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?

7 Things We’ve Learned about Reaching Millennials

young people

The statistics are staggering. The older a child gets today, the greater his or her chances are of disappearing from the church. The church must intentionally plan to reverse this trend.

I was a part of a church plant built around a desire to reach people who may not have previously been interested in church. We were amazed at the number of young people we reached. Defying statistics.

I’ve now updated this post, because we are currently in a growing, revitalized established church and — amazingly — our fastest growing group is the millennial generation. Again, defying statistics.

It must be more than structure or age of church — or even style of worship.

Along the way, we’ve learned a few things — and these are the things which regardless of type of church have remained true. 

Here are 7 thoughts for the church to reach millennials:

Love them – Young people today seem to crave genuine, no strings attached, healthy love from other adults — and they want it to be unconditional love — through the good times of their life and the times they mess up. And, they want us to love first, without qualifications added.

Be biblically true – Millennials don’t want fluff or sugar-coating. They want an authentic, honest approach to the Bible. Whether they believe all of it yet or not, they want the people who teach to teach what they believe — and then be willing to discuss it with them as they explore.

Be culturally aware and relevant – This generation has been exposed to the problems, challenges, and changes in the world. And, changes are coming fast. They are more socially conscious than in years past. They want the church to be addressing the needs they see in the world around them.

Give them a place to plug-in – They want to make a difference. They want to be a part of change. They want you to support them in their pursuits. They want to serve somewhere they believe is doing good work and makes a positive impact on the world — and they may even want to help lead the effort.

Value their ideas and input – You have to allow Millennials to do things their way — often with technology — within groups of friends — sometimes unscripted. A church which is bent on protecting the past over creating the future turns young people away from the church.

Be genuine/transparent with them – The overused word is authentic, but this generation wants to learn from the mistakes of those older than them. Pretending as if we’ve always been wonderful doesn’t help them deal with the issues they are dealing with today. They need living examples of battling life’s temptations, struggles, and fears.

Guide them – I love this about them — they are wisdom-seekers. They want help making life’s decisions, but they want it done in a way that helps them understand wise choices, but gives them freedom to choose their own path. Young people today crave older adults who will walk with them through the obstacles they face on a daily basis; while extending love, grace and support.

What would you add to my list? How is your church reaching Millennials?

Again, notice I didn’t say anything about music. It’s a bonus if you give them worship styles they enjoy, but I’m not convinced it’s as much a necessity if the others on this list are kept.

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 2

Bro Laida

This is part two of my interview with Dr. John David Laida — or as I call him — Brother Laida. He has “supposedly” retired once, but never quit working. He’s still serving a church full-time today.

If you missed the introductory video, catch it HERE.

In this segment, Dr. Laida addresses:

  • Where he learned to lead a church
  • Delegation
  • How he handles church conflict

What do you think of Bro. Laida’s answers so far?

Bro. Laida: My Interview with a 92 Year Old Pastor, Part 1

Bro Laida

This is the introduction video to my interview with Dr. John David Laida. These were filmed over 3 years ago and I posted them earlier, but decided to bring them forward. I’ll share them over the next few days. They are good!

Brother Laida, as we always referred to him, was my pastor growing up. He served as senior pastor for 28 years at First Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tennessee and under his leadership the church grew every year. He served as president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and was a respected man in the community.

After retirement, Bro. Laida has remained active. He has preached almost every week since and has helped dozens of churches in transition as an interim pastor. At the time of this filming, he was about to turn 93 — (now 96) years old and had just taken the interim job of my home church, First Baptist Clarksville. He’s respected highly in this region for his wit, wisdom and his faithful service.

In this video, you’ll get an introduction into the beginning days of Brother Laida. It’s fascinating to hear his perspective on his earlier days of life and ministry.

This is a five part interview and this is the longest. Most will be 5 or 6 minutes in length. I hope you’ll enjoy learning from one of my mentor’s and spiritual heroes.

What did you enjoy most about his story this far?

Who is the oldest pastor you know still serving today? Honor them here.

7 Ways To Be A Best Friend To A Pastor

Pair of male friends greeting each other with a handshake at school

Every pastor I know needs a best friend. Don’t we all?

