Our strategy is to Gather – Grow – Serve.
This message explores our Serve part of the strategy.
I have a strong desire to help improve the quality of leadership in churches and ministries, especially among the next generation of Christian leaders. My youngest son, Nate, who has already proven to be a great leader in the environments where he’s served, consistently encourages me that I need to develop good followers, along with developing good leaders.
We aren’t all called to be leaders, although I have a contention that we are all leaders in some environment in our life, even if it’s self leadership. The point is clear though, not all of us will lead at the same level. Equally true is it is difficult to be a good leader without good followers — maybe impossible.
I’ve listed qualities of good leaders in several posts. I suppose there is room for a companion post. So, I set out to make a new list.
Granted, these are important to me as a leader. You may have your own list. In fact, I’ll welcome you to share your thoughts on characteristics of a good follower in the comments.
Help me lead better
You see things I don’t see. You hear things I don’t hear. You have experiences I don’t have. Help me be a better leader in the areas where I may not have the access to information you do. I love when the children’s ministry, for example, alerts me of people who are hitting home runs in their area so I can personally thank them. I’ve made some great connections this way. I should be recognizing individual contributions anyway and this helps me do that more often. Help your leader do his or her job better. Good followers find ways to make the leader better.
Do what you commit to do
One of the most frustrating things for a leader is to assign a task, practice good delegation, and then watch the ball drop because the person didn’t follow through on what they said they would. It could be an issue of not having the right support, resources or know how, or it could be the person doesn’t know how to say “No”, but good followers find a way to get the task completed, whether by personally doing it or through further delegation. If you aren’t going to complete it, or if you find out along the way you may not, let me know in plenty of time to offer help or find someone who can.
Don’t commit if you won’t put your heart into it
If the leader strives to be a good leader, then he or she wants the task completed well. That won’t happen with half-hearted devotion. Good followers give their best effort towards completing the work assigned to them, knowing it reflects not only their efforts, but the efforts of the leader and the entire team. We need passion from those who follow leadership.
Pray for me
I don’t have all the answers. In fact, some days I have none. I sometimes wonder why God called me to be the leader. I rely on the prayers of others, especially from those I am attempting to lead.
Complete my shortcomings
The reason we are a team is because you have skills I don’t have. To be a good follower means you willingly come along side me to make the team better, bringing insights, talents and resources I can’t produce without you. Don’t get frustrated at something I may not understand or be gifted at doing — or you have to show me how to do — but realize this is one way God is using you on the team.
There will be days when I’m not respectable, but I do hold the responsibility to lead, so encourage me when you can. Chances are I’ll continue to improve if I am led to believe I am doing good work. In public settings, even when you don’t necessarily agree with my decisions, honor me until you have a chance to challenge me privately.
Love the vision
Genuinely love the vision of the team. You’ll work hardest in those areas for which you have passion. Ask God to give you a burning desire to see the vision succeed, then become a contagious advocate of that vision.
When bringing an issue to me for a decision, do your homework and have as much information as possible. Know the positives and negatives, how much it will cost, and who the major players are in the decision. Be ready to open to having your idea challenged in order to make it better. I also believe in consensus building and a team spirit and don’t want to make all the decisions, so it’s probably wise to have a solution or two in mind to suggest should you be asked.
I admit, sometimes I run at too fast a pace. I believe a healthy organization is a growing organization, which requires a lot of energy. I also think we are doing Kingdom work, which is of utmost and urgent importance. You can’t be as effective on the team if you are unhealthy physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. You can’t always control these areas and life has a way of disrupting each of them, but as much as it depends on you, remain a healthy follower.
Leave when it’s time
I realize this is a hard word, but when you can no longer support the vision or my leadership, instead of causing disruption on the team, leave gracefully. If the problem is me, certainly work through the appropriate channels to address my leadership, but if the problem is simply differences of opinion, or something new God is doing in your heart, or you just don’t love it anymore and can’t get it back, don’t stay when you cease being helpful to the team. (Never simply stay for a paycheck.) God may even be using your frustration to stir something new in your heart.
What else would you add? What makes a good follower?
