Establish Authority before Exhibiting Authority

controlling leader

A pastor went into a church and started making changes quickly. They were good changes. All of them, in my opinion. Genius a few of them. I was impressed.

But, he didn’t last two years in that church. He was run out of town. Dismissed. Sent packing with barely a severance check. A few of the leaders in the church, some he didn’t even know were leaders, decided they didn’t like the changes. And, soon they no longer liked him.

Heartbroken and discouraged he asked for my opinion on what went wrong.

Now that’s a true story, but it’s not just one pastor’s story. It’s a dozen pastor’s story. I’ve heard it so many times I can’t remember them all. I am not saying I agree with those churches who responded to a new pastor that way. I don’t. Not at all. Or, not in the way they went about things. The controlling, afraid to change mindset usually keeps churches from growing and moving forward.

There were probably better solutions to the problem. Maybe a mediator. Maybe some humility. For both the church and the pastor. Maybe a smarter approach. Maybe a little better change management. Maybe a little more grace. Maybe a church takeover. (Just kidding on the last one. Mostly.)

But it helps us understand something else about leadership.

In watching new leaders in a church or organization, I’ve noticed a sometimes fatal error occur.

They forgot to establish their authority before making major changes.

Here’s the principle to remember…this is the gold of this post learned by experience:

You have to establish authority before you exhibit authority.

Positional authority is what this pastor used. By definition, this kind of power comes with the position. He was the pastor. So he made the pastor-like decisions. You’ll need positional authority at times. Many times. Don’t be afraid to use it when necessary. You need it when protecting the vision. Or in times of crisis. And, it is especially helpful in honeymoon situations, which is what this pastor used.

But, positional authority is limited in effectiveness. This pastor abused his positional authority. People may do what you say, because of your position, but they will not always do it with as much passion. And, eventually, if not handled well, people will rebel against that kind of authority; especially when it is the only authority exhibited.

What’s the alternative?

Relational authority is far more effective. As the title indicates, relational authority is part of a relationship. It develops with trust and respect. It develops over time and experience. It develops as those you attempt to lead get to know you and learn that you are the leader and person you claim to be.

I would have advised this leader to be more intentional. More strategic. There were probably times to use positional authority. Times to get some quick “wins”. Things that were less controversial and easier to change. Things that built momentum. Things that clearly got in the way of accomplishing the vision.

But, I would have advised him to develop more relational authority before he changed the controversial issues…the sacred cows. Many times these are small issues, but they hold big sentimental and traditional values. In the end, many of these issues don’t matter. You’d love them changed, but if it takes a year…or two years…that’s okay. In the meantime, you can develop your relational authority.

Before you exhibit too much authority, make sure you’ve established your authority. The proper authority. Especially relational authority. That takes time, and the privilege is great, but it is so incredibly powerful.

Have you seen a leader try to exhibit authority before establishing authority? How’d that go?

Sometimes Boring is Better

BORING Rubber Stamp

If I’m attending a church for the first time, I want to know who you are. What are you trying to accomplish? What is your DNA? What drives the church?

What’s your vision?

If you’ve heard your vision before, then it’s probably not “news” to you.

In fact, it may even be boring if you have heard it so many times.

Repeating vision can be “boring” to those who know the vision well.

New people don’t know your vision. Occasional attenders forget your vision. Unconnected people haven’t learned your vision. Committed people need to be reminded of your vision.

Sometimes boring is better.

And when it is, it is every time.

Let me repeat that.

Sometimes boring is better.

And when it is, it is every time.


Sometimes boring is better.

And when it is, it is every time.

It may be boring for you, but for some, it’s fresh and vital information.

Share your vision.

Share it again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

Are you bored with this post yet?

Well, good, maybe you get the message.

It’s not true many times, but sometimes boring is better. When it is, it is every time.

10 Specific Ways You Can Support Your Pastor

senior pastor

I recently wrote 7 Ways to Support your pastor on Sunday, and it was very popular. One frequent suggestion was a post about every day of the week.

It makes sense. I know I am frequently asked how people can support me. What a tremendous boost of encouragement that question is for any pastor. From the frequency of the request, and the popularity of the other post, it’s obviously a question of many in the church.

It primarily, however, made me think most about other pastors. That is the primary focus audience of this blog. I realize I am very blessed. I’m in a good setting. I serve in a fairly large church. They afford us an adequate staff and ours is a healthy staff culture. I don’t lead alone. The church takes care of me and my wife wonderfully. Of course, there are always issues of leadership…lots of them, but I feel very much supported.

So, in case you are wondering, what can you do to support your pastor? (By the way, for ease of writing, this is written using a male connotation and the specific title of pastor, but it is equally true for any people in ministry, regardless of their title or gender.)

Here are 10 suggestions:

Let him have family time – Let him be off when he’s off. There will always be interruptions. He wants to be a part of your life and life doesn’t happen around a schedule. He knows that. But, if your situation can be handled during his normal working hours, please help him protect his family time. Most likely, like most pastors (and people) he struggles to say no to your requests, so think of his family first whenever you ask for his time.

