One Simple, But HUGE Way to Better Empower a Team

Leader, let me share one of the best things you can do to better empower your team.

And, in full disclosure, I’m the worst at this, but it’s something I’m striving to do better.

You want to fully empower your team?

Here’s what you do:

Release them from responsibility.

Whenever you can…

Often as leaders we handle a lot of information. Sometimes we do that with our team. Sometimes we dispense a lot of new ideas. If we are growing and learning personally, the team is often where we process our thoughts.

If it’s not their responsibility — let them know it’s not.

It sounds simple — but it’s huge.

You see, the team is always wondering.

What is the leader thinking here — as it relates to me?

What do you want me to do with that new idea?

How do you want me to help?

What’s my role going to be in this?

Are you going to hold me accountable for this?

Do you expect something from me here?

As leaders, we often process and present a lot of ideas, but sometimes we are just “thinking.” Sometimes we aren’t assigning anything — we are just exploring.

The more we can release the people trying to follow us the more they can focus on things for which they are being held accountable. And, the more willing they will be to process new ideas with us.

Just tell them what you expect — or don’t expect. Say the words, “You are not responsible for this.” “I don’t expect anything from you on this.” “This is just for information.” And, mean it.

Sounds simple. It’s huge.

It’s Never Too Late to Intentionally Date Your Spouse: 15 Questions to Get You Started

I want to encourage you to plan an intentional date night. Make the reservations. Get a babysitter. (Trade with another couple so they can do this another night.) And, date.

Not just a normal date. That’s not what I mean by intentional. Date. Like you did when you were — well — dating!

Get to know each other. Sure, I know, you’re married now. You already “know” each other. But, great couples never stop learning one another. It’s part of becoming one.

And, With two unique people — as unique as you — yes you — it will take a lifetime together to fully accomplish.

Don’t assume you already know. Explore new territory with each other. Ask questions.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • What do you like best about me?
  • When do you feel most loved in our relationship?
  • If there was only one day you could capture, and repeat again in our marriage, which day would you choose?
  • If you had a “do over” of any day in our marriage, which one would you choose?
  • What is the best way your husband/wife encourages you?
  • Tell me (again if you’ve told me before) about your favorite childhood memory.
  • What was the first thing that attracted you to me (tell me again)?
  • What do you think is the hardest part about being a man/woman? (Each answer for their gender and the other)
  • What is the greatest fear you have about growing old together?
  • What did you admire about the way your mother and father treated each other?
  • What would you do differently?
  • What is the best way for me to communicate difficult feelings about you so that you are not offended?
  • Do you remember what we talked about on our first date?
  • When you meet a new friend, and they ask you to describe me to them, what do you say?
  • Who do you think was the most influential person/couple in your life in shaping who you are as a husband/wife? How did they influence you?
  • Who is one couple we both know that you’d like to have a marriage like theirs? Why?
  • If there were no limitations in life, what dream would you pursue?

Make this post better. Add some more questions.

Then comment and tell me how the date goes.

The more intentional we are with our marriage, the greater results we can expect. 

Quick Leadership Tip: Shotgun Your Day

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Here’s a quick leadership tip. Nothing earth shattering. Just a reminder.

Many times we try to accomplish too many tasks in one day and it makes us feel ineffective in all our tasks. I call that the shotgun approach.

Here’s a leadership tip:

Use the rifle approach.

Carefully plan a realistic list of activities for each day, with specific objectives, and rank them from the most important to the least important. Then check off each item as you work through the list, accomplishing as many as you feasibly can per day.

When you’re facing a major project (such as preaching each week), schedule one entire day for nothing but that project. Let nothing interfere unless its absolutely unavoidable. (And, those really are few if we are disciplined.)

You will be surprised how much more you can accomplish when you use the rifle approach to planning instead of the shotgun.

Consecration: In Ministry and Leadership

This is a guest post by my friend Greg Atkinson. Greg is an author, speaker, consultant and the Editor of Christian Media Magazine. Greg has started businesses including the worship resource website WorshipHouse Media, a social media marketing company, and his own consulting firm. As a consultant, Greg has worked with some of the largest and fastest-growing churches across the United States. Greg is the author of Church Leadership Essentials and Strange Leadership.

Consecration by Greg Atkinson

Consecration or the act of consecrating means “dedication to the service and worship of a deity.” We serve, lead, and minister from a place and posture of consecration. This is the prerequisite for God choosing to use us in His grand plan.

