7 Things Every Leader Needs to Quit Immediately

young woman showing her denial with NO on her hand

I’ve often wished I could say something to every leader. Some things I’ve learned the hard way. I often share things leadership should do, but today I thought I’d share some things not to do.

Some things to quit.

Here are 7 things every leader needs to quit:

Measuring success compared to another’s success.

Your leadership will not be like someone else’s leadership. It’s not designed to be. You’ll likely be successful in ways other leaders aren’t. Some of those may be visible and measurable – some may not be. The goal should be to be the best leader you can be and measure your success by your obedience to being the leader God has designed you to be.

Pretending to have all the answers.

There’s an unfair expectation many leaders face to be the person with the answer in every situation. Seriously, how’s this working for you? The sooner you admit you don’t have all the answers, the quicker your team will be willing to fill in your gaps. And, surrendering is something God values in His followers.

Trying to be popular.

If you want to be popular, be a celebrity. If you want to be a leader, be willing to do the hard tasks to take people where they need (and probably want to go), but may be resistant along the way. Leadership can be lonely at times. Be prepared.

Leading alone.

Just because leadership can be lonely, doesn’t mean you have to lead alone. Good leaders surround themselves with people who care, people who can hold them accountable, and sharpen their character and their faith. If you have a tendency to separate yourself from others, stop now and reach out to someone. Take a bold risk of being vulnerable and release some of the weight of responsibility you feel.

Acting like it doesn’t hurt.

When people you trust betray you – it hurts. Be honest about it. When people rebel against your leadership – it hurts. On days where it seems you have more enemies than friends – it hurts. Don’t pretend it doesn’t. You won’t lead well if you’re a cry baby, but you should have some outlets where you can share your pain.

Trying to control every outcome.

Three reasons not to: 1) It doesn’t work. 2) It limits others. 3) It’s not right. Leadership is not about control. It’s about relational influence. When you control others you limit people to your abilities. When you empower people you limit people to their combined abilities as a team – and – keep in mind, there’s strength in numbers.

Ignoring the warning signs of burnout.

At some point in your leadership, if you really are leading through the deep waters of change, relational differences, or simply the stress of wearing the leader hat, you’ll face burnout. When you start to have more negative thoughts than positive thoughts, when the pressure of leadership is unbearable for a long period of time, or when your leadership starts to negatively impact your physical or emotional health or your relationships, it’s time to seek help.

Which of these do you most need to quit?

The Nine Forms of Generic Vision That Stifle Practically Every Church

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This is a guest post by my friend Will Mancini. Will is one of the best church strategy and vision guys I’ve met. Check out his new book – God Dreams.

The Nine Forms of Generic Vision That Stifle Practically Every Church

Most pastors are visionaries. But to fully realize the vision of a church, a pastor needs more than a generic sense of the future.

When it comes to vision, the biggest challenge to success is not your obstacles. The biggest challenge to overcome is settling for a lesser vision and not knowing it. If you grab on to a faulty tool—in this case the tool of vision—everything you to try to build with that tool will be limited.

Once you move past a generic sense to a vivid vision, you will still have many obstacles to overcome, but those are the natural challenges of implementation. You still have the hard work to do. But every action and every point of communication is more powerful with the vivid and compelling picture of the future in view.

If you are living with generic vision, and I believe most pastors are, more of your implementation challenges have to do with clarity than you realize. In the last week alone, I have seen issues like staff hiring decisions, children’s programming decisions, and campus launch decisions all present major dilemmas only because of unclear vision. Yet the lead pastor didn’t recognize it as such.

How then, can we apprehend the generic church vision that plagues our churches? In my new book, God Dreams, I have identified nine forms generic vision to help you name it in your church. The nine stem from three healthy biases. That is to say, we empower generic vision with good motives most of the time. We do the wrong thing for the right reason. It’s a good motive taken a little too far in application.

The three healthy biases are: accuracy, growth and efficiency. I will briefly describe each bias with the three forms of generic vision they create. Also, I will invite you to receive free God Dreams resources when they are available at the link below.

