7 Dangers of Leading in Isolation

run away

I sat with a new pastor not long ago trying to hold a church together long enough to help it build again. The previous pastor left town – after a series of bad decisions – some decisions the church is still finding out about each new day.

I am happy to help the new pastor acclimate, but my greater concern was for the pastor who flamed out too early. The one who didn’t finish well. The one who left a church in a state of disarray and struggling to recover. 

And, sadly, I see it all the time. This pastor suffered from the same temptation any pastor faces. His number one problem in my opinion – he was leading in isolation.
He had no one on the inside of his life who knew him well enough to know when something was wrong and could confront him when necessary.

Leading in isolation is displayed in numerous ways to the detriment of the church or organization.

There are so many clear dangers I see in leading in isolation.

Here are 7 dangers of leading in isolation:

Moral failure

Without accountability in place many people will make bad decisions, because no one appears to be looking. We are more susceptible to temptation when we are alone.


We are made for community. There is an energy we gain from sharing life with other people. When the leader feels he or she is alone the likelihood of burning out, emotional stress and even depression increases.

Leadership Vacuum

The leader is clueless to the real problems in the organization and is fooled into believing everything (including the leader) is wonderful.

Control Freak

The leader panics when others question him or her. He or she tries to control every decision. They don’t want to be found out for not knowing all the answers.

Limits other people

The leader in isolation fails to communicate, invest, and release, which keeps other leaders from developing on the team. And, therefore, the organization isn’t prepared when the leader does exit. 

Limits leader

The isolated leader never reaches his or her full potential as a leader, because they shut out influences, which would actually help them grow.

Limits the organization

In the end, the leader who leads in isolation keeps the organization from being all it can be. The leader sets the bar of how far an organization can go. If the leader is in isolation the organization will stifle.

Leader, are you living in isolation? Be honest.

Do you need to get out of the protective shell you’ve made for yourself?

The health and future success of your organization depends on it.

(I realize many pastors of smaller churches feel they have no option, but to lead in isolation. You feel you have no one you can truly trust in your church and you have isolated yourself, for various reasons, from others in the community. As hard as it may seem, and as great as the risk may appear, you must find a few people to share your struggles with to avoid these dangers.)

10 Ways To Create More Margin in Your Time

Time is Money

How do you fit more into an already busy schedule?

Isn’t this a great question?

Because, aren’t you being asked to do so all the time? Isn’t your standard reply to the question “how are you?” – BUSY? Aren’t we all?

HOw do you creat more margin in your schedule – to do the things you want to do and the things you need to do?

Here are a 10 tips to help create more time margin:

Start your day with God.

Of course a pastor would say this, but it is amazing if I start the day talking to God about my day how much better my day flows. If I ask God for margin in my time and to help me complete my “to do” list, He actually seems to listen and help me. (Try it!)

Prioritize your life.

It is important to have a life purpose. What do you value most? Without knowing this we find ourselves chasing after many things that have little value. Have you discovered why you are here and what God has most for you in life and in this season of life? If not, start here.

Make sure your priorities line up with your desires.

This sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it is not. Many times, we say our purpose is one thing, but what we actually do is something entirely different. This is often because people are going to do what people want to do. We may need to ask God to change our heart and plant in us His desires.

Stop unnecessary time-wasters.

If you “veg” out every night on three plus hours of television or browsing Facebook, don’t be surprised you didn’t get to spend a lot of quality time with your children or friends. Most of us form bad habits or have unorganized methods of doing something that waste bulks of our time. Make a list of what you spend the most time doing and see if there are places you can cut. (I suspect there will be.)

Work smarter.

I can’t imagine being successful and leading a team without some system of calendaring your week or keeping a planner, yet I know so many pastors and other ministers who simply handle things as they come up rather than work with a plan. The benefit of organization is that you can do what you need to do more efficiently and faster and be more productive. Give a shoutout to the checklist people! 

Schedule times to organize.

This is so important, but most people don’t do it. Spending an hour or two actually planning the week will make the whole week more productive. Usually for me this is the first part of my week. If I know where I’m headed and my work space is organized for efficiency, it’s much easier to get everything done and still handle distractions, which are sure to come.

Do the most necessary things first.

