4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership – A Guest Post by Jenni Catron

This is a guest post by my good friend Jenni Catron. I have gleaned from Jenni for several years, since the days when we served together in nearby churches. She’s a great leader and continues to challenge me. I’m excited about her new book, her newest book, The Four Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership: The Power of Leading from Your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. This will be a book you’ll want to add to your leadership library and toolbox. Thanks Jenni.

4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership

One of my favorite extraordinary leaders in the Bible is Nehemiah. In the Old Testament book named for him, Nehemiah led the Jewish people to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem that had lain in shambles for seventy years. While the Jewish people had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple after some fifty years of exile, they were never able to finish the wall around the temple. It was left in ruin because they faced opposition each time they attempted to complete it. No leader before Nehemiah had the clarity of vision and the influence to overcome obstacles to accomplish this monumental task. What’s striking about Nehemiah’s story is that he wasn’t personally affected by the wall. He didn’t live in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah was in Judea serving as the cupbearer to the king of Persia. This was a high- profile position. He had earned a respected seat of influence, so the fact that he was concerned about the people in his homeland speaks volumes about his character. As you read through his story, you quickly see that Nehemiah understood the complexity of the leadership task before him. He recognized that there was a problem to solve and that no one else was stepping up to solve it. He identified the leadership vacuum that existed, and he felt called to help lead through it. As we look at Nehemiah’s actions, we see how he employed the dimensions of an extraordinary leader to lead himself and others through the complexity of the problem they faced.

He Identified the Problem After spending a few days in Jerusalem assessing the situation, Nehemiah told the other leaders, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17). The first task of the leader is to define reality, especially when a complex problem lies between where you are and where you desire to go. In Nehemiah’s case, it was a wall that lay in ruins, and those ruins symbolized a lack of hope, a lack of strength, and a lack of direction for God’s people. He was burdened. Nehemiah owned it. It was personal.

He Sought Out Support (Heart) Nehemiah knew he couldn’t do this alone. He needed others to help him accomplish the vision of restoring the wall. Nehemiah’s role as cupbearer to the king was no accident. He strategically used his place of influence to petition the king for permission to take a leave of absence from his job to lead the rebuilding effort. In addition, he asked the king to write letters to other government officials from whom he would need help. In each step of the process, Nehemiah cast vision and began recruiting help: first to the officials, then to the priests, and finally to the citizens of Jerusalem. He engaged and involved people at every level, and Scripture says that “the people worked with all their heart” (Nehemiah 4:6).

He Prayed over It (Soul) Nehemiah displayed spiritual leadership by praying for God to give him direction for how to proceed. According to Halley’s Bible Handbook, “He spent four months in prayer before he made his request to the king,”8 and Scripture cites numerous times when he paused to pray throughout the project. And these weren’t puny prayers. Nehemiah 1:4 tells us that Nehemiah wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven. When was the last time your heart hurt like that on behalf of someone else?

He Developed a Plan (Mind) Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah visited the remnants of the wall and outlined a plan for rebuilding. He took his plan to the city officials and received their blessing, thanks in large part to the letters from King Artaxerxes. With permission to build, Nehemiah recruited the workers. He provided clear direction and regular guidance, especially when they faced challenges. When opposition arose, he posted guards day and night. When the laborers grew fatigued because of the threats of attack, Nehemiah created rotations so that their responsibilities and the associated pressures would vary. Nehemiah’s attentiveness to the details of the process and the implications of the work for the people exemplified his awareness of managerial leadership.

He Saw the Possibility (Strength) Nehemiah developed a personal passion for this problem, and from that passion a vision of hope for the future was born. While he identified a problem, he also caught a vision for the possibilities. The fact that Nehemiah developed this vision on behalf of others is significant. He didn’t see the possibilities as a benefit for himself. He saw the possibilities for others. Amidst criticism, threats on his life, grumbling from those he was seeking to help, and the difficulties of the task, Nehemiah stayed the course and displayed unwavering commitment to the vision God gave him. His selfless leadership showcased the strength of an extraordinary leader.

5 Legitimate Fears of a Church Planter

Having participated in two church plants as a planter, and now working with church planters on a regular basis in a coaching capacity, I know first hand the fears associated with planting a church. It’s a leap of faith and one God is calling many to these days.