I was working with a church recently facing a growth barrier. They have experienced rapid growth and now the staff is stretched beyond what they can do. There are holes of responsibilities not being filled. My opinion — and they agree — is they can’t continue growing unless something changes.
The “genius” suggestion I gave them is t genius. It’s commonsensical. They must rise up new leaders, empower them with authority, and spread the load of responsibility.
Duh! I sometimes (seldom) get paid for this stuff.
Yet, in every church, sometimes finding volunteers feels like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Can I get a witness?
The obvious question: Where do we find these people?
People currently “doing” who need to be leading.
These are people who are consistently serving. They are the reliable ones you couldn’t do without. They have been given responsibility, but never been tapped for authority. Not all “doers” have the capability of being leaders, but many do if given the opportunity. Seek them.
People serving in one area, who could lead in another area.
These are people who are serving in the children’s ministry, for example, who could be leading in the parking ministry — or vice-versa. Many times people are serving in one area, because there is a need, but they could easily be stellar leaders in another area. Discern them.
People leading outside the church.
There are often people in the church who are tremendous leaders in the secular world, but they’ve never been given an opportunity to lead in the church. Recruit them.
People come to your church and see things working. They don’t know you need help, because everything appears to be working. There doesn’t seem to be a place for them. In my experience, you’ll have to ask the best leaders to join your team.
How do you find new leaders? What would you add to my list?
There are no perfect leaders — except for Jesus.
For the rest of us, we each have room for improvement. Most of us live with flaws in our leadership and the more we mature the more aware we become of them. Good leaders learn to surround themselves with people who can supplement their weaknesses.
There are, however, some leadership traits, which a leader can never delegate away. If the leader can’t work through them, in my opinion, their leadership will be crippled. With these traits, the best the leader has to offer will never fully materialize.
These leadership traits will eventually wreck a leader’s success.
If the leader’s character is flawed, the leadership will be flawed. A leader can never escape the quality of his or her heart.
Assuming everyone’s support
Leaders seldom hear the complete story unless they pursue it. Environments have to be created that produce transparency and honesty. Even in the healthiest organizations there will always be things a leader doesn’t know.
Assuming everyone understands
In my experience, most leaders think they are communicating effectively. What’s clear to them they assume is clear to others. It’s usually not as clear as the leader thinks. Good leaders ask lots of questions to identify the level of clarity.
Continually avoiding conflict
Conflict never, ever, ever, goes away. Ever. Unresolved conflict damages the strength and integrity of organizational health. It may get ignored, overlooked, or stifled, but until conflict is dealt with it continues to stir strife in an organization.
Pretending to have all the answers
The less a leader listens to others, the less willing others will desire to help the leader succeed. Arrogant leaders never attract the best from people. Great leaders invite input, knowing that with more people involved, decisions will be stronger and more buy-in will be achieved.
Allowing friendship to derail progress
The best leaders I know value relationships and recognize friendships with others as an important part of their personal well-being. At the same time, some leaders fail to separate their friendships from their callings as leaders. They confuse loyalty as a friend from their responsibility as a leader. A leader cannot allow personal friendships to negatively alter the course to success.
Refusing to let go of control
When the leader doesn’t delegate, he or she stifles the growth of the organization. Healthy delegation involves releasing authority over a project. If a leader continually maintains the right to control, the organization will be limited to his or her abilities, rather than the strength of the team.
Living in the past
Unless you’re a teacher of history, the leader’s primary focus needs to be on the future. Leadership is about moving things forward. That requires progressive thinking, welcoming change, and refusing to let past failures determine future success.
Be honest, of which of these are you most guilty? As difficult as it may be, until you push through them and improve in that area, you’ll never experience the leadership success you desire.
What examples would you add to my list of things you can change and things you can’t?
You remember the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz, don’t you? He was supposed to be the king of the jungle, but he had no courage.
I’ve known some leaders like the cowardly lion. If I’m completely transparent — at times it’s been me.
Let’s face it. Leading others is hard. There is often loneliness to leadership. Leadership takes great courage.
