The Reason Many Policies are Written

Many policies are written because someone didn’t want to solve a problem.

In her book “Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands”, Nancy Ortberg talks about the need to differentiate between “a tension to be managed and a problem to be solved“. One example for me is the constant tension between the administration/money side of ministry and the discipleship/hands on side of ministry. As pastor, I’m always going to have to balance tension between our business administrator working to conserve cash and our youth pastor finding legitimate ministry needs in which to spend it, for example. That’s a tension to be managed, not a problem to be solved. On the other hand, an employee who is taking advantage of a more casual organizational structure, which I typically prefer…that’s a problem to be solved. Quickly. A system, which is not working, causing more harm than good to the organization…problem to be solved. Now.

Most of the time, however, in my experience, churches are notorious for creating a new policy to attempt to manage the problem rather than doing the difficult work of solving it. Solving the problem often involves getting personal with people. It involves challenging people. It involves change. It involves holding people accountable to a higher standard. That’s messy. It’s never fun. Most churches like neat, clean and seemingly easy. (Just being honest.)

Using my illustration above, if the youth pastor has a perceived spending problem, rather than addressing the problem with him directly, many times a policy is created to “solve” the problem and curtail spending. Every other staff member may be performing satisfactorily, but the policy controls everyone. Plus, without wise counsel, the youth pastor never learns principles of healthy budgeting or how to manage cash flow, for example, and it continues to impact his ministry for years to come. Problem not solved.

Policies are easy. They are a piece of paper. They may involve some discussion, perhaps a committee meeting (maybe even a tense committee meeting), maybe even a church vote, but they seldom specifically address the people who are causing the problem in the first place. They make people feel better about the problem, but they almost never solve real problems. In fact, they usually only create more problems…which later need to be solved!

For more of my thoughts on policies, see THIS POST. I realize this problem is not limited to churches. Even the best organizations and corporations struggle to address problems as needed.

My advice:

Manage the tensions, but solve the problems.

Do the hard work. It’s what leaders are supposed to do. Not always easiest. Always best.

Have you seen churches (or organizations) try to manage a problem that needed to be solved?

Bonus points if you give me an example.

7 Ways I Keep My Wife as My Partner in Ministry

Recently I received this question as a comment on my blog:

Could you share or possibly write a post about your relationship with your wife and how you incorporate or make her feel a part of your ministry and relationships?

Great question. My wife, Cheryl, is a partner in my ministry. In every church we’ve been she’s been widely loved and popular. She was before I was in ministry and taught Sunday school. She has been as a pastor’s wife. She’s very visible and always ready to join with me in anything we do at the church. I have joked that when I’ve left one ministry for another, they’ve usually told me I’m free to go, but I need to leave Cheryl behind.

I thought about this question of how this works for us. Some of these might work for others.

Here are 7 ways I keep Cheryl as my partner in ministry:

I tell my church she’s my partner – That seems obvious, but I want my church to know that I value her in my ministry. She’s not a silent bystander. She’s a vital part of who I am to the church. Emotionally it also encourages her if she hears me saying how much I need her beside me. (And I do.) I’m very clear with her of ways she can assist me on Sundays and during the week.

I keep her from assigned commitments – I realize this won’t work for every church or couple, but I’ve always been clear with the leaders of the churches I’ve pastored that Cheryl will not be assigned a specific task, unless she volunteers to do so. She often leads short-term Bible studies on times other than Sunday mornings, but I help her keep Sunday mornings free. I want her available to assist me in ministry. Again, I realize the size of the church may make it necessary for the pastor’s spouse to be a key volunteer in some area. I’m not even recommending it necessarily, but Cheryl and I like being close to each other between services. We can tag team with visitors, for example. She catches some and I catch others. We constantly introduce people to each other. It works for us.

I let her work in her area of passion – Cheryl loves to be busy. She loves greeting people, holding babies, and leading women’s Bible studies. I try to assist her in our schedule to allow her the freedom to participate in the things close to her heart.

