10 Suggestions for Bi-Vocational Pastors

I spent my first few years of ministry as a bi-vocational pastor. For those who may not know the term, I sought other work to supplement my income I received as a pastor.

I still have a heart for those who hold down two jobs – sometimes both of them approaching full-time. Additionally, I think more pastors are going to have to consider bi-vocational ministry in the years ahead as economies change and the level of committed givers in the local church. (A great book on this change – and change to come potentially – is a book by a friend of mine, John Dickerson titled “The Great Evangelical Recession“.

I love assisting pastors and especially want to help these dedicated servants. Let me share a few things I learned and have observed from working with other bi-vocational pastors.

I’m going to share 5 suggestions of things you should do, followed by 5 suggestions of things you should not.

Things you should do

Be accountable – Let people speak into your life. You may feel more independent if you’re not dependent on the church for your total income, but you still need accountability – like we all do.

Be disciplined – You have to stay healthy in all areas of your life. We all do, but you have more pressure on you to do so.

Be organized – Have someone help you if needed, but develop systems to do everything you have to do in a week. I find the busier I am and the more I am doing, the more structure I need to provide myself. There will always be interruptions, but you’re better prepared for them when you start your week with a plan.

Be intentional – It’s hard work, but you have to keep both business and church worlds running well – and still be a good family man. It will require intentionality on your part.

Be diligent – In all areas of your life, you must do your best. Your witness is at stake.

Things you shouldn’t do

Complain to the church – It’s tempting, because the work is hard. They should know you do – and hopefully they will give you consideration for it. But, it’s not fair to them to hear you complain about it all the time.

Lose sight of vision – The reason you are doing what you are doing is to complete the call God has on your life. And, what you do is valuable. Life-changing. Eternal.

Let yourself burnout – Stay healthy physically, relationally, and emotionally. Again, let people speak into your life who recognize when you are stretching yourself too far.

Allow one world to outshine the other – This is the hard part, but you have to be good in all your worlds if you’re going to continue. Yu’ll need God’s strength, but, again, it’s your witness.

Neglect your family – Here’s another hard one, but they are your first commitment. They will be there after either vocation.

I’m pulling for you, but one key to your success long-term will be to continually improve personally, so you can do more professionally. Ask God to help you with that.

Have you ever had to balance dual careers? What advice would you give?

7 of the Most Dangerous Leadership Mindsets I’ve Observed

I’ve seen it so many times.

A leader could be doing everything else right and one flawed mindset can overshadow – jeopardize all the good leadership principles we know.

One constantly repeated action. One trait. One habit. One mindset.

And, sadly, many times it’s not even the person isn’t a good leader – it’s one mindset gets them off track. And, so I believe leaders should constantly be working on bad mindsets which keep them from being as successful as they can be.

Here are 7 of the most dangerous leadership mindsets I’ve observed.

In full disclosure, I’ve been guilty of some of these – sometimes for a season – sometimes until someone helped me discover I had a poor leadership mindset.

Allowing small details to overwhelm a view of the big picture.

There will always be details, which have to be handled, but the smaller a leader is forced to think, the less he or she can focus on the larger vision ahead. I can get bogged down in minutia which wastes my energy and drains me. Sometimes it’s a systems problem that requires too much of my time and sometimes its a failure to delegate. Interestingly, I have personally found, when I’m free from the responsibility of handling as many details, I’m more likely to notice the smaller things which greatly need my attention.

Seeing the glass as half-empty.

A negative leader will almost never be successful long-term, simply because people will not care to follow. Some people have this mindset all the time (and I don’t personally think leadership is their thing), but this mindset can also last for a season – especially when there are numerous setbacks around us either in our personal life or where we lead. It could also occur in times of fast change, when the complainers seem to outnumber those offering compliments. If we aren’t careful – we can let negative mindsets carry over into every other area of our life – and start to view our world this way. It’s very difficult to follow a negative-minded leader.

Not enjoying the journey.

Never taking time to celebrate will eventually derail good leadership. High achieving leaders can often fall into this trap. I get there at times and have to be reminded – either through personal discipline or when others speak into my life. I’m always seeing the next big opportunity ahead and striving for constant improvement. I can fail to recognize current success while continually searching for future potential. The problem is a constant forward push isn’t sustainable long-term. It burns people out, makes them feel under appreciated, and leads to a very low team morale. People need a break – they need a plateau where they can rest, catch their breath and celebrate the victory already achieved.

