7 Paradigms of the “New Normal” in Church Leadership

Things have changed. Have you noticed?

The rest of the world has reacted. I’m not sure we have in the church…or at least as quickly as we should.

But, we must….

If we want to continue to reach people in the culture and introduce them to the God we love and serve.

Here are 7 paradigms of the “new normal” in church leadership:

We must do more with less – The resources for Kingdom work may not be what they once were. People now define generosity differently. We need to educate them. Disciple them in giving. But, just like the business community is learning, things may never be the same again. We may have to solve some problems without adding staff or new programs that cost money. I’ll be honest, as a former small business owner and church planter, this isn’t all bad and may make us healthier in the long run after we learn to adjust.

We have to think outside the walls – They aren’t coming to us any more for answers…even in times of crisis. We are no longer the first place people think about when life falls apart. We have to actually do the “Go” part of the Great Commission.

Church is an opinion, not a trusted source – The church used to be the center of discussion. Everyone wanted to know what the church thinks, especially on moral issues. Our opinion is quickly dismissed these days by many. We must build relationships to be heard.

People trust their friends…more than the churchA recent study said the most trusted source in advertising is a friend’s recommendation…believed 92% of the time. I don’t know the church’s percentage, but from experience I can tell you it’s far less than that. Teaching relational evangelism is mission critical.

Easter is for church people – Unchurched people don’t come, on their own, even on Easter (or other special occasions), without an invitation. (With an invitation they are likely to come.) We aren’t on their radar. More church people than usual show up on Easter. That’s why our numbers go up so much. The point, again, we have to invite and go through relationships.

Regular attendance is semi-regular – I’ve been noticing this for several years, even back when I was teaching Sunday school, but especially now as a pastor. Several of my friends have mentioned it recently. Two or three times a month…that’s regular attendance in many people’s minds.

Loyalty has dwindled – Just as people are less loyal to brands, they are less loyal to churches too. They can also watch us or others online without coming to our buildings. We will have to work harder to connect people through discipleship opportunities. Connected people are loyal.

Those are only seven. I know there are more. But, seven is usually my “go to” number. Please note, I’m not endorsing these or saying I agree with them. I’m simply stating some realities I see the church must consider. If we want to reach people within a culture it helps to know the culture.

By the way, it is interesting that we’ve been doing cultural training to send people on foreign mission trips for years, yet that seems like a “foreign” concept to some when it comes to training for the changing culture in our own backyards.

What paradigms of the “new normal” would you add?

The Hardest Thing for Some People in Ministry to Do

Teenagers Serving A Meal To A Man

I was talking to the Executive Director of a homeless ministry recently. Everyday, she feeds hundreds of meals. Every night the ministry boards dozens of men and women. They clothe people. They help prepare people for job interviews. It’s an amazing ministry, doing great work, but the leader is tired, the budget is stretched, and the volunteers are thin and everyone is worn out emotionally and physically.

What’s the problem? The challenge?

It was easy to diagnose. The leader never has time to do board development. She never has time to fundraise. She never has time to cast the vision. She never has time to plan and dream. She never has time to invest in anything that lasts bigger than today.

It’s a problem. It’s a challenge.

And, if she’s not careful…and I hate to be the one to say this to such a wonderful ministry and passionate ministry leader…eventually, it has the potential to tremendously cripple the ministry. If fact, the future of the ministry, in my professional organizational leadership opinion, is in jeopardy now.

Show me a over-worked and tired leader. Show me stressed volunteers. Show me a thin budget. Show me a ministry with more demands than the resources or people to meet them…

And, I’ll show you a ministry that is headed for certain trouble unless something is addressed.

It reminds me of the hardest thing I’ve seen for ministers to do who love doing ministry.

If he or she has a heart to serve others. If he or she loves helping people…connecting with people…ministering to people…

The hardest thing to do…

Is to step back and see the bigger picture.

They have a hard time stopping ministry long enough to explore longer-term issues. They have a hard time doing, what seems to be at the time, unproductive work. There is always one more person who needs to be fed. There is always another hurting person. That’s why the ministry exists, right?

My advice: Be willing to stop feeding one so you can feed dozens more in months to come.

Spend time developing the board. Spend time recruiting more volunteers. Spend time raising more funds. Spend time casting the vision to the community. Spend time simply resting.

It will seem you’re neglecting the ministry for a time, but in the big picture, you’ll be building a better and stronger ministry.

What do you need to stop doing now so you can see even more done later?

