Even in the best restaurants…

The napkin goes under the table leg.

image

Even in the best restaurants – they still put napkins under a wobbly table.

They just use nicer napkins.

I was made aware of a wealthy family who took advantage of a couple of much lesser means. It was frustrating, because they were “legal”, but seemingly inflexible and even hurtful in their actions. 

The poorer couple was selling something to pay some unexpected expenses. In the closing documents they made a simple paperwork error in their original calculations – just a couple hundred dollars on a many thousand dollar sale – and, the wealthier couple held them to their original agreement – knowing it was an honest mistake and not the understood verbal agreement. They made sure every single penny was paid. 

It was a MAJOR loss for one couple. They needed every dime they could get. The extra money meant nothing in the grand scheme to the other couple – pocket change.

Of course, the wealthy was completely within their “rights”, but was it really the right thing to do? 

I hate when stuff like this happens. Jesus told a similar story I seem to recall. 

Shortly afterwards, Cheryl and I ate in a really nice restaurant. We were on vacation and treated ourselves to a great meal. It was one of those white tablecloth places where we had more than one waiter/waitress. You have forks you don’t – or I don’t – know how to use. 

At the table next to us sat a nice, well-dressed couple, also enjoying a romantic evening. I could tell the couple were struggling with the rocking table. It wobbled whenever they leaned on it.

What did they do?

The well-dressed man leaned over, lifted the table slightly, and stuck a folded napkin underneath the leg. Problem solved.

The two stories working together reminded me of an even greater life principle – far more important than money or wobbly tables. It’s one I hope we all remember. 

While some of us may think we are better than others – when it comes to a wobbly table – we are all the same.

My mom used to say, “Everyone puts there pants on one leg at a time.”

I say, “Everyone fixes a wobbly table with a folded napkin.” (And, sometimes with packages of sugar.) 

God says, “Don’t think you are better than you really are.” (Romans 12:3)

Have you been looking down others who have less than you? Maybe who don’t share your opinions or agree with your views? Have you judged people unfairly based on your expectations of them? 

Be honest. We can all be guilty of it at some level.

God, continue to mold us into who you want us to be – seeing others as you see them.

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

Square guy-Thumbs down

On a regular 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. They feel loyal to the church – even called – and don’t want to hurt the church, but they simply struggle to support the pastor – whether because of personal issues or leadership issues. 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?

I once had a staff member emailed me to say his pastor was extremely popular in the church, but consistently received recognition and support others the team deserved. The pastor, in this staff member’s opinion, often took advantage of the church’s support of the pastor and the church didn’t realize it. The staff member knew he probably didn’t have enough power to do anything about it – and, again, he didn’t want to hurt the church. But, he also doesn’t respect his pastor. His question was: What’s the best way to respond?

Great questions. I wish there were easy answers.

Here are 5 suggestions to help the church when you don’t support the pastor:

Don’t talk behind the pastor’s back

It would be easy – and maybe natural – to share your frustration, but chances are 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. And, it certainly isn’t the biblical approach. 

Be honest to the pastor’s 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. It’s conflict resolution 101, and it is the biblical way. 

This should be planned and you should think through how you will approach this with respect, grace and truth. You should address the issues which concern you about the pastor directly – and, you should certainly own anything you need to improve upon. (There is always the chance the problem is more you than the pastor.) And, if you’ve already acted in disrespectful ways against the pastor you should apologize. The fact is, however, the pastor may not even realize why you would be having a problem. We only know what we know. (I’ve written before on how to lead those who are supposed to lead you.)
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 – either because the pastor isn’t doing it or you aren’t allowing the pastor to influence you. This is understandable, but you need to find others who will invest in you. You would be surprised how willing other pastors may be to assist you if they are asked. They will be honored you thought of them and willing to help you think through your current situation. You will need this help. If not a pastor, find a respected business leader in the church or community who can coach you through life and leadership.

Find a place to vent

Surround yourself with some people with whom you can be brutally honest. It’s probably best 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 a few others – emphasis on the few. It will help keep you from burning out in ministry.