I keep her informed – I work long days, but sometime before we go to bed or in the morning, we debrief my day. I try to make sure she’s as informed as anyone about what is going on or happening in the church. I don’t want her to have any surprises because I didn’t tell her something. At the same time, I don’t put Cheryl in the middle of a controversy. I never expect her to speak on my behalf. She’s good about saying, “You’ll have to talk with Ron” on issues which she may not have an answer or that we haven’t yet addressed together.

I seek her input – Cheryl is my biggest sounding board of ideas in the church. I want to know her opinion. She protects me with an insight and intuition I don’t have. Especially when it comes to making people decisions, Cheryl is my most trusted advisor.

I don’t hide things from her – I could try to protect her, but I’ve learned she will discover the truth eventually and be more hurt because I didn’t share it with her first. (The only exception to this is that I don’t share intimate personal information about men I meet with in the church. I don’t want her to struggle when she sees some of them on Sundays. With women, this is the opposite. She may know things she doesn’t share with me. I always tell women I meet with that I have to include my wife in intimate details about her life. I have to protect my heart and marriage first.)

She shares my office…and my life – The best way I keep Cheryl involved in my ministry is that we keep our relationship as healthy as possible. We genuinely do life together. Cheryl has access to my office, my calendar, my computer, my wallet… :) She frequently comes to my office, puts things in my desk, and has freedom to everything in my “personal space”. I’ve always told my assistants that they can communicate anything to Cheryl they feel is pertinent. We have no secrets. She feels a part of my ministry mostly because she feels a part of my life.

Is your spouse a partner in your ministry? Tell me how that works for you.

(This week I’m addressing questions I’ve been asked where I felt the answer was general enough to apply to more than just the person asking. I get many questions via Twitter, Facebook and blog comments that I believe are too long an answer to share only once. It’s good material for my blog and I feel has a wider use of my time.)

7 Habits of a Successful Leader

I’m a student of leadership. I am consistently talking to, interviewing, and learning from leaders I believe have been successful; regardless of their vocational field. If they have honorable intentions (which I believe is necessary to be considered successful anyway), then I can learn from them.

I’ve observed a few common habits that successful leaders have that may, in my opinion, separate them from less successful leaders. I’m not sure you can eliminate any of them completely, but certainly one would need 5 or more, in my observation, to reach the status of success in leadership.

Here are 7 habits of successful leaders:

Prioritizing each day – Everyday we are flooded with opportunities. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are best. You often won’t know until you try on some of them, but successful leaders strive everyday to identify and do that which is the best use of their time.

Yielding to experience – Successful leaders know they must seek the input from others for continued success. There will always be someone with more experience in a subject. Many times that person will be someone the leader is supposed to be leading. Successful leaders surround themselves with people smarter they they are, especially in areas of their weaknesses. They are never afraid to ask, “Can you help me?” Pretending to have all the answers can destroy a leader. When a leader is willing to humble him or herself and solicit input, the team feels validated and the best answer is discovered.

Networking – Iron sharpens iron. The most successful leaders I know have a network of other successful leaders around them. They glean from each other, share war stories and help each other when needed. The sheltered leader will seldom reach his or her full potential.

Continuous learning – Successful leaders are sponges for new information. They are continually reading, taking notes, and exploring new ideas and ways of doing things.

Maintaining health – Successful leaders learn to balance the demands on them by remaining healthy physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally, as much as it depends on them. No one can escape sudden tragedy or the trials of life, but successful leaders weather those storms by being as prepared as possible before they arrive.

Willing to make hard decisions – Successful leaders don’t allow fear, intimidation or friendship to keep them from making the right decisions for the organization they lead. Leading doesn’t always make a person popular, but successful leaders care more about the greater purpose than their personal advancement.

Commitment to a higher purpose – Successful leaders are striving for something bigger than themselves…bigger than the reality of today. For me personally, this is my passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but successful leaders are willing to endure the loneliness of leadership, the stress of leading, and the pressure to perform at higher levels, because they believe in something worth the fight.

Those are my observations.

What would you add?

