…Don’t forget why you’re in ministry.
It was a calling.
You had a passion to serve.
You love people.
You wanted to make a Kingdom difference.
You wanted to be a disciple-maker.
It’s so easy to get distracted with seemingly good things.
You get bogged down in committees, and structure, and meetings, and programs, and activities.
It’s easy to forget there were bigger, more important reasons for your calling.
Here’s one way to keep remembering:
When it’s all said and done, what will people remember about your ministry?
Pick the answer you’d prefer then work everyday to achieve that.
The why should determine the what and the how.
Do you ever get distracted from your purpose?
Recently I received the following question. It’s one I’ve been asked several times and one I know is more common as an issue than even asked. I’ve omitted some details for obvious confidentiality reasons, but kept the intent of the question the same.
I am writing you seeking counsel regarding a significantly large decision my wife and I need to make about our continued service at a local church. The church is in turmoil and my wife and I feel released from our commitment here. Leaving is probably the best option, but how do I know for sure and how do I leave “properly”?
Here is my expanded reply:
Leaving is never easy, but many times, even in the worst situations, it can be done in a way that doesn’t further disrupt the church. First, you might consider these two posts:
You need to discern first if you definitely feel released to leave and then if you are leaving. It may not be worth putting the energy into deciding how to leave until you decide that you are. If that’s where you are headed…
Here are 7 Tips for leaving “properly”:
1. Make it a decision of prayer and conviction. The more you can remove your personality or personal comfort from the process, the more likely you will be able to convince people you are leaving on good terms and that you are following God’s will and not your own. (As I mentioned previously, it may be that God has released you to make the decision. I find that true many times. Your first step, in my opinion, is to make sure you aren’t violating something God has told you to do or not to do.)
2. Start properly. I know. This is a post about leaving. But, honestly, that process starts long before the door swings closed. The sooner you start preparing people for your eventual exit, the easier your exit will be accepted by people when you do leave. Help cross train for your area. Identify key leaders who could fill in for an interim. You don’t even have to share all this information, but be thinking ahead of time who those people might be. Start making lists of things you do that others may not know. Think in terms of “if I’m not here, then…” and write some of that stuff down to share when you leave.
3. Discuss with and seek wisdom from one or two people you trust, who know you and the church. You’ll need a sounding board to help you confirm your decision, but also to help determine the timing and approach of your exit.
4. Develop a plan, with counsel and prayer, of how and when you intend to proceed. You’ll need to decide who to contact first, when, and how to tell the church. This will likely be different for every church.
5. Don’t throw punches on the way out. There’s never a win and often a lasting negative when a person lashes out in the final days of their involvement with a church. Any credibility gained can be quickly lost based on the way the person handles their exit.
5. Work to protect spouses and children. Ministry can be very cruel and may even get ugly before it heals. Don’t allow your family dynamic to suffer because of the problems of the church.
6. Prepare your own emotions. It is likely to be hard leaving, even if things are miserable at the time. Chances are you’ve invested your heart in this church. You started with vision and enthusiasm. You felt a call to go there. You never intended things to turn out like this. Regardless of why you are leaving or what you are going to do next, it won’t be easy walking away from something you have loved.
7. Don’t end when you walk out the door. Be available to further assist them as needed in the months after you leave. It may not be welcomed or needed but offering is the graceful way to exit and the right thing to do.
Make this post better:
What would you add about leaving properly? Have you ever left when the church or organization was in turmoil? How did you handle your exit? Looking back, what did you learn to help others?
I am consistently asked about the beginning days of a leadership position. In my opinion, the opening days of any job are some of the most important. Apparently others think so also. Recently someone direct messaged me on Twitter to ask, “What words of advice do you have for a newbie leader? I’m beginning my first pastoring role after years in student ministry.”
Now, as a “newbie” myself, I speak with more passion, and perhaps even more authority on the subject. I messaged him back and said “Learn the people first…go slow to change…think intentional in all you do…pace yourself.”
That was Twitter. This is my blog, so I assume I should explain a little further.
Here are 4 words of advice for the newbie leader:
Never use the word “newbie” again. (Just kidding. That’s not one of the four. But, seriously, is there a better word).
