7 Most Exciting Things a Pastor Experiences

Winning young man

Yesterday I shared the post 7 Most Frustrating Things Pastors Experience. I promised then that a post was due on the most exciting things a pastor experiences. There are many. Pastors get to see the best and worst of life it seems, but there are many positives.

Obviously, seeing someone become a follower of Christ or baptism of a believer, has to rank as a highlight of the pastor’s experience. That’s what we are called to do. But, that experience isn’t unique to pastors. Every believer, hopefully, gets excited about seeing people’s entry into faith. That’s the call of the church; not only pastors.

So, my list is beyond those experiences to things that may be somewhat unique to pastors. I’m not saying only pastors get excited about these experiences, but to pastors, these are especially exciting. Also, different pastors will have different answers. That’s where the comments section makes this post even better.

Here are 7 most exciting things pastors experience:

A child who loves church – They are our future. And, we know it. Jesus loves the little children. And so do we. I love when a little child leads “them” to church. When a child loves church, I know the parent is sure to be excited also.

Note takers – Seeing someone following a message closely. Hearing pages of the Bible turn. Priceless. Seeing people actually live the truths taught…don’t even get me started.

Sacrificial givers – The church is built on people willing to invest in her work. The generous giver…who gives with no strings attached…way to make a pastor smile. Maybe even dance.

Visitors and people who invite them – Visitors. Could we grow the church and sustain it long-term without them? Of course not. Every person in the church today, unless they were born into it, started as a visitor. Every new church member and every knew opportunity to add someone to our discipleship efforts starts with a visit. I love people who invite. I love those who come when invited. I just want to hug them all. (But, I promise not to hug you on your first visit…or ever if you prefer, because I want you to visit. Visit. Visit. Visit.)

Servant hearts – When I see a man or woman in the parking lot or a baby rocker in preschool, or someone who says “Pastor, I’m here to help you any way I can”, I am encouraged to keep going. Their enthusiasm for serving others encourages me.

New people joining the church – The church is a family and every pastor loves when the family grows. When people who have been visiting start coming more often, and eventually decide this is the church family…WOW! Exciting! I may try to look like it’s a normal day, because I don’t want you to think we are desperate for new members, or scare you as I shout real loud, but inside, I’m bursting with joy.

When the church is the church – I am encouraged when I hear someone is in the hospital and a church member has already made a visit. I get excited when I hear of needs…that have already been met. When the church behaves like we were called to behave, without a staff member or me having to lead the effort, I’m energized. Elated. Blessed.

There is my list.

Pastors, what would you add?

7 Most Frustrating Things Pastors Experience

Frustrated office manager overloaded with work.

I received this question on my blog recently.

Ron – What do you think are some of the most frustrating things that pastors experience?

Great question. I’m sure, like most jobs, there are frustrating things that happen while doing the best you know to do. Leadership deals with people. Different people. There can always be frustrations dealing with people different from us. Even people who love each other can be frustrated by each other.

But, the question was “most frustrating”. I had to think about that question.

I should first mention that I love the local church. (I shouldn’t have to mention it, but I do.) I believe the church is the hope for the world. I am a proponent of the local, Bible-believing church. We are filled with imperfect people, but our mission is God-inspired, God-given and to be God-glorifying.

Here’s my reply:

People who abuse power or position – It always bothers me, but even more so when it happens in the church. That includes, of course, the pastor. Ultimately, we are to follow Christ, but sometimes we can let positions and power get in the way of humility and obedience.

People who live dual lives – Hypocrisy. One church face and one community face. Frustrating. It gives the church a bad name. Many of my unchurched friends won’t come to church because they know someone who comes to church already. And, they aren’t impressed.

Rumors that spread with no basis of truth. (And, yes, it happens…often)

Selfishness – People who want what they want, even at the expense and inconvenience of others. Who will allow their personal preference to interfere with carrying out the ultimate mission of the church. Doesn’t sound very Biblical to me.

Tradition – I’m not against tradition per se. I like meeting at a set time every week, for example. I love getting gifts at Christmas. I get frustrated with tradition that is adhered to only because of tradition even thought it gets in the way of making disciples.

Time wasters – I’m on a mission. I have a keen sense that time is short and moves faster than I can fathom. I don’t want to waste precious Kingdom time debating issues that simply don’t matter.

