5 Options for Dealing with Emotional Pain

Man alone

What do you do with pain? You’ve been injured. It wasn’t fatal, but it hurt. In this post, I’m talking about emotional pain. The fact is emotional pain often hurts more than physical pain. It certainly can last longer. All of us have experienced emotional pain. Some more than others.

What do you do with emotional pain?

You have options. Here are 5:

Rehearse – You can keep reminding yourself how much it hurt. You can go over and over again in your mind the people to blame. You can live the hurt repeatedly in your mind. The longer you do the longer it seems to hurt.

Repress – You can pretend it doesn’t hurt. With the right performance you can even convince people you’re okay…even yourself…for a while. But, deep inside, when the fake smile goes away and the pretend laugh goes away, it still hurts.

Resent – You can build a grudge. You can increase your anger towards others. But the depth of the grudge will be directly proportional to the depth of the pain and the time of recovery.

Repeat – You can hurt others because you were hurt. Get even at your next opportunity. Take out your hurts on another. But the emotional pain remains. It does.

Release – You can let go, admit it stinks, ask God to begin to restore your heart and allow you to begin again. Emotional healing is almost always a process that takes time. It may require outside help. It won’t be easy, but it begins with the intentionality to release the pain and move forward.

Choices…choices.

Which will you choose? 

Obviously this is a simplistic approach to a very complex issue. But the principles are true. If you have serious emotional injury, get help. Don’t struggle alone. See your physician. See a counselor. Talk to a minister. (As a word of counsel, if it is serious emotional issues most ministers aren’t equipped to counsel through this. But, most can refer you to someone trained to help you.)

7 of the Hardest People to Lead

tug of war

Someone asked me recently, “Who has been the most difficult person you’ve had to lead?” That’s a great question. As a leader for over a quarter of a century (wow, that sounds old), I’ve experienced just about everything you can imagine in leading people.

I once had an employee call in sick because her snake was peeling. And the snake got depressed when he shed. She needed to be home to comfort the snake. That was a new one…and a story for another time…but I’ve learned not to be surprised at what people you are trying to lead may say or do.

I’ve also learned some people are easier to lead than others. Often personalities, experiences and preferences negatively impact a person’s ability to be led effectively.

Here are 7 of the hardest people to lead:

Know it all – It’s difficult to lead someone who won’t listen, because they don’t think they have a need for what you have to say. They think they know more than you…and everyone else. They may or may not, but it makes them very hard to lead.

Gifted leaders - Don’t misunderstand this one. I don’t mean they try to be difficult. They just bring higher expectations for those who try to lead them. I have had some very successful retired pastors in my churches. I love having them…but they keep me on my toes! (And, that’s a good thing.)

Hyper-critical – When someone is always negative it becomes difficult to lead them, mostly because they zap the motivation from you to do so. They never have anything positive to add to the team, the glass is always have empty, and the sky is always about to fall. Draining.

Wounded – Wounded people are more resistant to being led to something new until they heal. I’ve had staff members who came to our church injured. I knew before I could effectively lead them I had to help them heal from their past.

Insecure – Those who lack self-confidence are harder to lead, because they are hesitant to take a risk. The best leadership involves delegation. It’s people who assume responsibility for a task. Insecure people will usually only move when they are given specific tasks to complete. And, while good leaders encourage followers, insecure people need constant feedback and assurance, which can be exceptionally time demanding for leaders.

Traditionalist – This may not be the right word, perhaps risk-averse would be better, but leadership always involve change. Always. Without change there is no need for leadership. So, those who cling so tightly to the past are harder to lead to something new. There is nothing wrong with tradition or with enjoying the memories of the past. It’s when someone’s love of our history prevents them from embracing their future that it becomes difficult leading them.

Myself – The hardest person to lead is almost always the leaders. If leaders could always perform as we’d have others perform, we’d be better leaders. In fact, most of us would be excellent leaders.

I’m sure I missed some. The fact is everyone can be difficult to lead at times and during seasons. It’s what makes leadership fun, right? Seriously, all of these scenarios and types of people serve a role. Whether or not they prove to be a good fit for your team, they sharpen our skills of leadership.

What type person have you found hardest for you to lead?

7 Leadership Tensions of Biblical Leaders

Acts Bible

I meet with a group of Christian senior level leaders in my community every couple of months. They lead large organizations in government, business, non- profit and, represented by me, the church. They are all experienced and successful leaders, who happen to also love Jesus. I learn great things from them each time we meet and feel privileged to call them friends.

Recently, I opened our discussion by sharing 7 examples of leadership tensions found in the Bible. It provided for a great discussion. My question was simple, of which of these stories can you most identify with currently? It was interesting that all of us had experienced each of these at some time, but could specifically identify with one or two of them currently.

