The Church Afraid of Leadership

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Leadership and the Bible

The more I write about leadership and the church the more my critics say I shouldn’t.

You knew I have critics, right?

I get push back for focusing so much on leadership on this blog. It’s like I’m being blasphemous. Like pastor and leader shouldn’t go together. Like I should discount the years of leadership experience and schooling God has blessed me with — and guided my life into — and just focus on being a pastor. Because, again, some don’t think the two can coexist. Good pastors can’t be good leaders. Right?

Those critics say Jesus is the church’s leader.

Well, I agree. Completely.

They say no one can claim expertise as a leader.

I agree again. (especially in the context of me).

Some even say we are never called to be leaders in the Bible. That servants, not leaders is the model.

Now, I disagree.

Not that we aren’t to be servants. We are. But, I disagree that leadership is not a Bible concept. It’s throughout the Bible.

If one wants to make the case that leadership isn’t defined well in the Bible, I can agree. I have an advanced degree in leadership. And, it wasn’t clearly defined there. We are still trying to adequately define it today — inside and outside the church. John Maxwell says leadership is influence. I agree, but other leadership experts have broader definitions. I’m not looking to the Bible to give me a definition either.

But, we find leadership throughout the Scriptures. You can’t miss it. However you define it.

From the creation of man, God gave Adam tremendous responsibility. God seemed to delegate leading the Garden to Adam. He couldn’t have “messed it up” had he not had some authority to make decisions.

The Holy Spirit of God does the real work of the church. No argument from me on that, but God enabled men and women to lead.

Moses was a leader…

David was a leader…

Ruth was a leader…

Joseph was a leader…

Gideon was a leader…

Nehemiah was a leader…

Phoebe was a leader…

Paul was a leader…

Esther was a leader…

Joshua was a leader…

Men and women God called to lead — sometimes reluctantly at first — humbled themselves before God knowing that without Him they could do nothing. They stepped out where no one else had gone before and guided people to a God-ordained victory. They used their influence to move people to a greater reality than they could have imagined.

That’s leadership — by anyone’s definition.

Jesus’ instructions were to make disciples — not wait on God to make them. Do something. Lead.

Pastor, don’t be afraid to call yourself a leader — or to lead!

And, every time you lead, you’ll find some critics. All leaders do.

The Downside of NOT Being a Controlling Leader

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I have a pet peeve about leadership. Actually lots.

But, this one is especially strong.

I have a pet peeve against controlling leadership.

I hate it. It’s so counter-productive to progress. It holds the team back from reaching it’s full potential. It stifles leaders. It never builds healthy teams.

And, the fact is if I allowed myself I could easily be a controlling leader. In fact, command is a “strength” of mine, according to Strengths Finders assessment. It can quickly become a weakness.

So, I discipline myself against controlling leadership.

I delegate.
I purposively bite my tongue.
I allow people to do things differently from the way I would do them.
I don’t micromanage.
I yield to others on my team.

And, when we remove controlling leadership it empowers people.

It means people take initiative.
They make decisions without me.
They proceed on their own.

But, that can create problems for the team.

It often causes miscommunication.
It can lead to fragmentation of the team.
It frequently brings frustration.

People lead. That’s no surprise. It’s what they’ve been empowered to do. But, many times they lead in different directions. Sometimes they lead too quickly. Often they lead into their own agendas — even outside the direction of the rest of the team.

And, the only way to keep that from happening is to be a controlling leader.

So, we have to learn to live in the tension.

We have to get better at keeping others informed. As leaders, we have to keep the vision in front of us and keep directing the team towards it, without controlling. We have to be better leaders.

It’s a constant challenge.

It’s even messy at times. But, it’s best.

Facing Adversity and Being in God’s Will

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Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. 1 Samuel 19:1

David was minding his own business one day, tending sheep, when God called him to be a king. Talk about a God moment.

He didn’t ask to be king, but God said he was the one. He turned out to be a great king. Imagine that? God made a good pick! David had a heart modeled after God’s, according to the Bible.

So, since God had chosen to bless David in such a way, why do we later find Saul trying to kill David?

