3 Ways to Fuel Momentum

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I am frequently asked how we spur momentum where I lead. I have been blessed to be part of some tremendous seasons of momentum in the churches where I have served as pastor or planter. We are in another season of momentum now.

I am quick to point out that God is ultimately in control of His church. I get no credit and don’t want it. But I am also not afraid to point to what God has done through His people. In my experience, He often allows the body to lead. I believe He has gifted us with uniqueness and imagination for a reason. I believe the parable of the talents is an example of the way God wants us as church leaders to make wise decisions with what He has given us. (That even sounds Biblical. 1 Corinthians 12:27)

With that disclaimer, (which is always necessary in a post like this) how do we stir momentum? How does the body, functioning together, spur momentum?

In my observation, there are really 3 basic ways momentum is encouraged.

Here are 3 ways momentum is fueled:

Innovation – I’m using this term to highlight improving existing. This is development. When you take what you have and attempt to make it even better people notice and it makes room for more excitement…more enthusiasm in the body…more momentum.

Creativity – Dreaming. Brainstorming. Ideas. Randomness. This can be temporary, even one time activities. We can’t be more creative than the Creator so don’t be afraid to “think outside the box”. Creating something unusual or something that has never been tried before gives momentum explosive potential.

Change – Change means new. New creates immediate energy. Momentum. Every time. New classes. New services. New times. Even new people in leadership. Change spurs momentum.

Those are the 3 momentum fuels I’ve observed.

It should be noted that not all momentum is positive momentum. There is such a thing as negative momentum and it can often grow stronger and faster than the positive kind. So beware. Be careful. Be smart. But, even still, be consistent with trying to spur momentum.

In my experience though, you can often reverse negative momentum with more positive momentum. Which, by the way, requires more innovation, more creativity or more change.

It’s not easy. In fact it’s hard. That’s why it requires leadership. But, figuring out what causes momentum isn’t difficult either. Of course, with any principles, knowing and doing are two different issues. But, at least now you know what I have observed, by experience, about fueling momentum.

And, I’m confident someone has better observations than me. So share!

7 Casualties of a People Pleaser in Leadership

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Leadership is hard and every decision a leader makes is subject to opinion. Different opinions. Lots of different opinions. Every hard decision a leader makes excites some and upsets others. At the same time, most of us who have positions of leadership want people to like us personally and in our role as a leader. That leads many leaders into becoming victims of people pleasing. When we fall prey to pleasing people as a goal, we seldom lead people into what is best and are led more by opinion polls than vision.

Every pastor and leader I know agrees that people pleasing is not a good quality for a leader. Talking with hundreds of pastors every year, however, I’d have to say that this has to be one of the most frequent weaknesses pastors admit to me. For the pastor, when our aim is to please people, many times we are motivated more by what people want than even what God wants for the church. That’s dangerous. Hopefully I don’t have to build that case.

But what are the people casualties of people pleasing? What are the organizational casualties?

Here are 7 casualties of being a people pleaser:

No one is really ever satisfied – When the leader tries to please everyone the reality is that no one on the team finds that for which they are looking. No one. In an attempt to let everyone win…no one really does.

Tension mounts among the team – People pleasing pits people against one another as the leader attempts to please everyone and team members are conditioned to jockey for positions with the leader aimed at pleasing them. It creates a political atmosphere among the people who should be working together.

Disloyalty is rampant – One would think people pleasing builds loyal supporters, but actually the reverse is more true. People don’t trust a people pleaser, because they quickly learn what the leader says isn’t necessarily the whole truth, but what will keep the leader popular. The people pleaser says what people want to hear more than what needs to be said.

Burnout is common – I’ve observed team members trying to function under a people pleaser. They feel they have the leader’s support, but then it’s pulled from under them as the leader tries to please someone else. It’s tiring.

Frustration abounds – People pleasing leads to fractured teams and fragmented visions. Frustrating.

Mediocrity reigns – Second best under a people pleasing leader becomes the new goal not a consolation. Lackluster results ultimately lower standards. In an effort to please everyone the team compromises what “could be” for what keeps people temporarily happy. (Emphasis on the temporarily.)

Visions stall – Visions are intended to take us places. Noble places we’ve never been. That involves change. And, change is hard. People don’t like change. People pleasers like people to be happy. You see where this one is going?

Be honest. Ever worked for a people pleaser? Ever been one?

What results did you see?

