I allowed my youngest son Nate to preach for me recently. He delivered, in my certainly biased opinion, one of the best messages on forgiveness I’ve ever heard. Up for a challenge? Watch this:
This is a guest post by Eric Speir. Eric is a staff pastor, writer, blogger and educator. He likes to use biblical principles, coaching, practical wisdom and encouragement to help others to thrive in every area of their life. You can read more of his posts at www.ericspeir.com and follow him on Twitter @ericspeir.
Being a pastor can be a lonely and brutal job. It’s a task that requires determination, tenacity and a work ethic that rivals most NFL coaches. Even if a pastor is gifted in many areas he cannot accomplish everything on his own. In fact, pastoring is nothing new, because it’s been around for a long time.
In the Old Testament Pastor Moses, the first mega-church pastor, had more problems that most pastors can dream up. At one point he almost had a nervous breakdown until the Lord intervened and sent him a wise mentor and raised up a staff around him.
If Moses couldn’t do everything by himself, then it is more important than ever for a pastor to have a staff around him that can help to accomplish the God-given vision. With this in mind, there are some characteristics that every pastor needs in a staff:
• Is committed to the same vision he is. If you’re not committed, then find somewhere else where you will be. There’s no shame in finding a place where you’ll be effective in ministry.
• Will overlook his bad days. David had the chance to stab Saul in the back when he caught him with his pants down, but he chose not to. Remember, everyone has a bad day!
• Will pick up the trash when he needs you to. Simply put, don’t be afraid to do something that seems beneath you.
• When you say you’re praying for him, then actually do it. Being a senior pastor is a tough job that most people won’t ever understand.
• Has his back, instead of talking behind it. In other words, when you have a problem, bring it to the team, instead of to people who can’t help.
• Can help solve problems and be team players. Jesus couldn’t do ministry by himself, pastor’s can’t do it all either.
• Can think BIG! Anyone can be small-minded, but it takes someone extraordinary to think what could be.
• Can laugh and cry with him. It’s easy to forget your pastor is human and bleeds the same color blood as you. Just because he’s the spiritual leader, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have needs as well.
What would you add to this list? How can you serve your leader better?
In her book “Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands”, Nancy Ortberg talks about the need to differentiate between “a tension to be managed and a problem to be solved“. One example for me is the constant tension between the administration/money side of ministry and the discipleship/hands on side of ministry. As pastor, I’m always going to have to balance tension between our business administrator working to conserve cash and our youth pastor finding legitimate ministry needs in which to spend it, for example. That’s a tension to be managed, not a problem to be solved. On the other hand, an employee who is taking advantage of a more casual organizational structure, which I typically prefer…that’s a problem to be solved. Quickly. A system, which is not working, causing more harm than good to the organization…problem to be solved. Now.
Most of the time, however, in my experience, churches are notorious for creating a new policy to attempt to manage the problem rather than doing the difficult work of solving it. Solving the problem often involves getting personal with people. It involves challenging people. It involves change. It involves holding people accountable to a higher standard. That’s messy. It’s never fun. Most churches like neat, clean and seemingly easy. (Just being honest.)
Using my illustration above, if the youth pastor has a perceived spending problem, rather than addressing the problem with him directly, many times a policy is created to “solve” the problem and curtail spending. Every other staff member may be performing satisfactorily, but the policy controls everyone. Plus, without wise counsel, the youth pastor never learns principles of healthy budgeting or how to manage cash flow, for example, and it continues to impact his ministry for years to come. Problem not solved.
Policies are easy. They are a piece of paper. They may involve some discussion, perhaps a committee meeting (maybe even a tense committee meeting), maybe even a church vote, but they seldom specifically address the people who are causing the problem in the first place. They make people feel better about the problem, but they almost never solve real problems. In fact, they usually only create more problems…which later need to be solved!
For more of my thoughts on policies, see THIS POST. I realize this problem is not limited to churches. Even the best organizations and corporations struggle to address problems as needed.
Do the hard work. It’s what leaders are supposed to do. Not always easiest. Always best.
Have you seen churches (or organizations) try to manage a problem that needed to be solved?
Bonus points if you give me an example.
If I could give one piece of advice to leaders who want long-term success it would be this:
I know. It sounds too simple, but until you learn how the people you are trying to lead think, what the people value, the differences among the people, how situations impact the people, and the way the people are likely to respond to situations…you can’t lead them successfully.
Try it. It will work in any setting. In the church. In business. In the home.
New to a church or organization? This is your key to beginning well.
Long-timer in a church or organization? This is what will improve your leadership. Make it last.
Of course, you’ll have to respond according to what you’re learning, but this is where you start. This is what gives you the tools you need. This is what can help shape your leadership. This is the gold information of leading people.
How are you learning the people you are attempting to lead?
What advice would you give to leaders who want long-term success?
Recently I received the following question. It’s one I’ve been asked several times and one I know is more common as an issue than even asked. I’ve omitted some details for obvious confidentiality reasons, but kept the intent of the question the same.
I am writing you seeking counsel regarding a significantly large decision my wife and I need to make about our continued service at a local church. The church is in turmoil and my wife and I feel released from our commitment here. Leaving is probably the best option, but how do I know for sure and how do I leave “properly”?