#1 – ACCURACY BIAS
A healthy bias toward accuracy can lead us to confuse Biblical statements with Biblically informed vision.

The story of church vision in the last two decades could be described as the great misuse of the Great Commandment (Mt. 22:34-40) and the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20). Most people have heard some variation of the following as a vision statement for a local church:
• “Our vision is to love God and love others.” (Love God vision)
• “Our vision is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.” (Make disciples vision)
• “Our vision is to glorify God.” (Glorify God vision)

These are biblical imperatives that should apply to all churches, but not as a vision statement. Why? When Jesus summarized the law, He was not giving churches a vision statement. This is a meaningful summary of the law, but it’s not an answer to the question: if we’re a church, what should our vision be for the next three to twenty years?

To summarize the problem, in our efforts to be biblical we fail to be imaginative, by cut-n-pasting verses as vision.

#2 – GROWTH BIAS
A healthy bias toward growth can lead us to substitute a grow-only vision for a growth-minded vision.

Some church leaders equate growth with vision. “If we experience momentum, we must have vision,” they reason. Here are three examples of how growth becomes an end in itself as generic kinds of vision statements for a local church:
• “Our vision is to reach more people for Christ.” (Reach more vision)
• “Our vision is to build a bigger facility or launch more campuses in order to take the gospel to more places.” (Build more vision)
• “Our vision is to change world.” (More change vision)

Every church should be reaching more people and multiplying disciples. And an increased response can certainly lead to more facilities and more campuses.

A healthy bias for growth might undergird a vision, but statements like these are weak by themselves. “Reaching more” and “changing the world” are too vague. And buildings and campuses might be important tools, but they are means to something greater, not an end in themselves.

#3 – EFFICIENCY BIAS
A healthy bias toward efficiency can lead to a done-for-you vision that neglects adequate do-it-yourself vision ownership.

Church leaders across the centuries have been drawn to learn from other churches where good things seem to be happening. Often this happens with the best of motives: they suspect God is at work and they want to be part of it. They appreciate the encouragement, the ideas, the tools, and the training from the other churches’ leadership. They follow the spirit of 1 Corinthians 11:1 where the Apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” A noble intent for sure.

But the passion that says, “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” while wisely seeking to improve efficiency, can lead to a debilitating blockage of the imagination. Who wants to leverage the learning of others to the point of sacrificing the thrill of having a God-given, handcrafted vision?

This bias shows up in several approaches to vision. But unlike the accuracy bias and the growth bias, the efficiency bias doesn’t usually express itself in a written vision statement, but in the mindset of the leaders. I would label three expressions of this intent as follows:
• Serve as a franchise vision
• Offer the most vision (i.e., more programs)
• Be the best vision (model church, top 10, etc.)

Of course I have much more to say about these nine forms of generic vision in God Dreams. But I bet this is enough to begin a meaningful conversation with your team.

The post will be unpacked in greater detail in God Dreams, my fourth book. The subtitle is 12 Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future. I invite you to browse through the book website, goddrea.ms, for more resources.

7 Traits Which Indicate a Leader is Insecure

Uomo d'affari disperato

Christian are called to walk by faith. This includes Christian leaders. A part of our calling in leadership means we want always know what the future holds, but we steadfastly follow God’s leadership. 

I must be honest. As I work with Christian leaders – and I observe the culture and leaders within the world – I sometimes see more confident leadership outside the church than within. How can this be? 
Having faith should never be mistaken as insecurity, however. In fact, a more opposite is true. People of faith have assurance in Whom we are following. We can lead people with confidence, strength and conviction. 

Insecurity always shows up in a person’s life. It can possibly be disguised, but it can’t be hidden. Insecure people – or people who aren’t secure in who they are personally or comfortable with their abilities – display some common characteristics.
Insecurity is a normal emotion when we are exposed to something new, but as we mature in leadership – and especially in our faith and calling – we should guard against the negative impacts of insecurity.