In fact, for some time Saul chased David. David hid out, all alone, which is the setting we find him in during the writings of many of the Psalms. David was God’s choice for king and yet he was placed in incredible adversity.

What does this tell us?

I think it says to me that sometimes God’s will for us will find us in the middle of trials in life.

That’s right. His will for our lives.

More importantly, I am learning that I cannot determine whether I am in God’s will based on whether or not my life is peaceful. Just because I have trials in my life, doesn’t mean I am not in the center of God’s will for my life.

I love how Alistair Begg once said it.

“We should not seek to confirm God’s will by the absence of adversity.”

Think about Biblical characters who faced great trials.

  • Abraham who faced the trial of leaving his homeland, then the years of infertility.
  • Moses wandered in the wilderness forty years.
  • Joseph was sold into slavery.
  • Ruth lost her husband.
  • Nehemiah had to fight off naysayers.
  • Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den.
  • John the Baptist was beheaded.
  • Paul wrote some of his best work in prison.

All of these great servants of God faced persecution, heartache, and trials beyond most of our imaginations. Yet, all them, during the adversity, were right where God wanted them to be, in the center of His will.

Yes, we would all like life to be peaceful. It is true that we can have inner peace and joy even in the middle of the storms of life. But God has not promised us a life free of problems.

In fact, we can be perfectly within His will and still be facing adversity. It is often through the process of life’s difficulties that God makes us more like Jesus., teaches us more about Him and ourselves. Our character is defined in

Trust Him today, regardless of your circumstances! He is always working a plan!

For more devotional thoughts, click HERE.

7 Ways I Stay Forward Thinking as a Leader

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One of the responsibilities of a leader is to be consistently looking forward for the organization. A leader has to continually be asking the question: What’s next? That’s a critical key to continued growth of the organization.

The problem for me comes with the immediate demands on my time. The now cliché statement goes “Sunday’s coming” is always true for a pastor. There are always immediate needs of people in the church. It seems there is something that continually occupies my immediate attention.

Still, if our church is to continue to grow and face the challenges of a changing community, I must discipline myself to pick my head up from the daily routines to think long-term.

Here are 7 ways I keep myself looking forward:

Read – I try to read something everyday and I read an equal balance of leadership and Christian books. In addition, I follow dozens of blogs with a variety of focuses, from technology, to culture and leadership. I take notes of ideas sparked along the way using Evernote.

Explore – I attend several conferences each year. I go to discover new techniques, strategies and ideas, but also to network with people doing what I do. The world of social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) has made it easier to connect with other leaders and I take advantage of the opportunities and ideas presented.

Hang out with a younger crowd – I love the idealism of youth. The newest ideas always seem to come from the younger generation at the time. One reason I like to be around college students is that they keep me fresh in my thought process.

Hang out with risk takers – I often need to be where creative energy isn’t limited by practical reasoning. There’s a place for that too, and I’m a realist by nature, but I don’t want to quit dreaming the impossible either. I certainly don’t want to be around those who have “It will never happen” as their first response. That’s another reason I love the idealism of youth. The newest ideas always seem to come from the younger generation.

Invest in others – As I invest in others I am personally energized. I feel I have even more to offer and have a stronger desire to keep a fresh approach when I think others value what I have to add to the discussion.

Let others invest in me – Sometimes I have to release power to others on my team and allow them to lead me. I’m stretched to dream bigger by the people on my team. I also have several people who regularly speak into my life. I surround myself with good, creative, seasoned leaders. When I stop dreaming, I find it necessary to allow others to push me.

Rest - When I’m tired or stretched personally I’m less likely to dream.  I have to discipline myself to stop sometimes, but it’s always productive when I do. In the busiest seasons, I am most likely to build into my schedule a day away more frequently.

Exercise – The best mind-stretching time for me is when I am running or exercising. The key for me is to break the monotony of busyness and allow my mind room to think. Something about exercising gets the blood flowing through my body to my brain. On especially busy days, I try to build in an hour in the gym or on the road. I keep exercise clothes at my office.

How do you keep focused on the forward picture, without being bogged down in daily routines?

3 Tips from Jesus Recruiting Methods

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John Chapter One shares helpful insight into the leadership of Jesus.

I’ve written previously about Jesus’ leadership style.