My theory here is recognizing the fear and realizing their legitimacy is part of guarding our hearts against them. The fact remains – for a church plant to be successful, at least in Kingdom terms, God must provide His grace.

Keep in mind, Jesus said not to be afraid. Fear is usually a substitute for trust. But, unless you are perfect – which I suspect you’re not, you’re subject to normal human emotions. The kind church planting produces.

Here are 5 legitimate fears of church planters:

No one will show up.

If we do all this work and it doesn’t work – what will we do? You’ll be thankful you were obedient to what you believe God called you to do and wait patiently for Him to provide. We had to consistently remind our core team that God was in control of numbers. Our job was to be faithful. This doesn’t mean you stop inviting people or investing in the community around you, but you trust God will stir hearts for His work.

We can’t afford it.

You probably can’t. Seriously – not with what you can see. And, seldom there be “enough money” – or so it may seem at times. God calls us to big tasks. Church planting is hard – and not cheap. But, the Lord will provide resources for His vision. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to educate people on the needs or help them understand the command, value and blessing of giving, but it does mean you trust God even when the checkbook balance is low. It also doesn’t mean you won’t have to wait to make major purchases or there won’t be times you have to wait until “Sunday’s offering” to get paid. Our paycheck was delayed several times the first couple years so other bills – and other staff – could be paid, but we were never hungry.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

Isn’t it wonderful? It means you’re insufficient without His sufficiency. What a great place to reside! The great news is that many have gone before you. Learn from others and stay on your knees before God.

People will leave

True. Most core teams are cut in half in the first few years. At first I thought we were to be the exception. We weren’t. Other people will come and never return. But, some will stick. And, they will have hearts for the vision. And, in them we rejoice at what God has done. We build our teams around those who God sends to us and who remain steadfast to the journey ahead. The team may change several times the first few years.

We don’t have a building

No, but you probably don’t have a mortgage either. And, you’re raising up an army of volunteers for set up and tear down. You are building service and sacrifice into your DNA as a church. Isn’t it wonderful! Don’t lose that atmosphere and culture of dependency, even when you have a building someday.

Final thought. These fears are legitimate – real fears. Don’t be ashamed you have them. The key is not to live in them, but to live and walk in the faith God will complete His plans and enable those He calls.

What other fears have you experienced in church planting?

5 Secret Objections to Change

In the world of change, I’ve learned there are some common objections. I’ve previously written objections people use to criticize change, but in this post, I’m addressing the root cause of that criticism. These are the secret objections.

No one admits to these. But they are real. Very real. In fact, they may be the biggest obstacles you’ll have to face in implementing change. The root of most objections.

Show me an objection to legitimate, needed change and you’re almost guaranteed to find one of these hidden in the crowd somewhere. Probably multiples of them.

Here are the 5 secret objections to change:

Selfishness

We want what we want. We want what’s comfortable. We want what requires less sacrifice on our part.

Pride

We like our ideas and don’t believe we can enjoy the ideas of others, as much as our own. The way I want to do things is best, isn’t it?

Power

We want to make the decisions for our life and resist when we think others are making them for us. We have a very real, often hidden desire for control.

Fear

We are afraid of what could happen if we change. We fear the change might change not only what we are changing, but it might change us in some way. That’s scary.

Satisfaction

We don’t see the need for change. We like things the way they are, no matter how hard someone tries to convince us change is needed. The way it is now is the way it’s supposed to be.

Granted, I don’t believe we can continue to grow most of the time without change. Change is all around us. Failing to embrace it only leads to more severe problems later. With the exception of God and His Word change is imminent. But, that doesn’t mean change is easy.

Sometimes understanding the hidden reasons behind the objection helps the leader better address the situation.

What are hidden objections to change have you seen? Which of these would be your most likely secret struggle with change?

7 New Year Resolutions Which Could Change Your World

Whether or not you do New Year resolutions, we could all stand to improve some things in our life. And, if we do, I’m confident we could also improve the life of others.

In fact, with a whole lot of improving – it might become contagious – and we might just change the world.

Here are 7 new year resolutions which could change the world:

Let’s resolve to begin everyday with a prayer, a smile, and a humility check.

A 3 part checklist. What if we woke up every morning and began by talking to God – recognizing His power and asking Him to direct our steps, make sure our smile is our attitude, and humbly enter the world not expecting anything other than to be a blessing? It will require discipline – but how we begin a day almost always determines how we end one.

