A Sobering Leadership Principle

man in mirror

Your private life. Your public life.

They are inseparable.

You can try to manage two identities.

It won’t work.

It might for a time. But not for long.

You’ll be discovered.

Your personal junk will impact your professional world.

Eventually.

Better to protect your public life by improving your private life.

And better to do it now.

The Blindness of Ministry

Day planner & pen

Recently I came across a journal entry from January, 2005. I talked about some of the goals I had for the year and my progress and lack thereof towards meeting them. I shared some current frustrations I was having in ministry. I then asked God to help me be more disciplined.

Then I read the last sentence of that day’s journal. I wrote, “God, at 41, some days it feels that I’m not accomplishing anything.”

Wow!

Looking back at my life now, I’m sure it was a one day “pity party” (Yes, even pastors have those), because that was during a season when eleven core families were meeting regularly in our living room, preparing to launch a church. That would be our second plant, and this one would go on to be one of the fastest growing churches in the country and is still accomplishing more now than we ever dreamed possible.

I don’t share that to bring attention to myself. And, it’s not so much that a church needs to grow at that pace. God may use you in completely different ways than He has used me. It may be with one person, a thousand people, or millions. God has a unique plan for every person’s life. I share it because it points to an important principle in ministry that’s true for all of us.

We seldom see the good God is doing through us as we are doing it.

That keeps us humble.
That keeps us in prayer.
That keeps us desperate for His hand to be upon us.

Are you in the middle of a stressful season of ministry or life? Are you wondering if any of your efforts are making a difference?

If so, and if you are being obedient to God’s will as much as you know how, then stand firm.

Don’t give up! Stay tuned!

God is up to things you can’t even imagine.

God is using you Mighty Warrior! (Judges 6:12)

And, I’m praying He allows you to see some fruit from your labor as you continue to trust Him.

3 Steps to Reproduce Church Leadership

Man copying his colleague

Sometimes we complicate things in leadership. Take reproducing leaders, for example. In every church I’ve been in, people want to reproduce leaders, but few think they know how.

Yet, in my opinion, it may be one of the easier leadership issues to solve. The fact is that there are almost always leaders to be found if one is looking. The key is having a strategy of leadership reproduction in place and actually working it.

Let me help you create such a strategy.

Here are three easy steps to reproduce leaders:

Recruit – The best leaders will almost always have to be recruited. They are already busy leading elsewhere. They don’t have huge egos that make them think they have to be leading in your organization. Be observant. Get to know people and their interests. Discover the hidden talent in your church. If someone is a leader with Boy Scouts, they have potential to lead at church. If someone leads in the workplace, they have beneficial skills for the church.

I’m not advocating you don’t screen them, but I’m not thinking they’re going to preach the first week either. How much of a litmus test is needed for the parking ministry? Yet, you need leaders there too. It’s the first place a visitor makes an impression about your church. If they can lead a little league baseball team, you think they can be e chief parking lot cheerleader? I think so.

Develop – You will need to acclimate people to your organization. Train them to know your church culture. Make sure they know what you are seeking for the position. Give them some freedom to create their own way, but most likely they’ll want your help getting started. The best way is usually by apprenticeship. Partner them with other leaders. Help them find examples in other churches of ministries that are working well. Answer their questions. Be intentional to make sure they feel prepared.

Release – Let them lead. You’ve asked them to lead. You’ve trained them. Now get out of the way and let them lead. They’ll make mistakes. They won’t always do it your way. That’s okay…they’re leading. Despite the picture with this post…which is funny don’t you think?…you aren’t trying to produce leaders just like you. You are trying to produce disciples. They follow Christ, not you, so don’t be surprised when they come up with new…even better ideas. Follow up with them as needed, but let them be a leader. The best leaders won’t last long if you’re looking over their shoulder too closely. (This is probably the biggest mistake I see churches make in reproducing leaders. They control too closely.)

Now I realize none of these steps are necessarily easy, but I’m confident if you’re doing each of them well you’ll be reproducing more leaders. And, isn’t that what your church needs?

You may want to read 10 Steps in Having a Leader Replacement Culture.

How does your church reproduce leadership?

7 Pitfalls of Leadership

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In years of studying leadership, both in the business world and in ministry, I’ve seen some consistent traps that get in the way of a leader’s success. I’m calling them pitfalls.

