How to Endure a Critical, Non-supportive Leader

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I was talking to a younger leader recently. He is feeling under-appreciated. His boss, the senior leader, never notices the work that he is doing. Even worse, for this senior leader, crisitcism flows easily. He never misses a mistake.

I get it. That leader could be me at times. I’m bad about celebrating. I’m wired for constant improvement. It’s something I’m conscious of and work on, but it takes consistent discipline on my part.

On the other hand, the new generation of leaders were born into a system that afforded instant and constant recognition. In my days, A’s were expected in school. So we didn’t always celebrate them. If we did it was at the end of the year. These days an A on a test may get a steak dinner.

I’m not criticizing. And, I’m not making excuses. My generation enabled this generation. I am just pointing out a difference in generational expectations. So, the reality is this senior leader may not even recognize the problem this younger leader is experiencing. He doesn’t see the problems with the way he is leading.

And, I’m not saying that as an excuse. From the way this senior leader was described to me, his behavior is wrong, demeaning, and certainly not conducive to produce the most excellent team environment or one that develops leaders — in my opinion — in any generation.

But, the question from this younger leader was how to respond. For a variety of reasons, he doesn’t feel the freedom to move on to something new right now. So what does he do today?

Well, first and foremost I told this younger leader he should not get his hopes up that things might change anytime soon. They might. Maybe the leader will read the right book or some masterful blog post and a conversion experience will occur in how this leader leads. Not likely.

But, what I can say is that, in spite of the deficiency in his leadership, the senior leader probably still has something he can teach the younger leader. S0, be respectful. There will likely be other occasions in his leadership where he will have to display respect to someone even if he doesn’t agree with them. Maybe just to keep his job. Maybe even to be obedient to Scripture. (Romans 13)

The fact is the way we honor those we don’t naturally respect says a lot about our character.

But, the other thing I would say. And, I think this is huge.

You can learn good principles under bad leadership.

You can. You can learn what not to do by watching what others do wrong. Right now this young leader is developing good leadership practices by acknowledging what has injured him that he would never do to injure someone he is leading.

Take notes.

Grow. Learn.

Prepare now for how you’ll lead then.

We will always need better leaders. Be one. And, if you’re serving under a critical, non-supportive leader, you’re in a great training ground.

7 Attributes for a Pastor Wanting to do Church Revitalization

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I have been in church revitalization for almost 3 years in the church where I currently serve as pastor. My first church some 13 years ago was a church in need of revitalization. In between, I’ve been a part of two church plants.

Even more, I’ve worked with dozens of pastors in church revitalization and church planting. Along the way, God has blessed us with some success and I’ve tried to learn some things — and pass them along here.

For example, I’ve learned there are some commonalities among pastors who can successfully revitalize an established church.

Here are 7 attributes of pastors who do church revitalization:

Calling. I don’t recommend church revitalization to anyone unless they have a clear calling from God. I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in allowing us to choose where we serve, but church revitalization appears to be a unique calling — one I’d be certain God has called you to do. Honestly, it’s the same for church planters, but, in my experience, it’s easier to plant a church. Starting completely over is usually easier than trying to revive an established church that has been in decline. (That’s just my opinion, but it’s based on experience.) And we need lots of church plants. I don’t have statistics to back it up, but there has to be more Kingdom money in established, but declining churches than the total invested in recent years in church planting. We need church revitalization — if for no other reason to be good stewards of Kingdom resources.

Supportive spouse. As in church planting — or any ministry — if you’re married, the spouse plays a huge role. But, to be honest, in church revitalization, Cheryl’s part has been one of the hardest parts for me personally. I have the greatest pastor’s wife. She genuinely loves people. There are days, however, when people with no filter chose my wife as a punching bag for their frustration with me. It happens almost every time we announce a change. (I’ve made it very clear that is not an acceptable response, and it’s gotten better with time, but it still occasionally happens.) But, that never happened in church planting. And, might not happen as often if we left everything alone and didn’t try to revitalize. The bottom line though is that Cheryl felt we were being called to this. In fact, she sensed it before I did. (She almost always does when it comes to matters of faith.)

