7 Tips for Hiring the Right Person for the Church Staff

racial diversity

We must make good staff hires in the church. 

That’s seems common sense to me , but there’s a definite reason. 

In most churches it is often difficult to remove someone once they are added. (That’s somewhat of a pet peeve of mine after spending much of my years in business, but that’s another blog post.)
Regardless of the industry, however, adding to a team is a critical decision — perhaps one of the most important a leader makes. New team members change the dynamics of a team. That will either be positively or negatively.

In a day where budgets are thinner and the mission remains critical, we must hire the best people we can find.

Here are 7 tips I’ve learned by experience for hiring:

Biblical qualities – In a church position, especially a called position, this is first and foremost. There are standard passages we use for positions such as pastor. I wonder, however, if there aren’t good Biblical standards for hiring even in every position — even in the secular world. And not just using the couple passages we tend to use. I realize this is open for critique, but it seems to me the “fruit of the spirit” is a good measure of character for anyone I’d place on my team — in the church or in business. Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — would you hire someone with those qualities?

Know them – I have told my boys that in their generation, they will most likely never have a job where they didn’t know someone connected to the organization. The more you can know the person the more likely you are to make a wise decision. This is one reason we often hire from within our church whenever possible. If it’s not possible to know the individual personally, try to know people who know the person. I’ve found there is usually someone connected to the person on our team, in our church, or in my social network. LinkedIn is a good resource for this. (If there’s no way to know the person, that doesn’t eliminate them, but it does generate a slower decision-making process for me.)

Investigate them – I don’t insist on background checks on everyone. I understand some do and I’m okay with that, but I do believe in asking questions of those who know the person — whether or not they were placed on their list of references. Knowing them personally helps eliminate some doubt, but if there is any unanswered questions in your mind, it is better to be awkward in the beginning than surprised in the end. (I’d be curious in the comments if your organization does background checks and if so, what kind.)

Meet the spouse – I have always held a simple policy in business and ministry, especially for any position with authority. I won’t hire someone whom I wouldn’t also hire his or her spouse. Period. Most likely, whether you know it or not, you are hiring both anyway. Both spouses will certainly impact the organization either directly or indirectly. Plus, the spouse always asks better questions. 

Chemistry AND Culture – The ability to get along with others and especially the team often trumps a pedigreed potential employee. We can make a team work with people who work well together and are sold out for the vision of the organization.

Culture is equally important. If the person doesn’t like or can’t support the church where it is today (even if the desire is to take the church elsewhere) they will likely make things difficult for the church and you. They may be a great person, you may like them a lot, but they need to be able to love the church (and it’s people) even in its current state, even if they aren’t satisfied with where the church is today.

Talk them out of it – I get push back on this principle when I share it, but I’m really not trying to be a bad guy here. I want to make sure someone knows all the negatives of me and our church before they agree to join our team. So, before a person accepts a position, I tell them everything I can think of why they perhaps shouldn’t accept the job. I did this in business and I have repeated it in the church world. If it makes you feel better, to date I’ve never had anyone decide not to join us. It has prompted some good, honest conversations as a result of this tactic. I feel people have come better prepared for what they will face once they join our team. It also exposes some issues or concerns we likely would have had to deal with down the road. It is easier on the front end.

Take risk – After I’ve done my homework, I’ve prayed for clarity along the way, I hire the person my heart tells me to hire. Many times it is a gut-instinct. I often bring Cheryl along on interviews and I heavily rely on her recommendation. She’s got a much better feel for people than I have sometimes. In business, and in church, I’ve taken some huge risks on people. I always tell leaders — if you’re gut is grounded with Jesus — you can trust your gut. Overall, we’ve created great teams and I’ve even found a few superstars along the way.

What tips do you have for hiring the right person?

7 Ways to Increase Frustration in the Workplace


Do you want to know how to completely frustrate a team? Is that your goal, leader?

Of course not. No leader sets out to frustrate their team. Yet, chances are we do it everyday. Or often. We are human. We make mistakes like everyone else.

Some things are common frustrations. If we can learn them – and attempt to avoid though – we can do less frustrating.

Here are 7 common frustrations in the workplace:

Unnecessary rules – Rules are necessary. Unless they’re not. Then they are a pain. The way to control people is To write more rules. The way to empower people is to only write rules that promote progress.

Limited communication. Don’t let people know what you are thinking. Keep them guessing. Maybe even a little paranoid.

Microanyalyzing. Monitor everything. And, make sure you have a strong opinion about all you see.