I decided it was a blog worthy topic…but especially if you participate. Which of these are most representative of your current leadership tension? (Add a quick comment to this post, if you will, as I’d be interested to see which are the most common among my readers.)

7 leadership tensions of Biblical leaders:

David – Fighting a giant.

Joseph – Preparing for the future. (Maybe a bleak future)

Paul – Addressing a changing culture.

Gideon – In over your head.

Moses – Overwhelmed with responsibility.

Abraham – Leading into an unknown.

Noah – Standing alone in obedience.

There are a few possible takeaways you could get from this post.

  • You can identify that you are not alone in your struggles…they even have Biblical examples.
  • You can use this as an exercise to discuss with other leaders in your circle of influence…and find suggestions and solutions together.
  • You can, if needed, consider forming your own leadership circle of influencers. This type of thing has been invaluable to me over the years.

But, now, it’s your turn to participate here…add a comment…it can be short or long answer:

Which of these would you like to see me expand into a future blog post?

What other Biblical leadership tensions would you add?

7 Suggestions NOT To Do When the Church is in Decline

Downtrend chart and red pencil. Selective focus

Part of my ministry involves working with other churches. Sometimes when I hear from a church they have been plateaued or in a season of decline for several years. They are often looking for answers of how they can turnaround.

I love helping churches, but there truly are no standard answers. It’s unique for every church and every situation. I do know, however, that if a local church never adds new people…eventually it will cease to exist. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

The hardest lesson a church needs to learn in a period of decline, however, is not what they should do…but what they shouldn’t. I’ve seen churches make, what appears to me, to be an abundance of wrong decisions towards growing again. The purpose of this post is to help churches who may find themselves in a declining period avoid mistakes I’ve seen some churches make.

Here are 7 suggestions NOT to do when in decline:

Blame others – It’s easy to blame the decline on a former pastor…or one the deacons…or one the seniors…or even on the culture. But, the reality is, when you are in decline, this matters less than what you are going to do about it. And, as long as you are blaming someone or something you won’t address the real issues.

Make excuses – There are a multiple reasons we could probably discover…many of them true…of why a church begins to decline. You should know them, but at some point, excuses only cloud our ability to move forward. We tend to live in them rather than move past them.

Pretend – I’ve seen so many churches pretend there isn’t a problem…when everyone knows there is one. (Or many.) If you want to grow again, you’ll have to admit there is a problem that needs addressing. (And, this is the subject of another post…but…in full disclosure…just so you know…that may involve implementing some change. No…that’s not full disclosure. It WILL involve some change.)

Lower expectations – It seems natural when the church is in decline to expect less, but that never works. You are trying to attract new people. You need more excellence, not more mediocrity to do that. You may need to lower some of the programs you offer, but never lower expectations of the ones you do.

Cut expenses – This one has dual meanings, of course, because reducing expenses may be exactly what you need to do. The point here is to make sure you lower the right expenses. Don’t cut the things that got you where you are or will get you where you need to go. Don’t cut promotional or community investment dollars, for example, just because they are intangibles or an easy decisions to make. The fact here is that many times the expenses you may need to cut are difficult decisions…unpopular decisions. So we often avoid them and cut the things that we should be doing to spur growth.

Overreact – Too much change during a period of decline can be deadly. Too little change can be equally damaging. Panic of leadership almost always leads to panic in people trying to follow. Strive not to react too strongly either way. Don’t change everything and don’t clamp down and refuse to change anything. Renew the vision God called you to…set good, clear goals and objectives to chart a course forward, and then trust that God will see you through this period.

Give up – There may be a time to quit. The fact is the church, as in the Body of Christ, is here to stay. Jesus promised that. That promise isn’t made to every local church. Local churches close every year. But, before you give up, or before you resolve that church growth is for other churches…but not this one…make sure you haven’t given up too soon. In my experience, we often quit just before the breakthrough. Do all you know to do, then stay close to the heart of God, waiting for Him to bring the increase again or lead you in making harder decisions.

In THIS POST, I share 7 suggestions a church should do in a period of decline.

(Let me address the pushback I often receive on posts like this…many times from well-meaning people who think I’m too strategic to be Biblical. God is in charge. He sets the rules and adds the increase. But, that does not leave us without responsibility. Read the parable of the talents…or the story of Nehemiah…or multiple others. God has given us minds to be used for His glory.)

Have you pastored a church in decline? What mistakes did you make?

My Thankfuls: 10 Reasons for a Happy Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-clock

For years, when the boys were at home, we shared our list of “Thankfuls” each Thanksgiving holiday. We would each take turns (one item at a time) of ten things we were most thankful for that year. I remember early in this tradition the boys’ spellings weren’t always correct, but their lists were always sincere.

