Handle Little Things Before They Become Big Things

wet floor sign

Cheryl and I were in a grocery store out of town some time ago. We turned the corner from one aisle into a main aisle and instantly saw a gentleman slip and fall. He wasn’t injured – or at least he said he wasn’t – but it shook him up quite a bit before he scrambled to his feet. We then noticed he had slipped on something liquid on the floor. Someone standing around said the spill had been there a while. As I expected, within minutes every manager in the store, easily identified by their store shirts and badges, were on the scene – making sure the man was okay and the spill was throughly handled.

As I left the store, I saw managers roaming the store, picking up everything they could find on the floor. There was plenty to find. The store was dirty from what appeared to be a very busy day of shopping and trash was everywhere. I had noticed it as we walked around the store, but it was even more obvious now.

It was a good reminder of a leadership principle.

Good leaders take care of little things before they become big things.

I’m not suggesting a leader be a micro-manager. To the contrary – I’ve written plenty on this blog to indicate otherwise. I am suggesting the leader needs to always be observant of the things others can’t see or aren’t looking for, which can impact the success of the overall vision.

I started working in the grocery store when I was 12 years old. The store’s owner seemed to always know what was going on in the store, often pointing out things needing to be fine I or other employees hadn’t noticed and, in our opinion, didn’t matter. It was sometimes aggravating to this teenager, but years later, when I worked in retail management, reflecting back it began to make sense to me why  my boss had responded as he did. I began to copy his intentionality. I refused to do any paperwork on Saturdays, for example. The busiest shopping day was reserved solely for customers. I made sure I was roaming the store constantly, looking for anything which might be a problem or an opportunity. I was usually the first to recognize a customer looking for an open register or if the store’s temperature was too hot or too cold.

As a pastor, I had an intern who shadowed me for the summer. His initial observation was I paid attention to details. I remember explaining to him part of my job was to look for things others didn’t see. I can’t catch everything, but as the leader I certainly need to be looking for anything which could make or break a successful day in the experience of a visitor. This could be the spill on the floor, a long line at children’s check-in, the missing volunteer or the visitor who looks like they are struggling to find their way in our building.

A couple years ago my younger son was preaching for me one Sunday. We arrived at the church and I instantly spotted a trash can overflowing with garbage. I quickly began to address the issue. My son said, “Dad, I thought you weren’t a detail person. How did you notice the trash can was full?”

I assured him I am not a detail person – unless the detail has an impact on the people who may walk on our campus each Sunday. That is a detail which matters. I want to take care of little things before they become big things.

I have learned it well. It could be with spills on the floor – or with people on the team. Big things often start small – so pay attention to the little things which matter. 

One way I do this is to simply ask myself a question, such as: If this continues – and gets bigger – how much of a problem is it going to be? Things are almost always easier to deal with when they are smaller than when we let them become “big things”. 

By the way, this principle applies in other areas of your life also – such as in your marriage – your parenting – or your personal disciplines. 

Leader, what seemingly little things do you need to address before they become the big things?

12 Leadership Principles of Jesus

These Inspire Me

Jesus hand

There are many leaders I admire who have influenced my own leadership. I admire the teachings on leadership by guys like John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, and Patrick Lencioni. There are leaders from my personal life such as a former pastor, a former boss, a high school principal and leaders in my own community who have influenced me as I have watched their leadership. I also love to learn from a great athletic coach. I have been known to choose the teams I support by the coach that leads them. I love leadership. It is so needed these days – especially in our churches.

The principles, however, which I admire most are found in the leadership style of Jesus. Jesus’ leadership is still impacting culture today.

Here are 12 leadership principles of Jesus that inspire me:

Jesus was willing to invest in people others would have dismissed.

Consider the disciples. They were not the “religious” elite, yet Jesus used them to start His church.

Jesus released responsibility and ownership in a ministry.

Consider how Jesus sent the disciples out on their own. No micro-management it appears.