Let’s resolve to return evil with good.

It won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. A grudge or sarcastic remark seems so much more fulfilling – in the moment. But, over time, it causes more harm than good – mostly to us – often even more than “them”. Imagine your world when you influence others by how you don’t respond when they “push your buttons” the wrong way.

Let’s resolve to never let the sun go down on anger.

Anger emotions grow overnight. They blossom into more intense anger emotions. We may not be able to resolve all disagreements, but we can drop the right to get even and resolve to be at peace as much as it depends on us. We will awake with level ground to build better, healthier relationships with others. Oh, what a world it would be if we had less anger.

Let’s resolve not use social media as a forum to bash others.

Or even as a forum period. It divides people rather than bringing them together. Let’s resolve for a kinder, gentler Facebook – rant-free even – where we simply stalk – I mean check in on old friends. Let’s act like people – real people -may actually see what we write. And care. And, let’s post in a way which encourages and builds each other up – almost like that’s in the Bible somewhere. (It might even be somewhere around 1 Thessalonians 5:11 – check me on this one.)

Let’s resolve to develop our patience muscle.

Wow! I put this one in the middle so maybe you (or my wife) would skip over it quickly. Just kidding. This is one I need – we all need. I’m not sure we can completely master it this year, but, with intentionality – and Christ’s strength – we can keep getting better. What if we thought about the most common things which test our patience – such as the traffic on the drive home at night – and we asked God to help us deal with it before we experience it – each time? Just a thought.

Let’s resolve to remember it’s not about us.

This one alone would surely change the world. What if we placed into our schema – into our immediate thought process – a simple understanding – OTHER PEOPLE MATTER – just as much as we do? Does it make a difference when you think someone values you? Of course it does. What if we valued others and demonstrated to them by how we treat them, what we say to them, our facial expressions, or even our thoughts toward them? Think it might change a few of our relational encounters this year? I think it might. Certainly seems worth trying.

Let’s resolve to listen more than we speak.

Ouch – if needed! It’s hard to value others when we are doing all the talking. (It’s also hard to hear from God.) It requires an act of humility when we remain silent at times we want to speak. Many times disagreements, arguments, even serious issues like prejudism or racism, have more to do with misunderstanding or miscommunication than anything. When we listen we demonstrate value – but, it also guards the tongue, protects relationships, and we might actually learn something.

Of course, ultimately the change the world needs is the Gospel, but who knows? Maybe if we change the way we treat others – including other believers – others might actually want to hear our Gospel.

I realize I’m simple-minded – but I do, henceforth, resolve.

Who’s with me?

12 Challenges for the New Year Which Can Make Your Life Better

The verdict appears mixed among the people I know of whether of not they make resolutions for a new year. And, I understand, many have tried before – it didn’t work – and so now they are like “why bother?”.

I believe there are probably some principles in place as to whether or not a resolution succeeds. For example, is it reasonable? Is it measurable? Is it sustainable? Do you have accountability in place? (But, at this point I’m writing another post – which I may – so let me get on with the point of this one.)

I wonder if the term itself is a problem. RESOLUTION. I hereby resolve! Sounds kind of formal – almost intimidating – doesn’t it? I hate to say I’m resolving to do something where chances are good I won’t.

I do believe strongly, however, we should work towards continual improvement in our life – whether this begins at the first of the year or in the middle doesn’t matter as much. But, the new year does provide a nice, clear place to start.

So, I want to offer a spin on the old resolution tradition and offer a new word.

Challenge.

Do you ever challenge yourself to do better? It’s easier than saying I resolve to do this. You’re not saying you will – you may not even be able to – it will be a challenge – but you’re willing to give it a try.

Let me give you some examples – maybe some challenges for you to consider. I can almost guarantee if you meet just a few of these challenges your world will be better. You won’t need to meet all of them – just the ones most “challenging” to you. But, you’ll have to trust me in this – meeting them – or even improving upon them – will brighten your life.

Here are 12 challenges for the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else

God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake. The more you live the you He intended the more you’ll enjoy the benefits and blessing. There’s something you can offer this world no one else can. Comparison only leads to disappointment.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens

And, the challenge here for you may be to quit trying to carry everyone else’s burden. God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others. Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit you can do it anymore – and ask for help. In your weakness – He is strong, but you’ll have to admit your weakness before He usually allows His strength to kick into full gear.