Leave when you can’t respect the leadership (and tell the pastor 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. And, I can’t tell you how many people have left our staff to go somewhere else only to realize after they were gone our environment was better than they realized when they were with us. The same may be true for you. The grass is often greener on the other side until we are on the other side. 

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.

Habakkuk, Chapter 1

A message for our time too?

Here Are My Prayers

We don’t know a lot about Habakkuk, but we do know about the day in which he lived. It was a day where the world was increasingly growing darker. There was injustice, immorality, violence and corruption.

Almost like our day. Almost like sitting with a bowl of stale popcorn and watching CNN or Fox News all day, everyday.

Habakkuk is the story of a man who trusted God, yet was very perplexed. He wasn’t happy about all he was seeing. Habakkuk was a bold prophet – and, so he presented his plea to God.

Habakkuk Chapter 1 from ron edmondson on Vimeo.

5 Tips for Amateur Prayers

People like me

Person Praying

Lord, teach us to pray… (Luke 11:1)

I don’t know about you, but I often feel like the disciples. I am still learning to pray. The fact is I have more knowledge of prayer than I have substance and practice of prayer.

Just being honest. But, I do have some suggestions.

Here are 5 suggestions for amateur prayers – like me:

Be respectful

You’re talking to the Creator, God. He is worthy of all our praise. He’s the Holy Father. He puts stars in the sky. At the same time, He paints the belly of a Lady Bug. Never take for granted the privilege of prayer.

Be yourself

Along with being respectful, it is important to be who you are. Don’t attempt to make your words pretty as much as you attempt to make your heart pure. Just as you want your children to be respectful, yet still be themselves, I am convinced God wants that for His children. We are told to call Him “Daddy” (Abba). He wants us to fall in the comfy chair of home in His presence.

Be honest

God knows already, yet He loves to hear His children talk – just like we do as parents. He wants to know what’s on our mind. We can tell Him if we are angry and still be respectful. Speak truthful when talking to God.

Be open to His voice

Spend intentional time listening – with your Bible open. God most often speaks through the already written Word. But He also speaks through the still small voice like the gentle breeze. Over time, and with lots of practice, you’ll begin to know and hear His voice.

Be consistent

Pray as much as you want and need God’s involvement in your life. How much is that? For me, it’s fairly constant. I pray far less than the need I have for Him. Have a daily routine. Start a prayer list. Do it daily – but mostly, do it as a part of lifestyle more than a part of routine. Prayer is part of a relationship.

And He’s always with you, so take advantage of the closeness you can have through Christ. If you’re sitting at a stop light – pray. If you think of a friend – pray. If you begin to worry – pray. It can be a paragraph, sentence or a couple words. (I’ve prayed “Help me God!” many times.)

Don’t overcomplicate it. Just pray. Talk to God. What a privilege I can encourage you in this way. (Hebrews 4:16)

Of course, all this begins with a belief in Christ as your Savior. This is what makes you His child – a family member. Prayer is ultimately part of a relationship. If you’ve never believed in the One whom lived, died and rose again three days later – begin there. He loves you – just as you are now – and wants you to know Him!

5 Words which Can Keep a Church From Growing

Abandoned buildings in the mining ghost two of Bodie, California.

I’ve spent some time studying church growth – and church decline. I am frequently asked, especially by pastors in declining churches, what keeps a church from growing – what causes a church to decline.

I have shared similar thoughts before, but in my observation, talking to dozens of pastors who struggle to get their church growing again, there are some common issues among them, of which I think we can all learn.

Here are 5 words which can keep a church from growing:

Entitlement

When the body begins to think “this is my church”, it will soon start operating outside the complete power and utter dependency of the rightful owner. It will then lose the Spirit’s power.

Energy

A lack of energy stagnates a church. This is not referring to worship. You can worship to your taste, but energy is a part of any movement of God. The church is the body of Christ. Don’t forget – our God is not dead – He’s alive! A church is revived and reenergized when it renews its vision. As a church grows closer to Christ, and introduces others to Christ, it create more energy for the body.