Love of history and tradition. The key here is that you’re in revitalization. It’s not demolition. You’re leading a church to rediscover their past. If they don’t have a past worth rediscovering — then demolition might be a better option. Give. up and go plant a church. But, revitalization will involve celebrating some of the great moments from history. Along the way, there will be traditions worth maintaining. They are culture — DNA — and they work towards the mission they just need new energy behind them.

Entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve heard those who love “new” say they’d get bored in revitalization. Not! In addition to loving what’s old, it helps greatly to love all things new. And, this attribute and the last one are rare as a combination. It’s unusual to love history and tradition and have an entrepreneurial spirit. You can’t leave things exactly as you found them and expect the church to revive. Revitalization involves change. The heart of a planter, if they can live with the other attributes needed, works well in church revitalization.

Patience. It won’t be easy and you will not be able to move as fast as you can in church planting. The delicate balance between preserving DNA while encouraging change will be challenging at times. To be successful, you’ll need to honor the past while you push towards the future. That takes patience. (And, frankly you’ll have more somedays than others.)

Visionary. A church revitalization pastor receives a call and then grasps a God-given vision for what could be. It’s a strong enough vision to provide the tenacity to see it to fruition and to be able to cast in a powerful enough way where people are willing to follow.

Resilience. Dictionary.com defines resilience as “the power or ability to return to the original position after being stretched.” Yea, that. No, doubt you’ll be stretched as a church revitalizing pastor. And that also requires perseverance. Dictionary.com defines perseverance as “steady persistence in a course of action”. And, yea, that too. You’ll have set backs. There will be days you think you’re making progress only to realize people are upset about the color of the carpet. Through it all, you’ll have to keep going to be successful. And, if God called you to it then you will be.

My goal is not to scare you away from church revitalization. We need some who will take up the calling. My goal is for you to be prepared — and ultimately — to be successful.

7 Suggestions to Have the Best Christmas Ever

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It’s Christmas time again. Seems to come every year about this time. The most wonderful time of the year.

There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories
Of Christmases long, long ago
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

(That could almost be a song. Wait a minute — I think it is.)

But, if you’re like many of us, Christmas will be over before you took time to enjoy it. You might even get past Christmas, realize how fast it passed, and so you set some new year’s resolutions to slow down and — maybe — enjoy Christmas more next year.

What if you could do that this year? Why not? Sounds like a good goal to me. Enjoy the celebration of Christmas. The birth of our Savior. Relish the time with family. Savor every moment.

Here are 7 suggestions to make this the best Christmas ever:

Set a limit on expenditures. Something happens when Christmas becomes more about the value of the gifts than the value of the season. More, more, more only produces energy in a direction that can never really be sustained. (Read Ecclesiastes 5:10) Start with a budget. Be realistic. Stop comparing. One problem for many of us is that we are trying to compete with everyone else. Obviously, if you have more money you can spend more money (and less — less). But, make it your goal to invest more in people this year than in things you can buy. And, don’t feel obligated or pressured to buy gifts you can’t afford for people. It will only be a temporary satisfaction and produce a lot of guilt in the new year when you see those credit card bills start arriving in the mail. (And, usually the guilt starts as soon as the cashier hands you the receipt or you push the purchase button online.)

Set boundaries in relationships. This is especially true for younger couples and families, but really for most of us. You can feel pressured by extended family and friends to be a dozen different places. Remember, you aren’t responsible for pleasing everyone — in fact — you can’t. It’s impossible. (Some have a harder time with that than others.) Don’t let everyone else determine your Christmas schedule. You may have to have some difficult, but direct conversations with relatives or friends. Again, be realistic. You can’t be everywhere. There are some places you can’t (or shouldn’t) avoid, but, as much as possible, control your schedule rather than having it controlled by others.

Plan and prioritize your time. This is similar, but also includes how we spend our own time at Christmas. There are usually more demands for our time than time for our demands. Just as you did in creating a money budget, create a time budget. Set aside some time for you to celebrate Christmas as an immediate family — or in a way where you best celebrate. Then build around that time. It’s okay to say no. (Do you need to read that sentence again?) If you don’t, you’ll run out of time before you feel you ever really celebrated. It’s hard, but again, you’re trying to actually celebrate Christmas — the birth of baby Jesus. That’s hard to do when you have lost all control of your time.

