7 Ways to Gain and Keep Trust as a Leader

female leader

People follow people they trust.

I’ve found trust develops over time and experience – as we witness trustworthy behavior. Honestly, as a leader, I’ve felt a delicate tension in maintaining trust. People look for a leader to be strong, independent and confident. Yet, we trust people who are approachable, inclusive and humble.

How do we combine those traits to be trusted leaders?

Here are 7 ways to gain and keep trust as a leader:

Always display confidence, but never cockiness. People will trust a competent leader, but one who is arrogant will be dismissed quickly.

Always follow through, which means you never over-commit. When a leader does what they says they will, people gain trust. When the leader always bails on responsibility – when they have a new idea every day, but nothing ever comes to reality – people begin to doubt everything the leader says.

Always put trust in others, so you’ll have an opportunity for them to put trust in you. Trust is a mutually exclusive commodity. People won’t extend you trust they don’t feel they receive from you. This means you must not be controlling, micro-managing, or negative towards every new idea they bring to the table. It means you must empower, delegate, and give authority to people.

Always extend grace, but be firm in some non-negotiables. I have written previously about the non-negotiable things for me in leadership – things such as responsiveness and mutual-respect – and I share them often with our team. We should have some standards which are not open to discussion. Those should usually be issues of character, vision or values. But, we need to allow people the freedom make their own way, including the freedom to fail, make mistakes, and be assured we will forgive them if needed.

Always try to be knowledgeable and aware by constantly learning, but realize you don’t know everything and you’ll know far more with a team. People trust a teachable leader. They are leery of a leader who knows it all – or pretends they do. We must ask questions, allow others on our team to teach us at times, continually seek wisdom and develop individually, just as we expect those we are trying to lead to do.

Always exhibit humility, but have courage to do the hard things. A trusted leader is humble enough to share recognition, but diligent to do the things everyone expects of the leader – such as lead through the hard seasons, remain calm in crisis, and encourage others when they need hope.

Always value people more than you value progress. This is especially difficult for driven leaders. We want success and this often is measured in numbers. But, people trust people they know genuinely care for them. We must see people as individuals, get to know them, and genuinely love the people we are trying to love – considering their interests even ahead of our own.

What other ways would you add to gain and keep trust as a leader?

5 Questions to Ask Before You Attempt Church Revitalization

White country church

It seems every week a church contacts me to ask advice about church revitalization. I also frequently hear from pastors who are considering stepping into a role in church revitalization. I greatly appreciate the Kingdom platform God has given me – but sometimes it feels overwhelming – as if I have something to offer.

Frankly, I am still in the learning process.

But, we have learned a few things. And, we have had some success — twice in church planting and twice in church revitalization.

And, I fully believe we need lots of church revitalization. Read some of my thoughts about the need HERE.

The problem for me is it seems people often start the conversation at the wrong place. They start with the how and I want to start with the why – or maybe the what.

When people start to talk about the how of doing church revitalization – the things we have done or haven’t done – I always feel like we are putting the proverbial cart before the horse. We need to talk about what church you are going to attempt to revitalize – and why you are considering the move in the first place.

I think before you consider revitalization you need to first consider some broader questions.

Here are 5 questions I would consider before I would attempt to help revitalize a church:

Can this church be saved?

There is actually a more difficult question. Is the church worth saving? I know those are difficult questions. They may even make me seem very arrogant. But, there are some toxic churches in the world. I know churches who have never held on to a pastor for more than two years. They are brutal to pastors. They don’t want someone to help them grow they simply want someone to maintain things as they are, fill the pulpit three times a week, and visit them when they are sick. And, if you try anything else they will remind you they were there before you came and will be there when you’re gone. What is the realistic potential even if the church is saved from eventual death? Will a pastor be able to lead? Can changes actually be made? Nothing of value happens in church revitalization – or really anything organizationally speaking – without some change. Chances are good it won’t be popular – in any church – but change is always necessary.

Is this the right location?

Look at the demographics of the community. Does it — or are the people willing for it to — represent the community? If the community has changed demographics around them they may need to make changes for the community to see them as a vital part of the community. The message doesn’t change, but the demographics of communities change over time. People move. New people move into the community. If the church isn’t willing to embrace the unique needs of the community maybe there is a more receptive area elsewhere. Are they willing to ask such hard questions?