The book of Exodus uses the word consecrate nineteen times. The book of Leviticus uses it eleven times. It’s used several more times throughout the Old Testament and a few times in the New Testament. Under the direction of king Hezekiah, the priests consecrated and purified the temple of the Lord, clearing out everything that was ritually unclean. Side note: You want to talk about innovation and creativity? Just look at all the work that went into building the temple. Wow.

“Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them. —Joshua 7:13 (NIV)

God tells Joshua to tell the people to consecrate themselves in preparation for a coming battle. He says they will not win unless they do it. I’m sure you’ve realized by now, we’re in a war. I’m not talking about Iraq or Afghanistan or Russia, or whatever the current conflict is when you are reading this. I’m talking about the spiritual war we as ministers of the gospel are all engaged in. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

If you want to see supernatural innovation in your life and ministry—something that can only be explained by the hand of God and changes people’s lives for eternity, you must be a consecrated servant leader. I’m not talking about being perfect, for we know only One has lived a perfect life. I’m talking about striving for a life of personal purity and holiness and dedicating our whole being to the will of God. Then and only then, will you be able to “stand against your enemies.” This is important because each of you, in your city and community, have strongholds and evil forces at work that are waging a war for the souls you so desperately long to reach. God may be wanting to do a “new thing” in your midst and shower you with the blessing of insight, knowledge, wisdom and discernment, but He is urging you (like He did Joshua) to “consecrate yourselves in preparation
for tomorrow.”

We recently moved into a new building at my church and when we were preparing for our first week in the new building, God gave me the following verse:

Then Joshua said to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.’ —Joshua 3:5 (NASB)

I had an art piece made up and our entire congregation signed it with Josh 3:5 in the middle of the art piece. Many Saturday nights, I will post the Scripture on Facebook and ask people to pray for what God will do in the morning when we gather for worship.

Friends, don’t miss this: consecration is required if you want to see God move. I’m talking about personal and/or corporate consecration. Let’s take a quick look at what the Bible says about Noah.

This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. —Genesis 6:9

Noah was a man consecrated to God, and God used him to change history. Proverbs 3:32 tells us God “is intimate with the upright.” To truly be led by the Spirit, one must be upright and live a life of daily consecration. Out of this can flow all sorts of new ways of ministry and innovation.

[This has been an excerpt from one chapter of Greg Atkinson’s new book Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization. Go to the book’s website for more info: http://strangeleadership.com/]

5 Things I’ve Learned the Pastor Doesn’t Always Need to Know

In every position of leadership I have ever held, there were people who felt the need to “inform” the leader.

When I served in an elected office, people told me things I wouldn’t have otherwise known without the position. Sometimes I needed to know – sometimes I didn’t.

When I was a business owner, there was always at least one employee who made sure I knew the inside scoop of the company talk. Sometimes I needed to know – sometimes I didn’t.

As a pastor, I’ve learned there are plenty of people willing to tell me things I would never hear if I wasn’t the pastor. Sometimes I need to know – sometimes I don’t.

As a pastor, my heart is to listen to the people to whom God has sent me to minister – ultimately so I can help them – or get them help they need. But, honestly, I usually never know if people are telling me something I should know or not until they tell me. If someone has a legitimate problem in a ministry area, I want to know about it, but, over the years I have learned, there are some things I never feel the need to know.

Here are a 5 examples:

Gossip about another person.

If you don’t have permission to share personal information about someone – unless the person is in physical danger – I usually have no business knowing until they are ready for me to know. “Pastor, have you heard what’s happening with so and so…I hear they did such and such…” I can’t tell you how many times someone tries to share something with me about someone they are hearing third or fourth hand.”

Prayer requests given with a motive of gossip.

One of the “favorite” ways people share what they “think” I should know – or what I’ve learned they want to tell me – is to share it in the form of a prayer request. Rumors are spread this way. The same as the previous one applies – if you don’t have permission, I probably don’t have permission to hear.

Extremely intimate details about another person’s life.

This is a hard one, because if it’s in this dark place of someone’s life where help is needed I want to help if I can. But, again, it almost always needs to come from the person needing help, from someone close to them, and, certainly with their permission. I have had “friends” share their “friends” sins to me – without their “friends” knowledge. I struggle with information like this. There are times – again when someone’s life or health is in jeopardy I may need to know and may need to intervene, but those are usually rare. When I approach someone I don’t know well without them welcoming me it is rarely successful.

Private problems happening in another church.

It’s amazing how many people want me to weigh in on the internal struggles of another church. I have plenty struggles in our own church to deal with. If you want me to pray for another church – I’m certainly willing to – but I don’t need to know all the rumors of what’s taking place in another church – unless the church welcomes my assistance in addressing them.

Secrets one doesn’t have permission to tell.

