One reason leadership can make a person feel isolated is the weight of responsibility on the one who claims to be the senior leader in an organization. Whether in the business world, in non-profits or in churches, there are some things that happen in any organization that senior leaders help determine — whether intentional or not. In each of these cases, inactivity determines them just as much as activity.
The weight of that responsibility can be overwhelming at times, but it’s unavoidable to a point. It comes with the position.
Successful senior leaders are cognizant of their input in them and place intentional energy towards them.
Here are 4 Tasks of the Senior Leader:
Vision – The senior leader is the ordained caretaker of the organization’s vision. The vision may be predetermined by a board, or in the church’s sense, obviously by Jesus, but all leaders place his or her spin on implementing the vision. At the end of the day the senior leader is held responsible for seeing that the organization’s vision is attained. And, inactivity towards this will — as stated — also determine the vision — at least the perceived vision — by the organization.
Values – The senior leader must carry out, protect, or shape the culture of the organization. Much of the character of the organization will be determined or maintained by the way this person leads and lives his or her life. This is so true in the life of a church. The moral integrity of a church will seldom be greater than the pastor’s personal moral integrity.
Victories- Senior leaders determine what matters to an organization. He or she ultimately defines a win by setting end goals primarily by what is most celebrated, acknowledged or rewarded. An organization cannot do everything and this individual’s leadership determines priorities, initiatives and major objectives to be accomplished. Senior pastors are one of the single greatest influences of what a church does well by the intentionality — or lack thereof — towards the things it labels a victory.
Velocity –The Senior leader sets the speed by which the organization will operate. The lead person is in the role of balancing present tasks and future opportunities. His or her individual pace and expectations of others determines how fast the organization functions, changes, adapts, and responds. The lead pastor also sets the pace — fast or slow — of the church in accomplishing her mission.
Most organizations will have a governing body — board of directors, stakeholders or elders — to oversee the organization, hire the senior pastor or CEO and hold title to the organization, but it is ultimately the person in that role who daily carries out these four functions. A senior leader can delegate, form a great team environment, seek wise counsel, or even shirk his or her responsibility, but to fulfill the role of the senior leader effectively there are some responsibilities that rest solely with this position.
Whether or not the senior leader consciously recognizes his or her role in accomplishing these tasks, by sheer position he or she is determining the way the organization performs in these four areas.
Are you a senior leader in your organization? Do you feel the weight of these responsibilities? Do you understand your important role in setting these four principles of the organization?
This is a guest post by my friend Thom S. Rainer.
I have a great love for local congregations. To be sure, I’ve never been in a perfect church. They just don’t exist.
But I still love local churches.
One of my greatest joys in the past several years has been to see and work with churches that have experienced significant turnaround. While that turnaround is typically evident in attendance numbers, it is much more than that.
I recently categorized those reasons some churches experience revitalization. I then compared them to churches that have not been revitalized. I found seven differences between the two sets of churches.
These are the seven traits unique to the revitalized churches:
The leaders and members faced reality. One of the reasons most churches don’t experience revitalization is their unwillingness to “look in the mirror.” Denial leads to decline which leads to death.
Many in the church began explicitly praying for God to revitalize the church. I know of a leadership group in one church that prayed every week for over two years. The church is now in true revitalization.
The churches had an explicit and clear focus on the gospel. Preaching became clearly gospel-centered. Ministries became gospel-centered. And many members began intentionally sharing the gospel, which brings me to the next reason.
Members did not just talk evangelism; they did evangelism. I did not see a specific approach or methodology to share the gospel in these congregations. It was clear, however, that there was a more focused intentionality on sharing Christ than in many previous years.
Many members in these churches began focusing on serving Christ through the church rather than seeking their own preferences. Another way of stating it is that these members became other-focused rather than self-focused. This attitude seemed to be directly connected to their prayers for revitalization.
These churches raised the bar of expectations. Thus membership in these congregations became meaningful. Members moved from spectators to participants.
The churches developed a clear process of discipleship. The members became more immersed in the Word. There was a clear and cogent plan to help members grow in their walk with Christ.
Do not count me among those who have their heads in the sand about the state of congregations in North America. As many as 100,000 churches are very sick or dying. Many more also need revitalization.
I hope you can join me for a video consultation on church revitalization at RevitalizedChurches.com. It will almost be like I’m at your church offering you guidance and hope toward the future. You can CLICK HERE to sign up for the four-part overview of the series at no cost.