Half-heartedness – Perhaps I got this one from Jesus. He called it lukewarm. I sense it when the Spirit of God is obviously active in the room, but so many look at me as if it’s a typical Sunday. I realize sometimes this is cultural or worship style preference. I’m okay when it’s that. It is frustrating when it’s a matter of immaturity of heart, especially when someone has been in the church for many years, but hasn’t grown deeper and more passionately in love with Christ. Some days I wish we were a ballgame. With bleachers. And a favorite team. Then they’d get excited.

So, that’s my honest list.

Pastor, share yours?

And, you don’t have to be a pastor to share. What frustrates you most in the church?

You can now read my list 7 Most Exciting Things a Pastor Experiences.

7 Vital Steps Prior to Implementing Major Change

Chalkboard with text Changes

As a pastor and leader, I am continually dealing with change. Everyday. Change is a part of life. For all of us.

Some change occurs without us doing anything. Some change is so routine it requires little thought or preparation by the leader. But, when making major change…change that impacts everyone…change the may be controversial…there are some steps to take before you begin implementation. Failing to do most or all of these, in my experience, could derail the effectiveness of the change. Keep in mind, these are steps I take. You may have a better system in place. If so, please help me learn from you.

Here are 7 steps before implementing major change:

Establish trust authority – I wrote about this principle HERE. Leaders shouldn’t attempt to implement change until they have enough trust of the people to solicit the support necessary for the change. You will need people to follow your leadership and that requires an established relationship of trust. Leaders need to be careful to not move until enough trust is in place for the size of the change. This doesn’t mean people will trust, or even like, the change, but it does mean they have trust in the leader.

Personal confidence and conviction – Check your heart. Have you prayed about it? Do you sense any reason you shouldn’t do it? In my experience, God gives tremendous freedom to us in how we carry out the mission. That’s why there are hundreds of styles and structures of churches all carrying out the same Great Commission. But, before you do anything else, make sure you are in this enough to see it through. Would you be willing to fight the naysayers on this one? Are you willing to lose people over it? I’m not saying it will come to that, but that’s the level of commitment you need to have before you introduce major change.

Leadership – Make sure you get buy in from those who will most likely end up implementing the change. Personally, I’m seldom willing to move forward if the staff I’ve surrounded myself with doesn’t believe in the change. There may be times I need to vision cast better and help them see the need, but their support is critical if major change is going to be successful.

Focus group – On major changes, I like to bring in a group of people who are generally supportive of my leadership, but represent all the major groups within the church. I cast the vision for the change, get their feedback and answer questions. Again, they may or may not immediately agree with the change, but I know they will be a respectful audience. I always tell them that as a leader, I will have to follow the direction I feel God is leading me, but I value their input in the process of discernment. (And, I genuinely do. Make sure you are open to this as a leader.) This step always makes the change better by their input and helps build a base of support for the change.

Stakeholder analysis – I wrote about this concept HERE. I try to know the most interested and influential people in the particular change. We attempt to reach out to them first. Again, this step builds support among influencers and usually further enhances the change with their input and hopefully their support. Many times this group become supporters of the change, or at least they don’t work against it, because they feel included in the process. (Again, leader, make sure you are open to this input. You need people to make any change effective. The more buy-in you get early the more effective you will be.)

Major questions answered – (Or a plan to get them.) One of my goals is getting as many answers to questions as possible on the table before the change is implemented. We can never anticipate all the questions or scenarios that will arise, but the more we can address in advance the better prepared we will be to handle them when they do. In each of the groups listed here, I always ask what questions are in the room and what questions they may sense others will have.

Timetable – It is impossible to do this perfectly, but having a planned approach to implementing the change makes the change more successful. This needs to be planned, as much as possible, before the change implementation begins. People WILL ask this question. Be realistic with your timetable, but don’t be afraid to let it stretch you either. The best change requires an element of faith.

Those are some of the steps I think through before making major change. As a pastor, I know God has called me to lead a church that will always need to be changing as the people we try to reach our changing. Refusing to change simply diminishes our effectiveness and shortens our lifespan as a local church. The more I can do to prepare people for change, the more effective that change can be.

Any steps you would add?