12 Leadership Principles of Jesus I admire

Leadership Under Stress — The Jesus Model

In John Chapter One, I saw three more principles.

When Jesus began to organize a team, He used practices which maybe helpful for us today, especially those of us who are leading teams during a transition or start-up phase. Recruiting the right people is paramount to the success of any organization and Jesus obviously was the best.

Here are 3 tips of a Jesus recruitment methods:

Recruit transitional people – Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist and then of Jesus (John 1:35, 40).

When developing a team or starting a new team, it’s good to have someone with experience in what you are doing. You need individuals who know how to do what needs to be done, who have learned how to follow, can be influencers to the rest of the team, and who have proven their loyalty. These people are valuable assets to any team.

In my current role, the associate pastor offered me his resignation before I arrived. He had been at the church 15 years or so and had weathered good times and bad in the church. I refused to accept it. Instead, I encouraged him to move into a larger office, gave him greater decision-making authority, and worked to earn his trust. He has been invaluable in my success at the church.

Allow the team to help recruit the team – Andrew found Simon — Philip found Nathanael. (John 1:41, 45) Apparently, Jesus allowed some of the disciples to help recruit other disciples. The team helped add to the team.

This is a great reminder when you are building a team, adding other team members, or replacing a team member. Get your team involved in recruiting. Their support will increase for the new recruits.

When I arrived in this current position, I made sure I had hiring authority. I think it’s critical for a leader’s success. I would have been foolish, however, not to include others in the selection process, so I had several people interview and meet with the new staff members prior to them joining our team. They helped me by lending credibility to the new staff.

Recruit people who are ready for a challenge - Some of the disciples Jesus recruited were apparently already looking for the Messiah. (John 1:38, 41, 45) They were ready for Him when He came, because they were already seeking something. Jesus recruited with big asks — basically, “Drop everything else and follow me!”

Obviously, I’m not Jesus, but I believe it is important when looking for new people on a team to find people who will buy into your vision as a leader, who will remain loyal over time and who are ready for a challenge. If you have to talk them into something, or gain their initial trust after the hire, you’ll waste valuable time before they completely commit. (That doesn’t mean their isn’t deeper levels of trust to be gained, but initially they should be convinced this is where God wants them to be.)

One practice I have continually used in recruiting new team members is to talk them out of taking the position — after I’m sure they want the job and I want them to take it. I want to help them test their hearts. I want them to know the unique challenges ahead (as far as I know them at the time). I don’t hide anything; even the less than glamorous parts. One of our newer staff members was told we were hiring on faith the first year. The budget did not support him, but we believed God would provide. He did. This was almost always the case when I was in a church plant. If they are still interested after they know all the down sides of the position then I know we will make a great team.

When Did Christians Become So Mean?

mean boss

Okay, this one will get me into trouble. Especially if the shoe fits. Wait for the comments on this one.

But I have to ask…

When did Christians become so mean?

Not all Christians. Most Christians I know are nice. Very nice.

But, I’ve met some mean ones lately.

Now, let me be clear. I am one. A Christian that is. (Hopefully not mean — too often.) In fact, I’ve centered my life around my faith and even am vocationally supported by Christians. (So I love you! I really do.)

But, when did some of you — my brothers and sisters in Christ as we are often referred to — become so mean?

It’s mostly online. You write something they don’t agree with, and instead of a healthy disagreement, they blast you. Right there on your Facebook wall or with a hurting comment on a blog post. Where everyone can read it. In fact, some people read it even before the one who wrote the post reads it. I’ve even had guest bloggers tell me they don’t want to post anymore because of the comments.

I understand that. My blogs are reposted on different websites — with more widespread readers than I have — and I don’t read the comments much, because when I do — I’m tempted to tell them I don’t want to post there anymore. Mean people commenting — calling themselves Christians. I don’t want to play that game either. Who has time for that?

It’s not that they don’t have valid points. Many times they do, but the way they make their point doesn’t come across very Christ-like. Actually rather mean.

I get that it’s cultural now. We’ve become transparent. Honest. Blunt. But — just being honest — sometimes that comes across as mean.

I can’t imagine how those outside the faith view the way we often treat each other.

