A Self-Assessment: Are You Leading in Honesty?

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One of the most powerful books I’ve read for pastors lately is the book “Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul” by Lance Witt. I highly recommend it for any leader, but especially for pastors.

In Chapter 38, Witt gives some questions for leaders to self-assess whether we are leading in honesty or leading in fear. It’s a sobering assessment.

A few times, I added the words in parenthesis. The last three are my additions.

Take a few minutes and answer these questions. Honestly:

  • How many times have I held back in a meeting because I was afraid of what others would think?
  • How often have I found myself saying things I don’t believe just to be polite (or popular)?
  • How often have I seen something that isn’t right but didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to cause trouble (or face conflict)?
  • How often have I seen someone about to make a bad decision and said nothing?
  • How many times have I sat silent while the big elephant in the room is ignored?
  • How many times have I participated in gossip about a team member rather than having the hard, honest conversation with him or her?
  • How many times have I tolerated inappropriate and hurtful behavior because I wasn’t willing to have the hard conversation?
  • How often do I stretch the truth to make me look better than I really am?
  • How many times do I pretend to be someone I’m really not just so I can feel more popular?
  • How often do I hide my hurt and pain to appear strong?

Wow! Hard questions.

How’d you do?

Are You in a Controlling Environment?

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How controlling is the environment in which you lead?

That’s a great question, isn’t it?

I’ve previously written about controlling leadership. I tried to help you discern controlling leaders in THIS POST. I shared some ways to confront a controlling leader in THIS POST. And I shared some results of controlling leadership HERE.

But, what about the organization itself? How do you know if it’s controlling?

How well would you say new ideas flourish? Or do they?

You would want to know, wouldn’t you?

But, how do you?

Want to test yourself or your organization?

Ask yourself:

Do ideas determine systems?

Or

Do systems control ideas?

Here is another set of questions with the same thought:

When someone has a new idea, do you adapt, tweak, and create systems to support them?

Or

Do you decide whether or not the idea can survive based on your current systems?

Think about it. In a controlling environment, an idea can flourish only if there are systems to support the idea. In a less controlling environment, they create systems around the ideas…systems to make the ideas work.

Which is most true of your organization?

This doesn’t mean there won’t be ideas that aren’t a fit for the purpose, culture or DNA of the organization.

But, don’t let systems stifle creativity.

Let vision control your ability to move forward…not systems.

How would you discern a controlling environment?

10 Ways to Help Your Spouse Transition to a New Position

Lifestyle choices.

In a previous post, I wrote about the pastor’s spouse’s emotions during a time of ministry transition. You will need to read that post HERE for this post to make complete sense.That post resonated with several who are dealing with that issue. My post was to bring awareness to those emotions, but as I expected, it generated questions.

People wanted to know how…how do they help their spouse transition?

Great question. I don’t have all the answers, but I have some.

Here are 10 ways to help your spouse in a job transfer:

Celebrate what she’s doing – Many times your excitement will seem to diminish what your spouse is doing. I was talking to a young pastor recently who is experiencing great success in his new church. At the same time, his wife is watching their children. I reminded him that changing diapers on the children he loves is just as powerful. He knew that, but he needed a reminder to celebrate that fact.

Help her explorepace herself – Eventually, she needs to find her own identity. It will take time. Allow her the freedom to do so, even if that means you have to keep the children some so she can.

Don’t lock her into your world – Don’t dictate her ministry. My wife and I our partners, but she is not me. Nor am I her. Her interests and mine are different. That’s okay. It’s actually by design. She makes me better. And, in a much smaller way I’m sure, I make her better.

Listen to her – That’s always important, but even more so in times of stress or change. You’ll be busier than ever. But she will need you…more than ever. Listen. The practice will serve you and your marriage in the days ahead.

Let her grieve – She may mourn over the separation from friends. She may miss the old house. She may complain at times that the supermarket isn’t as easy to navigate. It’s a part of the acclimating process. Give it time.

Be conscious – It won’t be the same. It probably never will be. Her role will be different. Your role will be different. You will have different friends. Your schedules may be altered. Your routines will change. Be conscious that this creates stress in people and relationships.

Be present when home – When you finally get home, be fully home. Shut down. Have some times where you quit everything work related and be with your family. Give your family the attention they deserve.

Celebrate your new area – Explore the new city together. Discover the hidden gems and be a tourist for a while. (I wrote a post about how to acclimate to a new city HERE.)

Keep her informed – She will naturally feel somewhat isolated from your exciting new world. Don’t allow that emotion because you’ve excluded her from it. Make her feel a part of things as much as you can by giving her details of your day. I realize this will require even more patience, but during transition she needs to be even more a part of your day that she missed.

Be patient – It may take longer for her to acclimate to the new environment than you think it should. That’s okay. She’s not you. Don’t expect her to respond to change the same way you would.

Those are my suggestions. If you’re in a time of transition, for the good of your marriage and yourself, be intentional!

Have you transitioned recently? What recommendations do you have?

