7 Suggestions for Churches Meeting in a School

school building

Over the years I have received lots of emails asking how we did certain things as a church meeting in a school. I am blessed to pastor a church now with an amazing facility, but my roots are deep in churches meeting in schools. It’s a unique ministry and opportunity. I usually figure that when several people are asking the same question that it represents a larger audience wanting to know the same answers.

Here are 7 suggestions for churches meeting in a school.

Most of these are more philosophy than actions, but with them as our paradigm it helps direct our actions.

Grow volunteers

Being in a borrowed facility forces the church to rely on lots of volunteer labor to set up and tear down each week. This can be stressful on people, but it also creates an opportunity to raise up new volunteer leadership. Our church would never happen without the countless hours of donated time, but in the process volunteers sharpened their leadership skills and realized the joy of investing in God’s Kingdom and seeing the results it brings.

Love the school

We supported the school we are in more than just on Sunday morning. We supported their activities, we attended their ballgames, and we tried to meet needs the school had as we were made aware of them.

Realize it’s not a rental situation

You may be paying rent, but more than renting a space you are borrowing a facility that has another intended purpose. We realized the school building’s primary purpose is to educate children during the week. We knew we were an added burden to the facility. We saw it as a win/win for our school, but we didn’t take it for granted we were secondary in importance at the school.

Be a blessing

At the end of our time in the school, whenever it may come, our goal was we would actually be missed by the school — and not just for the money we brought to the table. We had as a goal to be a blessing to the school. With this as a goal and mindset, it forced us to find ways to help the school outside of the money we paid for usage. We volunteered at their events. We helped with special projects. We allowed them to use our equipment at times.

Don’t interrupt school

We respected the facility as a place for education and we never tried to use our influence at the school to trump a school activity. We knew we were a secondary use and so we gladly bowed out if a school situation arose. Our school didn’t do much on Sundays, and if it did it would have created more problems, but the few times there was a Sunday conflict we tried to be accommodating to the school’s needs more than our own. We would rather be inconvenienced than for them to be because of us.

View your money as a contribution

It changed the perspective of our staff and key leaders when we saw our money going to make the education process better, not just as a rental line item on our income statement. Schools were always struggling to fund adequate resources and we believed our money helped. This made writing checks so much more pleasant!

Acknowledge critical players

The relationships you have with school officials is critical to making any agreement work. There are some people who make meeting in a school a positive or negative experience. This may include school district officials, the school administration, teachers, and custodians. We were especially sensitive to the teachers who teach in areas where we meet in the school, because we realized we were sharing space with them. Our experience was the custodian plays a large role in any churches success in the school, so we tried to respect and show appreciation to them.

Have you been a part of a church meeting in a school? What did you do to make the arrangement work?

3 Questions to Discern What I Personally Announce on Sunday Morning

Vintage microphone on the table

If you’re a pastor then you know the tension I am about to describe in a made-up scenario.

Pastor, can you announce the next meeting of the “Faithful Followers” meeting? It’s Tuesday night at 7 at Sister Rita’s house. Everyone needs to bring their favorite dessert.”

Do you announce it or not?

It may depend on several things. The size of your church. The expected size of the event. Frankly, how much pressure you will face if you don’t.

But, it’s often not an easy answer.

While I hope you never cave into pressure to do what you know you shouldn’t — I do realize the pressure. (And, even this post will upset some who won’t or didn’t get their agenda promoted.)

When we were a church plant running over 2,000 people a week I still had people who wanted me to wish someone “Happy Birthday” from stage. And, sometimes the pressure came from one of our most faithful volunteers. I get it.

But, if you want to be effective you can’t promote everything from stage.

If I promote everything I wouldn’t have time to preach, nothing would really be “special”, and pretty soon people wouldn’t listen to much of what I had to say. Plus, if I promote one thing there is automatic precedent and pressure to promote another thing. Over time you’re announcing “Faithful Followers”, “Joyful Journey” and Wednesday’s afternoon coffee club.