Here are 7 traits you may see in an insecure leader:

Defensive towards any challenge.

The insecure leader flares his or her insecurity when ideas or decisions they make made are challenged in any way. They remain protective of their position or performance. They are constantly looking over their shoulder expecting someone to question them or their authority. 

Protective of personal information.

The insecure leader keeps a safe distance from followers. Their transparency is limited to only what can be discovered by observation. When personal information is revealed, it’s always shared in the most positive light. This is about them and their family. They only want you to believe – and know – the best about their world. 

Always positions his or herself out front.

Insecure leaders assume all key assignments or anything which would give attention to the person completing them. They are careful not to give others the spotlight. They use words like “I” and “My” more than “We” or “Our”. They tend to control informtion – everything goes through them first. 

Limits other’s opportunities for advancement.

The insecure leader wants to keep people under his or her control, so as to protect their position. They are leery of strong personalities or other leaders. They have “yes” people around them and guard against anyone who displays leadership potential. They hand out titles only to those they believe will never question their authority. 

Refuses to handle delicate issues.

Insecure leaders fear not being liked, so they often ignore the most difficult or awkward situations. They talk behind people’s backs rather than to them. They are likely to say one thing to one person and something else to another – depending on what is popular at the time. 

Makes everything a joke.

One huge sign of an insecure leader, in my experience,  is they make a joke about everything. Again, they don’t want to handle the hard stuff – and want to be liked – so joking is often a coping mechanism used to divert attention from the issues they don’t want to face. When people laugh it gives a false sense of being liked to the insecure leader.

Overly concerned about personal appearance.

While this is not always the case, some insecure leaders are never far from a mirror. They are overly conscious of their clothing or hair. Afraid of not being in style or wanting to be accepted as hip or cool, they are constantly looking for the latest fashion trends or attempting to be cutting edge with the gadgets they carry. (I’ve observed the opposite here could also be true. The insecure leader is careful not to stand out, so they appear to have no concern for personal appearance at all.) 

Please understand, all of us have moments of insecurity. Leaders, especially, if they want to be effective, must learn to recognize signs of insecurity, figure out the root causes of it, and attempt to limit insecurity from affecting their leadership. And, again, Christian leaders, we have reason to be confident – if we are truly following closely to our Leader. 

What other traits have you seen that indicate someone is an insecure leader?

4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership – A Guest Post by Jenni Catron

Jenni Catron

This is a guest post by my good friend Jenni Catron. I have gleaned from Jenni for several years, since the days when we served together in nearby churches. She’s a great leader and continues to challenge me. I’m excited about her new book, her newest book, The Four Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership: The Power of Leading from Your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. This will be a book you’ll want to add to your leadership library and toolbox. Thanks Jenni.

4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership

One of my favorite extraordinary leaders in the Bible is Nehemiah. In the Old Testament book named for him, Nehemiah led the Jewish people to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem that had lain in shambles for seventy years. While the Jewish people had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple after some fifty years of exile, they were never able to finish the wall around the temple. It was left in ruin because they faced opposition each time they attempted to complete it. No leader before Nehemiah had the clarity of vision and the influence to overcome obstacles to accomplish this monumental task. What’s striking about Nehemiah’s story is that he wasn’t personally affected by the wall. He didn’t live in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah was in Judea serving as the cupbearer to the king of Persia. This was a high- profile position. He had earned a respected seat of influence, so the fact that he was concerned about the people in his homeland speaks volumes about his character. As you read through his story, you quickly see that Nehemiah understood the complexity of the leadership task before him. He recognized that there was a problem to solve and that no one else was stepping up to solve it. He identified the leadership vacuum that existed, and he felt called to help lead through it. As we look at Nehemiah’s actions, we see how he employed the dimensions of an extraordinary leader to lead himself and others through the complexity of the problem they faced.

