Social Media Changes Everything….

Okay, maybe not everything, but certainly many things.

The rules of the game are changing…

Thanks to social media.

As you may know, I recently transitioned from one church to another. The new church is more established. They have had 104 years to establish their systems and procedures. When it came to hiring a pastor…they had a predetermined system of how that was to be done.

The problem for me was when to alert my church of the possibility of a change. If I told them too early, and didn’t go, it could cripple my leadership. If I told them too late, or after they heard the news on the streets, I could injure people we love.

I was wise enough to discern that with social media, the chances of holding this information were almost impossible. I knew that as soon as either church knew the world would know.

The search team was awesome. They were willing to work with us as much as they could, but still, there was a scripted way the hiring of a new pastor is to occur.

I wanted to honor their structure, but more importantly, I didn’t want to hurt the church plant I love. It appeared the best thing for me to do was to resign my position at Grace before it was official that I was the new pastor of Immanuel.

As it turned out, when I did announce to Grace that I was leaving, it was on Facebook before the end of the first service.

Also, which couldn’t have been avoided either way, someone from Grace was sitting in the audience of Immanuel the Sunday I was announced there. They texted someone at Grace just before I made my announcement. It really is a small world and was a reminder how fast news can travel these days.

As I said, social media (and technology) changes everything.

It was a definite signal to me that we must rethink some of our rules and procedures when it comes to hiring staff members at our churches. Some of the bylaws we have in place, that script the way a person is hired, must be changed to compensate for the speed that information travels these days.

It was okay in my situation. God worked it for good and both churches were protected. I’m not sure it would work that well for everyone. I don’t have the answers, but I’m confident there must be better ways.

One thing I did initiate at Grace, before my departure, was a change in the bylaws that simply allows the elders in leadership at the time to script the way the search and approval process for a new pastor is handled. It could be that it’s unique to every new pastor, or at least that it’s unique to each time a pastor is hired.

Here at Immanuel I’ve asked the search team that worked with me to evaluate the system of calling a pastor. What changes are needed…in light of the changes in the way things are done now…in light of social media.

What do you think? How else is social media and technology changing ministry?

5 Ways to Help the Church When You Struggle to Support the Pastor

Almost on a weekly basis, I receive an email from a staff member of a church with the same question. They are in an awkward position where they don’t respect the pastor, but love the church, feel loyal to it, and don’t want to hurt the church. Their question is: How do they respond to a leader they can’t support, but who is their boss and the church’s called leader?

Recently a staff member emailed me to say his pastor was extremely popular in the church, but consistently received false recognition and support that others on the team deserved. The pastor, in this staff member’s opinion, is taking advantage of the church’s support of the pastor, but the church doesn’t realize it. He knew he probably didn’t have enough power to do anything about it. He doesn’t want to hurt the church, but also doesn’t respect his pastor.  His question was: What’s the best way to respond?

Great question. I wish there were easy answers.

Here are 5 suggestions:

Don’t talk behind his back – It would be easy to share your frustration, but chances are that doing so will only backfire against you and cause tension in the church. People in the church will have the same struggle you have, feeling a sense of loyalty to the pastor. Putting them in an awkward position isn’t fair to them or the pastor.

Be honest to his face – It’s never easy, but it’s always best. Conflict is hard. I’ve learned it’s often avoided in churches. But, unless you are going to suck it up and say nothing, the first person you need to share your frustration with is the person with whom you are frustrated.

Find other voices to invest in you – One role of the leader is to invest personally in the people being led. Most likely you’re missing out on this. Find others who will invest in you. You’d be surprised how willing other pastors may be to assist you if they are asked. They will be honored that you thought of them and willing to help you think through your current situation. You will need this help.

Find a place to vent – Surround yourself with some people with whom you can be brutally honest. It’s probably best that these people be outside the church, but you need a place to share your heart. You’ll wither and die emotionally if you bottle up your current emotions for too long. Be selective who you bare your soul to, but be vulnerable enough to share your concerns with others. It will help keep you from burning out in ministry.

Leave when you can’t respect the leadership (tell him first) – Again, this is hard, but you need to be mature enough and responsible enough to consider the bigger picture. You will never fully support every decision any leader makes. You may not even be best friends with the pastor. When, however, you have no more respect for the leadership, unless there is a moral issue at stake, you need to consider the welfare of the church ahead of your own. Have the hard, honest conversation, but leave before your lack of respect is evident to those around you. It’s the right thing to do.

How would you advise this staff member? 