Lower your expectations. That you have on others and on yourself. Sometimes we set very unrealistic expectations on what others will buy or how they will respond to what we buy. We look for the “perfect” gift — to give or receive — and our enjoyment of Christmas is based on that search — rather than the real joy of the season. We also set unrealistic expectations on relationships. We watch too many Hallmark Christmas movies where everything works out in the end to the perfect holiday celebration and when it doesn’t happen at our house quite like that we get disappointed. Remember, we aren’t characters in a movie. We are characters in real life. Real life is almost never perfect. Learn to enjoy your celebration with all the quirkiness that makes your family unique from every other family. (Because every family is quirky in some way — in real life.)

Practice health disciplines. Sometimes in the name of “celebrating” we over do it only to have guilt about it later. Don’t overeat or over-indulge. You will occasionally – it’s part of the season — but, be reasonable. Keep exercising. Sample rather than eat full portions. You’ll feel better and have less regrets after the holidays have ended.

Serve others. Find and establish a Christmas tradition of service. Whether it’s serving at a food kitchen, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, or just picking up trash along the side of the road, you’ll better appreciate Christmas when you serve. The real meaning of Christmas is based around serving others. The baby born at Christmas came to be a servant. The best way to celebrate His birth is to give back expecting nothing in return. You’ll be the bigger recipient when you do.

Remember the reason for the season. Yea, I saved the best and most important for last. On purpose. It’s also the one we push to last if we aren’t careful and the ultimate purpose of this post, so I wanted it to be the last impression on your mind. Jesus — the reason for the season. It’s simple — even cliche, but, it’s true and it’s powerful — if you do it genuinely. In the midst of the madness, rediscover the miracle of Christmas. A Savior — who is Christ the Lord — has been born to you. Establish a tradition that helps you best identify with the true meaning of Christmas. You could take time to explore a character of the Christmas story you’ve not considered previously. Research elements of the setting and culture. Read the major passages in Matthew and Luke repeatedly through the season. Listen to only Christmas music. Attend special Christmas services. Whatever works for you. Be intentional to practice celebrating the real joy of Christmas.

Not all of these will apply to everyone, but my guess is if there are a couple here you need to work on — to better celebrate Christmas — you already knew it. As we begin the rush of the Christmas season, pause right now, take a few deep breaths, and let’s make this the best Christmas ever.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Effective Leaders Use a Rifle Approach More than a Shotgun

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I talk to so many leaders who get so frustrated because they never seem to accomplish as much as they set out to do. Most of the time the reason is a fairly simple one.

They used the wrong approach to the work.

Many times as leaders we try to accomplish too many tasks in one day. We don’t create a realistic checklist — just an overwhelming mass of things we “need” to do.

It makes us feel ineffective in all our tasks.

I call that the shotgun approach.

It’s running from task to task to task to task. At the end of the day you’ve done a lot of things, but none of them very well.

And, all of us have some days like that. They’re sometimes unavoidable.

But, here’s my leadership suggestion. As much as possible — and doing otherwise should be the exception, not the rule…

Use the rifle approach.

The rifle approach is to carefully plan a realistic list of activities each day. It’s having specific objectives, and ranking them from the most important to the least important.

Then it’s as simple as checking off each item as you work through the list, accomplishing as many as you feasibly can per day.

And, you leave most everyday with a sense of accomplishment. (That’s sounds good, doesn’t it?)

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

Sometimes we make leading harder than it has to be.

Five Things Every Staff Wishes Their Pastor Knew

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This is a guest post from Dave Gipson. Dave serves as pastor of Legacy Church, Naples, FL. Read more insights from him at DaveGipson.net, or email him at DaveGipson@hotmail.com. I needed this reminder. Thanks Dave.

Five Things Every Staff Wishes Their Pastor Knew

I remember the first time someone called me “pastor” and it finally felt normal.

Actually, I only thought they were saying “pastor”. I was in a Starbucks I frequent, and someone called out something like “faster”. It could have even been “disaster”, but I’ve been called that before. But after I turned around to look, I caught myself – I guess I really am a pastor now!

