5 Words of Encouragement to the Church Planter or Young Leader

Handsome smiling young man standing with open denim shirt

Recently I was able to share some encouragement with church planters in Chicago. Having been a planter twice, I understand the unique challenges facing planters. They are constantly struggling with leadership issues, finances and simply knowing what to do next.

I get it. Most of what I know now came from experience and the wisdom of others.

Many of the suggestions I shared are suitable for young leaders in any field.

Here are 5 words of encouragement:

The more specific you are the more we can help. Established churches have systems. Processes. Committees. Structure. Too much you might say and that’s why you’re planting. But we have budgets that have likely been approved long in advance. The more detailed you can be with what you need the easier it is to meet the need. Otherwise, it seems overwhelming. And, don’t be afraid to talk about money. Everyone knows you need it. Just don’t be surprised if help is more readily available in other ways.

Surround yourself with some encouragers. Make sure you have people who speak regularly into your life. People outside the work you’re doing. Some days they’ll keep you going.

Seek your affirmation among the people God sent you to minister to. Great advice someone gave me. You’ll many times feel under-appreciated. You may not feel you’re doing any good. You’ll second-guess yourself and your calling. Get back into helping the hurting people — the work, whatever it is — God called you to. Be recharged.

Everything great starts with a humble beginning. Either in your personal humility or the humble beginnings of your work. Take your pick. We all want the grand and instant success. That’s seldom the reality. Those who launch big often had enormous stories of previously being humbled. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah‬ ‭4‬:‭10

Protect your soul — and your marriage. You have to discipline to decompress. Paraphrase of Jesus: “Come to me all who are stretched, burnt-out, weary and heavy-burdened — I will give you refreshment for your soul. Live this truth daily. Put it as a regular practice of your life.

God bless you planter. Leader. Friend.

7 Reasons You May Not be Achieving Your Dreams

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Recently I posted 7 steps to achieve your dreams. I love helping people attain their God-given visions. 

It occurred to me that there may be an additional post needed.

The fact is that more people will look back on their life and wish they had done more with their life than they did.

I heard someone once say something like, “If you’re not careful, your “hope to do’s” will become your “wish I had’s”. I have many of those areas in my life. I want the next phase of my life to be different.

Here are 7 reasons you may not be achieving your dreams:

You have no dreams – You may have some but you’ve never recorded them. You never set some tangible goals that get you closer to your dreams. Only then can you analyze them and organize them into reachable and attainable dreams.

You have no plan – A dream without a plan is just a dream. A dream with a plan is an avenue to success. You can’t “work the plan” if you never wrote one.

You need accountability – We were designed for relationships. Sometimes knowing someone is going to hold you accountable is enough incentive to follow through. Give a few people the freedom to challenge you to work the plan.

You are afraid to share the load – If you are trying alone for fear of sharing your dream, you’ll also have no one with whom you can really share the victory. Sharing the load builds synergy, makes a stronger effort, and keeps your ego from sidelining your progress.

You’ve given up – You may have had a set back and now you’re afraid to try again. Successful dreamers are willing to get up after a fall, knowing they will be stronger and better equipped the next time.

You aren’t willing to take a risk – Fear can sometimes be a powerful motivator, but most of the time it’s one of our biggest stumbling block. Some of the best moments of your life are hidden in your fears. Risk-taking and dreaming go hand-in-hand. If the dream requires no risk, it isn’t much of a dream.

You never got started – Every road to success begins with one step. If you don’t start, you’ll certainly never finish. What step do you need to take?

Are any of these your reason for not achieving your dreams? What would you add to my list?

Be sure to read 7 Steps to Achieving Your Dreams

7 Steps to Achieve Your Dreams

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I love and encourage dreaming.

I think dreaming is healthy for our emotional well-being. It’s a process that helps us accomplish great things personally and for God.

We are told we serve a big, creative God, whose thoughts will always be bigger and better than ours. We are to walk by faith. We are to trust God into the unknown. Dreaming should be natural to believers. Dreaming stretches the vision of churches and organizations, it fuels creativity, and many great opportunities develop first as a dream.

The reality is –‘however — that more people have dreams than attain them.

Perhaps you have dreams you have yet to accomplish. I certainly do. One reason dreams never come true is that we don’t have a system in place to work towards them. I love to be an encourager for people with great dreams, so with that in mind, here are some steps to help you move towards reaching your dreams:

Identify your dream – This is where you list specifically what the dream would look like. Obviously it needs to be attainable. If your dream is to create a new moon you may be disappointed, but don’t be afraid for it to be a stretch either. For example, suppose your dream is to be to be an author. That’s a dream you can accomplish, but it may not be realistic to write the next Purpose Driven Life.

