7 Things I Love About Serving in the Established Church

Bellfry of old Russian church against blue sky

I recently posted about the things I miss from church planting serving in an established church. Church planting can be daunting, but the rewards from seeing people far from God get excited about Him makes all the efforts worthwhile.

A friend of mine, Tom Cheyney, texted me with a challenge – and a needed one. Tom is one of the leading experts in the field of church revitalization. His Renovate Conference is the largest conference with a primary focus on revitalizing established churches.

Tom’s challenge – Ron, I enjoyed your article about what you missed about church planting Look forward to your follow up article about the local church!
Be blessed,

Touché! Good call, Tom. You’re right. I agree with you completely. I even wrote a post encouraging some who are considering planting to consider church revitalization.

There are some things I miss about church planting – some of those I even believe we could stand to see in the established church. But, there are also many opportunities and advantages to being in the established church, which is one reason I believe God has called me in this season of life into church revitalization.

So, here goes, Tom.

7 things I love about the established church:

Experienced servant leadership. One thing we were always scrambling to find in the church plant were people who had any experience leading within the church. It’s been refreshing to be back in an established church with leaders from multiple generations. Some of our lay leaders have more experience serving in the church than I have spent in my entire adult life. It should be noted we don’t always make the best use of this experience – which is one aspect of church revitalization – but, established churches often have good, capable leaders willing to help.

History to build upon. I love to find those high points in the life of a church – where everyone was excited – and renew the passion behind them. You can’t do this in a church plant. Everything is new. There’s a value in learning and building upon history. Some history will not need to be repeated, but most established churches have periods within their past where the church was vibrant, people were motivated, and God was clearly at work among them. If you can renew the excitement you can build upon these times.

Structure. I must be honest – I’m usually anti-structure. This is one of the attractions of the church plant. But, even then we had times where we knew we needed more structure. When I arrived back in an established church I quickly learned we knew structure well – perhaps a little too well. But, there are benefits, especially in the early days of revitalization. There were areas of the church I didn’t have to focus on because they were fully functioning without me. They may need improvement – at some point – but for the time they are working. In a church plant it sometimes seemed everything needed my attention as pastor.

Intergenerational. This happens some in a church plant – we had it some – but, it can happen more naturally in an established church. This is one area where the church must be intentional. It won’t simply happen, but we already had lots of seniors when we arrived. Since then we have found younger generations don’t shy away from a church because older generations are there. In fact, they like it. They want programs and ministries geared to their specific needs, but they love the intergenerational church. I tell our seniors – remember, grandparents are cool!

Resources. Whether it’s a building, or budget dollars, or people – established churches usually have more resources available than you will find in most church plants. When I arrived back at an established church my jaw was left hanging open the first six months just looking at the facilities we had available to us. There were budget concerns to those who had been there, but coming from a growing, budget-stretched church plant, I was so thankful to find the established church has established givers.

Community influence. Granted, the church may not be utilizing their influence to its potential, but if a church has been in the community for an extended period of time there are connections and built-up influence which can be leveraged to help the church grow. It’s been amazing to me the credibility with community leaders I found as a pastor of an established church, simply because our church has been here 100 plus years.

Restoration joy. There is something special about seeing new life in an older church. I’ve had the experience of seeing new growth in a church plant – twice. It’s awesome. But, seeing the established church thrive again – regaining momentum, restoring hope and potential to a church – there’s no way to describe the joy of knowing God allowed you a unique privilege of being a part of something special.

Thanks, Tom, for the challenge. Whether it’s church planting or encouraging church revitalization and growth of an existing church – if God calls you to it, and you are faithful to the call – you’ll feel His pleasure upon your obedience and service.

7 Common Excuses for Not Doing What We Know God has Called Us To Do

Excuses File Contains Reasons And Scapegoats

There’s always an excuse if we’re looking for one.

I’ve made so many excuses in my life. For years I may have sensed God was calling me into vocational ministry, but I had to provide for my family. I would be leading with the limps of previous failures – how and why would God use me? I didn’t have the most pastoral qualities either. For example, I’m far more of an organizational developer than I am a caregiver for the sick. There were a dozen others. If anyone had an encouragement for me to be in ministry – and I received lots – I had an excuse why it wasn’t a good idea.