I know this in my personal life, also. If I ever lose energy for ministry I have to get back to what God called me to do. I have to hang out with lost people – with people who are hurting – with people who need to better understand the grace of God. It energizes me.

Excitement

If you can’t get excited about the Gospel, you’re not looking at Christ close enough. Anyone who can raise from the dead, forgive sins, and reconcile us to God – wow, talk about exciting! When the people who regularly attend the church aren’t excited anymore, visitors aren’t likely to be either. When a body becomes comfortable it often becomes complacent, and it loses the excitement it once had. It is then no longer attractive to outsiders.

Engagement

The body needs all its members. When a few people do all the work burnout is soon to follow. The church shouldn’t depend on paid staff to do all the work, nor should ministry be limited to those with a volunteer title of some sort. If people always have to wait for assignments to be made before people are freed to do the work of the church, over time, the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. In other words, getting more workers in the harvest means casting good visions – helping people know what the mission of the church is – and then releasing people to do the work of the church. Jesus did this – and called it discipleship. (And, told us to make disciples.)

Efficiency

When programs are so structured even God couldn’t introduce change – decline is imminent. Growing churches are always thinking how they can improve. The cliche is true, the message never changes, but the hearers do. Finding new ways to reach a changing culture with a Gospel never changes is part of a growing church’s responsibility.

Obviously there are many other reasons. These are just a few I’ve observed. Whenever I work with a church in decline, I will first look for one of these areas as a solution.

Feel free to share your own experiences.

Sometimes, as a leader, I need a reminder

You may also

running alone

I am a runner. When my knees are good I have been known to run as many as 6 days a week. When I run I am serious about it. I watch the time. I pace myself. I measure my distance. I check my calories burned. I do it for exercise. I run for personal well-being. I run because I love to run.

Running isn’t always easy. Sometimes I spend time thinking about the sports drink waiting for me when I get home. I think about how much my legs hurt. Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about whether my knees will allow me to continue running. On longer runs I’m almost always thinking towards the end about how ready I am to be home.

Then all of a sudden – when I’m about to be disappointed I’m still running – sometimes I will stop and think.

I chose this!

No one forced me to run. I chose this as my form of exercise. I could be in the gym – bored to death on the treadmill. I could be on the couch – bored to death with the monotony of television. I could be in a crowded meeting full of dozens of extroverts.

Running is my time. Running is what I choose to do for me.

It’s actually supposed to be fun!

It’s this way in leadership too at times.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the stress of leadership we forget – I chose to be a leader.

I wasn’t forced into this position. Sure, God “called” me into ministry. And, it is a job, which pays our bills – thank you Jesus! But I said “Yes, Lord”. I surrendered willingly.

No one made me be a leader. I wanted the opportunity to make a difference. I had a dream. I had a God-given vision.

Sometimes I need to remind myself. Some days more than others.

I wanted this! And, I’m thankful for the opportunity.

Do you need reminding you chose to accept the position of leadership?

5 Ways to Increase Productivity

Hint: They involve you!

Coworkers discussing a file

I see part of my role as a senior leader as a developer of other leaders. In church terms, as much as I am called to make disciples, I am called to disciple disciple-makers.

I take this role seriously. I am consistently thinking how I can encourage people around me to be better at what they do. Several years ago, with another staff, someone who once worked with me mentioned my intentionality in developing leaders on his blog. (Read his post HERE.) Thanks, Adam – miss you, buddy!

Here’s my theory on the subject.

Many leaders limit their capacity as a leader, because they try to do too much on their own. Rather than develop people, they control people. Rather than growing the organization, they only grow their personal workload. In the end, under this type scenario, everyone loses. The leader burns out, potential leaders are never developed, and the organization fails to be all it could be.

If you want to increase productivity as a leader, you have to think bigger than what you can do. In fact, I would say, you have to change your title roles.

To increase productivity and get better as a leader:

Change from being a manager of people to being a leader of people.

Don’t just manage current systems. Lead people to greater realities than they can imagine today. Don’t rule by policies. Free people to explore, create, and imagine. (And, in turn perhaps even make a ton of mistakes.)

