7 Suggestions NOT To Do When the Church is in Decline

Downtrend chart and red pencil. Selective focus

Part of my ministry involves working with other churches. Sometimes when I hear from a church they have been plateaued or in a season of decline for several years. They are often looking for answers of how they can turnaround.

I love helping churches, but there truly are no standard answers. It’s unique for every church and every situation. I do know, however, if a local church never adds new people – eventually it will cease to exist. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The hardest lesson a church needs to learn in a period of decline, however, is often not what they should do, but what they shouldn’t. I’ve seen churches make, at least what appears to me, to be an abundance of wrong decisions towards growing again. The purpose of this post is to help churches who may find themselves in a declining period avoid mistakes I’ve seen some churches make.

In a future post I’ll share some suggestions of what a church in decline should do.

Here are 7 suggestions NOT to do when in decline:

Blame others

It’s easy to blame the decline on a former pastor – or one the deacons – or one the seniors – or even on the culture. I continually hear phrases such as, “If it weren’t for a few people we could probably grow again.” But, the reality is, when you are in decline, this matters less than what you are going to do about it. And, as long as you are blaming someone or something you won’t address the real issues.

Make excuses

There are a multiple reasons we could probably discover – many of them true – of why a church begins to decline. You should know them, but at some point, excuses only cloud our ability to move forward. We tend to live in them rather than move past them.

Pretend

I’ve seen so many churches pretend there isn’t a problem – when everyone knows there is one. (Or many.) If you want to grow again, you’ll have to admit there is a problem which needs addressing. (And, this is the subject of another post, but, in full disclosure – just so you know – this likely involves implementing some change. No, actually, it WILL involve some change.)

Lower expectations

It seems natural when the church is in decline to expect less, but this never works. You are trying to attract new people. You need more excellence, not more mediocrity to do it. You may need to lower the number of programs you offer, but never lower expectations of the ones you do.

Cut expenses

This one has dual meanings, of course, because reducing expenses may be exactly what you need to do. The point here is to make sure you lower the right expenses. Don’t cut the things which got you where you are or will get you where you need to go. Don’t cut promotional or community investment dollars, for example, just because they are intangibles or an easy decisions to make. The fact here is many times the expenses you may need to cut are difficult decisions – unpopular decisions. So we often avoid them and cut the things that we should be doing to spur growth.

Overreact

Too much change during a period of decline can be deadly. Too little change can be equally damaging. Panic of leadership almost always leads to panic in people trying to follow. Strive not to react too strongly either way. Don’t change everything and don’t clamp down and refuse to change anything. Renew the vision God called you to – set good, clear goals and objectives to chart a course forward – and then trust God will see you through this period.

Give up

There may be a time to quit. The fact is the church, as in the Body of Christ, is here to stay. Jesus promised that. He didn’t make the promise to every local church. Local churches close every year. But, before you give up, or before you resolve church growth is for other churches – but not this one – make sure you haven’t given up too soon. In my experience, we often quit just before the breakthrough. Do all you know to do, then stay close to the heart of God, waiting for Him to bring the increase again or lead you in making harder decisions.

(Let me address the pushback I often receive on posts like this – many times from well-meaning people who think I’m too strategic to be Biblical. God is in charge. He sets the rules and adds the increase. But, this does not leave us without responsibility. Read the parable of the talents – or the story of Nehemiah – or multiple others. God has given us minds to be used for His glory.)

Have you pastored a church in decline? What mistakes did you make?

3 Ways to Find Family Time in a Busier Than Ever World

family lifestyle portrait

Finding family balance in a busier than ever world – it’s tough.

It has to be one of the most frequently asked questions I get from other pastors and leaders. Frankly, I’m glad they are asking the question. I especially see this true among the newest generation of leaders.

Cheryl, the boys and I were talking not long ago. They wanted to know how we did it? How did we keep the balance between a busy life and a healthy family life?

They knew we were busy. We had lots of responsibilities.

I was on the local city council. Served for a time as vice-mayor. We owned a small business with many employees depending on us to keep a business going which could feed lots of families. (You don’t know stress until you feel the weight of making payroll for 35-40 people every week.) I was on dozens of community committees and was active in the church, where I served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher.

Cheryl spent more time in the home than me during this season, but she also worked in our business. She served in the church. She was active leading in the schools where our boys attended – often serving as the president of the parent organization.