How To Balance Strategy & Creativity To Move Your Ideas Forward

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This is a guest post by Brian Church. Brian is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of a Consulting Firm called Ambassadors International. Brian’s book, “Relationship Momentum” is about the secret to making ideas and initiatives move.
Brian lives with his wife Kimberly and son in Nashville, TN. His mission is to help Entre and Intrapreneurs activate their ideas by creating movement in a consistent direction.

How To Balance Strategy & Creativity To Move Your Ideas Forward

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

As a creative young businessman, I initiated many projects that eventually ran off the rails. Most of the derailment was due to a lack of planning or pause when a change was needed. I often did not understand the tactics I needed to employ or the force that was needed to apply until it was too late. I have learned a lot over the years, and most of the lessons were hard ones. Consequently, I have had to pay my fair share of “pain tax.” Today, I have learned to properly apply strategy and force, making me a better manager of the creative process and a stronger entrepreneur.

The Application of Force

There are three ways to make tactical course corrections by applying force. Applying strategy and Tactics in the creative process can be best illustrated through examples of paddling a canoe.

PULL or ADDED FORCE — If you want a canoe to veer to the left, paddle on the right. This is a positive application of force and the most efficient way to turn. This corresponds to tactical changes you make, not by abandoning what you have been doing, but by simply adding more energy to something you are already doing. Paddle harder on the right. It is, however, the slowest way to turn.

PUSH or OPPOSING FORCE — To execute the quickest possible turn, you apply resistance on one side. Paddle backwards on the left, and the canoe makes a sudden left turn. In terms of canoe speed and momentum, this is the least efficient way to turn. You have executed the turn by slamming on the brakes with regard to a particular initiative. This tactic corresponds to an abandonment of a current program or objective. Opposing force turns are often the result of the lack of foresight or planning.

POINT or ADDED LATERAL FORCE — In canoeing terminology this is called a j-stroke. At the end of the stroke, the paddler rotates his paddle and pushes out and away from the canoe. The result is force applied laterally that changes the direction. In terms of loss of speed and momentum, it is somewhere between push and pull. You change course quickly, but not as inefficiently as paddling backward on one side. This corresponds to a situation in which you are able to change course without the loss of momentum.

Of the three ways to apply force, the most common tactic is push because is it produces an immediate response. Perhaps, the need is for the quickest turn you can execute. This is how we often make the most mistakes. What we learn from applying the Laws of Motion to success is that executing a turn by applying opposing force is the greatest momentum killer and the least efficient tactic. The trick is to make changes without dissipating your forward movement. Trust me, it is less painful.

15 Life Lessons

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The best principles we learn in life, apart from revelation in God’s Word, comes from life experience. Experience is a great teacher. Here are some of my favorites.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying I live by these always, just that I’ve lived long enough to know they are true.

15 life lessons:

Above all else guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life. – Proverbs 4:23, Eventually it all boils down to the heart of the matter.

God cares more about our character than He does many of the individual decisions we make – But if we are not careful we spend more of our prayer time focusing on those decisions. Being a good father is more important than buying the best house in town.

You’ve got to know when to fold them; know when to walk away; and know when to run. – Kenny Rogers was right. There are times to fight and times you know you can’t win and times when you shouldn’t be fighting anyway. Learning the difference is huge.

If you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all. – Thumper knew a truth that Scripture plays out too. There are times when we need to “shut up” and say (or email) nothing.

Once it is said, it’s much harder to take back. – Thumper didn’t say this one, but maybe the warning should have come after it, because we usually don’t listen to the first suggestion.

It takes time to mend a broken heart. – As believers we don’t grieve like a world without hope, but we still hurt. Healing wounds take time, prayer, and truth. Some marriages need to know this principle.

Letting people get credit for something I did is okay if the organization is moving forward. – In the end, if I’m leading, I’ll get all the credit I deserve and more.

Jesus came full of grace AND truth. – We tend to err in one direction or the other.

More of the same will not produce change. – You can’t keep doing the same things and expect to get different results.

Sometimes the greatest fear we have is the greatest opportunity God has to use us for His glory. – God seems to always call us to that which seems bigger than we are. That causes us to rely on Him more.

God is faithful; you can trust Him. – This one comes with test after test, but He has proven Himself every time.

We tend to end in the direction we are headed. – We shouldn’t be surprised if we end up in a bad situation, if that’s the direction we were aiming our life.

You get more bees with honey than vinegar. – Being nice to people usually gets better results than beating them into submission. (Bible truth: It’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance.