Sometimes It’s Not a Systems Problem…

In one of my first professional leadership roles, I managed a large retail division of a major department store. The division had several departments within it and each department had a separate department manager. Most of the departments were efficient, profitable, and easy to manage. One department, however, continued to fall behind the others. It was frustrating, because I couldn’t seem to get them to improve.

I was young and inexperienced, so I innocently thought the problem was me. If I could implement the right strategy in working with this department…find the right system…I could improve performance. I tested numerous systems to try to increase their productivity, but nothing seemed to work.

I was wrong. The experience taught me a valuable lesson. 

You can have the best systems…the best strategies…the best programs…and still struggle with the performance of a team. Sometimes it’s not a systems problem.

Sometimes it’s strictly a people problem.

I realized the problem was the leader in this department. This person always said what I wanted to hear. She was nice to me personally. She talked a good game, but she was grossly under-performing and bringing her department down with her. Through due process, and after trying to work with this leader to improve, I eventually had to replace her leadership and the department dramatically improved, almost instantly.

Since then I’ve always tried to remember:

Never try to handle a people problem with a systems approach.

Handle people problems, with people.

This doesn’t mean you’ll always need to replace the people, but you seldom improve people problems with better systems. You improve people problems by improving people.

Many times, in my experience, we try to create systems when the problem isn’t a systems problem, it’s a people problem.

Knowing the difference between a systems problem and a people problem, and being mature enough to handle it, will make you a better leader.

Have you seen organizations and leaders create systems, instead of handling the real problem? 

(Churches are notorious for this, by the way. We try to solve problems in people’s lives, for example, by creating rules, systems, programs, etc, designed to help make them better people. The problem is it’s not a systems problem. It’s not a program or committee problem. It’s a people problem. If their heart doesn’t change, the problem will continue. That’s the subject of another post.)

The Church Nazi

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This is a light-hearted post. Sometimes you’ve just got to laugh.

I repeat…especially for the most literal readers…this is a light-hearted post.

I watched the infamous “Soup Nazi” Seinfeld episode recently for the however many times (many) and still loved it as much as the first time. It’s no doubt created an iconic phrase… “No soup for you”.

I got to thinking.

What if there was a Church Nazi?

Nothing placed in the offering plate…

No seat for you

Cell phone rings during service…

No seat for you

Eyes open during prayer…

No seat for you

Yawning during the message…

No seat for you

Complain about the order of worship…

No seat for you

Enter the service late…

No seat for you

Laugh at an inappropriate time…

No seat for you

Leave during the invitation…

No seat for you

Sing out of tune…

No seat for you

Rattle paper unwrapping gum…

No seat for you

Thankfully there is no Church Nazi, but you get the idea.

How else would Church Nazi be offended?

(Again, this post is just for fun. None of these could really ever happen. Right?).

One Observation of Declining Churches

I’ve worked with a number of churches in decline. One thing I’ve noticed that is fairly consistent among declining churches is what they do once they realize they are in decline. (The same is true of other organizations, BTW.)

They dig their heels into the tradition that got them where they are today.

They go back to what’s comfortable. They resist any changes in what they’ve done before, hoping to avert future decline.

They do what they feel they can trust. They refuse to try anything new. They stop dreaming. They quit taking risks.

Afraid of losing everything, they go back to what they know best. It seems to make sense I suppose, but in the meantime, ironically, they perpetuate the problem and face further decline.

In fact, they resist walking by faith, defaulting to walk by sight.

I wonder…

Could the best thing to do during a period of decline be to introduce change?

Would trying something new make more sense?

Would a fresh dose of exploring new territory faith-building be more appropriate?

What do you think?

What To Do with a Popular but Not Respected Leader

What do you do with a leader who is popular with the people, but not respected as a leader? 

Recently I received this question from a deacon chairman of a church. He is in a dilemma in his current position, watching the staff become a revolving door with constant turnover, the church is in steady decline, and yet the church loves their pastor. He has prayed about the situation, talked to others in leadership, and the consensus is that he needs to address the situation, but isn’t sure what to do, since the pastor is so popular. He said every deacon chair before him in recent years has faced the same dilemma, but he wants to address the issue.

I have observed this dilemma personally and answered this question so often, that I thought I’d address it here. I realize this is not an easy answer and some will be offended at my bluntness, but I decided when I started this blog I’d be transparent, so I’m sharing the answer I gave this deacon. (This post is not addressing issues of the call to a position. I’ve addressed that in other posts.)

