7 Surprises Since Becoming a Pastor

Minority pastor set on a white background

I love pastors. I haven’t been a pastor throughout my career. In fact, I spent most of my career to this point in the business world. (I realize this makes me an odd duck in many pastor circles, but it’s actually served me well in my ministry roles.) But, even before I was in ministry – I loved pastors.

Coming into ministry later in life, after being a church member, deacon and Sunday school teacher, has given me a unique perspective. I’ve seen ways the church interacts with the pastor I simply had no idea of before I was a pastor. A few surprises have occurred, probably especially when interacting with other pastors who are now my peers.

Thankfully, I’ve been in churches that mostly support me as pastor, but I interact with pastors in caustic church environments everyday. Even so, they are some similarities it seems with all pastors. And some of these, or at least the degree to which they exist, has been surprising.

Here are 7 of the biggest surprises in being a pastor:

People don’t understand the role.

The old adage that the pastor only works on Sunday – I’m surprised how many think something similar. They may not think Sunday is the only day the pastor works – some can catch on the message actually has to be written – but they don’t realize the weight of other responsibilities the pastor deals with on a weekly basis. It really is simply an innocent misunderstanding of what’s involved in the position of pastor. (It may seem a contradiction and yet this next one is equally true.)

The various opinions of how a pastor should pastor.

Some think I should be the only speaker the church has. Some think I should make every hospital visit. Some want me to do more administration. Some believe I am the resident counselor. Some think I should know every detail of every ministry and every event on the church’s calendar. You get the idea. As diverse as the people of a church are exists the range of opinions here. Thom Rainer wrote an interesting post on this issue and how many hours a week accomplishing expectations would mean a pastor should work. Read it HERE.

People often lose their filter when talking to a pastor.

It amazes me what people feel comfortable telling a pastor. It is beyond the expected confidentiality issues one expects. It could be criticism of the pastor or gossip about someone else, but many don’t hold back their opinion no matter how harsh it may be. And they don’t often clean it up before they present it. I have had pastors tell me they have people in their congregation who blast themm every Sunday about something – always in a very hurtful way. And, crazy, some of these same people will claim to be one of pastor’s biggest supporters to their face. The pastor should be a “safe place” to be real – even with your emotions. Unfortunately however, I think some people believe the pastor has no feelings or is expected to be “tough enough” to handle the jabs and process the rumors.

The job is never finished.

I guess I knew this, but not to the degree I do now. And, there are many jobs like this. There is always one more thing I could’ve done when I go home at night. Lives keep falling apart. People keep sinning. Marriages are in trouble. It could be overwhelming, and I could refuse to rest and neglect my family if I wasn’t disciplined, and if I didn’t have a keen awareness that Jesus is ultimately in control. My heart goes out to (and it is part of the motivation of this blog) pastors who haven’t learned or aren’t practicing this discipline or this truth.

Everything isn’t always as it seems.

People are hurting. Many of those hurts are hidden. You can’t “judge a book by the cover” when it comes to people. There are always two sides to an issue. Everyone has a story and it isn’t always the story you are thinking. Being a pastor has taught me it is unfair to judge people by what you think you know until you know the whole story. I’ve better realized the importance of extending grace before I know, and even if I never know, the full story.

Sunday is coming.

Every. Single. Week. I never realized how fast the weekend comes around until I became a pastor. Don’t misunderstand – I’m glad it does – it’s my favorite day of the week, but I just never realized how fast it does so until now. My first thought when I walk away from church on Sunday morning is – Sunday’s coming!

Some people truly love their pastor.

They do. There are some of the best pastor-supporters in the church. Most churches have someone who truly loves the pastor and wants the best for them. (These are Kingdom-building people!) And, I’m so thankful. It’s amazing how supportive and encouraging some people can be. I honestly believe they would do anything for Cheryl and me. I know, especially from some of my pastor friends in especially difficult situations, that these type people keep a pastor going some days. If you’re one of those pastor supporting types – on behalf of all pastors – THANK YOU!

