controlling leaders think their control is a sign of good leadership. They don’t realize they are the problem. You will not want to take this step to confront more than once, so make sure you are clear with the issues as you see them and how you want to help. If you’re going through the stress and preparation to confront, make sure you address the real problem.

Live with your consequences – You’ve prayed and prepared. This is not something you will do very often in your career. But, if you know you are doing the right thing, you confronted the leader with love and respect, you were clear about the problems, then the response of the leader is out of your hands. You can’t control the leader’s response, but you can control your response to the leader’s response. Be willing to live with the consequences of your actions. That may be the one thing you end up modeling for the controlling leader.