Start embracing today

You can keep hoping your life away – that this would happen or that would happen – but when you begin to find contentment – TODAY becomes a great day – in spite of the challenges it holds. The Apostle Paul said he had learned “the secret of being content”. I’ve personally defined contentment in my life as “being satisfied with where God has allowed me to be in life – right now.” Perhaps your greatest challenge in the new year will be embracing where God has you now and waiting more patiently for what He will bring in the fullness of time.

Let the past go

As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3, “Wherever the tree falls, there it lies.”. So simple, yet so profound! It speaks volumes to me. If the tree fell – there it lays. You can’t do anything about it now. It’s done. Finished. On the ground. All you can control now is your response to the tree which fell. If grief is holding you back – grieve – get help if needed. If it’s regret – reconcile the loss. If it’s guilt, or disappointment, or anger – whatever “it” is from your past – deal with it now. Admit the tree fell. It hurt – it stinks – and you wish it hadn’t happened – but, I challenge you to move forward in the new year.

Accept God’s grace

It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But, denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it. Is the guilt of your past keeping you from enjoying all the blessings of being a child of God? Has there never been a time you received the gift of salvation? Have you been living more like a prodigal in exile than a child of the King? If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. If the Son has set you free – you are free indeed! I challenge you to embrace grace in the new year.

Live free of grudges and bitterness

The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness. Someone reading this is holding on to a grudge, some bitterness, maybe anger – and it’s keeping you from fully enjoying life. Every time you hear a person’s name or see them you are reminded of the injury they caused. And, it’s hurting you more than it is them. Chances are they’ve moved on and you’re still struggling. Isn’t it time to let it go? (Let it go – could be a “Frozen” song you need to sing to yourself.)

Remember other people exist

Don’t be selfish or always command your way. People – even the best people – will never perform to all of your standards – and is it even fair to expect it of them? They may not even agree with you as to what is important. You cannot hold people to unrealistic expectations and not be disappointed often.

And, here’s a note to those of us disappointed with the things of this world. As followers of Christ, we can’t expect that everyone sees the world as we do. Of course, there are biblical principles through which we view the world and live, but can we really expect people who aren’t believers to embrace them?

Admit mistakes readily

Sincere humility is an attractive quality – and it helps to free you from future regrets or guilt. We all can have “perfectionist” tendencies, yet none of us is perfect. If you want to live with less self-induced stress this year – admit you don’t have all the answers and sometimes you have none.

Give generously

Giving opens the heart to joy and contentment. Something happens when we give to others which causes us – though we have less – to feel like we have more. And, there are many needs around us. I challenge you to give more in the new year and see how it makes your life better!

Protect your heart

“Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also. Most likely there are activities, or people, or places where your heart is most easily injured. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can be aware so you can “guard your heart”. And, when you are aware you may be injured you will build guardrails to lessen the damage.

Take a new risk

The adrenaline of attempting something you’ve never done before fuels you for future success. It could be something you’ve always wanted to try or something you know God wants you to do, but, for whatever reason, you’ve resisted. Especially if it’s God-honoring, not sinful, will make your life or other’s life better, then what are you waiting for? Don’t let fear or thoughts of your inadequacies be your chief motivators in the new year. I challenge you – GO FOR IT!

Think and act eternally

There is more to this life than the world we know today. Thankfully, I might add. Jesus said to “store up treasures in heaven”. Whenever possible, I challenge you to consider the eternal consequences of the decisions, investments, and actions of your life. Jesus said to live in this world, but not be of this world. How are you making a difference in the world to come by your world today? The more intentional you are the more treasures you build for a future reward.

Which of these challenges are you willing to accept?

Which of the above do you most need to embrace?

10 Things I’ve Learned About Gossip – And Why I Hate It So Much

I hate gossip.

I realize hate is a strong word. But it’s the one I prefer here. I’ve seen so much negative results caused by gossip.

Gossip happens in families, in the workplace – wherever two or more are gathered – gossip will be among them. And, gossip is always destructive to building healthy relationships. I hate gossip in any setting – but especially in the church.

Relational gossip – especially among believers – shouldn’t even exist. We have to violate a lot of principles of God’s plan for the church and believers for it to exist at all.