Expecting more from others than you’re personally willing to give.

I once worked with a leader who had high expectations for everyone – not only in quality of work, but also in how many hours they should be working. The problem was this leader didn’t appear to have high expectations for himself. He would work just enough to bark out a few orders, but then he was gone. And, because he was mostly an absentee leader, even if he was working when he wasn’t around (and I personally knew he was often working out of the office), no one believed he was. He created a perception of laziness. It was frustrating for everyone trying to follow. They felt used. People following a leader with this mindset mostly stay for a paycheck.

Assuming all the credit.

And, this is especially true if the leader’s mindset thinks he or she deserves it. There is no success on a team without the efforts of others. When a leader takes all the accolades or rewards for himself, the team becomes employees of a boss rather than followers of a leader. Work becomes a job, not a career. It could be simply in the language of the leader. If “I” did it – if it was all because of “me” – “they” may soon, even if in only in their motivation – let “me” do it on my own. Shared success is paramount for a leader’s long-term success.

Never shutting down.

You can’t do it. You can’t. You may think you can always be on – do everything – be everywhere – but, you can’t. Superman couldn’t. Jesus didn’t. Don’t try. (Someone reading this still thinks they can – okay – you’ve been warned.) And, I have to be honest, this is one of the hardest ones for me. It usually comes when I don’t discipline myself to say no, worry too much what people think – especially the ones who expect me to be everywhere or think I should know everything which happens in our church. Thankfully, I’ve matured enough I won’t let the season go long without an intentional shut-down. (And, for me, this usually involves me getting out of town. As a potential workaholic, there’s always something to do as long as I’m here.)

Isolating yourself from others.

The mindset which thinks a leader can’t let others too close to them is one of the most dangerous I’ve observed. Leadership can be a lonely job. But, it shouldn’t be the job of a loner. We need people. We need accountability. We need community and those who can speak into the dark places of our hearts and lives. And, I’ve seen with so many leadership failures – even with so many pastors. When we become islands to ourselves we are an invitation for the enemy’s attacks.

Those are a few dangerous leadership mindsets I’ve observed. Any you’d care to add?

7 Hard Paradigms I Had to Learn to be an Effective Leader

Pastors need to know these.

One of the hardest parts of leading for me has been the things I’ve had to learn or do which may have been contrary to the way I would have naturally done them – or wanted to do them.

For example, I like to be in control of my surroundings. I don’t like the feeling of being out of control. (Strength Finders says control is a “strength” of mine.) There have been several incidents in my personal life which have shaped this in me as a person. We are shaped by our past experiences.

Yet, as a leader there are many times I don’t have the privilege of being in control. To some this may sound like the opposite of being a good leader. Good leaders – some falsely believe – have everything under their control. Learning to empower people, however, has proven to actually be a better leadership model for me.

So I decided to share some of the hardest paradigms I have had to learn in order to be effective as a leader.

Many of my pastor friends – especially in church revitalization work – need to learn these.

Here are 7 hard paradigms to be an effective leader:

I had to develop the ability to say no more than I get to say yes.

I love to say yes. It’s easier. It makes people happier. It’s such a more positive word. And, I’m a positive person – the glass is always half full for me – three-fourths even. But, I’ve learned always saying yes makes me very ineffective as a leader and eventually leads to my burnout. How healthy is this for our team?

I have to live with sometimes being unpopular.

The natural tendency is to believe the leader is well known and, frankly, well liked. I’ve learned, however, every decision I make seems to make some people happy and some not so happy. I’ve even made some people angry with some of the decisions I have made – even some which in time proved to be the best decision, but initially were hard to accept. Change always produces an emotion – either good or bad emotions.

I have to move forward sometimes in uncertainty.

I’ve never been able to have all the answers before a decision has to be made. If I could, we would totally remove the faith factor and it would stagnate us. This doesn’t mean I don’t collaborate with others, do my homework, and certainly I should pray. But, I’ve learned to be an effective leader I have to be willing to go into unknown territories. I must even let people “experiment”. (We do this a lot.)

I had to get comfortable challenging mediocrity.