He Identified the Problem After spending a few days in Jerusalem assessing the situation, Nehemiah told the other leaders, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17). The first task of the leader is to define reality, especially when a complex problem lies between where you are and where you desire to go. In Nehemiah’s case, it was a wall that lay in ruins, and those ruins symbolized a lack of hope, a lack of strength, and a lack of direction for God’s people. He was burdened. Nehemiah owned it. It was personal.

He Sought Out Support (Heart) Nehemiah knew he couldn’t do this alone. He needed others to help him accomplish the vision of restoring the wall. Nehemiah’s role as cupbearer to the king was no accident. He strategically used his place of influence to petition the king for permission to take a leave of absence from his job to lead the rebuilding effort. In addition, he asked the king to write letters to other government officials from whom he would need help. In each step of the process, Nehemiah cast vision and began recruiting help: first to the officials, then to the priests, and finally to the citizens of Jerusalem. He engaged and involved people at every level, and Scripture says that “the people worked with all their heart” (Nehemiah 4:6).

He Prayed over It (Soul) Nehemiah displayed spiritual leadership by praying for God to give him direction for how to proceed. According to Halley’s Bible Handbook, “He spent four months in prayer before he made his request to the king,”8 and Scripture cites numerous times when he paused to pray throughout the project. And these weren’t puny prayers. Nehemiah 1:4 tells us that Nehemiah wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven. When was the last time your heart hurt like that on behalf of someone else?

He Developed a Plan (Mind) Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah visited the remnants of the wall and outlined a plan for rebuilding. He took his plan to the city officials and received their blessing, thanks in large part to the letters from King Artaxerxes. With permission to build, Nehemiah recruited the workers. He provided clear direction and regular guidance, especially when they faced challenges. When opposition arose, he posted guards day and night. When the laborers grew fatigued because of the threats of attack, Nehemiah created rotations so that their responsibilities and the associated pressures would vary. Nehemiah’s attentiveness to the details of the process and the implications of the work for the people exemplified his awareness of managerial leadership.

He Saw the Possibility (Strength) Nehemiah developed a personal passion for this problem, and from that passion a vision of hope for the future was born. While he identified a problem, he also caught a vision for the possibilities. The fact that Nehemiah developed this vision on behalf of others is significant. He didn’t see the possibilities as a benefit for himself. He saw the possibilities for others. Amidst criticism, threats on his life, grumbling from those he was seeking to help, and the difficulties of the task, Nehemiah stayed the course and displayed unwavering commitment to the vision God gave him. His selfless leadership showcased the strength of an extraordinary leader.

5 Legitimate Fears of a Church Planter

Scared Afraid Man Wrapped in Red Fear Tape

Having participated in two church plants as a planter, and now working with church planters on a regular basis in a coaching capacity, I know first hand the fears associated with planting a church. It’s a leap of faith and one God is calling many to these days.

My theory here is recognizing the fear and realizing their legitimacy is part of guarding our hearts against them. The fact remains – for a church plant to be successful, at least in Kingdom terms, God must provide His grace.

Keep in mind, Jesus said not to be afraid. Fear is usually a substitute for trust. But, unless you are perfect – which I suspect you’re not, you’re subject to normal human emotions. The kind church planting produces.

Here are 5 legitimate fears of church planters:

No one will show up.

If we do all this work and it doesn’t work – what will we do? You’ll be thankful you were obedient to what you believe God called you to do and wait patiently for Him to provide. We had to consistently remind our core team that God was in control of numbers. Our job was to be faithful. This doesn’t mean you stop inviting people or investing in the community around you, but you trust God will stir hearts for His work.

We can’t afford it.

You probably can’t. Seriously – not with what you can see. And, seldom there be “enough money” – or so it may seem at times. God calls us to big tasks. Church planting is hard – and not cheap. But, the Lord will provide resources for His vision. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to educate people on the needs or help them understand the command, value and blessing of giving, but it does mean you trust God even when the checkbook balance is low. It also doesn’t mean you won’t have to wait to make major purchases or there won’t be times you have to wait until “Sunday’s offering” to get paid. Our paycheck was delayed several times the first couple years so other bills – and other staff – could be paid, but we were never hungry.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

Isn’t it wonderful? It means you’re insufficient without His sufficiency. What a great place to reside! The great news is that many have gone before you. Learn from others and stay on your knees before God.