You may have tried the A/B/C list of scheduling priorities. It doesn’t matter what system you use, but the important thing is you have one and use it to help your rate of completion. (And, this may be rest, it might be family, or it could be the project you have to complete today.)

Don’t say yes to everything.

Be picky with your time allotment based again on your end priorities and goals.

Schedule down time.

Especially when my boys were younger, I would write on my calendar time for them. This may sound mechanical, but it allows you to be there and keeps things and others from filling up your schedule. (I still schedule this time for Cheryl – and, it sounds counterproductive, but we get away even more frequently during busier seasons.)

Evaluate your schedule often.

Plans should not be implemented and then ignored. Develop your plan to create margin in your life, then periodically review the plan to see how you are doing and what needs to be changed.

For some people just reading this is laborsome. I especially encourage those of you geared this way to push through the difficult part of this and give it a try. You will be surprised what a positive difference it will have on your life.

5 Common Struggles Among Young Pastors


A couple years ago, I spent several hours with a group of young pastors. It was a cross representation of church planters and pastors of established churches. Healthy churches and unhealthy. Growing, plateauing and declining. Most were new in their positions and I expected to see all these churches will be growing soon. It was a sharp group of people.

We talked about a lot of issues, but one of our longer discussions was when I asked them what their greatest struggle in ministry was at the current time. There were some incredible consistencies – actually more than I anticipated. Very different churches and very different pastors – very similar struggles.

I thought it was worthy of sharing here. A large majority of my readers are pastors. And, here is my word to you – You may not be as alone as you think. The title says “young” pastors, and I chose it because this group was, but I suspect these aware shared by pastors of all ages.

Here are the 5 most common struggles among pastors:

Personnel issues. 

If the church has any paid staff other than the pastor there will be issues for the pastor. I’m finding this portion of our work more demanding than ever. The longer I lead the more complex this issue becomes, simply because of the changing laws and regulations placed on places of employment – including the church. 

I always advise younger leaders, especially those without a background in this issue, to seek professional help in this area, even if it has to be from outside the church.

Navigating bureaucracy.

I think this is a particularly heavy burden on younger pastors. The generation entering the ministry is much like the generation entering the secular workforce. They want to do something, not meet about doing something. I share their heart, but granted this is one of the hardest ones to address. (Of course, the church planters weren’t the ones with this struggle as much.) 

I often advise young pastors in established churches to write some of their best sermons around casting vision of how we should spend our time as pastors. Jesus seemed to teach and model quite extensively about our need to reach the lost. The Bible doesn’t record a lot of His time in committee. Acts gives good models of leadership and serving the people. People in the first century seemed to do a lot of the work we’ve placed on professional staff.

Balancing ministry and family time.

This has always been a struggle. And, frankly, it should be. We need to work hard – it’s a good Biblical principle – and we need to protect our family. There’s another great Biblical principle. It requires a healthy art of balancing our time. This younger generation of ministers, however, and I think it’s a good thing, won’t automatically let the ministry trump their family. Ministers from my generation and older generations sometimes did. And, many from these generations have told me they wish they hadn’t after it was too late. 

My advise to the younger pastor is to keep the heart for the balance, be very intentional with their schedule and use of time and cast vision to the church continually of why they’re not at everything and why they’re family is so important. The church needs this message too – as they are equally in the struggle.

Developing leaders.

This one seemed true regardless of the style of church. And, in my experience, it’s true in most organizations. We are always in need of new leaders. You can’t grow or even maintain without consistently developing new leaders. In a practical sense, leaders come and go, die or burnout. But it’s also difficult to grow and develop as a body without growth in the number of leaders. 

I advised them to start systematically and strategically developing new leaders now. In fact, I think it’s more important you have a system – even if it’s not perfect – than to do nothing. People typically learn best by doing. So, at the least, in the absence of a formal leadership development program, start giving people you see with potential assignments to lead – and let them develop with on-the-job training.

Handling critics.