In case you don’t know, you can ruffle someone’s feathers if you challenge the way they’ve been doing something. This includes if what they were doing wasn’t working and they’ve “always done it this way”. But, I’ve learned as a leader it’s part of my job to challenge us to improve – in all areas. Development must be a part of an effective leader’s day. Granted, sometimes we can push too hard or too fast, but it’s incredibly difficult to recover from complacency.

I had to lower my pride and admit I can often be wrong.

I came into leadership, as most leaders do, believing I had some answers to offer. And sometimes I do. But I’ve also learned my team often knows more than me. In fact, if I surround myself with the right team then my team always knows more than me – at least in the individual areas they lead. I have to yield to them and empower them for us to achieve our maximum potential.

I had to come to a reality I couldn’t be everywhere or do everything.

As a creative, my mind has a tendency to wander. If I’m not careful, I’ll try to be too involved in everyone else’s work and the work I’m supposed to do suffers. I want to help the discipleship ministry, the mission ministry, the music ministry, and the administrative ministry of the church, and every other ministry – in an in depth way. Granted, I need to be involved at some level, and part of my job as leader is casting vision for the entire church, but micromanaging never produces healthy or the best results. Disciplining myself not to always have an opinion has proven to be a more effective form of leadership.

I also had to learn this is another area where a leader may become unpopular – especially pastors. The church expects us to know everything and be everywhere. But, again, doing so makes me far less effective overall.

I had to realize that sometimes the best thing to put on my calendar is rest.

I’m from a generation and a family history of work. I’ve been working steadily since I was 12 years old and I like the 6 day a week model of the Old Testament. Rest doesn’t come without discipline for me. How can doing nothing be a good thing? It seems counter-productive to me. I’ve learned, however, without proper rest, I’m eventually very ineffective as a leader. There have been days – extremely busy days – where the best decision of my day was to stop take a nap and start again. Needing proper rest is true of days, weeks, and seasons in order for my leadership to remain effective.

Those are some paradigms which come to my mind I have had to learn – sometimes the hard way – to be effective in leadership and to last long-term. I’m sure there are others. Feel free to share your own.

What paradigms have you learned, which have helped you be a more effective leader?

7 Hints You’re About to Make a Bad Leadership Decision

Have you ever made a bad decision in leadership?

Of course, we all have. It is actually part of the way we grow as leaders. I’ve made many bad decisions in my leadership.

Thankfully, the longer I lead, the more I have developed some warning signs I’m about to make another. There are certain clues which help me pinpoint a potential bad move – even before I pull the trigger of decision.

Please understand, these aren’t full proof. They don’t mean you are definitely making a bad decision. But, they are hints you might and they are worth considering before you make your next decision – especially major decisions.

Here are 7 hints you’re about to make the wrong decision as a leader:

The decision makes everyone happy.

Chances are you’re settling for less than best if everyone is happy. The best decisions almost never please everyone. They involve change and sacrifice. Change is uncomfortable for someone – always – and seldom universally accepted.

This doesn’t mean you don’t attempt to bring the most people into agreement with the change. If you don’t you won’t have followers for long. But, you should base the final decision not as much on what is popular as much as what is right. This requires the hard work of leadership. 

It’s an easy decision.

Some decisions are. Most aren’t. Especially major decisions. The hard decisions require prayer, wrestling through the options, and collaborating with others.  Making hard decisions is actually where we need leadership most. If everything is easy – you don’t really need a leader.

You are making the decision alone.

Plans fail for the lack of counsel. With many counselors plans succeed. (Proverbs 15:22) I’ve seldom regretted my decision – even when it doesn’t turn out as I might have wished – if I know I have invited others into the decision-making process. There is a certain comfort in shared ownership. This doesn’t mean I don’t have to stand alone at times, but not without first consulting people I trust. (For a great example of these, see how David allowed his men to speak into a decision in 1 Samuel 23:1-5) 

I’m going against my closest advisors .

Not only do I need to invite others into the decision-making process – I need to heed the people’s advice I invite. This is another I’ve learned the hard way. It is rare I will make a decision where the group of advisors I have recruited have advised otherwise. In fact, I look for unanimous consensus. Again, as a leader, there have been a few times I had to make decisions no one else could see at the time – but, those were always times I was confident God was calling me to do something. (Such as in the conclusion to the David story I mentioned previously.) Short of this confirmation – I depend on the wisdom of collective voices.

I am making the decision too quickly.