Where’s the line?

I think saying the pastor will never promote anything is the wrong answer. I realize the value in a pastor’s “endorsement”.

So, how do you decide what to personally promote?

I am assuming announcements are made by someone else or some other means on Sunday mornings. These are things I’m expected to say.

Here are 3 questions I ask when I discern making announcements I make personally:

What needs my personal promotion most?

This seems like a reasonable question, right? What I’m asking myself is really what is valuable to the largest amount of people and has a chance to be more successful if I say something about it? Just asking this question may or may not eliminate the “Faithful Followers” meeting. It depends on the number of people the meeting impacts within the context of the entire church. If it’s a few, I’m less likely to mention it. If it’s a significant percent — perhaps 25% or more of the church would be interested — I’m more likely to address it personally. (And, the percent is just a number. I use my best judgment here for what seems like a significant impact on the congregation as a whole.) When I talk about a men’s ministry event, for example, I know nearly half of the congregation has the opportunity to attend.

Where do I need to add credibility to a ministry?

When I arrived at the church I’m at now we had a vision to grow our college ministry. It makes sense. We are less than a mile to the center of a university and a junior college. When they had an activity, although it might impact only a small portion of the congregation, when I promoted it I raised the value of college ministry in our church. It reminded people of the importance and showed my “support”. I’ve done the same for our parking ministry which was launched shortly after I arrived. Again, I realize the weight the position brings to something and if it’s something the church needs to value more I’m likely to talk about it.

What impacts a large portion of the church and needs more attention to be successful?

We are in a growth mode. Much of this growth is from young adults and young families. Our preschool ministry is being stretched. What a great “problem” to have! I love it. But, we do need more willing servants to fill the growing needs in this area. I am frequently bringing this growth and need to the attention of our congregation. Our preschool director is thankful and apparently the personal word of encouragement makes a difference in recruiting efforts — or so I’m told. If the need can only be met fully with my mention then I know I need to bring it before the church.

Those are some of the ways I discern what to announce. Again, I can’t talk about everything our church does.

To be candid, this doesn’t eliminate the pressure from those who want something announced. It does give me some comfort I’ve at least thought through my answer. 

This also doesn’t, however, negate the importance of anything we do. Every ministry is hopefully important to achieving our mission. We have a website, social media, bulletins, a mobile app, slides in the service, and announcements someone else does on Sunday to cover other things. When there is only so much time on a Sunday I have to carefully discern what I personally mention.

In closing, these are considerations for what I personally announce. Because there is only so much information people can retain I think they may be good questions to filter all the Sunday morning announcements allowed in a church service. 

A Word of Encouragement to Pastors During Pastor Appreciation Month

Stressed-man

I came into ministry later in life after over 20 years in the business world. Maybe this explains some of why I was surprised when I entered the ministry at how hard churches can be on a pastor.

I never knew.

My church leadership blog has given me access into the lives of hundreds of pastors. Many are in smaller churches where they are one of a few, if not the only, staff members. Others are in larger churches where there are more staff members to spread the workload. Regardless, however, of church size many times the pastor is drowning. His spouse is drowning. His family is suffering. They can’t keep up with the demands of the church.

Honestly, I never knew. At least not to the severity of what I’ve discovered.

Some churches expect the pastor to be at every hospital bed. They expect them to know and call when they are sick. They expect them to attend every Sunday school social and every picnic on the grounds. The pastor is to officiate their wedding and then be the counselor when their marriage is suffering. Someday preach their funeral, but for today visit their neighbor who isn’t going to church — instead, of course, of them building a relationship with the person and bringing them to church (which is way more effective.)

The pastor is supposed to recruit Sunday school teachers, manage a budget and be actively engaging the community through a healthy Tuesday night evangelism program. Then, they expect a well researched, well presented Sunday message — fully abreast and addressing all the current news events of the week — one in the morning and one at night, along with a passionate leading of the Wednesday night prayer meeting.