Unpredictabile leadership. Don’t let them learn to trust you. Here’s how. Introduce an idea. Get everyone excited about it. Then forget all about it next week and get excited about something new. That kind of thing. Works every time.

Silo competition. Let every area compete against one another rather than work together. And, pick your favorite silo.

Lack of community spirit. Make sure no one has an opportunity to get to know each other outside of work. Downplay fun. This is work. Make it so.

Celebrating what’s next. Only talk about the future. Certainly never the past. And never fully embrace the moment. Don’t see the good others are doing today. Keep pushing for more.

I’ve been guilty of many of these. And I’m sure there are many more. How about you?

7 Actions When You Can’t Respect the Leader

A picture of a young furious businessman screaming over white background

It’s not uncommon that I receive a message from a staff member of another church struggling with the current leadership. The question is usually how they can continue to be where they don’t support the vision and direction of the pastor. They want my advice on how to responding during this season of ministry.

This situation is obviously not unique to churches, but also happens frequently in other organizations. I don’t believe all hope is lost during times like this. An individual can continue to grow even with a leader he or she cannot respect — sometimes even more.

Here are 7 actions I suggest when you don’t respect the leader:

Talk to God – That’s an obvious answer from a pastor, but sometimes it’s the thing we do the least. We complain faster it seems — at least I do. Ask God to reveal to you His purposes for your life during this season. It could be He’s preparing you for something, stirring the nest so-to-speak, or that you are in a time of testing. Don’t assume God is absent during this time. I assure you He’s not asleep at the wheel and has a plan. The closer you are to Him during this time the sooner you’ll understand that plan.

Keep working – Most of us need a paycheck. Be grateful while you have one. Unless you know for certain you are to quit, it is destroying you or your family, or you sense something immoral is happening, there’s nothing wrong with working until you find something else.

Do your best – While you are there be above reproach in your work ethic. Make it your aim to prepare for your successor and to leave your area of responsibility better than you found it when you arrived.

Respect the leader – I know. That’s the tough one, but as long as you’re there you must respect authority. That’s our Biblical command. You may not respect them as a person but you can respect them as the boss.

Learn all you can – The fact is we learn more during the stressful and difficult times, so be a sponge. You may gain all the wisdom of what not to do when you are in control, but you will learn something if you try.

Be thankful for the connections and experience – You will be gaining connections in the church (work) world — or at least you have that opportunity. It’s easier to network when you’re in the field than it is once you are no longer working. Be thankful for that opportunity.

Be a cheerleader for life – You may not enjoy your work setting but you can still be a positive life influence for those around you. Use your smile and your pleasant disposition as an encourager for others. You’ll feel better about yourself after you eventually leave.

Keep watching – Be open to what God will do next in your life. It may not be what you are expecting. Chances are good it will stretch you and require a leap of faith. Prepare your heart, family and attitude for that opportunity when it arrives.

Keep this in mind. I firmly believe we are called to a person — Jesus — more than any location. Even any other leader. At the end of the day, you’re biggest concern is to be faithful to your call — to Jesus.

Have you ever been in this position?

What advice would you give?

7 Ways to Lead People Older — and Often Wiser — than You

Happy man with a notebook

In my first management position, I was a 19 year-old college sophomore working full-time and leading a small staff of four people in the men’s clothing area of a major department store. I was placed in the position almost by default, because the previous manager left unexpectedly and I was already there and eager to lead. Everyone working for me was older than I was, including one man who was in his sixties.

Today, even though I have aged considerably since then and had years more leadership experience, I continue to have positions where people older than me, with more experience than I have in many areas, report to me by position. In fact, in the current church I pastor, I didn’t just “inherit” people with more experience — I recruited them. On purpose. I do not believe we could have had the success in revitalization we’ve had without their input. We needed — and keep needing — younger voices on our team, but these seasoned leaders have helped navigate major change in ways I couldn’t have done on my own.

In our church plant, where I was the founder, most of our staff was younger than me. But, even there, I personally recruited a staff member almost 15 years older than me, which meant there were literally three generations of leadership in our church plant. It was gold for our organizational structure.

It can be one of the more challenging parts of leadership, but I highly recommend it.

I work with many pastors and church planters who, as they begin their ministry career will likely encounter the same experience with either volunteers or paid staff. I can tell you, from experience, that your leadership will be better if you learn how to lead people older — and wiser — than you are today. Don’t be afraid to recruit them.