Is this the best use of resources?

Would Kingdom dollars be better spent elsewhere? And, again, hard question, but the longer a church has been plateaued or declining, the longer – and harder – it will be to help the church grow again. Another hard question – how many churches could be planted with the same resources and efforts? Is there a wiser stewardship for the Kingdom than this? Now please understand – I believe in revitalization. I think established churches still play a huge role in the Kingdom – for so many reasons – but, you should be willing to ask the difficult questions or your chances of seeing progress are limited.

Is everyone willing to pay the price?

It will be hard. Change will be difficult for some to accept. Revitalization is harder than planting – in my experience. Will change be accepted? Can you take the hits? Are the leaders of the church going to stand with you? Does your family fully support your decision and are they up for the challenge?

Are you the right leader?

Does your experience, passions and skill sets prepare you for this role? Would you be more effective elsewhere? And, the bottom line question here: Is God calling you to this? I have often said I believe God gives tremendous latitude at times in where we are to serve. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. We need more church planters, more healthy leaders in growing churches, more missionaries, more people to be solid, missional believers serving in secular positions – and more people to revitalize churches. But, sometimes God calls us to specific places, even if only for a season. If God is calling you to this then nothing else matters. Obey quickly!

Answer those questions – then we can discuss the how questions.

Some Thoughts on Addressing the Loneliness of a Pastor

Man alone

Pastoring can be lonely.

As a pastor, I’m supposed to find my strength in Christ, (and you have to know how helpful it is to be reminded as if those who are not pastors are not commanded to do likewise 🙂 ) and I do seek Christ as my ultimate strength. I teach the Bible regularly, however, the Bible says we are to “bear with one another“. God didn’t design us to do life alone. This goes for pastors also.

From my experience, those in ministry leadership are some of the loneliest people. I hear from them everyday.

I was talking with a young pastor recently. He said, “Who is going to invest in me?”

I understand the sentiment. He is struggling for answers he can’t seem to find — practical answers. People are looking to him for leadership and seminary didn’t teach him all he needs to know. I think every good leader asks that at same question — hopefully often.

Later in the week, I talked to an older pastor. He said, “I go home most days and haven’t heard a single positive word. Things are going great. We are growing faster than ever, but it seems I get far more of the negatives than I get to hear of the good we are doing.”

All I could do was agree. I’ve felt that way before many times.

When the weight of ministry responsibility appears to rest on your shoulder – when everyone looks to you for the answer – when some days you don’t know which direction to turn – when you are balancing the demands of ministry and family – when you are seen as a key in helping everyone with a problem hold their life together – yet you feel no one is concerned about your personal struggles – and you don’t know who to trust —

What do you do during those seasons of ministry?

You remember God’s words of encouragement.

Cast your cares upon the Lord because He cares for you.

Yes, this is the first answer.

Next, find a mentor. You find someone who is walking further down the road from you, but going in the direction you want to go. I’ve written extensively about this, but you can start HERE.

And then regularly:

Surround yourself with a few pastors at the same level you are organizationally. (If it’s a pastor, youth minister, etc.) It seems to work best if the churches are similar in size and structure. They’ll best understand.

Work to develop a close enough relationship with them, over time, where you can trust them. You may have to spend some of your free time and even travel to do this. Learn from each other, seek wisdom from more seasoned people together, and grow together in the ministry.

Consistently share burdens, concerns, and encouragements with each other. You can do this occasionally in person, but more frequently over the phone or online. Chances are they need this as much as you do, so be the one to take the initiative.

I hear what some pastors are thinking, because it has been said to me so many times. You often think those groups aren’t there for you. You’ve tried before and couldn’t find them.

To this I would say:

  • Keep trying. It’s worth it.
  • Treat this like any other friendship. It takes commitment and has to be a balance of give and take.
  • Be willing to be vulnerable.
  • Risk the rejection to extend an offer for friendship.
  • Use social media, denominational leadership, recommendations from others to find these pastors — whatever if necessary. (This has been one of the greatest benefits of social media for me, by the way.)