I wrote a post about Christians behaving online. It wasn’t just because I didn’t have anything else to write about. It’s because some Christians have become mean. Online. For everyone to see.

The Internet has made it so much easier — and faster — to be mean if you choose to be mean. Even anonymously if you want.

But, I’ve seen it in public too.

Why just last week — I saw a Bible study group meeting at a local coffee shop. I didn’t know any of them. I was minding my own business, but it was obvious what they were doing discussing the Bible. They had Bibles. :)

I loved it.

Then one of them became a real jerk to the girl that messed up his order.

Mean. Right there in front of his Bible study friends, me, and all the other coffee shop patrons — many who may not have been Christians. And, probably aren’t anymore motivated to be one now.

I was embarrassed.

I’ve had some restaurant people tell me the “church hour” — after the churches finish on Sunday — is one of the hardest hours of their week. Really? That’s sad. I would hope it’d be the opposite.

How’s that for having the mind of Christ? Or being witnesses? Or considering others better than ourselves?

Whenever I’ve asked, well over three fourths of my blog readers identify themselves as believers. So, if you’re in the one fourth who don’t claim Christianity, this post isn’t for you. Sorry about that, but today I’m only addressing the “family”. We call ourselves brothers and sisters. In love, we sometimes gently rebuke one another. That’s what families do.

So, brothers and sisters. Quit being mean.

Consider what you say and the way you say it before you ever say it.

That sounds logical. Biblical. A good discipline even.

Because I can fall into a culture that thinks more about myself than others too. You can too. We all can. We can value our opinion, consider others without our opinion wrong, and talk to people who we know are wrong like they are less human because of it. Sometimes we treat members of our family — people we love — worse than we treat a stranger. I get that.

But, when we are mean it flies in the face of what Christians are taught to do — in the Bible we claim as our guide. And, it’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance. To my knowledge, no one ever comes to faith through meanness. Or watching someone be mean to others.

In fact, there is no “meanness” of God. God is love — even when He’s sharing truth.

And, we are to be like Him. At least becoming more like Him.

So this is an encouragement. A simple, striving to be nice, non-mean intended, encouragement.

Let’s clean up our act. Or, to put it in my Christian like terms — let’s let Jesus clean up our act. Let’s be more like our Savior. The One by whom we are called Christians. Christ.

Let’s set an example for others. Not be so mean. Actually be nicer. A kinder, gentler breed of Christians. Let’s learn how to disagree with one another the right way. Full of grace and truth. Let’s love one another. And, demonstrate the peace of Christ to those who are seeking peace.

If they can’t find kindness, forgiveness, love in us — where will they find it?

“A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings disaster on himself.” Proverbs 11:17

Now read 12 Ways Christians Can Be Less Mean Online.

5 Suggestions to Recover after You’ve Made a Leadership Mistake

Erasing Oops !

You know you made a mistake. It’s just a matter of time before someone finds out.

What do you do now?

I have often watched leaders struggle to recover from a mistake made that probably didn’t have to be as personally or professionally damaging to them as it was. They simply didn’t respond well enough and it cost them more than it should have.

Like the time a college pastor way over committed to a conference. He secured too many slots and not enough people signed up, so the church lost a lot of money. Or the time the worship pastor booked a concert in the auditorium, committed the church financially and with volunteers, and then found out the artist was hugely polarizing to the congregation. Or when a pastor signed a contract for services to the church, only to find out a key volunteer (and influencer) in the church offered the same services and was offended not being able to at least offer a bid on the services.

And, the list goes on…

I’m not addressing necessarily about moral issues or major failures. (I wrote about addressing them in THIS POST and THIS POST.) I’m primarily writing about mistakes that all leaders make. We make them frequently. It’s part of being human and being a leader. Although both lists are very similar.

(By the way, these are fabricated scenarios in that they aren’t specific situations I’m using as examples, but these type mistakes are frequent in leadership.)

Chances are you’ve made similar mistakes. We all have. You’ve seen others make them. They look different every time and there are different characters in each story, but the outcomes are similar. And, the damage is just as damaging if not addressed properly.

Because a leadership principle we can never escape is:

The way you respond after a mistake always determines the quality of recovery.