Even when we are certain God has called us to something, we will stall because an excuse is always near. 

And, most excuses seem reasonable at first glance. Common sense even. Think about the excuses Moses made for following God. I have to be honest – when I hear them, they make sense to me. I mean, if you’re not a good communicator – why send you as the chief spokesman for God?

But, God’s ways are not my ways – or Moses – or yours.

The reality is following a God-inspired, God-sized dream, always requires stepping into the unknown and always demands we overcome our excuses.

Are you stalling? Maybe you’re even running out of another good excuse. If an opportunity is still staring you in the face, let me encourage you from some of the best excuses I’ve used or heard – which have more times than not been proven wrong. 

Here are 7 of the most common excuses I’ve used or heard:

I can’t!

Your excuse is you don’t have what it takes. And, the sad part of this excuse – this also means you aren’t trusting God to provide what you lack. Saying I can’t to a God thing is an indicator of faith. If God calls you to it – you can do it because whatever you lack He will supply . (Gideon would love to weigh in on this excuse. Judges 6)

I don’t know how!

The task seems overwhelming and you may be too proud to ask for help. So, I don’t know how will just have to do for now. If you trace its roots – this excuse is often fueled by either laziness, apathy or fear. (Do you think Noah knew how to build a boat the size of an ark? See Genesis 6)

I don’t have time!

God calls for obedience now, but you’re preoccupied. And, chances are – with this as an excuse – you never will have time. This one has worked for me before too – for a season. What it really means is I have my time and God’s time. And, more specifically, I have my agenda and God’s agenda – and there is no time left in my agenda. (See how Jesus liked this excuse in Luke 9:57-62)

I’m all alone!

Leading out by faith feels this way sometimes, doesn’t it? Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to being obedient to God’s call. I once thought I was the only one with a burden to plant a church. It seemed to be a lonely burden until we stepped forward in faith. Little did Cheryl and I know God had an army of core members prepared just waiting to be asked. (Remember, Elijah thought He was alone – and he found out otherwise. 1 Kings 19)

I’m afraid!

And, the reality of this excuse is you can choose to let fear control you. I have. Many times. Fear is simply an emotion and it’s a powerful, often motivating excuse. Much could go wrong with your dream. You could mess it up! You could have misunderstood what you sense God calling you to do. Plus, our mind is capable and skilled at quickly creating worst-case-scenarios. But, know this. Trusting God, even when you’re afraid to do so, always produces God-appointed and God-sized victories. In fact, you can’t possibly get to the victory until you face the fear. (Could we learn anything here from Esther? Esther 3)

I can’t afford it!

You’re afraid the dream will be more expensive than the provision of God. You wouldn’t verbalize this one, but it’s real, isn’t it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the money fear raised by potential church planters. I often say the money is in the harvest. (Tell this excuse to the widow in 1 Kings 17 or the disciples who picked up 12 baskets of leftover bread in Matthew 14)

I won’t!

This may be the boldest excuse. With this excuse you simply refuse. You may disguise it lots of ways, but the fact is you’re doing things your way – instead of God’s way. You can combine all the other excuses here, because you won’t even give it a try. In fact, if the truth is known, you’d rather run some more. I did this one for years. (How did this excuse work for Jonah?)

There will always be an excuse not to follow the dreams God lays on your heart. Obstacles in life are plentiful. You can keep making excuses, or you can address them one excuse at a time. The one who achieves most is often the one most willing to overcome excuses.

What excuse are you using to stall on God’s plan?

5 Steps When the Changes Needed Seem Overwhelming

overwhelmed business woman sitting at her desk surrounded by many male hands holding different objects

The first couple years into church revitalization there were more opportunities than time. I was so excited about the potential we had to restore a historic, established church, but my calendar wouldn’t hold anymore and my mind was exploding.

One day I remember driving on the road which leads back to our hometown. I considered my schedule, the enormity of the challenge ahead, the dozens of emails awaiting a response and the people I was still having to say “no” to when they asked for my time – many who didn’t understand why the pastor couldn’t see them right away – and I turned to Cheryl and said, “Right now I wish I could just keep driving and this had been a nice little dream”. It wasn’t reality speaking or how I really felt. Plus, I knew to be obedient I was going to stay. It was emotions talking. I knew I was simply feeling overwhelmed.