Again, this one was shared less by the church planters, but the interesting twist is the criticism church planters received was typically from outside the church. Pastors in established churches seemed to receive most of their criticism from inside the church. (There’s a whole blog post needed on my thoughts on this one.) But, either way, one thing all leaders have in common is criticism. Lead anything and critics will find you. You don’t have to go looking for them. (I love the passage in Exodus 24 where, as Moses was going to the mountain to spend time with God, he made a plan for how to handle disputes among the people.) Because leadership involves change. And change always changes things. (You got that, right?) People often respond to change with an emotion — it could be anger, frustration or sadness — but it comes to us as what we’ve labeled criticism. I’ve learned sometimes it isn’t as much against the leader as it is against their sense of loss, but either way it hurts. 

I always remind young pastors and leaders that we must find our strength in our calling, our purpose and in the pursuit of the vision God has placed in our hearts. We shouldn’t ignore criticism. We should filter it. (And I’ve written on the right and wrong ways to respond to criticism.) But, we should not let criticism control us – in our leadership or in our emotional state – even though that is sometimes the intent of the critic. Part of leading is learning how to stay healthy even in the midst of criticism.

I loved my time with this group and repeated it several times.

Let me ask, was anything surprising about the list?

I also wondered, are seminaries addressing these issues? Should they?

7 Questions to Help Process the Emotion of Fear

surprised young man

I’ve watched fear keep many people from achieving all God would have them achieve. Fear will keep a guy from pursuing the girl of his dreams. Fear fan drive people to the safe side, rather than to assume the risk required to pursue their dreams. Pastors have even refused to address the needed changes in their church – not because it was challenging – but, because they were afraid. (Anyone identify with this one?)

Fear is the enemy of progress. It is the antagonist of pursuit. Fear can be the deadly foe of fulfillment in life. And, fear can be a leader’s worst enemy.

How can we overcome the dreaded fear all of us face frequently?

I don’t know if we can completely get rid of fear – or if we even want to completely – but, I do think we should and need to learn to manage the fear in our life. That’s the hope of this post. It won’t solve your fear problems, but it I’ll give you something to think about next time you’re afraid.

Let me provide some questions to process your fear the next time you are faced with a need.

Ask yourself these 7 questions:

Is it a God-given or a man-made fear?

This is a huge step. Fear is an emotion and God can use fear to keep you from harm. Is what you would be doing against God’s will for you or others? If it’s wrong to do, no wonder you are afraid. God may be trying to protect you. If you are continually making bad decisions in your life, you’ll likely live in fear. You may not even be able to understand the emotion, but in my experience, it’s one way God draws His children to Himself. Failure to walk by faith, which is a sin by the way, can also bring upon the emotion of fear. If you’re fear is from God – obey God! This is your answer – every time.

Is it a rational or an irrational fear?

Consider whether you are basing your fears on fact or fiction. Are you making up the scenario of what could go wrong or is the fear based on real information you have? Our minds can be our worst excuse – if we need one, we will find it. Be honest with yourself here. If you’ve been making up the excuses, it’s time to dismiss them and proceed.

Is it probable or improbable?

The truth is most of what we fear never comes true. Again, our mind is capable of all kinds of worst-case scenarios which keep us from moving forward. We shouldn’t allow fear in things which will probably never even happen stop what God may want to bring in our life. God may have a miracle for you – and, you’re allowing a made-up scenario hold you from it. The fact is you may fail, but remember, failure is a part of building life experience. Unless you know you’re going to fail (which is highly unlikely you would know this in advance), if it’s not sinful, and you feel you’re supposed to – I suggest you move forward.

Can anything be done to diminish the risk?

We should attempt to diminish fear through planning and preparation as much as possible. There is nothing wrong and everything right about being prepared. I’m not motivated by fear, but I have an alarm system at my house. (And, one of my father’s pistols he left me when he died!) If your fear is based on a lack of preparation, get busy developing the systems and strategies to help you succeed. Ask for help if you need it.

Is what I’m fearing necessary or unnecessary?

Is this something you must address? If it’s a conflict you’ve been avoiding, for example, the fear will only get stronger the longer you wait. The earlier you face the fear the more likely you’ll get positive results. Sooner or later, the fear must be faced. What better time than now? If it’s not really necessary, and there is no pressure upon you, you may not have to face this fear. I once jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. But, if you don’t have the desire – don’t do it.

Is the fear personal or impersonal?

Are you afraid of your abilities or the reaction of others? Do you wonder if you have what it takes? It’s only natural a challenge would create an amount of fear – even a captivation with fear. Every act of courage means you ignore an aspect of fear. Don’t let your insecurities keep you from achieving your dreams.