Something I’ve Learned as a Senior Leader

Money Worries

I was talking with a young pastor recently who is having to make some hard decisions in his church. He’s praying, seeking wisdom from other pastors and leaders, allowing input from the church. He feels confident he is making the right decisions for the life of the church at this time. None of the changes are clearly addressed in Scripture. He feels. Majority of the people support him, but still, he’s got some who continually question the decisions he makes.

It reminds me of one thing I’ve learned about leadership.

Not everyone will understand all the decisions a leader makes unless they sat where the leader sits.

The leader can explain. And, he or she should try. The leader can walk with them through the decision. And, he or she should. The leader can listen to the objections. And, he or she should.

But, there will be times when the leader has to make decisions based on the information available. the leader must consider all aspects of the decision, how it impacts every person (not just a few), every ministry, and how it helps accomplish the vision for the future of which he or she feels charged to lead.

And, not everyone will understand.

That principle is equally true for…

Pastors

Business owners

Parents

Elected officials

Teachers

A friend of mine uses the term “second chairitis“. It’s similar to “back seat driver”. Basically it means it’s natural to question the actions of a leader, when you aren’t carrying the full weight of the team. The “outside looking in” view isn’t always the clearest view.

For the leader, I would encourage you as I did the pastor I reference above:

  • Make sure you are obedient to God and His word.
  • Make sure you are seeking wise counsel.
  • Make sure you are open to correction.
  • Make sure you are leading with integrity, in your public and personal life.
  • Make sure you allow people you trust to speak into your life.
  • Make sure you stay true to the vision.
  • Make sure you consider the interest of others, even more than your own.
  • Make sure you develop methods to measure progress.

Then make decisions…the best decisions you can, based on the information you have, realizing in advance that not everyone will always understand. Hopefully, someday they’ll look back and realize you were making good decisions, even when they couldn’t understand. Sometimes you’ll look back and realize you made the wrong decisions. Admit those times. They are like gold for your future leadership decision making.

But, leaders aren’t called to be popular. They are called to lead.

So lead!

Have you ever had to make decisions others couldn’t immediately understand?

4 Succession Planning Trends For Church Leaders

Passing the Baton

This is a requested guest post by my friend William Vanderbloemen. William leads the team at Vanderbloemen Search Group. Their vision statement is “We staff the church”. From what I see of William, that’s his heartbeat.

I heard William present some of this on a recent Leadership Network online conference. Knowing churches that didn’t plan well for succession and knowing very few who have, I felt it was a message that needed to be heard. This is top level coaching, so while we’ve made this resource free, you will need to register to download the remainder of this post. (But, it will be worth it!)

Here are 4 Succession Planning Trends for Church Leaders:

The longer I do executive search, the more I am convinced of this simple truth:

The most expensive hire you will ever make is hiring the wrong person.

Taken one step further, the most expensive bad hire you can ever make is a bad hire of a new Lead Pastor.

Unfortunately, there are too many stories of bad transitions, bad results from a senior pastor search, or a senior pastor succession. So what are some steps that churches are doing to ensure a good senior pastor search? What steps should churches be taking to ensure that their transition goes smoothly and mitigate the chances of problems?

As we work with churches across the country and around the world, we’re starting to see four succession planning trends arise for church leaders.

1. Secure the Outgoing Senior Pastor’s New Pastoral Identity

Many senior pastors have been serving at their church for twenty, thirty, or more years, and their identity is defined by their ministry and church responsibility. I don’t know of another job that ties identity to vocation as much as ministry does. Church is where you do life together, have your spiritual journey together, and it’s where you do work together. When that goes away, pastors are left asking, “Who am I?”

Smart churches are answering that question by finding a way to say, “Here is your identity after you leave. Let’s talk about it ahead of time. Let’s write it down.”

For some churches, that means the pastor is going to start with a vacation paid for by the board. It may be six months to a year so that the new pastor can get his or her feet on the ground and build leadership trust as the new pastor. While that sort of expense may sound extravagant, smart boards are realizing that an extended sabbatical for the outgoing senior pastor both honors their longtime leader and provides a buffer period for the new senior pastor to get established. In the end, I believe this is an expense that pays for itself.

Many denominational churches have a policy that the outgoing pastor cannot be a part of the church for a designated amount of time. Having a policy in place before a pastoral transition ensures that the outgoing pastor knows the lay of the land before he hands off his job.