What do you do when you find yourself in that situation? When the changes are overwhelming – and you don’t know if you can do all expected of you – what do you do?

I hope you can learn from my experience. Here is what I did.

5 steps when the changes needed seem overwhelming:

Step back.

Take a day. Take a week. Pause everything. I realize it makes no sense to take a break when your schedule is packed, but stepping back gives you an opportunity to take a fresh look at the challenges ahead. Again, it may seem like you don’t have time to pause right now, but it may be you don’t have time not to do so. The time away will give you a better perspective, a clearer head and the rest will give you energy you need.

Get fit.

I used to tell our staff in a church plant that “you have to strive to be healthy to work here right now”. It was this way in this particular season in ministry. As much as it depended on me, I needed to be healthy spiritually, relationally, emotionally and physically. I needed to eat healthy, exercise, and maintain a healthy relationship with my wife. I also needed extended time in God’s Word and prayer. This was even more than usual a time for intentionality in living a healthy lifestyle.

Renew the vision.

When change is overwhelming you have to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. The why is the key. It’s what fueled you in the first place and what has the best potential to fuel you again. I knew I was called here for a purpose. God doesn’t make mistakes. If you are overwhelmed at something God called you to do, ask God to renew again the passion you had in the beginning before you were overwhelmed.

Chart a course one step at a time.

Baby steps. It’s how big change is accomplished. One foot in front of the other. The bigger the change the more methodical you must be. One day. One week. One month at a time. I had to ask people to be patient. I had to prioritize each day. I had to not feel bad about saying no. I had to get up every morning, create a list of things I could accomplish for the day, and realize tomorrow would be a new day. Learning to live a healthy pace may be a leader’s greatest challenge and most needed strength.

Invite people on the journey.

Delegation becomes even more important during overwhelming times in leadership. If you’re world is like mine this pretty much equates to every season of ministry. In church revitalization I was reminded over and over again the value of a team. I had to learn who I could trust, but I also have to take risks on people. I couldn’t then – and can’t now – be successful without others.

I made slow progress the first couple years. I was amazing how God blessed us in spite of our speed to obey. But, the process seemed to work. God has overwhelmed us – even in our times of being overwhelmed!

If you are overwhelmed at the changes occurring in your life right now, I suggest these 5 steps.

Ever been overwhelmed at the changes needed – what suggestions would you offer?

7 Things I Miss About Church Planting in an Established Church

Cultivation in pot. growth concept.

I only have four church experiences in vocational ministry. One was a traditional church where God allowed us to bring a renewed energy and growth. I was a part of two successful church plants. And, for the last several years, I’ve been involved in revitalization of a historic, established church.

God has been so good to us in each of these churches – we have seen growth in the church and the people. We have loved every experience and the people in each church.

Recently, I was reflecting with one of our staff members who has never served in a church plant. As we shared stories, he was fascinated by how different things were at times in church planting versus the established church. 

Our conversation reminded me – as much as I love the established church – there are some things I miss about church planting – just being honest.

Here are 7 things I miss about church planting:

There are few “pew sitters”. 

Everyone has a job in a church plant – especially early in a plant, everyone feels needed. They know if they don’t do their part – Sunday will not happen. There’s an “all hands on deck” attitude each Sunday. Ownership is a shared mentality.

People far from God feel welcome. 

People come to a church plant with less reservations or wondering if they will be accepted. Even though most – at least many – established churches would welcome them just as easily. I know ours will – thankfully. But, perception can be a huge front door barrier. I’ve stated numerous times in our established church – sometimes the steeple can be the biggest hindrance. Don’t misunderstand, I love and appreciate our building and the opportunities it affords us as a church. I even love our steeple, and I’m thankful for the sacrifices of those who built it long before I arrived. There is great tradition and symbolism involved. But, there is something about the rawness of a church with no building, meeting in a high school, theater or rented storefront, which invites people who don’t feel they “fit in” a traditional church setting. 

You see people raw. 