Some of these relationships I have had to develop outside my own city. I’ve found they are valuable enough to justify the time and financial investment required.

Please know I’m praying for you pastors. 

Pastor, help other pastors by commenting with how you handle the loneliness of leadership. 

7 Ways to Respond to Negative People In the Church

Shouting

One of the most frustrating things about being a pastor is the number of people who are negative about everything. Thankfully, I deal with this less often the longer I am with the church. In the established church, most of our negativity comes from a few people. When I was in church planting it came from outside our church. Either way, dealing with negative people has been a huge part of my work. I talk with pastors every week who tell me they have large groups of people who are always negative about something they are doing.

I have learned – when a church reaches genuinely hurting people, when people in the church lead messy lives, when the church actually begins to reach such people, or simply when change comes to reach people — the complainers will rise — often among the most religious of people.

And when these type people talk their negative energy spreads fast.

As Jesus taught His disciples how to build the church, a chief command was to love people no one else loved. Since they were to love even their enemies, this included loving people when they were not very lovely. Even people who are always negative. (That’s a hard command sometimes, isn’t it?)

I have tried to lead a church with this philosophy. Along the way I have discovered what Jesus experienced in working with religious leaders in His day.

With this in mind, how do we respond to those who choose to complain and remain negative towards reaching people for Christ?

What do you do with constant negativity towards the mission God has called you to?

Here are 7 ways to respond to negative people:

Filter negative talk. Ask yourself if what they are saying lines up with truth. Is it true? If not, dismiss it quickly so it won’t begin to control you. When you own falsehood about yourself or the church you validate the person offering it. And, you fuel them for further negativity about you or the church.

Learn when necessary. We should not refuse to listen to any criticism. There is an element of truth in most criticism, even among things you need to ultimately dismiss. Let’s not be arrogant. Be humble and teachable always.

Surround yourself with some positive people. Some people are negative about everything and would never encourage anyone. That’s the reality of working with people. Every leader needs to find a core of people who can encourage them to walk closer to Christ, to believe in themselves in Christ, and who genuinely care about their best interest.

Remember negative people spread things about others too. It often helps me reconcile what a negative person says about me when I realize they are always spreading something negative. If it were not me being criticized, it would be their next victim. Do not give as much weight to the voice of the consistently negative person. Sometimes we tend to give them the most attention. The only way you will ever shut down the person who is always negative is to refuse to give them an audience for their negativity. The fact is if they are given a continued voice they will bring people into their negativity. If the same attention is placed on people who are a positive influence then they will bring people along into positivity.

(What I’m not saying is the avoid the negative person. Most likely they are negative for a reason. They are hurt, angry, broken, confused, or simply sinful in their attitude. Either way – we have to love them. That’s our calling as believers. Many times I’ve found if we love them we can actually begin to temper their negativity – at least lessen its volume.)

Confront untruth. You do not have to go on a witch-hunt for untruth — nor should you — but you should try to stop the spread of falsities if you hear them being repeated or told to you. This is especially true if it is going to get in the way of doing what you know God has called you to do. Don’t be bashful about doing so. Don’t embarrass people or treat them harshly. Treat everyone with love. Be an example of how to handle disagreement Biblically. But, don’t ignore it either.

Be truthful and positive around others. Decide you will always be a positive influence. Don’t repeat untruths and avoid being a hypercritical person. Look for the good in situations. A positive attitude is equally contagious.

Remind yourself of truth. Ultimately you are looking for truth, not one person’s opinion on truth.

What ways do you have to deal with negative people?

My Thankfuls: 10 Reasons for a Happy Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-clock

I have updated this post from a couple years ago.

For years, when the boys were at home, we shared our list of “Thankfuls” each Thanksgiving holiday. We would each take turns (one item at a time) of ten things we were most thankful for that year. I remember early in this tradition the boys’ spellings weren’t always correct, but their lists were always sincere.

I would totally recommend you try this at home as a tradition in your family.

I miss those special times sitting in our living room, but that shouldn’t stop me from sharing my list with you.

