When I was in retail, we sometimes hired people at Christmas just to have more employee presence on the sales floor. I was in retail when customer service really meant something, so we wanted the customer to always see someone willing to help them. Admittedly, during especially busy times, we often hired people quickly and placed them on the sales floor with little or no training. The term frequently used was we just needed some “warm bodies” to make a statement to our customers.
As I’ve continued to grow in leadership, I have learned the term “warm body” is relative to context.
Let me explain.
Once King David was old and cold. (1 Kings 1) They brought in a young virgin to lay with him and keep him warm.
I’ll be honest, that passage has confused me at times. Knowing the history of King David, I could read this story and think improper thoughts about the arrangement. Before you let your mind wander, we are told King David “knew her not”. This arrangement was for practicality not sexual relations.
That girl was more than a warm body. That girl had a purpose. And, regardless of what you’re thinking, it apparently wasn’t sexual. It was practical. They didn’t have electric blankets back then, so she kept the aging king warm. She wasn’t just a “warm body”. Her purpose was to keep the king alive and well.
I recently heard a ministry leader say he would settle for a “warm body”. It was said in reference to the children’s ministry, which is one of the hardest areas in most churches for which to recruit. When trying to recruit so many volunteers per room, it can be tempting just to settle for the first warm body who volunteers.
I’ll admit though…his statement bothered me. It made me wonder if we need to reconsider our standards in recruiting volunteers.
Many churches would be willing to settle for a “warm body”, just to say they’ve filled the position. I must be honest, I’ve had similar thoughts about our parking lot ministry and in the hallways after church. I want more greeters. I want more people who are a presence when visitors come to church. So, I’ve even thought, “just give me a warm body”. Whether they smile or not, just fill the position.
Sometimes, because of the demands of ministry, we know we need help, so we are willing to settle for any warm body.
But, think about it. That’s not really what we want, is it?
Perhaps I’m unrealistic…maybe I expect too much from people. I’ve been told that before, but I think we need more than just warm bodies. Even in volunteer positions. In fact, may I push the issue a little further. I think we need warm bodies who are passionate about living out their purpose and willing to fill their positions with vigor.
We don’t just need a warm body in our preschool ministry. We need a warm body who loves preschoolers to the glory of God.
We need a warm body in our parking lot who sees their job as critical to a visitors first experience with a church.
We need warm bodies who will share the love of Christ during the week, at the coffee shop and in the work place, just as well as they warm the sanctuary chair on Sunday mornings.
We need warm bodies who will lead small groups and teach Sunday schools that are committed, enthusiastic and well-prepared each week to disciple people to become growing followers of Jesus Christ.
You get my point. We need warm bodies…but not warm bodies who are simply warm bodies.
Who knows? Perhaps if we raise the bar of expectations we will get people who better meet our expectations.
By the way…I’m thinking of retitling our volunteer ministry. Maybe calling it the “Warm Body Coalition”. Or the “Not Just Warm Bodies Team”.
I don’t know…just thinking.
Actually, I think I just confused myself. But, hopefully you’ve already gotten my point.
What do you think?
Wasting time and energy may be one of my biggest pet peeves as a leader. Some days I leave work and feel I never got off the treadmill. It’s physically and mentally draining.
Does that ever happen to you?
I firmly believe if we get rid of common energy wasters we can dramatically improve our performance as leaders. With that in mind, I’ve spent time in my personal development finding ways to eliminate time and energy wasters.
Here are 7 common wastes of energy in leadership:
Focussing attention on the naysayers – I have found that worrying over what the critics are saying, especially the ones I will never make happy, delays progress and takes time from and frustrates the positive people who believe in the vision and are ready to move forward.
Refusing to delegate – When I make every decision, or become too controlling as a leader, I rob myself and the team of valuable energy and talent and I feel overwhelmed more quickly.
Second guessing decisions – I find it is better to work to make better decisions moving forward rather than live in a pity party of bad ones already made.
Trying to have all the ideas – Many leaders feel they have to be the originator of all the creative energy of a team. They waste time brainstorming alone rather than expanding the creative process. Consequently, the best ideas often never surface. Original thoughts, better than ours, are usually in the room or the organization if we will welcome them to the table and it preserves my time for more efficient use.