I miss those special times sitting in our living room, but that shouldn’t stop me from sharing my list with you.

Here are my “Thankfuls” this year:

1. My relationship with Christ. And the grace that got me there. (And keeps me there.)

2. My loving wife. She’s my best friend. She’s seen my best and my worst and keeps being my biggest supporter.

3. My two amazing sons. Jeremy and Nathaniel (Nate)…age 25 and 22…are simply two of the best men I’ve ever known. Seriously.

4. Jeremy’s wife Mary. If I had raised a daughter…or picked a wife for my son…I would have wanted a Mary. Thanks God.

5. My calling. I work for Jesus. How cool is that? I ran from it for years…but it’s the best “career” I’ve ever had. And, I’ve had several.

6. Family and friends. Cheryl and I are so blessed with amazing families…with low or no drama. We have friends we can call upon at any time day or night. The greatest asset of our married life together is people.

7. The staff and people of Immanuel Baptist. Nearing a year and a half with them, I can honestly say we’ve met some of the most loving, supportive people we’ve ever known. We’ve already made friends for life.

8. My health. Granted, I work on it, but I’ve had friends die of cancer (and other causes) this year…some younger than me. I am thankful for being able to run…and walk…and feel well enough to work…and play.

9. The city of Lexington. We adopted our new home quickly. It’s our mission field, and that’s what missionaries do. We love the sports, exploring the many restaurants, the neighborhoods, and especially the people. What a lovely place to live!

10. The future. I look around the world today and see a lot of darkness. But, this year, I’m thankful, as always, that I serve a risen Savior. That makes every morning new with His mercies and grace. I’m grateful the days ahead are bright…because He is my light. (Cheesy…maybe…but always true.)

There’s part of my list. I could continue, because I am blessed. No, my world is not trouble free…far from it actually…but when I pause and consider all that God has done and is doing around me…thanksgiving is my only proper response.

And for what (or whom) are you thankful this year?

6 Tips for Happier, Healthier Relationships

family prayer

It’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving. Then Christmas. Family and friends. Good food and good times.

Mostly.

Truthfully, this time of year is especially stressful for some. I am not referring, in this post, to the ones who have lost loved ones this year. That’s especially difficult. My prayers go out for you. I’m talking about those who have living “loved ones”…positionally speaking at least.

The holidays expose many people to broken relationships, hurt feelings, grudges from the past. Many will have to be around people, by default, that they wouldn’t choose to be around unless those people were blood relatives…or in-laws…or friends who aren’t your friends, but come with the package of celebration. They will be there…and the reality of that causes you to be less enthusiastic about celebrating this year.

That’s true, isn’t it? And, the truth hurts sometimes…doesn’t it?

(Raise your hand if that’s your story.).

What should you do? How should you respond to the one who has hurt you the most…or who always seems to say the wrong thing…or who is…honestly…even mean at times? How do you respond to the most difficult relationships in your life?

I want to encourage the Biblical approach.

Here are six tips:

Bite your tongue – When you are tempted to snap back…don’t. Sure, it will be difficult…even seemingly unfair at times, but see it as spiritual discipline training. (James 1:26)

Extend grace – Forgive. Let go of a grudge. Even though it may not be received well and nothing may change in the relationship, it will change you. (1 Peter 4:10, Colossians 3:13)

Put on another’s shoes – Anyone who hurts you…has a story. Usually they were hurt too…by someone. Remember…hurt people…hurt people. Think about where the other person is coming from before (or as) you encounter them. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Practice patience – Be honest, some relationships require more patience than you thought you had, don’t they? But, isn’t that what we are called to do as believers? It is a “fruit of the spirit”. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Exercise humility – When we humble ourselves, we may get taken advantage of at times, but God always rewards humility. Who knows? It may be the break point in the relationship. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6)

Pray for them – The last one is sometimes the most difficult…but oh how Biblical! Prayer releases the burden to the burden bearer…the One whose yoke is easy…the One who paid for your sins. Prayer can even change the dynamics of a relationship. Pray for the awkward, difficult, shattered and broken relationships in your life…and the people who caused them. In the most tense moments this holiday season, slip away and pray. (Matthew 5:44)

Apply liberally, as needed.

You’ll have healthier, happier relationships this Thanksgiving and Christmas season…and even into the New Year.

Do you have a difficult relationship facing you? What tips do you have?

One and Only One Leadership Principle

Leadership Ahead

I received this email recently:

Ron, a question for you.

If you had to pass one and only one leadership principle to others leaders, What would that one principle be and why that one?

That’s a hard question, but I thought for a minute and came to a thought.

Here’s my reply:

It’s not about you.

Why?

Because, leadership is about something bigger than you.

If ever we begin to believe its about us, or our agenda, or our plan…or even more dangerous…our people…we will become controlling, prideful and eventually ineffective.