Jesus had a leadership succession plan. 

Jesus consistently reminded the disciples He wouldn’t always be with them. Of course, He was still the “leader”, but He left others to take the ministry forward.

Jesus practiced servant leadership better than anyone.

The King of kings was willing to wash the feet of His followers.

Jesus was laser focused on His vision.

Regardless of the persecutions or distractions, Jesus kept on the mission God had called Him to complete.

Jesus handled distractions with grace.

When the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years touched His garment, Jesus stopped to heal her, even though headed to a definite purpose.

Jesus was into self-development.

Jesus constantly slipped away to spend time with God.

Jesus was into leadership development and replacement.

He very purposefully prepared the disciples to take over the ministry. He pushed people beyond what they felt they were capable of doing.

Jesus held followers to high expectations.

Jesus was not afraid to make huge requests of people. “Follow Me” meant the disciples had to drop their agenda to do so. He told the disciples they must be willing to lose everything to follow Him.

Jesus cared more about people than about rules and regulations.

He was willing to jeopardize Himself personally by breaking the “rules” to help someone in need.

Jesus celebrated success in ministry.

He rewarded people generously who were faithful to Him and His cause.

Jesus finished well.

Any questions whether His ministry was effective? Still working today.

Any other reasons you admire the leadership of Jesus?

3 Tips from Jesus Recruiting Methods

Handshake - extraversio

In John Chapter One, I see three methods Jesus used in recruitment. I think these may be helpful to those of us trying to recruit more volunteers – especially those of us who are leading teams during a transition or start-up phase.

Recruiting the right people is paramount to the success of any organization and Jesus obviously was the best.

Here are 3 tips of a Jesus recruitment methods:

Recruit, experienced transitional people.

Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist and then of Jesus (John 1:35, 40).

It’s common for a leader – especially a new leader – to want their “own” team. It makes sense to surround yourself with some people you know are loyal to you and you can train with your way of doing things. 

When developing a team or starting a new team, however, it’s also good to have someone who may have even more experience than you in what you are doing. You need individuals who know how to do what needs to be done, can be influencers to the rest of the team, and who have proven their loyalty on other teams. These people are valuable assets to any team.

In my current role, the associate pastor offered me his resignation before I arrived. He had been at the church 15 years or so and had weathered good times and bad in the church. I refused to accept it. Instead, I encouraged him to move into a larger office – next to mine – gave him greater decision-making authority, and worked to earn his trust. He has been invaluable in my success at the church. I’m confident I have a loyal friend for life.

Allow the team to help recruit the team.

Andrew found Simon — Philip found Nathanael. (John 1:41, 45) Apparently, Jesus allowed some of the disciples to help recruit other disciples. The team helped add to the team.

This is a great reminder when you are building a team, adding other team members, or replacing a team member. Get your team involved in recruiting. Their support will increase for the new recruits – and, by spreading the search process – you’ll have an increased chance of finding better people.

When I arrived in this current position, I made sure I had hiring authority. I think it’s critical for a leader’s success. I would have been foolish, however, not to include others in the selection process, so I had several people interview and meet with the new staff members prior to them joining our team. My wife was one of those who assisted me. They helped me by lending credibility to the new staff and making sure I was being wise in the decisions we made.

Recruit people who are ready for a challenge.

Some of the disciples Jesus recruited were apparently already looking for the Messiah. (John 1:38, 41, 45) They were ready for Him when He came, because they were already seeking something. Jesus recruited with big asks – basically, “Drop everything else and follow me!” I’d say this is a big ask.

Obviously, I’m not Jesus, but I believe it is important when looking for new people on a team to find people who will buy into your vision as a leader, who will remain loyal over time and who are ready for a challenge. If you have to talk them into something, or gain their initial trust after the hire, you’ll waste valuable time before they completely commit. (This doesn’t mean there aren’t deeper levels of trust to be gained over time, but initially they should be convinced this is where God wants them to be.)