Yet my boys knew we rarely missed anything they were doing. Ball games. Practices. School events. Church events.

And, they felt we had lots of time for just us as a family. We ate dinner together most evenings. We threw and kicked lots of balls in our back and front yard. They felt we invested a lot of time in them.

They wanted to know how we did it – how we figured out the balance.

And, honestly, I have to admit – we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were figuring it out as we went. Plus, everything seems busier now. Travel ball. Travel dance. Social media. You know you’ve got to update your status often or your social media stats will suffer.

How do you do all you feel you have to do and still find balance?

Well, it may be harder today than 15 or so years ago, but I think the same principles we used then still apply.

Say no to some good things.

And, this is hard, isn’t it? Because you want your kids to have every opportunity they want. You want them to be exposed to lots of different things. You don’t want them to miss things their friends are doing. How can you say no?

But, sometimes as a parent you have to make the hard decisions for your kids they aren’t mature enough to make for themselves. Of course, they want to do it all. They are kids, but you have to ask yourself – is this the wisest decision for them today, based on where they need to go someday?

One day they’ll be gone and you’ll wish for more time with them. Some moms, like Cheryl, will wish you could wash some dirty clothes or pick up some socks from the floor (yea, funny how that works). Some dads, like me, will miss coming home tired from work and still getting outside to play catch.

But, right now your kids need you. More now than ever. They need your influence. And, you develop influence with them over time – when you’re with them. So, which is the greater good — another sport – another activity – or more time with you?

You’ll have to decide, but I suggest you consider the word “no”. It’s a good word. And, I would say it’s vital to having a balanced family life.

We limited the number of activities we allowed our kids to do. They got to choose, but they couldn’t choose everything. And, we said no to outside social invitations many times so we could have family time together.

Say yes to intentionality.

When you’re home be home. Turn off the phones. Put down the laptop. Turn off the television. Be radical with your scheduled time with them. And, yes, my family went on my calendar – trumping other good things.

I know this is hard also. You’re tired – and the recliner and remote are your escape. I get it. You have one more email to answer. You need to check your Facebook or Instagram posts to see who has interacted with you.

I cover this more in the next one – but since time is limited you’ve got to make the most of it. Every moment must count. Every night is another opportunity. An opportunity which quickly disappears with a fast moving calendar. (If there is one thing I hear empty-nest parents say it is they got to this stage quicker than they thought they would. Time passes fast.)

And invest in your marriage too. Intentionally shut everything down often enough so you stay connected. Yes. It’s crazy. It takes time away from an already busy schedule. But , it’s life giving to the marriage and your sanity.

We weren’t perfect at this, but our boys knew they had our attention. One example, I didn’t play golf for years – even though I loved the game – because my boys never took an interest in it. I thought time was better spent with them. We didn’t turn on the television every night – and not for long periods on the nights we did.

Be creative with your time.

You’ve got to learn to use teachable moments. Learn to love the activities your child loves. Throw balls together. Learn to love dancing at home. Play with action characters. Build science projects together (oh I hated those – miss them now). Use bedtime and dinnertime and breakfast time – and car circles – and trips to the garbage dump – whatever you have, whatever it takes, use the time you have with your children well. Use it creatively.

There isn’t one moment to spare when you’re intentional in raising a busy family. Not one moment. Intentional is the key word in the last sentence. You have to be intentional. And, it is hard work, but the rewards are worth it. Every. Single. Time.

We didn’t really do family devotion times in our home. It didn’t work as well for our boys. But, we talked about God’s Word, principles of life, values we should hold as followers of Christ – along the journey of life. Every time a ball was in the air I knew I had a captive audience with two eager soon-to-be men. And, I took advantage of the opportunity. I knew it would pass too soon.

You can find the balance<. It is hard. There's nothing more important.

7 Necessary Steps When You Need to Have a Difficult Conversation

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I once Tweeted, “The hardest conversation is often the most needed.”

It was as a result of my counsel to another pastor in a leadership setting. He knew he needed to approach an issue, but he wasn’t sure how to do so. I understand. If it were easy we wouldn’t struggle to do it.

I find myself encouraging those type conversations often. Apparently, from the retweets and direct messages I received it’s a frequent issue. In relationships, there are consistent needs to have difficult conversations. Often leaders, spouses, and friends avoid them, but it’s often to the detriment of the relationship.