I’d served on church staffs for over 25 years, but always as a supporting minister.
Working for pastors has allowed me a vantage point few other pastors have experienced. I’ve witnessed them under great pressure, sometimes dealing with very human fears.

So through a renewed perspective as a pastor myself, here are some key lessons I’ve gleaned from the pastors I’ve served…

“Others around me are just as called to ministry”

I’ve noticed now it’s easy to think my sermon is the only thing that matters on a given Sunday. But in truth, the proclamation of the Gospel should occur during the “sung Word” (music) and the “taught Word” (Bible study classes) as well.

Hopefully, I’m not the only one in the building preaching the Gospel. If I am, it’s really a pretty lousy Sunday after all.

“Yes, pastors carry a great burden. But so do others – don’t be a martyr”

While I now feel that burden quite keenly, being a support staff member is tough as well. Sometimes even more so. Why? Because there’s nothing like being at the mercy of another man’s vision (or lack of it).

I’ve noticed I may be more reactive than proactive at times, settling for the way things are when my church is ready to move forward. During those times when I hesitate, those serving under me are in even greater need of faith and patience. They must put up with my limitations and still trust God is leading through me. And if you really knew me, you’d know that takes quite a lot of faith!

“While I may get most of the complaints, I also get most of the credit. So spread the success around”

With responsibility, the buck does stop with the pastor..but too often do many of the rewards as well. While my ministry can certainly help my church, it’s only through many others serving faithfully each week that I have this platform.

One of the most important things I do at each service is thank people. I heard a lady complaining recently about volunteering with a civic organization in our area. She was becoming bitter thinking no one appreciated her hard work. But all her frustration went away when one person in leadership gave her a hug and said, “We appreciate you and all you do”. Seriously, that was all she needed.

It’s easy to forget that for many faithful volunteers, my “thank you” is all the payment they’ll ever receive this side of heaven. So you never can say “thank you” too much – to staff, volunteers, even to the congregation for just showing up!

“Yes, staff members should be loyal to their pastor…but don’t expect more loyalty than I’m willing to give them”

One troubling trend today is treating staff members as if they’re disposable. Sure, every pastor with multiple staff will eventually have to fire someone. But a few pastors demand a level of loyalty from others we’re unwilling to reciprocate. Expect only the devotion from staff you are willing to give them. If they feel “disposable”, they’ll mostly produce disposable work.

Learn their kid’s names, let their wives know they’re special, make a real effort to get to know as many of them personally as possible. And in a related subject…

“Much of my ‘loneliness at the top’ could be easily remedied, but I must make the first move”

I’ve noticed some of the greatest pastors are incredibly lonely people. After being burned by betrayers, some insulate themselves and avoid friendships with staff members. Maybe we’re afraid if we’re too transparent as human beings, people won’t respect us as leaders.

One of my best friendships was with a pastor while serving on his staff. I remember spending holidays with our families together at his lake house. As a young father, I got the vantage point of seeing an experienced dad up close leading his own family. I grew to love and respect him as more than just my pastor. I discovered he was a Godly man I wanted to follow as well.

However, none of this would have happened had he not first reached out to invite me in. Our position can be intimidating to others, no matter how approachable we may be. If we’re going to have friendships with staff, it has to be our “ask”. I would have never felt confident enough to make the first move had my pastor not first reached out to me.

It’s through the Godly examples of my pastors I’ve learned these lessons. But you can learn them as well. All you have to do is listen to your staff, with discernment and an open heart. You’ll be surprised what they can tell you about yourself and good leadership…if you’re only willing to listen.

Why I Require Our Staff to Work on Christmas Eve

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I’m not a huge rule-maker. I like to operate in freedom and so I try to leader others that way. I’m strict about very few things.

(Can I be completely honest? — I’d rather break a rule than keep one. Certainly I love to write better rules.)

I’m a little different on Christmas Eve.

I’m strict. I write rules. An ole’ controlling leader.

Our ministerial staff works on Christmas Eve.

Period. No excuses.

That’s harsh, isn’t it?

Christmas Eve is a big deal in this church. Always has been. Long before I became pastor.