Here is my expanded reply:
Leaving is never easy, but many times, even in the worst situations, it can be done in a way that doesn’t further disrupt the church. First, you might consider these two posts:
You need to discern first if you definitely feel released to leave and then if you are leaving. It may not be worth putting the energy into deciding how to leave until you decide that you are. If that’s where you are headed…
1. Make it a decision of prayer and conviction. The more you can remove your personality or personal comfort from the process, the more likely you will be able to convince people you are leaving on good terms and that you are following God’s will and not your own. (As I mentioned previously, it may be that God has released you to make the decision. I find that true many times. Your first step, in my opinion, is to make sure you aren’t violating something God has told you to do or not to do.)
2. Start properly. I know. This is a post about leaving. But, honestly, that process starts long before the door swings closed. The sooner you start preparing people for your eventual exit, the easier your exit will be accepted by people when you do leave. Help cross train for your area. Identify key leaders who could fill in for an interim. You don’t even have to share all this information, but be thinking ahead of time who those people might be. Start making lists of things you do that others may not know. Think in terms of “if I’m not here, then…” and write some of that stuff down to share when you leave.
3. Discuss with and seek wisdom from one or two people you trust, who know you and the church. You’ll need a sounding board to help you confirm your decision, but also to help determine the timing and approach of your exit.
4. Develop a plan, with counsel and prayer, of how and when you intend to proceed. You’ll need to decide who to contact first, when, and how to tell the church. This will likely be different for every church.
5. Don’t throw punches on the way out. There’s never a win and often a lasting negative when a person lashes out in the final days of their involvement with a church. Any credibility gained can be quickly lost based on the way the person handles their exit.
5. Work to protect spouses and children. Ministry can be very cruel and may even get ugly before it heals. Don’t allow your family dynamic to suffer because of the problems of the church.
6. Prepare your own emotions. It is likely to be hard leaving, even if things are miserable at the time. Chances are you’ve invested your heart in this church. You started with vision and enthusiasm. You felt a call to go there. You never intended things to turn out like this. Regardless of why you are leaving or what you are going to do next, it won’t be easy walking away from something you have loved.
7. Don’t end when you walk out the door. Be available to further assist them as needed in the months after you leave. It may not be welcomed or needed but offering is the graceful way to exit and the right thing to do.
Make this post better:
What would you add about leaving properly? Have you ever left when the church or organization was in turmoil? How did you handle your exit? Looking back, what did you learn to help others?
I am consistently asked about the beginning days of a leadership position. In my opinion, the opening days of any job are some of the most important. Apparently others think so also. Recently someone direct messaged me on Twitter to ask, “What words of advice do you have for a newbie leader? I’m beginning my first pastoring role after years in student ministry.”
Now, as a “newbie” myself, I speak with more passion, and perhaps even more authority on the subject. I messaged him back and said “Learn the people first…go slow to change…think intentional in all you do…pace yourself.”
That was Twitter. This is my blog, so I assume I should explain a little further.
Never use the word “newbie” again. (Just kidding. That’s not one of the four. But, seriously, is there a better word).
Learn the people first - Relational leadership is always most effective, but especially for a new leader. They need to learn to trust you. They need an opportunity to feel you are committed and connected to them. They want assurance you have the best interest at heart for them and the church or organization they’ve loved probably longer than you have.
Go slow to change – The older the church or organization, the more important it will be that you take time to implement change. Know the key players, communicate, communicate, communicate, and help people understand why the change is needed. All change is resisted, but fast change is most powerfully rejected. This doesn’t mean don’t change. Most likely they’ll expect and even want some change, but be smart about it. Listen and learn the things you can change immediately and things where you’ll need to move more slowly. That process takes time to do well.
Think intentionally in all you do – The more you can strategically plan your moves, the more you can help steer them to a positive outcome. In every area of your leadership, take time to think through the best way to handle the situation. Get input from key people. Plan your approach. Prioritize. Strategize. You’ll have plenty of surprises along the way, but if you’re intentional in the decisions you have control over, you’ll be better prepared to handle the unexpected.
Pace your leadership for the long-term – You won’t often know the length of your tenure as leader, but you should script yourself to be there for the long haul. That means you shouldn’t try to accomplish everything in the beginning. Spread some of your enthusiasm and energy over the first year or more. It will keep momentum going longer, keep you from burning out and the church or organization from wearing out. Also, think for the church or organization beyond even you. How can things keep building, healthy, vibrant and growing for the years ahead? When you set worthy visions and goals that carry people forward, help them dream and give them hope, they will want to follow your leadership.
Have you ever been the new guy? What would you advise?
It may seem strange to some to see me in a suit, but here’s my first sermon at Immanuel Baptist Church. I actually do two services each Sunday…one in jeans and one in a suit. This is the one we videotape.
I’ve been here a few weeks now and things are going well. I’ll post more later.
In this message, I share what I believe is God’s vision for the church:
This is part five of my interview with Dr. John David Laida. If you missed any of these segments, you can find them here:
In this final segment, Brother Laida addresses:
Are you impressed, as I am, with the insight Brother Laida has shared? Share a word of encouragement to him in the comments. I’ll see that he gets them.