One practice I have continually used in recruiting new team members is to talk them out of taking the position – after I’m sure they want the job and I want them to take it. I want to help them test their hearts. I want them to know the unique challenges ahead (as far as I know them at the time). I don’t hide anything – even the less than glamorous parts. We have hired several staff members on faith the first year. The budget did not support them, but we believed God would provide. He did. This was almost always the case when I was in a church plant. If they are still interested after they know all the down sides of the position then I know we will make a great team.

Perhaps some of the recruiting methods of Jesus can help you in your recruitment.

Silence Can Be Deadly!

Especially when people are involved.

Mouth covered with tape

You’ve heard silence is golden – and it’s true. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 5:2. “God is in heaven and you are on earth. Let your words be few.”. James tells us to guard the tongue. I often get in less trouble when I talk less.

And, maybe this is exactly the encouragement you need from this post. Quit talking long enough to think before you speak – or before you post on Facebook! 

But, silence can also be deadly.

Especially in a team environment, in an organizational structure, or in a relational setting – anywhere people are closely involved with other people – silence can be a curse. When working on a project, implementing change, planning for the future – silence can kill you!

The point of this post is simply to remind you – people only know what they know. They often won’t know what they need to know unless you tell them.

In the process of leading people, keep people updated with what you know. Even if you don’t have all the answers, let them have the answers you do have.

When people don’t have information, they tend to invent their own scenarios.

Silence fuels rumors. They make up stories. They stretch and fabricate what the little they do know. Fear, tension, and frustrations rise. Even those who were once fully invested often become discouraged. Morale is injured and enthusiasm wanes.

And, all of these mostly emotionally-driven reactions are fueled by the unknown – by silence.

In my experience, people will be more patient if they receive adequate communication while they wait for the final details. Of course, the main thing people need to know is the why behind what you are doing – and you must keep reminding the – but they also want details of progress along the way. If you want to keep progress moving forward – break the silence and share information. Keep people informed. Communicate!

Have you experienced the pain of silence in a team, organizational, or relationship setting?

I Am a Pastor – And, I May Be Suffering From Burnout

What Now?

Desperate man holding his face in hands appears in a miserable state of unhappiness.

Pastor burnout is a common problem in the church today. I hear from pastors on a regular basis facing the stress of ministry. 

Here’s a common scenario, which can cause burnout to happen. These may be some of the more common ones I hear. Perhaps this is your story.

  • The church gets to a certain level.
  • Things start to slow down.
  • The church stops growing.
  • Maybe even slides backwards for a while.
  • Money becomes tighter.
  • People are complaining more.
  • Everyone is asking the pastor “What’s next?” “What do we do now?”
  • You’ve done everything you know how to do.
  • You feel stuck – trapped – afraid – paralyzed – confused – overwhelmed.

And, this is just one scenario. There are so many others. It could be the church is still growing – even rapidly, but the pastor is doing more now than previously. There never seems to be an end to the growth. People are demanding more and more from the pastor – there’s pressure to continue the increases – but, it feels like life is always going to be running out of control.

Pick your own scenario, but I know this – if not careful, the stress will quickly cause the pastor to:

  • Become more sensitive to criticism and stress.
  • Stop reading and learning techniques and strategies.
  • Quit taking risks – for fear of messing something up.
  • Become protective – maybe even isolated from others.
  • Develop excuses for every challenge.
  • Respond defensively to every challenge.
  • Begin to question your abilities.
  • Work harder, but not smarter.

No doubt, even if only a few of these are true, these are impacting every area of your life – including your family. 