Some decisions – especially the major ones – need time to gel in your mind and heart. Most major decisions need a good nights sleep – or several. If you’re being rushed into the decision, you’ll likely make some mistakes. Of course, there are times you have to move swiftly. Whenever possible, though, give the process adequate time.

I am making the decision too slowly.

The opposite is true also. When you’ve wrestled with it long enough – and you know the right thing to do – some decisions just need to be made – even without having all the answers. I’ve been guilty of missing opportunities because I got locked in decision paralysis and didn’t make the call I already knew I should make – and, honestly, it’s many times because I know the reaction to the decision will not necessarily be popular. 

My gut tells me otherwise.

You have a gut for a reason. Most likely it was developed over years of experience. It’s usually dangerous to ignore it.

Of course, the key is actually being self aware enough to consider these hints. But, next time you’re about to make a major decision, put your potential actions through this grid. I’m speaking from experience of many bad leadership decisions. It might help you avoid some of my mistakes – and make better ones.

What are some ways you diagnose a potential bad decision?

10 of the Greatest Leadership Questions Ever Asked

Have you ever heard the phrase, “There are no bad questions”?

In leadership, this might be true.

I have learned in my years of leadership – I only know what I know. And, many times I don’t know much. There are often things among the people I am trying to lead which I need to know – and, for whatever reason – I won’t know unless I ask. Which means I must continually ask lots of questions.

One of the best skills a leader can develop is the art of asking the right questions – and, even better – at the right times.

Here are 10 of the greatest leadership questions ever asked:

How can I help you?

What is the biggest challenge you have to being successful here?

Do you understand what I’ve asked you to do?

What am I missing or what would you do differently if you were me?

What do you see I can’t see?

How can I improve as your leader?

If we had authority to do anything – and money was no barrier – what would you like to see us do as a team/organization?

Where do you see yourself someday and how can I assist you in getting there?

What are you currently learning which can help all of us?

How are you doing in your personal life and is there any way I can help you?

You can rephrase these for your context and within the relationships you have with people with whom you serve. You can certainly add your own questions. But, if you are attempting to lead people, may I suggest you start asking questions.

5 Steps to Discern a Change in Ministry Assignment

How do you know when God is closing one door in ministry and opening another?

I get this question a lot and have previously addressed it, but recently I have received it more frequently so I decided to update this post.

Several times in my ministry, first as a layperson and since then in vocational ministry, God has called me to leave one ministry and begin another. It can be a scary place to face the unknown, yet know that God is up to something new in your life. As with most posts I wrote, I share out of my own life experience. It’s the best framework of understanding I have.

I think it is important, however, to realize God uses unequaled experiences in each of our lives. Your experience will likely be different from mine. There was only one burning bush experience we know about in Scripture. At the same time, there are some common patterns I think each of us may experience, while the details remain unique.

This has been the process that I have experienced as God has led me to something new.

Here are 5 steps in discerning a change in ministry assignment:

Wonderful sweet success

Each time the door of a new opportunity opened it began opening (looking back) when things were going well in my current ministry. In fact, people who don’t understand the nature of a call (and some who do) have usually wondered why I would be open to something new.

Inner personal struggle

I usually have not been able to understand what God is up to, but there is something in me (and usually in my wife at the same time) where I know God is doing something new. While I do not know what it is, and not even if it involves a change in my place of ministry, I know God is doing a new work in my heart about something. Almost like the king in Daniel 4 who needed an interpretation, I know there’s something out there but at the time I can’t discern it. (I’m glad I have the Holy Spirit though to help me.)

Closeness to Christ

Brennan Manning calls it a Dangerous love of Christ. During the times leading up to a change of ministry assignment I will be growing in my relationship with Christ, usually in new depths of trust and abandonment. Again, looking back and I can see this clearly, but at the time I usually am just enjoying the ride and the closeness to Christ. Many times God is giving wisdom to share with others and (looking back) I can see that some of it was actually meant for me.

Opportunity presents itself

The opportunity often seems to come from nowhere, but with multiple experiences now I can see the pattern that has occurred each time. It is only after these first three experiences where God brings a new opportunity my way. This is probably because my spirit must be totally aligned with His Spirit in order for me to trust the new work He calls me to, because, again, it usually comes as a surprise. I have yet to be completely “ready” for the next step in my journey with Christ, because it always involves a leap of faith on my part, but this process prepares me to be ready to say “Yes Lord – Here am I – send me.”

