5 Reasons We Choose to Not Speak Up

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This is a guest post by Bill Blankschaen. Bill Blankschaen is a proven non-profit leader, writer, speaker, and ministry consultant who equips Christians to think, live, and lead with abundant faith. He blogs at FaithWalkers at Patheos and can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Silence is not always golden. Ministry leaders especially know how easily people can be offended even when they don’t say anything at all. Often it’s more Spirit-led art than science to know when to speak and when to be silent.

But what about when we intentionally choose to not speak up when engaging fellow leaders in our organization? I suspect we’ve all done it at times. We choose to tuck our head in and go silent during the weekly staff meeting. We shut our mouth and stir our coffee when our boss makes a statement we think may be inaccurate. Or we just sit on information that we’re pretty sure someone else should know about.

I confess that I’ve chosen to not speak up more times than I care to remember. To my surprise, I often discovered — sometimes weeks or months later — that I had been right. I should have said something. My silence didn’t help my fellow leaders — in fact, it crippled their efforts. Perspectives that I thought must have been obvious to them, apparently were not. Consequently, my silence didn’t help the organization, and it limited my own growth in the process.

Not good.

So why do we so often choose to not speak up when that little voice within says we should?

5 Reasons We Choose to Not Speak Up

Here are 5 reasons I have found to be pretty common for our choosing to be silent:

We Fear Sounding like a Fool. I confess that this reason is my worst offender. It even sounds Biblical. “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; When he closes his lips he is deemed intelligent.” (Prov. 17:28) But, truth be known, our silence in those circumstances often has more to do with pride than wisdom. Admittedly, getting humbled by stumbling over our words might not be fun. I seem to recall Moses having the same issue. But God often brings humility to us so he can do great things through us.

We Fear Getting Hurt. Let’s face it. When we speak up and put our thoughts out there, we make ourselves vulnerable. We might be wrong. Worse, people might laugh. But leading from a place of weakness may be just what your organization needs. Dick Savidge, President of Ministry Coaching International says, “Leading from strengths invites comparison. Leading from our weaknesses invites community.” The Apostle Paul even noted that he led the Corinthians “in weakness and in fear and much trembling.” Might be worth a try.

We Fear Hurting Others. As Christ-followers, we know we’re supposed to be kind, loving, gentle, tender-hearted and all that. Especially with today’s cultural emphasis on tolerance, it’s all too easy to convince ourselves that we’re being kind by not saying something that might rock the boat. But we’re also called to speak the truth in love because it “causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph. 4:15-17) So the truly loving thing is often not silence but truth — delivered in love and for love.

We Fear Consequences. We’ve all been there before. We chose to speak up and got our hand slapped — or our head taken off. So we’re reluctant to go there again. Understandable. Not excuseable, but understandable. Jacob chose to leave Laban in the middle of the night for that very reason. He’d been burned before by his father-in-law and thought silence would be the best option. Yet when Jesus knew full well the consequences for calling the Pharisees a brood of vipers, he did it anyways. Best to fear God more than we fear the people He created.

We Fear Conflict. Abraham kept silent twice when other guys thought his wife was a hot commodity. Twice. Before we deride him too much for his failure to speak up, think about how many times you’ve taken the path of least resistance to avoid a conflict. Harold Kohn wisely noted, “Brooks become crooked from taking the path of least resistance. So do people.” Instead of seeing potential conflicts as negative, choose to see them as opportunities for positive growth in the Kingdom. Don’t fear tension. Embrace it as the evidence of life that it is.

Which of these reason have you struggled with the most as a leader? What other excuses would you add for choosing to not speak up?

3 Critical Learning Environments

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I believe in lifetime learning. The best leaders I know are always learning something new.

If you’ve followed this blog long you know I tend to like simplification. Some would say over-simplification. I like information presented in an easy to understand and follow format.

So…if you want to be a lifetime learner…

Here 3 learning environments:

Learning by experience – This is where you learn by doing. It could be during success or failure. Life is a great teacher. You can’t necessarily avoid this one. It happens. You do get to choose your reactions to the experience you learn. Choose well.

Learning by influence – This is where mentoring takes place. It’s gaining insight through another person’s wisdom, often gained by their experience or education. You can easily avoid this one. Ignore help. Dismiss advice or constructive criticism. Or, you can welcome input. Find mentors. Glean from others. Let iron sharpen iron. Choose well.