So, when you’ve made the mistake — and admitting it to yourself is the first step — what do you do now?

Here are 5 suggestions:

Communicate quickly – You don’t have to tell the world, but those who need to know should hear it from you and not from anyone else. Let the offended parties know and the people who will have to answer for the mistake. This can’t be done too soon. Surprises like this never turn out well, but with advance knowledge many times further damage can be averted

Own it – Don’t make excuses. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Don’t blame others. Don’t say, “I’m sorry”, but then try to wrap the other person into your story. Ask forgiveness if necessary, but own it now. You made a mistake. Be a leader. Own the mistake and be willing to accept the consequences. You’ll be far more respected and stand a better chance of bridging support in the recovery process.

Stop the loss – Do whatever you can to stop further damaging from occurring. If there are financial issues involved, try to recover as much as you can. If there is collateral damage with relationships, apologize quickly and try to restore trust. I have always found a humble, yet not martyred, but confident response is usually best in these situations.

Figure out what’s next – Help the team recover. Find solutions. Don’t leave the clean up to anyone else. As you lead into the mistake — or even better — lead through the recovery. Help bring people together, seek wisdom, and help steer energy back to a more positive position.

Learn from it – The best thing you can do is to grow from mistakes — all of them. They can shape us as people and leaders — either positively or negatively. The good news is that we get to decide which one. In the process of recovery, sometimes keeping a journal is helpful. Start with the question, “What can I learn from this that will help me make better decisions in the future?”

Of course, the intensity of need for this depends on the size of the mistake and the size of injury caused to the team, church or organization, but the principles still apply in context.

Do you have any examples to add to this post from your own experience?

What else would you add as suggestions for recovery?

Why the Church isn’t Reaching my Unchurched Friends

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This is a guest post by my friend Jordan, who lives in Louisville, KY where she works as Account Coordinator for Heartland Communications Consultants, Inc. She enjoys blogging on a variety of topics including career, family, God, or most often, the awkward moments of the twenty-something life. To read more of her blog, go to www.jordansblahblahblahg.com.

I am 23 years old and I go to church.

I am rare.

In fact, many of my closest friends are not involved in church at all.

Some of my friends simply don’t believe in the Christian faith. Others call themselves Christians, but church is just not a necessary part of their lives.

Why?

By now, it is no secret that my generation, or “Millenials” as we are called, is largely unchurched. There has been an extensive amount of research on the issue, and churches have made extensive changes to combat the problem.

Changes often include ridding of choir robes and organs in exchange for skinny jeans, drums, and fog machines.

But still, why are so many of my friends anti-church?

I grew up in the church my entire life, so when I went away to college, finding a church was at the top of my priorities. Unfortunately, finding one didn’t come easy. For a while, I found myself in the same category many of my friends are in. I loved Jesus, but I simply did not have a desire to be a part of the churches I was visiting.

And I visited every type of church. From traditional to “hip”, from small to big. I didn’t want to join any.

My reasoning was simple and it came down to one word.

Fake.

Nothing seemed authentic.

Don’t get me wrong; I was full of teenage/twenty-something know-it-all cynicism and arrogance, I am sure. Churches are definitely not the sole problem. People are the problem. Because people are sinners-the church going ones and the non-church going Millennials.

But despite the associated arrogance, I truly think my generation is on to something in our desire for authenticity.

You see, the hardest years of my life came in college. For a while, it seemed like every week brought a new disaster that I had never faced before. As one event piled on top of another, I became a mess. My usual happiness turned to sadness, my usual good decisions turned to bad decisions, and my usual faith turned to nothing but questions.

I desired to be a part of a church that got it.

That got my struggles. My sin. My doubts.

All I wanted when I entered the doors of church was to find people who would bear my burden and remind me of whom God was, because quite frankly, I wasn’t sure anymore. Unfortunately, so many times, it seemed like the God people were pointing to was one that would want nothing to do with me and, if I was being honest, I didn’t know if I wanted anything to do with him.

Either everyone was really happy all the time with no problems, or they were being fake…and I was in no position to play the Fake Game.

In fact, I don’t think my generation in general wants to play the Fake Game when it comes their desire to find and know God.