Here are 7 pitfalls of leadership:

Pride – When a leader ever feels he or she has all the answers…watch out! Pride comes before the fall. Great leaders remain humble, knowing they didn’t get where they are on their own nor will they stay there without the help of others.

Passiveness – I don’t believe in tyranny, but a leader can equally be too “nice” or overly friendly with a team. Leadership is hard some days…most days. Good leadership isn’t a popularity contest. The leader afraid to challenge will create an environment where mediocrity, chaos, and unhealthy team environment prevails. Leaders should be willing to address known concerns, not be afraid of healthy conflict, and challenge status quo even when it’s not the most popular thing to do.

Isolation – A leader who removes his or herself too much from the actual work being done, isn’t visible to the team, or doesn’t bond well with them team, will never gain significant influence with the team. At every level of leadership, regardless of the size organization, the more a leader can do “hands on” work, even if only occasionally, the more “in touch” the leader will be and the more respected he or she will be by the people being led.

Loneliness – Leadership is naturally lonely. Every leader I know struggles with it at some level. If it’s not addressed, however, especially during extremely high stress periods, the leader will head towards crash and burn territory. Leaders should seek out other leaders, take risks on trusting a few people, and ask for help before it’s too late.

Boredom – Leadership is about going somewhere. When things get routine for too long, the best leaders will get bored. That’s dangerous. Leaders who last for the long haul are always seeking new opportunities for growth and development.

Success – Just as failure can hurt a leader, so can success. If not kept in check, success can lead to complacency. A leader can begin to think it will always be this way and eventually start taking success for granted. Disaster! Great leaders are always cognizant that the success today isn’t guaranteed tomorrow.

Elitism – When a leader becomes “too good” for the people trying to follow…they stop serving a team and start managing people chasing a paycheck. They quit finding willing followers and are only surrounded by employees. Leaders, especially today, have to be authentic, real, and believable…and there are always people on a team who believe they could do a better job than the leader at times. And, the reason they feel that way is because it’s probably true. Teams are developed by mutual respect and appreciation. Great leaders never see themselves better than the people they are trying to lead.

What other pitfalls have you seen in leadership?

3 Words to Encourage Fallen Pastors

man praying

In the past few years, as a pastor and through my blog, I have had the occasion to minister to some very broken people. Many of those have been pastors or ministers who once had thriving work they were doing for God, but, whether by a personal failure or through circumstances beyond their control, they are no longer serving.

It breaks my heart.

One resource I saw recently showed that 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month in America. Startling.

I want to help some of those think through a process of restoration. I don’t mean to oversimplify a very difficult situation, but often if people can think in terms of a process they can more easily plan their steps. That’s my goal in this post.

Here are three words of encouragement to a fallen pastor or minister:

Recover – Seek forgiveness. Offer forgiveness where needed. Make things right as much as you can with people you have injured. Now is the time to do the right thing. What you do in this step will often determine the degree to which you can be restored.

Also in this step, most important is that you recover in your relationship with God. Ultimately, He is the One you are seeking to please. You can’t earn His love or re-earn His love, but if fellowship has been broken, confess your sins to the One who is faithful to cleanse. Fall on your knees in surrender once again.

Rebuild – Get counseling. This is usually paid counseling and it will be worth the investment. There are ministries that offer this, and there are those who will fund this, but just as you wouldn’t look for free medical help from a medical doctor, don’t neglect this step even if it isn’t free. It’s necessary in almost every case where disruption in ministry has occurred at a level where you had to resign.

Also important, find a few men (or women if you’re female) who you can trust and who can build into your life, hold you accountable and help you find focus again. Give them freedom to walk with you daily and speak into your life for the months to come, even after you return to ministry.

Rebirth – Accept grace. Launch again. It may or may not be into a ministry such as you left, but if God called you to follow Him with your life, I don’t see examples in Scripture of Him releasing that call. I see where you can reject Him and refuse to follow, but His grasp on you is firm until the end. I don’t agree with those who would say you’re forever barred from serving anywhere. (I’m sure those legalist will struggle with this post.) Where’s the grace in that? It’s certainly not amazing grace.