I’ve seen other churches create a clearly defined new staff role for the outgoing pastor. One example that comes to mind is a church whose outgoing pastor left for a season and then returned by invitation from the new pastor in the position of Pastor of Designated Giving. That pastor was able to raise money from longtime parishioners that simply wouldn’t have been possible for a new senior pastor. It gave the outgoing senior pastor a new, defined identity and purpose. It also let parishioners know what to call the new pastor to do (and what not to do). Many churches we serve create roles for the outgoing senior pastor around their passions. I’ve seen new roles as a Pastor of Missions for a particular part of the world, Pastor of Caring Ministries, and many others. In all cases, the new role gave the outgoing senior pastor a clear identity as they enter uncharted territory in their life and ministry.

Smart churches, denominational or non-denominational are setting up a successful succession by clearly identifying the outgoing pastor’s identity as it relates to the church.

What are some areas within your church where your outgoing pastor can find identity?

Click here to download my white paper 4 Succession Planning Trends For Church Leaders where you can read all four trends and share it with your staff as you plan for a successful transition.

Are You Ready to be a Leader?

Elegant leader

I had a young man ask me recently, “Do you think I’m ready to be a leader?”

I said:

Great question. Glad you’re asking.. But, honestly, I don’t know that I’m the one to answer.

It might help if I ask you some questions:

Are you ready to stand alone at times?

Are you ready to push through fear?

Are you ready to do the right thing even when it’s the unpopular thing?

Are you ready to be misunderstood sometimes…okay…many times?

Are you ready to sacrifice for your team?

Are you ready to see things others may not yet be able to see?

Are you ready to enter the unknown…first?

Are you ready to keep confidences?

Are you ready to delegate?

Are you ready to see all sides of an issue?

Are you ready to sometimes feel like the weight of a vision is on your shoulders?

Are you ready to face conflict?

Are you ready to have your integrity closely observed by your followers?

Are you ready to receive criticism?

Are you ready to defend your team?

How’d your answers go?

Are you ready to be a leader?

7 Secrets to Being a High Achiever

Green extra mile sign

I get asked frequently:

Pastor, how do you get so much done and still take care of yourself and your family?

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.

I do have a lot of responsibility. I pastor a large church…undergoing transition and change. I have an active (some would say over-active) online presence. I blog regularly to a growing audience and daily interact with my readers. I maintain a separate non-profit ministry I’ve managed for over 10 years where I provide consulting and teaching to pastors and churches. I frequently take on extra writing projects and speaking opportunities, which usually keeps me doing something different every week. And, I strive to be the person, husband and father my congregation could seek to follow.

Okay, typing that paragraph reminds me. I’m busy. Productive would be subject to interpretation, but certainly I have activity in my life.

As I’ve reflected of what helps me accomplish much, here are 7 thoughts:

My 7 secrets to being a high achiever:

I’m intentional – That’s probably number one. I strive to live my life for a purpose and that carries over into everything that I do. (Notice there are even 7 steps in this answer. That was intentional.) If you could name one word that describes 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 that last sentence about rest in here intentionally, because I knew someone would wonder. :)

I don’t sit still long – 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 “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 that way, which is why some of the other points I’m listing are far more valuable than this one.

I exercise – I’d also love to say I watch what I eat, and I do to a certain extent, but mostly I exercise to stay fit. I’ve learned that the more out of shape I am the less effective I am in all that I attempt to do. It impacts me physically, emotionally and spiritually when I skip my time exercising.

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. 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, that’s why 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 too, 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 that 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)?

7 Ramifications of Bad Culture

team conflict

I previously wrote, Bad Culture Eats Good Vision. It doesn’t matter how strong your vision is…you can have the greatest strategy, but if the culture is bad…forget it. You aren’t going to be as effective as an organization as you could be.

Working with a couple of churches recently, I discovered some more ramifications of bad culture. It was obvious from an outside view.

Bad culture:

Corrupts – the organizational structure.

Controls – the growth potential.

Confuses – the team’s communication.

Collides – with good vision.

Curtails – any future momentum.

Contaminates – good team members.

Condemns – the team to mediocrity.

As leaders, we try to make our organizations bigger and better. The truth is, however, that many times, it’s the culture that is holding the team back from growing. It’s the culture that keeps things from being healthy. It’s the culture that’s frustrating people and causing burnout.

Do you want to improve the organization’s effectiveness?

Most often, you’ll need to improve the organization’s culture.

Many times, it’s the culture that is holding the team back from growing. It’s the culture that keeps things from being healthy. It’s the culture that’s frustrating people and causing burnout.

Have you ever worked in an environment of bad culture?

As a Leader of Leaders…

female leader

I often get asked, what’s the difference is between leading leaders and leading followers. Great question. It really is a paradigm of leading. It’s really in how you lead.