People will leave

True. Most core teams are cut in half in the first few years. At first I thought we were to be the exception. We weren’t. Other people will come and never return. But, some will stick. And, they will have hearts for the vision. And, in them we rejoice at what God has done. We build our teams around those who God sends to us and who remain steadfast to the journey ahead. The team may change several times the first few years.

We don’t have a building

No, but you probably don’t have a mortgage either. And, you’re raising up an army of volunteers for set up and tear down. You are building service and sacrifice into your DNA as a church. Isn’t it wonderful! Don’t lose that atmosphere and culture of dependency, even when you have a building someday.

Final thought. These fears are legitimate – real fears. Don’t be ashamed you have them. The key is not to live in them, but to live and walk in the faith God will complete His plans and enable those He calls.

What other fears have you experienced in church planting?

5 Secret Objections to Change

Time for Change - Ornate Clock

In the world of change, I’ve learned there are some common objections. I’ve previously written objections people use to criticize change, but in this post, I’m addressing the root cause of that criticism. These are the secret objections.

No one admits to these. But they are real. Very real. In fact, they may be the biggest obstacles you’ll have to face in implementing change. The root of most objections.

Show me an objection to legitimate, needed change and you’re almost guaranteed to find one of these hidden in the crowd somewhere. Probably multiples of them.

Here are the 5 secret objections to change:

Selfishness

We want what we want. We want what’s comfortable. We want what requires less sacrifice on our part.

Pride

We like our ideas and don’t believe we can enjoy the ideas of others, as much as our own. The way I want to do things is best, isn’t it?

Power

We want to make the decisions for our life and resist when we think others are making them for us. We have a very real, often hidden desire for control.

Fear

We are afraid of what could happen if we change. We fear the change might change not only what we are changing, but it might change us in some way. That’s scary.

Satisfaction

We don’t see the need for change. We like things the way they are, no matter how hard someone tries to convince us change is needed. The way it is now is the way it’s supposed to be.

Granted, I don’t believe we can continue to grow most of the time without change. Change is all around us. Failing to embrace it only leads to more severe problems later. With the exception of God and His Word change is imminent. But, that doesn’t mean change is easy.

Sometimes understanding the hidden reasons behind the objection helps the leader better address the situation.

What are hidden objections to change have you seen? Which of these would be your most likely secret struggle with change?

10 Positive Paradigms in Church Leadership

Like. Thumb up sign.

I previously posted 10 dangerous paradigms in the church. Obviously, there are positive mindsets in the church also.

I decided to share some from the perception of a pastor.

Here are 10 positive paradigms in the church:

We can do it Pastor

The “can do” attitude. Is there anyone who can’t work miracles with that?

Jesus will make a way!

So, if that’s your paradigm, then all we have to do is follow Him – right?

It’s not about me.

Wow! Really? You’re serious. Because to hear someone say that – makes a pastor’s day.

Let’s walk by faith!

Yes, let’s do. Because, without faith, it’s impossible to please God. At least, according to the Bible I read.

What can I do to help?

Imagine if everyone showed up at church ready to do whatever it took to make the day work. Just imagine. We can dream, can’t we?

We need some change around here.

I think we do. I think you’re right. I think I’ll clone you. Sustained momentum always requires change. Always.

I know we need to talk about money.

You do? Seriously? You recognize it takes money to do ministry? Wow! Are you contagious?

It’s none of my business.

Okay, this is a tough one, but seriously, is it? Do you really need to know everything, or do you just like information? I wonder if we moved forward with less information if we would be closer to walking by faith – which in essence means we go without seeing. Just wondering.

I’m excited about trying something new.

By excited, do you also mean you’ll support it? And speak positively about it? Even behind the pastor’s back? Because, if you do, I’m gonna hug you. Seriously. Right now. Big hug.