Most likely the pastor has a best friend in a spouse. I hope so. I encourage it. My wife is that for me. My boys are also. 

But, I think there’s more. And, more these days than ever. 

And, if “best” is too strong a word, pick your own word. Good. Close. Trusted. Every pastor needs a friend, besides a spouse — of the same gender — who knows them well and can encourage and challenge like no one else can.

Yet, in working with pastors as I do regularly, I would say more pastors live paranoid of who they can trust than have someone they would consider a close confidant. Some pastors believe not having one simply comes with the job. I’ve heard pastors say we can’t expect to have those type relationships with people — that we are somehow, for some reason, “above that”.

Balderdash!

That’s dangerous talk. And, many pastors have failed buying that lie — or never inviting people into a closer circle of friendship. 

I equally know some people who want to be that type friend to the pastor. And, the pastor has either been hard to get to know or the person doesn’t know how to relate to them. I appreciate those who have a sincere desire to befriend the pastor — which is the purpose of this post.

I can’t speak for all pastors — but I can speak for me and, I believe, I can speak for many pastors due to my coaching ministry among them. I’ve learned you can have “best” friends in the church, but certainly, if necessary because of the size church, outside the church where one pastors.

If you want to be this kind of friend to a pastor, I need to warn you the pastor may be skeptical at first. Every pastor has been burned a time or two. If your heart, however, is to be a friend — even a best friend — to your pastor here are some suggestions which have worked to endear my friends to me.

(I used the male pronoun for ease of writing, and because I’m speaking from experience, but this surely goes for all who are in ministry.)

Here are 7 ways to be a pastor’s “best” friend:

Let him be himself. Warts and all. Don’t expect more from the pastor than you would anyone else. There is likely a church holding him to a higher standard. And, they should. But, as a “best friend” you know he’s still a “work in progress” — just like you. Allow him to be human. And, his family too!

Don’t make him be the pastor in every situation. Let him be “off” occasionally. Don’t talk “church” all the time. If you’re best friend is a waitress you don’t talk food or customer service all the time, do you? A doctor’s best friend isn’t always looking for free medical advice. Talk sports. Or politics (that’s hard for most pastors to find a place to do). Or about your family. Talk about life. Also, he shouldn’t always have to be the one to pray just because he is in the room. Shoulder some of his burden when you are with him. 

Never talk about him behind his back. Let him know you will always protect him and have his best intentions in mind. Above all have integrity in the relationship — which should be true in every friendship. 

Never repeat anything he tells you in private without permission. Never. Ever. Ever. This may be the most important one. It’s amazing how people will repeat what you say if they think you are claiming to be a close friend. As soon as you do, it will be very difficult to trust you again. And, isn’t part of being a best friend the confidences you two keep between you?

Love him even when he makes mistakes. You’d want that from your best friends wouldn’t you? Why not give him one friend he knows he can always count on to be in his corner? Even on those days where his emotional state or his mindset make him seem not very pastoral — and maybe not even like a best friend.

Support him publicly. You won’t be much of a friend if you don’t challenge him when needed, but it should always be done in private. When in a crowd be on his side until you’ve had a chance to talk to him in person — and alone.

Don’t hold him to unreasonable expectations. I’ve seen people who want to be a pastor’s friend get upset when the pastor didn’t tell them everything going on in the church. They get their feelings hurt. Every pastor walks on a certain amount of “eggshells” wondering who will respond and how to things the pastor does. We should never place this burden on a “best” friend. Have no hidden agenda to the relationship — no attempt to gain information or status — just friendship. 

Those are a few suggestions, but even with these, don’t be disappointed if the pastor doesn’t respond as you would want him to. Again, best friends don’t.  Plus, maybe — hopefully — your pastor has a best friend or two already. We need them. 

As I close, I’m thinking these are good suggestions in all friendships — pastor or not. And we all need them. 

Pastors, any suggestions you would add? 

5 Ways to Incentivize Church Revitalization

tug of war work life balance conflict concept

We need some sharp people to move from one Kingdom-building opportunity to another Kingdom-building opportunity.

We need some sharp church planters to become church revitalizers.

I’ve been in some conversations recently concerning the need to get younger leaders interested in church revitalization. The need is huge.