Learn How to Preach at this One-Day Workshop

Conferences are great, but sometimes, the content can be overwhelming. That’s why Preaching Rocket has created a one-day workshop focused on just one ministry topic: Preaching.

Preaching is one of the most important ways to teach people to follow Jesus and help them understand God’s Word. Dr. Thom Rainer found that 90% of UNCHURCHED people choose a church because of the message; so good preaching is a great way to reach new people, too.

It’s one of the most important and visible things in a church, which is why you should make time to develop your skills.
Preaching Rocket is hosting a one-day workshop called Preach Better Sermons LIVE, featuring some of the nation’s top communicators – Andy Stanley, Pete Wilson, Jeff Henderson, Reggie Joiner, Pete Scazzaro, Jarrett and Jeanne Stevens and more. There are seven chances to attend.

Here are the dates and cities:

  • August 31 – Atlanta (Special Guest: Andy Stanley)
  • September 27 – Chicago (Special Guests: Jarrett and Jeannie Stevens)
  • October 18 – Nashville (Special Guest: Pete Wilson)
  • November 16 – Los Angeles (Special Guest: Reggie Joiner)
  • December 6 – New York (Special Guest: Pete Scazzero)
  • January 23 – Dallas (Special Guest: Reggie Joiner)
  • February 21 – Orlando (Special Guest: TBA)

The cost of the event is just $49 until June 15th; then the price increases. Every attender will get a copy of Andy Stanley’s newest book – Deep and Wide – and lunch from Chick-fil-a®.


Visit the event page and plan to register now for the lowest early registration price.

Just for today…

Just for today….

Let’s:

Forget what is behind and press on…

Not grow weary in doing good…

Consider others better than ourselves…

Love our enemy…

Pray continually…

Humble ourselves…

Forgive as we’ve been forgiven…

Let your light shine before men…

Cast our cares upon Him…

Lay up treasures in Heaven…

Judge not, lest you be judged…

Seek so we will find…

Tomorrow is a new day….

But for today…

What else should we do today?

7 Popular Myths about Leadership

One thing I learned in obtaining a master’s in leadership is that defining leadership is difficult. John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.” I love that simple definition. Still, I have observed that there are many myths when it comes to even what that means.

Here are some 7 of my favorite myths about leadership:

A position makes one a leader – Some believe that simply having a big or fancy title makes one a leader. Not true. I’ve known many people with a position whom no one was truly following. They may give out orders and command a certain obedience, but no one is willingly following their lead.

If I’m not hearing anyone complain, everyone must be happy – The fact is that sometimes the leader is the last to know about a problem. Some people are intimidated by leadership. Other times, they don’t know how to approach the leader, so they complain to others, but not the leader.

I can lead everyone the same way - Actually, people are different and require different leadership styles. (Read a post I wrote about that subject HERE.)

Leadership and management are the same thing – Great organizations need both, but they are not equal and they require different skills. (Read a post I wrote about one difference HERE.)

Being the leader makes you popular – The truth is, many times the opposite is true. Leaders can be very lonely people. (I wrote about that HERE.)

Leaders must be extroverted charismatics – Not true. Some of the best leaders I know are very introverted and subdued. Leadership is about influence. If someone is trustworthy, dependable and going somewhere, others will follow.

Leaders accomplish by controlling others - Absolutely not. That’s not leadership, that’s dictatorship. Effective leaders encourage others to lead, be creative, and take ownership and responsibility for accomplishing the vision. (Read the difference in leading people and controlling people HERE.)

What other myths about leadership have you observed?

10 Hard Life Lessons I’ve Learned by Experience

Some of life’s greatest lessons come packaged in a hard personal experience. I’ve learned a few things in life, but truly, the greatest things I know came through mistakes, failures and disappointments.