The real 4:
Learn the people first - Relational leadership is always most effective, but especially for a new leader. They need to learn to trust you. They need an opportunity to feel you are committed and connected to them. They want assurance you have the best interest at heart for them and the church or organization they’ve loved probably longer than you have.
Go slow to change – The older the church or organization, the more important it will be that you take time to implement change. Know the key players, communicate, communicate, communicate, and help people understand why the change is needed. All change is resisted, but fast change is most powerfully rejected. This doesn’t mean don’t change. Most likely they’ll expect and even want some change, but be smart about it. Listen and learn the things you can change immediately and things where you’ll need to move more slowly. That process takes time to do well.
Think intentionally in all you do – The more you can strategically plan your moves, the more you can help steer them to a positive outcome. In every area of your leadership, take time to think through the best way to handle the situation. Get input from key people. Plan your approach. Prioritize. Strategize. You’ll have plenty of surprises along the way, but if you’re intentional in the decisions you have control over, you’ll be better prepared to handle the unexpected.
Pace your leadership for the long-term – You won’t often know the length of your tenure as leader, but you should script yourself to be there for the long haul. That means you shouldn’t try to accomplish everything in the beginning. Spread some of your enthusiasm and energy over the first year or more. It will keep momentum going longer, keep you from burning out and the church or organization from wearing out. Also, think for the church or organization beyond even you. How can things keep building, healthy, vibrant and growing for the years ahead? When you set worthy visions and goals that carry people forward, help them dream and give them hope, they will want to follow your leadership.
Have you ever been the new guy? What would you advise?
…than this world could ever offer!
far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:21 NIV
Nothing is better than what the believer gains through Jesus Christ!
I used to think I wanted to be President of the United States! When I was 18, I thought that I would be the nation’s youngest president at the age of 36. (There would have been an election that year and I would have been old enough.) Well, needless to say, that didn’t happen. What if it had? What a title! President of the most powerful nation in the world would have certainly been impressive! I suspect my blog traffic would have been higher these days.
I once wanted to be rich. I had “noble” purposes. I was going to make lots of money, give lots away, and own a beach house too! I was on a good track, but something got in the way. Mainly I lost what I had started with. God called me into ministry…and…well, you know the rest of the story.
I have a friend who is running for a high elected office. If he wins, and I think he will, he will be powerful. I could be envious of his opportunity, but instead, I’m trying to appreciate the influence God is potentially giving him.
I have another friend who is worth millions! Mega millions. His millions have millions. He has worked hard, been blessed greatly, and was often “in the right place at the right time”. It would be easy to be envious of him and his wealth. I try, however, to appreciate what God has done and is doing through my friend’s resources.
Often we look at people or positions in life and think to ourselves: “if only I could be where they are” or “if only I had what they have…everything would be okay”. For the believer, Paul reminds us that we have what is far better than anything this world can offer. We have a relationship with the Creator of the heavens and the earth. We have an inheritance that we share with the Son of God. We have a promised eternity that outshines all the wealth of the world! We have Jesus!
If you are finding yourself overwhelmed by what the world has that you don’t, and if you ever become dissatisfied with your appeared lack of worldly treasures, remind yourself whose child you are. You are heir to the Throne of Grace! Your Daddy owns the cattle on a thousand hills. You can boast that your family heritage includes Jesus!
What you have is far beyond what this world can ever offer!
Do you need that reminder today?
My friend coach Craig Candeto is a former Navy standout quarterback. He’s still a young man, but he’s already started an impressive career as a coach. Currently he’s coaching quarterbacks for the Citadel. In addition to being a great football player and coach, Craig is a solid believer. He lives his faith boldly in all he does.
Recently, Cheryl and I were visiting with Craig and his wife Maribeth, and Craig told me a story of meeting Billy Graham recently. Craig was invited as part of FCA with a few other coaches to go to Dr. Graham’s house in the mountains and visit with the famous evangelist.
He said Dr. Graham was frail, obviously weakened from how most of us think of Billy Graham, but he was gracious, gentle, and still very alert.
One of the coaches asked Dr. Graham a question.
What word of advice would you have for guys like us, just beginning our careers and still young in our faith?
The young coaches expected something profound from the famed pastor, but Dr. Graham frailly and simply answered:
Read your Bible and pray everyday.
Did you catch that? Was it too fast for you? Should I write it again?
