A Word to the Introverted Pastor: Be Extroverted on Sunday

Man And Woman Shaking Hands

I have a strong word of encouragement to the introverted pastor.

Be extroverted on Sunday.

You can do it.

Every time I post about introversion I hear from pastors and church members who talk about how introversion negatively impacts the ministry of the church.

I get it. I really do. In fact, I am it. On a scale of 1 to 10 of introversion — if there were such a scale — I’m probably a 7 or 8. And, I can be a 9 some days. So, I understand.

But, the interaction we have with people is a key role we play in growing and leading the church. I’ve written in numerous posts that just because I’m introverted doesn’t mean I don’t love people. There may be some pastors who don’t really love people — and I personally don’t see how they can be very successful if that’s the case — but introversion is a personality trait. It’s not an indicator of how deeply a person loves people.

I love people. Really. Especially people who are excited about what God is doing in their life. That motivates me. My introversion, however, if I’m not careful, can keep me from interacting even with people I love.

If you asked most people in the churches where I have served as pastor, other than those who know me really well, they are surprised I am an introvert based on my Sunday interactions with people. I’m very extroverted on Sundays. 

So how do I do it?

Here are a few thoughts.

You have to be intentional. You have to work at it. I’m not saying it will be easy, but is anything worthwhile ever easy? I realize that Sunday is coming. I plan my week around it. I have lots of introverted during my week. For example, I am very careful what I plan for Saturday night, because I know I need to be at my best for Sunday. It is rare for me to schedule a large social gathering on Saturday nights, for example. In fact, I’ve found that Cheryl and my Saturday date days are the perfect preparation for an extroverted Sunday. (Obviously that’s easier for us now as empty-nesters, but I was equally protective of my Saturday night when we had children at home.)

Your family will have to cooperate. This is the hardest one, because it obviously involves other people. The key for us is that my family knows me as I know them. They understand that Sunday takes so much out of me mentally and physically. They realize I need time to recover from a very extroverted Sunday. The ride to the restaurant for Sunday lunch is usually pretty quiet. Over the years, when the boys were home and now that it’s just Cheryl and me, my family has learned that if I have my introverted recovery time I’m more engaging with them the rest of the day. It is a way they partner with me in ministry. (I sense a need to clarify. My family understands my introversion — but I don’t think they ever feel slighted because of it. That takes intentionality too.)

Realize it’s for a purpose. When I taught a very large Sunday school class (over 100 people), every week I’d leave the room as I was praying at the close of my lesson. It seemed the humble thing to do, and I was sincere in that, but honestly, it was the “safest” approach for this introvert. When I came into ministry and was in my first church, I continued this practice. I would “escape” during my prayer to the back of the sanctuary. A dear older deacon pulled me aside one day. He gently, in a very helpful way, said, “Ron, if as you’re praying you’ll walk to the vestibule and be there to shake people’s hands as they leave, they’ll be more likely to return the next week.” I’ve been doing that ever since — and how right he was. One of the most frequent comments I receive from visitors is how they enjoyed meeting the pastor. I can’t imagine it any other way now. It fuels me and them. I remain thankful for the wisdom of that deacon.

Rely on Holy Spirit help. The pastor that inspired me most in my spiritual walk when I was a 20-something year old trying to figure out my life direction emailed me recently. He had read one of my introversion posts and wanted to echo the sentiments in it. He said he has always marveled at how many introverted pastors he has seen God call to lead in the church — even very large churches. He wrote, “I’ve been an introverted pastor of large churches for 39 years now. Before every service I’m saying the same thing, ‘God, I can’t do this—now what are you going to do about that?!'” His humble surrender to God’s hand has shaped some powerful ministries under his leadership. I loved being able to email back to one of my mentors that I’ve had a similar prayer every Sunday — for a few less years.

Just as Moses, Gideon, and others led through what they felt would handicap them in following God’s call, introverted pastor, you can do this. With God’s help, an understanding family, and some hard, purposeful, intentional work — if God has called you to it, He will equip you. Surrender to His strength and will.