Are you satisfied with the status quo?

I know it’s a hard question, but if fear is keeping you from moving forward, and you’ve answered the other questions, this may be the one. You need to strongly consider the repercussions of giving into your fear. It may mean you stand still. It may mean you go backwards. It may mean you never realize the dreams you have for your life or the calling God has placed upon you. Are you willing to live with this reality?

Have you allowed fear to keep you from realizing all God has for you?

The Emotions of a Pastor or Leader’s Spouse in Times of Transition

man woman talking 2

When I’m talking to a pastor or other leader who has accepted a new position or is in a time of transition – after I hear the excitement in their voice of what they see God doing – I almost always ask the same question:

“How is your spouse dealing with the change?”

There is usually a pause, followed by an “umm” of some sort, then a statement such as, “She/He seems to be doing okay.”

Push a little more (which I usually do) and I’ll hear something like:

It’s been harder on him/her than I thought it would be.”

Pushing even further, I might hear, “I don’t understand why he/she is not as excited as I am. We agreed this was what God had for us.”

Many times, when the leader is honest, the transition hasn’t gone as well for the spouse as for the pastor. It will likely come in time – if given time – but for now, the spouse is simply not as excited about the change in positions as the one who made the change in career is.

Why is this?

I like to encourage pastors and other leader to remember their spouse’s emotions in the process of transition. The person who moved to a new opportunity has found their center of gravity and purpose. Most likely the spouse will feel a sense of loss and have to look for theirs. It takes time.

Often a new pastor, for example, comes home at the end of a long day and has something exciting to share every time. Things are moving, changing, challenging them daily. Even on days things aren’t going well – they have drama in their day they can’t wait to share.

Many times, right now, the spouse has days which look the same.

You come home pumped at what God is doing, so naturally you share your enthusiasm with the one you care to share with the most – your partner in life and ministry.

But, if you’re not conscious of your spouse’s emotions, depending on their state of mind, they may hear, “My life is exciting. Yours is boring.”

Or worse, “My life has meaning. Your life has none.”

Granted, you are not and would not think those things – and would never want your spouse to think you do – but emotions are high in times of transition. Don’t be surprised if they produce irrational thoughts and actions at times. This is part of change.

Your spouse moved from friends and has to learn who to trust again. They may even be more relation-centered emotionally. Their heart may transition slower. The roles they held in the church or community haven’t been replaced yet.

You moved forward in your career and passions. Many times hers took a step backward. Or, at least, seem to have for now. This will change in time, and the spouse probably knows this intellectually, but emotionally they feel a sense of loss which will take time to replace with a sense of purpose equal to yours.

The key is to remember your spouse is an individual person, with individual needs for a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Failure to acknowledge this and be sensitive to it is not only unfair it can damage the relationship and slow the process of acclimating in the transition. 

In a future post, I’ll share some specific thoughts on helping your spouse find their center of gravity in a time of transition. Stay tuned.

The Best Routes in Life Find You Dodging Geese Poop

older couple enjoying life

Some of my favorite trips or vacations are where I get to take a long run. Through parks, subdivisions, and back roads. But, my favorite runs always involve water – along a river, lake or ocean. I have run in some incredible places.

Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington, DC., Madison, Wisconsin, Dallas. Just a few which come to mind.

On those runs one word can usually capture the time.


I worship. I talk to God. I dream.

Long runs along a body of water are awesome. Love it.

I have come to this realization though:

The best places to run all have some common characteristics.

The best cities in which to run, in my opinion, have these attributes in common:

A body of water.

A path beside the body of water.

The peace and tranquility of running on the path beside the body of water.

The chance to connect with nature and God along the body of water.

But, here’s the other thing I learned – and the point of this post.

The best places to run require dodging geese poop.

(Sorry if you don’t think a nice blog like this, written by a mostly nice pastor like me, about leadership and life, should use an analogy – or a word = like “poop” in a post. I guess I could call them geese droppings, but that doesn’t seem to capture what they drop.)

But, it is true. If you want to run in the best places –

You’ve got to dodge the geese poop.

And, right about now, you’re wondering why you’re even still reading this post. I understand.