One pastor told me he is allowed one Sunday off per year. I hesitated to do the math on the number of messages he is doing in a given year.

And, in the midst of all those responsibilities, when I talk to many pastors they hear far more negative feedback from people than they ever hear the positives.

Wow! I never knew.

And with different parameters the same unreasonable expectations may exist for every staff member of a local church.  

Now some of this is exaggeration, and no doubt most pastors reading this love their people and love their work, but in some churches it is exactly the expectation. And, in principle, the activities may be different, but the level of activity is normal for many pastors, again, especially in smaller churches.

And, even in those churches where the expectations are totally unreasonable there is probably a pastor who is desperately trying to live out the call of God and love people.

But, to be honest, I’m burdened for those pastors.

I learned when my boys were young and I was running a business, serving on the city council and on dozens of committees, if I wanted to be successful as a husband, father, and business owner, I had to be personally and privately healthy, so I could achieve more publicly.

It was then, for example, running switched from being a fun pastime to a necessary part of my week. I needed and craved the downtime and the exercise. It was then I had to get up early to make sure I had the days quiet time to fuel my soul. It was then I became diligent in scheduling my week, so I didn’t miss family activities.

If I could give one piece of advice to pastors, ALL PASTORS, especially during Pastor Appreciation month, it would be that they take care of themselves personally. Take care of your family, your finances, and your emotional health. It’s the only way you can meet the demands of your church.

You may need to share this post with some key leaders you trust in the church. You may want to have a hard conversation and establish some healthier boundaries within the church. Take some time and read Jethro’s advice to Moses. Read Acts 6.

I love you pastors.

I want you around for a while. We need you. You’re doing Kingdom work.

Take care of yourself. If needed, reach out to someone before you crash and burn. God called you to do His work, but the work He called you to do specifically, won’t be done (at least by you) if you aren’t here to do it.

I’m pulling for you !

7 Ways to Maintain Respect as a Leader

respect

People follow people they trust. They trust people they respect.

As a leader, one of your most valuable and needed assets is the respect of the people you are trying to lead. If a leader is respected, people will follow him or her almost anywhere.   If a leader looses respect it becomes very difficult to regain respect.

Often a new leader is given respect because of his or her position as a leader, but respect can be quickly lost due to performance. Many times it’s the seemingly small things which cause the most damage to a leader’s reputation and damages respect.

I have found with a few simple (some not so simple) acts help protect the respect a leader enjoys.

Here are 7 ways to maintain respect as a leader:

Be responsive. Return phone calls and emails promptly. Be accessible to real people. You may not always be available, but you can create systems where people are genuinely valued and heard.

Be consistent. Do what you say you will do. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Don’t tell people what they want to hear, but speak grace and truth in all circumstances. Let people learn to trust you are a person of your word and can be depended upon based on what you say.

Have high character. Act with integrity. Be honest. Protect your moral credibility. Be transparent and open to challenge. Allow a few people to know the real you and speak into the dark places of your life.

Be fair to everyone. Don’t be too harsh. Don’t be too soft. Treat everyone with respect. Genuinely love people. (People know when you do or don’t.)

Keep growing. Learn continually and encourage growth in yourself and others. Ask questions. Be teachable. Read. Observe. Glean from others and experience.

Have good work ethic. I personally think leaders should work as hard or harder than others on their team. But, having a good work ethic doesn’t mean over-working either. It’s working smart and setting a good example for others to follow.

Be courageous. Make hard decisions. Don’t shy away from conflict. Know who you are in Christ and live boldly the calling God places on your life. Live with the aim to finish well — in spite of the obstacles you encounter.

Maintaining respect is a matter of acting in a respectable way. How are you doing? You may want to ask the ones you are supposed to be leading.

What would you add to my list?

10 Characteristics of Good Leadership – an Expanded and Revised Version

Multiethnic business team outdoor

When I first wrote about the characteristics of good leadership almost 6 years ago. At the time I had been a leader for well over 20 years and had studied the field o leadership academically. My blog was fairly new but growing.