Make an action plan – Write down specific action steps you can take towards attaining your goal. (The writing down part is important.) Sticking with the the idea of being an author, perhaps you could start with a blog for which you write post regularly to build the discipline of writing. Then move to outlining chapters. Then you might set aside a few hours a week to actually write the book. Record realistic dates to begin/complete each step.

Develop accountability – Most of us work harder when we know someone is going to challenge us to do so. Consider the success of programs like Weight Watchers. Accountability works, so share your plan of action with a few people who will continue to challenge you to completion.

Share the load – Even though it is your dream, the best ideas are accomplished when people work together towards a common vision. Don’t be afraid to invite others to help you accomplish your dream as needed.

Take a risk – If you really want to succeed, you must be willing to risk failure. Every great dream has an element of risk involved and the ones who achieve their dreams are the ones wiling to assume the risk.

Stay consistent – If you want to achieve your dreams, you will have to keep at the task, even during the set backs. Push yourself to complete scheduled action steps even on days you may not want to do anything. These is how habits are developed. Many give up too soon, often just before the tipping point towards success occurs. Unless you know it’s time to try another dream, stay consistent with the one in front of you.

Get started – The longer you wait, the more you delay achievement and the less likely you are to begin. If you know the dream is worth achieving, if you are confidant it’s a God-honoring, morally right, and worthy dream, then start today!

What is one dream you have yet to attain? Why not take one meaningful step to get started today?

A 4 Word Script to Evaluate Any Event

Smiling Asian businesswoman doing a presentation

I think evaluation is important. In fact, it may be equally important to the planning that goes into any event. And, for churches, just as we ask God to direct our thoughts and energies in creating and implementing an event in the church, we should ask God to direct us in evaluating what worked and what didn’t work.

We recently evaluated a major day (Easter) with some of our team. It flowed naturally. We got great feedback and learned some things to improve next year.

The evaluation process doesn’t always go that easily.

When evaluation isn’t being productive or your team isn’t in the routine of evaluating, let me share an idea that might help.

You need to script your evaluation process.

(Granted, some will struggle with the word “Event” being used to describe Easter weekend. And, I understand that, so you can call it anything you want. I’m using the word so that this idea can help you evaluate more than just Easter weekend.)

First, make sure the right people are in the room. I’ve done this in large and small settings, but you want voices at the table that can speak to most of what you were evaluating. For example, we since we were evaluating our Easter weekend, it would have made no sense if the only ones evaluating were the worship team and me. We were on the platform most of the time or only in our worship center. We needed people who could observe how guests were treated, what was happening in our parking lots, if children were cared for and whether or not the bathrooms were kept clean. Of this group, I also want positive-minded people who love the church and want to continue to see us improve — even if that means change.

So, after the right people are in the room, here’s something I’ve done when things aren’t progressing. It’s simple, but it works.

I’ve often gone to the board (I have one whole wall in my office painted with whiteboard paint) and written an outline for us to follow — a script if you will — to guide our thoughts to evaluate effectively.

Write down each of the words in bold, ask the questions — and you can think of better questions to add — and let people talk through each one.

Duplicate –

  • What did we do well?
  • What worked best?
  • What do we know we want to do again next time?

The goal here is to talk about and discover those things that need to be repeated next time. They worked. They fully helped you live out your vision and the goals for the event. These are often the “no-brainers” and are usually easily drawn out from the discussion.

Develop –

  • What was good, but could be better?
  • Where did we see the greatest energy, that with a little more effort could be huge?
  • What do we know is a part of our values for the event — or for our church (or organization) — but it didn’t get enough attention?

This is perhaps the most important part of the discussion. Here you want to discover those things that have the potential to really take your event to the next level. Try to keep discussion centered only on the development of existing things you do at this point — not new things — you will get there in a minute. You don’t want to add a ton to an event unless what you did was terribly bad and you need to start completely over with all new. Most of the time developing what you currently do and making it better is easier, more palatable for people’s tolerance to change, and more effective.

Dump –

  • What do we not need to do again?
  • What didn’t work at all?
  • What was the most draining effort, but produced little or no return for the investment?
  • What is tired, worn out, ready to be laid to rest before we do this again?