Learning by education – This can be classroom or text book learning. It may be at a conference or seminar. It’s acquiring more academic knowledge. This is a choice too. Choose well.

That’s the three I’ve experienced in my journey. All three have been vital to shaping who I am as a person, pastor and a leader. I have learned I must be intentional if I’m going to continually be learning in each of these ways.

Which one are you missing most at this time? Do you need to better learn from your own experience? Do you need to find a mentor? Do you need to take a class or start reading more?

I’d strongly recommend you not miss any of the three.

Are there other learning environments I failed to mention?

How to Get a Boss to Notice You

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I was asked by a young leader recently:

How do I get my boss’s attention?

Honestly, I think the question was premature. He’s been on the job less than a month. I told him that. He is a friend (of a friend) and so I felt the freedom to be candid with him.

He is not only premature, but also probably asking the wrong question. He wants to do well in his career, wants to hit the ground running, but doesn’t feel he has been able yet to get the boss’s attention. I’m not sure at this point, that should be his greatest concern.

But, I value the fact that he is asking the question. It shows intentionality, which I appreciate.

I realize what some of my peers are thinking at this point…arrogance…impatience….audacity. I get that. It’s true the younger generation wants to move ahead fast. Real fast. They don’t necessarily understand the term or want to “pay their dues”. They want a seat at the table of leadership today. It’s a cultural shift we have made. I get that. I’m not even opposed to it. One of my favorite things to do is to invest in younger leaders and part of that is by giving them a seat at the table.

The reality is, though, in fairness to the boss, it would be hard to judge the system in such a short time. He may pay attention to this young leader if he does nothing else. Give it time.

But, again, I appreciate the fact that this young leader wants to make a difference enough to be noticed.

So here is my advice.

If you want your boss to notice you:

Be respectful  - The leader needs to know you recognize and appreciate the position he or she holds. That’s important whether or not you agree with the leader. If he or she doesn’t feel respected, you are unlikely to gain any attention.

Do great work

Be consistent – Consistency over time almost always leads to respect.

Do great work

Be resourceful – Especially today and in this economy, leaders are having to find ways to do more with less. Help that happen and you are practically guaranteed a seat at the table.

Do great work

Be responsive – Responsiveness is rare these days. Answer emails promptly. Be on time. Follow through on commitments.

Do great work

Be attentive – Things change fast. If you are aware of the times and can help the organization move forward quicker, you become a valuable commodity on the team.

Do great work

Be resilient – Do you wear your feelings on your sleeves? Are you always questioning another person’s motives? Would you be considered paranoid? Those are not welcoming attitudes that invite you a position to the table.

Do great work

Be exceptional - Normal is…well…normal. Exceptional is rare. If you want to truly set yourself apart, be noticed, and advance in leadership, you have to rise above normal.

Do great work

Do you catch the “subtleties” in this post?

My best advice to gaining the attention of your boss:

Do great work

Anything you would add?

How to Welcome a New Pastor: 10 Suggestions

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I received the following email recently:

Hi Ron

After a one-year search our church has called a new Lead Pastor. Since you (fairly) recently took on a new pastorate and it’s fresh in your mind, I’m wondering…

* What advice would you give to the congregation for how to best help him and his family?
* What specific advice would you give to existing ministerial staff in the first couple of weeks/months before/while/just-after he arrives?

Thanks!

Interestingly, unknown to this email writer, their new pastor is coming from the church I pastor now. It’s truly is a small world after all. He’s right. Having just gone through this process, I have some thoughts.

Here are 10 suggestions for welcoming a new pastor:

Pray for him daily – You knew I’d say that. Right? But, truly, there is no greater comfort for a pastor than to know people are praying for him. I can literally feel it at times. On an especially stressful day, I sense God’s protection by the prayers of God’s people.

Love and honor his family – This includes helping them acclimate to the community. Especially if there are still children at home, they will need more family time at home, not less. The family is stretched and stressed, out of their comfort zone and pulled in so many directions. Let him have adequate time at home. Let the family time be honored as much as his church time. Read THIS POST and THIS POST for more thoughts on this post.

Tell him your name…again – And again. And again, if necessary. Learning names may be the hardest thing a new pastor has to do. Give him ample time to learn yours.

Don’t gossip about him – If you don’t understand something…ask. Be very careful not to propagate misunderstandings. Be a positive voice for the future. Stop gossip and rumors as soon as you hear them.

Speak encouragement – Say, “Pastor, I’m here to help.” And, mean it.