Read your Bible and pray everyday.
Billy Graham, after years of influencing others with the Gospel, encouraged these men with what was most important in developing themselves longterm as believers.
Spend time with God everyday!
Here’s my take on Billy Graham’s encouragement:
Don’t try to make it more complicated than it is. Sometimes simple is the most profound.
Read your Bible and pray everyday.
You got it? Any questions?
We were at a department store recently looking at some shirts in the men’s department on sale. After over 10 years in retail, including as a buyer, I love nice clothes, but I’m cheap when it comes to spending money on myself. When I can find a good bargain I’m excited. I saw a shirt I really liked, but I quickly knew it wasn’t for me. A decade ago, it might have been an okay style for me, but today, someone would think I should be acting my age.
The dilemma for me these days, as I shop for clothes, is to find clothes that are stylish, but age appropriate. One method I use is to consider what my boys would say is “cool”, but what would not embarrass them. That’s usually a good indicator.
It got me thinking, however, about a more important issue. I was reminded that the image a person portrays can be huge in determining people’s perception of the leader. In a day when authenticity is valued by all, but especially the younger generation, I want to be “perceived” as being authentic. I want people I’m attempting to lead to take me serious as a leader.
Here are 5 ways to help people perceive you are authentic:
Dress your age – This is a biggie for me and my goal these days. I’m 48. There are some “cool” styles that aren’t cool for 48 year olds. Knowing the difference is huge. Each season of life seems to have it’s own style. Dress within yours. If you aren’t sure, ask some people around you whom you trust. (Again, my boys help me.)
Admit your mistakes – Take responsibility for the things you’ve done wrong or when a project that goes wrong was your idea. Own up to your bad decisions. If you pass blame or refuse to own up to a problem you’ll be perceived as a weak and pretend leader.
Be honest – Don’t exaggerate who you are, your position, influence, or knowledge. Don’t pretend your church or organization is bigger than it really is. Tell the truth about you and the organization you lead. People can usually spot a phony and dismiss your influence in their life.
Don’t try to impress others – The harder you try the less they seem to be impressed. Be yourself, not who you wish you were. You do the best you of anyone.
Be a good listener – Be slower to speak. Don’t always have the answer. Even when you do, sometimes back off and let someone else take the lead. You show people you’re real if you act like they are…and that it is worth hearing what they have to say.
What else would you add?
Using Acts 2 as our model, recently I shared my beginning vision for the new church I began pastoring a month ago. You can watch the message where I unveiled this vision HERE.
The seven initiatives of focus are:
Impressions – We need to consider how we present ourselves to visitors. From the moment a person thinks “church” for the first time, until they are no longer considered a visitor, what impression are we making with them?
Intergenerational – We are a multi-generational church, but we need to move toward intergenerational ministry. We need young people learning from older people. We need older people learning from younger people. We need to do life together with all ages. We have much to offer each other.
Discipleship – We need to figure out how best to help people be more like Jesus. This is obviously the goal of every church, but I want us to consider how to do it with more intentionality than ever before.
Stewardship – God has blessed Immanuel with tremendous resources. Our facilities, our location, and our people are incredible assets. We need to find ways to use what God has given us even more for the glory of God.
College – Our 22 acre campus is located footsteps away from the University of Kentucky and other local colleges and universities. To not be actively investing in the tens of thousands of students in our vicinity would seem to be a sin. (He who knows the good he ought to do…). We have a mission field in our backyard that can literally play a part in changing the world.
Prayer – Immanuel is a praying church, but I’ve never known anyone who was felt they were praying enough. I want my ministry here to be rooted in prayer. I want to see God do things which could only be done by God’s intervention. Let God’s people pray!
Missions/Community Investment – I believe a healthy church is a going church. We need to leave the comfort of our Sunday seats and hit the streets of Lexington. We are going to explore the options available to us to partner with existing ministries in our community. We are exploring options to be involved around the world. We want to be known as a church on the move in missions, making a huge impact in our community.
With each of these initiatives I’ve formed (or am forming) an initiative team with the intent of exploring ways Immanuel can grow in each of these areas. These teams will have a volunteer leader. Several will have appropriate staff members assigned to them. I will not be “doing” this work, but available to help them as needed. One key to this working is it gets more people involved in the process and builds energy as they explore new ideas.