Those are a few things I didn’t know, at least as well as I do now, before entering the pastorate.

Pastors, any you would share?

7 Pitfalls of Leadership Which Can Derail a Leader

PylonAndBigHole_image

We all know the stories of the once successful pastor or leader who flamed out too soon. It could be a moral failure or burnout, but they somewhere they got off track and had a hard time regaining traction. So sad.

In years of studying leadership, both in the business world and in ministry, I’ve seen some consistent traps which get in the way of a leader’s long-term success. I call them pitfalls.

Often, also in my experience, if we know the potential dangers we have a better chance of addressing them – and, hopefully even avoiding them.

Here are 7 pitfalls of leadership:

Pride

When a leader ever feels he or she has all the answers – watch out! Pride comes before the fall. Great leaders remain humble, knowing they didn’t get where they are on their own nor will they stay there without the help of others.

Passiveness

I don’t believe in tyranny, but a leader can equally be too “nice” or overly friendly with a team. Leadership is hard some days – okay, most days. Good leadership isn’t a popularity contest. The leader afraid to challenge will create an environment where mediocrity, chaos, and unhealthy team environment prevails – and eventually it will bite them. Leaders should be willing to address known concerns, not be afraid of healthy conflict, and challenge status quo even when it’s not the most popular thing to do.

Isolation

A leader who removes his or herself too much from people doing the actual work, who aren’t visible to their team, or who don’t bond well with them never gains significant influence. Even worse, they are more vulnerable to failing personally, as well. The enemy loves busyness, but also isolation – sin festers in absence of accountability. Plus, at every level of leadership, regardless of the size organization, the more a leader can do “hands on” work, even if only occasionally, the more “in touch” the leader will be and the more respected he or she will be by the people being led.

Loneliness

Leadership is naturally lonely. Every leader I know struggles with it at some level. If it’s not addressed, however, especially during extremely high stress periods, the leader will head towards crash and burn territory. Leaders should seek out other leaders, take risks on trusting a few people, and ask for help before it’s too late.

Boredom

I have often said boredom is one of the leading causes of marital failure. It’s true in leadership also. Leadership is about going somewhere. When things get routine for too long, the best leaders will get bored – and boredom can be dangerous. Leaders who last for the long haul are always seeking new opportunities for growth and development.

Success

Just as failure can hurt a leader, so can success. If not kept in check, success can lead to complacency. A leader can begin to think it will always be this way and eventually start taking success for granted. Disaster! These leaders are soon fighting for the success “fix” again – and often make tremendous errors in the process. Great leaders are always cognizant the success today isn’t guaranteed tomorrow – so they keep working on developing themselves, their team, and the organization.

Elitism

When a leader becomes “too good” for the people trying to follow – they stop serving a team and start managing people chasing a paycheck. They quit finding willing followers and are only surrounded by employees. Leaders, especially today, have to be authentic, real, and believable. There are always people on a team who believe they could do a better job than the leader – and, the reason they feel this way is because it’s probably true in some situations where they have more expertise. Teams are developed by mutual respect and appreciation. Great leaders never see themselves better than the people they are trying to lead. In fact, the best leaders I know purposefully surround themselves with smarter people.

What other pitfalls have you seen in leadership?

My 7 Part Strategy for a New Leadership Position

Man with disorderly business plan on wall.

Whenever I enter a new position, I want to be strategic. The first couple years in my new position were challenging and fun at the same time. I met so many wonderful people, but there were more opportunities than time it seemed.

It has proven to be a great ministry assignment. I thank God for the opportunity.

Since beginning, I have been asked repeatedly what my strategy was for the opening days. If you know me at all, you know I’m pretty strategic.