Yes, I remain an obnoxious optimist about local churches. I am seeing too many indicators of His work to believe otherwise. Let me hear from you. And I hope to see you in the video consultation on church revitalization.
What are your perspectives on the need for church revitalization? What do you think might be missing in many churches?
One disappointment I have had in ministry is watching people come to church, get excited for a time, then disappear. You spend energy and heart on people, grow to love them and get excited about them, and suddenly they are nowhere to be found.
The biggest disappointment is not people who transfer to another church. I’m okay with that if it helps them better grow in their relationship with Christ. I’m talking about people who quit going to church altogether. They are in one day — out the next.
What happens to them? Why do they leave?
I’ve found there are often similar reasons that are repeated continuously. Perhaps you have seen this too.
Here are 7 reasons people disappear from church:
Burn out - These people came out of the gate too strong in the church. They showed up, got excited, and signed up for everything. They got so busy doing church they failed to enjoy being the church.
Injury - People inside the church can be cruel. I hate when that happens, but it’s true. These people experienced some of those people and they couldn’t move past it.
Distractions - These people got distracted by seemingly good things. They were playing travel ball, loving the fast life, traveling every weekend. Over time, their lifestyle of attending becomes the habit of not attending.
Life change – These people had a lifestyle change, such as divorce or re-marriage — or they move to a new community — and never re-connect with a church.
Mistakes - These people messed up! They made a mistake that may be public — or at least they feel that it will be known — and the place that should dispense grace appears either refuses it or they feel that it would. Many times when a person feels that way it is more perception than reality, but the way a person feels about themselves may determine whether they remain committed to church.
Power struggle – These people had an agenda. They were pursuing an issue — or a position — and when it their demands weren’t met and they couldn’t overpower the system, they left.
Lack of connection – These people never connected with others on a deeper level. As a result, they never felt really a “part” of the church.
Pastors, have you experienced these walking with people in ministry? How do you address these issues?
Obviously, we need to do all we can to help people become disciples. Knowing why they leave may be helpful. We can’t address some of these issues — maybe most — much of this is out of our control. But, the more we understand the more we can help people as they experience these.
I think there is also a word here to the one who has disappeared or is on the verge. Beware. If you feel the need for the church in your life — or if you understand the Biblical mandate to be a part of a Body of believers — then guard your heart for these. And, help us know how to be a better church. In fact, come help us be a better church. Here’s one pastor (And, I know so many others) who is listening.
What other reasons would you add to my list?
Here is a quick thought when planning your organizational charts — especially for churches
Staff for needs. Don’t staff for structure.
I’ve seen this in so many organizations, but probably especially in the church.
We naturally assume that if a position comes open we have to fill it with the same title and function of the previous position.
That may or may not be wise.
Over time, if we only do what we’ve always done, we can end up with positions that are no longer the best use of limited resources for the church. Other positions that have more immediate relevancy aren’t filled — or even created — because we don’t have the funding to fill them.
This almost always happens as a result of the organization staffing for structure rather than staffing for needs.
The structure should not control staffing positions. Organizational needs should.
Maybe you need a communications director more than you need a _______ (whatever)_____. Or maybe you need two part-timers in different ministry areas more than you need one full time position. Ministry needs in the church change as the church changes.
Here’s something that’s proven valuable in my experience.
When you have available dollars — or when someone leaves and you have an open position, ask yourself some questions:
- Who do we need most now?
- What type person?
- What role do we need filled?
- What’s not getting done?
- What area needs the most attention?
- Where are the greatest opportunities?
- What has changed since this position was created?
- What is the best use of the these resources?
- Is there a better position out there than our current organizational structure allows?
Staffing a church is important. Kingdom dollars are at stake. We must spend them wisely.
In my recent post I contend that…
To be a kingdom building pastor you MUST be a community building pastor.
I admit that “must” is a strong word — and there are few things that I’m emphatic about unless they are Biblical, but I do believe that in order for us to reach people today we have to get outside the walls of our church buildings. And, that means we MUST do something intentional to make that happen. The community has to know — and believe — that we really do care for them. For me, being a community builder makes sense — and seems most effective.
And, we do love our community already, don’t we?
I certainly hope so. We believe we have the hope for the world as our central teaching. The Gospel is not to be a hidden truth but the light in the city on the highest hill. That means we must take our light into the world.