I tried to word those questions as pleasantly as possible, and if you prefer, use the word “delete”, but the idea here is what do you need to not do next time? You need to discover what needs killing. Don’t be shy here. This could be the hardest one, because this is where turf wars develop and feelings can come to the discussion, but you have to do it. If it didn’t work and it was expensive or labor-intensive — get rid of it next time. And, the reason it’s so important is that you can use that energy to pour into things you listed under the develop heading. And, that’s important too, because you don’t just want to take too much away from people without giving them something back that’s even better.

Dream –

  • What’s the wildest idea we could think of to do next time?
  • What could we add next time that has the potential to be a “signature” aspect?
  • If money was not an option, what would we do to make this better?

I love this one, but don’t put a ton of time into it — and don’t do it at all until you’ve done the others — but give some time to dreaming about the future. Honestly, I prefer the Develop one over this one as far as sustainability and productivity goes, but some really great ideas can originate here. Perhaps time this and stop when the ideas begin to turn really crazy, but allow people an opportunity to stretch the event into something no one has imagined.

Leader, you don’t have to be the moderator of this. Depending on the group someone else may be better at this and let you participate more in the discussion.

Make someone is the recorder in the room. We sometimes write ideas under the words and take a picture of the board — but I always suggest someone record these ideas into a document of some kind. We frequently create a Google Doc that we can share with others and store for later use. The more organize you are with your notes the more useful they will be next time you’re ready to do the event again.

Finally, I’d limit the time on this whole process. Maybe allot time to each one and then come back to them if you have time. It can grow stale if you linger too long in one of these discussions.

Hope this helps — and I’d love to hear from you if it does.

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.

3 Team-Killing Church Cultures by Ryan T. Hartwig and Warren Bird

growing team

Folks often preach the value of teams and try to instill teams in their churches, all the while cheerleading and propagating organizational cultural dynamics that squelch any possibility for those teams to thrive. If you want to improve your team (especially your leadership team), don’t ignore these three cultures that will kill your team’s ability to thrive.

1. A CULTURE THAT UNDERMINES THE LEADERSHIP TEAM’S IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTION

Even though many churches have a leadership team that leads the church on paper, it’s not uncommon for many churches to truly be led by the benevolent dictator lead pastor, or the lead pastor’s kitchen cabinet—a few confidants who run the show.

When this happens, the leadership team is not given the most important work to do, time is not allocated for the team to do its work, diversity is often squashed, and the team is reduced to mere information exchange. Talented leaders move on, because they want to be keenly involved in developing what’s next for the church. And the church suffers from a lack of quality leadership.

2. A CULTURE OF SPONTANEITY THAT LIMITS PLANNING AND STRUCTURE

No matter how much we talk about wanting teams to thrive in our churches, they won’t if teams don’t have the organizational environment that offers fertile soil for teams to thrive in. In particular, teams thrive in organizational contexts that privilege thoughtful, deliberative action and provide structures that allow for planning. As researchers Frank LaFasto and Carl Larson note in their book When Teams Work Best, fertile organizational soil typically exists when:

1. Leaders set crystal-clear mission, goals and priorities that guide team efforts and establish clear operating principles.
2. Organizational structures and systems foster effective group decision making.
3. Teams enjoy ample, planned time to stay connected and work jointly on problems.
4. Teams possess all the information they need to solve problems and make decisions.

These structures offer the support a leadership team—and all teams in an organization—needs to be able to truly lead the church. Without them, teams spin their wheels and don’t make progress. Before your team will be successful, you may need to engage some cultural change to enable the team to thrive.

At one less-than-exemplary church where we did interviews, the senior team’s culture fought hard against any sort of planning. One pastor stated, we are more comfortable “fighting fires than building safe houses.” As such, the team constantly deferred to the lead pastor rather than seek God together and work together to develop direction and strategy for the church. Church cultures that prefer to fight fires rather than do the proactive work to avoid and protect against those fires are infertile ground for thriving teams. In such cases, addressing cultural challenges might be the first step in enabling a team to truly lead the church.

3. A CULTURE THAT IGNORES BIBLICAL ACCOUNTABILITY

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov 27:6). Feedback is the breakfast of champions, and mutual accountability is the not-so-secret success ingredient of exceptional teams. But too often, for a variety of reasons, team members avoid lovingly wounding a teammate, neglect offering feedback and refuse to hold one another accountable for their contributions to the team. That behavior is often learned in the larger church culture, where biblical accountability and confrontation is not pursued.