The fact is it is “cooler” to be in church planting. Having been in both worlds, (Just for clarity, I was cool in neither world) I could make the case that church planting is easier. You get to make the rules rather than wrestle through rules which make no sense or man-made traditions which have no clear Biblical basis but people will fight to keep. 

But, we need church revitalization. 

And, we need young, bright, the “best of the best” people to enter church revitalization just as much as we need them in church planting.

I have continually said there are more kingdom dollars in plateaued of declining churches than in all the church planting efforts we are making. We must restore or even close some of these established churches if we expect to be good stewards of the resources in which God has entrusted us

How do we get leaders to consider revitalization?

Here are 5 ways to incentivize church planters to do church revitalization:

Paint the need.

I don’t have the statistics, but I’m convinced there are far more Kingdom dollars tied up in plateaued or declining churches than is being invested in all the church plants combined. If we want to be good stewards of what God has given, then we must revitalize some established churches — and maybe even make some hard decisions to close some and spread the resources elsewhere. Denominations and church leaders will need to become passionate about church revitalization and cast vision to younger leaders as we have in church planting.

Coach them.

One of the concerns I have heard from those who consider revitalizing an established church is the fear of the unknown. It’s true in church planting too, but church planting is “all the buzz”. You can find lots of resources for a plant. There are fewer resources available for church revitalization — and fewer success stories. Partner the one entering revitalization with someone who has experienced church revitalization and been successful at it.

Provide care for them and their spouse.

Church revitalization is hard on a pastor’s family. Again, I’ve lived in both worlds. Church planting can be very difficult, but when you enter the role of trying to change an established church prepare for the onslaught of personal attacks, criticism and opposition. Church planting struggles typically come from external pressures. Church revitalization struggles are usually more personal — from inside pressures.There needs to be some plans to periodically care for the church revitalizer and the spouse.

Assure them the church is ready.

There should be some sort of assessment made before the pastor arrives which indicates the level or openness there will be to change. It’s not always a popular topic with established churches — most don’t want to admit there is a problem — but it is incredibly helpful in starting the revitalization process. This will never be foolproof, but you cannot revitalize without change. Change will always face resistance — it’s human nature — but some churches can and will adapt — some never will. The pastor can waste a lot of time “testing” the culture of the church only to find out some things will never change. The more a pastor knows about the church — it’s reaction to and history with change — on the front end the more strategic the pastor can be implementing change and the more successful revitalization will be.

Provide adequate resources.

There needs to be some better resources available for church revitalization. Every denomination and national church planting group has, for example, a church planter assessment. We need similar assessments in revitalization to help discern if the pastor’s temperament is suited for revitalization. Conferences do a great job focusing on the church planter — few focus as much on revitalization. Many established churches will not need the level of funding a church plant needs, but there are other resources needed to be successful. If we recognize the need for revitalization, then let’s develop and fund the resources.

It’s a work which must be done. Too much is at stake.

10 Expectations for Supporting the Senior Pastor

senior pastor

Several years ago, I was asked to speak to executive pastors about a senior pastor’s expectations for their role. Part of a healthy organization is recognizing the individual roles and responsibilities of the others on the team. I felt it was important that I first help them understand the pastor better, so I shared 10 Things You May Not Know about the Senior Pastor. You may want to read that post first.

I continued my talk by sharing how other staff members within the church can support the position of senior pastor. I realize none of the churches where I have served would have been successful without the creativity, diligence and leadership of the staff with whom I served.

The question I was asked — and echoed repeatedly was this:

What does my pastor really expect of me and the rest of the staff?

A healthy staff requires a team approach. It requires everyone working together. As I attempt to lead a team, there are certain expectations I have  for those who serve on a church staff in supporting the leadership of a senior pastor.

Here are 10 expectations I have for supporting a senior pastor:

Have a Kingdom perspective.

It’s not really about either one of you — it’s about God and we get to play a part in His Kingdom work. The less you concentrate on your own “needs” the more we can work together to help other know the surpassing greatness of our Lord.

Know yourself.

Some people are wired for a supporting role and some are not. Simply put.  This is why so many are planting churches these days. They wanted to be able to do things on their own — lead their own way. You may be able to serve in a supporting role for a short time, but not long term. There is nothing wrong with that. Being in the second (or third) position in an organizational sense doesn’t always get to make the final decision. Are you comfortable with that fact?