Gossip is destructive and has no part in our lives or in the church. I’ve counseled with families caught in drama after the loss of a loved one and gossip is fueling their division. I have witnessed gossip destroy a healthy work environment. And, I have worked with so many churches where gossip – drama – is a leading cause of why the church isn’t healthy – isn’t growing – isn’t accomplishing all God has for the church.

(I expanded this from a previous post where I addressed drama in the church. I decided gossip was the broader issue – and it applies to all relational settings.)

And, I’ve learned a few things about gossip.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned about gossip:

Not all rumors are true. In fact, most aren’t – especially not exactly as they are presented. When we repeat things we shouldn’t we seldom get all the facts straight. There is usually something we don’t understand.

People like to expand on what they think they know. People love to speculate, add their opinion to what they’ve heard. When they do the story gets further from the truth. People enjoy telling others “the good stuff”. With practice, some have even learned to make things “bigger” and “better” than reality.

There is almost always more to the story than what you know. Whenever multiple people are involved there will be multiple sides to the story. Even in stories involving only one person – if we aren’t hearing it from them – we only know what we know. We don’t know another person’s thoughts, history, or individual circumstances. And, it may or may not be what your mind stretches it to be.

Sometimes people don’t consider the ramifications of what they are doing. This is so true and so potentially damaging. I have seen gossip destroy a person – even seen it run people from the church – and some of the people involved in creating and furthering the drama wonder later what happened. They honestly didn’t realize the damage their rumor-repeating was causing. It’s so easy to get trapped in drama without considering the damage being done to others. I’m convinced, people don’t always intend the harm they cause.

Gossip is fueled by reaction. When someone tells you something you shouldn’t even know – the way you respond often determines how many times it’s told again. If you gasp with wonder and interest – the person sees they have something and are motivated to seek the same reaction in others. If, however, you appear not as interested or intrigued the person may feel disarmed somewhat from sharing it more.

Some of the juiciest gossip is disguised as a prayer request. Be honest. You’ve done or seen this done many times. People do this to pastors all the time. “Pastor, please pray for the Jones family. I’ve heard their son is really causing them problems. Just wanted you to know so you could be praying.” And, actually, many times they just wanted me to know so they could be telling.

People often stir drama for personal advantage. It could be to advance their own agenda. They may be on a power play. Sometimes people talk about others thinking it will make them feel better about their own life. And, sadly, I’ve known people who seem to get a “cheap thrill” out of creating drama. (I’ve never understood this one – but it’s true.

The only reliable source is the direct source. Every. Single. Time. In fact, a good discipline would be to not repeat anything which wasn’t from a direct source.

Thumper’s mom was right. If we can’t say something nice – we really shouldn’t say anything at all. If we all lived by this principle there would be far less drama. And, far less pain caused as a result.

Gossip destroys. Gossip can bring down a person’s reputation quickly. Start a tale about someone and watch their character unravel in front of you. It happens to celebrities and politicians. I’ve seen in happen to pastors, individuals, and entire churches.

The point of this post is awareness. Most of my readers are believers. Some non-believers, however, will likely share my distaste of gossip in relationships. If you’ve made it this far in the post – you and I can make a difference in stopping gossip from spreading by how we respond to it.

You may want to read my post 7 Ways to Stop Gossip Or, even better, read the Book of James in the New Testament. Or maybe Ephesians. (Specifically note 4:29).

5 Do’s and Don’ts to Help Pastors and Ministers at Christmas and in the New Year

I posted something similar several years ago, but decided the subject needed mentioning again. One of my goals in ministry is to help protect the ministers and their family. Through this blog I reach thousands of men and women who serve God in a vocational role. My heart is heavy when I hear from those who are drowning with burnout and whose family is suffering.

Having been on both sides of the pulpit – as a pastor and a layperson – I have a unique view of the pastorate. I am very thankful to be serving in a healthy church, which encourages my family time, but I hope to encourage those who struggle to balance family and ministry.

I also realize the size of my church helps. We have a great staff and dedicated, trained volunteers. We even have several retired ministers in our church who can help fill in when needed.

With the Christmas season here – and really thinking into the new year – I thought I would share a few things you can do and a few things not to do to support the ministers you probably love.  The reality is the December calendar is packed with activities – as they are for everyone. The difference is many times a pastor doesn’t feel the freedom to control their schedule. People in ministry have accepted a call of God to care for people. Most ministers have a hard time saying no to people and can easily become overwhelmed with the never-ending demands of their time. That’s especially true during certain times of the year.