How would you answer?

The Myth of a Pastor

image

This is a guest post by Nathan Joyce. Nathan is the senior pastor at Heartland Worship Center (www.heartlandworship.com) in Paducah, KY. He received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in pastoral care and counseling. Follow Him: @heartlandpastor, http://nathanjoyce.wordpress.com

The Myth of a Pastor

​Leprechauns, the Yeti, vampires, and the American pastor have one thing in common. They are all subjects of mythology. A rich folklore exists for each of them. However, the pastor is the only one being smothered by myth. Why? Because only pastors are real, and only pastors are dying by trying to live up to the myth that surrounds them.

​If you are a pastor, you need to be aware that your church has built a narrative about you that you can never live up to. It’s not completely your fault, although you are probably contributing to it. The myth was well and alive before you ever arrived on the scene. The focus of this myth is that you are hardly human.

Here are a few possible myths:

1. You can meet needs without having needs. Your calling is to empty yourself in the lives of others, but very little room exists for you to be lonely, hurt, insecure, tempted, and needy.

2. You are the perfect family member. Your marriage should be strong at all times. You are to be a parent like Ozzie Nelson not Ozzie Osbourne.

3. If you happen to struggle, make sure it’s with something minor and in the past. The myth would love to state that you never struggle, but if you must struggle, it needs to be with something harmless. Certainly depression, lust, addiction, and broken relationships are off the list of viable options unless they occurred years ago and have been triumphantly defeated.

4. Your spiritual life constantly sizzles. You have a special “line” to God. Your moral life has no failures, and you always “feel” close to God.

5. You live up to your sermons. Every preacher must decide whether to preach up to God’s standards or down to his own life ability. Many people who hear you think there is no difference.

6. You are excellent at all of the various aspects of ministry. You’re an introvert that can study like a scholar. At the same time, you are an extrovert like a cruise director. You must be funny and stern at the same time. You must be simultaneously creative and well structured.

The result of the myth is that pastors are burning out, falling out, and breaking down morally in record numbers. Souls are empty, leaving pastors susceptible to moral failure and depression.

What can we do?

First, it is up to every pastor to avoid the pride that desires to live up to the myth. It’s not simply a matter of workload management or needing more encouragement (although these can help). The issue comes down to whether or not a pastor tries to live out the myth or if he rests in the truth and grace of God. The myth demands so much energy, while authentic and honest living, including confession concerning our neediness, brings rest.

The heart of the Gospel is that we are helpless and needy. The Gospel does not become obsolete once we are initiated into salvation. It becomes the anthem of our new existence, resulting in a Gospel-spirituality that operates out of the same daily, honest confession of neediness.

Second, our churches must adopt a culture of nurturing the minds and hearts of its leaders. Most churches spend more time and money on landscaping than on cultivating the souls of their leaders. Churches can begin to demand Sabbath, healthy boundaries, strong investments into family time, and regular spiritual feeding for pastors and leaders. Unfortunately, the culture of many churches is skeptical, oppositional, and unrealistically demanding. If churches nurture and safeguard the wellbeing of their leaders, it would be to their own benefit. Inspired, enduring, and motivated church leaders will empower a church as much or more than any other factor.

What other myths have you seen applied to pastors?

5 Ways to Fuel Creative Thoughts

ideas spinning

I’m an idea guy. No on has ever accused me of not having an original thought. Most of the time the opposite is more accurate. The teams I lead usually fight overload with the number of ideas I produce. I have to discipline myself to “unthink” and give teams permission to tell me “bad idea”.

But, even idea people have lulls in their creative process. We grow stagnant. Get bored. Need help spurring thought.

So, how do idea people get new and original ideas?

Here are 5 ways that work for me:

Get up and walk – If it is cold I walk inside, but outside is my preference. Several times throughout the day I take a hike. My best ideas rarely happen sitting at my desk.

Whiteboard – Diagraming or drawing my thoughts makes me think. I have one wall in my office covered  with idea paint. If thoughts get stale…I play with dry erase markers. Literally. Start writing or drawing and it leads to more ideas. Every time. (I also have several doodling apps on my iPad.)

Exercise – Whenever I’m in a lull, exercise triggers my brain. And, it’s good for my health. Sometimes a mid afternoon sweat will make the last half of the day my most productive in thought.

Hang out with creatives - Iron sharpens iron. Creatives sharpen me. I like to occasionally hang out with random thinking, highly creative types. I’m random, nut structured, so I have to pace my time with the over-the-top creatives, but they always trigger new ideas.

Different environments – Going somewhere I’ve never been always fuels me. A new city. A new park. A new restaurant. A new coffee shop. A different library. Change the space…expand the pace (of thought).

Those are a few that help me.

What triggers your creative process?