Support the pastor.

That’s an obvious for this list, but unless the senior pastor is doing something immoral, you should have his back. If you can’t, move on as soon as possible. You should make this decision early in your relationship, preferably before you start, but definitely soon into the process. Resisting the leadership of the senior pastor is usually not good for you or the church.

Realize you are in the second (or third) chair.

If you don’t want to be, then work your way into a number one seat, but while you are in this position, understand your role. It takes a great deal of humility to submit to someone else’s leadership. Know who you are and how God is calling you to serve Him.

Don’t pray for, wish or try to make your pastor something he is not.

Most likely, the basic personality of your leader is not going to change. Your staying should accept the fact that some things you hope will be different in years to come — won’t.

Add value to the pastor and the organization.

Do good work. Even if you are not 100% satisfied where you are at in your career at the current time, keep learning and continue to be exceptional in your position. Be a linchpin. The fact is you may learn more in these days which will help you in future days.

Be a friend.

This is a general principle when working with others, but especially true in this situation. If you aren’t likable to the pastor, he isn’t going to respond likewise. Have you ever heard, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”? That works when working with a leader and on a team also.

Brand yourself in and out of the organization.

Don’t wait until you are in the number one position to make a difference in the church. This helps you, the pastor and the church. Do good work. In fact, do your best work — always.

Be a compliment to the pastor.

Most likely, you are needed for your abilities that are different from the senior pastor. Use your gifting to make the church better and improve the overall leadership of the pastor. Help fill the gaps the pastor can’t fill and may not even see. Take responsibilities off the pastor when you are able. Volunteer without being asked. This will serve you well also.

Pick your battles.

Even in the healthiest organizations, there will be conflict and disagreements. Don’t always be looking for a fight. Ask yourself if the battle is worth fighting for or if this in the hill on which to die. Be a supporter as often as you can.

Learn all you can.

Most likely, the pastor knows some things you don’t. Sometimes you will learn what not to do from your pastor. Let every experience — good and bad — teach you something you can use later to make you a better leader.

Leave when it’s time.

Be fair to the church, the pastor, and yourself and leave when your heart leaves the position, you can no longer support the pastor or the organization, or you begin to affect the health or morale of the church and staff.

Closing thoughts:

I personally understand the frustration of being part of a team, but not feeling you have the freedom to share your opinions or the opportunity to help shape the future of the organization. Real leaders never last long in that type environment. There are certainly leaders who will never be open to your input. Again, I recommend discovering this early and not wasting much time battling that type insecure leader.

The goal of this post is not to sound arrogant as a senior pastor, but to help the organization of the church by addressing issues, which will help improve the leadership of the church and the working relationship between staff members.

I’d love to hear from senior pastors and those who serve on a church staff. What would you add/or delete from my list?

7 Ways I Protect My Family Life in Ministry

Happy Family Portrait at Park

If a pastor is not careful, the weight of everyone else’s problems will take precedence over the issues and concerns of the pastor’s immediate family. I see it frequently among pastors I encounter. 

How many pastors do we know who have adult children that don’t even attend church anymore? Lots. I’ve heard from many who resent the church which stole their family time. 

There have been seasons of my ministry where this was the case, especially on abnormally stressful days. It should be the exception, however, not the rule.

I decided years ago when I was a small business owner, serving in an elected office and on dozens of non-profit boards that my busyness would never detract from my family life on a long-term basis.

Cheryl and I are in a different season now. It’s easier to protect our time. My heart, however, goes out to the young families in ministry. Please heed my advice.

Here are 7 ways I attempt to protect my family from the stress of ministry:

Down time.

Saturday for me is a protected day. I normally work 6 long (up to 10 hours and more) days a week. (I’m wired to work and to take a true “Sabbath”, according to Exodus 16:26 at least, it seems one would have to work 6 days — just saying 🙂 ) This also means I agree to do fewer weddings or attend other social events on Saturdays. There are only a few Saturdays a year I allow this part of my calendar to be interrupted. We are blessed with a large, qualified staff. Pastors, it doesn’t have to be Saturday for you, but there should be at least one day in your week like this. If you are wired for two — take two!