Living with broken structure – Let’s face reality. Over time, rules take on a life of their own. What was once created to improve structure actually begins to slow progress and waste valuable time. Change the rules…or even drop them… and you often free up valuable space for people to breathe and enjoy their work.
Disorganization – Need I expand? Many leaders feel overwhelmed because they don’t have good organizational skills. Learning how to better handle routine tasks such as processing emails, calendaring, and scheduling work flow each week will drastically improve time efficiency.
Completing tasks not designed for me – This could be any number of things. Even reading a book. For example, perhaps a silly example, but I have discovered that sometimes I read too much. That sounds strange…I know…but really it’s because I read things I didn’t need to read. I start a book and within the first chapter I know it’s not helpful or even enjoyable…my sense of completion wants to finish. but, better is to put it aside and pick up another book. The novel length email…I try to determine first if I’m the one who should respond. Many times I’m not. It could be attending a meeting…or supervising a project. Whatever it is that I am not the best person for the job or it is just a time waster, the sooner I stop it or hand off the task, the more energy I preserve.
What energy wasters have you seen in leadership?
Over the last 10 years or so I’ve had the privilege of ministering with dozens of pastors in other churches. Many of these were in person. Others were virtual. I’ve been in large and small churches. I’ve been to big cities and small towns with only one stop light. (Or none at all.).
In the process, I’ve learned a few things about pastors and churches. In fact, much of what I write this blog about comes from those experiences.
Recently I had back to back weeks in small cities dealing with, by some standards, smaller churches. They were shy about sharing their success.
I led a leadership retreat for a church with 150 leaders in the room. I was amazed they could attract that size crowd in a small city. But, talking to the pastor, it was as if they had no success at all…at least when compared to my perceived “success”. (I’ve realized, too, that if you have a decently read blog and you’re from out of town…people credit you with more success than you deserve. I’m sometimes seen as the “expert”. If only they knew, right?)
It wasn’t humility on this pastor’s part. I’m not saying he wasn’t a humble person, but I don’t think that was keeping him from talking about the good things God was doing through his church. It was more. I think it almost always is.
That’s when it occurred to me something I’ve observed numerous times, but never put into words.
Sometimes they don’t know how well they are doing.
Take my good friend Artie Davis as an example. His church is mega impacting Orangeburg, SC. I would love to see the church I pastor have half the influence in the community where I live. Artie also leads The Sticks Network of churches ministering in small towns. The impact of those church is amazing every year when I attend their conference.
Many times the small city pastors compare themselves to the big city churches. They compare numbers rather than progress. They compare size rather than context. They compare notoriety rather than influence.
And, because of that, many times, they don’t know how well they are really doing.
I see the connections, networking and influence the small town pastor has and I wish I could have that kind of Kingdom influence in my city. I see the respect they command in their community and know, in my context, they are miles ahead of me.
Small city pastor. God is using you. You are making a Kingdom difference. You just don’t know how well you are doing.
Do you know a small town pastor doing great Kingdom work?
Change takes time. There are no “quick fixes” in the world of change leadership. I’ve seen many leaders try to rush change through only to destroy themselves, the organization they are trying to change, or the change they are trying to make.
There are occasions, however, when the speed of change can change. There are unique opportunities where change can be introduced and implemented quicker than other times. The leader should be careful to strategically plan each change, but taking advantage of these times can help facilitate change faster.
Here are 7 times the speed of change can change…faster:
When the leader is new – The honeymoon period is real. Honestly, from recent experience, I believe that period is becoming shorter than it may have once been. I don’t know how long this period will last, perhaps a few months or up to a year, but change seems almost expected in the beginning days.
When the change is imminent – There are times when everyone agrees something must be done. When a needed leader unexpectedly resigns, for example, no one likely questions the change in staffing to hire someone new. When “it is what it is” there is an expectation to make a change.
When the organization is new – In the early days of an organization, time can move quickly. Everything is new and so change may come rapidly.
When there is a crisis at hand – I’ve seen this in government, the church and among individuals. When something happens that shakes the core of your being and scares people they’ll be more accepting of any change that may keep it from happening again. (Warning: Sometimes these changes are regretted once emotions heal.)
When there is overwhelming support – There are times you can move swiftly simply because the support is overwhelming. That can be dangerous if the change isn’t good, but public opinion does impact change.