You have no doubt encountered cowardly leaders. Perhaps would even admit you’ve been one too.
Say what people want to hear. The might say, for example, “I’ll think about it” rather than “No” – even no is already the decided answer. I get it. It’s easier. But the ease is only temporary. These leaders are notorious for saying one thing to one person and another to someone else. They want everyone to like them.
Avoids conflict. In every relationship there will be conflict. It is necessary for the strength of relationships and the organization. When the leader avoids conflict the entire organization avoids it. Hidden or ignored problems are never addressed.
Never willing to make the hard decisions. This is what leaders do. Leaders don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. They don’t even have to be the one with the most experience. Leaders make the decisions no one else is willing to make.
Pretends everything is okay – even when they are not. When everything is amazing nothing really is. Cowardly leaders the loss over the real problems in the organization. They refuse to address them either because they fear don’t know how or their pride gets in the way.
Bails on the team when things become difficult. I’ll have to admit this has been me. I’ve written about it before, but when I was in business, and things were difficult, it was easier to disappear than face the issues. The learning experience was once I checked-out or when I was disappearing so was my team. Great leaders are on the frontline during the most difficult days, leading everyone through the storm.
Refuses to back up team members. No one wants to serve someone who will not protect them or have their back. People need to know if they make mistakes there is a leader who still support them and can help them do better the next time.
Caves in to criticism. Make any decision and a leader will receive criticism. Even if it is unfounded cowardly leaders fall apart when people complain. They take it personal and refused to see any value in it. These leaders see every criticism as a threat against their leadership rather then another way to learn and grow.
What would you add to my list?
Let’s be leaders of courage. In fact, I want to beleven courage should be in our definition of leadership.
Do you find it scary to be a leader sometimes? What’s the scariest time you face as a leader?
The statistics are staggering. The older a child gets today, the greater his or her chances are of disappearing from the church. The church must intentionally plan to reverse this trend.
I was a part of a church plant built around a desire to reach people who may not have previously been interested in church. We were amazed at the number of young people we reached. Defying statistics.
I’ve now updated this post, because we are currently in a growing, revitalized established church and — amazingly — our fastest growing group is the millennial generation. Again, defying statistics.
It must be more than structure or age of church — or even style of worship.
Along the way, we’ve learned a few things — and these are the things which regardless of type of church have remained true.
Love them – Young people today seem to crave genuine, no strings attached, healthy love from other adults — and they want it to be unconditional love — through the good times of their life and the times they mess up. And, they want us to love first, without qualifications added.
Be biblically true – Millennials don’t want fluff or sugar-coating. They want an authentic, honest approach to the Bible. Whether they believe all of it yet or not, they want the people who teach to teach what they believe — and then be willing to discuss it with them as they explore.
Be culturally aware and relevant – This generation has been exposed to the problems, challenges, and changes in the world. And, changes are coming fast. They are more socially conscious than in years past. They want the church to be addressing the needs they see in the world around them.
Give them a place to plug-in – They want to make a difference. They want to be a part of change. They want you to support them in their pursuits. They want to serve somewhere they believe is doing good work and makes a positive impact on the world — and they may even want to help lead the effort.
Value their ideas and input – You have to allow Millennials to do things their way — often with technology — within groups of friends — sometimes unscripted. A church which is bent on protecting the past over creating the future turns young people away from the church.
Be genuine/transparent with them – The overused word is authentic, but this generation wants to learn from the mistakes of those older than them. Pretending as if we’ve always been wonderful doesn’t help them deal with the issues they are dealing with today. They need living examples of battling life’s temptations, struggles, and fears.
Guide them – I love this about them — they are wisdom-seekers. They want help making life’s decisions, but they want it done in a way that helps them understand wise choices, but gives them freedom to choose their own path. Young people today crave older adults who will walk with them through the obstacles they face on a daily basis; while extending love, grace and support.
What would you add to my list? How is your church reaching Millennials?
Again, notice I didn’t say anything about music. It’s a bonus if you give them worship styles they enjoy, but I’m not convinced it’s as much a necessity if the others on this list are kept.
