The Pastor But Not The Leader

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, but they see him as too young to make decisions on his own. They won’t take his suggestions. 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 that 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 wasn’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 that 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…

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…
  • 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)
  • 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. I would say, however, that if you are miserable now and things are not improving that 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!

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. If you need additional help processing next steps send me an email.

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?

(I might suggest some of these church leaders read THIS POST or THIS POST.)

Exploring Coaching Network Options: Help Please

I’m exploring options…thinking through some ways that I can invest in the current and future leadership of the church.  One of the most common themes these days among leaders I admire is to start a coaching network, basically as a way to “coach” a small group of leaders for a determined period of time.  I’ve never been one to copy what everyone else is doing, but I don’t want to miss opportunities either.

So I’m curious…would you help me by answering a few questions?

Have you ever been part of a coaching network?

If so, was it beneficial?  How?

For what reasons would you most want or need coaching today?

What do you think is missing now in the world of coaching networks?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, comments, etc.

Thanks for your assistance.

The Posture of Leadership

It’s a strange phenomenon…I’ve seen people serve in leadership roles who I didn’t think were the most qualified to lead, yet they are leading well and people are following. And, many times, they are achieving great results…

The reason is not their abilities as much as the way they have positioned or presented themselves to a group of followers.

The opposite is equally true. I have seen people who have positions where they are to be the leader but no one seems to be following.

That’s because of one principle of leadership:

Leaders posture themselves as leaders…

  • They seem to be in control or they take control…
  • They aren’t afraid to take a risk…
  • They are willing to go first…
  • They have battle-scarred hands from life experience…
  • They are still dreaming, when everyone else is settling for mediocrity..
  • They have the latest information…
  • They appear to have a plan…
  • They have impeccable character and integrity…
  • They hold a big vision…

You may not have all the answers, you may even be fooling yourself at times, but if you are postured to lead…others will follow…

Consider your leadership posture…would you want to follow you?

What do you look for in a person you will consider following?

Sharing Your Story: Let’s Get to Know One Another

This week I was at the Story Conference in Chicago.  Ben Arment and a team of volunteers put together a conference designed to help us creatively tell the story of Christ’s redemptive love for the world.  I was challenged personally to be a better storyteller.

It got me thinking though…

We all have a story….  We should share some of them…

Let’s share some of them today.

Here are 10 questions…Comment on this post to answer them….Answer all…one…or as many as you want to answer…

What is the hardest decision you have ever made?

What is one question about how your life has turned out that you have yet to answer?

If you inherited $1 million, what would you do with it?

If you could go back to any period of your life, where would you go?  Why?

Who is a friend from the past you would love to connect with again?

If you could change one thing about your personality, what would it be?

What is the craziest thing you have ever done?

What is the biggest trial you have ever faced?

How did you meet your spouse/girlfriend or boyfriend?

What is your greatest fear in life?  How do you fight it?

Let’s have some fun learning our stories.  Again, answer as many as you want…or all of them…

10 Random Things to Know about Pastors

Here are 10 random things you should know about pastors….these are true for me, but I suspect they may be for your pastor too:

The temptations you face…I face…

The larger the church gets…the less I know about anything…

I may not be the best person to ask…but I can point you to the right people…

The better the message…the longer it takes me to prepare it…

Even though I’m teaching it…I may not yet have mastered it…but I’m working on it…

I get nervous every time I start to preach…sometimes sick to my stomach nervous…

Sunday is not the only day I work…Honestly…

Your story probably doesn’t surprise me anymore…but I am never callous towards it…

To my family I’m not a pastor…just a husband and dad…

If you tell me something on Sunday morning…you probably should back it up with an email to remind me…

Pastors, does this list reflect you in any way? What would you add?

7 Hints for Working with Busy Leaders

Busy leaders. You know them. I hesitated to call them “important” people, because frankly I think all of us are equally important, but these are the leaders who have influence in a certain area of expertise and you would love a chance to spend some time with them just to learn from them. Perhaps you need their assistance for a project or you just want to glean from their experience.

The problem is these leaders have limited time to spend beyond what they are currently doing. You already view their time as valuable to you. You want to make the best use of it that you can.

Here are a few pointers to help your interactions with busy leaders:

Work through his or her system – If he or she has an assistant, use that process unless instructed otherwise. If the person prefers email to phone call, respect his or her wishes. If Twitter is their deal…you need to use Twitter.