Here are 7 tips for leading people older than you:

Recognize the difference

When a person is 10, 20, or even 30 years older they likely have different needs and expectations from their leader and the organization. They may need different benefits, different work schedules, and even different leadership styles, depending on their age and stage of life. You should maximize your leadership by adapting your style to the person you are leading anyway, but this will be especially true when you lead someone who doesn’t always “need” your leadership.

Give credit for wisdom earned

This is key. If you don’t recognize and value that age and experience has given them something you may not have you’ll never effectively lead someone older than you. Most likely there will naturally be things the other person has experienced that you haven’t. Don’t let that intimidate you. Allow it to work for you by gleaning from that wisdom.

Stand your ground, but do it respectfully

If you are in the position, then do your job. They were probably raised in a generation where they expect you to lead, but as you should with any person you lead, be respectful. If someone is older, most likely he or she will be more sensitive to a younger leader being disrespectful and react negatively when you are not. They may not say anything — because this may be part of their culture too — but you won’t have their full respect if you aren’t leading.

Learn from them

Be honest when you don’t know how to do something, such as leadership or handling difficult issue or people. If the older person knows how, let them show you. It’s okay that you have some things to learn. We all do. The older a person becomes the more in tune he or she becomes with the fact that no one knows everything. Ask good questions. “Have you ever experienced something like this before in your leadership?” “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” “Am I missing anything in your opinion?”

Be clear on expectations

More than likely a person from another generation is more accustomed to structure than you are. There were days past when expectations were more clearly defined and people knew what was expected. Organizational charts were more linear. Job titles meant more about what a person did on the team. Be aware of this. You don’t have to change your leadership to accommodate them necessarily, but you do need to recognize and understand when they may need a little more clarity on your expectations. They may wait until they know for sure you want them to move forward on a task or project.

Don’t play games — even if you are intimidated

I have seen this many times. The leader is intimidated by the older team member, so he or she dances around an issue or fails to handle conflict. The leader might make excuses for not knowing something or pretend they have more experience than he or she actually has with an issue. People with life experience can usually see through that type behavior. The age and maturity will make them less intimidated by you. Be kind. Be respectful always, but be direct. Shoot straight with them. Stand firm when needed. The fact is that the older team member will probably have handled worse situations. They will welcome your secure leadership — if it’s handled appropriately.

Be patient with them

This is changing rapidly, but sometimes the older team member may not be as culturally, technologically, or trend savvy. They may need a different form of communication or you may need to explain something in a different context. But they will make up for it by adding to the team in other ways. Be prepared to allow extra training for them if needed — even in some things which appear basic for you.

There were many times in business where I would have never made it without someone helping me who had more experience than I had. That’s still true today. I continue to surround myself with mentors in life and church.

Granted, if the person is cranky, rigid, or troublesome — don’t add them to your team. But, that’s true of all ages.

Here’s the deal — When you shy away from someone for your team because they are older or more experienced than you — you ignore some of the most loyal, hard-working, dedicated team members. And, the humility in knowing you are leading people wiser than you will make you a better leader.

Do you lead people older than you? What would you add to this discussion?

7 Ways Extroverts Can Better Engage Introverts

Young woman reading on nature

I write a lot about introversion, because I’m an introvert.

Introversion is a personality preference, based on the way a person has been shaped by experiences and life.

In very broad terms, it means we are fueled more by our inner thoughts and reflections than a by social engagements and interactions with others. Alone time fuels us. Our idea of “fun” might be reading a book in a room — or field — all by ourselves. (Hence the picture with this post.)

It’s not that we don’t like people. You can read some of my other posts about that. It’s that if we had a preference of how to use our free time, many times we would spend it in quieter or more controllable environments.

Chances are you have lots of introverts on your team, in your church, your workplace, as your customers — even in your family. You’ll even find some people who appear very extroverted to be introverts. (Like many pastors I know — it seems especially in larger churches.)

I will often get requests to write about extroversion — specifically how extroverts can better understand introverts. (Extroverted people are seldom shy about asking for what they want!) 

This is generalized. No two introverts are the same just like no two extroverts are the same. Just like no two people — period — are the same. We are all uniquely made by our Creator! And, that’s intentional on His part!

But, this is an attempt to help you understand some of the introverts in your world. And, if you want clarification if it applies to them — simply ask. We can express ourselves — often quite eloquently.

Here are 7 ways that extroverts can better engage introverts:

Give us advance warning – Don’t put us on the spot for an answer or opinion. We have one, but often need time to formulate our thoughts. If you want our best answer, then you’re best not to demand it immediately from an introvert.