This is part two of my interview with Dr. John David Laida — or as I call him — Brother Laida. He has “supposedly” retired once, but never quit working. He’s still serving a church full-time today.
If you missed the introductory video, catch it HERE.
In this segment, Dr. Laida addresses:
What do you think of Bro. Laida’s answers so far?
This is the introduction video to my interview with Dr. John David Laida. These were filmed over 3 years ago and I posted them earlier, but decided to bring them forward. I’ll share them over the next few days. They are good!
Brother Laida, as we always referred to him, was my pastor growing up. He served as senior pastor for 28 years at First Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee and under his leadership the church grew every year. He served as president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and was a respected man in the community.
After retirement, Bro. Laida has remained active. He has preached almost every week since and has helped dozens of churches in transition as an interim pastor. At the time of this filming, he was about to turn 93 — (now 96) years old and had just taken the interim job of my home church, First Baptist Clarksville. He’s respected highly in this region for his wit, wisdom and his faithful service.
In this video, you’ll get an introduction into the beginning days of Brother Laida. It’s fascinating to hear his perspective on his earlier days of life and ministry.
This is a five part interview and this is the longest. Most will be 5 or 6 minutes in length. I hope you’ll enjoy learning from one of my mentor’s and spiritual heroes.
What did you enjoy most about his story this far?
Every pastor I know needs a best friend. Don’t we all?
Most likely the pastor has a best friend in a spouse. I hope so. I encourage it. My wife is that for me. My boys are also.
But, I think there’s more. And, more these days than ever.
And, if “best” is too strong a word, pick your own word. Good. Close. Trusted. Every pastor needs a friend, besides a spouse — of the same gender — who knows them well and can encourage and challenge like no one else can.
Yet, in working with pastors as I do regularly, I would say more pastors live paranoid of who they can trust than have someone they would consider a close confidant. Some pastors believe not having one simply comes with the job. I’ve heard pastors say we can’t expect to have those type relationships with people — that we are somehow, for some reason, “above that”.
That’s dangerous talk. And, many pastors have failed buying that lie — or never inviting people into a closer circle of friendship.
I equally know some people who want to be that type friend to the pastor. And, the pastor has either been hard to get to know or the person doesn’t know how to relate to them. I appreciate those who have a sincere desire to befriend the pastor — which is the purpose of this post.
I can’t speak for all pastors — but I can speak for me and, I believe, I can speak for many pastors due to my coaching ministry among them. I’ve learned you can have “best” friends in the church, but certainly, if necessary because of the size church, outside the church where one pastors.
If you want to be this kind of friend to a pastor, I need to warn you the pastor may be skeptical at first. Every pastor has been burned a time or two. If your heart, however, is to be a friend — even a best friend — to your pastor here are some suggestions which have worked to endear my friends to me.
(I used the male pronoun for ease of writing, and because I’m speaking from experience, but this surely goes for all who are in ministry.)
Let him be himself. Warts and all. Don’t expect more from the pastor than you would anyone else. There is likely a church holding him to a higher standard. And, they should. But, as a “best friend” you know he’s still a “work in progress” — just like you. Allow him to be human. And, his family too!
Don’t make him be the pastor in every situation. Let him be “off” occasionally. Don’t talk “church” all the time. If you’re best friend is a waitress you don’t talk food or customer service all the time, do you? A doctor’s best friend isn’t always looking for free medical advice. Talk sports. Or politics (that’s hard for most pastors to find a place to do). Or about your family. Talk about life. Also, he shouldn’t always have to be the one to pray just because he is in the room. Shoulder some of his burden when you are with him.
Never talk about him behind his back. Let him know you will always protect him and have his best intentions in mind. Above all have integrity in the relationship — which should be true in every friendship.
Never repeat anything he tells you in private without permission. Never. Ever. Ever. This may be the most important one. It’s amazing how people will repeat what you say if they think you are claiming to be a close friend. As soon as you do, it will be very difficult to trust you again. And, isn’t part of being a best friend the confidences you two keep between you?
Love him even when he makes mistakes. You’d want that from your best friends wouldn’t you? Why not give him one friend he knows he can always count on to be in his corner? Even on those days where his emotional state or his mindset make him seem not very pastoral — and maybe not even like a best friend.