Carry the burden – Assume responsibility for setting up appointment. Offer to check back, follow up, send a reminder, check back later, etc. Don’t ask them to “call me when you get time”.

Come prepared – Have your thoughts written out in an outline form to keep you on track in your discussion. Prioritize your list with maximum two or three issues to be covered.

Get to the point – Don’t give all the details unless you are asked for them. Most likely this person is a big picture thinker and will not need all of the details to understand your situation. State your questions or issues of concern up front so the leader knows where the conversation is going.

Be punctual – Remember his or her schedule is most likely full already. Don’t waste more of it.

Honor the time – Don’t overstay your welcome. Commit to ending in the time agreed to in advance.

Be appreciative – Follow up by thanking the leader for his or her time.

What suggestions do you have for meeting with busy people?

7 Suggestions for Churches Meeting in a School

I get lots of emails asking how we do certain things as a church. I usually figure that when several people are asking the same question that it represents a larger audience wanting to know the same answers. This post is an example of that thought.

Recently I was asked what suggestions I have for a church planning to start meeting in a school facility. Grace Community Church has met in our high school for three years now and it has been a blessing to us and the school, from feedback I have received. Here are 7 suggestions for churches meeting in a school. Most of these are more philosophy than actions, but with them as our paradigm it helps direct our actions.

Grow volunteers – Being in a borrowed facility forces the church to rely on lots of volunteer labor to set up and tear down each week. This can be stressful on people, but it also creates an opportunity to raise up new volunteer leadership. Our church would never happen without the countless hours of donated time, but in the process volunteers have sharpened their leadership skills and realized the joy of investing in God’s Kingdom and seeing the results it brings.

Love the school – We support the school we are in more than just on Sunday morning. We support their activities, we attend their ballgames, and we try to meet needs the school has as we are made aware of them.

Realize it’s not a rental situation – You may be paying rent, but more than renting a space you are borrowing a facility that has another intended purpose. We realize that the school building’s primary purpose is to educate children during the week. We know we are an added burden to the facility. We see it as a win/win for our school, but we don’t take it for granted that we are secondary in importance at the school.

Be a blessing – At the end of our time in the school, whenever that may come, our goal is that we will actually be missed by the school…and not just for the money we bring to the table. We have as a goal to be a blessing to the school. With that as a goal and mindset, it forces us to find ways to help the school outside of the money we pay for usage.

Don’t interrupt school – We respect the facility as a place for education and we never try to use our influence at the school to trump a school activity. We know we are a secondary use and so we gladly bow out if a school situation arises. Our school doesn’t do much on Sundays, and if it did that may create problems, but the few times there has been a Sunday conflict we have tried to be accommodating to the school’s needs more than our own. We would rather be inconvenienced than for them to be because of us.

View your money as a contribution – It changes the perspective of our staff and key leaders when we see our money going to make the education process better, not just as a rental line item on our income statement. Schools are always struggling to fund adequate resources and we think our money helps. That makes writing checks so much more pleasant!

Acknowledge critical players – The relationships you have with school officials is critical to making any agreement work. There are some people who make meeting in a school a positive or negative experience. That may include school district officials, the school administration, teachers, and custodians. We especially are sensitive to the teachers who teach in areas where we meet in the school, because we realize we are sharing space with them. Our experience is that the custodian plays a large role in our success in the school, so we try to respect and show appreciation to them.

Have you been a part of a church meeting in a school? What did you do to make the arrangement work?

The Sticks Conference: Helping Churches in Small Towns

Recently I had the awesome opportunity to hang out with Artie Davis. I knew Artie from online, but had never met him personally.  Artie is one of those people who invests in everyone he meets.  I instantly felt love and warmth from Artie and I believe we have started a long-term friendship as pastors.

I was especially interested in a couple projects Artie has going.  One in particular is The Sticks Conference. I had seen Tweets of this conference, but really didn’t completely understand it until we talked.  Knowing the vision of this conference, I want to make sure my readers know about it.  If you are doing church in a small town…pay attention!

Here’s a conversation I had with Artie Davis about The Sticks Conference:

What is The Sticks Conference?

It is a gathering “movement” committed to bringing leaders and pastors together that do ministry in smaller towns. The Sticks Conference is the national gathering where these incredible, unsung hero’s have open access to other leaders and the opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of the other small community leaders.