I once had someone tell me about business problems of someone else – without their permission. It was very awkward running into the person a few days later. Do I share with them I know their “secret”? This also includes details your spouse isn’t ready for me to hear. While your marriage may need some help, when you break the confidence of the marriage, I almost never have access to speak into your spouse’s life when they are ready for me to. Your marriage relationship is too important to betray trust – even to me. We are almost always better to give me a chance to talk with the person and hear what they are ready for me to hear.

I can hear the reaction to a post like this – a pastor who doesn’t want to know anything? This is really not the intent of this post. Honestly, the things I’m referring to are almost always given to me with a motive to be the first to share some juicy piece of information rather than a heart to see the people helped.

You might be surprised to hear what people try to tell me, because I’m a pastor. Now, again, there are times when abuse or neglect is suspected or occurring to an individual and I may need to hear, but most of the time those are not the intent with the list above. Chances are if it’s wrong for you to share with others, it’s equally wrong to share it with me.

Please understand, I’m not suggesting I don’t care about the struggles of people’s lives, but there is never an excuse to spread gossip or rumors which only cause more harm than good to a person or situation. I can be just as tempted toward gossip as anyone unless I’m guarding my heart. Even though I’m the pastor, there are some things I simply have no need to know. The Scripture is very clear about spreading gossip – and, the pastor is not exempt from this command. I don’t want to be an instrument in perpetuating gossip which does more harm than good.

Pastors, what’s the strangest thing you’ve been told – that you really didn’t need to know?

3 Ways to Helpfully Lead First Chair Leaders

In my post 7 Ways to Attract First Chair Leaders to a Second Chair Position I presented thoughts on keeping a leader who could be the first chair leader (or someday wants to be) in the second chair position. I received good feedback from the post, but some questions, so I decided to write more thoughts on the topic.

I’m still working on a post to identify first chair leaders. I’ve been attempting to do that throughout my leadership career, but haven’t spent much time putting in writing what I have observed. Stay tuned.

Recently, however, I was in a meeting discussing this issue and a specific question was asked I felt I could address now.

A leader asked, “How do I help first chair leaders?”

This team has several first chair leaders, and this seasoned leader is wondering how to best help — and ultimately lead — other seasoned leaders. In a strictly organizational structure or reporting sense, this leader supervises other first chair type leaders, but the reality is, and he readily admitted, they have equal or more experience than this leader has in the area they are assigned to lead. They have a certain expertise in areas they lead this leader doesn’t have. And, many times, he feels they could lead without him in the picture. Yet, this leader is supposed to supervise — lead — them. (That is, by the way, a great start in being a humble, servant leader — recognizing they could do it without you.)

How does he do that in a helpful way?

Great question.

This is not an exhaustive or detailed list. I deal more in principles with this blog, because specifics are harder to answer for each context. And, my previous post shared some other, broader ways. This was the answer that came to my mind at the time. And, it seemed helpful.

Hopefully, if nothing else, it helps shape a thought process. I went to a board and drew out an attempted suggestion of how to lead first chair leaders. (See the picture with this post.)

Do you want to help the first chair leaders you supervise?

Help the first chair leader you supervise draw lines.

That’s right. Draw lines.

Then help them grow within the lines.

Here’s what I mean. Or, at least, I will attempt to share what I mean.

Help them define their purpose. (Represented by the two red lines in the picture.)

These lines represent the scope of what the first chair leader has been assigned to do. They’ve been asked to lead small group ministry, for example. Or, they’ve been asked to lead a missions ministry. Whatever it is they’ve been asked to accomplish, help them draw lines around that assignment — some boundaries if you will — a defined objective. If they are to be successful in what they’ve been asked to do, what would that look like?

Help them realize success. (Represented by the green arrows.)

Help them write clear goals and objectives. Share resources with them. Ask questions to stir their thought process. Give them assistance where needed or requested. Be a consistent cheerleader. Empower them. Don’t control. (See previous post.) Get out of the way when you’re in the way and get in the middle of things when you’re needed and requested to be there. Remember, these are first chair leaders. They can likely handle this without a lot of supervision, but your position, authority and experience may be extremely helpful at times. Be available when needed. Also, you may have to provide accountability at times and be their coach. And, if absolutely needed, you may need to be the hard voice in their life to help them stay on track towards success.

Help them protect the lines. (Represented by a blue “X”.)

There will always be interruptions — competing ideas and agendas — for a person’s time. As a leader of first chair leaders, you can help keep them within the predetermined lines. You can help protect the influences outside the lines. When they are asked to do something that doesn’t line up with the goals and objectives agreed upon, you can defend their right to say no. Of course, we all have to handle interruptions at times and do things we hadn’t “planned” to do, but you can help them discern when to step outside the lines.