Here are my “Thankfuls” this year:

1. My relationship with Christ. And the grace that got me there. (And keeps me there.)

2. My loving wife. She’s my best friend. She’s seen my best and my worst and keeps being my biggest supporter.

3. Our two amazing sons – and daughter-in-law. Jeremy and Nathaniel (Nate) age 27 and 24 – are simply two of the best men I’ve ever known. Seriously. God keeps using them for His glory in ways I never imagined. Jeremy’s wife Mary – if I had raised a daughter – or picked a wife for my son – I would have wanted a Mary.

4. My calling. I work for Jesus. How cool is that? I ran from it for years – but it’s the best “career” I’ve ever had. And, I’ve had several.

5. Kingdom opportunities. Wow! This year has been incredible. I love to invest in others and I never thought I’d get to the point where I have to say no more than I get to say yes to the opportunities God is bringing my way. Amazing! I am a living example of God’s grace – that He can take dust and produce something He can use – and I’m humbled by this truth more every year.

6. Family and friends. Cheryl and I are so blessed with amazing families – with low or no drama. We have friends we can call upon at any time day or night – who aren’t our friends because of our positions or for information or any other reason other than to be our friends. The greatest asset of our married life together is people.

7. The staff and people of Immanuel Baptist. After three years, I can honestly say we’ve met some of the most loving, supportive people we’ve ever known. Our staff are our friends. I love being around people I truly enjoy, who believe in me as I believe in them. We’ve made friends for life.

8. My health. Granted, I work on it, but I’ve had friends die of cancer (and other causes) this year – some younger than me. I am thankful for being able to run – and walk – and feel well enough to work – and play.

9. The city of Lexington. We adopted the city as home quickly. I wear a lot of Kentucky blue. It’s our mission field, and, I believe, this is what missionaries do. We love the sports, exploring the many restaurants, the neighborhoods, and especially the people. We are here to serve! What a lovely place to live!

10. The future. I look around the world today and see a lot of darkness. But, this year, I’m thankful, as always, that I serve a risen Savior. This truth makes every morning new with His mercies and grace. I’m grateful the days ahead are bright – because He is my light. (Cheesy – maybe – but always true.)

There’s part of my list. I could continue, because I am blessed. No, my world is not trouble free…far from it actually – but when I pause and consider all that God has done and is doing around me – thanksgiving is my only proper response.

And for what (or whom) are you thankful this year?

When You’re The Pastor But Not The Leader

Funny scared man

I was talking with a 25 year old pastor recently. He is frustrated with the church where he serves. He was brought to the church because they wanted him to help the church grow again — or so the search committee convinced him — but they see him as too young to make decisions on his own.

They won’t take his suggestions, voting them down at business meetings. 

They consistently undermine his attempts to lead.

They expect him to speak each week and visit the sick, but they won’t let him make any changes he feels need to be made.

It has made for a very miserable situation and he feels helpless to do anything about it. He’s ready to quit and the situation is negatively impacting every other area of his life.

It isn’t the first time I have heard a story such as this. I hear it frequently from young leaders in churches and the business world. I didn’t want to be the one to tell him, but I didn’t want to mislead him either. The bottom line in this young pastor’s situation:

He is the pastor of the church but not the leader.

(Of course I’ll get kickback from those who want to remind me Jesus is the leader of the church. I couldn’t agree more, but He does use people to lead His work and this pastor is not the one.)

Perhaps you share this young leader’s dilemma. If no one is following your attempt to lead it could be because:

You haven’t been given authority to lead.
You haven’t assumed the responsibility you’ve been given.
No one is leading in the organization and no one wants anyone to – because that would mean change has to occur.

If this is your situation, you have a few options as I see it:

  • You can live with the power structure in place and complete the role within the authority you’ve been given. And, probably be miserable.
  • You can fight the power structure, lining up supporters, building a coalition in your corner – and be prepared to win or lose.
  • You can figure out how to “lead up” — build a consensus for leadership, confront where needed, win influence and the right to lead — even sometimes learning to lead people who don’t want to be led. (Read THIS POST on how to lead people older than you.)
  • You can leave.