Here were 7 elements of my strategy for the beginning days:

Got to know key leaders

I tried to get to know the staff and key influencers in the church. I believe God uses the influence of others to build His church, so I wanted to know who I would be working with in the days to come. Think of it this way – if Moses was implementing the “Jethro method”, his primary energy would need to be communicating and investing in those leaders he enlisted to lead others. I used this approach. If I hoped to make any substantial changes I knew I would need these influencers support.

Let people get to know me

For an introvert it was exhausting, but I was very visible in the early days. In fact, in my ministry I’m usually always very accessible, just as I am online. I have written before (HERE) I may not always be available but I can always be accessible. I wanted people to feel comfortable with me and trust my leadership, so I think they needed to see me frequently – even more so in the beginning days of my pastorate.

Set my initial vision

People wanted to know where I was going with my leadership. I set an initial 7 part vision for the people. I really wanted 3 or 4 initial initiatives, but I landed on 7 – because all these seemed important. They were all things I was passionate about implementing. Some got started faster than others – we are really just seeing a couple of them come to fruition – but the church seemed anxious to get behind all of them. And, just to be clear, I didn’t lead all of these initiatives, but I was the chief vision-caster for them.

Identified quick wins

I looked for some things I could immediately impact and change for good. These were things I believed everyone could agree with, didn’t require a lot of resources or long debates. There were a few minor paperwork nuisances which impacted staff morale I changed immediately, for example. I invested energy in some areas of ministry which never received a lot of attention, but motivated people. I re-energized some areas the church had previously been excited about, but weren’t seeing much excitement about currently.

Did the unexpected

It seemed like such a small deal, but I roamed the balcony on Sunday mornings. It took a little more time, but it proved to be a big deal. I talked to the person who would be changing my slides on the screen prior to the service. This was a surprise to them. They said it had never happened before, but it proved to be a big deal. I roamed the halls of the offices during the day, walking into people’s offices, and allowing drop-ins to my office when I was available. All unexpected, but it brought very positive feedback.

Paced myself

I realized I’m only one person and although everyone wanted some of my time and there were more ideas than we could ever accomplish, I knew I would burnout if I didn’t pace myself. This meant I said no to some things – really many things. It wasn’t easy to say no to such eager people, for me or them, but I knew it would prove best in the end if I was able to last for the long run.

Moved slowly on the biggies

Being honest, there were some big items I knew I’d like to change immediately. I had enough prior experience, however, to know some changes are too big to launch quickly. I could have. I was in a honeymoon period. I could probably have “gotten away with them”, but the people didn’t really know me yet. I might have won a battle, but I would have lost the war. (To be clear, there wasn’t a battle – just using a cliche.)

Ever been the new leader or the new pastor? What advice do you have for me?

20 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife this Weekend

Rear View Senior Man and Woman Couple Walking Holding Hands

Men, want to show you’re wife she’s loved this weekend?

Let me offer a few suggestions:

Give her the best time of your weekend.

Do something with her you know she enjoys – even if it’s not your favorite thing to do.

Share a dessert with her. (Ouch! This one hurts me personally. I don’t usually share desserts.)

Take a long walk together and hold her hand.

Fix the bed, take out the trash, or pick up your clothes – without being asked. (Or whatever it is you know she would love if you did.)

Genuinely listen to her without trying to fix anything.

Give her a few hours with no responsibility – none. (Even the kids.)

Brag on her to your friends. Make sure it’s genuine and make sure she hears.

Go to a coffee shop and play 15 questions. I have a list of them HERE.

Tell her your deepest fears and greatest dreams.

Leave her notes around the house.

Write down 10 reasons she’s the woman of your dreams.

Leave a sweet voicemail on her phone telling how much you love her. (You can leave one at work, too, for her to get when she returns.)

Cook dinner. And, then do the dishes.

Book a date night for later this week. Take care of ALL the arrangements.

Pray for her out loud.

Ask her advice.

Say, “I love you”. Unsolicited.

Make her belly laugh.

Dream with her about your future together.

Any ideas you would share?

4 Important Steps To Quit Porn Once And For All

A man is chained to computer late at night.

