10 Principles of God Leadership

How would we lead if we led as God inspired us to lead?

What does godly leadership look like?

I put some thought into this question recently. Actually, I’ve thought about it for years.

I should tell you I believe God is okay with us using good leadership principles in the church — even business principles. He gave us a mind. He made us creative. He said He makes Himself known in all creation. And, we are told all things were created for Him and by Him. I think we can find great leadership principles — the best — and implement them in doing His work.

But, there are principles clearly spelled out in Scripture. These are simply leadership principles, but rather principles for life. And, of course, these trump all the others. In fact, all other principles are built upon the principles of God’s word. The point of this post, however, is any good life principle from God’s word is a good leadership principle — or rather — a God principle. 

So, what are some characteristics of God leadership?

Here are 10 Principles of God Leadership:

Seek God’s will before your personal desires or ambition. Matthew 6:33

Be Humble. 1 Peter 5:6

Serve others. Matthew 23:11

Walk by faith. Hebrews 11:6

Practice Patience. Romans 8:25

Consider the interest of others even above your own . Philippians 2:4

Submit to authority. Ephesians 5:21

Be Teachable — seek wisdom from others. Proverbs 4:7

Believe the impossible can happen. Luke 18:27

Empower others to do what they can do. Ephesians 4:12

What would you add to my list?

7 Causes of Team Idleness – and a Few Suggestions to Help

Team idleness

Team idleness is a term I use to describe when a team is failing to move forward towards its desired goals and objectives.

Team idleness does not always mean the wrong people are on the team — it could. It doesn’t always mean the team has the wrong goals and objectives or the goals and objectives are unrealistic. It could.

It simply means things have stalled. Period. The term means for a span of time there is no — or very little – forward progress for the team. Idleness. It could be a month or several months. Things aren’t desperate – yet. They’ve simply slowed.

Every team, regardless of their health, can go through times of team idleness.

I have witnessed team idleness many times in organizations with which I have been associated – in business and in the church. I can assure you most teams will deal with team idleness at various times through the life of the team.

What causes team idleness? What causes a team to stagnate?

Here are a 7 thoughts – and a few tips along the way:

No fresh ideas.

If new ideas are not coming to the table frequently the team becomes stale and progress slows. One way we address this is to periodically schedule times where the only agenda is brainstorming – dreaming – answering the question “what’s next?” Also, reading books together, attending a conference, or visiting other healthy organizations or churches can help generate new ideas.

Burnout.

If team members are overworked or in need of a break their energy level will slow. This has to be encouraged and allowed in the structure. For me it’s essential I discipline myself to rest frequently. I try to personally lead by example here. Shared values and shared workload help here. There should be no Lone Rangers on a healthy team.

Lost vision.

If a team loses sight of the big picture goals and objectives they can lose interest or get off course. Vision-casting is an essential task of every leader – and it needs to be done frequently. Celebrating also keeps what’s valued ever before the team.

Misplaced team members.

Again, I didn’t say wrong team members. It could be, but many times idleness is caused when a vision outgrows members of the team and other times when team members outgrow the vision. People sometimes need a reassignment of duties or a change of focus. They need new goals which further stretch them. It’s not a bad idea to occasionally shift the organizational structure and chart. 

Lack of Resources.

If there are not adequate resources to complete the task the work becomes frustrating and the team stalls. While we need to be stretched and walk by faith, it’s equally important not to push people beyond where the structure can support them long-term. Unreasonable expectations – over time – cause team members to naturally slow their individual productivity, which impacts the entire team. Leaders must make sure the team has the resources they need to do what they’ve been asked to do.

Poor training.

Sometimes people are asked to perform beyond their level of understanding. No one is helping them get to the next level and so they stall waiting for further investment into them. I have found it rare for people to voluntarily ask for more. Leaders must recognize potential in others and intentionally develop the people around them.

No accountability.

Teams idle when they stay the same for too long. Frankly, sometimes things stall because no one is pushing things to continually grow or holding people to higher standards of excellence. Growth and momentum are seldom self-produced. Change, at least good change, never comes without purposeful efforts. Leaders must become champions of new innovation and continual progress individually and for everyone on the team.

The problem with team idleness is it doesn’t stay simply at idle. You know that leaders. Idle turns to decline and often quickly. Idleness will come naturally. Our goal should be not to rest there long.

Have you served – or do you serve – on an idle team? Tell us about it.

5 Reasons I Recommend the Evernote Application

Let me introduce you to one of my favorite productivity applications. It’s called Evernote.

Honestly, I thought everyone knew about Evernote. You are either using it already or you know what it is at least. Recently, however, I was speaking at a conference, I mentioned Evernote, and several people asked me afterward what I was talking about. I was shocked.

So, here goes.