Does that help? What other questions does it generate for you?

Should the Position Be Paid or Volunteer?

I received a great question recently. 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t give a good answer. 

Or, at least, not the answer they were seeking. They wanted an answer that would solve the issue. I couldn’t give that answer. 

This individual is being asked to do a part-time job at the church plant he attends. It would be launching a new ministry within the church. As with most plants, there is a limited budget, so they can’t afford to pay him. He agrees with the church’s philosophy to mostly have volunteers instead of paid staff. He believes, however, that this position is too involved to be volunteer — especially for his current life situation. He feels he should be paid if he agrees to take on the challenge, but the leadership disagrees. 

He asked me if I would write a post about when a position should be paid and when it should be volunteer. 

Here is my answer:

I wish I could tell you there are hard set guidelines here, but there aren’t — in my opinion. So much of this issue depends on context. 

The post I would write, and I think I might, would be more on principle than anything. 

It depends on the church and the individual. And, both should be part of the answer. And, the answers don’t always easily mesh. 

First, what is best for the church?

For example. Some churches are almost all volunteer. Sounds like this church plant is that way. So, I would want to know about other similar workload positions in the church. Are they paid or volunteer? 

It’s dangerous to start paying one person and not another with similar workloads, unless there is a valid reason for doing so. It causes tension and disharmony. 

At the same time, churches have to make decisions that are best for the church long term. Once a decision is made to start paying for a position, that usually locks the church into having that position and the ministry for a long time. If that person leaves the church, most churches will look for someone to replace them. It becomes a part of the annual budget process. That is a big commitment, which should be considered. The same is not necessarily true of a volunteer position. 

Then it also depends on the person.

Can that person commit that much time and be volunteer? Some can and some can’t. 

I know one very large church — several thousand people attend each week — that has a volunteeer executive pastor — and he is full time. He’s a self made millionaire and didn’t want the church to pay him. Obviously, this is an extreme example, and most churches couldn’t do that, but there are times the person simply doesn’t need the income for their volunteer efforts. That’s okay — and a huge blessing to the church.

I also know a church that had a single mom as a key volunteer. As her role grew she needed to be paid in order to handle the extra time she could have worked elsewhere and her child care. The church felt it would have been taking advantage of her otherwise. 

A church has to think what’s fair and equitable for the church and all the individuals involved. 

I advised this gentleman that I would probably be asking myself if I could afford to do this for free or, if I’m going to invest my time — in fairness to myself and family, do I need to be paid? 

The church needs to be asking a fairness question too, because it impacts more people than just this one person. If they pay him, will that open up a need to pay others with similar workloads? Will it set a precedent for this ministry and others?

But, that brings up a few thoughts about answering these type leadership issues:

I always try to go with principles first. What’s the larger principle guiding the individual decisions? Sometimes it helps to think in those terms. 

I try to think big picture. Almost every decision impacts more than one person or one situation.  

I am careful not to lock myself into one answer — on non-Biblical issues. One problem I have with a strict policy is that it often keeps the church from individualizing their response based on the unique set of circumstances at the time. In the case above, whether positions should be paid or volunteer, there are always parameters to be considered beyond that which a rule can be clearly written. 

Those are a few thoughts — long answer to a shorter question.

But, aren’t most leadership issues like that? Many times we find it easier to write hard, fast rules than to do the harder work of thinking bigger. Without the rules it’s messier too, but that’s why we need good leadership — to navigate through the messy to get to the best.

What do you think? 

I Say This In Love…

“I say this in love…”

You can injure a lot of people with that term.

“I say this in love” has caused a lot of damage over the years.

In marriage…
In church relationships…
In work situations…
In families…

It can be in person or online.

It’s often the start of some of the “best” gossip — or unfair judging. Certainly some very hurtful criticism begins this way.

I’ve been the recipient of this kind of “love” and sometimes it doesn’t seem very loving to me.

Sometimes people seem to think they can say anything — in any form — without considering the consequences — as long as they begin with that phrase.

I’ve seen people preface a mean-spirited zinger of a comment with a disclaimer of love, but it’s still a mean-spirited zinger. The way you begin a conversation doesn’t remove the need to be kind, even when offering correction or extending criticism.

We should do all things in love. That’s a command. As believers, we have to learn how to critique, criticize, complain and even rebuke people — in love.

But, let’s make sure we display love all the way through our conversations.

Not just with the first five words.

In a future post, I’ll to help us think through this issue more with some hopefully helpful tips.