When situations are beyond control – Sometimes you can’t do anything to stop needed change. When government, or other powers, demand change, you can rebel or you can change…quickly.
When you aren’t concerned about the outcome – There are times when the results simply don’t matter much in the scheme of things. We schedule baptisms almost any Sunday. Sometimes we may not have a baptism scheduled, but knowing baptisms help fulfill our key function as a church, we will quickly change our schedule to accommodate.
There are probably equally good illustrations for refusing to make change quickly. (There are probably even 7 of them.) Feel free to share them with me and my readers.
When have you seen the speed of change change?
I’ll be honest…I like to eat. It’s become somewhat of a habit, in fact.
Our boys used to make fun of Cheryl and me because we would often drive long distances to eat.
Since, we’ve moved to Lexington, KY, we’ve determined that there are nearly 100 locally owned restaurants…and we are half way into exploring them all. We’ve uncovered some gems too.
People keep asking us…they always have:
How do you find so many good restaurants?
People who have lived here for years are learning restaurants from us. I kind of like that.
But, it’s a great question…and by the way…the answer serves as a great leadership and life principle as well. (If you knew me…you already knew that…right?)
Here is the answer:
We don’t limit ourselves to what we already know.
- We take risks
- We explore
- We listen and ask questions of others
- We venture off the path everyone around us has paved
- We occasionally even get lost along the way
- We aren’t afraid to be the first ones (in our circle of influence) who try something new
We will often Google reviews and we are impacted by them somewhat, but mostly we just take chances. That’s where we discover some of the greatest places.
Recently, we were in Maryland. We took the road less traveled, ended up on a dead end at the ocean in Virginia. It was a dive. It didn’t look like much on the outside, but it was great. Another gem.
You see, for us…
Being stuck with the same short list of restaurants…with the same menu items…
Boring…boring…very, very boring. (That’s actually a song in my head…wish you could hear the tune…)
That’s our secret. How do you find good restaurants?
And, just curious, does that represent how you do life?
By the way, it’s how I often do leadership too.
I’ve learned in leading change that there are some common objections. If you know a change is necessary, understanding why someone is objecting may help you respond accordingly.
Here are 5 common reasons for criticism of change:
Confused -These people just don’t understand the change. They lack information. Often they have heard misinformation. Many times, in my experience, once the change is explained, they become supportive or less opposed.
Conflicted – Some people object to change because they are objecting to life. They have past hurts they can’t resolve. They are injured. Frankly, some people can be mean. This category can be the most hurtful as a leader, but understanding them may help you avoid a lot of heartache. These people will likely always be critics until something is addressed with them directly. Understanding their pain can often lead to helping them heal from something in their past. If the change is necessary, you may have to confront these people directly or simply learn to work around them. You can’t allow their personality or emotional injury to hold you back from what you need to do as a leader.
Care – These people simply don’t think you care. They assume, for whatever reason, the changes are being made without considering their position. These are many times changes which appear to favor one particular group of people at the inconvenience of another. I have seen that many times including people in the decision process, acknowledging and attempting to understand their concerns, along with good vision casting can alleviate some of these concerns.
Control – You stepped on someone’s power. You didn’t check with them first. This reason for criticism is probably most frustrating to me, because there’s little you can do about it unless you’re willing to appease them. I have found that many times pride and selfishness is the driving force here. As difficult as this type criticism is to accept, I have observed that patient, honest, transparent conversations, while remaining firm with the change, can sometimes keep these critics from working against you, even if they still don’t agree with the change. (And, then sometimes, you simply have to move forward without their support.)
Comfort – These critics, who are the most common group, simply don’t like change. It’s uncomfortable. Resistance to change is relative to the size of the change. We all resist change at some level. Let me give you an example. Imagine your day off has been Saturday for the last 20 years. Suddenly your employment changes your day off to Tuesday. You now have to work Saturdays. How comfortable is that change? Don’t resonate with that example? Pick an issue where you’re currently comfortable and consider changing it. Try enough scenarios and you’ll find your level of resistance to change. The only solution to this one is to provide clear communication, cast the vision well, and be patient as people adapt.
Criticism is common in leadership and change. The only way to avoid it is to avoid change. I’m not sure that’s leadership, but that’s the only solution to be criticism-free. The fact is, the more change occurs and the more it becomes part of the culture, the less resistance there will be.