Evernote is a note/picture/voice taking productivity application used on laptops and mobile devices. I actually wrote a very simple — most simple — e-book about it. No pressure (I said it’s simple, but you can find it HERE.)

I can’t imagine my life being as organized or “mobile” without it now.

If you aren’t familiar with it, I want to share some of the reasons I use and love Evernote:

5 reasons to love Evernote:

Efficiency

Evernote allows me to put a note, picture, or voice recording into the application and then automatically syncs with my other devices. Whether I’m using my iPhone, iPad or my MacBook or Google Chrome laptop. I input once and am updated on all my devices. It is cloud-based, so it does it quickly and without error. I place my notes into files which are searchable and specific to the subject matter. Every blog post, sermon or meeting now starts as a separate Evernote file. I have over 1,000 files now.

Convenience

Evernote is with me wherever I go. For example, I carry my phone with me when I’m walking the dog. I can quickly put thoughts which come to me into a file in Evernote as I walk. (She’s sometimes slow!) If I see a picture, I can snap it and place it in an Evernote file for later use. If I’m at my desk — those same files I was using in Evernote while walking the dog are with me. I also store documents this way if it’s something I need easy access to while away from the office. I keep insurance information, certain church documents I have to occasionally refer to, etc. in separate files. Just yesterday I needed a Tax-ID for something. I did a quick search in Evernote and produced the information. It saved me from having to do something when I got back to my office.

Creativity

Evernote fuels my creativity, because it allows me the freedom to think in the moment. And, I think in the moment a lot. I no longer have to wait until I get back to my laptop to brainstorm. I’m less likely to forget ideas, because I can record them as soon as they come to me in an appropriate file.

Reliability

I never have to lose a thought again! There is seldom a time where I would not have one of these devices with me, so whenever I have a thought, I always have a place to record it, which again, automatically syncs with the other devices. In honesty, a few times I’ve had the application freeze or fail to sync, but Evernote saves even those mistakes for me to filter through. My actual information has never been lost.

Access

Evernote is a free application! You can’t beat the price for such a productive tool. I choose to do the paid upgrade — which is minimal in cost but offers unlimited storage — but it’s not mandatory and most people seem to be able to use the free version with no issues.

There are “tricks” to Evernote I don’t use often and many I’ve probably not even discovered. You can email notes to yourself, for example, using a specialized Evernote email address and it places it right in your application. I’m very simple with it. It’s simply my filing system for all the information I have to keep up with.

If you are looking for a way to stay more organized and be more productive, check out Evernote.

Do you use Evernote?

10 Inexpensive Ways to Develop People on Your Team

When budgets are stretched, development often is pushed to the back burner or cut altogether from the budget. This is dangerous for a team, which wishes to remain healthy and continue growing. If a team is not learning and improving, it will soon struggle to maintain any level of success.

It’s important, therefore, to find ways to develop even with stressed budgets.

Here are 10 inexpensive, or less expensive, ways to offer development to a team:

Bring in a leader – It may be cheaper to bring the expert to you than it is to attend a conference. Find someone from whom your team can learn and pay his or her expenses to visit the team.

Send a representative – You may have to draw names to decide who, but pay for one person to attend a conference with a catch — they have to bring information back to share with the team.

Read a book together – The number of leadership books easily outnumber the months a team will be together. Find some good ones, read and digest them as a team.

Use local resources – Most likely, there are businesses or universities in your community that have development offices or procedures to develop people, with people already skilled who can inexpensively invest in your team.

Online or teleconference – Technology allows for some great online conferences. Gather the team around a computer and learn without leaving the office. Additionally, if you have a telephone, you have the makings of a great way to connect with other leaders. Arrange for a joint call with one and let the team ask questions and then process the interview together.

Pool Resources – Join forces with another church to accomplish any of these ideas. Learn from each other. Swap responsibilities to lead a development activity. Share the costs of bringing in a speaker and do a combined mini-conference of your own.

Visit other churches – Allow the team to visit other churches in the area, either individually or as a group. Sometimes the quickest ways to promote change is to introduce leaders to other environments. It is a great way to develop new ideas and improve upon what you are doing as you see what others are doing firsthand. Be sure everyone goes expecting to bring something back to the team they have learned.

Learn from each other – Chances are good that everyone on your team has something to offer that can make the team better. Take turns sharing with each other something you already know or are learning.

Scavenger hunt – Assign each team member to find the best development idea and share it with the rest of the team. Whether online, in a book or through networking, seek out new ideas and improvements you can learn from one another and share it with the team. The process of sharing the idea discovered will prove to be development.

Trial and Error – The best development may be putting systems in place that allow the team to take risks, but then evaluate the success or failure in an effort to learn from them and grow. Teams should be doing this anyway, but teams often fail to intentionally learn from the process of doing normal work.

Development isn’t cheap, but it’s a necessary part of continuing to be a healthy and growing team.