If this is your story, I have a few words of encouragement:

  • Get help now. It might be professional help or not, but ask for help today!  You wouldn’t encourage the people you lead to do life alone – so why is it a good idea for you?
  • Surround yourself with people. Not the opposite, which can be a usual response to times like this – especially it seems by pastors.  Find people who love you – they are there if you look.
  • Find your center of gravity again. (Most likely this is Christ, right?)
  • Get back to the truth you already know.  You may start by reading 1 Kings 19 for another time one of God’s servants fell on difficult times. Read the Psalms. 
  • Renew the passion for your vision. God called you to something. He never said it would be easy. God-given dreams rarely are. Let whatever fuels you most fuel you again. This may mean you have to stop doing a lot of other things – even things people expect you to do – so you can better concentrate on what God called you to do. And, I assure you it wasn’t to please everyone. Plus, some of the stuff you are doing someone else probably needs to be – it’s could even be what God has gifted them to uniquely do. 
  • Start doing something towards a goal.  Inactivity never solved anything. you may need to rest – I’ll cover that too, but you may need to see progress towards something new to refuel your tank. Again, this doesn’t mean doing more. It means doing something better with your time – and trusting others with some of the things you’ve been doing. It means getting better as a leader – a Jethro counseled Moses type of leader. An Acts 6 type of leader. 
  • Look for some small wins.  It will help rebuild your confidence.
  • Stay faithful in the small things. Those disciplines you once had – such as reading your Bible everyday – but, you may have gotten distracted from them – they are even more important now. 
  • Discipline your Sabbath. This is huge! God didn’t give this command for seasons when everything was “caught up” and there were no more immediate demands. Those days never come! God knew what He was doing when He commanded a regular Sabbath – and, when He demonstrated it for us in His Creation. So, certainly a day a week, but if you need more it would be better to quit for a quarter than be out for the rest of the game.

Thanks for serving – even when the serving gets difficult. I am praying for you.

(You can make this post better if you share resources you know of to support pastors who may be facing burnout.)

 

Even in the best restaurants…

The napkin goes under the table leg.

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Even in the best restaurants – they still put napkins under a wobbly table.

They just use nicer napkins.

I was made aware of a wealthy family who took advantage of a couple of much lesser means. It was frustrating, because they were “legal”, but seemingly inflexible and even hurtful in their actions. 

The poorer couple was selling something to pay some unexpected expenses. In the closing documents they made a simple paperwork error in their original calculations – just a couple hundred dollars on a many thousand dollar sale – and, the wealthier couple held them to their original agreement – knowing it was an honest mistake and not the understood verbal agreement. They made sure every single penny was paid. 

It was a MAJOR loss for one couple. They needed every dime they could get. The extra money meant nothing in the grand scheme to the other couple – pocket change.

Of course, the wealthy was completely within their “rights”, but was it really the right thing to do? 

I hate when stuff like this happens. Jesus told a similar story I seem to recall. 

Shortly afterwards, Cheryl and I ate in a really nice restaurant. We were on vacation and treated ourselves to a great meal. It was one of those white tablecloth places where we had more than one waiter/waitress. You have forks you don’t – or I don’t – know how to use. 

At the table next to us sat a nice, well-dressed couple, also enjoying a romantic evening. I could tell the couple were struggling with the rocking table. It wobbled whenever they leaned on it.

What did they do?

The well-dressed man leaned over, lifted the table slightly, and stuck a folded napkin underneath the leg. Problem solved.

The two stories working together reminded me of an even greater life principle – far more important than money or wobbly tables. It’s one I hope we all remember. 

While some of us may think we are better than others – when it comes to a wobbly table – we are all the same.

My mom used to say, “Everyone puts there pants on one leg at a time.”

I say, “Everyone fixes a wobbly table with a folded napkin.” (And, sometimes with packages of sugar.) 

God says, “Don’t think you are better than you really are.” (Romans 12:3)

Have you been looking down others who have less than you? Maybe who don’t share your opinions or agree with your views? Have you judged people unfairly based on your expectations of them? 

Be honest. We can all be guilty of it at some level.

God, continue to mold us into who you want us to be – seeing others as you see them.