I should note, this post is not intended to help you avoid criticism, and certainly not completely dismiss it. As a leader, you must consider whether the criticism is valid, be open to other ideas and even rebuke if needed. Thinking all your ideas are great is an error in judgement and character. This post is intended to help you understand the basis of criticism. Even the best ideas will receive some.
Are there any other reasons you have seen for criticism?
I was talking with a young hurting pastor recently. He resigned after several years of trying to turn around a dying church into a healthy church. The church brought him in with definite goals. He felt he had a mandate. The church began to grow. Things were exciting…or so it seemed. But, with every change there was growing resistance. Eventually, only a few people with power still supported him. when they refused to back him with changes they had agreed were needed. He was continually reminded this was not “his church”. He felt it was best that he leave rather than divide the church. (This church has a long history of short-termed pastorates.)
In the course of the conversation he asked some sobering, and honest questions.
He asked, “Is there really such a thing as a healthy church? Are there any healthy church staffs? And, what does healthy mean, anyway?”
Great questions. I understand. Sadly, I hear from pastors continually asking the same questions. There are many unhealthy environments in churches.
But, yes! There is such a thing as a healthy church. There are some healthy church staffs.
I don’t know if I know completely what “healthy” means, but I’ve given the issue some thought.
The reality is that the church is the Body of Christ. In the purest form, the church is always “healthy”, because it represents Christ. We are promised that nothing will ever destroy what Christ has established. But, local churches are made of people. And, some of those people, even well-meaning as they may be sometimes, work together to form unhealthy environments. Some work together…for the common good of honoring Christ…and form healthy environments.
So, with that in mind…
A healthy church culture…
- Doesn’t mean there aren’t bad days
- Doesn’t mean you won’t have tension or stress.
- Doesn’t mean everyone always agrees.
- Doesn’t mean there aren’t relationship struggles.
- Doesn’t mean you have all the answers.
- Doesn’t mean the pastor is always right.
- Doesn’t mean problems or issues are ignored.
A healthy church culture…
- Does mean you can disagree and still be friends.
- Does mean tension is used to build teamwork..when one is weak another is strong.
- Does mean meetings are productive and purposeful…not ritualistic or boring, and certainly not hurtful.
- Does mean rules add healthy boundaries, rather than stifling creativity or controlling actions.
- Does mean you work as a team to find solutions.
- Does mean the pastor (and his family) is never attacked publicly or continually stabbed in the back.
- Does mean the rumor mill is never allowed to form the dominant opinion.
I’m praying for my new pastor friend that he finds a healthy church, in which to serve out his calling. They do exist.
Have you been in an unhealthy church or organizational environment?
Have you been in a healthy one?
What do you think it means to have a healthy?
Here’s a reality pastors and leaders need to know:
The longer you do what you do well…the less praise you’ll receive for it.
Everyone loves to praise the new guy…the guest appearance…the surprise home run.
Once you do exceptional for very long…it’s the new norm.
You’ll hear less approval.
It’s not necessarily that you aren’t doing a good job anymore. You’ve just set a new bar of expectation.
Still, this post also serves as a warning of sorts.
The new norm…the quietness…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 having.
Those emotions…the reactions…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 that if you live for the praise of others, you’ll eventually be controlled by that praise (or lack thereof).
And I am suggesting you may be doing everything right, but seldom hear the good that you’re doing.
That’s part of leadership. And, the leader who can lead just as passionately towards a noble goal, without the praise of man, even when criticism seems more dominant, is on track of success.
Have you ever been in a “normal” season of producing good work, but not feeling valued for it?
Trust is like gold in leadership. Without it a leader will fail to build a healthy following. Developing trust takes time. It is seldom granted with position alone. Most people have been injured in relationships that keeps them from trusting blindly. But, developing trust is critical for leaders to pursue and maintain.
In full disclosure, I’m 7 months into a new leadership position as this post is written. I recognize that with many in the church I pastor I’m still developing levels of trust.
How does a leader develop trust?
Here are four suggestions:
A Compassion for others that is personal and goes beyond what they bring to the team.
A Competence in a subject matter, or a willingness to yield to those who know more than the leader knows about a subject.
A Consistent approach or methodology, as well as consistency in character, that can be depended on through good and bad times.
A clear and frequent Communication process that shares in transparency and full disclosure.
Those are some of my suggestions.