These were designed to be informative, but honestly, even more, they served as a checklist reminder of sorts for my own attempts at good leadership.

Since then my blog influence has grown, I’ve moved from a church planter to a church revitalizer, and I’ve learned so much more. Still, when I look over these characteristics, I stand behind then. I’ve tweaked them a bit for readability purposes. (Every time I read my writings again I see something which could be improved.)

Here are 10 characteristics of good leadership:

1. Recognizes the value in other people, so continually invests in others – Good leaders see a large part of their role as developing people and new leaders. Leadership development takes place in an organization as leaders begin to share their experiences, both positive and negative, with others.

2. Shares information – There is a tendency of some leaders to hold information, because information is power. A good leader uses this to the team’s advantage knowing the more information the team has collectively the stronger the team.

3. Has above average character – There are no perfect people, but for a leader to be considered good, in my opinion, they must have a character which is unquestioned within the organization. Their integrity and transparency is paramount. Leadership always draws criticism, so a leader may not be able to get everyone to believe in him or her, but the people who know the leader best should trust the leader’s character most.

4. Uses their influence for the good of others – Good leaders are as interested in making a positive difference in people’s lives as they are in creating a healthy profit margin or accomplishing a strategy. In fact, people-building is a large part of the strategy. This doesn’t mean that balance sheets and income statements aren’t important, in fact they are important for the success of an organization (even non-profits – even churches), but a good leader doesn’t separate a desire for helping others from the desire for financial health. And, good leaders find ways to leverage financial health to strengthen the well-being of others.

5. Skillful, competent and professional– Good leaders are talented or knowledgeable about their field and can be depended on for their follow through. You don’t question whether a good leader is going to be able to complete a task. They may not be the smartest in the room, but if they don’t know how to do something, they will find someone who does and they aren’t afraid to ask or empower others. They will ensure a job they have committed to do is done the best it can be done. This also means they don’t commit to more than they can reasonably accomplish. They know the power of “No!”

6. Not afraid for others to succeed (even greater than their own success) – Good leaders realize some followers will outgrow the leader’s ability to develop them any further. Good leaders, however, aren’t threatened by another’s success. They are willing to celebrate as those around them succeed — even help them get there.

7. Serve others expecting nothing in return – Good leaders have a heart of service. They truly love and value people and want to help others for the good of the one being helped, not necessarily for personal gain.

8. Continue to learn – Good leaders are always learning and implementing those learnings into the betterment of the organization. That could be through reading, conferences, web-based learnings, or through other leaders, but also through people who report to the leader.

9. Accessible, approachable, and accountable to others – Good leaders don’t isolate themselves from people regardless of the amount of responsibility or power he or she attains. Good leaders willingly seek the input of other people into their professional and personal lives. They desire to know people, not just be known by people.

10. Visionary – thinks beyond today – Good leaders are always thinking “What’s next?” It is a common question asked by good leaders, knowing someone must continually challenge the boundaries and encourage change. They spur growth and strategic thinking so the organization can remain healthy, vibrant and sustainable.

These are in no particular order. You may say some are more important than others but as soon as I prioritize them we can start to marginalized the higher numbers. They are all important in my opinion. 

What would you add to my list?

10 Ways to Be a Good Follower

follow leader

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.

He’s right.

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.

Here are 10 ways to be a good follower:

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.

Respect me

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. 

Be prepared

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.

Stay healthy

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?

3 Places to Find New Church Leaders

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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?

Great question!

I suggested they look for three types of 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.

Be intentional.

How do you find new leaders?  What would you add to my list?

8 Dangerous Leadership Traits – These Will Wreck Your Ability to Lead

wrecking ball

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.

Here are 8 dangerous leadership traits:

Immoral character

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?

7 Characteristics of Cowardly Lion Leadership

CowardlyLion

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.

Here are 7 characteristics of cowardly leadership:

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?