If a minister is not careful, they will spend so much time with others their own family will feel neglected.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to support your pastor or minister:

DO:

  • Pray for them during the holidays (and always) – This is an especially stressful time for everyone – and it may be one of their most stressful times of the year. 
  • Let them off the hook from attending every social event. They simply can’t do everything and still be ready for Sunday, care for the rest of the church and their family.
  • Invite them to your social – without an expectation they will come. They will love knowing you thought of them and wanted to include them – that you see them as regular people who like to have fun. 
  • See if they have specific needs at the holidays. Many ministers, especially in smaller churches, have a hard time financially at Christmas.
  • Encourage them. People in ministry usually have tons of critics. Find some time to encourage them. It may be their greatest gift.

DON’T:

  • Expect them to be everywhere. It’s simply impossible – and unreasonable.
  • Show them disappointment when they can’t make your event. Don’t take it personal – it probably isn’t. It may simply be practical – they can’t be everywhere and do everything – just as you probably can’t – or shouldn’t try. 
  • Make them feel guilty when they aren’t where you want them to be . They will likely take it personal and it will weigh heavy on their heart. They wouldn’t be in ministry if they didn’t love people. And, some of them even struggle with being people-pleasers. 
  • Hold them to a higher standard than is realistic. Remember, they are simply human. 
  • Place unrealistic expectations on the minister’s family. They probably enjoy just being a family – as your family does.

Find ways to support those who have accepted God’s call to ministry. You would be amazed how a small gesture can make a difference in their life and the life of their family. Plus, you’ll be playing a part in Kingdom-building – strengthening one of God’s servants.

Pastors/Ministers, what else would you add to my list? Do you feel especially stretched this time of year?

7 Common Ways Leaders Waste Time and Energy

Wasting time and energy may be one of my biggest pet peeves as a leader. Some days I leave work and feel I never got off a treadmill. It’s physically and mentally draining.

Does it ever happen to you?

It can be frustrating to feel your most valuable commodity – time – has been wasted – or you invested good every on the wrong things. 

I firmly believe when we get rid of some common drains on our time and energy we dramatically improve our performance as leaders. With this in mind, I’ve observed in my own personal development some ways to eliminate time and energy wasters.

Here are 7 common wastes of time and energy in leadership:

Focussing too much attention on the naysayers.

I have found worrying over what critics are saying, especially the ones I have learned I will likely never make happy, delays progress and takes time and energy from me. Plus, it only detracts my focus from the positive people who believe in the vision and are supportive. Every decision a leader makes will make some happy and some unhappy. I need to be humble, make sure I’m not making decisions alone, and filter through the constructive criticism I need to hear – but then give my best attention to moving forward. 

Refusing to delegate.

When I make every decision, or become too controlling as a leader, I rob myself and our team of valuable extra time and energy a talented team could have provided. I feel overwhelmed more quickly, the team feels under-appreciated and we fail to accomplish as much as we should.

Second guessing decisions.

Sometimes I can wear myself out wrestling over a decision – even though I know I’ve covered all the bases I can – prayed, sought wise counsel, followed my gut. It’s often best just to make the decision. If I’m wrong, I find it is better to work to make better decisions moving forward rather than being timid about my next decision or living in a pity party of the bad ones already made.

Trying to have all the ideas.

Many leaders feel they have to be the originator of all the creativity of a team. Some do it it of pride and some mistakenly believe it’s what a leader must do. They waste time brainstorming alone and the energy created by expanding the creative process. Consequently, the best ideas often never surface. Original thoughts, better than ours, are usually in the room or the organization if we will welcome them to the table. This preserves my time and energy for more efficient uses and allows me to concentrate on things only I can do.

Living with bad structure.

Let’s face reality. Over time, rules take on a life of their own. What was once created to improve efficiency actually begins to slow progress and waste valuable time. Plus, bad structure is an energy-drainer. Change the rules – or, if possible, drop them. We need healthy guidelines, but the fewer restrictions we place on people the better they can perform – and you often free up valuable space for people to actually enjoy their work. Morale boosters are always good for productivity.

Disorganization.

Many leaders feel overwhelmed because they don’t have good organizational skills. Learning how to better handle routine tasks such as processing emails, calendaring, and scheduling work flow each week will drastically improve time efficiency and energy to do more work. Begin each day with a checklist of “must do” activities. Take time to plan out your week. Work from a pre-determined schedule as much as possible. Learn the value of NO and use it. Being organized helps handle interruptions, which naturally come for all of us.