I surrendered to God’s call

After I receive confirmation in my spirit, review the journey God has had us on, and Cheryl and I agree on where God is leading, I have yet to refuse the next assignment. I have certainly delayedy response, wrestled through the difficulty and comsulted many advisors, but never refused. That does not mean it is easy to leave my current ministry, but it has always been most rewarding to know we are in the center of God’s will for our life.

A special word to the spouse:

Cheryl has never been “ready” to leave friends in our current ministry, but she has always lined with me in knowing God was calling us to a new work in our life. I wrote about that tension from the spouse’s perspective HERE.

Have you shared these experiences?

What other experiences have you had that have led you to step out by faith into a new adventure with Christ?

7 Reminders for Pastors and Ministry Leaders who use Social Media

The way you use it matters...

Can I be honest? I’m not always the biggest fan of social media.

I know you have a hard time believing this if you follow me on Facebook (either my profile or one of my pages – I have several), Twitter (and I have a couple of those), LinkedIn, Instagram, or Pinterest. How could I not love social media. I wouldn’t have a blog without social media – and, I do love my blog. Well, at least, I love the potential impact of my blog.

What I don’t like are some of the negative impacts of social media. It seems people lose their filter when they are online. They must feel a certain anonymity – even though their name is on their account. As I’ve posted before, some people show their mean side on line – saying things they never would say without this medium making it so easy to do.

But, I would assume social media is here for a while. And, it’s certainly a part of our lives. And, wherever people are I want to be as much as I can. Because I’ve been called to reach people.

So, if it’s here, and an almost necessity these days in ministry, it seems to reason we should keep in mind it’s impact and how this should influence our use of social media. That’s the purpose of this post.

Here are 7 reminders for pastors and ministry leaders on social media:

You represent the Christ and the church. Even when you’re on your personal page – what you post tells people something about the church. If you’re angry online – you are demonstrating to people how they expect Christ to respond to them.

You influence people. If you are in a ministry leadership position you have positional influence. People look to you for answers and how they should live their life as believers.

This is a gray area for sure, and strictly my opinion, but as an example, one thing which drives me crazy is to see pastors post how they are enjoying not having to go to church on vacation. (“Having a great time at the beach – I needed this today”) at almost rather see a post which says “loved worshiping with Beach Community Church today.” It seems more helpful for the role we serve. Yes, we need to lead people to honor their Sabbath, but we also have to be careful not to convince people they need a break from church. They can figure that one out on their own. Plus, Bibilically speaking, the opposite seems more true – I would argue culturally speaking, people need a lot more church. People who don’t work at church aren’t able to reconcile the amount of time you spend at church with the amount of time they do.

What you post sticks. It’s there once it’s there. You can’t delete a “status” completely. Someone will grab a screenshot. There will be a re-tweet. This makes it so much more important we think before we post, we strive to be helpful, and we never vent on social media.

May I add another pet peeve? This is especially true when talking about the community in which you live and are trying to reach. Going off on a restaurant, a store or any aspect about the community devalues your talk of loving the city.

Humor isn’t always easily translated. I’m guilty of this one sometimes. I’ve shared so many things on Facebook I thought were funny, but incited disappointment in people who didn’t catch my sarcasm. They thought I was serious. I was joking.

There’s potential for incredible good. I can’t relay all the positive stories I’ve received of sharing something “at just the right time” or when someone “really needed this today”. People are hurting. There will be as many hurts as there will be tweets today. You can be a voice of hope.

People are making opinions about you based on your social media. It’s true. They are discerning whether they like you personally. They make decisions about your church based on things you say online also, because you are your church to them. They may even judge your faith by your words on social media. It might not be truly representative – and, it may not even be fair – but, it’s reality.

This is true whether you are talking about the local college football program or politics. Yes, you have opinions, but because of your position what you say has a greater Kingdom implication.

Followers expect you to be social. If you are going to be on social media people assume you will be social. I probably have almost as much interaction with our church through Facebook as I have through email. People expect you to reply.

These are simply a few reminders, which come to mind quickly. Some of these are from my own mistakes – others are observations watching other pastors and ministry leaders online. The key, in my opinion, is to be strategic with your use of social media – really with your life.

5 Ways Ministry Has Changed in 20 Years

It's gotten harder...