If your church avoids confrontation and biblical accountability, chances are that your team will never gel or perform at its peak. Your team as a whole needs feedback on its collective performance, and individual team members need feedback about what they contribute to the team. Your team needs faithful friends who will tell the truth, even when it stings. Without confronting the (sometimes painful) truth, your team doesn’t have the insight to improve nor the fuel to do its job of effectively leading your church.

For more team-killing cultures and a host of other tips to help your teams thrive, see Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership.

Because I participated in the book project by writing an expert commentary, InterVarsity Press is offering my readers a 30% discount on the book. To access the discount, order online at ivpress.com or call 800-843-9487 and use coupon code 506-447. But don’t wait to do it. This offer expires April 30.

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Excerpted with permission from chapter 13 of Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership by Ryan T. Hartwig and Warren Bird, InterVarsity Press, 2015. Visit www.TeamsThatThriveBook.com for the book itself, exercises, and other tools to help your team.

7 Intangible, Seemingly Unproductive Actions Valuable in Leadership

Thinking man

Much of what a leader does can seem unproductive at times.

For someone wired for production — progress — checklist completion — even wasted.

I’ll admit, even though I know this in my leadership knowledge, I have to discipline myself to practice them sometimes.

Yet, every good leader I know specializes in intangible actions that don’t always produce visible, immediate results.

In fact, these actions are probably the most productive part of their work.

In order for the team to thrive, there are things which may seem unproductive that the leader must spend time doing.

Let me share some examples from my own leadership.

Here are 7 intangible things I try to do each day:

Praying. Did I need to share that one? And, yet I do. For my reminder and most leaders I know. Yes, even pastors. We can get so busy making decisions, putting out fires and handling routines that we fail to stop and pray. What could be happening in our leadership if we spent more time praying? (That’s a sobering question.)

Thinking. Leader, how much time do you spend just thinking? I’m not talking about daydreaming on mindless things, but this intangible action could also be titled dreaming. I’m talking about disciplined thinking about where we are, where we are going, what’s working, what’s not working. I need those times every single day. Often new ideas hit me in the shower or driving in my car, but many times new ideas are only shaped and realized when I set aside quantity time to brainstorm.

Reading. I don’t know why — even as I teach these principles — it has always made me feel uncomfortable when someone who works with me finds me reading a magazine or a book. I feel so unproductive. But I know the more responsibility a leader assumes the more important it is that he or she be exposed to new ideas and thoughts. Leaders are readers. I don’t always get something I can immediately put into practice, but my mind is stretched and my thoughts are energized. Valuable. Gold in many cases. (As a practice, I try to read one chapter a day from some book — other than the Bible.)

Investing. Helping others succeed is what leaders do best. Sometimes leadership is as simple as believing in others more than they believe in themselves. I have to remember also, that I’m into Kingdom-building, not only church building, so investing in other pastors — even those not on our team — is a part of what I have been called to do. And, it should be noted, investing is not just talking. Leaders, in my opinion, do too much of that at times. It’s also listening to others and learning from them or at least learning them.

Networking. Some of the greatest doors of opportunity as a church have opened because of networking. Honestly, that is one thing that has made Twitter valuable in leadership. Quick connections with peers. The greater a leader’s success is often directly related to the strength and size of their network.

Walking. Several times daily, if I’m in the office, I walk through our building. I see people. They have a chance to ask me questions, interact with me, and even share a concern. It’s amazing how this action — which many times may not produce anything tangible immediately — seems to endure people to my leadership. Leaders need to be present. Visible. Even accessible to the point they can be.

Planning. I saved this one for last and I almost said meeting, but that’s a very tangible action. But, let’s be honest, meetings can also seem unproductive. I read the books and blogs about eliminating meetings — and I’m all about it when possible — but the fact is a team has to meet occasionally. The problem in my opinion isn’t the meeting as much as the meetings where nothing is accomplished. Even planning may seem unproductive — even wasted — for those who are most wired for production. Many would rather do than plan to do. But, preparation, while it may seem unnecessary in the process, makes success more attainable. Some of the best leaders I know personally are military leaders. Ask them how much preparation and planning they want their teams to have before encountering the enemy.

Depending on your wiring, some of these may seem unproductive at the time. That’s especially true for me when I get back to my desk and face dozens of unanswered emails, but successful leadership demands that we spend time investing in the intangible.

In which of these areas do you most need to improve as a leader?