Don’t assume we don’t have an opinion – We do — and it may even be the best one — but we are less likely to share it surrounded by people who are always quick to have something to say and tend to control the conversation.

Don’t assume we are unfriendly or anti-social – We may not be talking, but that doesn’t mean we do not love people or that we don’t want to communicate with them. The opposite is probably more true. We just prefer to do it in less extroverted ways. Plus, we talk one at a time, so if there’s someone always talking, we may not get a chance — or take the opportunity.

Give us time to form the relationship – Introverts don’t usually form relationships quickly. We may appear harder to get to know, but when we do connect, we are loyal friends with deep, intimate connections. And we can actually be quite fun — even silly at times — once you get to know us.

Allow us time alone – All of us need personal time, but we require even more time alone than an extrovert usually does. We energize during these times — not just relax — and there’s a huge difference.

Don’t expect us to always love or get excited about extroverted activities – The social activities where you get to meet all the cool people you do not know — yea — that’s not always our idea of fun. It may even be a little scary. It might make us nervous at the thought of it. We’ll find excuses not to go, even if we know we need the experience or will have fun once we do them.(Cheryl helps me so much with this one. She stays by my side until I acclimate to the room. And, that’s usually what it takes for the introvert to really enjoy these type settings.)

Allow us to use written communication when available – We often prefer email or text over phone calls. We are usually more engaging when we can write out our thoughts ahead of time.

Are you an introvert?  What would you add to my list?

A 4 Word Script to Evaluate Any Event

Smiling Asian businesswoman doing a presentation

I think evaluation is important. In fact, it may be equally important to the planning that goes into any event. And, for churches, just as we ask God to direct our thoughts and energies in creating and implementing an event in the church, we should ask God to direct us in evaluating what worked and what didn’t work.

We recently evaluated a major day (Easter) with some of our team. It flowed naturally. We got great feedback and learned some things to improve next year.

The evaluation process doesn’t always go that easily.

When evaluation isn’t being productive or your team isn’t in the routine of evaluating, let me share an idea that might help.

You need to script your evaluation process.

(Granted, some will struggle with the word “Event” being used to describe Easter weekend. And, I understand that, so you can call it anything you want. I’m using the word so that this idea can help you evaluate more than just Easter weekend.)

First, make sure the right people are in the room. I’ve done this in large and small settings, but you want voices at the table that can speak to most of what you were evaluating. For example, we since we were evaluating our Easter weekend, it would have made no sense if the only ones evaluating were the worship team and me. We were on the platform most of the time or only in our worship center. We needed people who could observe how guests were treated, what was happening in our parking lots, if children were cared for and whether or not the bathrooms were kept clean. Of this group, I also want positive-minded people who love the church and want to continue to see us improve — even if that means change.

So, after the right people are in the room, here’s something I’ve done when things aren’t progressing. It’s simple, but it works.

I’ve often gone to the board (I have one whole wall in my office painted with whiteboard paint) and written an outline for us to follow — a script if you will — to guide our thoughts to evaluate effectively.

Write down each of the words in bold, ask the questions — and you can think of better questions to add — and let people talk through each one.

Duplicate –

  • What did we do well?
  • What worked best?
  • What do we know we want to do again next time?

The goal here is to talk about and discover those things that need to be repeated next time. They worked. They fully helped you live out your vision and the goals for the event. These are often the “no-brainers” and are usually easily drawn out from the discussion.

Develop –

  • What was good, but could be better?
  • Where did we see the greatest energy, that with a little more effort could be huge?
  • What do we know is a part of our values for the event — or for our church (or organization) — but it didn’t get enough attention?

This is perhaps the most important part of the discussion. Here you want to discover those things that have the potential to really take your event to the next level. Try to keep discussion centered only on the development of existing things you do at this point — not new things — you will get there in a minute. You don’t want to add a ton to an event unless what you did was terribly bad and you need to start completely over with all new. Most of the time developing what you currently do and making it better is easier, more palatable for people’s tolerance to change, and more effective.

Dump –

  • What do we not need to do again?
  • What didn’t work at all?
  • What was the most draining effort, but produced little or no return for the investment?
  • What is tired, worn out, ready to be laid to rest before we do this again?

I tried to word those questions as pleasantly as possible, and if you prefer, use the word “delete”, but the idea here is what do you need to not do next time? You need to discover what needs killing. Don’t be shy here. This could be the hardest one, because this is where turf wars develop and feelings can come to the discussion, but you have to do it. If it didn’t work and it was expensive or labor-intensive — get rid of it next time. And, the reason it’s so important is that you can use that energy to pour into things you listed under the develop heading. And, that’s important too, because you don’t just want to take too much away from people without giving them something back that’s even better.