I began this blog a number of years ago for one primary reason of encouraging other ministry leaders. I came into ministry later in life – after a long business career – and, so I’ve always seen the role differently from some who have been spent their career in ministry.

Recently I was reflecting on how ministry has changed in the 15 years I’ve been in vocational ministry. This reflections was a result of two conversations. One was with a man who wondered with me why things can’t be like they used to be. Specifically such as why many ministers (like me) don’t preach three times a week anymore – and why the pastor doesn’t make all the hospital visits. The other was during the interview with Pete Wilson, who recently resigned from his church after recognizing the signs of burnout. During our conversation I remember saying, “Pete, ministry has surely changed in the 20 plus years since you entered?” He agreed.

But, how? How has ministry changed? What’s so different about being a pastor today versus 20 years ago?

I’m certain this is a list under development, but I decided to jot down some thoughts.

Here are 5 ways ministry is different over the last 20 years:

Access to the pastor has dramatically increased.

The volume of communication has to have dramatically increased for ministers as it has for all of society. I get hundreds of emails every week. My church interacts with me on Facebook dozens of times a week. A large number of our church has my cell number – and are free to text or call me regularly. I get Twitter DM’s daily. I am even contacted through LinkedIn by people who attend our church. I can’t imagine people handwriting that many notecards in days past or even typing out that many letters. It means I get more suggestions, questions, and complaints. And, honestly, it probably means I get more encouragement. But, certainly with social media and technology improvements the pastor is easier to find than ever before – and all of this communication takes time for the pastor to respond.

The type of ministry we do has dramatically changed.

I’ve read numerous articles – and talked to educators – about how the teachers role has changed from the 50’s until today. God bless those who choose to serve in public schools. The classroom has certainly gotten more difficult to manage in recent decades. It has become more difficult, because society has become more difficult. Running in the hall and chewing gum being some of the biggest discipline problems of the past. Now they deal with drugs and guns in the school. And, the same is true for ministry. Who would’ve thought pastors would be dealing with guns in the church. Or abductions of children from preschool. Security has become a major issue for pastors. And, this is just one of many examples of how societal changes have impacted the role of a pastor’s work.

(And, frankly, hasn’t every career changed in the last 20 years?)

Family needs have changed.

Pastors have to deal with children who are facing pressures every other child faces. And those pressures are bigger today than they were 20 years ago. According to one Time magazine article I read, anxiety among children has dramatically increased in the last 30 years. Nine of ten children ages 8 to 16 have accessed pornography, many wile supposedly doing homework, according to another study. Time management is much more of an issue for families today than it was when my kids were at home. All of those impact the ministries of the church and the interactions a pastor has with families. 

People are less committed and the message is less received.

It takes far more energy to get someone in the doors of the church then it would have 20 years ago. The competition for time is so much more severe. Travel ball, dance competitions, and community activities which used to never occur on Sunday are drawing people’s attention. And, keeping people engaged during a sermon is so much different. People can now watch a message – great messages – 24 hours a day. And, they can follow the world on their phone while we preach. 

Leading people is harder.

It just is. I’ve been in leadership for over 30 years. Leading people used to involve loyalty and commitment simply because of position – or paycheck. This was true whether someone had a paid or volunteer position. This isn’t always the case anymore. It’s made us lead better, but it takes far more time than it used to take.

Bottom line. The world has changed. And, so have the expectations and demands of ministry.

Please understand, I’m not complaining. I work for God – if I’m going to complain it will be to Him. (I’ll be like the grumbling Israelites.) I’m simply pointing out an observation. Working with 100’s of pastors every year – seeing the stress they face – watching many churches treat them horribly because they don’t meet all their expectations of time and commitment – I simply want to speak into something I see.

During pastor appreciation month – pray for those in ministry. Support them as you can.

Pastors, what other ways has ministry changed for you since you’ve been in ministry?

An Interview with Pete Wilson

Following up on his recent resignation as pastor

I was delighted to talk with my friend Pete Wilson recently for some insight into his recent resignation from Cross Point Church in Nashville where he served as senior pastor. Pete planted Cross Point 14 years ago and it quickly became one of the fastest growing and now one of the largest churches in the country.

Not only was Pete pastoring a great church, he is a sought after speaker at conferences and other events. He has written several books – which have been helpful to me and others. He is a great husband, father, and friend. (Imagine continuing to be great at all of these!)