10 Reasons to Consider Church Revitalization — Even Over Church Planting

Bellfry of old Russian church against blue sky

I meet with young church planters frequently. I hope that continues. We had great experiences in two successful church plants and it’s certainly in my heart. Currently we are working to plant churches in Chicago. I love the energy of planting. We need lots of new churches.

In this season of my life, God has called me into revitalization. We are positioning an older, established church, that was once in decline, to grow again. And, it’s been amazing — and challenging — and rewarding — and hard.

God began to encourage my heart towards revitalization when I considered my home church — the one where I served in lay leadership until I was called into ministry late in my 30’s. That church introduced me to Christ, help me grow, and I wouldn’t be in ministry today without them.

But, that church has seen better days. (Thankfully, they are in revitalization now and a friend of mine pastors there.) What will become of the established church? That was a burning question on my heart and God lined my heart up with a church in need of revitalization.

Now, after the experience of the last few years, when I meet with church planters, I often encourage them to consider church revitalization. I realize church revitalization doesn’t have all the attraction of church planting. I left behind my skinny jeans to enter church revitalization. And all God’s people said amen. But, here’s the thing: the attraction in church revitalization is in the mission. And, that’s hopefully the same reason anyone enters church planting.

Here are 10 reasons to consider church revitalization — even over church planting:

You love the thought of restoring history. Our church is over 100 years old. Wouldn’t it be a shame to see that history come to an end — if we can reverse the decline?

You are ready to go to work now. There are far more opportunities in church revitalization. I read that near 90% of established churches are in decline or plateaued. There’s work to be done immediately.

You like having an established base of financial support. The good thing about many established churches is that they have loyal supporters. Sometimes those are the ones holding out until the doors are closed — they never want to change — but many times those people are just waiting for leadership to take them somewhere better than where they are today.

You love inter-generational ministry. In an established church, if you start to reach younger people, you’ll see a blending of generations. That’s a beautiful experience. It’s been one of our favorites in ministry. And, personally, I think it’s healthy and a very Biblical model of church.

You like a challenge. I didn’t put this as my number one, but don’t be misled. You will face opposition if you try to change things from where people are comfortable. You don’t face that same challenge in a church plant. But, you didn’t get into ministry expecting it to be easy did you? You agreed to walk by faith, right? And, you’ll have that opportunity in church revitalization. Everyday.

You won’t run from every conflict. You mustn’t. You must stay the good course. The mission is too vital.

You enjoy healthy structure. Granted, it might not be healthy, but you’ll find structure. And, as long as you’re not doing away with structure completely — which isn’t healthy anyway — you can usually tweak structure to be healthy again.

You are Kingdom-minded. You see the bigger picture. There are more Kingdom dollars being under-utilized in stagnant churches than may ever be invested in church planting. What are we going to do about it? If you’d like to know the answer — maybe you’re a candidate for revitalization.

You can endure a long-term approach. It likely won’t happen immediately. In church planting, we could change in a weekend. That’s not necessarily true in the established church. There are many things that can happen immediately. Certainly we saw some immediate, very positive changes and the church began to grow quickly. But, the best changes have taken time — but they have paid off dramatically because of our more methodical approach.

You truly love the local church. I didn’t love everything about the church that I came to pastor — or the established church I attended all my life until surrendering to ministry. But, I truly love the local church. Enough that I’d be willing to invest energies in trying to save one.

Let me be honest. Some churches can’t be — and may not need to be — saved. There, I said that. They’ve been toxic since they began — running off pastors so a few families can remain in control. They aren’t interested in reaching a lost world. They are looking for a comfortable place to hang out with people just like them.

But, there are so many churches who are ready to grow again with the right pastoral leadership. And, I encourage some of our young, eager, pastors — even some who may be considering church planting — to consider allowing God to use you in revitalizing an established church.

An Exponential Interview about Church Revitalization

Expo 2015 Precon Booklet Ron Edmondson5

Tom Cheyney and I will be hosting a pre-conference Revitalization lab at Exponential East this year entitled: Finding New Life for an Old Church. Tom and I were talking recently and we both agreed — we are surprised more pastors are not considering revitalization. In addition to church planting, revitalization has tons of Kingdom-potential. And, there are lots of opportunities out there — lots of declining churches need help.

Up for a challenge — consider revitalization! 

Of course, Church revitalization involves change. And no matter how necessary the change, some people will fight until the end preferring to let the slowly die, but the church can change — and thrive again.

Exponential recently interviewed me to find out more about this bonus session:

What do you hope to accomplish through this pre-conference?