I decided to expand beyond Twitter length encouragement.

Do you need to have a difficult conversation?

Here are 7 necessary steps you’ll need to take:

Conviction

There first needs to be some sense of urgency towards having the conversation. People who have frequent hard conversations just to have hard conversations are obnoxious at best. Hard conversations, where you challenge someone, confront a situation or address sensitive issues, should be rare – not normal. Make sure you know it’s something you must do in order to improve the situation or protect the relationship.

Prayer

You should pray as a part of the conviction process also. And, you should pray after you know you are moving forward. Pray for God’s favor on the conversation, open hearts for you and the other party, and God’s resolution to be realized. And, enter the conversation in a spirit of prayer.

Notes

Jot down your main points you are trying to make. You might read THIS POST. It’s about how to write a sensitive letter, but the points in it will help you prepare for a face-to-face conversation also. (And, there are times a letter is best.) You want to be prepared. You want to remember your thoughts clearly and not from emotion. The main issues (as you can read in the post) are to be factual, to the point, but kind, truthful, and helpful. Be willing to assume blame where needed.

Setting

Time and place are critical in difficult situations. You should never “attack” someone in ways that will embarrass them more or add unnecessary stress to the situation. You shouldn’t have a hard conversation when you’re being motivated simply by emotion. You should find neutral ground. Be strategic with your when and where.

Rehearsal

Go through your notes and your part of the conversation. Imagine if someone was having this conversation with you and how you would respond. You can’t determine how they will respond, but you can rehearse how you will respond. The more you do this the better you’ll be able to control your emotions when the time comes.

Action

Do it. You need to plan the when, as stated above, but the longer you wait the harder and more awkward it will be. Have the conversation while you’re prepared and in a prayerful mindset about the situation.

Follow up

Most likely the conversation won’t end with the conversation. You will need to check in with the person, send them a follow up email, phone call or even another meeting. You may need to reiterate your care for them personally even after the conversation. The Scripture is clear – as much as it depends on us we are to live at peace with everyone. If nothing more is needed between you and the person, at least take time to think through how the conversation went so you can learn from it and be better prepared for future difficult conversations. You can be assured of additional opportunities.

I hope this helps. Don’t avoid the hard conversations. They are often the most needed. But, always be wise about having them.

What steps or advice would you add?

A Sobering Reality for Pastors and Leaders

Good Job

There is a sobering reality every pastor and leader needs to understand. Knowing this one can protect your career – help keep you from burning out – and guard your heart.

I see this impact leaders from all generations – but, I must be honest – I probably see it even more in our youngest generation of leaders entering the workforce.

You ready for the sobering reality?

The longer you do what you do well the less praise you’ll receive for it.

Have you experienced it? If you don’t understand this principle you’ll often feel disappointed – like no one cares – like they didn’t even notice the good work you are doing.

The fact is everyone loves to praise the new guy – the guest appearance – the surprise home run.

(One of my favorite examples – the guest speaker who has delivered the same message 42 times and has gotten really good at it. Everyone says “best sermon ever”. Of course – they have practiced it a few times.)

But, when you’ve been there a while – when you try to do well every week – when you hit home runs almost every time up to bat – people stop cheering as loudly.

Once you do exceptional for very long it becomes the new norm.

It’s expected. It is now your new average. Everyone expects you to be wonderful – every time. They’ve gained a certain confidence in your ability.

And, you can naturally expect to hear less approval. Less “good jobs”. Less “that was amazing” comments.

It’s not necessarily you aren’t doing a good job anymore. You’ve simply set a new bar of expectation.

Of course, part of improving is to continually raise our own bar of expectations, but if you’re realizing this sobering reality – you’ve done something right.

And, for that – I must say – Congratulations!

I intend this post to be an encouragement, but also to serve as a warning of sorts.

The quietness of the new norm can make you think you’re no longer appreciated. If you’re not careful, you’ll begin to doubt your abilities or the success you are still having.

Those emotions – and the reactions to them – are normal, even if they aren’t true.

I’m not ignoring times when you aren’t doing your best. Don’t be an unaware leader.

I’m not trying to convince you not to be normal. That would be abnormal of me.