Dream –

  • What’s the wildest idea we could think of to do next time?
  • What could we add next time that has the potential to be a “signature” aspect?
  • If money was not an option, what would we do to make this better?

I love this one, but don’t put a ton of time into it — and don’t do it at all until you’ve done the others — but give some time to dreaming about the future. Honestly, I prefer the Develop one over this one as far as sustainability and productivity goes, but some really great ideas can originate here. Perhaps time this and stop when the ideas begin to turn really crazy, but allow people an opportunity to stretch the event into something no one has imagined.

Leader, you don’t have to be the moderator of this. Depending on the group someone else may be better at this and let you participate more in the discussion.

Make someone is the recorder in the room. We sometimes write ideas under the words and take a picture of the board — but I always suggest someone record these ideas into a document of some kind. We frequently create a Google Doc that we can share with others and store for later use. The more organize you are with your notes the more useful they will be next time you’re ready to do the event again.

Finally, I’d limit the time on this whole process. Maybe allot time to each one and then come back to them if you have time. It can grow stale if you linger too long in one of these discussions.

Hope this helps — and I’d love to hear from you if it does.

7 Critical Abilities of Senior Leaders

female leader

I have held a senior leadership position for over 20 years and been in leadership over 30 years. In this post, I want to express some things I’ve observed (and experienced) as some of the critical abilities that a senior leader must have to be effective.

The intent of this post is not to appear arrogant as a senior leader, as if I have qualities others may not have, although I’m confidant some will take it that way. (Isn’t being misunderstood part of being a senior leader at times?) I’m not afraid to admit my weaknesses — of which I have many — but there are certain abilities senior leaders need to do their job well.

And, you may not be able to understand that completely until you’ve served as a senior leader. That’s true of many things in life. Take parenting:

  • I remember how many people told me I wouldn’t understand parenting until I was a parent. They were right.
  • I remember how many people told me I should enjoy parenting at every stage of life while my boys were home. It passes fast. They were right.
  • I remember how many told me that I would adjust to being an empty-nester. They were right.

The point is that sometimes we can’t understand something until we experience it firsthand.

That’s the way it is with being the senior leader in an organization.

When I was a mid-level manager in a large corporation, I remember questioning why senior leadership made some of the decisions they did. Looking back — indeed — I would have made some of them differently. But, many times I can see why the view from their position motivated them to the decisions they made.

All leadership is challenging, but the senior position is a pressure unlike any other. Show me a small business owner, a president, a senior pastor or CEO and I’ll show you someone who carries — in an organizational leadership sense — a heavy burden.

I’ve learned — from observation — that some are qualified to lead from that position and some are not. Some want it. Some don’t. Some know it. Some don’t — often until they try.

I’ve also learned that a senior leader will struggle in the position when they lack some of these abilities — until they grow in them. And, one can grow in them — if they are willing to learn. To be most effective they must be aware of where they need to develop and continually be working towards them. These may be important abilities for all leaders — but they are critical for senior leaders.

Here are 7 critical abilities of senior leaders:

Ability to quickly and strategically think big picture

The senior leader doesn’t have a choice but to think big picture for the organization — at all times. There are lots of decisions made in a day and each of them could be huge. The impact of a senior leader’s decision often impacts everyone in the organization. He or she must learn to “think strategically in the moment“, realizing the impact — and the weight — of their decisions.

Ability to remain steadfast during adversity

The senior leader must continue to stand strong when everyone else is running from the problem. Especially in times of crisis or controversy, the organization and community around will look for leadership. A senior leader doesn’t have the choice of burying his or her head in the sand when troubles come to the organization. (By the way, I learned this one the hard way and wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to unquestionably keep a confidence

The senior leader usually knows things that aren’t ready to be released or talked about publicly. He or she must be trusted to keep these confidences. A senior leader must learn how to answer questions and address issues of importance to people without divulging confidential information. They must not say what people want to hear just to be “liked”. One of the quickest ways to lose trust as a senior leader is to develop a reputation as one who “talks too much”. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to fully release control and delegate

The senior leader must wear many hats and oversee all areas of focus within an organization. He or she must be able to trust others and take risks on people to so growth can continue apart from the senior leader’s direct involvement. Delegation is important at all levels of leadership, but for the senior leader it is not an option. In fact, the best leaders I know give the implementation of the vision away freely. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Ability to see all sides to an issue