This is a guest post. Honestly, I don’t do a lot of them, but this is an important topic. I can’t help but believe it impacts leadership. I know it impacts the church. The only thing I would add – or further emphasize – is to recognize the battle from a spiritual perspective. If you’re a believer, the Spirit of God dwells within you. Seek His help.

4 Important Steps To Quit Porn Once And For All

We all struggle with our own vices. For some, those vices not only harm ourselves, but the people around us. Pornography and sexual addiction is one of those struggles that can leave addicts feeling isolated and depressed.

In order to break your addiction and move towards recovery, having the tools and resources around you is important to help you set yourself up to succeed. As you go through the steps listed below, remember not to over analyze, but to use these tools get you started.

As you begin to master these steps, you’ll start to see a ripple effect on your life and addiction.

1. Action plan. Creating an action plan can have a huge impact on helping you move forward in your healing. The thought of stopping “cold turkey” can overwhelm and discourage many people, but by taking some time to develop a Plan of Action, you can set yourself up for success.

Think of your Plan of Action as a tool to help you establish new habits and implement them into your daily routine. These new habits don’t have to be huge (nor should they be—as that may also discourage you). Instead, you want these habits to support you and your recovery. Some ideas to get you started: find a support group, therapist, spiritual leader, or trusted friend where you can talk openly, practice positive self-talk, write in a daily journal, volunteer or do something nice for someone, take up a hobby, and practice forgiving yourself.

2. Support group. Addiction thrives in shame and, due to this, we tend to isolate ourselves. Isolation is one of the biggest stumbling blocks addicts (and spouses of addicts) face. To help you not feel so alone and talk with others who are dealing with similar struggles, finding a support group is important.

You may find yourself shaking your head, saying, “I don’t do that group thing,” but a support group can be an excellent place to listen to what others are going through, see the various stages everyone else is in, and gain some insights and tips to help you in your own recovery. In addition, you can also provide feedback and encouragement to other people. Plus, those who have a support group are more likely to overcome addiction.

3. Positive self-talk. One of the worst things you can do while recovering from addiction is belittle yourself. If you’re always talking down to yourself and allowing those negative, self-limiting beliefs roll around in your mind, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Henry Ford put it perfectly when he said: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

Take time when you get up, before you go to bed, and throughout the day to practice positive self-talk. The more you tell yourself you deserve a life free of addiction and have the strength to do this, day by day, the stronger you’ll be in your recovery.

Some affirmations to get you started:

● Today I will do one kind thing for myself and one for someone else. I will love myself and let myself receive the love that is there for me.

● Today I am willing to learn by doing. I will learn something about myself by following through on my daily plan.

● Recovery is a messy business. Today I will give myself permission to experiment, to make mistakes. I will learn from the day’s business and move on.

4. Forgive yourself. Part of recovery is to remember you’re human. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll have moments where you’ll slip up and revert to old habits. Don’t let the moments discourage you and leave you thinking you can’t recover from addiction. The important thing to remember when you slip up is to forgive yourself and call someone immediately. This can be your therapist, someone in your support group, a trusted friend or spiritual leader, and then recommit to your recovery.

One idea to help you when working towards healing is to write yourself a letter. Write why you’re ready to break your addiction, why you’re doing this, who you are doing this for, and anything else that will remind you why you’ve decided to break your pornography addiction.

Addiction is not easy to break. Be kind with yourself and know you are not alone. The path of recovery is making a conscious decision every day to not go back to those unhealthy habits.

About the Author: Danielle Adams is a freelance writer who works with Lifestar Therapy. She is committed to helping people practice open communication and build healthy relationships.

7 Ways to Be Respected as and Remain an Authentic Leader

Business people shaking hands, finishing up a meeting

It has been well documented today’s culture craves authenticity in leadership. It shouldn’t be, but many times it is hard to find in leadership, even in the church. One of the fastest way for a leader to lose loyal followers is to fall short in the area of authenticity.