I am encouraging you to seek your affirmation beyond the verbal praise of man.

I am saying if you live for the praise of others, you’ll eventually be controlled by their praise (or lack thereof).

And I am reminding you – you may be doing everything right, but seldom hear all the good you’re doing.

This is part of leadership. And, the leader who can lead just as passionately towards a noble goal, without the praise of others – even perhaps in times when criticism seems more dominant – is on track for success.

Have you ever been in a “normal” season of producing good work, but not feeling valued for it?

One Common Struggle Every Pastor Faces

complaint

There is one common struggle every pastor seems to face. I’ve seen it dozens of pastors. I often hear it on Mondays – even after a great Sunday. I’ve been guilty of this one – many times. It was true in church planting and in church revitalization.

And, this common struggle, I’m not sure, but it could be a common struggle for every leader, regardless of what they are leading.

The struggle –

We often let a few negatives overshadow many positives.

Things can be going great, but we can get one negative email – and our whole day is ruined.

We can have one season of struggle and we forget all the seasons of triumph – or all the promises for future reward.

We can miss the blessings God is providing all around us by focusing on the distractions of a few critics we may never please – regardless of what we do. We can live in gloom and doom about a present situation, forgetting how God has blessed us and how He has promised to bless us in days to come.

Are you ever guilty of this? Am I alone here?

The Bible is not silent about this struggle. Elijah – who the book of James tells us was a person just like us – fell apart with one threat from Jezebel after he had had tremendous success in ministry. (1 Kings 19)

It really is a common struggle. A common temptation to see the negative immediate reality, over the bigger picture positives of what God has done and is doing.

I don’t know, this is speculation on my part, but I think this struggle may have existed throughout the Bible with God’s people. For example, consider one of our “go to” favorite verses of encouragement – Jeremiah 29:11.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord , plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Put it in the context in which it was delivered. Notice Vs. 10

For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” (Emphasis mine.)

One of the greatest promises – a promise God is in control and has a masterful future planned. This promise fits well on coffee mugs and desk plaques. We love it so much.

But, what do you think the people heard when this great promise was revealed by the prophet?

Again, it’s speculation on my part, but don’t you think when the people heard those words it was the “seventy years” of captivity they were about to face which jumped out to them more than the “future and hope“?

Yet, which do you think was God’s intent – to encourage or discourage? (Hopefully, you know the God who is love enough to answer correctly.)

Again, everything can be going according to plan. God can be working in your life, but one setback – one season of decline in church attendance – one negative email – can destroy your perception of reality. Common struggle.

This is why, as pastors – as leaders – as people of God – we must keep our mind and focus on the bigger picture. A focus on what God is calling us to do – what He is currently doing – and, ultimately, what He has promised to do – rather than the voices of the negative minority.

The Apostle Paul said it like this, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Who is brave and honest enough to admit I’m not alone here in this struggle?

7 Questions to Help Process the Emotion of Fear

surprised young man

I’ve watched fear keep many people from achieving all God would have them achieve. Fear will keep a guy from pursuing the girl of his dreams. Fear fan drive people to the safe side, rather than to assume the risk required to pursue their dreams. Pastors have even refused to address the needed changes in their church – not because it was challenging – but, because they were afraid. (Anyone identify with this one?)

Fear is the enemy of progress. It is the antagonist of pursuit. Fear can be the deadly foe of fulfillment in life. And, fear can be a leader’s worst enemy.

How can we overcome the dreaded fear all of us face frequently?

I don’t know if we can completely get rid of fear – or if we even want to completely – but, I do think we should and need to learn to manage the fear in our life. That’s the hope of this post. It won’t solve your fear problems, but it I’ll give you something to think about next time you’re afraid.

Let me provide some questions to process your fear the next time you are faced with a need.

Ask yourself these 7 questions:

Is it a God-given or a man-made fear?

This is a huge step. Fear is an emotion and God can use fear to keep you from harm. Is what you would be doing against God’s will for you or others? If it’s wrong to do, no wonder you are afraid. God may be trying to protect you. If you are continually making bad decisions in your life, you’ll likely live in fear. You may not even be able to understand the emotion, but in my experience, it’s one way God draws His children to Himself. Failure to walk by faith, which is a sin by the way, can also bring upon the emotion of fear. If you’re fear is from God – obey God! This is your answer – every time.