I heard a cuss word almost every other Sunday in church planting. And, it was a part of normal conversation. They didn’t know “church’ was a place for “nice” language. If they got drunk the night before – they told you. If they were struggling to believe in God – you knew it. There was no pretense. I would rather we all had “clean” language. Drunkeness is a sin. God can be believed without reservation. But, it was refreshing to know where people really stood. There was no passive aggression or pretense – something I see often in the established church – afraid, perhaps, they wouldn’t be accepted otherwise.  

People bring visitors every week. 

People were so excited about the church they brought their friends. What a novel idea! Sure, it happens in the established church too, but it seemed to happen more frequently in a church plant. People in the established church often feel they’ve exhausted their contacts, all their friends are already in the church, or the newness and excitement of inviting has long since past. (Obviously, this is one of the major mindsets to challenge in church revitalization.) 

Small steps are celebrated. 

In an established church there are so many “mature” Christians – certainly people who know all the expectations of the church and appear to follow them – a newcomer far from God can often feel they don’t measure up at all. In a church plant, which often reaches people far from God, every baby step seems to be a major step. 

Change is expected. 

It’s not rejected. It’s not resisted. There are no politics or the “right people” you have to talk to before you implement. Everyone knows it’s part of the process. It’s in the DNA.

Rules are not cumbersome. 

Granted, there were times we probably needed a few more rules in our church plant. As our church and staff grew, we needed more structure. But, the longer we are together as an organization – any organization (including the church) – the more structured we become. And, sadly, the more protective we become of the structure also. Tradition forms and its much harder to adapt to what’s needed and new.

Those are a few things I miss about church planting. It’s an exciting time in ministry and, as hard as it is, it’s very rewarding. My prayers go out to my church planting friends. 

There’s probably a companion post needed next of the things I’m enjoying about the established church. There are certainly benefits to an established church. I actually encourage many pastors to consider church revitalization even over church planting. I’ll work on this post. Share some of your own if you want to help fuel a future post.

How to Know If You’re Moving Toward Multiplication – A New Tool for Lead Pastors

Little green seedling grow from tree stump

Recently, my friends at Exponential introduced a new resource for church leaders I believe will be invaluable for the church as we continue to focus on healthy Kingdom multiplication. The Becoming 5 Assessment Tool is the first of its kind to give churches a good read on how they’re doing with becoming a church that grows by multiplying itself (multiplication growth)—and not just adding attendees (addition growth).

The concept is simple. Register for a free account at becomingfive.org, answer the multiple-choice questions at your convenience (probably about 30 minutes to compete) and then review your results. Based on your responses, the assessment provides you with your church’s multiplication profile (Levels 1-5) and multiplication pattern.

The multiplication profile is based on five cultures of multiplication that Exponential has identified:

Level1 (subtraction, survival or scarcity mode)
Level 2 (plateaued, survival and tension between scarcity and growth)
Level 3 (growing by addition but not multiplication)
Level 4 (reproducing)
Level 5 (multiplying, releasing and sending)

(To read detailed examples of the five profiles, download the FREE eBook Becoming a Level 5 Multiplying Church by Todd Wilson and Dave Ferguson at exponential.org/becomingfive.)

The multiplication pattern you receive along with your profile offers you a snapshot of where your church has been, where you currently are, and where you’d like to go. Exponential says most churches will test into seven core patterns: aspiring, advancing, breakout, reproducing, addition, survivor and recovery. For example, a 1-1-5 score reflects an “aspiring” pattern representing a church that has Level 1 behaviors in the past (1) and present (1), but aspires to be a Level 5 church in the coming years (5). A 3-4-5 “reproducing” pattern represents steady progress toward Level 5.

If you’re wondering, the Becoming 5 Assessment Tool has gone through rigorous evaluation, analysis and testing, including early review from a team of national leaders, followed by a survey evaluation with 75 other leaders, investment in a professional developer of assessment tools, and beta testing.

A few things to note:
•​The initial version of the assessment tool is contextualized for U.S. churches, but some international contexts may also benefit. The tool can be easily adapted in the future to include additional international contexts.

•​Becoming 5 focuses only on a church’s sending capacity and is not intended to evaluate a ​church’s capacity to make disciples. Exponential says a second assessment tool for measuring a ​church’s discipleship capacity is forthcoming.