Introduce him to leaders – In the church and in the community, it is helpful if the pastor knows the influencers whom he will likely encounter during his ministry. The earlier…the better.

Let him set his pace – It will take a while for him to figure out his stride. Give him your understanding during this time. He may not make every visit you want him to make. He may not place priority where you think it needs to be placed. He may not introduce change as fast as you want him to, or it may seem too fast. Let him set the pace.

Don’t offer a million suggestions – There will be time for that, but he needs time to learn the church. Most likely you’re already doing lots of things…some good and maybe some not so good. Let him learn who you are as a church before you fill his head with too many new ideas.

Don’t prejudge – He will make his own mistakes. Don’t hold a previous pastor’s mistakes against him. Don’t assume, based on his history or your expectations of him, that he will perform a certain way. He may. He may not.

Extend the honeymoon – Honestly, it usually seems too short anyway. If the pastor begins to make any changes at all, some people lose faith in him. He needs time to acclimate. He needs time to learn you and the church. Keep loving and supporting him, even when changes become harder to make and harder to accept. If God brought him there, God wants to use him there. Let God do as God intended.

Those are my suggestions. I feel the need to add to this post (even after it first published) that this is a general post, one of principle, not a specific post to your exact context. I don’t know your church or your new pastor (except in the case of the email I received…small world). This is not an endorsement of bad behavior and certainly not a suggestion that you ignore moral issues when you see them; even in the beginning days of a pastor’s ministry. But, I think we would have to agree those are the exceptions with a new pastor, not the rule. I just know, after blogging long enough, those will be the push back thoughts to this post.

Pastors, anything you would add?

The Quickest Way to Spur Change

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Do you want to know the fastest way to encourage change?

Expose leaders to new ideas.

In a team environment, where people are empowered to lead, new ideas produce change.

Often faster than any other way.

I’ve tried to practice this as a leader. That’s why I encourage attending conferences when possible. I pass along blogs and podcasts. We often read books together as a staff.

As long as people are allowed to dream…and the leader doesn’t have to control everything…when the team is introduced to new ideas…ideas produce energy and momentum. As team members attempt something new, change happens. Quickly. It doesn’t have to be monumental change to create excitement. Tweaks. Slight improvements. Small adjustments. Those can create an atmosphere and an appetite for change on a team. There is always less resistance to major change when change is a part of the culture.

Recently, our staff took this principle to a new level. We used training budget and our ministerial staff and spouses traveled to Asheville, NC. We went to learn from Biltmore Baptist Church. Pastor Bruce Frank is leading an exceptional team at a church several times larger than our church. Like Immanuel, they are an older established church, but they have figured out some things we are still learning. We toured the church and then each staff member at Immanuel met with their counterpart staff member at Biltmore. We asked questions and explored their story. It was insightful.

It is an experiment. Honestly, I’m not sure how it will work yet, but I’m sure of one thing. It exposed us to some new ideas. We have some immediate changes we are considering. Our team bonded. And, there is new energy and momentum developing. That has to produce some good.

And, that’s a win for me.

Do you want to encourage to encourage change quickly? Expose your team to some new ideas.

How does your team encourage change?

After a great day of teaching…

preacher

Jesus faced the critics…

And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:53-58 ESV)

It’s interesting to me when this occurred in the life of Jesus. If you read just prior to this passage, the disciples had finally understood something Jesus taught them. It seems that didn’t happen much in their journey with Jesus. On this occasion, Jesus had just taught them a huge principle. They got it. It was a great day. The best of days. The men He was building into, who would launch the church we know today, understood what was being taught.

That’s a great day for any teacher.

Then the critics came out of the closet.

It never seems to fail. I’ve seen it in ministry, leadership and life. The best days are often followed by the darkest days. Deliver your best message and you’ll shortly afterwards find your harshest critics. Hit the home run and you’ll find some people ready to stop the ballgame.

Don’t be surprised on those days. Don’t be dismayed. Don’t get distracted from what you are called to do.

Those days have value, if you allow them to:

  • They keep us humble.
  • They Keep us learning.
  • They keep us on our knees.
  • They keep the glory shining in the rightful place.
  • They keep us appreciative of the good days.

Are you facing the critics…even during the best of days?

Of course you are…you’re trying to be like Jesus…right?

10 Things I’m Learning Leading Church Change

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I am almost 8 months into a new pastorate. I left the church planting world to help revitalize and grow an established church. Many pastor friends questioned me at the time, but now they…and people who follow this blog…consistently ask how the move is going. Thank you. I feel the support.