Are there special considerations for churches in smaller communities to consider?

Absolutely!  Unlike larger metropolitan areas, every smaller community has it’s own “culture.” There are truly as unique as DNA. No two are the same. Some principles can be transferred, but methodology must be relevant to that communities uniqueness.

Who should attend this conference?

Every leader, pastor, minister, lay leader, church planters & wanna be leaders who have a heart to reach their town for Jesus!

When and where is it and how does someone register?

It’s November 9-10 at Cornerstone Community Church.  You can get more details at

Thanks Artie!  Again, if you are attempting to minister to people in smaller cities, this conference is tailored just for you.  You will not want to miss this conference. Artie and his team are going to invest in you and make your ministry better.

Friday Discussion: Christian Response to Customer Service

Let’s discuss….

As a former business owner, I am a huge proponent for treating a customer well. I don’t know that I would say the customer is king always, but the goal should certainly be that they leave feeling good about their experience. Customer service is the front door of any business (or church). Because of that, I tip well, I express appreciation and I always have a desire to make the waiter or waitresses day better, not worse than before I came. I want to encourage and reward good service and I realize that there could always be personal reasons why a person gives bad service on a particular day. I am always perplexed, however, of the way to respond when I receive bad service.

One night this week, my small group ate together at a local restaurant. From our first encounter, we knew our waiter did not want to be there. He was obviously impatient and snappy with his responses. It wasn’t the worst customer service I’ve ever received, but it was obviously not one of the best. When a large group recognizes the tension in a waiter, it’s probably a good indicator that service is less than excellent. It reminded me, especially with the pressure of my small group around me, that I don’t always know how to respond.

Today’s Friday discussion is:

What kind of customer should a Christian be? Do Christians have a right to complain when their service is bad? If the waiter or waitress is rude, do we turn the other cheek, or speak the truth in love? Do you tip for bad service and for good? Do you talk to the manager?

Give me your thoughts. How do you personally handle bad service?

Discuss and engage! I want to learn from you.

7 Ways to Prepare for More Effective Meetings

Successful projects and teams require meetings to accomplish goals and objectives of the organization. Busy leaders, however, are usually somewhat anti-meetings oriented because of the interruption they appear to be in getting actual work done.  I have found, however, that much of the frustration is in the lack of proper preparation prior to the meeting.  When done well, the time spent in meetings can actually make projects better and strengthen the work of the organization.  A large part of that is found in the preparation prior to the meeting.

Here are 7 ways to prepare for more effective meetings:

Ask the big question – The big question to ask before any meeting is scheduled is, “Do we need to meet?” For me personally, most meetings feel as if they are an interruption, even though I realize the importance of them. If the issue can be handled, without meeting, most will not argue.  Unnecessary meetings cause frustration and slow progress.  If people agree a meeting is necessary, they are more likely to come prepared to accomplish something.

Determine a win – The meeting will be more successful if before the meeting begins the purpose is clear. Ask the question, “What do we need to accomplish in the meeting for it to be successful?”  Working towards a defined win will help keep the meeting headed in the right direction.

Invite the right people – Not every meeting needs to involve every person on the team.  Decide who needs to be at the table and invite the appropriate people.  Those without a defined purpose will tend to drag the meeting away from its purpose and leaves them frustrated.  As a leader, I usually ask people on my team, “Do I need to be there?” when I learned of a meeting, before I place it on my calendar.

Decide on a time limit and frequency – I get very bored after an hour. Some of our meetings, such as our bi-weekly staff meetings take longer, but as a rule, I like shorter rather than longer and less frequent rather than more frequent.  If you are attracting leaders to your organization, they will want meetings to be kept to a minimum as much as possible.

Craft an agenda – The meeting should be purposeful, but not too tightly controlled by time.   Be sure to allow adequate time for brainstorming, questions and the necessary social interactions, which happen with healthy teams. For our team the social part starts the creative process and gets people to buy into the meeting.

Give adequate notice – This will not always be possible, but people who like to be prepared, have Introverted tendencies, or are highly organized will give better participation, if they are given enough time to prepare for the meeting.

Plan to start and end on time – People will be less hesitant about attending your meetings if they know their time will not be abused.

What tips do you have for preparing for more effective meetings?