I like what my friend and Exponential Director Todd Wilson says: “Discipleship has to be at the core of multiplication, but just because you put it at the core doesn’t mean your church is multiplying. Jesus spent three years building 12 disciples were able to spring into action and build His church.”

It is assumed that approximately 80 percent of churches in the United States are at Levels 1 and 2 (subtracting or plateaued), with 20 percent at Levels 3-4 (and virtually 0% at Level 5). Of the 20 percent who are adding, it is estimated that less than 4 percent are reproducing at Level 4.

Moving beyond the 4 percent requires each of us as leaders to look candidly at how we’re doing with multiplication, identify the tensions that are keeping us from Levels 4 and 5, and then develop a plan to wrestle with these tensions and move forward.

I highly encourage you to take the assessment and encourage your team to engage as well. Jesus’ Great Commission to His disciples will only be carried out through the multiplication of His church.

Note: If you’re a ministry leader, consider linking the assessment on your website. For more information, click here.

4 Ways a Team Grows Together 


This is a requested guest post from Ministry Library. I don’t do these for profit. I only do then when I believe in the oppportunity.

4 Ways a Team Grows Together 

Some people hate those personality tests but they have made a huge difference for our team. There are tons out there but we require each person on our team to take 2 different personality tests and each one tells us some very unique attributes about that person.

One is the Myers-Briggs. This test gives me an insight into how that person thinks and sees the world around them. I think the best part of this test is the detailed report I get about their workplace habits and how to communicate with that person. If you’re curious, I am an INTJ.

The other test is Strengths Finder 2.0, sometimes called “Leading From Your Strengths.”
This test will reveal your top 5 (out of 34) strengths and how to maximize your talents and build them into strengths. The reason I love this test is that it allows me to create the most healthy environment possible to make each person happy, productive and successful.
My 2 most prominent strengths are Activator and Individualization.

Ask The Tough Questions
Great leaders ask the tough questions! 

Here are 5 questions you need to starting asking your team. 

Who are you developing to take your place? If leadership development isn’t communicated and followed up on, it won’t happen.

What are you doing to grow yourself? By regularly asking this questions you’ll create a culture of learning in your staff. A good followup question is “What resource or support I can give?”

Is there anything I am doing that wastes your time? Yep. that’s a toughy! I usually add ”Please answer honestly or you’re fired!” to lighten the mood.

What is your biggest hassle in your current role? I love this question so much. It will shed some serious light on your systems and organization.

What can we improve on as a team or a church? Breakthroughs happen horizontally. You’ll be surprised by the creativity and problem solving that happens when you let people speak into other areas besides the one they’re in.

When asking these questions, it’s important to ask followup questions to make sure you have a full understanding of their situation.

Require A Coaching Call
All of the world’s best athletes have coaches. Why?

Because a coach can see things the athlete can’t. It’s impossible to coach yourself to the next level. We just don’t know, what we don’t know. As your team and your church grow, there are going to be these “gotcha” moments that you just won’t see coming.

I require my team to have regular coaching calls with people in similar roles at a church that is twice our size.

I do this myself as well. Our church is in the process of launching a campus.So, I cold called 7 other church around the country that I thought would be able to coach me through this process. By talking to people that have “been there, done that,” you’ll learn from their mistakes and completely avoid those “gotcha” moments.

Learn Together
Imagine if you could have some of the best pastors or leaders come in and give you and your staff a personal coaching session.

That would be awesome and way too expensive!

Reading a book is like getting coached by the author.

I think one of the best ways to learn together is to go through a book as a staff. But if you just buy them the book and tell them to read, you’ve failed as a leader.
To get the most out of a book there needs to be a group experience where you can learn outloud and help each other apply what you’ve learned.

I believe in this model of leadership development so much I created a resource for pastors and their teams. Its called MinistryLibrary.com

We help pastors grow and lead healthy teams by creating 10 minute leadership videos and team workshops based on popular ministry and business leadership books. The workshops are where you’ll get the most value. They have take-aways, resources, discussion questions and group activities that will get your team thinking, collaborating and learning together!

Check it out. MinistryLibrary.com

Balancing the Big Deals Within an Organization – A Senior Leader Challenge


I’ll never forget the first time I found out a staff member was disappointed because he didn’t think I supported his ministry. I had said no to a budget item for his ministry, because we needed to do something in another ministry. I felt horrible. I knew personally I valued his ministry – and him – but my actions had led him to believe otherwise.