Completing tasks not helpful in my overall productivity.

This could be any number of things. Even reading a book, for example. Perhaps a silly example, but I have discovered sometimes I can read too much. It may sounds strange, but really it’s because I read things I didn’t need to read. I start a book and within the first chapter I know it’s not helpful, or even enjoyable, my sense of completion wants to finish. It would be better to put it aside and pick up another book. Take the novel length email I just received – I try to determine first if I’m the one who should respond. Many times I’m not – before I read and try to process – I pass it on to someone more suitable. It could be attending a meeting or supervising a project. Whatever it is – if I am not the best person for the job or it is just a time or energy waster – the sooner I say no or hand off the task, the more time and energy I preserve for other tasks I should be doing.

What time or energy wasters have you seen in leadership?

7 Secrets to Being a High Achiever

I get asked frequently how I am able to get so much done and still take care of myself and my family. 

I pastor a large church. I maintain a separate non-profit ministry, where I speak at various conferences and events. I have an active online presence. I mentor about a dozen pastors – some in groups and some as individuals, plus I mentor 4 young leaders in our church. And, I try to stay active in the community – serving on a number of non-profit boards. But, mostly, I strive to be the person, husband and father my congregation could seek to follow.

Okay, typing out a list of my activities does remind me – I’m busy. Productive would be subject to interpretation, but certainly I have adequate (and more than adequate) activity in my life.

Honestly, I never feel I’ve accomplished as much as I would like, but after receiving the question so many times, perhaps I should attempt to answer.

As I’ve reflected of what helps me accomplish much, I came up with some thoughts as to how I’m able to maintain productivity.

Here are 7 secrets to being a high achiever:

I’m intentional

This is probably number one. I strive to live my life for a purpose, which carries over into everything I do. (Notice there are even 7 steps in this answer. This was intentional.) If you could name one word to describe who I am as a pastor, leader, husband, father, friend and child of God, it would be intentional. (By the way, I’m intentional about resting too.) I even put the last sentence about rest in here intentionally, because I knew someone would wonder. 🙂

I don’t sit still long without a purpose

Being still is a discipline for me. Some seasons I’m better at it than others. I realize some people have no trouble with this, but I do. As I said about being intentional, I have to make myself rest. My mind is constantly in motion. If I’m watching a television program, which isn’t often, I’m doing attempting to do something productive while I watch – otherwise I feel I’ve “wasted” time. I wish I could say I’m always doing the “best” things, but certainly more activity leads to the potential for more productivity. Doesn’t always work this way, which is why some of the other points I’m listing are far more valuable than this one. But, I try to be productive even with down time – and, although it’s taken years to understand this, resting is a productive time.

I strive to maintain my health

I’d love to say I always watch what I eat, and I do to a certain extent, but mostly I exercise to stay fit. I’ve learned the more out of shape I am the less effective I am in all I attempt to do. It impacts me physically, emotionally and spiritually when I skip my time exercising. I’m more productive when I’m most physically fit. I’ve recently learned too my body needs to be adequately hydrated to feel at my best. 

I work from a plan

Whether it’s long-term or short-term planning, I try to have one. I begin most every Monday morning (or sometimes Sunday nights) planning the week ahead. I find I’m more successful in my week if I’ve put some plans on paper prior to beginning any activity. Daily I begin by reviewing my plans for the day. I begin each day with 5 minutes spent on making a checklist of what I have to get done. At the beginning of a year, I plan the year. I periodically look over larger time spans of my life and plan or review where I’m going. Now, the further I get from the date, the more difficult it is to solidify my plans – life disrupts – but without a plan I find I’m spinning my wheels more than making progress.

I take advantage of opportunities

Did you catch that? It is not complicated, but it is a powerful principle. Networking. Delegation. Time-management. Learning something new. Cultivating dead times. I am intentional (there’s that word again) at looking for opportunities as they present themselves. If I’m waiting at the doctor’s office, I’m probably writing a blog post or replying to emails. Small opportunities lead to huge opportunities. I seek those moments. (By the way, I always have something with me where I can make notes. When ideas come – I want to be ready. Intentionally ready.)