And, the reward is worth it!

Are You a Boss or a Leader?

mean boss

Are you a boss or a leader?

I have to be honest I hate the term boss. When someone refers to me as their boss I almost feel like I’m doing something wrong as a leader.

Forgive me for making me think I’m the boss.

There are so many differences in a boss and a leader. If only in connotation.

A boss seems to have all the answers — even if they really don’t.
A leader solicits input to arrive at the right answer.

A boss tells.
A leader asks.

A boss can be intimidating — if only by title.
A leader should be encouraging — even if in a time of correction.

A boss dictates.
A leader delegates.

A boss demands.
A leader inspires.

A boss controls systems.
A leader spurs ideas.

A boss manages policies.
A leader enables change.

People follow a leader willingly. You have to pay someone — or force them — to follow a boss.

By connotation there is really only one boss.

In fairness, there are times I have to be the boss. Even the “bad guy” boss — at least in other people’s perception.

But I much prefer to be a leader.

And in any healthy organization there will be many leaders.

Do you work for a boss or do you serve with a leader?

Be honest.

The Biggest Challenge for Me in Leading Church Revitalization

balanced

When I left a very successful church plant (my second plant) to pastor a very established, more traditional church many of my friends in ministry told me I was crazy. It’s not that they didn’t think God could be in it — they just knew me well enough that it didn’t seem like something I would do. I’m a doer. I like progress. I like action. And change. I’m not afraid to push the boundaries.

Those qualities don’t always fit well in some established churches.

So, now my friends often ask me what the biggest struggle has been for me in leading church revitalization. And, it’s not what I would have expected it to be. We’ve actually had a great couple of years. There have been a few bumps along the way, but God has shown up every step of the way. (Imagine that!) I previously wrote about the balance of leading for me and leading for the organization . My greatest challenge is similar.

The biggest challenge for me in leading church revitalization has been…

Leading with purpose and intentionality without being arrogant or self-serving.

I want progress. Still. That hasn’t changed.

But, I don’t want it to be about me or what I think the church should look like.

I want the church to grow. There are lots of unchurched people where I live. (Where you live too I would assume.) And, I think we have an option for some of them.

But, I don’t think we are the only option. Nor should we try to be.

I want to see the church change — be healthy — grow again.

But, I don’t want the church to lose the heritage, history, or culture that has existed for over 100 years. (Long before I was alive.)

I want to spur momentum. I want to use the skills and experience God has given me to lead, cast visions, strategize and organize.

But, I don’t want my abilities to be what we are known for as a church.

I want to feel successful in my efforts. I want God to use me.

But, I don’t want to be the one to get the glory.

How do I do that?

Here are 7 ways I’m attempting to lead with purpose and intentionality without being arrogant or self-serving:

I’m attempting to guard my heart and stay close to Jesus.

I have a clear purpose and calling. I know what God has asked me to do and what the people have called me to do.

I allow others to speak into my life. (And, I’ve had to listen a few times during this process.)

I give others a part in the plan; trying to bring people along willingly, not because I bullied them into my way of doing things.

I am trying to be patient with those who aren’t with me yet, while realizing some never will be — and being okay with that.

I am trying not to allow the few negatives I receive (which have happened often) to overpower the larger audience of positives that the church is experiencing. And, thankfully, the great majority of people are happy with where we are going.

I am attempting to be strategic with change. Well positioned. Well planned. Well communicated.

How do you maintain the balance pushing for progress with humility?

7 Ways to Tell It’s Time for Change in the Organizational Structure

Time for Change - Ornate Clock

I’ve been a leader in an almost 200 year old company and a new business. I’ve led in a church plant and now in an over 100 years old established church. One thing I’ve learned is that there are many similarities in organizational structure — especially when it comes to the need for changing that structure.

Healthy organizations maintain an unchanging vision long-term by being willing to change their organizational structure as needed.

When it comes to organizational structure not everything needs changing. If the structure works. Keep it. It’s comfortable. People understand it. Progress is happening.