Here are 10 hard to learn life lessons:

  • A “lesson in humility” teaches far more than a “ego boost”…
  • Often…in my experience…what I don’t want to do is the very thing I need to do the most…
  • The best friends sometimes say the hardest things to hear…
  • Sometimes it’s not until you give up the right to control that a breakthrough comes…
  • People are more honest with you if they can predict your reaction…
  • We hurt most the ones we love the most…
  • Very few people can really comply with “don’t tell anyone”…
  • You never get a second chance at a first impression…
  • God’s way is better than my own…
  • Rebuilding trust is more difficult than keeping established trust…

What are some hard lessons you’ve had to learn?

Change Your Life in 30 Days: Ted Talk

I love simple! Maybe it’s because my simple mind can comprehend simple. :)

Watch this short video TED Talk. It’s simple, but you could use the simplicity to change some areas of your life. Take a few minutes and be encouraged.

I have a few ideas of how this could help me.

How about you? Anything you’d like to try to improve or achieve?

5 Ways to Deal with Your Past

I’m a huge proponent of moving forward. I’ve never been a fan of remaining in the past.

That could be because I’ve had some past I’d rather not remember…

It could be because I am very forward-thinking…

Either way, I’d prefer to reconcile the past, make the most of it, and get on with my life.

Bottom line, however, is that there are really a few choices when it comes to dealing with the past.

Here are 5 ways to deal with your past:

Forget it - If you choose to and you are really skilled, you can block all memory of the past from your mind. In extreme settings, I have seen people do this naturally, but I must admit, it’s rare.

Misuse it – You can twist the past for your benefit…gain sympathy, make people feel sorry for you, and use it as a somewhat personal advantage. The people who choose this option are usually as phony as their story.

Ignore it – You can pretend your past never happened. You man make up your own version of your past and live in a false reality. With the people I’ve seen do this it seems you never really know the true person behind this use of the past.

Excuse it – You can blame every bad decision you’ll ever make on your past. After all, it was “his” fault”, right? I’ve known people with this excuse who never own up to responsibility…and they always have a reason for not doing so.

Use it - In my humble opinion, as one with a somewhat broken past, the best way to deal with your past is to use it for a greater good. How could your story benefit others? How could God use your brokenness to bless others?

Which option are you currently choosing to deal with your past? (Be honest!)

A Secret Your Husband Keeps…But Needs You to Know

Ladies, here’s a secret your husband probably won’t share…

He needs your unconditional respect…in fact…he needs you to be his biggest fan…

Your support feeds his God-given ego…

Sure, that ego can be abused…

But just as you need his unconditional love, he needs your unconditional respect…

I realize you nor he is capable of perfectly fulfilling those individual needs…

But at least you know the secret now…

You see…

Doing well for the woman he loves is perhaps one of the greatest goals in a man’s life…

That inner desire starts at a very early age…

The little league ball player who turns around to see if mom watches him bat…

The same little boy who brings a flower (weed :) ) home to mom…it’s the respect he’s seeking…

The truth is sometimes a guy feels as if he doesn’t measure up…actually a lot of times…

(Please don’t tell him I told you this…)

He feels the weight of being wonderful in so many areas…his home, his family, his work…even in his hobby…

It’s a pressure men carry internally…mostly never sharing it with anyone…

Chances are that fear of failure is his greatest fear…

He sees you doing so well with all your responsibilities…the home, the kids, relationships…

Even your walk with God shines brighter than his sometimes…okay…most times…

You handle things so well, in fact…at times, he’s tempted not to even try…

(Please don’t tell him I told you this :) )

One time after preaching…Cheryl said nothing…

Usually she says “Great job today”…or…”That was a good one”

That day…nothing…

3 days later…I asked, “Was I that bad?”…

I needed her positive feedback and encouragement….it’s what fuels me…

Your husband does too…

I know that sounds shallow of us…perhaps it is…

But…

Here’s the best part of the secret….

If your husband feels respected in his home…he will do anything to keep it…

Maybe even start doing the dishes….brag on him when he does that too…

Maybe next will be the dusting…nah…don’t push it!

Next time your little boy…I mean big boy…is up to bat…make sure he can turn around and see you smiling…

(This is a revised version of a post I did a couple years ago, and a light-hearted way to address a serious issue I see in many marriages.)

For more of my marriage advice, go HERE.