We now have 3 services to accommodate crowds, but the church has always had one packed service that is live on television. Near 100,000 people in our region watch the show and the past couple years we’ve rebroadcast the show several times on Christmas Day. It’s somewhat of a community event.

But, there’s another reason.

Culturally speaking, Christmas has in many ways become the new Easter. Not theologically of course. You can’t trump the resurrection, but as an opportunity to reach lost people.

They’ll come at Christmas. It’s a culturally acceptable thing to do. A familiar affair. Get dressed up (or not) and gather together to sing familiar Christmas songs. It’s a great family tradition.

And, who can’t love a baby in a manger story? You can attract people at Christmas like no other time of the year.

We would never think of staff missing Easter. It’s an “all hands on deck” kind of day.

So, I make Christmas Eve a priority and require our staff to be here.

(Now, in complete transparency, if there were extenuating circumstances with a staff member we would certainly consider them.)

And, sure, it’s difficult on families to understand. I get that. My family has to sacrifice also. We live 4 hours from our family and we now miss Christmas Eve together.

But, if we had a job as a policeman or at a hospital emergency room, no one would question why we had to work. It comes with the job.

And, in church work, Christmas Eve, if it’s done well, can be a great part of the job. Lives are at stake. It’s a vital work. An “all hands on deck” kind of day.

6 Resume Mistakes Pastors Make and Tips for Correcting Them

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I don’t do a lot of guest posts on this blog, but my friend Dr. Jennifer Degler. Jennifer keeps putting together great ones that I want to share. Here’s another. Jennifer served on the search team that brought me to Immanuel. She shares from her experience.

6 Resume Mistakes Pastors Make and Tips for Correcting Them

Having reviewed over 700 resumes while serving on a pastor search committee, I saw the good, the bad, and the oh-my-goodness-what-were-they-thinking. Here are six common resume mistakes pastors make and tips for correcting them:

1) Taking credit for what God did: Most commonly seen in statements like “I increased attendance from 300 to 600” or “I increased giving 20%.” Unless you personally drove 300 additional people to church each Sunday and wrote a really big check, you didn’t increase attendance or giving. You preached, supervised staff, planned worship services, etc., and then God did a work in people’s hearts that led to them attending and giving at your church. It would be more correct (and humble) to say “attendance increased from 300 to 600” or “giving increased 20%.” (Side note: don’t go too far in the other direction and trip over yourself in an effort to give God the glory, as in “attendance doubled, praise the Lord from whom all blessings flow!” This just makes you look overly excitable.)

2) Inflating attendance numbers: Do not report your Easter Sunday attendance as if it’s your average attendance. If you say “Sunday morning worship attendance increased from 60 to 200” the pastor search committee (PSC) will interpret this to mean 200 people attended your church service each week. If your church reports numbers to your denomination, the PSC will request those reports, and what your resume says should match up with what the church secretary reported. It may be more accurate to say “Sunday morning worship attendance increased from 60 to an average of 150 with a high of 200.”

3) Forgetting your resume’s audience: In many cases, PSC’s are composed of professional people over 40, with an average age close to 50. Design your resume so it will appeal to people in this age bracket. Your font should be no smaller than 12 point. If you are a younger person, do not assume all committee members will have your level of technological comfort. Don’t waste your time on a clever, high tech resume that can only be viewed as a Powerpoint or Prezi type presentation.

4) Referring to preaching as teaching: See #3 above. Perhaps because of the relatively new title “Teaching Pastor,” people below 40 may refer to preaching as teaching. People aged 50 and above typically view preaching and teaching as two different activities. If you gave sermons, call it preaching. Otherwise, the PSC may think you were teaching a class each Sunday.

5) Wordiness/Being repetitive: As in “planned, organized, and led three mission trips.” Yes, our God is a trinity, but that doesn’t mean you need three descriptors or verbs in each sentence. Wordiness exhausts your reader. Brevity is next to godliness when it comes to resumes. Which of these do you find clearer and more powerful? “My objective is to pastor a life-giving, Jesus-centered, disciple-making, sending, welcoming to all, outwardly reaching church” or “My objective is to pastor a welcoming, Jesus-centered church that makes and sends passionate disciples.”