Well, it’s because – once as I was dodging the geese poop – it occurred to me.

The same principle is true in life and leadership.

You can settle for mediocre.

You can choose to go for second best.

You can compromise before the right decision is made.

You can refuse the risk you might get dirty.

But, if you want to experience the best life has to offer.

If you want to settle for nothing but the right decision.

You have to dodge the geese poop of life.

The path to the best places in life are often lined with difficulties along the way.

(By the way, for my pastor friends, this principle has been true for me in church planting and church revitalization. We’ve dodged a lot of geese droppings.)

Following your dream – achieving God’s plan for your life – maximizing your goals and ambitions – those aren’t easy. They never are. They require a lot of faith, a lot of hard work, and a lot of prayer and patience.

It’s messy, filled with setbacks, conflict and obstacles. There will be times we are tempted to give up, choose an easier route, or quit before the end is in sight.

It’s a choice. You can choose where you want to run. You can stay on the boring and safe treadmill of life if you want, but, as for me, no doubt about it, whenever I get the chance, I’m choosing to run by the body of water.

I’ll just watch out for and endure the geese poop, because I know it’s a part of the path.

Are you on one of those body of water paths of life right now?

Are there a lot of “droppings” in your way?

Don’t give up – the Glorious part comes to those who endure!

7 Surprises Since Becoming a Pastor

Minority pastor set on a white background

I love pastors. I haven’t been a pastor throughout my career. In fact, I spent most of my career to this point in the business world. (I realize this makes me an odd duck in many pastor circles, but it’s actually served me well in my ministry roles.) But, even before I was in ministry – I loved pastors.

Coming into ministry later in life, after being a church member, deacon and Sunday school teacher, has given me a unique perspective. I’ve seen ways the church interacts with the pastor I simply had no idea of before I was a pastor. A few surprises have occurred, probably especially when interacting with other pastors who are now my peers.

Thankfully, I’ve been in churches that mostly support me as pastor, but I interact with pastors in caustic church environments everyday. Even so, they are some similarities it seems with all pastors. And some of these, or at least the degree to which they exist, has been surprising.

Here are 7 of the biggest surprises in being a pastor:

People don’t understand the role.

The old adage that the pastor only works on Sunday – I’m surprised how many think something similar. They may not think Sunday is the only day the pastor works – some can catch on the message actually has to be written – but they don’t realize the weight of other responsibilities the pastor deals with on a weekly basis. It really is simply an innocent misunderstanding of what’s involved in the position of pastor. (It may seem a contradiction and yet this next one is equally true.)

The various opinions of how a pastor should pastor.

Some think I should be the only speaker the church has. Some think I should make every hospital visit. Some want me to do more administration. Some believe I am the resident counselor. Some think I should know every detail of every ministry and every event on the church’s calendar. You get the idea. As diverse as the people of a church are exists the range of opinions here. Thom Rainer wrote an interesting post on this issue and how many hours a week accomplishing expectations would mean a pastor should work. Read it HERE.

People often lose their filter when talking to a pastor.

It amazes me what people feel comfortable telling a pastor. It is beyond the expected confidentiality issues one expects. It could be criticism of the pastor or gossip about someone else, but many don’t hold back their opinion no matter how harsh it may be. And they don’t often clean it up before they present it. I have had pastors tell me they have people in their congregation who blast themm every Sunday about something – always in a very hurtful way. And, crazy, some of these same people will claim to be one of pastor’s biggest supporters to their face. The pastor should be a “safe place” to be real – even with your emotions. Unfortunately however, I think some people believe the pastor has no feelings or is expected to be “tough enough” to handle the jabs and process the rumors.

The job is never finished.

I guess I knew this, but not to the degree I do now. And, there are many jobs like this. There is always one more thing I could’ve done when I go home at night. Lives keep falling apart. People keep sinning. Marriages are in trouble. It could be overwhelming, and I could refuse to rest and neglect my family if I wasn’t disciplined, and if I didn’t have a keen awareness that Jesus is ultimately in control. My heart goes out to (and it is part of the motivation of this blog) pastors who haven’t learned or aren’t practicing this discipline or this truth.

Everything isn’t always as it seems.