5 Ways to Help the Church Even When You Struggle to Support the Pastor

Square guy-Thumbs down

On a regular basis, I receive an email from a staff member of a church with the same question. They are in an awkward position where they don’t respect the pastor, but love the church. They feel loyal to the church – even called – and don’t want to hurt the church, but they simply struggle to support the pastor – whether because of personal issues or leadership issues. Their question is: How do they respond to a leader they can’t support, but who is their boss and the church’s called leader?

I once had a staff member emailed me to say his pastor was extremely popular in the church, but consistently received recognition and support others the team deserved. The pastor, in this staff member’s opinion, often took advantage of the church’s support of the pastor and the church didn’t realize it. The staff member knew he probably didn’t have enough power to do anything about it – and, again, he didn’t want to hurt the church. But, he also doesn’t respect his pastor. His question was: What’s the best way to respond?

Great questions. I wish there were easy answers.

Here are 5 suggestions to help the church when you don’t support the pastor:

Don’t talk behind the pastor’s back

It would be easy – and maybe natural – to share your frustration, but chances are doing so will only backfire against you and cause tension in the church. People in the church will have the same struggle you have, feeling a sense of loyalty to the pastor. Putting them in an awkward position isn’t fair to them or the pastor. And, it certainly isn’t the biblical approach. 

Be honest to the pastor’s face

It’s never easy, but it’s always best. Conflict is hard. I’ve learned it’s often avoided in churches. But, unless you are going to suck it up and say nothing, the first person you need to share your frustration with is the person with whom you are frustrated. It’s conflict resolution 101, and it is the biblical way. 

This should be planned and you should think through how you will approach this with respect, grace and truth. You should address the issues which concern you about the pastor directly – and, you should certainly own anything you need to improve upon. (There is always the chance the problem is more you than the pastor.) And, if you’ve already acted in disrespectful ways against the pastor you should apologize. The fact is, however, the pastor may not even realize why you would be having a problem. We only know what we know. (I’ve written before on how to lead those who are supposed to lead you.)
Find other voices to invest in you

One role of the leader is to invest personally in the people being led. Most likely you’re missing out on this – either because the pastor isn’t doing it or you aren’t allowing the pastor to influence you. This is understandable, but you need to find others who will invest in you. You would be surprised how willing other pastors may be to assist you if they are asked. They will be honored you thought of them and willing to help you think through your current situation. You will need this help. If not a pastor, find a respected business leader in the church or community who can coach you through life and leadership.

Find a place to vent

Surround yourself with some people with whom you can be brutally honest. It’s probably best these people be outside the church, but you need a place to share your heart. You’ll wither and die emotionally if you bottle up your current emotions for too long. Be selective who you bare your soul to, but be vulnerable enough to share your concerns with a few others – emphasis on the few. It will help keep you from burning out in ministry.

Leave when you can’t respect the leadership (and tell the pastor first)

Again, this is hard, but you need to be mature enough and responsible enough to consider the bigger picture. You will never fully support every decision any leader makes. You may not even be best friends with the pastor. And, I can’t tell you how many people have left our staff to go somewhere else only to realize after they were gone our environment was better than they realized when they were with us. The same may be true for you. The grass is often greener on the other side until we are on the other side. 

When, however, you have no more respect for the leadership, unless there is a moral issue at stake, you need to consider the welfare of the church ahead of your own. Have the hard, honest conversation, but leave before your lack of respect is evident to those around you. It’s the right thing to do.

Habakkuk, Chapter 1

A message for our time too?

Here Are My Prayers

We don’t know a lot about Habakkuk, but we do know about the day in which he lived. It was a day where the world was increasingly growing darker. There was injustice, immorality, violence and corruption.

Almost like our day. Almost like sitting with a bowl of stale popcorn and watching CNN or Fox News all day, everyday.

Habakkuk is the story of a man who trusted God, yet was very perplexed. He wasn’t happy about all he was seeing. Habakkuk was a bold prophet – and, so he presented his plea to God.

Habakkuk Chapter 1 from ron edmondson on Vimeo.