The senior leader can’t always have things their way — or play favorites for any one way, but must balance all the needs within an organization. This is another part of thinking strategically in the moment. Since an organization is built with many separate but equally important parts, the senior leader must view every scenario as it relates to each part of the organization. In a business, as an example, those who are in charge of sales and marketing are just as important as those who keep track of controlling costs. In a church, the music ministry is just as important as the discipleship ministry. (I wrote about that HERE)

Ability to make unpopular decisions

The senior leader must make the wisest decision possible — for the entire good of the organization — based on all the information he or she can gather — even when that means the decision will not be popular. And, that’s hard. In fact, at times it can produce a loneliness of leadership that keeps many from being able to handle the senior leader position. Leadership involves change and some people can navigate through the reactions people have to change better than others. (I previously wrote about the Emotions of Change. Senior leaders must learn to expect and deal with all of them.)

Ability to embrace healthy conflict for the good of the organization

Wherever there are people there will be conflict. The senior leader can’t shy away from conflict that is critical to maintain the health of the organization. The senior leader must recognize the importance of allowing times of conflict to strengthen the organization. They shouldn’t go looking for conflict, but not run from it either. It’s a delicate balance at times. (I wrote about ways to address healthy conflict HERE.)

If you don’t have these abilities — don’t quit leading. Although, if you would after reading one opinion blog post maybe you should. (Just saying.) I don’t have all of these perfected. I’m very much a continual work in progress. But, I do believe it’s important to recognize areas of improvement and seek ways to grow as a senior leader.

I’m sure there are others. These are from my observations and experiences. What is missing from my list? What would you add?

Make this post better: Share examples of ineffective senior level leaders you’ve known and which of these were lacking from his or her abilities.

10 Scenarios to Help Determine if it’s Time to Quit

Job loss concept

How do you know when it’s time to leave an organization?

In a previous post I wrote “Leave Before You Have To”. Sometimes it’s more damaging to stay than to quit.

I am asked frequently to help someone think through the decision of whether to stay or to leave their current position. Obviously, if God calls you to stay somewhere, you should stay. Period. No questions asked. If God calls you to it — even when you’re miserable — you stay.

But many times, in my experience, we stay for the wrong reasons. We stay for a false sense of loyalty. We stay because we are afraid. We stay because we don’t know what we would do if we left.

The following are some times to consider leaving. I think these may apply if you are in a church or business setting.

This decision should never been entered lightly. I believe in loyalty. But, when careful consideration and prayer has been given, there are some common indications it’s time to move on to something else.

Here are 10 scenarios that may indicate it’s time to leave:

When God has freed you from your commitment – I believe God’s call is ultimately to the person of Christ, not to a place, but there are times God has us in a specific place for a specific season. You may only be a leader for a season. If you sense God has released you to pursue other positions, it may soon be time to leave.

When your work is finished – It could be that you’ve accomplished what you were sent to accomplish. I once wrote about leaders needing a challenge to stay motivated. If you have become too comfortable, it may be a time God is preparing you for a change…a new challenge. (Read more of that thought HERE.)

When your heart has left the organization or it’s vision – Sometimes you need to reenergize your heart. If God hasn’t released you from the position, for example, then you have to find a way to make it work. In many cases, however, you are freed to move elsewhere. You shouldn’t harm the organization by staying when you no longer have a heart for the mission. If you’ve quit having fun, don’t keep making life miserable for everyone else.

When you can’t support the leadership – You need to know where the power rests in the organization. It’s nearly impossible to change the organization working against an ingrained power structure. Ask yourself, “If it’s always going to be like this here, would I be content staying?”

When your family or personal life is suffering, because of the demands of the organization – If you have to neglect one of them, your career or your family, in twenty years, which do you hope it will have been?

When your mind starts working against the mission of the organization – If you would rather see the place fail than succeed; it could clearly be time to go.

When your relationship with co-workers or leadership is damaged beyond repair – You should try to work out these differences, you certainly should offer grace and forgiveness, but when it is obvious a professional relationship cannot be mended, it may be time to move forward with your life.

If the organization or senior leadership is venturing into immoral or unethical practices – Don’t get caught in the next news scandal.

When you find yourself physically ill if work crosses your mind – On the weekend (or when you are off work), if the emotional stress is greater than you can handle, you may need to protect your health over your career.

When you don’t have the energy to pull your own weight – For whatever reason, whether it’s because you’ve given up, you are bored, or just can’t keep up the pace, if you are dragging down productivity and you don’t have the incentive to improve, perhaps it’s time for a change in your workplace.