To aid in brainstorming, I’m challenging the teams leading each of these to think in terms of:
Immediate – In each of these areas we need some quick “wins”. To keep momentum in these areas growing in the church, we need people to see some movement toward each of these. What are some things we can do quickly to realize growth in each of these initiatives?
Midrange – What are some things we can do in the next few months to a year to move each of these initiatives forward?
Longterm – What are things we can suggest as longterm ideas? These may not happen for a year or more, but we can set them in our sights and work towards them?
Temporary – These are usually one term or short-term commitment projects. They aren’t likely to be repeated. They can be doing a one day event or one series of days, but they aren’t expected to continue forever.
Permanent – These are changes that, for the foreseeable future, will become part of the culture of Immanuel.
I’ve been asked for specifics for each of these, and frankly, I’m hesitant to do that. I like for teams I appoint to start with blank slates and have freedom to dream on their own. That way they own the vision. I have a list of my own and I’ll be sharing them along the way with the teams, but I want to make sure they understand what I’m asking them to do, then release them to brainstorm. We are just getting started with this process and it is not expected to be a quick process. Some will move faster than others. That’s expected.
As with other posts in this transition process, I’m simply sharing these to help others as they think through transitions needed in their own ministry setting.
What questions do you have about this process?
Whenever I enter a new position, I want to be strategic. In my new church, it has been challenging and fun at the same time. I’ve met so many wonderful people, but there are more opportunities than time it seems. It is proving to be a great ministry assignment. Thank you God for the opportunity.
Several asked what my strategy for the opening days. If you know me at all you know that I’m pretty strategic.
Here are 7 elements of my strategy for the beginning days:
Get to know key leaders – I am trying to get to know the staff and key Influencers in the church. I believe God uses the influence of others to build His church, so I want to know who I will be working with in the days to come. Think of it this way. If Moses was implementing the Jethro method, his primary energy would need to be communicating and investing in those leaders he enlisted to lead others. I’m using that approach. If I hope to make any substantial changes I’ll need these influencers support.
Let people get to know me – For an introvert it’s been exhausting, but I’ve been very visible in the early days. In fact, in my ministry I’m usually always very accessible, just as I am online. I have written before (HERE) that I may not always be available but I can always be accessible. I want them to feel comfortable with me and trust my leadership, so I think they need to see me frequently, even more so in the beginning days of my pastorate.
Set my initial vision – People want to know where I am going with my leadership. I set an initial 7 part vision for the people. I really wanted 3 or 4 initial initiatives, but I landed on 7. They are all things I’m passionate about implementing. Some will gets started faster than others, but the church seems anxious to get behind all of them.
Identify quick wins – I’m looking for some things I can immediately impact and change for good. These are things I believe everyone can agree with, don’t require a lot of resources or long debates. There were a few minor paperwork nuisances that impacted staff were happy I changed, for example. I invested some energy in some areas of ministry that never received a lot of attention. Those areas are especially excited.
Do the unexpected – It seems like such a small deal, but I roam the balcony on Sunday morning. It takes a little more time, but it has proven to be a big deal. I talk to the person who will be changing my slides on the screen prior to the service. That’s been a surprise to them. They say it’s never happened before, but it’s proven to be a big deal. I’m roaming the halls of the offices during the day, walking into people’s offices, and allowing drop ins to my office when I’m available. All unexpected, but bringing very positive feedback.
Pace myself – I realize I’m only one person and although everyone wants some of my time right now and there are more ideas than we could ever accomplish, I know I will burnout if I don’t pace myself. That’s meant I am saying no to some things…really many things. It isn’t easy to say no to such eager people, for me or them, but I know it will prove best in the end if I’m able to last for the long run.
Move slowly on the biggies – Being honest, there are some big items I’d like to change now. I am wise enough, however, to know that some changes are too big to launch quickly. I could. I’m in a honeymoon period. I could probably “get away with them”, but the people don’t really know me yet. I may win a battle, but lose the war. (Not that there is a battle. Just using a cliche. Why do I even have to say that?)
I’ll continue to update along the way. What questions do you have for me?
That’s how I’m operating these days. Ever been the new guy…the new pastor? What advice do you have for me?