This is Part One in our strategy series.
We Gather, Grow, and Serve. This week we look at the Gather part of our strategy.
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?
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.
How do you find new leaders? What would you add to my list?
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.
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?
I think healthy teams are intentionally created, so wherever I serve I’m consistently trying to make our environment better.
Over the years, I’ve learned some things will not develop healthy teams. Many times it’s as much about what we don’t have on our team as what we do have.
The team I now serve with works well together – most of the time. We get along well with each other. My theory is it may have to do as much with what we don’t bring to the time we spend together as it does what we bring to the that time.
Let me explain.
Egos. There is no place for them. A team requires everyone pulling equal weight. That means everyone should get equal recognition. No one thinks they are “better” or more important to the team.
Closed minds. Healthy teams need every opinion on the team. The synergy of differences makes the team better. No idea is too crazy or wild to at least talk about together — maybe even experiment.
Domination. No one is in “control” on a healthy team. There are times when all team members are in “charge” because of their responsibilities.
Selfishness. Teams can’t be healthy when everyone is looking out for themselves. Healthy teams work together and support one another. They share time and resources.
Negativity. No one benefits from a poor attitude. Encouragement fuels health and production. Healthy teams encourage one another.
Personal criticism. Healthy teams support one another personally. They become like family — loving each other. They build each other up — not tear each other down. There may be teasing in fun, but a healthy team learns when even teasing goes too far. (I’ve personally had to go back and apologize for teasing.)
Stubbornness. When any team member holds out for “their” way — including the leader — it keeps the organization from achieving health.
What would you add to my list?
I frequently say to our church I’m less interested in where a person has been and more interested in where they are going. I would make that statement about leadership also.
The best leaders I know don’t have all the answers. They haven’t got everything figured out yet. Most wouldn’t even consider themselves “experts” in the field of leadership. (I certainly don’t consider myself to be one.) They are humbled why people would ask for their input. They realize they have much to learn.
What they have done and are doing is to continue maturing as a leader. The best leaders I know are consistently getting better.
In fact, you can often spot a maturing leader. They share common attributes.
Able to think strategically in the moment.
They don’t just spout off the first thing that comes to their mind and worry about cleaning it up later.All of us have done that at times, but maturing leaders have learned their words carry great weight and so they choose them carefully. (I wrote a post about that HERE.) They are encouraging and guard their tongue from reckless and hurtful words. It’s not a matter of being politically correct — it’s caring for people. It’s valuing others. It’s being intentional to use the power of words to bless others rather than tear them down.
Recognizes the contributions of others and willingly cheers other’s success.
It’s natural, especially early in a person’s leadership to seek to “build a resume”, but a maturing leader doesn’t have to get all the glory. In fact, they may get none, because the attention is shifted to the team — often to those who did the real work. This leader has learned when others succeed the leader succeeds.
Doesn’t act in anger.
They carefully plans a response. They take time to “cool down” before addressing a heated issue. Possibly they have been burned by their own quickness to react and so now they are becoming more careful and methodical in their approach.
Releases more control.
Maturing leaders place trust in others. They empower people to do work and take ownership. They know, often by painful experience, the more they control the less things can grow and be healthy.
Thinks beyond today.
Personally and for the organization, the maturing leader is guiding a path towards a better reality. They strive to see what’s coming and prepare for it. They likely experienced not being prepared and want to protect the vision for the long-term.
Concerned about, but doesn’t stress over small things.
Some things just don’t matter as much in the grand scheme of things. Leaders should be concerned about the details — even the smallest things can make a huge difference, but maturing leaders look to the big picture and dismiss issues which have little impact on the overall vision. A maturing leader has learned they cannot make everything matter or nothing really will.
Receives correction without becoming defensive.
This is huge. Maturing leaders don’t hold a grudge. They forgive easily. They see feedback — even that which is hard to hear — as valuable information which can make them better. Leadership can be painful, so it takes time for a leader to get here, but maturing leaders have learned life is too short and there is no value in lingering in the past.