Don’t expect him to be everywhere – Don’t even expect him to be at everything the church does. He has so many hours in a day. And, if you want him to be healthy and effective, then he needs to prioritize his time. Let him do so without feeling needless guilt and pressure.

Lower the expectations on his kids and spouse – Kids are kids. Let them be. The spouse has responsibilities unique from the pastor. The pastor has higher standards placed on him, but the family should not have unrealistic expectations placed on them.

Respect his leadership – If God called him, let him lead. If he’s behaving outside Biblical standards then you have every right and expectation to intercede. If you’re objecting to your personal preference or out of the traditions set by men, humble yourself and follow his leadership unless The Lord removes him.

Encourage him – The best way to do this is through personal notes or emails about the impact the ministry is having on your life. Don’t assume he knows or hears it all the time. Chances are he doesn’t. And if everyone thinks the same, he will usually receive far more criticism than encouragement. In fact, that’s probably true anyway, so send the encouragement now! Today!

Stop gossip – I’ve never known a church where there isn’t some talk about the pastor behind the pastor’s back. Don’t be a party to this and help stop it when you hear it.

Pay him fairly – Consider his experience, his education, and the level of professionalism, leadership and responsibility he will have and the expectations you have for him. My personal advice is to pay him adequately where he can provide for his family, without taking energy away from ministry while worrying over finances. Depending on the person, he may even need help from someone with more experiences in the area of budgeting and finance. Many pastors are not gifted in this area.

Serve with him – Don’t make him beg for you to serve the church…or give to the church. Carry out your role as someone who loves the church. Find a place to serve. Support the church financially.

Pray for him – Daily. Don’t just say you are; actually do it. Pray for him personally. His walk with Christ. His study time. His family time. Pray for his family. Pray for the things about him that bother you. That works better than complaining anyway. Pray for God do to exceedingly abundantly all you could think or imagine through him at your church.

Grow personally – This is not last as a last thought. It’s the one I want to leave you with most. The real struggle for most pastors is undisciplined, immature believers. It’s not the lost. They usually fuel his passion to “seek and save the lost”. It’s not the mature in Christ. They don’t seem to complain. They work to support the church, the pastor, and fulfill the Great Commission. It’s the ones who are in the church, but are still babies in their spiritual maturity. (We all know this, but most won’t say it.) Commit to mature in your walk with Christ. Strive daily to be like Christ. You’ll be in the best position to support not only your pastor, but the church.

Those are my suggestions. With a few genuine people supporting their pastor in this way…watch out for what God can do through this church.

Pastors, what would you add to my list?

10 Positive Paradigms in Church Leadership

Like. Thumb up sign.

I recently 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. Who can’t work 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! 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.

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? Really? You recognize that it takes money to operate a church? 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.

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?

7 Paradigms of the “New Normal” in Church Leadership

Things have changed. Have you noticed?

The rest of the world has reacted. I’m not sure we have in the church…or at least as quickly as we should.

But, we must….

If we want to continue to reach people in the culture and introduce them to the God we love and serve.

Here are 7 paradigms of the “new normal” in church leadership:

We must do more with less – The resources for Kingdom work may not be what they once were. People now define generosity differently. We need to educate them. Disciple them in giving. But, just like the business community is learning, things may never be the same again. We may have to solve some problems without adding staff or new programs that cost money. I’ll be honest, as a former small business owner and church planter, this isn’t all bad and may make us healthier in the long run after we learn to adjust.

We have to think outside the walls – They aren’t coming to us any more for answers…even in times of crisis. We are no longer the first place people think about when life falls apart. We have to actually do the “Go” part of the Great Commission.

Church is an opinion, not a trusted source – The church used to be the center of discussion. Everyone wanted to know what the church thinks, especially on moral issues. Our opinion is quickly dismissed these days by many. We must build relationships to be heard.

People trust their friends…more than the churchA recent study said the most trusted source in advertising is a friend’s recommendation…believed 92% of the time. I don’t know the church’s percentage, but from experience I can tell you it’s far less than that. Teaching relational evangelism is mission critical.

Easter is for church people – Unchurched people don’t come, on their own, even on Easter (or other special occasions), without an invitation. (With an invitation they are likely to come.) We aren’t on their radar. More church people than usual show up on Easter. That’s why our numbers go up so much. The point, again, we have to invite and go through relationships.

Regular attendance is semi-regular – I’ve been noticing this for several years, even back when I was teaching Sunday school, but especially now as a pastor. Several of my friends have mentioned it recently. Two or three times a month…that’s regular attendance in many people’s minds.

Loyalty has dwindled – Just as people are less loyal to brands, they are less loyal to churches too. They can also watch us or others online without coming to our buildings. We will have to work harder to connect people through discipleship opportunities. Connected people are loyal.