Honestly, it’s proving to be challenging…maybe slightly more than I thought it would be. But, God is allowing us to experience incredible energy and excitement. I am not big on sharing numbers in this format, but let me simply say…they look good. God is working. Amazingly working. The potential in the days ahead is astounding to me. There are many great people here and we’ve assembled a stellar staff team.

Needless to say, I’m in the midst of change. That’s not unusual. 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 has come fast. It doesn’t necessarily seem fast to me, and certainly not monumental, but I know, in a church that’s over 100 years old…it’s been fast.

For the most part, the reception to change has been good. Still, change, no matter how necessary, is never easy. Along the way, I’m learning a few things. I share this not only as an update, but knowing over fifty percent of the readers of this blog are in ministry, hopefully some of what I’m learning I can share with you.

Here are 10 things I’m learning 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. That doesn’t mean don’t change, but does mean change should be relevant to context.

Don’t oppose the old. Encourage the new. The old got you to where you are today. It’s not bad. In fact, at one time it was 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. 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.

Many times information overcomes objection. Many 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. That’s true too. 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.

The best supporters are often silent. I don’t know why. They just are. They are satisfied. Happy. Ecstatic even. They just don’t always tell you they are. But, good news, they are usually telling others. And, that’s fueling more growth.

God is faithful. You knew that one, right? Somehow, just when you need it most, God seems to send an encourager. Awesome.

These are some things I’m learning. I’ll share more in the days to come.

What have you learned in leading change?

The Safety Briefing Card and Church Vision Casting

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The airline safety briefing card…

Doesn’t mean much to a frequent flier.

But to a first time flier…it’s gold.

Church, what can we learn from this?

Let me share a recent situation I witnessed that illustrated this principle for me.

I’ve learned my way around an airport over the years of traveling in business, government amd now ministry. So much so that I don’t listen to the directions very well. It gets me in trouble sometimes. i amost missed a flight recenlty because I didn’t hear a gate change. But, mostly, I pretty much know what they’re gonna say…or think I do.

Flight delay, right? I saw if coming.

Safety talk? I could recite it.

I’m like a steward runner up. If ever they can’t perform their duties I’m in.

“Ladies and gentleman, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the safety features of this Boeing Dc9.There’s a safety card in the seat in front of you…”

“Federal regulations require…blah, blah, blah, right?”

If you’ve traveled much…You know the drill.

But recently I was reminded why they do that every time. The same way. Always.

On our plane was one who had never flown before. Ever. He was in his sixties I would guess, but this was his first flight.

And he paid attention to everything. Everything. I watched him read the card. He looked around to “familiarize yourself with the exit signs”. He clung to every word of the steward. He was the model passenger.

Why? It was all new to him.

You see, everyone might be accustomed to the routine, but there’s always a chance, like for this guy, where it’s someone’s very first time.

It was also a great reminder for me as a church leader.

That’s the way it is for some who come to church…every Sunday.

Some could script things. Some could preach should I not be able to fulfill my duties. Some would probably actually prefer that.

But there’s always one (hopefully) who has never been here before. Perhaps ever.

Perhaps they’ve never been to any church…ever. They don’t speak our language of church.

As a pastor, I’ve always been concerned about that one.

And as I read the Bible,that seems like a Jesus characteristic too. He encouraged leaving the 99 found to seek and assist the 1 who was lost.

That’s why it’s important that we tell our vision. Tell it clearly. It’s why we must explain things well. Very well. It’s why we must communicate basic information. Every week. Every time. 

(Even if it’s boring to the rest of us…to someone…it’s gold!)

Thanks for the reminder U. S. Air. And that random guy who was flying for the first time. I hope it was a great experience for you.

Bonus question: What does your church do EVERY WEEK in case a visitor shows up that Sunday? 

A Letter to the Church, from a Pastor

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I’m blessed with so many pastor friends. I have the opportunity, through my blog and personal ministry, to interact with hundreds of pastors every year. After hearing many of their concerns, I decided to write a letter to the church. Obviously, I can’t and won’t attempt to speak for every pastor, but this will represent many.

I actually held onto this post for a while, because I was concerned it would seem self-serving. Thankfully I have good support around me, so this is designed to speak for others. I’m thankful God has given me abundant support in ministry, but I feel the weight of many pastors and ministers.