So the fair question to follow a post like that is how do you do it? How can a pastor — or ministry leader — be a community builder?
I don’t have all the ideas, but I have some suggestions.
Here are 7 ways to be a community-minded pastor:
Know key leaders – I think you should know who the leaders in the community are and know as many of them personally as possible. You may not be able to know the mayor of your city, depending on the city’s size, but could you know your local council representative? Could you know a school board member? You’ll be surprised how receptive many politicians are when constituents contact them — especially a leader who has an audience with a significant number of people. (And, anything over an average household can be considered significant.) Let me be clear that I never endorse candidates in my official capacity, but I do vote and it’s amazing when you’re active in the community how many people in your church want to know who you support.
Listen to concerns – Wherever you are, wherever you go, whatever you do in the community — whether at city hall, a school meeting or the grocery store or barbershop, listen to hear the things people are talking about around you. If you hear repeated themes you can almost guess that’s an issue on people’s minds. And, if you aren’t hearing anything — ask. Actually, ask anyway. And, don’t hear for what you want to do or where your church is already serving. Listen with an open mind to the real concerns of people. You may have different answers than they’ve thought of before. You know how to organize people. You represent people you can organize. That’s a powerful combination when addressing community needs.
Love what they love – I’ll get disagreement to this one, but I think it’s one of the more effective ways to be a community builder. I’m specifically talking about loving the culture of the city. I’ve seen pastors bash their community online. That’s foolish in my opinion. You can talk against community concerns in a way to rally support for a cause without bashing the community. People often feel about where they live — especially if they grew up there — the way they feel about their family. They can say bad things about them, but you better not. But, here’s where I’ll get the most disagreement — to me, this also includes loving the traditions they love — including their local sports teams. I was visiting a church recently and the pastor joked about the local college team. He referred to the fans as “sinners”. The crowd gave a rousing disapproval — and they laughed. It was funny. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, how much more effective he could have been endearing people to his leadership if he was “on their side” rather than always blatantly rooting for an opponent. It must be genuine of course, and I’m not suggesting you drop loyalties to other teams, but ask what cause are you more loyal to supporting and how supporting it will be most effective. I’m in the heart of the University of Kentucky Big Blue tradition. I get criticized repeatedly by my Tennessee fans as a “traitor”, but I’m telling you people like me better — and listen more — when I’m wearing Kentucky blue. God has called me to reach people in this community and I’ve discovered they love that I’m learning their unique culture and exploring and enjoying the uniqueness that is Kentucky. When I was in a military town, the more knowledge and support I could demonstrate about military service the more our soldiers and their families seemed to endear themselves to my leadership. And, don’t misunderstand, it is absolutely genuine for me. I am intentionally trying to love the people to whom God has placed me to minister — and part of that — as I would do for any family member — is learning to love the things they love.
Learn the community – One of the best things I did when I moved to Lexington two years ago is go through the Leadership Lexington program. The following year I went through Leadership Central Kentucky. I quickly learned things I might never have known about the community. It’s amazing now how I can answer questions about things we offer in the community that people can’t answer who have lived here for years. Most communities have something like this. Often they are found connected somehow to the local Chamber of Commerce or equivalent. You can also sign up for any local tours that the community offers. If the town is too small for anything like this, make appointments with people who are known in the community for their years of service to the community. Go prepared with questions and pick their brains about the community. Cheryl and I recently started volunteering at the city’s visitor center. We are doing this to give back, but also to get even more familiar with the city and what it has to offer.
Build your community network – You never know when you’re going to need it. Plus, there will always be people you may not know but people in your network will know them. I’m consistently asking people to connect me with people I should know in the community. And, that’s in all sectors of the community. Don’t limit your network to those society considers influential. I recently had one homeless person tell me of another homeless person I needed to know, because he is an influence in that segment of the community.
Serve somewhere in the community, besides your church – I think this is critical in community building, but also simply the right thing to do. As pastors, we expect people from the community to serve in the church. It’s only fair for us to give back to the community that is giving to us. Plus, we need to lead the way so that others in the church will serve in the community also. Finally, it’s the best way to meet people who need the hope that we have to share.
Lead your church to be community builders – This begins with a general desire to see the people of the church investing in the community. But it won’t happen by accident. It takes the intentionality of teaching and serving by example. And, most of all it takes consistency. This isn’t something we do in a campaign once a year. This must be a lifestyle — getting the church into the community — being community builders — so we can eventually be Kingdom builders.