But progress is happening is key.

There are times to change. It’s important that leaders realize those times.

How do you know when organizational structural change is needed?

Here are 7 considerations to discern it is time:

When you continually encounter obstacles trying to move forward. If every decision you are trying to make hits roadblocks or dead ends, it may be time to build a new road.

When the steps to make the change is more exhausting than the value the change provides. Change should be exhilarating once you get to it. Change brings momentum. When the process to get there is so long or difficult that it wears you out and you’ve got no excitement left — it may be time for some structure change.

When you can no longer attract leaders. When people are controlled more than empowered you will attract doers but you won’t attract visionary leaders. Creative leadership will die, because genuine leaders rebel against controlling environments.

When you spend more time discussing than doing. Granted we need to meet about some things. We need to plan, strategize and organize. I suggest we have better meetings, but more than that we need action. Our visions are hungry for progress towards them. Meetings should create action. The best structures help you get busy doing not attending yet another meeting.

When the structure you have now isn’t sustainable long term. Structure based upon people, for example, rather than progress, will eventually need changing as people change. Ask yourself will this structure work 10 years from now? If not, the time to change is now.

When all creativity is structured out of the system. Sometimes the process can become so clearly defined that nothing new is needed. There is no room for different ideas or opinions. No one needs them anymore. Every question is answered. When people fall into routines, they get bored, and complacency becomes the norm. Development stops. Time for some structural change.

When there is no longer any confusion. If everything is so carefully scripted you may need some organizational structure change. Some of the best discoveries are found amidst chaos. I love what Andy Stanley says about “a tension to be managed, not a problem to be solved”. Good organizations have some of those.

Those are some of my thoughts based on experience. What would you add to my list?

5 Times You May Need to Micromanage Your Team

Leader and big red arrow

I prefer to be a macro-manager. I like to lead leaders. That means I try to cast the vision for a team and get out of the way, releasing each team member to do his or her work in their own individual way.

There are times, however, where more micro-management may be needed by senior leadership. More coaching, encouraging or correction may be needed for a season.

Here are 5 times to consider some micromanagement:

When a team member is new to the organization. They need to learn your culture and way of doing things. They don’t know. This doesn’t mean you don’t allow them to invent, dream and discover, but they also need to know how decisions are made, the unwritten rules, and the internal workings of the environment. It will serve everyone well and they’ll last longer on the team if these are learned early in their tenure.

When a team or team leader has been severely crippled by injury or stress. I’ve had a few times where a member of our team just wasn’t mentally or emotionally capable of making the right decisions. It could be what they were dealing with in their personal life or with the stress of their work, but I had to step in and help them more than I normally would for a season to help them succeed.

When in a state of uncertainty, transition or change. I once had a strong leader quit abruptly from his position. His team was devastated. I quickly realized they had relied too much on his leadership and were now lost without him. It required more of my time initially until we could raise up new leadership and better empower everyone on the team.

When tackling a new objective, critical to the organization. This is especially true when, as the senior leader, I’m the architect of the idea. They need more of my time to make sure things are going the way I envisioned them to go. That doesn’t mean the outcome will look exactly like I planned, but in the initial start, the team can waste time and resources trying to figure me out without my input, rather than doing productive work.

When a team member is underperforming in relation to others. As a leader, I feel it is part of my role to help people perform at their highest level possible. Sometimes that requires coaching, sometimes instruction, and sometimes even discipline. Part of being a leader is recognizing potential in people and helping them realize that potential within the organization. For a season, to help someone get on track for success on our team, (or even to discover they aren’t a fit for our team) I have to manage closer than I normally prefer.

I obviously wrote this in the context of an organization and not specific to the church, but these principles equally apply in the church. The important thing is that the end goals and objectives need to be reached, so at certain critical times a leader must step in and ensure the vision is being accomplished.

Are there other times you revert to micromanagement?

How to be a better blogger. Write poorly — but do it often.

Blog word.

Do you want to be a better blogger?

I have some advice.