Is it a rational or an irrational fear?

Consider whether you are basing your fears on fact or fiction. Are you making up the scenario of what could go wrong or is the fear based on real information you have? Our minds can be our worst excuse – if we need one, we will find it. Be honest with yourself here. If you’ve been making up the excuses, it’s time to dismiss them and proceed.

Is it probable or improbable?

The truth is most of what we fear never comes true. Again, our mind is capable of all kinds of worst-case scenarios which keep us from moving forward. We shouldn’t allow fear in things which will probably never even happen stop what God may want to bring in our life. God may have a miracle for you – and, you’re allowing a made-up scenario hold you from it. The fact is you may fail, but remember, failure is a part of building life experience. Unless you know you’re going to fail (which is highly unlikely you would know this in advance), if it’s not sinful, and you feel you’re supposed to – I suggest you move forward.

Can anything be done to diminish the risk?

We should attempt to diminish fear through planning and preparation as much as possible. There is nothing wrong and everything right about being prepared. I’m not motivated by fear, but I have an alarm system at my house. (And, one of my father’s pistols he left me when he died!) If your fear is based on a lack of preparation, get busy developing the systems and strategies to help you succeed. Ask for help if you need it.

Is what I’m fearing necessary or unnecessary?

Is this something you must address? If it’s a conflict you’ve been avoiding, for example, the fear will only get stronger the longer you wait. The earlier you face the fear the more likely you’ll get positive results. Sooner or later, the fear must be faced. What better time than now? If it’s not really necessary, and there is no pressure upon you, you may not have to face this fear. I once jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. But, if you don’t have the desire – don’t do it.

Is the fear personal or impersonal?

Are you afraid of your abilities or the reaction of others? Do you wonder if you have what it takes? It’s only natural a challenge would create an amount of fear – even a captivation with fear. Every act of courage means you ignore an aspect of fear. Don’t let your insecurities keep you from achieving your dreams.

Are you satisfied with the status quo?

I know it’s a hard question, but if fear is keeping you from moving forward, and you’ve answered the other questions, this may be the one. You need to strongly consider the repercussions of giving into your fear. It may mean you stand still. It may mean you go backwards. It may mean you never realize the dreams you have for your life or the calling God has placed upon you. Are you willing to live with this reality?

Have you allowed fear to keep you from realizing all God has for you?

7 Ways to Make Fast Decisions When Time Isn’t Available

ideas spinning

There are those moments in leadership when you have to make quick decisions. And, like every decision a leader makes, the decision impact others. These are decisions which are hard to make with plenty of time to make them. Decisions which will be hard to reverse. Decisions which you would usually spend days, weeks or months deciding – but the have to be made now. There is no choice.

You wish you had more time to make them – but you don’t. Every leader I know has those moments. Unfortunately, the larger our organization grows the more they seem to occur.

What do you do?

First, my experience is this is still a rare occurrence in leadership – or at least you should attempt to make it so. Many times we feel we have to move faster than we really do. My advice is to try not to make quick decisions any more than possible. Proverbs says, “haste makes mistakes”.

There are times, however, when, as a leader, you simply have to move forward. So, when you do, here are a few ways to make better quick decisions.

7 ways to make decisions fast:

Pray

Sentence prayers work. Ask God His opinion on the matter. He cares about the smallest details of your life. He may be doing something bigger than you can imagine, however, so He may allow you freedom to choose knowing that He will work things for an ultimate good. Ask for His input first though. And, part of this is developing a close enough relationship with God where if He’s trying to speak to you – you will know His voice in your life.

Check your boundaries

Hopefully you have certain lines you will not cross. Does this decision cross any of them? If so, wait. If not, you’re freer to move forward.

Take the emotion out of it

Emotional decisions are seldom rational decisions. Do I need to say this one again? If you haven’t considered the black and white decision, if there is one, do this first. As much as possible, try to remove your personal agenda and your emotional response from the answering of the question at hand.

Phone a friend

Moments like these are why you need people in your corner who can quickly speak truth into your life. I have a few friends who always take my call. Before I “pull the trigger”, I’m pushing the speed dial. God created us for community – and we are better when we operate within His plan.

Pull from past experiences

You may not have made this decision, but you’ve made other decisions in your life. Try to pull in as close a parallel as you can. Glean from your successes and your failures. Often times, God will build upon our past. He’s working from an established plan. Don’t forget this.