Those are only seven. I know there are more. But, seven is usually my “go to” number. Please note, I’m not endorsing these or saying I agree with them. I’m simply stating some realities I see the church must consider. If we want to reach people within a culture it helps to know the culture.

By the way, it is interesting that we’ve been doing cultural training to send people on foreign mission trips for years, yet that seems like a “foreign” concept to some when it comes to training for the changing culture in our own backyards.

What paradigms of the “new normal” would you add?

Breaking News: 75 Year Old Starts Big Bold New Ministry

Old Semitic Man

“The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him.

Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.”

Genesis 12:1-4

I know it is naive for a near 50 year old to say this, but I hope God is still calling me to something new when I’m 75.

I hope He continues to call me to walk by faith, stretches my small dreams into big ones, and motivates me to more than I could have ever imagined. I don’t want to miss a moment of what God has for my life.

How about you?

10 Dangerous Church Paradigms

Schild 50

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

I have observed, for example, that 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 that 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.

Here are 10 dangerous church paradigms:

This is more my church than yours – No one would ever say that, 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 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 that way before – And, if this is the “go to” paradigm, you 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 church staff, must be involved at some level. It keeps a church very small. (And, doesn’t seem Biblical to me.)

That’s for the big churchess – Don’t sell yourself short. Some of the greatest people in ministry came from small churches. Maybe your only role, for example, is to raise up the next generation of Kingdom-minded leaders. That could be a great purpose for a church.

That’s for the small churches – I’ve seen a few big churches with 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 that… – 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, but one 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. That indicates you’re stable. In my experience, you’re either going forward…or going backwards. Standing still is usually not an option.

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?

4 Succession Planning Trends For Church Leaders

Passing the Baton

This is a requested guest post by my friend William Vanderbloemen. William leads the team at Vanderbloemen Search Group. Their vision statement is “We staff the church”. From what I see of William, that’s his heartbeat.

I heard William present some of this on a recent Leadership Network online conference. Knowing churches that didn’t plan well for succession and knowing very few who have, I felt it was a message that needed to be heard. This is top level coaching, so while we’ve made this resource free, you will need to register to download the remainder of this post. (But, it will be worth it!)

Here are 4 Succession Planning Trends for Church Leaders:

The longer I do executive search, the more I am convinced of this simple truth:

The most expensive hire you will ever make is hiring the wrong person.

Taken one step further, the most expensive bad hire you can ever make is a bad hire of a new Lead Pastor.

Unfortunately, there are too many stories of bad transitions, bad results from a senior pastor search, or a senior pastor succession. So what are some steps that churches are doing to ensure a good senior pastor search? What steps should churches be taking to ensure that their transition goes smoothly and mitigate the chances of problems?

As we work with churches across the country and around the world, we’re starting to see four succession planning trends arise for church leaders.

1. Secure the Outgoing Senior Pastor’s New Pastoral Identity

Many senior pastors have been serving at their church for twenty, thirty, or more years, and their identity is defined by their ministry and church responsibility. I don’t know of another job that ties identity to vocation as much as ministry does. Church is where you do life together, have your spiritual journey together, and it’s where you do work together. When that goes away, pastors are left asking, “Who am I?”

Smart churches are answering that question by finding a way to say, “Here is your identity after you leave. Let’s talk about it ahead of time. Let’s write it down.”

For some churches, that means the pastor is going to start with a vacation paid for by the board. It may be six months to a year so that the new pastor can get his or her feet on the ground and build leadership trust as the new pastor. While that sort of expense may sound extravagant, smart boards are realizing that an extended sabbatical for the outgoing senior pastor both honors their longtime leader and provides a buffer period for the new senior pastor to get established. In the end, I believe this is an expense that pays for itself.

Many denominational churches have a policy that the outgoing pastor cannot be a part of the church for a designated amount of time. Having a policy in place before a pastoral transition ensures that the outgoing pastor knows the lay of the land before he hands off his job.

I’ve seen other churches create a clearly defined new staff role for the outgoing pastor. One example that comes to mind is a church whose outgoing pastor left for a season and then returned by invitation from the new pastor in the position of Pastor of Designated Giving. That pastor was able to raise money from longtime parishioners that simply wouldn’t have been possible for a new senior pastor. It gave the outgoing senior pastor a new, defined identity and purpose. It also let parishioners know what to call the new pastor to do (and what not to do). Many churches we serve create roles for the outgoing senior pastor around their passions. I’ve seen new roles as a Pastor of Missions for a particular part of the world, Pastor of Caring Ministries, and many others. In all cases, the new role gave the outgoing senior pastor a clear identity as they enter uncharted territory in their life and ministry.

Smart churches, denominational or non-denominational are setting up a successful succession by clearly identifying the outgoing pastor’s identity as it relates to the church.

What are some areas within your church where your outgoing pastor can find identity?

Click here to download my white paper 4 Succession Planning Trends For Church Leaders where you can read all four trends and share it with your staff as you plan for a successful transition.