I try to stay ahead

This is hard. I’m a procrastinator by nature – like most people are – but the more I can, I try to stay one step ahead of the snowballs in my schedule. They happen to all of us. If I’m prepared when those times arrive I can better keep them from being a disruption in my productivity.

I prioritize

I say no often. It may not seem like it to an outside observation, but I do. I say no a lot. I have come to the realization that I can’t do everything or be everywhere. I’ve tried to figure out what’s most important in my life, my work, and my walk with God and I put those things first. I even schedule some of them to make sure nothing gets in the way. I ask myself consistently questions such as, “Am I the right one to be doing this?”, “Is this the best use of my time?” Again, intentional.

It should finally be noted – I’m in a different season of life these days. I’m an empty-nester. When my boys were home life was different. I was intentional then too, but in different ways.

Which of these would help you the most? Any you would add to help others (and me)?

10 Things I Have Learned Leading Church Change

I left the church planting world to help revitalize and grow an established church. It’s proven to be challenging – maybe slightly more than I thought it would be.

But, God has allowed us to experience incredible energy and excitement. I am not big on sharing numbers in this format, but let me simply say – God is working. Amazingly working. The potential in the days ahead is astounding to me.

Needless to say, there has been a lot of change since I made the transition. I tend to like change. I think it’s necessary if any organization, church or relationship wants to grow – or even remain alive. But, some change came fast. It didn’t necessarily seem fast to me, and certainly not monumental, but I know, in a church over 100 years old – what is slow change to me is considered fast to others.

For the most part, the reception to change has been good. Still, change, no matter how necessary, is never easy. Along the way, I have learned a few things. I share this knowing over fifty percent of the readers of this blog are in ministry. Hopefully some of what we’ve learned will help others.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned in leading church change:

Don’t try to be the church down the street.

You have to be true to the DNA, heritage and culture of the church you lead. This doesn’t mean don’t change, but does mean change should be relevant to context. It’s a mistake to think you can “cookie-cutter” someone else’s success.

Don’t oppose everything old.

When you’re against everything done in the past you push people into a corner to defend themselves. The old – whatever it is – got you to where you are today. It may not be all bad. In fact, at one time it might have been very good – the best. The old was once new. The new is simply where the most energy is at currently. (Someday it will be old.)

Celebrate history and change will be easier.

People were there years ago, building the church where you serve today. My granddaddy would say, “Don’t forget what brung ya!” I especially love hearing the stories of how the church grew through other times of change. It may sound like a strange connection, but I’ve observed when people get a chance to tell their story they feel better about the change you are proposing.

Many times information overcomes objection.

Many times. I might even say most times. You can’t over-communicate in times of change. The more they know the “why”, the less they will resist the “what”. (By the way, my interview with Zig Ziglar confirmed this principle.)

It sometimes seems easier to let a church slowly die than to try to change things.

There. I said it. But, it’s true. Some people are not going to want the church to change. Period. End of story. And, most likely, they will find a way to let you know. (Most likely that will be some way other than telling you – but you’ll hear it.) But, that doesn’t mean the church can’t, won’t and shouldn’t change – and thrive again.

Change is uncomfortable for everyone.

It’s just more uncomfortable for some than others. You might read THIS POST about a recent sobering reminder I had about the relativism of objection to change.

Some days all you’ll hear are the critics.

This is just life. I think Satan even has a hand in this one. You’ll think no one is on your side. You’ll think you’re wasting your time. You’ll have a one-day (or multiple day) pity party. On those days, you’ll need to remember the vision God called you to complete. Keep going.

The degree of pain determines the degree of resistance to change.

When people are injured – or afraid – or lack trust, they are more likely to cling to what’s comfortable and resist what’s new. That is true in their personal life or their church life. When leading change in a place where injury is present, there will be resistance based solely on that pain. You may have to lead people to a place of forgiveness before you can lead them to a place of change.

The best supporters are often silent.

I don’t know why. They just are. They are satisfied. Happy. Ecstatic even perhaps. They just don’t always tell you they are. But, good news, they are usually telling others. And, that’s fueling more growth. And, God is faithful. Somehow, just when you need it most, God seems to send an encourager.

Change speed is relative to change frequency. The longer there’s been no change, the longer it will take to implement change. The longer a church has plateaued or been in decline, the longer it will be before the church can grow again.

These are some things I’ve learned about leading change. I hope something here is helpful to you.

What have you learned in leading change?