I learned a couple of things from this experience. First, I needed to communicate the “why” behind my decisions better. Second, there are some things we do as senior leaders others on the team can’t understand – and we shouldn’t expect them to.

As a leader, I have to consistently remind myself one person’s big deal may not be another person’s big deal.

Those in finance naturally believe their ministry is critical to the success of the church, which may lead them to think attention should be given to finances above everything else. It’s their big deal.

Those in small group ministry naturally believe their ministry is most critical to the success of the church, which may lead them to think attention should be given to small group ministry above everything else. It’s their big deal.

Those in worship planning naturally believe their ministry is most critical to the success of the church, which may lead them to think attention should be given to worship planning above everything else. It’s their big deal.

Those in children’s ministry naturally believe their ministry is most critical to the success of the church, which may lead them to think attention should be given to children’s ministry above everything else. It’s their big deal.

You get the point. 

Of course, the ultimate “big deal” is the vision of the organization. As a church, our big deal – our vision – is to “lead people to Jesus and nurture them in their faith“. While everyone on our team agrees with this vision, they are also rightfully passionate about – and actively involved in – their specific role in accomplishing the vision. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I want them owning their individual ministry and doing everything they can to see it prosper. But, at times this specially focused passion for their role can cloud their ability to see the needs of other ministries.

Of course, all ministries have equal importance in accomplishing the vision – therefore, part of a leader’s job is balancing all the “big deals” towards one combined BIG DEAL – the shared vision. We can’t spend all our energy, time, and resources in one particular ministry, as important as it is to the success of the church.

Frankly, finding balance between these competing big deals has always been difficult for me, and at times one ministry does require greater attention than others. The key learning for me is I must continually recognize the individual contribution each ministry brings to our overall success, while always keeping the big picture in my mind of what we are trying to accomplish. I can’t allow one ministry to cloud my perspective of other ministries.

It’s a unique role of senior leaders others on the team may not always understand – or even appreciate. And, we shouldn’t expect them to.

Leaders, do you share this dilemma? How do you balance the big deals within your organization?

The Absolute Greatest Killer of Motivation – And 3 Suggestions


What’s the greatest killer of motivation?

We often think it is a lack of vision.

But, you can have the greatest vision ever and still see motivation dwindle and momentum die.

The fact is, we have an amazing ability to get bored with good things over time.

In fact, TIME is the greatest killer of momentum.

It doesn’t matter how much we love something, time can cause us to lose interest.

All of us can think of something we once loved, but now it’s old news. We have a the sad ability of tiring of wonderful things.

Buy a child a toy at Christmas and they love it – it’s the best Christmas ever – but a few weeks later; perhaps only a few hours – they probably aren’t as excited about it anymore. They are ready for some new toys.

Marketers know they have to keep changing things to keep us buying. We get bored easily. That’s why Apple’s stock is through the roof. They keep introducing new products because we get bored with the old ones.

If we aren’t careful, we’ll do it in our relationships too.

One of the biggest obstacles in many marriages is boredom. We quit dating – we quit courting – we quit surprising each other. Over time, we get bored in the relationship. Time kills the momentum the couple once had for each other. 

That feeling of boredom comes into the church also.

Greeting at the front door was great at first. We met lots of new people and genuinely felt we were making a difference. Now we know everyone and the job has become old. I’m bored.

Time killed my motivation.

Going to small group? Working with students? Playing in the band? Fun at first, but time has made me bored.

Perhaps you understand by now. Maybe you’re bored with this post. It was great when it started, but time has taken away your enthusiasm. Let me get to some help. It’s time.

If time is a killer of motivation, what’s the solution?

Keep retelling the vision.

Remind yourself and others of why you are doing what you are doing. If your mission is to reach people for Christ, then get excited about it again. Renew your passion for others – for lost, hurting people. Restore your first love. 

Keep practicing the vision.