Cheryl and the boys trump everything on my calendar.

I always interrupt meetings for their phone calls. If they are on my schedule for something we have planned together it takes precedence over everything and everyone else. There are always emergencies, but this is extremely rare for me — extremely!

Scheduled time with my family.

If I’m going to protect time with my family then they must be a part of my calendar. I’ve been told this seemed cold and calculated, and maybe it is, but when the boys were young and into activities with school, those times went on my calendar as appointments first. I was at every ballgame and most practices, unless I was out of town, because it was protected by my calendar. It was easy for me to decline other offers, because my schedule was already planned.

I don’t work many nights.

Now it’s just a habit and my boys are grown, but when my boys were young, I also wrote on my schedule nights at home. The bottom line is I’m a professional. You wouldn’t want my time if I weren’t. Have you ever tried to meet with your attorney or banker at night? Of course, there are exceptions — I have some monthly meetings where I have to work at night — and life has seasons which alter this somewhat — but in a normal week I work 6 full day time hours a week and that’s enough to fulfill my calling.

I’m not everyone’s pastor.

This is hard for members of my extended family or friends to understand sometimes but, I pastor a large church, so if someone is already in a church elsewhere I’m not their pastor. I am simply their brother, son or friend. Obviously, if someone doesn’t have a church at all then this is a different story, especially since my heart is to reach unchurched people.

I delegate well.

We have a great staff. If something is better for them to do, I let them do it. Every event doesn’t require me to be there, nor my wife. I try to support the activities of the church as much as possible, but not at the detriment of my family. I realize smaller church pastors struggle here, but part of your leading may be to raise up volunteer people and entrust them with responsibilities and leadership. It also may be to lead people to understand your family remaining strong is just as important as other families in the church and part of having a healthy church is having a healthy pastor and family.

I try to stay spiritually, physically and mentally healthy.

It’s hard to lead my family well and engage them when I’m always stressed by ministry. This is a constant battle, and requires great cooperation and understanding by my family, but I recognize it as a value worth striving to attain.

Pastors, I hear from you — and sometimes your spouse. Some of you are drowning in your ministry and your family is suffering. Many are going to say they have no staff or a small staff, but I encourage this same approach to ministry for every person on our staff. I would expect no less of a commitment to their family than I have to mine. Ask yourself this question: How healthy is your family? What are you doing to protect them?

Help me help other pastors. Share how you protect your family.

You might also read 7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry from an Affair

3 Questions to Consider When the Church No Longer Reflects the Community

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I was coaching a group of pastors recently and asked a question I’ve encountered but never really answered. It’s a question which seems to come up frequently these days. It’s actually a great and relevant question for our times. In fact, I think it’s one many churches need to consider. It’s a common dilemma churches face today. 

In church revitalization, I often encourage churches to consider whether the church can be revived. Frankly some churches cannot. Some churches have a culture which works against them. The energy, in my opinion, would be better spent elsewhere.

And, some churches have had their community leave them. The community has changed and they no longer look like their community demographically. 

Now, to avoid confusion, I’m not talking spiritually. The church never reflects the community there. The church usually is counter-cultural in terms of how we reflect God’s standards In our communities. I’m strictly talking demographically. 

That’s the one scenario which triggered this question.

Background. This church had for years been overwhelmingly a white, middle class church. The community is presently less than 20% white. The dominant demographic is Hispanic.

The question was: How can we grow now that we don’t represent the demographics of our community?

Great question. I’m not sure my answer was what he expected, but I think it’s a good answer. (If I can be bold and say that.) Before I share my answer you need to know I’m a realistic, bluntly honest person. Plus, I don’t think I can tell him or the church what to do. I can only help them consider the options. 

I think he’s asking the wrong question — at least the wrong initial question.

I think the question a church in this situation has to ask is what they are going to do — not how they are going to do whatever they do. More importantly, the why behind what you do will ultimately fuel the church to achieve it.

Furthermore, I went on to advise him that I believe the church needs to answer this question collectively — or at least more lay leadership needs to be involved in the answer. Whatever the church decides to do will determine the future of the church. Pastors may come and go, but those in the church will likely have to live with the answer for the remaining life of the church. 

In my opinion — and its only an opinion — there are really only three options.