Support him publicly. You won’t be much of a friend if you don’t challenge him when needed, but it should always be done in private. When in a crowd be on his side until you’ve had a chance to talk to him in person — and alone.
Don’t hold him to unreasonable expectations. I’ve seen people who want to be a pastor’s friend get upset when the pastor didn’t tell them everything going on in the church. They get their feelings hurt. Every pastor walks on a certain amount of “eggshells” wondering who will respond and how to things the pastor does. We should never place this burden on a “best” friend. Have no hidden agenda to the relationship — no attempt to gain information or status — just friendship.
Those are a few suggestions, but even with these, don’t be disappointed if the pastor doesn’t respond as you would want him to. Again, best friends don’t. Plus, maybe — hopefully — your pastor has a best friend or two already. We need them.
As I close, I’m thinking these are good suggestions in all friendships — pastor or not. And we all need them.
Pastors, any suggestions you would add?
We need some sharp people to move from one Kingdom-building opportunity to another Kingdom-building opportunity.
We need some sharp church planters to become church revitalizers.
I’ve been in some conversations recently concerning the need to get younger leaders interested in church revitalization. The need is huge.
The fact is it is “cooler” to be in church planting. Having been in both worlds, (Just for clarity, I was cool in neither world) I could make the case that church planting is easier. You get to make the rules rather than wrestle through rules which make no sense or man-made traditions which have no clear Biblical basis but people will fight to keep.
But, we need church revitalization.
And, we need young, bright, the “best of the best” people to enter church revitalization just as much as we need them in church planting.
I have continually said there are more kingdom dollars in plateaued of declining churches than in all the church planting efforts we are making. We must restore or even close some of these established churches if we expect to be good stewards of the resources in which God has entrusted us
How do we get leaders to consider revitalization?
Paint the need.
I don’t have the statistics, but I’m convinced there are far more Kingdom dollars tied up in plateaued or declining churches than is being invested in all the church plants combined. If we want to be good stewards of what God has given, then we must revitalize some established churches — and maybe even make some hard decisions to close some and spread the resources elsewhere. Denominations and church leaders will need to become passionate about church revitalization and cast vision to younger leaders as we have in church planting.
One of the concerns I have heard from those who consider revitalizing an established church is the fear of the unknown. It’s true in church planting too, but church planting is “all the buzz”. You can find lots of resources for a plant. There are fewer resources available for church revitalization — and fewer success stories. Partner the one entering revitalization with someone who has experienced church revitalization and been successful at it.
Provide care for them and their spouse.
Church revitalization is hard on a pastor’s family. Again, I’ve lived in both worlds. Church planting can be very difficult, but when you enter the role of trying to change an established church prepare for the onslaught of personal attacks, criticism and opposition. Church planting struggles typically come from external pressures. Church revitalization struggles are usually more personal — from inside pressures.There needs to be some plans to periodically care for the church revitalizer and the spouse.
Assure them the church is ready.
There should be some sort of assessment made before the pastor arrives which indicates the level or openness there will be to change. It’s not always a popular topic with established churches — most don’t want to admit there is a problem — but it is incredibly helpful in starting the revitalization process. This will never be foolproof, but you cannot revitalize without change. Change will always face resistance — it’s human nature — but some churches can and will adapt — some never will. The pastor can waste a lot of time “testing” the culture of the church only to find out some things will never change. The more a pastor knows about the church — it’s reaction to and history with change — on the front end the more strategic the pastor can be implementing change and the more successful revitalization will be.
Provide adequate resources.
There needs to be some better resources available for church revitalization. Every denomination and national church planting group has, for example, a church planter assessment. We need similar assessments in revitalization to help discern if the pastor’s temperament is suited for revitalization. Conferences do a great job focusing on the church planter — few focus as much on revitalization. Many established churches will not need the level of funding a church plant needs, but there are other resources needed to be successful. If we recognize the need for revitalization, then let’s develop and fund the resources.
It’s a work which must be done. Too much is at stake.