People are different from me. – I tend to want people to respond to life and me as I respond to life and others. They don’t.

Every life experience can be used of God for something that gives God glory. – Everything! Maybe even reading this post!

Any you would add?

7 Surprises Since Becoming a Pastor

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I haven’t been a pastor throughout my career. In fact, I spent most of my career to this point in the business world. (I realize that makes me an odd duck in many pastor circles, but it’s actually served me well in my ministry roles.)

Coming into ministry later in life, after being a church member, deacon and Sunday school teacher, has given me a unique perspective. I’ve seen ways the church interacts with the pastor I simply had no idea of before I was a pastor. A few surprises have occurred, probably especially when interacting with other pastors who are now my peers. Thankfully, I’ve been in churches that mostly support me as pastor, but I interact with pastors in caustic church environments everyday. Even so, they are some similarities it seems with all pastors. And some of these, or at least the degree to which they exist, has been surprising.

Here are 7 of the biggest surprises in being a pastor:

People don’t understand the role – The old adage that the pastor only works on Sunday…I’m surprised how many think something similar. They may not think Sunday is the only day the pastor works…some can catch on that the message actually has to be written…but they don’t realize the weight of other responsibilities the pastor deals with on a weekly basis. It really is simply an innocent misunderstanding of what’s involved in the position of pastor. (It may seem a contradiction and yet this next one is equally true.)

Various opinions of how a pastor should pastor – Some think I should be the only speaker the church has. Some think I should make every hospital visit. Some want me to do more administration. Some believe I am the resident counselor. Some think I should know every detail of every ministry and every event on the church’s calendar. You get the idea. As diverse as the people of a church are exists the range of opinions here. Thom Rainer recently wrote an interesting post on this issue and how many hours a week accomplishing expectations would mean a pastor should work. Read it HERE.

People lose their filter when talking to a pastor – It amazes me what people feel comfortable telling a pastor. It is beyond the expected confidentiality issues one expects. It could be criticism of the pastor or gossip about someone else, but many don’t hold back their opinion no matter how harsh it may be. And they don’t clean it up before they present it. I had a pastor tell me recently that one man in his congregation blasts him every Sunday about something in a very hurtful way, yet this man claims to be one of his biggest supporters. The pastorate appears to be a “safe” place to unload raw, gut honesty. Unfortunately, however, I think some people believe the pastor has no feelings or is expected to be “tough enough” to handle the jabs and process the rumors.

The job is never finished – I guess I knew this, but not to the degree I do now. Job security is in the fact that the job is never completed. There is always one more thing I could’ve done when I go home at night. Lives keep falling apart. People keep sinning. Marriages are in trouble. It could be overwhelming, and I could refuse to rest and neglect my family if I wasn’t disciplined, and if I didn’t have a keen awareness that Jesus is ultimately in control. My heart goes out to (and it is part of the motivation of this blog) pastors who haven’t learned or aren’t practicing this discipline or this truth.

Everything isn’t always as seems – People are hurting. Many of those hurts are hidden. You can’t “judge a book by the cover” when it comes to people. There are always two sides to an issue. Everyone has a story and it isn’t always the story you are thinking. Being a pastor has taught me it is unfair to judge people by what you think you know until you know the whole story. I’ve better realized the importance of extending grace before I know, and even if I never know, the full story.

Sunday is coming – Every single week. I never realized how fast the weekend comes around until I became a pastor. Don’t misunderstand…I’m glad it does, it’s my favorite day of the week, but I just never realized how fast it does so until now.

Some people love their pastor – And, I’m so thankful. It’s amazing how supportive and encouraging some people can be. I honestly believe they would do anything for Cheryl and me. Most pastors have people like this in their church. (These are Kingdom-building people!) I know, especially from some of my pastor friends in especially difficult situations, that these type people keep a pastor going some days. If you’re one of those pastor supporting types…on behalf of all pastors…THANK YOU!

Those are a few things I didn’t know, as well as I do now, before entering the pastorate.

Pastors, any you would share?

5 Common Derailments in Ministry Leadership

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One of the hardest things I do in ministry is interact with those who are no longer in ministry, but wish they were. They’ve been derailed. They messed up and got caught or the guilt got the best of them. In my experience, it usually takes the first of these for the truth to be known.

You should first know that I’m huge on applying grace, but the reality is that we lose good, effective ministry leaders because they begin to make dumb mistakes. From watching this process over the years, there appear to be some common reasons this occurs. My purpose of this post is to expose some of them, hopefully to catch some before its too late. Do any of these apply to you?