The Emotions of Betrayal and How to Process

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I was reading a passage the other day and something struck me…

The emotions of betrayal…

Have you ever experienced them?

It helps to be able to count to twelve…

See what I mean…

And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.Acts 1:13

Do you see what I saw?

Count them. There are eleven names. Eleven. Not twelve.

One was missing. For three years there were twelve. They had been Jesus’ disciples. His closest companions. Jesus had invested time, energy and life into them. Now there were eleven. One was missing.

The betrayer…

If you don’t know the story, another named Judas betrayed Jesus. For a hefty sum of money he handed Jesus to the authorities where He was arrested, beaten and crucified. Of course, it was used for a divine purpose, but the fact is one of the disciples betrayed the others and Jesus.

I don’t think I ever considered this before…but what were the emotions of betrayal for the remaining disciples? Did they miss their friend? In spite of his betrayal, he was a close companion on a mission. A team member. There must have been some attachment. Were there moments of bitterness, anger, or rage? Were they sad? Was there one in particular who got hurt most? He was closest to the betrayer, perhaps, (I don’t know…just knowing people and team dynamics I’m asking).

But, that was then and this post is really about you.

Have you ever experienced the emotions of betrayal?

We don’t talk about it much in leadership or ministry, but maybe we should. Those emotions are real. They are heavy. And, they are common.

Have you been hurt by your own betrayer? You trusted him or her. You may have even called them friend. They let you down. Disappointed you. Betrayed you.

Anyone who has served in any leadership position has experienced betrayal at some level. It could have been the gossip started by a supposed friend or a pointed and calculated stab in the back. Either way…it hurts.

Learning to deal with, process, and mature through betrayal may be one of the more important leadership issues, yet we seldom deal with the issue.

How do you handle betrayal?

Here are a few quick suggestions:

Grieve – Give yourself time to process. Be honest about the pain. Don’t pretend it didn’t matter. It does.

Forgive – As much as it hurts, refusing to forgive or holding a grudge will hurt you more than the betrayer. Embrace and extend grace. If there are realistic consequences you can let those occur, but in your heart let it go. It may take time to do this, but the longer you delay the more you are still held captive by the betrayal.

Analyze – It is good at a time of betrayal to consider what went wrong. Was it an error in judgement? Do you need stricter guidelines? Would it have happened regardless? You can’t script morality and shouldn’t attempt to, but you should use this as a chance for a healthy review of the parameters in which the betrayal occurred.

Continue – You can’t allow a betrayal to distract you from the vision you have been called to complete. There will always be betrayers in the mix. They show up unexpectedly. Eventually you will have to take a risk on people again. It’s the only way to lead healthfully.

Have you ever been betrayed?

What would you add? How did you’re forward? Or have you?

The Pastor’s Spouse: Emotions in Times of Transition

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When I’m talking to a pastor who has accepted a new position, after I hear the excitement in his voice of what he sees God doing, I almost always ask the same question:

“How is your wife dealing with the change?”

There is usually a pause, followed by an “umm” of some sort, then a statement such as, “She’s doing okay.”

Push a little more (which I usually do) and I’ll hear something like:

It’s been harder on her than I thought it would be.” or, pushing even further, “I don’t understand why she’s not as excited as I am. She agreed this was what God had for us.”

Many times, when the pastor is honest, the transition hasn’t gone as well for the spouse as for the pastor. It will come in time, but for now, she’s not as excited about the change in positions as he is.

Why is that?

I like to encourage pastors to remember their spouse’s emotions in the process of transition. The new pastor has found his center of gravity and purpose. Most likely the spouse will feel a sense of loss and have to look for hers.

You, the pastor, when you come home at the end of a long day, have something exciting to share every time. Things are moving, changing, challenging you daily. Even on days things aren’t going well…you have drama in your day you can’t wait to share.

Many times, right now, her days look the same.

You come home pumped at what God is doing, so naturally you share your enthusiasm with the one you care to share with the most…your partner in life and ministry.

But, if you’re not conscious of her emotions, depending on her state of mind, she may hear, “My life is exciting. Yours is boring.” Or worse, “My life has meaning. Your life has none.”

Granted, you are not thinking those things and would never want her to think those things, but emotions are high in times of transition. Don’t be surprised if they produce irrational thoughts and actions at times. That’s part of change.

She’s moved from friends and has to learn who to trust again. She is often more relation-centered emotionally, so her heart transitions slower. The roles she held in the church or community haven’t been replaced yet.

You moved forward in your career and passions. Many times hers took a step backward. Or seem to have for now. That will change in time, and she probably knows that intellectually, but emotionally she feels a sense of loss that will take time to replace with a sense of purpose equal to yours.

Granted she is your partner, so she may be excited for you personally as a couple, but remember, she is an individual person, with individual needs for a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

That’s enough encouragement for today. I’ll share more in a future post some thoughts on helping your spouse find her center of gravity and purpose in a time of transition. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, share your stories to help others.

Pastors/Pastor’s spouses, did you have a harder time in a season of transition than your spouse did?

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?