Don’t let fear dominate

Fear is always a part of decision making, especially if it involves a risk of any kind. Fear can sometimes be a protector, so don’t ignore it, but don’t let it be the dominate decider either. The hardest and scariest decisions are often the most needed.

Trust your gut

You’ve made good decisions before – haven’t you? Or even if you feel you haven’t, you probably knew the right decision to make, even though you didn’t make it. We have a sense of right and wrong which allows us to know when we are making blatant errors. So, go with the gut when it says, “this is the right decision.” Many times you’ll be right.

Those are a few suggestions. Keep in mind, you will make mistakes this way. When you have to make quick decisions, you will get burnt at times. I’m not pretending you won’t.

But, there are times where a quick decision is needed. When this happens it is called leadership. Don’t shy away from it simply because of the timing.

How do you make good decisions fast?

10 Traits to Identify Potential New Servant Leaders

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One of the most important tasks of a leader is to identify potential new leaders. If a church or organization is to grow, finding new leaders is critical. 

Equally vital is the quality of leaders being discovered. Good leaders learn to look for qualities in people which are conducive to good leadership. If you want to have a culture which reproduces leaders, read THIS POST first.

But, where do you find these people who can be future servant leaders?

I find it helps to look for certain qualities, which all good leaders need or qualities which, consistently over time, seem to make good leaders. Of course, in context of the church, the Bible gives us clear guidance in selecting senior leaders (who will hopefully also be servants). But, my church is always in need of new servant leaders – from the parking lot to the hallways every Sunday. Where do we find a continual pool of new leaders?

The following are traits I look for in leaders I hope to develop or with whom I want to work.

Here are 10 valuable traits when looking for new servant leaders:

Concern/Love for others – You can’t lead people effectively if you don’t genuinely love people. I’ve seen people in positions who have great power, but they don’t appear to love others. These leaders often produce followers – if only seeking a paycheck – but they never reproduce leaders.

Not a complainer – Candidly speaking, leadership encounters complainers regardless of what we do. I certainly don’t want to add complainers to my team of leaders. A positive attitude will get my attention every time.

Teachable and open to suggestions – A person who thinks they have all the answers will repel other leaders. People with no desire to keep learning rarely find their place on my team of leaders.

Excellence in following – This is a biggie for me. I try to follow people I lead, because there are times they know more than I do. Many times. Someone who isn’t willing to follow is seldom ready to lead. I look for a servant attitude – willing to do what needs to be done for the benefit of others. 

Reliability – Leadership is about trust, and trust is developed over time and consistency by doing what you said you would do. I look for people with this quality.

Interest – The people with a burning passion for the church or organization often make great leaders. You can train someone to lead others, but you can’t easily train them to have interest.

Good character – Character counts. Not perfection. Not flawless. But, good character is necessary to be trusted on a team. Integrity. Honesty. A humble desire to always be improving as a person – this kind of character.

Potential – God always saw potential in others they themselves couldn’t see. I try to have eyes to see potential in others.

Confidence – Leaders have to move forward when others are ready to retreat. This takes confidence. Not being prideful, but a genuine willingness to lead through the hard times – to do what others aren’t willing to do.

People skills – This goes without saying, but you can’t lead people if you can’t communicate with people. You don’t have to be the life of the party (I’m a strong Introvert), but you do have to be able to engage people and make them feel a part of things.

Well, those are some traits I look for in potential leaders.

Do you have other traits you look for in recruiting leaders?

Catch Phrases Heard On the Way to the Finish Line

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I am a runner. I mostly run just for my personal health and pleasure, but I’ve run in quite a few races. I’ve even run a marathon and numerous half marathons. I’ve learned, however, distance is relative. If a 5K is your milestone, then it will be a long race. I have a friend who runs the 100 mile races.

I think he’s partially crazy. For him – he set a goal, he worked for it. He’s achieving it.

Good for him. I’ll stick to thinking 8 miles is a good average stretch distance.

One thing I’ve learned, however, if you’re pushing yourself, at some point along the race, you’ll struggle. It will go from being “fun” to being a challenge. Ask any serious runner.

I’ve also discovered – and this is the good part – without those stretching moments, there wouldn’t be near as much thrill of crossing the finish line.