Don’t rush it. Make sure you are healthy enough. Follow the steps above first, but at some point you’ll need to turn from where you were and start again. There is still much unfinished Kingdom business to be done.

Be helpful to those who may need this post.

What else would you advise?

7 Warnings for Aspiring Leaders

Alert

Almost on a weekly basis I hear from a young pastor who wants to grow as a leader. He feels the pressure placed upon him and knows that others are looking to him to steer the church on a healthy course. Most of these leaders are humble, knowing that ultimately Christ is the head of the church. What they also know is that there are expectations of their position, decisions that have to be made which are not clearly defined in Scripture, and that seminary didn’t train them to make.

Sometimes it seems I’ve given the same advice many times; either reminding myself or to another pastor. The more times I share the same concept, the more it becomes a short, paradigm shaping idea that summarizes the basic issue the leader is facing. What isn’t always clear is that I’ve learned these concepts mostly by living these concepts. I’ve made more mistakes in leadership than I’ve had success. That’s what this post is about. These are some warnings I’ve observed first hand in leadership positions I’ve held. I’m trying not to continue to live them and I’d love to help other leaders avoid them.

Here are 7 warnings for aspiring leaders:

What you “settle for” becomes the culture.

Mediocrity isn’t created. It’s accepted.

Your actions determine their reactions.

Don’t assume they agree because they haven’t said anything.

You’ll never get there just “thinking about it”.

If you’re the leader, they are likely waiting on you to lead or release the right to lead.

What the team values becomes apparent by your actions, not your words, no matter how well spoken they might be.

What warnings would you share to aspiring leaders?

A Principle for Working with People

What do you mean?!

When I was in the retail business, I once had an employee who went through a period…one that lasted several weeks, where she was rude to customers. Of course, in retail, the way. She had been a good employee, but something changed. Of course, in retail, the way you treat customers often determines whether or not they return. I wrote in THIS POST about when a business can give bad service or be inflexible, but that’s the exception, not the rule. Customer service can make or break a business’ success.

I was a young leader, but I knew I had to address it with her and did so on several occasions. She never made excuses, just apologized and said she would improve. She didn’t. As the problem continued, I felt the need to address it more seriously. As I was about to release her from employment, someone, in passing, shared with me something about this person that I didn’t know. She was struggling with some incredible pressures at home. I won’t share details here, but it was enough to make anyone stressed. Consequently, when she would deal with a difficult customer, her emotional state caused her to react in an equally difficult way. It wasn’t right. It still couldn’t continue, but at least I knew why it was happening. Instead of releasing her, I was actually able to help her. We saved a valued employee.

It taught me of an important principle in working with people.

Consider their heart before considering their actions.

It is not only the right thing to do, and a good leadership principle, it’s actually a God-like attribute. (1 Samuel 16:7)

Now, as a pastor, a leader, a customer, or a friend, I try to consider what could be going on in a person’s life before judging their behavior. It helps me lead. It helps me care. It helps me pray. It helps me respond in a loving way.

It works with employees, waitresses, family or friends. It changes my attitude even if it doesn’t change theirs. And, many times the way I respond determines the way they respond.

There are still times where people are simply rude. They simply under perform expectations. Those situations still need to be addressed. That’s part of leadership too. But, understanding a person’s heart helps you address the real issue, rather than simply addressing symptoms. Even when it’s determined there are deeper issues, there will be times the person simply isn’t a fit for the position, but at least you will have understood and had opportunity to address the real problem.

I try to remember, people have injuries. People have stories. People’s actions are often indicative of their stories.

Knowing the story behind their actions, will often alter your response to their actions.

Have your actions ever been misunderstood because people didn’t know your whole story?

Whose heart do you need to consider (or as) you are considering their actions?

A Dozen Things I Learned Last Year

two elementary school students looking at globe

I strive to be a continual learner. I learned a few things last year.

Here are 12 of them:

Small things matter most in making change.

Shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in one. Who knew? Changed my gym shower life. (Apparently my wife and boys did but they never let me in on the fun!)

A conference room table can also be used as an ironing board.

Certain neckties interfere with our television broadcasts. (This year we are looking to upgrade our system.) For now, it is a good excuse not to wear a tie, right?

Some people aren’t upset with you. They are upset with their life…or others…and you just happen to be in the way of expressing their frustration and discontent.