Last year we met with a group of Millennials in our church – asking them to help us think how we can attract and retain their age group. The most repeated word was “authentic”. Funny thing, they couldn’t necessarily define the term when asked, but they apparently know when they see it – or don’t see it.

I was talking with a young staff member of another church recently. She said the reason she struggles to follow her pastor is he isn’t off stage who he claims to be on stage. He yells as staff members. He doesn’t protect his family. He never encourages others. I get it. I think all of us struggle with this one – both in living authentic lives and in following an inauthentic leader.

How can we be respected as authentic leaders? And, more, how do we remain authentic as leaders?

Here are 7 thoughts to be an authentic leader:

Make sure yes is yes and no is no

This means not over committing. It means following through on commitments made. It means learning to prioritize and learning to delegate. It means you can always be depended upon as a person of your word – and when you have to take back a commitment, recognize the tension it causes, and apologize if you need to. It helps people learn your word is good and worthy to follow.

Don’t call it awesome if it was mediocre at best

Many times as leaders we want to pretend something is better than it really is – or we are better than we really are – rather than admitting when something could be improved. We exaggerate our success and the success of the organization we lead. We pretend our church is bigger than it really is. We pretend we are more awesome than we really are and our life is more perfect than it really is. People usually can spot a pretender.

Don’t claim to know everything – or act like you do

No one knows everything. And, people know when we don’t. It’s better to admit it on our own. Plus, we devalue the contribution of others when we pretend to have all the answers.

Don’t receive credit when it’s not deserved

Taking credit for other people’s work is not only wrong, it causes people to mistrust leadership. Authentic leaders seek recognition for others equal or more than their own. They share ownership of mistakes the team makes and share ownership of recognition for things done right.

Ask for help

Every leader needs it. Authentic leaders seek it. And they give credit to where they received it. If you want to be respected by your team – ask for their input – and take their suggestions.

Remain accessible and accountable

The fastest way for a leader to get in trouble is to isolate him or herself from others. Authentic leaders live transparent lives in front of all people and completely open to a few. You don’t have to confess every sin to every person, but as leaders we need to live in a practice of confession for mistakes made. We need raw transparency of repetitive temptations, struggles and sins to a few people who can see and speak into the deepest parts of our lives. And, people need to have the freedom to ask the hard questions and challenge us where necessary.

Admit failures and confess fears

You make them. We all do. Everyone trying to follow a leader knows this about the leader. Authentic leaders readily own up to them. Leadership is scary. Authentic leaders push through fear but don’t pretend the fear is not real. They shoulder their burdens with their team.

What are some other ways you spot an authentic leader?

8 Characteristics of People Who Don’t Fit Well on a Team

Army Boots Stand Out in a Crowd

Have you ever heard the phrase “odd person out”?

It means you don’t fit. You don’t measure up for some reason. You are excluded. Being odd person out can hurt if for some unfair reason one is descriminated against.  

While I certainly can’t claim discrimination the way many people understand the term, I’ve been odd man out numerous times. I’ve been there because I’m pastor at times. People assume I can’t also be fun – or I would judge their activities – so there are many social events I don’t get invited to attend. I remember feeling this way as the only person from a single-parent home among my friends in high school. 

We’ve all been excluded at some point in life for some reason. 

It’s a bad thing to be “odd person out” by no choice of your own, but some people actually place themselves in the position by the decisions they make and the way they respond to others. It happens all the time in team dynamics.

Some people seem to choose to be ” odd person out”. The choices they make cause them not to fit well on a particular team.

I’ve led or worked with many teams and whether there are a few people or many on who make up the team, there can often be one who chooses to be “odd person out”. And, in fairness, it may or may not be a conscious decision they’ve made – they simply don’t fit well with the rest of the team, but they got there by some of their own decisions.