Make this post better. Think development with me.

What low cost ideas do you have to offer development to a team?

3 Places to Find New Church Leaders

I was working with a church recently facing a growth barrier. They have experienced rapid growth and now the staff is stretched beyond what they can do. There are holes of responsibilities not being filled. My opinion — and they agree — is they can’t continue growing unless something changes.

The “genius” suggestion I gave them is t genius. It’s commonsensical. They must rise up new leaders, empower them with authority, and spread the load of responsibility.

Duh! I sometimes (seldom) get paid for this stuff.

Yet, in every church, sometimes finding volunteers feels like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Can I get a witness?

The obvious question: Where do we find these people?

Great question!

I suggested they look for three types of people:

People currently “doing” who need to be leading.

These are people who are consistently serving. They are the reliable ones you couldn’t do without. They have been given responsibility, but never been tapped for authority. Not all “doers” have the capability of being leaders, but many do if given the opportunity. Seek them.

People serving in one area, who could lead in another area.

These are people who are serving in the children’s ministry, for example, who could be leading in the parking ministry — or vice-versa. Many times people are serving in one area, because there is a need, but they could easily be stellar leaders in another area. Discern them.

People leading outside the church.

There are often people in the church who are tremendous leaders in the secular world, but they’ve never been given an opportunity to lead in the church. Recruit them.

People come to your church and see things working. They don’t know you need help, because everything appears to be working. There doesn’t seem to be a place for them. In my experience, you’ll have to ask the best leaders to join your team.

Be intentional.

How do you find new leaders?  What would you add to my list?

7 Things We’ve Learned about Reaching Millennials

The statistics are staggering. The older a child gets today, the greater his or her chances are of disappearing from the church. The church must intentionally plan to reverse this trend.

I was a part of a church plant built around a desire to reach people who may not have previously been interested in church. We were amazed at the number of young people we reached. Defying statistics.

I’ve now updated this post, because we are currently in a growing, revitalized established church and — amazingly — our fastest growing group is the millennial generation. Again, defying statistics.

It must be more than structure or age of church — or even style of worship.

Along the way, we’ve learned a few things — and these are the things which regardless of type of church have remained true. 

Here are 7 thoughts for the church to reach millennials:

Love them – Young people today seem to crave genuine, no strings attached, healthy love from other adults — and they want it to be unconditional love — through the good times of their life and the times they mess up. And, they want us to love first, without qualifications added.

Be biblically true – Millennials don’t want fluff or sugar-coating. They want an authentic, honest approach to the Bible. Whether they believe all of it yet or not, they want the people who teach to teach what they believe — and then be willing to discuss it with them as they explore.

Be culturally aware and relevant – This generation has been exposed to the problems, challenges, and changes in the world. And, changes are coming fast. They are more socially conscious than in years past. They want the church to be addressing the needs they see in the world around them.

Give them a place to plug-in – They want to make a difference. They want to be a part of change. They want you to support them in their pursuits. They want to serve somewhere they believe is doing good work and makes a positive impact on the world — and they may even want to help lead the effort.

Value their ideas and input – You have to allow Millennials to do things their way — often with technology — within groups of friends — sometimes unscripted. A church which is bent on protecting the past over creating the future turns young people away from the church.

Be genuine/transparent with them – The overused word is authentic, but this generation wants to learn from the mistakes of those older than them. Pretending as if we’ve always been wonderful doesn’t help them deal with the issues they are dealing with today. They need living examples of battling life’s temptations, struggles, and fears.

Guide them – I love this about them — they are wisdom-seekers. They want help making life’s decisions, but they want it done in a way that helps them understand wise choices, but gives them freedom to choose their own path. Young people today crave older adults who will walk with them through the obstacles they face on a daily basis; while extending love, grace and support.

What would you add to my list? How is your church reaching Millennials?

Again, notice I didn’t say anything about music. It’s a bonus if you give them worship styles they enjoy, but I’m not convinced it’s as much a necessity if the others on this list are kept.

7 Ways to Better Ensure Your Email Gets Read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make sure your name is clearly listed in the FROM line

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

Make the recipient — ME

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

Write a great subject heading

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

Get started immediately with the main idea

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

Give pertinent details, but don’t write a book

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

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

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

Read before sending

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

Give the option to ask questions

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

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

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

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

4 Ways to Get a Grip on Email

This is a guest post by Jonathan Pearson:

Email. It’s a necessary evil.

Well, it’s not always evil, it can actually provide some great opportunities to communicate with people that we may not have any other way to communicate with. It saves us from having lengthy meetings and it helps us send quick messages to anyone around the world.

But,

As I talk to people, leaders especially, it seems like almost everyone is overwhelmed by it.

I don’t have all the answers and many of you reading this get FAR more email than I do, but I have managed over the last year or so to get to inbox zero virtually everyday. It can be done. You don’t have to drown in the deep end of email.