5 Ways to Hear from People Different from You

Leadership Ahead

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is:

Forgetting that everyone doesn’t think like the leader.

People are different. They think differently. They have different desires. Thankfully, they have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are different from the leader.

If you want to lead people who are different from you…and you should…you’ll often have to lead differently from how you wish to be led. Frankly, I’d be comfortable leading by email, but how healthy would that environment be?

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership, that people are different, you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and your team fails to live up to its potential.

Here are some thoughts to warrant against this:

(Please understand, I am using the word “I” a lot here. I don’t really like that term much, because I’m a leader in training too, but I want you to see how I being intentional in this area and provide a few practical examples.)

Intentionally surrounding yourself with diverse personalities. One intentional thing I do is try to have good friends who stretch me as a person, even outside or my work. I have some extremely extroverted friends, for example. They remind me that everyone isn’t introverted like me. On any church staff I lead, I know I want some different personalities to compliment mine. Building my comfort with this in my personal life helps me welcome it even more in my professional life. We will all share a common vision, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it. Ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?”

Asking questions. Lots of them. Personally, I ask lots of questions. I give plenty of opportunity for input into major decisions before a decision is final. We do assessments as a team. I have quarterly meetings with direct reports. We have frequent all staff meetings. I periodically set up focus groups of people for input on various issues. I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible. I try to consistently surround myself with different voices so I receive diversity of thought. I place a personal value on hearing from people who I know respect me, but are not afraid to be honest with me.

Never assuming agreement by silence. I want to know, as best as I can, not only what people are saying, but what people are really thinking. To accomplish this, I periodically allow and welcome anonymous feedback. I realize, just because of position, and partly because of personalities, that some are not going to be totally transparent with me. I try to provide multiple ways for feedback. Even during meetings I welcome texting or emailing me (depending on the size and structure of the meeting) during the meeting. I’ve found that approach works better for some who may not provide their voice otherwise.

Welcoming input. This probably should have come first, but this is a personal attitude. I have to actually want to hear from people on my team. Even the kind of information that hurts to hear initially. I personally want any team I lead to feel comfortable walking into my office, at any time, and challenging my decisions. (I keep candy in my office knowing it attracts them for frequent returns.) Granted, I want to receive respect, but I expect to equally give respect. Knowing what my team really thinks empowers me to lead them better.

Structuring for expression of thought. Here I am referring to the DNA…the culture…for the entire team. And, it is very important. There has to be an environment with all leaders that encourages people to think for themselves. That kind of culture doesn’t happen without intentionality. As a leader, I try to surround myself with people sharper than me, but I want all of us to have the same attitude towards this principle of hearing from others. I believe in the power of “WE”. If we want to take advantage of the experience and talents in our church, we have to get out of the way, listen, and follow others lead when appropriate.

It’s not easy being a leader, but it is more manageable when you discipline yourself to allow others to help you lead.

How do you structure yourself to hear from people different from you? What are some ways you have seen this done by other leaders?

7 Benefits of Being a Controlling Leader

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Oh, the joy of controlling leadership. It’s highly under appreciated.

Oh, I know, this appears to be a change of tune for me. This blog has been critical of controlling leadership as a very poor leadership style. I apologize. I should have recognized the benefits in controlling leadership before now. Thankfully, there’s still time in my leadership career. Hopefully I caught you in time too.

Controlling leadership, if done well, offers some powerful contributions to the organization.

Here are 7 benefits of being a controlling leader:

You keep things small. Small is so easy to manage. Growing is so overrated.

New ideas are stifled. New always translates to different…you know…how we’ve done things before now. Different can be messy. Keep things neat and tidy and life is more comfortable.

Change is minimal. Change is hard. Unpopular. Challenging. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

There are fewer misunderstandings. Everything is clear. You’re the boss and no one questions your authority. There. Take that.

You get all the credit. You can even blame others for mistakes. Because, after all, you’re in control.

Risk and fear is minimized. (Or so it seems at the time.) If you can control things, you can keep things from getting away from you. It’s. safer. (At least it seems.)

People don’t grow. You know what happens when people grow. They start developing their own leadership skills. Pretty soon they start thinking they could do things on their own. Perhaps even better than you can do them. They may even leave searching for another opportunity. They may leave. Stop that. (And that’ll keep ‘em with you forever, right?)