Just a warning, you won’t hear this advice everywhere. In fact, it runs contrary to most of the better blogging advice out there — perhaps even some I’ve probably offered people in the past.

But, I believe it’s true. Especially for the beginning blogger.

Do you want to be a better blogger?

Write poorly — but do it often.

Yes, that’s what I said.

I think one key to being a better blogger is to write more bad posts.

Okay, Ron, you’ve lost me.

Let me explain with an illustration.

People ask me all the time how I became a runner. I run an average of 5-6 miles a day. I ran a marathon a few years ago. I’ve run dozens of half marathons. I’m planning to run another full marathon this fall.

My discipline is not to run. I’d do it everyday.

But, I once hated running. Despised it. I had been a runner earlier in life, but thought I outgrew it as I got older. I even announced from behind a pulpit one day that I’d never run again — unless I was being chased by an angry deacon. :)

Then one day I decided to give it another try. I don’t know why. I just did.

Someone gave me advice — I’m not sure who now — but it was brilliant. They suggested I set a time limit for running and always finish that goal. It could be 20 or 30 minutes. If I couldn’t run that long at the time, the advice was to finish the time, running when I could and walking the rest.

I’d run for 3 minutes and walk for a while. Then I’d run 5 minutes — then walk some more. I kept this up but always tried to complete my allotted time. Eventually, over the weeks, I found myself filling the entire time running. And soon learning to love every minute.

That’s my running story. How I became a runner.

And now you’re wondering…

How does my running story fit into encouragement about blogging?

Well,

Write poorly — but do it often.

Just write blog posts.

Please don’t misunderstand. “Poorly” is probably a poor word choice. It exaggerates my point, but I’m not saying write junk. Give it your best effort. If you’re not any good at writing period, maybe blogging isn’t you’re thing. But if you have a few minimal skills, this might work to make you better over time. You just need to write — the best you can — more often.

Set a goal of how many you want to write per week and do it. Write to fill your goal. If your goal is 3 posts a week — write three posts a week. If it’s 7 — write 7. (That’s probably too many, but it’s your goal.)

Finish your goal. Every week.

You won’t always write the best posts. (You’ll walk more than you run sometimes.) You’ll need to improve. A few years from now you’ll look back at some of your older posts and see how much better they could have been. But, you’ll get better the more you write. Practice makes perfect (or near perfect) as they say.

The problem for many runners is they expect to run the 6 milers as soon as they got off the couch. It takes time. Discipline. Consistent effort. Sometimes walking more than you run. Getting better as you go.

It’s the same with blogging.

5 Goals of Vacation for the Leader

Chaise lounge and umbrella on sand beach.

I recently returned from a beach destination wedding. Someone has to do those you know. Cheryl and I tacked on a few days of vacation since we were at the beach. It was refreshing.

As I was finishing my last vacation run — vacation runs are the best — a friend texted me. He’s a great leader and we’ve talked often about leadership issues — and the stress of leadership. When he learned I was heading home from vacation, he asked me a powerful question. I’m not even sure he knew how powerful, but knowing him, he was probably asking with intentionality.

He asked, “Excited to be going back or dreading it?”

My friend wanted to know — and encourage me to think — if my vacation had been successful. He knows the purpose of vacation.

Do you?

What is the purpose of vacation? Another way I might ask this question: What are the goals of a vacation?

Here are my thoughts.

5 goals of vacation for the leader:

Rest – God has actually given us a Biblical command to rest — to Sabbath — as if He knows something about what we need. (Duh!) You may not “rest” like everyone else, but everyone should rest. This particular friend who texted me was also returning from vacation. He does something that I think shows he understands his need for rest. He leaves his work cell phone with his administrative assistant when he goes on vacation. How cool is that? I know because I texted him while he was gone and she texted me back. Intentional. Love it. Rest should be a huge goal of taking a vacation. We all need it.