Dear Deacon Chair: 

You are not alone in your situation. I work mostly with church staffs and I’ve talked with so many staff members of churches who like their pastor, but they don’t respect him as a leader. The volunteer leadership of the church often feels the same way. They know, for example, that the church needs a better leader, or maybe a better preacher, but they know the pastor is well-liked by the congregation, so they fear making the changes needed.

I’ve learned that many pastors have very hard working staffs, but what’s missing is a respectable leader who will drive the vision forward. Eventually, potential leaders end up leaving under a liked but not respected leader.

Being liked is accomplished by “getting along”, compromising, settling for what everyone agrees with, and never pushing the boundaries. It’s being a friend more than being a leader. You become popular, but not respected.

Being respected is accomplished by doing the right things for the right reasons, regardless of the popularity it does or doesn’t bring. It’s being genuine, honest and moral in all the leader does.

Being liked can be easily achieved. Say nothing, do nothing, and move in no direction that will cause an uproar or disrupt people from the norm. Being respected is hard, messy, and uncomfortable for the leader at times, because it takes people where they need to go, and may even want to go, but may be afraid or don’t know how to get there.

What do you do when a leader is popular, but not respected?

Well, in my opinion, you have three basic options:

Remove the leader – This wouldn’t be my first choice and it won’t be easy, because of the leader’s popularity, but it may be needed if the church is to be healthy again.

Live with it – You can do nothing and live with status quo. That’s frankly what most churches do. I don’t recommend it, but it’s the easier option.

Challenge the leader to improve – Some leaders want to improve, they simply don’t know how or can’t bring themselves to do it on their own. They need someone to challenge them, coach them, and give them the courage to make hard decisions…which may not help them to be liked, but will gain them the respect a leader needs to be successful. (In fairness, I’ve learned that many ineffective pastors want this type of help, but are simply afraid or embarrassed to ask for it.)

These are hard choices, but this may be why they need you to lead at this time. Pray. Seek wise counsel. Then, make the wisest decision you can and trust God for the outcome.

The way you respond during this time will likely impact whether you are liked or respected as a leader also. I’m praying for you now with the weight of decisions you have before you.

Ron

Have you ever faced this dilemma? What advice would you give to this deacon chairman? 

7 Tips to Acclimating to a New City

I recently moved to a new city. Lexington, Kentucky is a great place to live. I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy living here.

Along the process of adjusting to a new city, I discovered a few keys to acclimating quickly.

Here are 7 tips to acclimating to a new city:

Check out the local hamburger places – I figure if we can find a good hamburger…we won’t starve. Seriously, pick one of your favorite foods and check out all the options. For me, there are plenty of hamburger choices in Lexington. That’s made the transition much easier. I’ve tried many of them. I have a few more to go. (I’ve loved when someone tells me…”Don’t get the biggest one on the menu. You won’t be able to eat it all.” Really? So far, not true!)

Be a tourist – We have tried to find the places someone would go to if they were only in town for a few days. We’ve picked up the tourist brochures. These places will likely be what the town is known for and we want to identify with the city. I’ve also been listening to the stories and reading the history of the city. It’s been interesting a few times to remind the locals of things they’ve forgotten about Lexington, or to stir more conversation with trivia I’ve learned.

Buy a t-shirt – We wanted to find an identity with the community, so we bought some t-shirts specific to the area. In this case, I’m sporting a few UK logos too. If I’m going to live here, and I want to love living here, I want to love what the locals love. You don’t have to switch sports loyalties, but it will help acclimate if you can find some identity within the community.

Join a group that lets you meet people – I’m doing Leadership Lexington this next year. It’s a 9 month program that gives participants a comprehensive look at the possibilities and opportunities of the city. In addition to getting to know 42 local leaders, I get exposed to areas of the city it may take me years to discover otherwise.

Make a Gotta see/do/meet list – I’m keeping a list, and checking it twice. I can’t see everything in a week, maybe even in a year, but with a list I can slowly work my way through the key things I want to do and people I want to meet.

Avoid routines – I try to run different routes every day. I seldom drive the same way to get somewhere. I’m eating at different restaurants and ordering different meals. I want to experience as much uniqueness as I can.

Hide the GPS – Get lost. I’m purposefully trying to go places where I have to find my own way on my own. I’ve been confused a few times. That’s okay. It was by design. It’s helping me learn the city faster.

It’s quickly beginning to feel like home. Actually, sooner than I thought it would. I think part of that is that Cheryl and I have been intentional in trying to learn and love our new city. Obviously, however, some of you have moved far more times than I have.

How can you help me?

What tips do you have for acclimating to a new city quickly?