Here are 4 ways to finally get control of that necessary evil in your life.

Schedule time for email.

This is one you may have heard, but it’s important. Don’t leave that email app open all day. Have certain times throughout the day, usually 2, that you respond to email. That allows you to respond within the same day twice if necessary. Sure, you may have to send more throughout the day, but open up your email client, hit send, and then shut it down. This keeps email from dominating your day and prevents you from being a slave to the “ding” of new email arriving in your inbox.

Never leave anything in your inbox

Don’t just read an email and leave it where you found it. If you do, every time you come back to your email, you’ll have to process that same email… even if it’s just in your mind. Use a tool like Dispatch (iOS), Airmail (Mac), or any of a host of other clients that let you perform actions on your email. Send them to your task list, answer them, send them to evernote, just don’t leave them in your inbox.

Push work emails to only 1 spot

Ever get to the point where you here that notification on your phone or see that notification bubble count up and get a bad churning in your stomach? If you’re a pastor, your thought is probably something like, “Oh no, what happened and where do I need to be.” To keep you from this, only have your work emails pushed to one device (other than your main computer). For me, this is my iPad. The way I see it, if it’s that urgent, they’ll call or text me. This is extremely helpful on the weekends!

Be cordial but be short

I don’t know where it happened, but it must have some how become acceptable to either ignore an email or just send a snappy response back. Should you keep your responses short as you’re sorting out your inbox? Sure. Never, though, underestimate them importance of being cordial. Just leave with a “Thank You!” or a “Hope you have a good day” message. Be cordial, but be short.

What other email tips do you have?

Productivity is a passion of mine because a the impact of our ministry is easily multiplied when we learn to work efficiently and effectively. That’s why I released The Productive Pastor: A Guide to Getting More of the Right Stuff Done to help pastors discover a better path. Go to theproductivepastor.com for more information.

7 Suggestions for Planting a Church or Revitalizing in a New Community

I am consistently asked for suggestions I have for moving to another city to plant a church or revitalize a church.

I planted once in my hometown, so I am very familiar with that community, but I also planted a church in a city in which I didn’t know anyone well, so I have some experience in that area too. In my present church, I moved to a city where I knew only one other couple.

Recently someone who was about to move to a new city to minister asked a very good specific question.

What advice would you give me that people don’t always give?

Good question. It made me think. I don’t know that any of these are original, but I don’t hear them talked about as much as other suggestions.

And, I think the things I would do would be the same in any ministry position.

Here are 7 suggestions for moving to another community to minister:

Have a prayer team – There should be a group of people praying for this community, the church, and the leaders on a daily basis. I have a personal prayer team and organize teams to pray for special events. Bathe every move in prayer. 

Learn the culture – Every city and every group of people have their own unique identity. What matter’s most? What do they celebrate? Where do people live and play? What do they do for fun? What’s their unique language? What are the traditions unique to this area? What history do they value most? You’ll have to ask lots of questions and observe.

Learn the market – Is the community in a growth mode or a declining mode? What’s the quality of the school system? If you’re planting, are schools an option for a building? What are the major problems, concerns and needs of the community? Who are the leading employers? What are the demographics? How would a church address some of the issues? These matter for numerous reasons — but mainly it will impact the people you are trying to reach.

To learn these things I try to meet with the highest level leader I can in each area of interest – Schools, city government, police, business community, etc.

Learn the competition – Before you get too excited — it’s not other churches. It’s anything that has the people’s attention you are trying to reach besides a church. Sunday sports events. Major festivals. Community traditions.

Support the Community – Immediately find ways to get personally involved in the community with volunteer investment. That could be through the Chamber of Commerce, schools, festivals, etc. Give back. Believe it or not, that gets attention. Currently, we volunteer several places around town, including at our local visitor’s center. And, if you really want to show you love the community  — support the sports teams they support. 

Develop patience – It is harder than you think it will be. It just is. Church planting, church revitalization– really any ministry — takes a tremendous toll on you physically, mentally and even spiritually. It doesn’t happen overnight. Prepare for the journey. Commit to the change you bring to the ministry — even knowing how difficult it might be at times. 

Protect your family – Just as church plants are stressful on the planter, they are equally challenging for the planter’s family. That may even be more true in revitalization. And, it’s true in all ministry. These issues are multiplied because of relocation, since much of their support system is being replaced. Protect your family by discipling your time and not losing them as your primary focus. As much as possible, involve them in the work so they understand it’s value and get to share in the rewards. Protect your personal down time and your soul. Don’t burn out by trying to do too much too soon.

Ministry is tough, but like all actions of faith and obedience, God uses the sacrifices to reach hurting people and change their life for His glory. Thanks for Kingdom-building.

5 Words of Encouragement to the Church Planter or Young Leader

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.