Sometimes we get so busy with doing “stuff” we don’t really do what we were called to do. We are notorious at this in churches. Meetings to talk about doing missions take more of our time than doing missions. If you want to restore your motivation – do the things you’re motivated to do. If reaching broken, hurting people for Christ was the original passion God called you to do, then step away from the routines and busyness of life to start winning a few broken, hurting people for Christ again. Drop the mundane and follow the heart. Renew your personal passion by doing living the vision. 

Keep sharing the impact of the vision with others.

Most likely there are still some people motivated for the vision. Surround yourself with them. Share their stories. Let their enthusiasm rub off on you and others. Live out the vision with others who believe in it as much as you do. It will motivate you – or re-motivate you – as you share the vision with others again.

Have you seen time destroy motivation? What are you doing about it?

3 Options When You Can’t Stand the Heat in the Leadership Kitchen

Chef fire fighter

When I was growing up I frequently heard the phrase.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Are people still saying it and I’m just not hearing it?

Either way, I love a good analogy to help me think through a topic. And, I think the phrase applies in leadership. And, I’m not sure getting out of the leadership kitchen when it gets too hot is the only option.

Are you experiencing the “heat” – the stress of leadership? 

Do you feel you are in over your head? 

Are you not able to keep up with the demands on you personally and are you, therefore, questioning your abilities as a leader? 

Do others have the perception you can’t accomplish what you are supposed to do? (Perception is often more powerful than reality.) Are you stuck and wondering what to do next?

I have been there numerous times as a leader.

At 20 years of age, I was thrust into a management position, because the manger left suddenly. By default I was given responsibility I had bluffed upper management into believing I was prepared to do. I wasn’t. When I became a self-employed small business owner I quickly realized the ball rested in my court, I was responsible for meeting payroll for others and myself, and I was in well over my head. As the pastor of fast growing churches, there have been many times I’ve not known what to do.

The heat in the kitchen was more than I could bear.

Thankfully, I’ve matured enough to admit it these days.

When you find yourself in over your head in leadership – use the analogy of the “heat in the leadership kitchen”.

I think you have 3 options:

Get out of the kitchen

There’s always that. Let’s be honest and admit you may be in the wrong kitchen. The heat may be too much for you. Sometimes you simply aren’t a fit for the role. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a fit for any role – just not this one – or in this organization. My leadership style wouldn’t work in many churches. Being willing to admit it saves you heartache, your team from destruction, and the organization from having to make difficult decisions regarding your leadership in the future – when everyone else discovers you’re out of your league or misfit. 

Learn from better cooks

Continuing with the kitchen analogy, perhaps the oven temperature is set too high. You may be using the wrong ingredients. Maybe you need better assistant chefs. I’m not trying to stir up a recipe simply to fit this point in the post (Okay, please admit that’s funny), but you may need to invite input from people who have been cooking (leading) longer than you have. Chances are good an outside look can see things you don’t see. Leadership can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) done alone. Find mentors willing to invest in you. This often begins with the humility to admit you need help and the willingness to ask for it. But, the best leaders occasionally need help and great leaders aren’t too proud to ask for it. I’ve also discovered seasoned leaders feel honored to ask. (And, as a Christian leader, remember God is on your side and He may be waiting for you to surrender before He jumps in to help.)

Improve the kitchen

Perhaps it’s the environment you’ve created in the kitchen. You may need to change the people who are seated at your kitchen table or who are watching you cook. You may need to get a better stove or, as I’ve learned, even getting the right spatula will make me a better cook. Again, I’m not trying to overuse this analogy, but the point is in leadership we usually have to get better before we can get bigger. Sharpening our personal skills, growing the strength of our team, placing the right people in positions around us and improving the organization’s culture and environment can be helpful when a leader feels overwhelmed. You have to do what it takes to become a better leader. I got a second master’s degree to help me in leadership. You may not need to go to that extreme, but you should be intentional about gaining the training and experience you need to be a lead at a higher level.

Feeling hot in the leadership kitchen? You may need to get out – but there may be other options.

Got any other kitchen leadership analogies you’d care to share?

The Nine Forms of Generic Vision That Stifle Practically Every Church


This is a guest post by my friend Will Mancini. Will is one of the best church strategy and vision guys I’ve met. Check out his new book – God Dreams.

The Nine Forms of Generic Vision That Stifle Practically Every Church

Most pastors are visionaries. But to fully realize the vision of a church, a pastor needs more than a generic sense of the future.