Here are the 5 most common derailments in ministry leadership:

Thinking it couldn’t happen to me – It can. It can. It can.

Refusing to listen to others – In my experience, God will attempt to rescue those in jeopardy. Refusing to listen dismisses the voice of God.

Overestimating personal value – Pride goes before the fall.

Underestimating the worth of others – Genuine humility is a protector of character.

The slow fade – It never starts at free fall. Allowing temptation to become little sin and little sin to become big sin. That’s where it always starts.

That’s what I’ve seen. Do you need the warning?

You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. No temptation has seized you except what’s common to man. When tempted, God provides a way out.

Perhaps this post is one way.

I’m praying for you. I’ll even be a safe place if needed, but I’m hopeful you’ll find one. Don’t be a statistic. Be an overcomer of temptation!

The Blindfolding of Experience in Leadership

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Many times, as leaders, we are blindfolded by the experience we have gained over the years.

We assume everyone knows what we know, but we forget what we once didn’t know.

This realization is one of the major fuels of this blog. I feel what I’m writing is elementary in the field of leadership.

But what is elementary to one is high school or even college to others.

I’m not at all saying you can stop learning. That’s a dangerous thing for a leader to ever do. I’m saying to be conscious of the fact that if you are a leader, chances are you’ve learned a few things along the way to getting where you are today.

Remember leader:

You have experiences they don’t have.

You have knowledge they don’t have.

You have information they don’t have.

It may come from experience, training or simply by position.

The key to growing leaders around you is to share what you know. Generously invest in those hungry to learn. Mentor those who are trying to follow you. Be honored they want to know something you know.

Be a people builder.

The more you invest, the more it expands your ability to lead, the more it develops others, and the greater your legacy as a leader will be.

Do You Want a Leader or a Manager?

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I was talking with a board of a Christian nonprofit recently who wanted my help as they begin their new search for an executive director. It’s been a difficult decade of instability and ultimately decline. They want to grow again. They want vibrancy to return to the organization.

They have had several executive directors during the time who haven’t stayed very long. They can’t figure out why the turnover is occurring and why they can’t grow as an organization.

They kept using the term “leader” in describing what they wanted and have tried to find in a new director. They’ve tried to find people who want to lead, because they want to grow again, but they don’t stay long. What’s the problem? What are they doing wrong? That was my baseline question.

I knew I had to discern some the culture in order to answer their original question. After further talks, I don’t know for sure why the previous directors left. There could have been many reasons, but in hearing their vision, what they want in a director, and the culture of the organization, it was easy to diagnose their problem. They were approaching their search process in the wrong direction.

I told them as gently as I knew how:

You don’t want someone to lead. You want someone to manage.

Many times we hire a leader when really we want a manager…and vice-versa. When we do there is always a misfit of culture and expectations.

The truth is they didn’t want an executive director to lead them towards a renewed, even God-given vision. They wanted a person to manage the complicated and man-made operations they currently have in place. I wasn’t trying to be cruel, but to help eliminate future disappointment if they know in advance what they are looking for in a new person.

In any organization, it is important to know the difference. Do you want a leader or a manager?

(By the way, this happens in churches sometimes too by the expectation placed upon the pastor that may or may not fit the pastor’s wiring and experience.)

Leaders lead change.
Managers guide systems.

During our discussion, it became apparent to me that the previous new directors came and were quickly warned by the board or discovered the hard way, what couldn’t be touched. They were handed stacks of policies. They were directed to the path of continuity. And they expected that the organization would grow again if current structures, which have worked previously, were managed well.

That, in my opinion, is the organization’s problem in keeping directors. They did indeed find leaders, but they expected them to be managers.

If you want someone to take what you already have and keep it running. Get a manager. The best you can find. With a pure heart. Good intentions. Great training. Let them go to work maintaining what you currently have. You’ll be happy.

If you want someone to take you to new places, even better places than you’ve been before, find a leader. Let them lead. Get behind them and hold on tight, because it will be a bumpy ride, then you can celebrate the new when it comes.

I am not pretending it will be easy to go the leader route. It won’t be. It will be tense many times. Uncomfortable. Stretching. Maybe even miserable at times. Change is hard. Managing existing is always easier than leading to new. It just makes a difference what you are looking for in the new executive director and if you what type expectations you place upon him or her. And, (this was the harder part of the discussion) you may have to change who you are as an organization, as a board, and what you are willing to do to embrace change, before you find the next director.