See how cool this is. Right now you’re probably thinking you should’ve thought of this controlling leader deal years ago. You can thank me later.

But, you controlling leaders better quit reading this post. Someone is waiting on you to make a decision. You make all of them around there…don’t you? It’s what you do best.

What other benefits have you seen to controlling leadership?

This is a satirical post. It is intended to be funny. But, if you’ve ever worked for or been a controlling leader…you know it’s not funny. Don’t you?

A brilliant setup to the most important question ever…

question mark

While He was praying in private and His disciples were with Him, He asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am? ” They answered, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, that one of the ancient prophets has come back.” “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am? ” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah! ” (Luke 9:18-20)

I am not sure Jesus cared what others were saying at this point. It was an introduction to a more important question. He was getting all the options on the table. I’m not even sure we heard all of the ones they listed.

But the real issue was, “Who do YOU say I am?”

In the end, as far as you should be concerned, that’s all that matters. Answering that question isn’t a group activity. It’s not a team consensus. It’s not subject to public opinion or popularity of the culture of the day.

But, it’s the most important question you’ll ever answer…

Who do you say the “I AM” is?

Who is Jesus to you?

5 Clever Ways I Find Time to Exercise

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I’ve written before about my discipline of exercise. Honestly, it has to be one of the keys to me being effective in life and leadership. I can tell the difference in productivity when I exercise and when I don’t.

I talk to busy, stressed pastors every week and frequently I ask them how they are staying physically fit. Most have been trained and are more disciplined in their spiritual life, but the reality is their physical life is impacting their health…and…if its not now, it will someday impact every other part of their life.

As much as it depends on me, I think it is important to take care of our health. But, I’ll admit, working 50 or even 70 hour weeks at times makes it difficult to fit exercise into a packed schedule.

I’m purposeful enough though that I’ll find a way.

Here are 5 clever ways I find time to exercise:

Work on the elliptical. A few times a week I go over my notes for Sunday. Why not do it while I exercise? I sometimes write blog posts while dancing, I mean moving, on the elliptical. (Posts like this one.) It takes practice to balance, but now it’s a great way for me to kill two birds. One stone. What do you have to do that is a routine for you, but you could do while exercising? Anything? Be creative.

Exercise on lunch break. One problem for me is eating three full meals a day. I can’t do it these days and maintain my weight. Sometimes my schedule dictates three meals, because many of my meetings are done at these times. I’m bad at resisting food when I have it in front of me. On days I can, I try to grab something light, fast and healthy and hit the road or gym.

Walk to talk. Weather permitting, Cheryl and I take walks together almost daily. It allows us to catch up on the day, debrief the week ahead and enjoy exercising together. I’ve done this with staff members too. If you have an extended talk…walk.

Mental breaks. If I’m stuck in my thoughts, I can almost always spur myself if I exercise. The break in schedule always pays back dividends beyond the apparent loss of time. This is especially true during the most stressful weeks. (By the way, this means I’m always ready with clothes at the office or in my car.)

Prayer time is a sweating opportunity. I can pray when I run. Some can and some can’t. But if you can. Why not?

Again, I realize the value of exercise for my life…for the quality of my life…and so I’ll make time for it. You can find time if you are creative and disciplined with your time.

(By the way. This principle works for anything you value. Prayer. Bible reading. Relationships. We find time for that which we value most.)

Have you found any clever ways to work exercise into your schedule?

I’m open to learning new ones.

When You Can’t Seem to Find Your Purpose

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The other day someone said to me, “Pastor, Sorry I haven’t gotten involved in the church yet, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I can’t seem to find my purpose.”

I hear that kind of thing often. In this case, it’s been five years and the person is still waiting. Doing nothing. Inactive. Waiting for that “purpose” which may never arrive with this manner of search.

Here’s a good principle when seeking purpose in life.

Sometimes you have to work a purpose to find a purpose.

I hear from people all the time who can’t seem to find their place.

In church. In work. In life.

They want to know their purpose. Their unique role. Their calling.

But they never seem to find it.

So they wait on the sidelines. They make excuses.

Never seeming to find their purpose in life. What they do best. What they were meant to do.

My advice.

Try something new.

Do things. Explore. Test. Experiment.