Think through these options and see which feels best in your situation. Every situation is unique and this post is not an attempt to solve your problem — perhaps if anything it can help identify what the problem is in your unique circumstance. You will have to own your response to this information. Obviously, you should spend consistent time in prayer.

And let me add a few other thoughts. If you know God has you there then you must endure until He releases you. He always has a plan. But, I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in the call. Our call is to Him and to obedience. And, most likely, there are thousands of places where God could use your talents and abilities. As I read about the Apostle Paul, for example, there seemed to be more opportunities than Paul’s time would allow. I suspect the same may be true for most pastors today. The potential harvest is plentiful. 

With this in mind, I would say if you are miserable now and things are not improving you shouldn’t wait long without doing something. Life is short and many have left the ministry because of situations like this. Don’t be a casualty. Address the problem!

I would also say – and as hard as this is to hear you need to hear it – you will learn from this season. You may even learn more in this season than in a future season where everything appears wonderful and the church easily follows your leadership. Attempt to soak up wisdom now, which you will use later, rather than become bitter. You must protect your soul and the reality of your calling to Christ. 

One final thought, don’t handle a situation like this alone. Reach out to someone you trust, probably outside the church or organization; someone who has more experience in situations like this than you have. And, don’t let the stress from this destroy your family or personal health. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you were given the responsibility to lead without the power to do so? What did you do?

7 Impractical Leadership Principles and Why I Use Them

Adversaries 1

I talk to pastors frequently who find themselves in a difficult situation. Many times they know the right thing to do, but they can’t bring themselves to do it. Often, the advice I give is simply received with a reply such as, “I know it’s probably the right thing to do, but it seems like it would be easier just to _____”.

I understand.

Honestly, good leadership isn’t always practical. Or so it may seem at the time. Think about it. Sometimes it would be easier just to take the most efficient way. It’s less controversial. It allows the leader more control. It happens quicker.

I’ve learned, however, the most practical way isn’t always the most prudent way.

Let me explain.

Here are 7 impractical leadership principles I practice:

I don’t make major decisions alone even if I have the authority.

I always invite a team of people, many wiser than me, to help me discern major decisions. I realize it slows down the process. Sometimes it even kills my plans, but it has protected me over and over from making foolish decisions.

I try to kill my own ideas.

I wrote about this recently HERE, but I try to find the holes in my ideas and even try to talk people out of it after they’ve already bought into it. I know; crazy, right? Time and time again this process has improved the decisions I make and it always builds a sense of ownership for everyone on the team.

I always respond to criticism.

What a way to slow down progress! Talk about insane. Why listen to people who have negatives to add to the positives? But, I even listen to anonymous critics sometimes. I previously wrote the RIGHT WAY and WRONG WAY to respond to critics, but I’ve learned that criticism often is correct and it always makes me better. Whether I yield to it or not, it forces me to consider sides I wouldn’t otherwise.

I don’t meet alone with the opposite sex.

Unless there is someone else in the office, I don’t meet with females alone. I don’t meet with them for lunch or coffee, except in extreme situations. I know, it’s not practical — and I get plenty of pushback from this one — but it not only protects the integrity of my marriage and ministry, it protects the perception of my marriage and ministry. Which is almost as important.

I give away tasks to less experienced people.

I do it all the time. I surrender my right to decide to one with many years less experience than I have. Some would call that dumb, but I call it genius. The best leaders on our team were “discovered” this way.

I push for best.

It’s always easier and faster to compromise. Settling for mediocre saves time and energy…and it makes a leader more popular! I work through conflict to get to the best solution for everyone. I know, time consuming, but in the long run, the organization wins!

I watch people fail.

You heard me. I’ve let people make a mistake I knew they were going to make. How dumb can one leader be, right? Why not jump in to save the day? I’ve learned, however, that if I do always stop what I see as a mistake, I may miss out on something I can’t see. Plus, I’ve learned my best leadership from the mistakes I’ve made. Others will also.

There! So much for being impractical. Way to waste some time. Good job being Mr. Inefficient! But, if you want to be a great leader, find ways to avoid practicality.

Of course, when you consider the bigger picture – maybe these are actually most practical. 