I hope people will leave with some of their questions answered about church revitalization and what it takes to be successful. We are really thinking in terms of best — and frankly worst — practices. We have some experience personally and working with other churches that we think can help. I’d love to think some church planter mindsets would reconsider revitalizing an established church.

What are some of the reasons you decided to do a pre-conference on church revitalization?

Obviously it is and should be a calling. You’ll need it, but we also need a renewed interest in revitalizing existing churches. In my estimation, we have more Kingdom dollars invested in non-productive, non-growing churches than in church plants. Obviously we need lots of church plants, but we also need to revive some of the older churches. Someone said it takes 30 years for a declining church to die. Not trying to be cruel, but that’s too long. If it’s not going to revive, maybe an immediate closure and redistribution of resources is warranted. Wow! Did I just say that?

What are some tensions you have faced in this area?

It involves change. That’s never easy. But, you can’t produce growth from decline without change. All my tension has been from change. Yet, the real root of tension is in an emotional response to change. Change always produces an emotional response — positive or negative. So, I’ve dealt with a good deal of emotion over the past couple years. But, that also doesn’t mean everything has to change. Some traditions may actually be good and should be celebrated. And, we will talk about that at the conference.

What are some of the differences in leading this generation and culture from the past?

Time commitment and loyalty are different for the newer generation. There is less of it. That can be difficult, because it sometimes means we see them less often and they are can be quick to disengage if something else comes along. On a positive note, they are very driven to make a difference. They prefer a “hands on” experience. With motivation and opportunity this generation can make huge Kingdom differences. By the way, this should be a very attractive element for younger generations of pastors entering church revitalization. Many times in an established church the resources and people are there — that if energized again for the vision — a church can hit the ground running much faster than in a church plant.

What can someone expect to takeaway from attending your pre-conference?

I think there will be some frankness and some challenge. We are going to give lots of practical information, but even more, we are here to invest in church leaders. As Exponential does so well, we will be learning together and build community quickly with other church leaders. This should be very helpful and applicable.

We are excited for this Revitalization Lab. Make sure you are there by registering for the main conference + pre-conference with code: revitalization15. You will receive $30 off of your conference registration and a FREE pre-conference as well as access to Bonus Sessions. Register here!

5 Examples of Leading Outside the Norm

Yellow chair in the middle of several purple chairs

Leadership is so much different today than when I first started leading over 30 years ago. To lead today we must learn to think outside the once considered normal lines of leadership.

Much has been written about the informal aspects of leadership being as important as the formal aspects of leadership. In addition to a set of systems and structures — for a leader to be successful today — leaders must engage a team. We must build team spirit. Energize. Motivate. Engage. Even sympathize. Those have always been important, but these days they may trump some of our policies and procedures.

In informal leadership environments, the way a leader leads is often more important than the knowledge or management abilities of the leader. Again, that may have always been important, but now it is critical.

Here are 5 examples of how a successful leader must lead in today’s environment:

Adapting leadership to followers individual needs and expectations.

No more cookie-cutter leadership is allowed. Leaders must be wiling to individualize their leadership based on the current setting, economy and individualism of team members. We must know our teams uniquely and lead according to a person’s individual strengths and abilities.

Raising new leaders.

Those on the team with the propensity or desire to lead, must be given opportunity to help lead the organization. That’s not an option. Not only is this good for the organization by creating future leaders, it is key to keeping the best people on the team.

Balancing kindness or friendship with authority.

John Maxwell’s axiom “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” has never been more true. People follow leaders they can trust. They follow leaders who believe in them and will invest in them. While leaders sometimes must make difficult and unpopular decisions, authoritarian leadership is not well received by today’s workforce.

Giving others ownership in the vision.

People want and need to be stockholders — knowing they are making a difference with their work. To do that means they must have ownership in the vision and decision-making. Allowing a team to help shape the agenda helps assure their heart buys into completing the mission of the organization.

Creating for the greater good.

Great leaders think beyond themselves. Even beyond their own team or the vision, goals and objectives of the organization. Today’s leaders must understand they play a part in a more global sense. We are much more connected these days through social media and online instant connections. The way an organization treats it’s employees, the environment and customers is considered important — and if it’s not done well — the world will know about it quickly.

Finding the right balance between a formal style of leadership where everything is clearly spelled out for people to follow and an informal style where a team helps to shape the course of action is critical to an organization’s success. In many ways, after 30 plus years of leadership, I’m from an “old school”. I’m still learning – and re-learning.

But, I know this. Leaders today must continually strive to find that balance.