Change from being a doer of tasks to being an encourager of doers.

Make it your ambition to encourage people everyday. Be a people builder. I find my best energies are spent away from my desk and in the halls or other offices. When I invest in others everything grows around me.

Change from being a list keeper to being a chief supporter of list keepers.

I love lists! I live by them. But, you can’t be a great senior leader and only manage your own. This would be the easy way – but the least productive way. Instead, you should help people develop their own lists – their dreams – the things they want to accomplish. Encourage. Empower. Celebrate.

Change from completer of tasks to being an investor in people who complete tasks.

Again, my best time is away from my desk. Like anyone I can get very tied to my desk, my email, and my own tasks. I have learned I can spend a little more time investing in people and the results return exponentially.

Change from being an implementer to being an enabler for people to implement.

The less “hands on” I am the more our team seems to get done. When I try to help I often get in the way. This doesn’t mean I do nothing. I often take orders from people on our team as to what I should do. It does mean, though, I try very hard not to get in their way.

These are not a play on words. They are intended to be a change in perspective. And, again, please understand, these are also not an excuse to do nothing. The attempt is working smarter. It’s making an intentional decision to develop others.

It boils down to believing in the purpose and power of delegating, learning how to delegate properly, and actually letting go. For more on delegating, see HERE and the related posts.

If you are struggling to complete all required of you as a leader, in my experience, it will almost always have more to do with how well you do in this area of your leadership. And, for those who are wondering, this is regardless of whether your team is paid or volunteer.

5 Ways to Help Young Leaders Succeed

Leader Development

Financial adviser or business mentor help team partner up to profit growth

I love working with young leaders. I consistently look for ways to invest in and recruit those who are currently entering the field of leadership or who will be in the future. In doing so, I see part of my role in working with younger leaders as helping them succeed.

I’ve been practicing this for years with incredible results finding new leaders – for non-profits where I serve on the board, to businesses I’ve owned, to churches where I’ve served as pastor.

It is often easier to get a more seasoned or experienced leader. You do not have to invest time and resources in training. You have a more tested and proven person. I have found, however, in certain positions the younger leader is a good – sometimes better – option.

It is true though if you recruit someone who has never led – or never led at the capacity you are seeking them to do – there will be some learning curves. And, part of your job as a leader will be not only to recruit them, but to help them succeed. This may include special training, coaching or mentoring, but definitely requires intentionality.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about the process.

5 ways to help a young leader succeed:

Eliminate the fear of failing

If a young leader knows failure is welcome, and a certain amount of mistakes are even expected in the early days, they’ll feel more willing to take risks. They’ll more quickly begin to add value to the team.

Understand he or she may be afraid to ask

They may assume asking would be perceived as a sign of weakness. Younger leaders sometimes want to make the best impression and often this means they will refrain from seeking help. They may have 100 questions, but they don’t want to keep asking.

Release the tension of asking. In fact, approach them first with “What questions do you have?” Recognize their need for help acclimating to a new environment and new responsibility.

Give consistent, constructive, encouraging feedback

Young leaders, even more from this current generation entering the workforce, need to know how they are doing and how they can succeed. They may have an idea in their own mind. It may or may not be correct. They need to know what you think. They won’t know unless you tell them.

Tell them what they need to know, but don’t know to ask.

There are always things in any organization a person needs to know to be successful – the unwritten rules, the hidden culture. These things aren’t written in a handbook or in a employee orientation, but you can help young leaders acclimate faster by letting them in on “secrets” they’ll learn anyway sooner or later. It will be easier to learn them from you.

(And, keep in mind, they may disagree with and even defy some of the unwritten rules. They may change your culture. And, this may be why you need them most.)

Give them a seat at the table of influence

They probably haven’t earned it, but it will make them a better leader. It will stretch them. They won’t always feel prepared, but you already gave them the freedom to fail, right? Let them have some insight. Give them an early voice. They will more quickly feel like an insider and a part of the team and you’re more likely to discover a potential superstar leader.