Reconnect – Vacation should allow us time to restore relationships to maximum health. With God. With family. With ourself. The busyness of life can strain relationships. Vacation gives you the opportunity to pause and get back to optimum health with the most important relationships in our life. On vacation, I talk to God more. I spend deeper quality time with Cheryl. We date more intensely — ask each other more questions. In years past, I got to spend more time with my boys on vacation. (I’m an empty nester now.) But, vacation helps me reconnect to those I love the most.

Play – We all need to play — regardless of our age. We fuel all the rest of these with this one. As I said already, I run more on vacation. That’s my form of play. But, when I run, I’m better equipped for all the other goals. You may not be a runner, but you have things you enjoy doing that aren’t work. (I tweeted from vacation that a friend of mine got a Lego set for Father’s Day. Cool playing to come for that dad!) Playing enhances my mental energies, my creativity, and my enjoyment of life. Making time to play — with whatever you enjoy doing — is a great goal for vacations.

Dream – What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to doing in the future? One of Cheryl and my greatest enjoyments on vacation is dreaming about where we see ourselves in a year, 5 years, 10 years, into retirement. We also dream where we could see our boys and their families. We dream about careers, personal interests, places we’d love to travel. Dreaming stretches our mind and heart towards each other and energizes us about our future together. A great vacation goal is to take time to dream.

Rejuvenate – Vacation should help you reengage with your work when you return. That’s the understanding my friend had about vacation. And, it is a huge goal. This will be hard to say to some, and some may disagree, but if you leave vacation dreading going back to work, it maybe you don’t know how to do vacation or you’re in the wrong job. It’s work. I get that. We all have Mondays we dread. The day back doesn’t have to be the most fun day at work ever, but a goal of vacation is to help us recover so we can gather more energies to do the work we were designed to do.

Does that describe your vacation?

What goals do you have for vacation?

5 Steps When You’re Overwhelmed as a Leader

Frustrated office manager overloaded with work.

As a leader, there have been numerous times when I have been in over my head with the challenges and opportunities I was facing. God seems to call me to huge tasks.

I suspect if you’re a leader, you understand. I think He does that to many people! It keeps us humble. And, dependent — on Him!

Regardless of how comfortable a leader may be in his or her position…

  • There are times when the leader has no answers…
  • He or she has exhausted every bit of knowledge gained…
  • The current strategies don’t seem to work anymore…
  • The situation is beyond the current plans and systems…
  • People are complaining…
  • It seems you’re on a treadmill — getting no where…
  • Some days you leave thinking you accomplished nothing — maybe even most days…

Ever been there? Did you think someone was talking to me about you?

When the leader doesn’t know what to do and/or doesn’t have a clue what to do next, here are some suggestions:

Admit – The first step is to be honest with where you are currently as a leader. Pretending to know the answers when you don’t know them will not solve the problem. Most of the time, the people you are leading already know your inadequacies. Come clean. You’re overwhelmed. No shame. All of us have been there at times.

Pause - It’s okay to take a break to clear your head. It could be an afternoon, a day, or a week, but sometimes you just need to get away from the situation long enough to gain a fresh perspective. I often disappear from the office Thursday afternoons on especially difficult weeks. I may take a long run, mow my grass, pray or read. The busier the season — the more overwhelmed I feel — the more I need to pause. I know it sounds counter-productive. It’s not. At all. It’s life-giving.

Seek help – Find a mentor who has walked where you are currently walking. I have several older men I call when I’m maxed out with stress. There is a benefit in surrounding yourself with people smarter than you about a matter. This is the time for the believer to rely more than ever on his or her faith; trusting that the God who called them to the task will be faithful to complete it. (1 Thess 5:24)

Learn – Leaders should always be teachable. Again, assuming or pretending to have all the answers only slows or curtails projects and is quickly be discovered by others. Stretch yourself and learn something new. Read. Definitely be reading. Attend a conference. Listen to some TED talks or sermons from pastors you admire. Feed your mind. It needs some new energies.

Improve – Make better checklists each day. Spend more time planning. Learn to better delegate. I always say, you have to get better before you can get bigger. As you learn improvements needed, be willing to change. The tighter you hold onto methods that aren’t working the longer you’ll delay moving forward. Push through the overwhelming period and become a stronger, more capable and better leader. You can do it!