As a leader of leaders…

I say, “I don’t know, I’ll have to find out” a lot…

I often “didn’t know about that” until a decision is made, but you won’t hear me say that…because I support my team’s ability to make decisions…

I encourage learning from someone besides me…

I let people make mistakes…

I try to steer discussion more than have answers…

I believe in more dreams than my own…

I say “we” more than I say “me”…(except in this post)

I strive to empower more than I control…

I’m not afraid of being challenged by those on my team…

I seldom script the way to achieve the vision…

Do you lead leaders? What would you add?

An Example of Leading Under Pressure (Or not)

Woman expression frazzled

I had a great illustration of leading under pressure recently.

Or, to be more honest, the need to do so.

I met a friend at a local restaurant for breakfast. The place is normally busy and this seemed like a typical day, but the obvious leader (person in charge) was in stress mode. Apparently, several of her employees hadn’t shown up for work that day. Well, not, apparently, she made that quite clear as she complained rather loudly throughout our visit.

Suddenly the place was swamped, which is not an unusual happening for this restaurant, and the young girl running the cash register was overwhelmed. She had to ask for help a couple of times. She was probably sorry she did…both times. She was making mistakes, but she seemed to make more the more agitated her boss became. Her boss continually “barked” back half answers, displayed constant frustration, and grumbled excuses about the lack of manpower. She never apologized. She just complained. Several customers displayed their equal frustrations. My friend and I wondered how we could best help, but, honestly I was afraid of her. :) We stayed, tried to be nice and patient, but leaving almost seemed the more helpful option.

I know firsthand the pressure of leading under stress. I’ve been there many times where it seems everything is going wrong at the same time. Honestly, however, from an outside perspective, the employee on the cash register would have performed better, less mistakes would have been made, customers would have been less tense and the overall environment would have improved, had the boss simply led through the moment, rather than overreacted.

It reminded me of an important leadership principle.

The way a leader reacts under pressure, determines how a team reacts under pressure.

If the leader remains calm under pressure. Keeps smiling. Pushes forward the best he or she can.

The team will likely remain calm. Keep smiling and push forward the best he or she can.

If the leader panics…everyone panics.

The role of a leader in times of stress may be more important than when times are good.

Leading in good times is easy (easier). When the world is stretched…when we are under-staffed, under-funded, overwhelmed, that’s when we most need leadership.

Here is your chance to help other leaders. Do you have any tips for remaining calm under pressure?

4 Ways a Leader Becomes Controlling

Manager and  joypad

One of the most dangerous forms of leadership, and one of the most frustrating, in my opinion, is the controlling leader. I have worked closely with a controlling leader, so I guess I may me sensitive to the issue. I’ve written about this issue previously, including:

7 Suggestions for Confronting a Controlling Leader

3 Results of Controlling Leadership

3 Ways to Respond to a Controlling Leader

7 Warning Signs You May Be a Controlling Leader

And others.

Under a controlling leader’s watch, leadership development is virtually non-existent. Pride is rampant. Ideas are squashed. Momentum is curtailed. It never works well.

A friend of mine and I were discussing this issue recently. His boss is a controlling leader. It has led to burnout for my friend and caused him to start putting his resume out. He’s done. Can’t take it anymore. Knowing this young leader, I realize the business is going to suffer because the leader can’t let go of the reigns. As an outsider, it appears they will be losing a quality person if they lose my friend. At this point in the life of the business, it will be a devastating blow.

In the conversation, my friend asked an important question. “How does one become a controlling leader?”

Good question. I don’t know that I can answer for every controlling leader, (My aim has never been to speak for that group), but I have some theories.

Here are 4 suggestions:

Faith – Actually, the lack thereof. Typically, this leader doesn’t trust anyone except him or herself to do the job. They are afraid to release the vision to others. In terms of the church, our vision is shaped by Christ, and the ministry leader who struggles with their faith will always default to trying to make things happen on his or her own.

Failure – This leader has witnessed failure; either personally or in the lives of others. They are now leery of things going wrong and so they refuse to let anyone else take charge. Controlling appears to be the “safer” option.

Fanfare – These leaders thrive on attention they receive from the limelight. They want the power, prestige and privileges that come with leadership, so they shut down anyone else who may appear to be easing into a position of influence.

Fear – These controlling leaders always believe the sky is falling. They see the glass as “half empty” and don’t want to take too many risks or chances. When everything is under their control they feel a sense of security.

I don’t know that any of us can answer this question as it applies to every leader, but these are some theories I’d suggest.

Have you ever worked with a controlling leader? Anything you’d add to my list?

I believe in challenging leaders, so here goes. Leader, do you have controlling tendencies? (We all do to some extent.) Do any of these apply to you?