This church is awesome!

It’s simple, but it builds momentum. Believing in the church, it’s leadership, and it’s potential is a key to welcoming people who will later feel likewise.

As a pastor, those are 10 positive paradigms I would share. I realize they aren’t for everyone. But, which one would you most like to see as a pastor?

What positive church paradigm would you add to my list?

10 Dangerous Church Paradigms I’ve Observed

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I’ve been in church all my life. Along the way I’ve seen and observed a lot. Almost all the insight I have into church has come by experience.

I have observed, for example, paradigms can often shape a church’s culture. A paradigm in simple terms, is a mindset – a way of thinking. In this case, a collective mindset of the church, often programmed into the church’s culture.

If the church is unhealthy part of the reason could be because it has some wrong paradigms. In this case, it will almost always need a paradigm shift in order to be a healthier church again.

Recently, I’ve been thinking of some of the paradigms which impact a church. I’ll look at some of the negative in this post and in another post some of the positive paradigms of the church.

Please understand. I love and believe in the local church. I believe in the ability to impact a community, to provide hope and, of course, in the promise Jesus made about His church. My goal of this post and this blog is to strengthen the local church. Sometimes we do this by exposing the parts, which needs to improve. 

Here are 10 dangerous church paradigms:

This is more my church than yours.

Granted, no one would ever say this one, but a sense of ownership can set in the longer someone has been at a church. They have invested in the church personally and feel, often rightly so, a need to protect and care for it. The negative of this mindset, however, is when people don’t easily welcome new people. They “own” their seats. You better not sit there – no matter how much the church needs to grow. They control programs, committees, and traditions. Obviously, the church is not your church or my church. God has not released the deed.

We’ve never done it this way before.

And, if this is the “go to” paradigm – they probably never will. People with this mindset resist all change. Even the most positive or needed change. Small change is big change to these people.

The pastor needs to do it.

Whatever “it” is – the pastor, or some paid staff, must be involved at some level. This paradigm keeps a church very small. (And, doesn’t seem Biblical to me.)

That’s for the big churches.

Don’t sell yourself short. Some of the greatest people in ministry come from small churches. Maybe your only role, for example, is to raise up the next generation of Kingdom-minded leaders. This would be a great purpose for a church.

That’s for the small churches.

I’ve seen a few big churches with an attitude. Bad attitudes. This mindset can keep a church from reaching the most hurting, because their only focus is on growing. A strong, narrowly defined and driven vision is powerful. It builds churches, but a church with this paradigm never welcomes any interruptions in their plans. Jesus is our best example of this. He kept the vision before Him, but was never afraid to stop for the interruption yelling in the streets.

My comfort level for change is _____.

This paradigm says, “We will change until it impacts our individual personal desires.” Does it sound self-centered? It is.

My people would never support _____.

Well, pastor, maybe if they weren’t “your people”, they’d be more willing to be “God’s people”. He has ways you can’t even imagine of leading His people to do His will.

I can’t!

Not with that attitude. The old saying, “If you think you can’t you’re halfway there.” But one quick question – Where is your faith?

This is the best we can do.

Are you sure? Is that your opinion or God’s? Sounds like a dangerous paradigm to me.

We have plateaued as a church.

Really? You may have quit growing, but plateaued? The word means “leveled out”. This indicates to me you’re stable. In my experience, you’re either going forward – or going backwards. Standing still is usually not an option – and definitely not stability.

Those are just some of the dangerous church paradigms I’ve observed. You’ve seen far more, I’m sure.

Do you know of any other dangerous church paradigms?

It’s All Grace – A Message From Acts

Acts Bible

A few thoughts from this message:

Sometimes in our attempt at morality we trip over our own desperate need for grace.

If you’ve given God no reason to love you – or even want to know you – then you’re the one He wants.

Oh may the grace of God be obvious

  • When the barriers drop.
  • When the church is unified.
  • When all our loved.

All Grace from ron edmondson on Vimeo.