Please understand. I’m not a quitter. God may leave you in the miserable environment for a season…or even years. He certainly did for some of the men and women in Bible history. I also believe that the times described above are not always to be viewed as negative experiences. Sometimes God uses the difficult experiences of life to draw us to Him and to open our eyes to the next opportunity He has for us. I would have never made some of the moves I’ve made in life…that I know now were of God…had it not been for my miserable situation at the time.

At the same time, I believe there are times a false sense of loyalty, co-dependency or irrational fear keeps us from moving forward even though God is not holding us to the position. In my opinion, protecting our heart is more important than protecting a professional position. I wouldn’t make a decision solely on just one of these scenarios, but if numerous of them apply…

Consider this list as it compares to your situation, then ask God to confirm in your heart:

  • If you are free to leave.
  • If now is the time.

What would you add to my list?

You might also read: Discerning a Change in Ministry Assignment

7 Suggestions for Challenging a Controlling Leader

Business People having conversation with colleague during break

After one of my posts about controlling leadership, I received this question:

Any chance there is an upcoming post or two on how/when/where to confront a controlling leader? Especially for those of us who have had it drilled into our heads from childhood to not question authority? Some practical, nitty gritty tips would be really helpful.

That’s a pretty big request and I’m not sure I can speak into specific situations with a general response, but I think it’s a topic worth considering.

I wrote previously. In my previous post I wrote about the 3 options with a controlling leader. They are Quit, Compromise or Collaborate. In order to get to collaboration — which most of us would want — there almost always has to be a challenge to the controlling leadership. This would be an expansion of the “challenge” thought.

I should point out that while I believe the Bible teaches to respect authority, I don’t believe it says we must ignore the abuse of authority. All children should honor their parents, for example, but respect is never an excuse for abuse. There are times when it is appropriate to confront authority. Jesus certainly did during His earthly ministry.

Here are 7 suggestions with how to challenge a controlling leader:

Discern the need – Pray about it. Talk it through with a select few you can trust with their confidence — emphasis on select few. You should make sure your perception of this leader is correct. Is it them…or is it you? Then ask this question: Is this my responsibility? Do I sense the burden to do this? Will it make a difference, and if not, do I feel compelled to do it anyway?

Consider the timing – When addressing any conflict, timing is everything. Pick a day when things appear to be going well — from the leader’s perspective. Find the least stressful, calmest time you can find. You want to catch the leader in the best mood possible. If necessary, schedule an appointment with the leader.

Plan your approach – What are you going to say? How will you say it? Will you do this alone or with someone else? You may want to write your response first and rehearse it. In stressful situations, I think it is okay to bring notes. It shows you came prepared and have thought about the issue. Make sure you show as much respect for the leader as you can. Balance your critique with ample and genuine compliments. (There are even times, depending on the expected response of the leader or your expected ability to keep your composure where I would recommend writing a letter. I wrote about how to do that HERE.)

Bite the bullet – You can keep putting it off, but at some point you’ll have to approach the controlling leader if you hope to see a change. It will never be easy, but who knows that you were not put in this place for “such a time as this” — and by this point you’ve already discerned the need to do this.

Couch in love and respect – This can’t be over-emphasized. People don’t listen to people who don’t show genuine love for them or at least the respect the things or people they love. Most controlling leaders are hungry for respect…it’s part of their problem…so if you want to gain their attention, be respectful. (Again, because I know this is difficult for some people, but being respectful does not mean being silent, just as being meek or gentle does not mean being weak.)

Be clear and direct – Know what you offer to the leader that can add value to the team — and to the leader. Have some specific areas where you can collaborate with the leader. This is very important. Vagueness accomplishes nothing. Don’t make the leader wonder what you are talking about when you confront him or her. Talking around the problem will not be clear to a controlling leader. Most controlling leaders think their control is a sign of good leadership. They don’t realize they are the problem. You will not want to take this step to confront more than once, so make sure you are clear with the issues as you see them and how you want to help. If you’re going through the stress and preparation to confront, make sure you address the real problem.

Live with your consequences – You’ve prayed and prepared. This is not something you will do very often in your career. But, if you know you are doing the right thing, you confronted the leader with love and respect, you were clear about the problems, then the response of the leader is out of your hands. You can’t control the leader’s response, but you can control your response to the leader’s response. Be willing to live with the consequences of your actions. That may be the one thing you end up modeling for the controlling leader.