Pete and Cross Point were great ministry companions when I was a planter in the area. We did some staff retreats together. Some of our staff stayed in touch with some of their staff. They were a few years ahead of us in age, so we learned from them. Cheryl and I frequently attended their Sunday night service, since we didn’t have a service on Sunday night.

I was shocked and surprised as many others when I heard Pete’s announcement. Then I was shocked and surprised again when I heard Pete was starting a new role as president of the A Group – a Nashville based nonprofit/church marketing agency, geared towards partnering with churches, nonprofits, ministries and faith based organizations to increase their impact. You can read about his new role HERE.

I reached out to Pete and asked if he would be willing to answer some questions. I’ll share our conversation then offer some closing comments.

Did you anticipate the growth you experienced at Cross Point?

No one plants a church not to reach people and we planted to reach people. Not in a million years, however, did we think we would grow that fast. Sometimes it just felt like we were along for the ride things were moving so fast.

How did you personally allocate your time? What took most of your time as a pastor of a large church?

Message preparation. Leadership and vision casting – and this was a constant need. And, then, just putting out fires. And, it seems there was always a fire to put out.

Over the years my role changed a lot. I’ve said many times – Biblically speaking there is no number which is the perfect church size. In my mind, though I’ve always thought 700 would be a great number. The church would be large enough to have some great ministries, but small enough where people knew each other.

I remember one of our elders telling me in year two – when we were growing so fast – “If this thing continues to grow at this extent you’re not going to be here in 5 years.” As it turns out, we were here 14 years, and he wasn’t being cruel. Reflecting on that now he was looking into my life and saying I was wired a certain way. I was probably perfectly wired for a 700 person church.

How did you know it was time to make the decision? What was going on at the time?

I’ve been struggling with it for some time. It’s hard and it’s still hard. I was 21 years old when I started my first church. This is the only thing I’ve ever really done. And, I was afraid of making the wrong decision.

I also know this is a season. I’m not going to say at some point I won’t be back in full-time vocational ministry.

I think you just know though when you’re out of season. Things which used to bring me a lot of joy were no longer bringing me joy. If you stay out of season too long the wise thing to do may be to step aside. Church leadership takes a lot of energy.  I just got to the place I didn’t have the energy. I didn’t feel I had the energy the church needed. I got to the place I knew decisions needed to be made, but like every decision a pastor makes, you have to weigh the need for the decision against the acceptance of the people. I couldn’t seem to pull the trigger anymore. I just knew eventually that was going to hurt the church.

Who knew first – you or your wife?

I think she knew long before I did. She also has always been the one who wants to be supportive and give me the space to make the decision I think God wants me to make, but she also wasn’t surprised at all when I shared what God was doing.

How have the demands of ministry changed since you first became a pastor?

For me, and this might not be true of everyone, but the demands were coming from lots of different places. I had demands from Cross Point, book publishers, and conferences.

Of course, these were all my choices. I agreed to all of it. I simply got really good at saying yes and horrible at saying no. I found myself asking, “how do I get out of this?”, which obviously isn’t a healthy place to be for long.

I think one of my bigger mistakes was not developing a larger teaching team. I was preaching 6 times a weekend. It was usually Tuesday before I felt normal and then Sunday was coming again.

How will Cross Point be moving forward? Does this concern you?

It doesn’t. Of course, you always have a little bit of fear, but we’ve said from the beginning Cross Point was not about Pete Wilson. People don’t realize the incredible team of staff and volunteers we had in place. I talked to one of the elders today and they think things are going very well. I haven’t seen anything to indicate they aren’t going to continue to do well.

It’s going to be different. And, that’s okay. Senior leader’s DNA settles into the organization, but I think it’s really going to be good in the long run for Cross Point to experience this change.

Will you still attend the church?

I’m not right now. We just made a decision during the transition that it would be best for them if we didn’t. And, that’s hard, because it’s where our friends and our children’s friends are – and we think it’s the best church for them. But, we just really believe the wise and healthy thing is to step aside so they can move forward and heal in whatever ways they need to.

Some might question the timing. You moved pretty quickly into a new role. Can you give me some insight into that? Did you know about this other opportunity?