When it comes to vision, the biggest challenge to success is not your obstacles. The biggest challenge to overcome is settling for a lesser vision and not knowing it. If you grab on to a faulty tool—in this case the tool of vision—everything you to try to build with that tool will be limited.

Once you move past a generic sense to a vivid vision, you will still have many obstacles to overcome, but those are the natural challenges of implementation. You still have the hard work to do. But every action and every point of communication is more powerful with the vivid and compelling picture of the future in view.

If you are living with generic vision, and I believe most pastors are, more of your implementation challenges have to do with clarity than you realize. In the last week alone, I have seen issues like staff hiring decisions, children’s programming decisions, and campus launch decisions all present major dilemmas only because of unclear vision. Yet the lead pastor didn’t recognize it as such.

How then, can we apprehend the generic church vision that plagues our churches? In my new book, God Dreams, I have identified nine forms generic vision to help you name it in your church. The nine stem from three healthy biases. That is to say, we empower generic vision with good motives most of the time. We do the wrong thing for the right reason. It’s a good motive taken a little too far in application.

The three healthy biases are: accuracy, growth and efficiency. I will briefly describe each bias with the three forms of generic vision they create. Also, I will invite you to receive free God Dreams resources when they are available at the link below.

A healthy bias toward accuracy can lead us to confuse Biblical statements with Biblically informed vision.

The story of church vision in the last two decades could be described as the great misuse of the Great Commandment (Mt. 22:34-40) and the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20). Most people have heard some variation of the following as a vision statement for a local church:
• “Our vision is to love God and love others.” (Love God vision)
• “Our vision is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.” (Make disciples vision)
• “Our vision is to glorify God.” (Glorify God vision)

These are biblical imperatives that should apply to all churches, but not as a vision statement. Why? When Jesus summarized the law, He was not giving churches a vision statement. This is a meaningful summary of the law, but it’s not an answer to the question: if we’re a church, what should our vision be for the next three to twenty years?

To summarize the problem, in our efforts to be biblical we fail to be imaginative, by cut-n-pasting verses as vision.

A healthy bias toward growth can lead us to substitute a grow-only vision for a growth-minded vision.

Some church leaders equate growth with vision. “If we experience momentum, we must have vision,” they reason. Here are three examples of how growth becomes an end in itself as generic kinds of vision statements for a local church:
• “Our vision is to reach more people for Christ.” (Reach more vision)
• “Our vision is to build a bigger facility or launch more campuses in order to take the gospel to more places.” (Build more vision)
• “Our vision is to change world.” (More change vision)

Every church should be reaching more people and multiplying disciples. And an increased response can certainly lead to more facilities and more campuses.

A healthy bias for growth might undergird a vision, but statements like these are weak by themselves. “Reaching more” and “changing the world” are too vague. And buildings and campuses might be important tools, but they are means to something greater, not an end in themselves.

A healthy bias toward efficiency can lead to a done-for-you vision that neglects adequate do-it-yourself vision ownership.

Church leaders across the centuries have been drawn to learn from other churches where good things seem to be happening. Often this happens with the best of motives: they suspect God is at work and they want to be part of it. They appreciate the encouragement, the ideas, the tools, and the training from the other churches’ leadership. They follow the spirit of 1 Corinthians 11:1 where the Apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” A noble intent for sure.

But the passion that says, “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” while wisely seeking to improve efficiency, can lead to a debilitating blockage of the imagination. Who wants to leverage the learning of others to the point of sacrificing the thrill of having a God-given, handcrafted vision?

This bias shows up in several approaches to vision. But unlike the accuracy bias and the growth bias, the efficiency bias doesn’t usually express itself in a written vision statement, but in the mindset of the leaders. I would label three expressions of this intent as follows:
• Serve as a franchise vision
• Offer the most vision (i.e., more programs)
• Be the best vision (model church, top 10, etc.)

Of course I have much more to say about these nine forms of generic vision in God Dreams. But I bet this is enough to begin a meaningful conversation with your team.

The post will be unpacked in greater detail in God Dreams, my fourth book. The subtitle is 12 Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future. I invite you to browse through the book website, goddrea.ms, for more resources.