What other suggestions do you have to be a community builder?
I was running recently on a route I’ve run many times, but I missed this sign until this particular run. It was too “good” not to stop and take a picture with my phone.
I saw the sign and the first word that popped in my head was “Closed”. As another sign I saw in a store window said recently (which I don’t completely understand) “Closed for Business”. (How can you be closed “for” business?)
None of us would intentionally place a sign like that on our church doors. “Closed for business”. I’m sure that’s not the intent this church has with this sign. Yet I’m certain that some of our practices serve the same purpose.
Over the years, Cheryl and I have visited dozens of churches. Whenever we travel we try to find a church. I’ve spoken at and consulted with a lot of churches. All types and sizes.
From personal experience — here are some ways you can place a closed sign to visitors on your church.
Only do “church” on Sunday. Don’t attempt to build community with people who attend — especially not with someone new to “the community”. Let people know by your actions — or lack of actions — that you’re comfortable with the people with you now and there is little room for new friendships. Don’t reach out to people you haven’t seen in a while. We recently visited a church, filled out a visitor card, and only placed our email and phone number on the card. Two months later we have yet to hear from anyone.
Don’t act like you’re happy to see people. Have no one greeting in the parking lots or at the doors. I once was the guest preacher at a church. Not one person greeted us in the church. I literally had to go find somebody to tell me when to preach. Not one other person besides the person I found ever spoke to us. I realize that’s the extreme but I wonder how many times visitors feel that same way in our own churches.
Confuse people. Display confusing signage or, better yet, none at all. And, don’t think about using people as guest hosts. I can’t tell you how many churches we have been to where it was very confusing which door to enter and where to go once we entered the door. At times, if I weren’t the speaker — as an introvert especially — I might have left. Just being honest. I have to be honest even more and say that was somewhat true of the church where I am pastor now. Hopefully we are making strides towards correcting that with signage and people.
Make it uncomfortable for visitors. If you really want a closed sign up, everyone should talk to the only people they know. It’s either that, or you could make visitors feel very conspicuous. Have them stand up maybe — or raise their hands — and keep them up until an usher comes by.
Have your own language. Use acronyms. Yes acronyms please. Just pretend like everyone already knows what you’re talking about. Don’t differentiate between VBS and vacation Bible school. Everyone knows that, right? And, use names during the announcements that no one knows but the regulars without any explanation of who they are.
Have closed groups. And don’t start any new ones. When any small group has been together more than a few years — with no new people entering the group — it’s a closed group. A new person coming in will not feel welcome. They won’t know the inside jokes. They don’t know the names of everyone’s children’s. They feel left out when personal conversation begins.
Beat people up without giving them hope. Be clearer about how bad they are than how great the Gospel is.
Those are a few of my suggestions. If you’re looking for a way to put up a closed sign.
It’s the biggest stumbling block to sustaining growth.
In my opinion.
It often happens during times of success.
You can have all the right systems, momentum and motivation — won’t matter.
You can have the best vision — still can happen.
You can surround yourself with the greatest team — just as likely to occur.
I’ve seen it far too many times.
The biggest stumbling block in sustaining growth…
Is foolish pride.
I once had a prominent pastor tell me he had survived every power struggle in the church. He looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve faced my biggest opponents. There is not one person in this church who can oppose me now.”
A few years later he was voted out of the church.
When a leader starts to think…
I’ve got this.
Look what I’ve achieved.
I’m in control.
Look at me.
Nothing can stop me now.
The day of destruction is drawing near. It’s just a matter of time.
Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord. (Obadiah 1:4 ESV)
Guard your heart leaders. Guard your heart.
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 there 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 a 105 years of history. Most of those were before me. (103 of those years.)
We’ve seen tremendous changes and tremendous growth in the two years I’ve been here. I’m honored. Pumped. Encouraged.
I’m convinced, however, that one of the reasons we’ve grown is that 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.
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, but certainly remember what the church was able to overcome.
I watch too many leaders who think they can turn change on a dime ignoring all that happened in the past. That’s 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, that it’s the healthiest or best way.
Leadership may be able to move that quickly, 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.
Not only has living this principle worked well for my leadership, I’m personally convicted it’s the right thing to do.