You may not have all of these as attributes yet, but my encouragement is to keep improving.
Brag on yourself: Which of these are you doing well?
Be honest: Upon which of these attributes do you most need to improve?
I might ask — are you followable?
Followable may not be a Scrabble approved word — or even a word — but the application and the intent of the word is huge.
A followable leader has people who want to follow. See how elementary I can be?
Seriously, leaders who are easy to follow inspire people to join them on a journey and they develop loyalty from their team.
A couple of good questions to ask yourself: Do people want to follow my lead? Why would they want to follow me?
The best example I know of a followable leader is Jesus. Consider some of the reasons He was able to develop such loyalty among the people He led — why He was easy to follow.
Have a vision worth following – A leader needs a vision which lasts beyond today. There needs to be an element of faith and risk to motivate followers. The vision needs to take people somewhere they want to go, but aren’t sure how to get there. It needs to be a “bigger” reality than people are experiencing today. (Do I have to make that point for Jesus?)
Willing to lead the way – A leader who is easy to follow is willing to go first. They pave the way. (Jesus went first. He suffered first. He challenged the tired, worn out system first. Others could follow, because He led by example.)
Remain steadfast – Even through difficult days, a followable leader stays the course. Followers know they can depend on the, resolve, strength and fortitude of the leader during the darkest hours. (Jesus went all the way to the Cross!)
Display patience – A followable leader extends grace and forgiveness when mistakes are made. They pace the team until the team is ready for greater challenges. They equip the team with the proper training and resources to complete assignments. (Jesus gave His disciples — and everyone He met — much grace.)
Challenge followers with high expectations – People want to follow someone who sets the bar for achievement high. There’s no intrinsic value in following easy-to-attain goals. (Jesus pushed the disciples beyond what they thought they could do. Recall Peter walking on water?)
Practice humble servanthood – To be followable, a leader should display humility and be a servant of others — especially those he or she is supposed to be leading. (Jesus washed the disciples feet.)
Place energy into others – Followable leaders consistently invest in other people. They give real authority and responsibility as they encourage and develop other leaders. They even replace themselves in key positions. (Jesus sent the disciples out — and He’s left His church in our hands.)
Would you follow a leader with such qualities?
Which of these do you most need to improve upon?
There are many courageous leaders in our world today. Certainly coming to mind are the military and emergency personnel who serve faithfully everyday.
It takes courage to be an organizational leader also. And, I see many courageous leaders, as evidenced by the strong organizations that thrive even during difficult economic times.
But, what does it mean when we talk about courage and leadership? Every leader I know wants to be considered brave, strong, courageous.
Who are the truly courageous organizational leaders among us?
I have a few thoughts. I wish I always lived up to all of them.
Doesn’t bail on the team when things get difficult. Courageous leaders remain steadfast when others are departing.
Not afraid to make big requests of others. They make big asks of people, but are willing to pull equal weight to accomplish them.
Willing to take the first move into unproven territory. Courageous leaders are pursuing the unproven by willingly taking risks.
Moves forward by faith. Even when the outcome is unclear, courage helps these leaders face conflicts others tend to avoid. Uncharted waters are the courageous leader’s playground.
Makes hard decisions regarding people. Leaders with courage entrust others with genuine responsibilities. They empower people even before they completely prove themselves. They invest in people others are willing to dismiss — But they are also willing to acknowledge when a team member is no longer a good fit for the team and — as graciously as possible — move forward without them.
Protects the God-given vision. In the midst of criticism, hard economic times, and setbacks courageous leaders stay the course. They know God has called them to something bigger than today and they hold fast to His plans for their life and the people they lead.
Implements needed changes. Change is never easy. It’s why most of us avoid it, but even when they are uncomfortable or not immediately popular, leaders with courage push forward to lead change with diligence. They challenge the status-quo with which others have grown contented.
Thanks to all the courageous leaders who are leading well! You are making a difference!
Anything you’d add to my list?
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.
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?
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.
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.