It was a hard conversation. Thankfully it ended well. But, they didn’t ask for my management expertise. (That’s limited anyway.) They asked for my leadership advice.

So, my bottom line leadership advice is they will have to change what they are doing (in how they allow a new director to lead) to get what they claim to want.

Have you made the mistake of hiring a leader when you were really looking for a manager?

The Power of One

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I ran my first and only marathon a few years ago. I’ve run lots of halves, but only one full. I hope to do another this fall.

I chose the Huntsville, AL marathon because it was small, flat and low on fanfare. I know some runners who love the interaction with people in a race. That is their motivation. For me, however, running is what fuels this introvert with renewed energy. I run for personal down time, not for fellowship. Races simply give me a goal for which to train and compete.

I wasn’t able to finish my training schedule prior to the race. I had too many interruptions and so I ended up only running 18 miles and my last long run was 6 weeks prior to the marathon. I know how important training is, so I considered dropping out, but decided to push through.

I was great for the first 21 miles, but 22 miles in I hit rock bottom. I had had enough. I wanted to quit.

As I said, there’s little fanfare on this course, so few were cheering on the side of the road. It had been a few miles since I had seen anyone cheering. Everyone running near me was equally struggling. A few chose to quit.

Just past the mile 22 marker, on the sidewalk, stood a young Boy Scout in uniform. I spotted him in the distance. He looked to be about 10 years old. As I approached him…panting…aching…miserable…he ran out into the street towards me, ran with me for a few steps and chanted:

“You can do it! You can do it! Keep going!”

I don’t know what it was about that little boy’s enthusiasm, but it was the charge I needed. I didn’t finish strong, but I finished. I went another 4 miles and crossed the finish line…running!

I had finished my first marathon!

It was a reminder to me that sometimes it just takes one voice. One voice in a crowd. One positive word. One voice that says you can when everything in you and around you says you can’t.

It’s the power of one.

Is there someone you know who could use a little encouragement? You may be the sole voice in a sea of negativity. You may just make the difference. You could turn a bad day into a good one. You could reverse a failure and produce a success.

Be that one in someone’s life today.

Look for opportunities to be the power of one.

Have you ever had the experience where one voice made the difference in your story?

10 Ways to Remain “Favorite” Pastor

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I’ve read that leadership expert Peter Drucker once said the hardest jobs in America (not necessarily in order) are President of the United States, university presidents, hospital administrators and pastors. I talk to struggling pastors weekly. Having been in the business and political worlds, and now as a pastor, I definitely know the hardest job I’ve ever done is being a pastor.

Yet every pastor I know wants to do a good job. They want to be successful in their Kingdom building efforts. At the same time, they also want to be liked. No one likes to be unpopular.

I was talking recently with another pastor how hard it is to pastor effectively and make everyone happy. (Actually, he admitted he was a people pleaser and I was telling him how impossible that will be long term.) To illustrate the point in a humorous way, we began to cite examples of ways to keep people happy that triggered this post.

So let me say this is written sarcastically. On purpose. Sometimes it’s easier to say the hard stuff if I say it in a humorous way. (Or at least what I think is funny) And there are some serious issues addressed here that many pastors face. But, after all, I want to be the favorite pastor too, so I’m keeping it lighthearted in my approach.

Here are 10 ways to remain favorite pastor:

Never turn down a social invitation - Sacrifice your family time. It’ll ruin your family dynamic but keep the church happy.

Don’t talk about money – Jesus never did, right? Don’t be meddling.

Never mention sex – Good Christians don’t. They just don’t. They don’t even think about it.

Stick to the sins everyone else is doing – Don’t mention things like gossip or gluttony. Those are too personal.

No challenges please – We don’t want our toes stepped on and definitely don’t want to leave with homework. Or at least give us some homework passes. Please.

Preach “feel good” messages – That hard stuff to hear…who needs it?

Wear the right clothes – Like Jesus did, right?

Don’t buck tradition – Especially the ones that were started by pastor so and so. You know the ones.

Play everyone’s favorite music – Every Sunday. (You miracle worker.)

Don’t lead…just preach - Give us your “best” message every Sunday, but don’t take us anywhere new.

Pastoring is a tough job, but remember, our calling is not to be popular. It’s to be obedient. And, not to a crowd, but to a King.

Ever tried to be a favorite pastor? Do you have any you’d add?