Become like the community. 

You can strive to represent your community again. This may require staffing and programming changes. You’ll have to ask a lot more questions such as what the community needs and how best to address them. You’ll need to engage current community leaders — and this is not just elected leaders but community activists and people who know the community. It won’t be easy and it will challenge your people, but it’s a noble goal. It’s likely the community reds more churches which do reflect the community. But, getting there won’t be easy.

Leave the community. 

You can relocate. You can relocate to a demographic that better represents who the churches now. Some will disagree, but i don’t believe this decision would mean you don’t care for the community which is here now. The church is just different. You should know this can be an expensive option, because you likely will not be able to sell your current facilities for what it will take to relocate. Possibly you can. Or, you could be very kingdom-minded and help a church who does represent the community establish in your existing facility by gifting it to them or significantly discounting the price them.

Slowly die in the community. 

This is an option. It wouldn’t be my favorite, but it is an option. It could actually be a viable option if at the end of your time you realize your building is going to be better used by a church that does represent the community. You could begin to share your facility with a church like that now and coexist for the for seeable future, then when your church officially closes its doors the new church inherits the building.

I realize there are strong opinions with each one of these answers. And, none of the answers come easy. Frankly, to me it doesn’t matter as much which you choose — as much as it does that you do. We need churches of all kinds in all kinds of communities. I firmly believe, however, that answering the question of which choice you are committed to make will ultimately determine what you do next.

As an organizational guy, I can tell you that trying to address the how before you determine the what and why is almost always wasted energy.  With so much Kingdom-building needed who has time for that?

7 Natural Barriers to Sustained Church Growth

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In church planting, we defied the rules of growth for several years. There are “rules”, which when they happen will naturally stall growth. We were convinced they didn’t apply to us. What we learned is it just takes more time – sometimes.

Recognizing these early and addressing them is key to sustaining growth and momentum.

Here are 7 natural barriers to growth:

Facilities –  There is something to the 80 percent rule of capacity. When your attendance at in service reaches 80 percent full you will eventually begin to stall. It’s not immediate, but it is eventual. In church planting we defied this one for several years. We were convinced it did not apply to us. And it didn’t for a while. I am still convinced it can be addressed without the only solution being building bigger facilities, but leadership must be intentional. One way we addressed it was to use “fullness” as a part of our vision-casting. It works for a time but eventually one of these other barriers begins to occur.

Mindset – When the resistance to change is greater than the need for change you can expect growth to stall. It doesn’t matter if it’s a church plant or an established church — eventually people get comfortable with the way things are and traditions begin to take shape. When you begin to alter those traditions some people will naturally resist. To continue to grow leaders must consistently challenge the norm and encourage healthy change.

Burn-out – It could be volunteer or staff burn-out. In a church plant, after people have spent so much time setting up and tearing down, eventually they grew tired. The key is to find ways to motivate them again or continually add to the volunteer base. And, doing both is probably the best option.

Complacency – When people no longer seem to care if growth occurs or not. They may be satisfied or passive, but their attitude is always contagious. This is why leaders must continually cast and recast vision. It’s also why we must continually embrace change, because “new” stirs momentum.

Country Club small group Bible studies – I’ve noticed this one is often overlooked in the established church — especially when church growth has already plateaued. Whenever a group sits together with no new people entering long enough they become closed to outsiders — even if they think they are not. Newcomers can’t compete with the inside jokes and confidential information the group has already developed together. One way to address this is by continually starting new groups. Some churches “force” or strongly encourage groups to break up and start over with new people.

Leadership void – Continued growth requires new leadership. There will need to be new initiatives, creative ways to do things, and simply replacement of the leaders who move or quit. One key to sustain growth is a successful leadership development program.

Leadership lid– This one is the capacity of the senior leadership. If a leader is controlling, for example, there will be a cap. The church will be defined to the leader’s personal abilities. When leaders realize they have reached their personal lid they must be humble enough to admit it and seek help from others. Empowering and delegating become even more important. (Of course, they always are important.)

These are some I have observed — and experienced personally. I’m certain there are others. The biggest mistake I see leaders make, and I’ve done this as well, is to deny they are issues. They may be subtle for a tune but if you wait until they are obvious the damage will be much more difficult to address.