6) Not checking references’ contact information: Before you send out your resume, provide your references with the contact information you plan to provide for them. This way they can check for accuracy and their preferred methods of contact. Do not assume everyone is okay with you giving out their cell phone number. Medical and mental health professionals may be particularly protective of their personal numbers, so always confirm their preferred numbers for contact.

5 Common Struggles Among Young Pastors

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I recently spent several hours with a group of young pastors. It was a cross representation of church planters and pastors of established churches. Healthy churches and unhealthy. Growing, plateauing and declining. Most were new in their positions and I expect all these churches will be growing soon. Sharp group.

We talked about a lot of issues, but one of our longer discussions was when I asked them what their greatest struggle in ministry was at the current time. There were some incredible consistencies — actually more than I anticipated. Very different churches and very different pastors. Similar struggles.

Here are the 5 most common struggles they shared:

Personnel issues. If the church has any paid staff other than the pastor there will be issues for the pastor. I’m finding this portion of our work more demanding than ever. The longer I lead the more complex this issue becomes, simply because of the changing laws and regulations placed on places of employment — including the church. I always advise younger leaders, especially those without a background in this issue, to seek professional help in this area, even if it has to be from outside the church.

Navigating bureaucracy. I think this is a particularly heavy burden on younger pastors. The generation entering the ministry is much like the generation entering the secular workforce. They want to do something, not meet about doing something. I share their heart, but granted this is one of the hardest ones to address. (Of course, the church planters weren’t the ones with this struggle as much.) I often advise young pastors in established churches to write some of their best sermons around casting vision of how we should spend our time as pastors. Jesus seemed to teach and model quite extensively about our need to reach the lost. The Bible doesn’t record a lot of His time in committee. Acts gives good models of leadership and serving the people. People in the first century seemed to do a lot of the work we’ve placed on professional staff.

Balancing ministry and family time. This has always been a struggle. And, frankly, it should be. We need to work hard — that’s a good Biblical principle — and we need to protect our family. There’s another great Biblical principle. It requires a healthy art of balancing our time. This younger generation of ministers, however, and I think it’s a good thing, won’t automatically let the ministry trump their family. Ministers from my generation and older generations sometimes did. And, many from these generations have told me they wish they hadn’t after it was too late. My advise to the younger pastor is to keep the heart for the balance, be very intentional with their schedule and use of time and cast vision to the church continually of why they’re not at everything and why they’re family is so important. The church needs that message too — as they are equally in the struggle.

Developing leaders. This one seemed true regardless of the style of church. And, in my experience, it’s true in most organizations. We are always in need of new leaders. You can’t grow or even maintain without consistently developing new leaders. In a practical sense, leaders come and go, die or burnout. But it’s also difficult to grow and develop as a body without growth in the number of leaders. I advised them to start systematically and strategically developing new leaders now. In fact, I think it’s more important that you have a system — even if it’s not perfect — than to do nothing. People typically learn best by doing. So, at the least, in the absence of a formal leadership development program, start giving people you see with potential assignments to lead — and let them develop with on-the-job training.

Handling critics. Again, this one was shared less by the church planters, but the interesting twist is that the criticism church planters received was typically from outside the church. Pastors in established churches seemed to receive most of their criticism from inside the church. (There’s a whole blog post needed on my thoughts on that one.) But, either way, one thing all leaders have in common is criticism. Lead anything and critics will find you. You don’t have to go looking for them. (I love the passage in Exodus 24 where, as Moses was going to the mountain to spend time with God, he made a plan for how to handle disputes among the people.) Because leadership involves change. And change always changes things. (You got that, right?) People often respond to change with an emotion — it could be anger, frustration or sadness — but it comes to us as what we’ve labeled criticism. I’ve learned sometimes it isn’t as much against the leader as it is against their sense of loss, but either way it hurts. I always remind young pastors and leaders that we must find our strength in our calling, our purpose and in the pursuit of the vision God has placed in our hearts. We shouldn’t ignore criticism. We should filter it. (And I’ve written on the right and wrong ways to respond to criticism.) But, we should not let criticism control us — in our leadership or in our emotional state — even though that is sometimes the intent of the critic. Part of leading is learning how to stay healthy even in the midst of criticism.