People are hurting. Many of those hurts are hidden. You can’t “judge a book by the cover” when it comes to people. There are always two sides to an issue. Everyone has a story and it isn’t always the story you are thinking. Being a pastor has taught me it is unfair to judge people by what you think you know until you know the whole story. I’ve better realized the importance of extending grace before I know, and even if I never know, the full story.

Sunday is coming.

Every. Single. Week. I never realized how fast the weekend comes around until I became a pastor. Don’t misunderstand – I’m glad it does – it’s my favorite day of the week, but I just never realized how fast it does so until now. My first thought when I walk away from church on Sunday morning is – Sunday’s coming!

Some people truly love their pastor.

They do. There are some of the best pastor-supporters in the church. Most churches have someone who truly loves the pastor and wants the best for them. (These are Kingdom-building people!) And, I’m so thankful. It’s amazing how supportive and encouraging some people can be. I honestly believe they would do anything for Cheryl and me. I know, especially from some of my pastor friends in especially difficult situations, that these type people keep a pastor going some days. If you’re one of those pastor supporting types – on behalf of all pastors – THANK YOU!

Those are a few things I didn’t know, at least as well as I do now, before entering the pastorate.

Pastors, any you would share?

7 Pitfalls of Leadership Which Can Derail a Leader


We all know the stories of the once successful pastor or leader who flamed out too soon. It could be a moral failure or burnout, but they somewhere they got off track and had a hard time regaining traction. So sad.

In years of studying leadership, both in the business world and in ministry, I’ve seen some consistent traps which get in the way of a leader’s long-term success. I call them pitfalls.

Often, also in my experience, if we know the potential dangers we have a better chance of addressing them – and, hopefully even avoiding them.

Here are 7 pitfalls of leadership:


When a leader ever feels he or she has all the answers – watch out! Pride comes before the fall. Great leaders remain humble, knowing they didn’t get where they are on their own nor will they stay there without the help of others.


I don’t believe in tyranny, but a leader can equally be too “nice” or overly friendly with a team. Leadership is hard some days – okay, most days. Good leadership isn’t a popularity contest. The leader afraid to challenge will create an environment where mediocrity, chaos, and unhealthy team environment prevails – and eventually it will bite them. Leaders should be willing to address known concerns, not be afraid of healthy conflict, and challenge status quo even when it’s not the most popular thing to do.


A leader who removes his or herself too much from people doing the actual work, who aren’t visible to their team, or who don’t bond well with them never gains significant influence. Even worse, they are more vulnerable to failing personally, as well. The enemy loves busyness, but also isolation – sin festers in absence of accountability. Plus, at every level of leadership, regardless of the size organization, the more a leader can do “hands on” work, even if only occasionally, the more “in touch” the leader will be and the more respected he or she will be by the people being led.


Leadership is naturally lonely. Every leader I know struggles with it at some level. If it’s not addressed, however, especially during extremely high stress periods, the leader will head towards crash and burn territory. Leaders should seek out other leaders, take risks on trusting a few people, and ask for help before it’s too late.


I have often said boredom is one of the leading causes of marital failure. It’s true in leadership also. Leadership is about going somewhere. When things get routine for too long, the best leaders will get bored – and boredom can be dangerous. Leaders who last for the long haul are always seeking new opportunities for growth and development.


Just as failure can hurt a leader, so can success. If not kept in check, success can lead to complacency. A leader can begin to think it will always be this way and eventually start taking success for granted. Disaster! These leaders are soon fighting for the success “fix” again – and often make tremendous errors in the process. Great leaders are always cognizant the success today isn’t guaranteed tomorrow – so they keep working on developing themselves, their team, and the organization.


When a leader becomes “too good” for the people trying to follow – they stop serving a team and start managing people chasing a paycheck. They quit finding willing followers and are only surrounded by employees. Leaders, especially today, have to be authentic, real, and believable. There are always people on a team who believe they could do a better job than the leader – and, the reason they feel this way is because it’s probably true in some situations where they have more expertise. Teams are developed by mutual respect and appreciation. Great leaders never see themselves better than the people they are trying to lead. In fact, the best leaders I know purposefully surround themselves with smarter people.

What other pitfalls have you seen in leadership?