How good are you at being an impractical leader? What other impractical leadership principles have you seen?

7 Biblical Leaders and their Leadership Tensions

Bible

I know people who shy away from terms such as leadership when talking about church. One comment I hear is they don’t want us to become too business-like. They believe Christ is the leader of the church and we are simply servants under His command.

While I agree with their assessment of our relationship to Christ, I see leadership throughout the Bible. God’s greatest servants were significant leaders – with significant examples of leadership challenges I face everyday.

And, as I read their story, I learn great Biblical principles – but also great leadership principles.

Here are 7 tensions of Biblical leaders:

David – Have you ever fought a giant? Did you ever have to recover from a ruined reputation? Do you know what it’s like to feel like the world is against you?

Joseph – Have you ever prepared for a bleak future? Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do? Have you ever had to reconcile a broken relationship?

Paul – Has a changing culture ever impacted your leadership? Did you ever have problems getting the established leaders to trust you? Do you allow struggles and opposition to fuel your best work?

Gideon – Ever been in over your head? Do you ever feel you are not prepared to fulfill what you know you have to do? Did you land in a position and – honestly – you’re not sure why?

Moses – Is the weight of your responsibility ever overwhelming? Have you been treated with disloyalty? Is someone else getting to complete the work – and enjoy the benefits – of something you started?

Abraham – Have you ever led a team into an unknown? Do family situations ever distract you from what you feel you must do? Do you ever have to wait?

Noah – Do you ever feel you are standing alone? Does the task in front of you seem impossible? Ever feel you’re on an island where no one understands?

Look over the list and see which of these are most representative of your current leadership tension. Then discover things these Biblical leaders did wrong or did right in handling their challenge.

Perhaps some of the best leadership advice is closer than you think.

Recharging – Critical Advice for Today’s Leaders

Man using a tablet computer while relaxing in a hammock

This is a guest post by Jeremie Kubicek – co-founder of GiANT Worldwide – a global company dedicated to leadership transformation through intentional apprenticeship. Jeremie has a new book, which I believe can be helpful for all leaders – maybe especially in the church.

Recharging.

I was taught the importance of hard work from a very young age. Growing up in Oklahoma, I learned from the state’s large agricultural industry that individuals literally, reap what they sow—those diligent to their craft that work hard and place high emphasis on quality, would yield the best crop.

I also learned the importance of this in church. As Christians, we are to work diligently in all we do, not for our own glory but for God’s. Colossians 3:17 says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

We see this work ethic in Jesus’ ministry, as he works faithfully at all times to share the Gospel. He even challenged us to work similarly. John 9:4 says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

But what I didn’t learn early on was the importance of rest, taking a break, recharging and strolling with God. For so long, I heard verses like 1 Timothy 5:8, which advocates the importance of providing for one’s family, and thought my responsibilities as a Christian, husband, father and businessman stopped there.

I was wrong. Many 80-hour workweeks later, I began to realize I had personally accomplished a lot, but not what God wanted me to accomplish.

We know God rested for a day in Genesis after creating the world, and He encourages us to do the same. And Jesus later modeled the critical act of rest. The Gospel of Luke tells us Jesus “would withdraw to desolate places and pray,” frequently after large events in his ministry.” In Matthew, Jesus spent 40 days in the desert away from the busyness of everyday work to spend time and grow with God. We see him refuel in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and prepare for his next few days of “work.”

I was convicted; although we are called to work hard, we are also called to recharge hard.

Early on, I learned that resting and recharging do not always mean sleeping. Although sleep is a big part of the process, coherent recharge is, too. We are all wired differently and for this reason, each of us must find the way to rest and recharge that best fits our unique makeup.

For introverts, this might include relaxing activities such as reading and meditation or more active things like exercise, gardening, cooking or woodworking.

While these may also enliven extroverts, more social activities such as discussing ideas with a mentor, spending time with family and friends or attending concerts or movies may be just want they need to help them wind down.

At the end of the day, it isn’t the form of rest that is important but the intentional inclusion of it in your day. So take a cue from our God and Savior and find a moment to recharge today.

Check out “5 Gears,” for additional help in balancing life, work and rest.