I love my time with this group and plan to repeat it. I’ll share more as I experience more.

Let me ask, was anything surprising about the list?

I also wondered, are seminaries addressing these issues? Should they?

7 Words of Encouragement in Church Revitalization

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I’m a church planter. Having planted two successful churches, my heart is to see more church plants launch and do well. I think once church planting gets “in your blood”, it’s always there.

A couple years ago, however, God called me into an established church in need of some revitalization. (Actually my first church was a revitalization church.) It’s been an incredible couple of years. God has blessed us in so many ways. It’s harder than church planting — just being honest — but its very rewarding in so many ways.

I’ve encouraged numerous young leaders to not ignore the opportunities in church revitalization. As much as we need new plants — we need to revive some existing church — a lot of existing churches.

The work of revitalization is similar to church planting. We are starting some things new. We are building momentum around a vision. We are constantly looking for new leaders. But, its also incredibly different. There are unique challenges in church revitalization. As I’m learning things, I’m trying to pass them along.

Here are 7 words of encouragement in church revitalization:

Don’t high-jack the church – You can change a church where it can experience growth again without taking away the DNA of the church. That means you may not be able to make every change you want to make. It may mean you move slower than you want to at times. But, the general culture of the church — at least the one that has lasted for generations — should not be on the table. Now here’s the if — and this is the big if — if the culture or DNA — or part of that culture — is one that is destructive to the future vitality of the church then it needs to be changed. If the church is opposed to any change, it chews up and spits out pastors, it’s structure is so archaic that it just doesn’t work anymore — change it. But, if it’s just a flavor of who the people are — it is probably best to leave it alone. For example, if it’s a church that has a history of loving big events, don’t kill all of them — find a way to make them work for Kingdom growth.

It will take longer than you think it does. To them it’s likes rocket pace and to you it feels like snail pace. In church planting, you can change in a week. That’s usually not the case in revitalization. Take time to bring people along that have invested years in building the church. Over time, when trust is developed, it will get easier, and you’ll be able to move quicker.

Celebrate the history while shaping the future. Don’t pretend that everything old is bad. It’s not. It’s what has helped the church survive as long as it has. It may not be working as well right now, and there will likely need to be changes, but some of the old things were and are good things in principle. Recognize that, acknowledge it, and people will be more likely to at least appease good changes.

Recognize the sense of loss in change. It’s the number one reason change is resisted. (I wrote a whole post on this subject.) Don’t ignore or underestimate how big of a deal change is to some people. Be humble. Considerate. Compassionate. That doesn’t mean don’t change. It does mean don’t change assuming it’s “no big deal”. It is.

Love the people even when you don’t love everything about the church. You may not like some of the structure of the church or the process you have to go through to make change. But you must love the people. And, loving the people will help you lead the transitions you need to make. Years ago, God convicted me that if I focus most on loving Him that loving people in any church, any city, or any setting will be easy for me.

Don’t let a few critics determine your self worth. You’ll have critics. Make no mistake about it. And, some aren’t very nice in how they offer it. You will have to make hard decisions. Very hard decisions. (Don’t make them without input, but make them.) But, you will be making changes that impact people  (as all changes do) — people who have been at the church for years. You may know the changes are needed. They even me know the changes are needed. But there will be resistance. And there will be angry people. And when people are angry they say and do things they may not do otherwise. But, here’s what you need to know. If God called you to it you can be assured there are usually more supporters than detractors. The detractors just often have stronger vocal chords.

Rediscover more than you reinvent. You may need a lot of changes to be vibrant again. Most likely, however, in spite of where they are today, the church has some positive moments in their history. If not, maybe it’s time to close some doors and redistribute the Kingdom dollars elsewhere. (How’s that for honesty?) But, I’ve found most churches have had better days. Help the church rediscover the heartbeat of the times people loved — when things were healthy, lives were changing and Kingdom growth was occurring. Build momentum as you celebrate the emotions and the passions from the good days of their heritage. Lead people to rediscover that joy they once had for the mission.

Those are just a few things for now. I’ll share more as I learn more.