The Value of Connecting People and 7 Common Connecting Points

People digital design, vector illustration eps 10.

One thing which has always come naturally to me and I love doing is connecting people with similar interests. I believe this is one of the best ways within the Body of Christ where “iron sharpens iron”.

From a strategic, discipleship standpoint, I know people are more likely to be connected to the church if they are connected to other people at deeper levels than simply attending the same church. If they can identify with people who understand them or embrace something they embrace, they feel more a part of things. And, connection is huge if we want to be effective at discipleship.

I love the move in the church towards being more diverse – and I embrace it and am working towards it – but connecting people with similarities is one of the more effective ways I’ve seen to do this. When two people have similar interests outside their age, demographics, or race, other barriers seem to diminish.

So, I’m always looking for ways to connect people to other people through commonalities.

Let me give you some examples of similar interests I look for in connecting people.

Here are 7 common connectors for people:

Common pain – One of the hardest losses in the church is the loss of a child. I know this is a pain I can’t fully understand the way someone who has experienced it does. Sadly, we have a number of parents who have experienced this in our church. I’m regularly connecting them as I learn of their struggles. No one can walk through pain better with you than someone who knows the exact pain you feel. And, there are lots of other common pains in the church – infertility, personal failure, and divorce – just to name a few. (When I was in a very small church early in my ministry I often looked for common pain connections for someone in our church if they were the only one with this pain in ours.)

Common struggle – Different from pain, these are people who share a common issue they frequently are wrestling with or are currently. One example is someone who is looking for work. Another is someone struggling with a wayward child. The whole success of Alcoholics Anonymous is built on this principle. Of course, there are safeguards you need to consider with this one. You want to make sure the people you’re connecting are going to actually help each other and not be a bigger temptation to them in the struggle, but there can also be great strength in people bonding together during common struggles.

Common passion – One of the issues of struggle in our society today is human trafficking. The statistics are astounding and all of us – especially believers – should be concerned about the issue. I’ve seen, however, some people have formed a passion for doing something about it. Whole ministries have started with this passion. If I run into two people who share this passion it makes sense for me to introduce them. And, I have many times in our church. This is just one example. It could be a cause, or a cure, or a dream which is driving a person. If I know someone else shares this passion I want to connect them.

Common vocation – This is one of the easiest connecting pieces for people. Teachers understand the unique issues other teachers face daily. So do policeman. As do bankers, attorneys, the self-employed and engineers. With so much of our life revolving around what we do vocationally this makes such a natural place to connect people with a similar interest.

Common hobby – I’m no longer a golfer. I used to be, but just haven’t found the time the last decade. I love to meet a golfer though, because I almost always know another golfer. The same is true with people who fish, hunt, crochet, play cards or are amateur chefs.

Common seasons –  If you are a parent of older children, do you remember the days of endless diapers and sleepless nights? We do, but not as well as someone experiencing it today does. I love connecting new parents together. Of course, we do some of this through the programs and Bible studies of the church, but this is also a way to connect people who haven’t yet “connected” to the church. Widows and widowers of the church are in a different season of life. One specific season where I’ve connected people is new empty-nesters. I’m familiar with this one and it is hard adjusting to this season, which makes it a great connecting point.

Common goals – This is where two or more people have a specific goal in mind they want to achieve. It could be to run a marathon, to write a book, or to learn to fly a plane. Recently I connected two women who were both trying to memorize the book of Philippians. (I’m so impressed by people who can do this.) One was a young mother and one was a grandmother. I knew they needed to know each other, and I didn’t think it a coincidence I had just heard each of them express this goal at separate times within the span of a few days. They began meeting together regularly and formed a wonderful bond and love for one another.

Of course, huge in making this happen is getting to know people – asking questions – listening for the things which are important to them and remembering some of those details. And, this has to be developed with discipline and time. It’s one way I remember people – even in a large church – is by the things I learn about them.

Pastors and ministry leaders, I cannot tell you how powerful and rewarding this has been for my ministry. To see people form lasting friendships and grow in their walk with Christ – knowing the connection I made helped it happen – is such an honor and blessing. And, again, while you are looking for commonalities, this is actually a way to build diversity into your church. I highly recommend the intentionality – and it does take intentionality!

What are other similar interests you have seen where you can connect people?