Here’s something else I’ve observed. There’s a common language among those struggling – at the point of greatest struggle.

I think you’ll find these very life and leadership applicable.

Run any distance race and you’ll hear people express frustration out loud.

I’ve heard things like:

  • I can’t do this.
  • This is harder than I thought.
  • I’m not a runner.
  • Why did I sign up for this?
  • This is crazy.
  • I’m never doing another one of these.
  • I’m in pain.

But, here’s something else I’ve observed.

I’ve never met a runner, who crossed the finish line, who didn’t receive the thrill of victory – even if it was only after they threw up in a trashcan nearby.

The completion of a dream – a goal – a challenge – feels great after crossing the finish line.

Have you been ready to give up a dream?

Are you fearing the next steps?

Do you feel in over your head?

Are you afraid? In pain? Having to stretch yourself simply to keep going?

Often you simply need a little motivation – a little push. I’ve experienced one brief prayer give me the strength to keep going. Whatever it takes – don’t quit too soon! You don’t want to miss the thrill of crossing the finish line. No one can take that thrill away from you.

8 Words of Encouragement for Young Leaders

Elegant leader

I love investing in the next generation of leaders. They are our future. I think we have an obligation to share our experiences and help them learn from our mistakes. This is a huge purpose of this blog.

Most of the ones I invest in these days are younger pastors – or those who want to be some day. I love it. It’s honestly what fuels me most.

With this in mind, I occasionally like to share some principles and practices of leadership I’ve learned along the way. I’ve written more to pastors and ministry leaders in other posts – and more about keeping your relationship with Christ first and foremost – these are more general thoughts.

Here are 8 words of encouragement for young leaders:

Become an early risk taker.

It’s seems more difficult the older we get to take bold moves. I hope I keep doing so. I look at Moses and Abraham as examples, but I know the meaning of “comfort zone” now more than ever. Develop into your personal DNA early you will always be willing to walk by faith.

Learn to enjoy and be content in today.

Don’t concentrate so much on the next level of achievement you miss the lessons of today or never experience joy in the journey. God is doing something now – today – even as you wait for the next great thing. Looking in reverse – today will probably seem more valuable in your development than you can imagine now. And, every season of life is like this.

Manage your time wisely.

It passes quickly and you don’t want to regret too many missed opportunities – or too many avoidable mistakes. Grace is amazing, but there are moments in life you only have access to once. Then there are those really dumb things we do we wish we hadn’t. If your long-term goals and objectives for life scream this will be a decision you will regret – don’t do it!

Be inventive.

We need innovation in leadership. Take us places you see in your dreams, where God is calling you, but we can’t seem to find our way there. It will be hard, there will be resistance, but there’s a value in youth and leadership. We need you and your unique contribution.

Find the right people to influence you.

Don’t allow the negative words in your life to crowd out the positives. Concentrate more on what God is calling you to do than the naysayer’s personal agendas. You’ll struggle with this all your life, so the sooner you discipline yourself the better. Just like Elijah, you probably have more supporters than you think you have. Complainers simply have larger vocal chords. Hang around positive-minded people – people you trust and who trust you – then let them speak into the deepest and darkest places of your life to help you continually mature as a person and leader.

Live in stored up praise.

You’ll seldom know the good you are doing. Keep going even when the cheering crowds are silent. Find your affirmation in God and His truth spoken to you. Know who believes in you! Know your self-worth is not found in your performance, but in your unique design by your Creator. You have value to this world!

Keep growing personally.

Spend as much time on personal development as you do trying to develop others. Read THIS POST for an explanation, but basically you will need all the strength you can muster to lead well. Stand strong. Learn. Read. Develop. Find a mentor. Be a mentor.

Keep pride and arrogance in check.

This is huge. Never believe you’ve finally “arrived”. As soon as you do – you’re living in dangerousness territory. You will always need people to speak into your life. Be wise about whom you listen to, but always be teachable. There will never be a time you don’t have something to learn. I hate to admit it, but I was in my 40’s before I really began to know how much I didn’t know.

By the way, all of this wisdom is just as true for my stage of life, but somehow I feel if we can catch leaders early they may avoid some of the mistakes I have made. I love your generation for its teachable spirit. Keep going! You’re doing great!

What words of wisdom do you have for the younger leader?