No, I had no idea. It’s crazy how this happened. I’ve been friends with Maurilio for many years. He was part of the launch team at Cross Point. After I resigned, he asked me what I was going to do. When I told him I had no idea he invited me to lunch to discuss some ideas. It all fell together in about 3 weeks. And, it was great timing, because I knew during this season I needed to heal. I’ve spent 21 years pouring into the local church and I just needed to be poured into for a season. I didn’t want to simply go into the business world. So, the idea I could work behind the scenes and help pastors fired me up! I look forward to being a cheerleader for pastors.

Some people questioned the timing of going back to work so soon,  but people don’t understand the pressure and weight of a senior pastor versus what I’m doing now. I’m not trying to say the new job is a cake walk, but the differences in weight of responsibilities are huge when you compare them.

What would your advice be to those who are sensing the need for a change?

It’s hard for pastors who sense a season of change. I think we probably put some unnecessary guilt on ourselves – that if we step away from the pastorate for a while we are disappointing God or disappointing the church. And, I wrestled with that fear a lot, but I’ve preached it for years and now I had to live it. God cares a lot more about who I’m becoming than what I’m doing. My identity in Christ isn’t being a pastor. It’s being who He wants me to be. And, if I kept doing this, who I was becoming was less than He wanted me to be. I would encourage pastors to live the same advice they would preach to their people.

Thanks, Pete!

I was humbled by some of Pete’s responses. I think the honesty in the size church he felt best equipped to lead was huge. And, he stung me with his comment about getting “good at saying yes and horrible at saying no”. Wow! I’m in a season I certainly need to hear that.  (In fact, he challenged and encouraged me in several places in my current life during the interview.)

I appreciated his response about the timing of this new job. I, too, had wondered about the quickness of the decision. I completely understand his point about the weight of responsibilities. When I consider the amount of decisions I have to make in a day, the number of people looking to me for answers and support – and realize his church was more than twice the size of ours – I totally get it. The A Group appears to be a great place for Pete to heal, yet also continue to make a Kingdom difference, which is what he feels called to do.

Edited addition: Since this post first went live I have had a number of people share additional information with me about Pete – much of it negative and refuting things Pete has said. I can neither substantiate or deny any of these. I am pulling for Pete and his family, as I would anyone – pastor or not. The point of this blog is not to stir further controversy. I will leave the post as it is, because this simply captures the totality of my interview.

Remember Where You Came From

A Key to Leading Organizational Change

There was a saying when I was growing up an older generation used often – I don’t hear it as much anymore.

“Don’t forget where you came from.”

And, if you were one of my relatives – talking to me – you might have said it with emphasis.

“Don’t forget where you came from – boy!”

I think there’s a good leadership principle here too.

“Don’t forget where you came from.”

An organization will have different leaders. Different styles. Different approaches.

But, it should never forget where it came from.

The church where I pastor has over 100 years of history. Most of those were before me. (103 of those years.)

We’ve seen tremendous changes and tremendous growth in the four years I’ve been here. I’m honored. Pumped. Encouraged.

I’m convinced, however, one of the reasons we’ve grown is we’ve tried not to forget this principle.

We have held numerous celebrations of the past. We hung banners in our halls celebrating the decades long gone. We invited past leaders back to celebrate milestones with us. I consistently remind people this didn’t start with me. I tell stories from the past.

If you are attempting to grow in an established environment and culture, you need to celebrate from where you came.

Celebrate the past.

Celebrate the past leadership.

Celebrate the triumphs.

Celebrate the pain.

Okay, maybe celebrate is a tough word for the painful times – and, there may have been leaders you would rather not celebrate, but the past is the past. It’s important to remember where the church has been, even if only what the church was able to overcome. These were likely significant days in somone’s life. 

I watch too many leaders who think they can turn change on a dime ignoring all which happened in the past. This seems especially true if the most previous leader left in more difficult times. It’s sometimes easier to create new energy if you can ignore the past. I’m not convinced, however, it’s the healthiest or best way.

Leadership may be able to move quickly in a new direction, but people usually can’t. They need closure. They need time. They need to remember – and for their leaders to remember – from where they came. Those times were important monuments in their life.

If you’re leading in an established environment, recognize, honor, and remember the past. It’s what got you where you are today – good or bad. Not only has living this principle worked well for my leadership – it’s been effective – I’m personally convicted it’s the right thing to do.

Remember where you came from, boy. (Or girl)