Those are a suggestions. Any you would you add?

5 Characteristics of an Antiquated Leader

Are you becoming antique?

television

What’s important in leadership has changed from when I entered the field of leadership.

Have you noticed?

Leadership principles and practices have had to change because organizations and people have changed.

The fact is many leaders who are in senior positions these days developed their leadership style in another generation. This has produced a plethora of what I call antiquated leaders.

Antiquated leaders create tension in many organizations, including many churches today.

Perhaps you’ve worked for (or even been – or even are) an antiquated leader.

Here are some characteristics:

Keeps people in a box.

People won’t stick around in a box these days. They demand opportunities for growth. There was once a day when you could pay a decent wage and, through policies and rules, control an employee’s actions. This is not true anymore.

Controls information.

Information is king, and these days people have information available to them in the palm of their hands — literally. Today’s leaders must be free with transparent and current information — including what’s stirring in the leader’s mind and where the organization is going.

Enforces a waiting period on young leaders.

Young leaders today want an opportunity to explore, take risks, and make an impact in the world — NOW — TODAY. Successful leaders learn to tap into this energy. Keeping young leaders at a distance won’t work anymore.

Assumes a paycheck is enough motivation.

That may have been enough at some point, but today’s workforce demands to know they are doing good work. They want to know what they are doing is making a difference and is valued on the team. The annual company picnic won’t cut it anymore.

Makes the work environment strictly business. The generation entering the new organizational world mixes business with pleasure. They want to enjoy their workplace environment. Today’s leaders must learn to celebrate along the way to success.

Now, take a minute and improve this post with your thoughts.

What would you add to my list?

5 Ways to Fight Insecurity

as a Pastor or Leader

Closeup portrait of a nerdy guy with glasses biting his nails

I was talking with a young pastor overwhelmed with the responsibility he’s been given. His church expects a lot from him – leading the church, preaching great messages, visiting the sick (and the well), managing a budget, and seeing the baptistry consistently in use – just to name a few things. He realizes the weight of his position, but much of it he doesn’t feel qualified to deliver. He accepted the position knowing there would be challenges – and he would have to walk by faith, which he wanted to do – but now he’s wondering if he’s in over his head.

I realized he was dealing with a huge dose of insecurity. I previously wrote “7 Traits of an Insecure Leader“.

It caused me to ask myself, so I could counsel him:

What’s the best way to deal with insecurity in leadership?

Here are 5 ways to deal with insecurity as a pastor or leader:

Avoid comparisons

Insecurity often develops when a person compares his or herself to another. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Be yourself. Realize who God designed you to be is not a mistake. Obviously, someone believed in your abilities as a leader. You need to stop comparing and start living in your own skin.

Concentrate on your abilities

What are you good at doing? Make a list of your good qualities. You probably have more than you think you do. In times of feeling insecure we often forget who we are and how God has shaped us through experiences of life. We would never tell a church member they aren’t gifted – why would we believe this about ourself? Keep your list handy. It will help you to feel more confident if you focus more on your positives than your negatives.

Surround yourself with people who complement your weaknesses

Part of having a healthy church or organization is the strength, which comes from different people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are probably people who can do things you don’t feel comfortable doing. It’s not a sign of weakness to get others involved. It’s actually a sign of strength as a leader. (And it’s the more Biblical model of the church.)

Keep learning

Seek wisdom from other leaders. Read books. Take additional classes. Knowledge is power. The more you grow in information the more competent you will feel in your role. (By the way, when I feel overwhelmed or insecure, I read the stories like those of Gideon, Moses, Joseph, David, or Joshua repeatedly. Great encouragement.)

Ultimately, find your identity in what’s really secure

You have a relationship with Christ. Remember, “You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength”. You can do all He calls you to do, because He will equip you for His call – and strengthen you when you need strength most. If you are facing insecurity in leadership you may have to simply get better at walking by faith. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

Insecurity will weigh you down and hold you back as a pastor or leader. It will keep you from doing all you were called to do. Don’t let it!