Dear church,

I want to be honest with you…on behalf of many pastors I know. You want me to be honest, right?

It’s hard to know who to trust. There, I said it. But, seriously, we’ve been burned so many times. As soon as we think we can trust you, we can’t. Many of us simply don’t trust anyone. We keep to ourselves and never really get to know anyone. It’s not wise, but it feels safe.

We love you, but we love our family too. We enjoy having an uninterrupted meal. We like having a night at home. We want days occasionally that are completely ours, to do what we want, with no church responsibilities. No church texts, no church calls, no church emails, no church visits. I know, sounds selfish right?

Saying “no” is hard, especially with your reaction. We know very well that every decision we make is unpopular with someone. And, sometimes, you make it very uncomfortable for us to disagree. We want to be liked as much as anyone. I know, sometimes that makes us seem shallow, doesn’t it?

We need a few people who are in it for Jesus and others, more than for themselves. When we find those people…wow…it makes our day. We feel like we are accomplishing something. Those people fuel us for ministry.

We have to wear many hats. Some we are skilled at and some we are not. You thought seminary taught us everything, didn’t you? No, in fact, we feel very inadequate at much of the things required of us. We need your help, but sometimes it’s hard to ask…because we don’t know who to trust…remember?

We want you to love us in spite of our limitations. That makes sense to us, because you want us to love you that way, but sometimes we feel you love us only as long as we are “performing” as you’d have us to perform. (Wow, did I just say that?)

We feel so responsible…for everything. Church growth. Church discipline. Church health. And, your spiritual growth and personal happiness. I know, ultimately Jesus is in charge of all things, but we feel the weight of our role to see that each of these are completed. That’s a lot of self-induced pressure, isn’t it?

We love you. We really do.

Pastor

Thanks pastors, for all you do. My 93-year-old mentor pastor says it is harder today than ever in his ministry to pastor a church…and he just took another interim pastorate. The pressures are great. People are distracted by many things. The church is often not the revered and loved place in our communities that it used to be.

Personally, I’m thankful for good leadership and staff around me at each of the churches where I’ve served, but my heart goes out to the pastor who doesn’t feel the support of the church and is the only staff member. Remember, you are doing noble work and you are part of something bigger than today, you and even your church! The local church…the body of Christ…is still in God’s plan today…and nothing will overcome that. Praying for you today!

Leaders Book Summaries

This is a guest post by Dave Frederick, Lead Pastor of the Vineyard of DuPage in Carol Stream, Illinois. In addition to being pastor, he has a service designed to assist pastors who, like me, struggle to keep up with the reading we should do. Dave explains that service in this post. My hope is that this is helpful. (Just so you know, this is not an advertisement. I didn’t charge anything for this post. I simply believe in the product.)

Here is a post from Dave Frederick:

Most of my life I’ve heard that “Leaders are Readers,” and I believe that. I also believe that if I was going to put a bumper sticker on my car it would say, “so many books, so little time.” I love to read, and know I should, but life is busy and it can be challenging to find the time. But—it is essential if I am going to keep growing.

One option is to read book summaries instead of whole books. They allow you to invest in your own development, and the leaders around you, easily and economically. Here are 6 benefits to reading summaries:

  1. Book Summaries are roughly 12 pages vs. 200-300 for the average book. The average reader will take 5-6 hours to read a book, but only 15-20 minutes to read a summary. And “the Nutshell,” a summary of the summary, is only two pages!
  2. Book summaries cost less. A monthly subscription to LBS is $6.95/month, or $.23/day. Even buying used books at Amazon costs a lot more than that. LBS publishes 30 summaries/year…you do the math.
  3. I get access to both Christian and secular authors, and get to read more broadly than I would otherwise have time for.
  4. Book summaries are a great way to resource your leaders. I can seldom get my leaders to read a whole book; it’s easy to get them to read a short summary.
  5. Book summaries help you learn more. A Carnegie Mellon study showed that people who read good summaries actually retain more of what they read than people who read the whole book. And isn’t that the point?
  6. Summaries allow me to screen the actual books I do read, so I make sure I am using my reading time for maximum benefit.

In a nutshell, I can learn more, in less time, for a lower cost, by reading summaries, and I can resource my leaders in a way that actually works.

If you’re interested, go to www.studyleadership.com and check it out. Readers of this blog can get their first month free when they subscribe (use Promo Code “Grace”). (Note: there is now a church subscription that allows you to put as many leaders on your subscription as you want for one low price).