Do honorable, good, helpful things.

But just do something. Try lots of different things. But do something.

You’ll do some things well. Some not so well. You’ll fail. You’ll succeed. You’ll have fun. Some not so fun.

Along the way you may just find a purpose.

Life purposes seldom fall from the sky. Mostly they are discovered in the process of discovery. How you are wired. How you are gifted. Where you have passion. Where God wants to use you most.

Sometimes you have to work a purpose to find a purpose.

Warning: Don’t Be the Senior Leader Unless…

Warning

Here’s a warning:

Don’t Agree to Be the Senior Leader Unless…

You are ready to lead alone at times…or at least feel like you are.

You aren’t striving for popularity, knowing that every decision you make is unpopular to someone.

You can make the hard decisions, even the ones involving people or conflict.

You will try to see all sides of an issue.

You are comfortable with change and thinking outside the box.

You are okay when others receiving credit; even for something you initiated.

You can delegate leadership…and truly empower others, believing things are better when other people help make decisions.

You don’t let criticism derail you for long, but stay committed to the task before you.

You can think beyond today and help others join you by casting an engaging vision.

You highly value people and their contributions.

And _________?

Senior leaders…share yours.

7 Tips When the Team is Struggling to Succeed

teamwork concept on blackboard

I talk with team leaders every week where the team is struggling and trying to figure out how to succeed again. I understand. I’ve been the leader of teams in situations like that many times. Every team experiences times of decline. What you do next almost always determines how long it lasts and how well you recover.

First, I should say, that every situation is unique and requires individual attention. Don’t use a script for your team. Also, don’t be afraid to bring in outside help. It could be anyone from a paid consultant to trading a friend a favor who leads another team. Everyone can use a fresh perspective at times. It takes humble and wise leaders to welcome input from outsiders.

With those disclaimers in mind, I can offer a few thoughts to shape your current paradigm of thought.

What do you do when your team is struggling?

Here are 7 suggestions:

Admit it – Pretending there isn’t a problem will only make things worse and delay making things better. Most likely everyone on the team and in the organization knows there is a problem. Again, this is where the leader must be humble enough and wise enough to recognize and admit the problem. (I realize the next question is “What do I do when the leader isn’t this wise or humble?” That would be the focus of another post, but hopefully this post will help. Maybe email it to them. :) )

Recast vision – People need reminding why they are doing what they are doing. You should have a vision big enough to fuel people’s energy towards achieving it. If you don’t have one, spend time there first. If you already do…and most teams do…they may have forgotten it, but it exists somewhere…now is the time to tell it. Frequently. (For my pastor friends, you have a vision given to you…we know it…we just sometimes get distracted by other things. Tradition. Programs. Systems. Stuff.)

Evaluate – Now is also the time to ask hard questions? What is going wrong? Who is not working on the team? Where have we lost our way? Where are we stuck? How did we lose our way? What are we missing? This is a great place to bring in some outside perspective if needed. The less you try to protect personal agendas here the greater chance you’ll have of recovery.

Introduce change – You need to try something new. Perhaps several somethings new. Now is not the time to resist doing something different. Obviously, what you’ve been doing isn’t working. That’s the point of the post…remember. Explore again. Be intentional and make sure the changes line with the vision, but encourage movement. Movement often spurs momentum. Especially new movement.

Fuel potential – There are usually areas that are working and areas that are not. If no areas are working, you may be looking for different answers than this post can provide. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what is working when you are clouded by what isn’t working, but you must try. (Outside perspectives can sometimes work here too.) Often these are things the team is known for or things that are fairly new but are working. Wherever there is a spark of any kind, you must fuel it. This is the best place to bring spur more momentum quickly.

Celebrate small wins – When you have something to celebrate, make a big deal out of it. A really big deal. Put your party hat on now! Seriously, don’t go overboard over something that people will quickly dismiss as nothing, but if you are seeing any signs of hope, share it. People need the energy of something going well to keep pushing forward for even more success.

Encourage one another – Remember, the hard times as a team can actually help build your team for long-term success. Allow this to be a time you grow together as a team, figure out this together, and help the team to grow and succeed again. Pray for and with each other. Cheer each other on daily! You can do it!

Have you been a part of a turnaround team? What helped?