3 Ways to Respond to a Controlling Leader

One,Two or Three list written on a blackboard

I have written a good deal recently about controlling leadership.

Read ways people respond to controlling leadership and some warning signs you may be a controlling leader.

Most of my posts stem from current or past experience in leadership. Since I’ve been blogging on leadership, I have talked with dozens individuals in ministry or business who experience this type of leader. It impacts their personal leadership, as well as the health of their organization — and honestly, even their own personal health. Many younger leaders have told me they feel a controlling leader not only controls their work — but their career and their life.

And, the issue of controlling leadership seems to be more in discussion now than ever in my leadership career. And, that’s true in the church also. I hear almost weekly about a senior pastor who controls every decision in the church — and most of the time the staff culture is very unhealthy — even toxic.

One theory I have is that younger leaders want a voice at the table early in their leadership. They are intersecting with seasoned leaders who are trying to hold on to power. I get that. But, how should a younger leader respond?

I previously wrote a post about “leading up“. Please read that post first. Although it addresses a more senior leader who may not be giving a younger leader a seat at the table — not one who is necessarily a controlling leader. But, some of those principles apply here also. For example, I do think it’s important to respect a leadership position — even controlling leadership — especially if you intend to continue in the position.

Controlling leadership appears to be a more difficult issue, however. A leader who attempts to control everything within his or her realm is much harder to influence.

So, here is my answer when I’m asked how to respond — long-term at least — to a controlling leader. You basically have three options, in my opinion. These three are summaries — and there are probably multiple points under each one — but three and no more.

Here are 3 ways you can respond to a controlling leader:


I have had people challenge me that winners never quit, but I disagree. If you were placed in a position by a call of God, this may not be an option until God releases you — and I personally would consider the other two options before considering this option — but sometimes the best thing for the individual and the organization is to make a fresh start. And, there’s nothing to be ashamed of in that if that is indeed the only option. It should not be a rash or a vindictive decision, you should attempt to leave on the best terms possible, but you simply may not mesh with this particular leadership style. And, to be true to yourself and have integrity in your loyalty you may have to seek another environment that allows you to better grow as a leader and person. I have seen too many people stay too long. And, sometimes they stay for all the wrong reasons. It could be fear, a false sense of loyalty or just because they think they have no other options. It injures them, the rest of the team, and interrupts the progress towards a vision that hopefully is bigger than any one person.

(You might read my post on 10 ways to know it’s time to quit.)


You can learn to live with what you’ve got in a leader. There are seasons where you have no choice. You can’t find anything new and you need the work. (Sometimes we call those seasons — life.) There are also times God has placed you where you are for a reason. You’ll learn a lot from the situation — even with a controlling leader. If nothing more, you can use the time to reinforce how you will someday lead differently. If you compromise — if you stay — you should remain respectful, even loyal. You should do your best work, have a positive attitude towards others, and attempt to make life better for those around you. That’s the right thing to do. We don’t get an excuse from Biblical principles because we don’t agree with the leadership. If you can’t, one of the other options should be your choice, in my opinion.


This is almost always the best option. Most leaders — even controlling leaders — have areas in which they are willing to admit they need help. Much of their willingness to do so will be based on the degree of trust placed in others or how important an issue is to them personally. Working to build a relationship of trust and seeking common ground on issues allows some people to excel under a controlling leader. If the leader sees you not as a threat, but as a compliment to their leadership, they may be more willing to invite your input.

To get there will require a risk on your part. You’ll have to gracefully challenge the controlling leadership. Like it or not, most complex issues do not disappear on their own. A good question to ask yourself: “Will I be content if this environment continues for the next year or longer?” Also, “Do I think it’s time to move on to something else?” If the answer to both questions is no, then the best option may be to challenge the controlling leadership — attempting to get to some collaborative work — where you can do meaningful work for which you feel valued — and less controlled. It should be noted that you can’t challenge anyone daily, so a challenge like this should be planned, considerate, and infrequent, but it may be this is the best option or the only one with which you can live. And, it may take one person to introduce change to the rest of the organization. (In my next post, I’ll get more specific with how to do this type challenge.)

Let me offer this closing reminder:

Every situation is unique and so no post can answer your specific situation. These are very broad, general responses. Your response may fit someone between one of them (probably between the second and third.) One thing that all situations share, however, is that regardless of how one responds, each of us have an obligation to be humble, kind, gracious people. In either of these three steps we should behave likewise. Also, remember that your response to a controlling leader often determines his or her response. Momma always said “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” The Bible says it another way…”A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)