Do you need help? Are you overwhelmed? Start the process towards getting better.

I’m pulling for you — and I’ll trade you a prayer!

7 Times When It is Not A Good Time To Change

No keyboard key finger

I’ve never been a proponent of the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Sometimes you need a change and nothing is “broke”. It just isn’t as good as it could be, it’s keeping other things from being better, or it’s soon going to be broke unless you change.

But, there are times not to change — certainly when you are not ready to change.

Here are 7 times not to change:

When there isn’t a compelling purpose - There should always be a why. It might be as simple as if you don’t change you’re going to be bored out of your mind — but have a reason before you change.

When there are no good leaders behind it – You need people who buy into the change. If a change has value you can usually find supporters. They may be few. They may do nothing more than speak up for the change, but if no one can get excited about the change, you probably need to raise up some supporters before moving forward. (There are rare exceptions to this one, but again, they are rare.)

When you haven’t defined a win – Changing before you know what success looks like will keep you running in a lot of ineffective directions without much progress.

When the loss is more expensive than the win – Sometimes the cost just isn’t worth it. You can’t justify the people and resource expense for the potential return.

When the leader isn’t motivated – There are times to wait if senior leadership can’t get excited or at least support the change if push back develops. Eventually, without their support, you’ll be less likely to experience sustaining, successful change.

When too many other things are changing – Any organization or group of people can only handle so much change at a time. This requires great discernment on the part of leaders to know when there is too much change occurring and it is best to wait for something new.

When an organization is in crisis mode – When a ship is sinking, fix the leak or bail some water, before you choose your next destination. When things are in crisis, is not the time to make a ton of changes. There may be needed changes to get things moving again, but catch your breath first, make sure a core of people is solid behind the vision, and take careful steps to plan intentional, helpful and needed change.

This isn’t intended as a checklist. I would never want to stop someone from making needed changes. I love change. But, I do want to encourage better change. I hope this helps.

7 Qualities of Good Change Agent Leaders

Chalkboard with text Changes

If you want to be in leadership get comfortable with change. It’s part of the experience of every leader. The best leaders get accustomed to leading change.

Every leader deals with change, but in my experience, some handle it better than others. There are change agent leaders who seem to have an innate gifting at leading through change. I love to learn from these special leaders.

I’ve observed some common characteristics change agent leaders share.

Here are 7 qualities of good change agents:

Flexible – It doesn’t have to be their design. They simply want progress towards the overall vision. These change agents are never stubborn on matters that seem to have no vision-altering value. They navigate towards a solution, letting others have “their” way. Everyone walks away feeling as though they have won.

Courageous – Change agent leaders are willing to receive criticism and still move forward. They know how to filter through what is valid criticism — worth hearing — and what’s simply a venting of personal interest. They unwaveringly push through the junk that clouds progress.

Relational – Good change agent leaders value the opinions of other people and work hard to gain trust. They know that ultimate change can’t happen without human capital and they are constantly investing in relationships. Networking is one of a change agents greatest tools.

Strategic – A change agent leader realizes there are steps to take and they carefully choose the timing of when to take them. They almost have a keen sense of discernment when it comes to knowing when to pull the trigger, when to wait, and when to pull the plug completely.

Creative – Good change agents are able to see paths to success others can’t yet see. I need to be honest here and say that I’d rather be strategic than creative. There are some who can always find a way to make their ideas work, but it comes at the expense of others. But, change happens with creativity. Effective change is one of the best forms of art in the field of leadership. That takes creativity.

Intentional – Change agent leaders make change for a specific purpose. They never waste a change. They know that every change has the potential to make or break a team and they work diligently to bring the best results.

Thorough – A good change agent follows through on commitments made and sees the change to fruition. They don’t give up until the post evaluation is complete and the lessons of change have been learned.

Think about your experience. Who are some of the best change agent leaders you have known?