Transitioning to a new city happens faster when you’re intentional. And one way to do that is to learn all the hamburger joints. Another is to intentionally network with people…especially people who will connect you to other people.

Resistance to change is relative. Everyone struggles with it at some level. It’s just a matter of how we react to it and how it impacts us that determines our response.

Having done both, I have to say, church planting, in many ways, is easier than church revitalization…and more difficult in other ways. But both are needed.

Losing a beloved pet as an adult may be harder even than as a child.

Lexington, KY is one of the friendliest cities we’ve ever experienced. It would make a great, inexpensive, family weekend vacation spot.

Trust doesn’t come with position or title. It comes with time and experience. Yet gaining trust may be one of the most important aspects of being an effective leader.

People transfer emotional baggage and injury to other people and other situations, who had nothing to do with creating the emotional pain. It is unfair to the innocent recipients, but very true.

What did you learn last year?

Three Steps to Setting Achievable Goals

calendar, blue target

In my previous post, I talked about resolutions in a light-hearted manner. Many say they don’t make them, because they don’t work. The news media doesn’t help. Every year I see the same reports telling us how many people don’t keep the resolutions they make. No encouragement there. So, I shared some broad resolutions that are more life directions than actual resolutions. (Read that post HERE.)

I know this, however, seldom do we hit a target we haven’t yet identified or located. So, if you want to improve in certain areas of your life, you need some new direction to get you there. You’ll have to make some changes in what you are currently doing.

Call them goals if you want. That seems to be a more popular word these days, but decide a few areas in which you want to see improvement, then put some goals in place to help you get there. Making positive lifestyle changes isn’t easy, but it really does start with that simple of a process.

To help you get started, here are…

Three guidelines I use for choosing achievable goals:

Quantifiable – Make sure you can make the goal measurable. Don’t say you want to lose weight. Decide how many pounds you want to lose. Don’t say you want to read more. Say you want to read one book a month…something like that. You want to read your Bible more? Then set a goal to read one chapter per day. Not…save more money…but save $50 per pay period…etc.

Reasonable – Set a goal you can actually attain. Otherwise you’ll give up easily. If saving $50 per pay period is completely unreasonable, then decide the reasonable number. It probably should be some stretch to make it worth celebrating later (which is a key component in goal setting), but make sure you can do it. Losing 10 pounds per week is going to be tough…perhaps even unhealthy…but two pounds per week…pretty much anyone can do that with a little discipline.

Motivated – Pick goals you are passionate enough about to put the energy and discipline in it to achieve success. Do you REALLY want to lose weight? Do you TRULY want to do better with your finances? Is reading your Bible ABSOLUTELY a goal worth pursuing? Your degree of motivation will likely determine how committed to achieving the goal you remain.

If you think through setting quantifiable, reasonable and motivated goals, and then you consistently practice them for a month, or two, or better yet three…you’ll be we’ll on your way to successfully completing them. And, the satisfaction from that will be worth celebrating.

If you are really serious about this process and want more, read THIS POST on writing a Life Plan.

Do you set goals (or resolutions) for the new year?

Why David was a “Man After God’s Own Heart” (Repost)

shepherd

An often-confusing term concerning the Biblical character of David is the term “man after God’s own heart”.

Have you ever wondered what that really means? What does that kind of heart even look like? There is one verse from the writings of David that I believe perhaps best captures the meaning behind this phrase.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

(Psalms 16:2)

That’s it. Pretty simple, huh?

But, it’s really not that simple.

David recognized that the only good in him was the God in him. Great godly leaders and people are willing to step aside from their own need for ego building and self-confidence and humble themselves before an almighty God.

I have heard before that President Theodore Roosevelt often went outdoors at night, looked up into the vastness of the universe, simply to remind himself of his humanity compared to the vastness of the universe. I think that is an important principle for all of us that claim a leadership title.

Next time someone asks you why David was called “a man after God’s own heart”, point him or her to Psalm 16:2. It’s an attitude of heart…of recognition…of worship.

(Every year this is one of my most read posts. You might also read “David Remained a Man After God’s Own Heart (Except that time…)” , “10 Reasons David Is A Man After God’s Own Heart” and “5 Thoughts on Leadership from the Life of David“)