If unaddressed it can be dangerous for organizational health. Trying to build consensus or form team spirit becomes more difficult. Morale is infected by the intentional “odd person out”. Spotting this as the problem early can avoid further issues down the road.

In this post, I’ll address some ways this occurs or symptoms of the issue. I’m writing from the perspective of the one who doesn’t fit well on the team. 

Here are 8 ways to be the “odd person out” on a team:

Be resistant to every change – Whenever a new idea is presented, always be the first to say it won’t work. You don’t have to have a reason. Just oppose it.

Always be negative – about everything – See the glass half-empty. Always. There’s nothing good about this place – leader – idea – day – life.

Always have an excuse – It’s not your fault. It’s someone else’s fault. Always.

Never have the solution – It’s your job to point out problems, not to help solve them. In fact, you don’t care to build – you’re here to tear down. And, you intend to do your job well.

Hold opinions until after something isn’t working well – Make sure everyone knows you were opposed to the idea from the start. You can clearly see how things should have been done. And, you make sure everyone knows. 

Talk behind people’s back – Rather than going to the source – it stirs more drama if you talk about someone rather than to someone. Of course,  you talk behind the leader’s back too, though your usually extremely pleasant in their presence. 

Refuse to participate in any team social activities – Who needs them, right? Why would you want to hang out with people you work with? You might get to know them – and they might get to know you. 

Don’t buy into the vision – And, actually, this translates into working against the vision. You may even have a vision of your own. 

Of course, these are written with a hint of sarcasm, but these people distance themselves from others on the team by the way they respond on the team. Have you ever worked with anyone like this?

As you read the list, do you spot the “odd person out” on your team?

It should be noted, this doesn’t mean these are bad people. Many times, I’ve learned, these people were injured in some way previously. It could have been on the job or in their personal life. They may have been passed over for a promotion or they began to feel taken advantage of in some way. They may have social disorders which need to be addressed. They may just really be negative about their own life and bring this attitude into their professional life. Often, understanding why they feel as they do can help address their performance on the team. 

I should also note, I’m not advocating always agreeing with a team. It’s okay to have different opinions, challenge the system – and even the leader. Differing viewpoints help make us all better. The key is to do so in a spirit of cooperation, not a spirit of disruption. You don’t have to be the odd person out – even if you’re different from everyone else. In fact, don’t be.

What characteristics would you add of a person who purposefully doesn’t fit on a team?

A Reminder About Future-Tense Versus Present-Tense Thinking as a Leader

Future Present

The larger role of responsibility or the higher position you hold in an organization, the more you must discipline and free yourself for future-tense thinking.

I remember explaining this concept to a senior pastor. His church had stalled. As I learned more about the church, it wasn’t surprising to me. They were doing things the same way they’ve done them for many years. Nothing had changed. The pastor was busy – some would say too busy – but, in my observation, while he was working hard, he was not working smart.

The real problem? From my perspective this leader was so caught up in putting out current fires, he didn’t have time – or hadn’t taken time – to plan for new and better fire extinguishers. He was not thinking “What’s next?” for the church. He was drowning in present-tense issues. And, because no one else with think future-tense if the leader doesn’t, nothing is being planned to be done differently in the future. More of the same will never produce change.

I took a minute to draw the diagram above on a dry erase board. The four quadrants represent the amount of time given to either future-tense or present-tense thinking. The ratios aren’t important, but what is important is understanding the concept. Notice the amount given to future-tense gets larger as the level of responsibility increases. The more the organization looks to you for leadership, the more you must be thinking future-tense.

Think of it this way. The now when you started reading this post is now the then. If you aren’t thinking forward, you’re always thinking behind.

Some will ask in this diagram about “past thinking”. It is important to consider where the organization has been, but thinking about the past should be part of reviewing for improvement and growth in the future. I review our history continually, but only so we can celebrate and build from it towards a brighter future.

Have you seen an organization stall because the leader stalls?

If this is your situations, let me suggest you read 7 Ways I Keep Looking Forward as a Leader.