We’ve played the Fake Game enough. The Fake Game surrounds us in advertisements, tweets, and Facebook profiles. When it comes to seeking God, we don’t want to play anymore. We want to find Him.

We want to ask questions.
Voice our doubts.
Explain our struggles.
Confess our sins.
Confide our fears.

And we want the church to do it with us.

We want Pastors to admit their weaknesses.
Leaders to confess their sins.
Sunday School classmates to confide their struggles.
A church to recognize its shortcomings and rely joyously on God’s grace.

We don’t just want church-goers and pastors to hang up their suits and ties for t-shirts and jeans because its “cool”. We simply want people to be who they are Monday through Saturday on Sunday, too.

We want to come to God as we are.

And we want to be a part of churches full of people who do the same.

Because that is the Gospel we are interested in. And the cool thing is…that really IS the Gospel.

If you want to reach my unchurched friends, it’s simple.

You be you. Really.

And let God be God.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

3 Examples of a Leader For a Season

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I am frequently contacted when someone is debating the right time to leave a leadership position. I once wrote 10 Scenarios to Determine If It’s Time to Quit.  It’s still one of my most requested blog topics. Deciding when it is time to leave a leadership position is one of the hardest decisions a leader makes.

Thankfully, there are still leaders with a sense of loyalty, who want to do the right thing, and they simply do not know how or when they should leave. If you want to see long term success in the place where you lead, you need long-term tenure.

We all love hearing how a church planter carried the church from infancy of a few core people in a room to the maturity of a healthy, established church. I am always impressed to hear of a long term pastorates. Some of the most successful churches have the longest serving pastors. The healthiest way, organizationally speaking, is to have one long-term leader, who goes through seasons with the organizations, who carries the vision forward over a long span of time.

But, that’s not the calling of every leader. And, there’s no shame in that.

Please understand, this is not a post encouraging anyone to leave their position. It’s not a post that indicates I’m leaving mine. (Please read that last line again if you’re in my church.) But, this is a post intended to help a leader who may be struggling, feeling it’s time to move on, but can’t bring themselves to make the hard decision. I’ve spoken with pastors who feel they’ve done all they can do. They’ve prayed and prayed about it and don’t even sense God telling them they have to stay, may even feel a sense of release, but their sense of loyalty keeps them from even entertaining the idea. In the meantime, the longer they do stay the more frustrated they become and the church starts to feel it.

And, that’s why I write this reminder.

Some leaders are only there for a season. A unique season. A special season, reserved for a designed purpose. It’s helpful when a leader can recognize or discern a seasonal assignment.

Here are a few examples:

Some leaders get things started – They are great starters, but horrible maintainers. They do best when they are allowed to begin something for someone else to carry forward. I have a friend who is a serial entrepreneur. He’s great at getting healthy organizations started, but lock him into somewhere for very long and he will frustrate a lot of people. Including himself.

Some leaders guide the organization through transition – These leaders can handle the tough times. They help once successful organizations start again. They love changing things. When things “settle” they are ready for a new challenge. I have another friend who in his career has helped several businesses recover from near disaster. He moves in, takes over, rebuilds confidence in leadership, provides a sense of direction and momentum, then gradually yields control to others.

Some leaders close things out graciously – This has to be one of the toughest assignments in leadership, but there are leaders who are especially gifted in helping things come to an end. When I was in retail, there were some store closing experts. Many times a new store was opening across town and one store, perhaps in an older, more established part of town, was closing to make room for the new. That’s never popular, but these leaders knew how to come in, evaluate, assess what could be salvaged, help the employees transition, and leave the area as painlessly as possible, so the excitement for the new would not be lost in mourning what would be gone. They were seasonal experts in leadership. (Frankly, for this last example, although this is the subject for another post — and this sentence only opens the can of worms — the church needs some of these leaders.)

Granted, each of these scenarios can often find new leadership positions within the same organization, but the key understanding is that they are leaders for a season. An assignment. A specific need. When the need is met the season often has to change.

If a leader does what he or she has been called to do, there is no shame in doing ONLY what the leader was called to do. Recognizing that and discerning it helps leaders and the organizations they lead to be healthier.

Have you ever been the leader for a season?