Thriving in Ministry Leadership

A lot of ministries begin with a bang, then explode with new growth. But after the initial growth, they plateau. I have seen this repeated thousands of times from pastors I’ve talked with over the years.

God doesn’t want ministries to stagnate. Not only does he want them to succeed, but he also wants us to succeed as ministry leaders.

To help us achieve this goal, God has given us examples of errors to avoid — seven common traps of leadership that Satan is most likely to use to keep your ministry from becoming all that God wants it to be.

1. You stop growing personally

Whenever you find yourself resisting a new way of doing something, defending the status quo, or opposing a change that God has told you to make, watch out — you’re about to lose your place of leadership.

What’s the key to overcoming this leadership trap? You must continue developing your skills, your character, your perspective, your vision, your heart for God, and your dependence upon him.

Never stop learning. Read and reread the Bible. Listen to podcasts and sermons. Read books and blogs and magazines. Attend conferences and seminars.

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Leadership

When you become a pastor, you become a leader.

I’m often asked specifics about my administrative style, but I think leadership style is just as important. Understanding basic, universal leadership concepts is essential to your success.

Here are six non-negotiable facts about leadership . . .

1. Nothing happens until someone provides leadership for it.

This is a law of life. For instance, the Civil Rights Movement made little progress until a man came along named Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “I have a dream.” The NASA space program was quite limited until John F. Kennedy said, “We’re going to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.”

Saddleback Church started because God said, “Rick, I want you to be a leader and get the thing off the ground.” When problems arise in your own family, nothing happens until somebody assumes leadership and says, “We’re going to do something about it.”

Everything rises or falls on leadership, and many problems can be traced to a lack of competent leadership.

I believe one of the greatest problems today is a leadership shortage within our churches.

2. Leadership is influence.

If I had to summarize leadership in one word,…

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Up Steps

One of the ways I believe you can assess whether or not your church is maturing spiritually is this: The standards for leadership keep getting tougher as time passes. You keep turning up the heat every year, requiring a deeper level of commitment to Christ and spiritual growth.

Every time you raise the standards for leadership, you bring everyone else in the church along a little bit. A rising tide raises all the boats in the harbor.

Focus on raising the commitment of your leadership, not those who are the least committed in the crowd or even the semi-committed in your congregation. Whenever you raise the standard of commitment for those who are in the most visible positions of leadership, it raises the expectations among everyone else.

You must ask people for commitment

If you don’t ask people for commitment, you won’t get it. You have not because you ask not.

It’s amazing to me that many community organizations require more from participants than local churches do. If you’ve ever been a Little League parent, you know that when your child signed up to play, you were required to make a major commitment in terms of providing…

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Growth

The New Testament says a lot about the health of the church. Consider just a few verses:

“As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing” (Ephesians 4:16 NLT).

“The focus of my letter wasn’t on punishing the offender but on getting you to take responsibility for the health of the church” (2 Corinthians 2:9 The Message).

“You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other” (James 3:18 The Message).

Church Health is the Key to Church Growth

All living things grow if they’re healthy. You don’t have to make them grow — it’s just natural for living organisms. As a parent, I didn’t have to force my three children to grow. They naturally grew up. As long as I removed the hindrances, such as poor nutrition or an unsafe environment, their growth was automatic.

If my children had not grown up, something would have been terribly wrong. I would have done whatever it took to discover the disease and correct it. I…

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By Nate Stewart, National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery

I consider myself an independent person. I am comfortable by myself. Over the years, though, I have come to realize that there is a significant difference between being by myself and being alone. One of the hardest parts of my mental health struggle is the feeling of being all alone.

At times I feel like I have no one to reach out to for help. Sometimes I feel like no one understands what I’m going through. When I’m feeling like that, I really don’t want to be alone.

Thankfully, I have come to an understanding about God that has helped me through those times when I am feeling alone. God is not some distant being who cannot relate to me. He is someone who does understand because Jesus, who is God, came to Earth and lived among us.

For me, one of the most powerful verses in Scripture is John 11:35, “Jesus wept” (NIV). These two words speak so much to me. “Jesus wept” does not mean he had one little romanticized tear running down his cheek. He bawled. He felt the pain and…

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By April

Depression is a monster — a foul beast that creeps into the mind and a storm that torments the soul, wreaking havoc while destroying hope. My name is April, a grateful believer in Jesus who struggles with depression and anxiety. My grandmother, my Mema, was the center of my life during my early childhood. When I was 11 years old, she died after a struggle with breast cancer. I was left trying to make sense of it all. She had told me she was going to run circles around me in the yard when she got better, and she would never lie to me, right?

I became angry with God. I hated him and openly blamed him for the cause of my pain. I questioned his existence. Why would a loving God take away one of the most important people in my life? Why would a loving God take away one of the greatest sources of joy and love I felt I had ever known? A paralyzing depression closely followed her death. It was a painful poison that slowly spread. This poison intruded my thoughts and debilitated my ability to maintain…

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Church Teaching

You need supportive relationships if you’re going to make it in life, and God has put people in your life for your health and your healing.

God put Adam in the Garden of Eden, and while it was a perfect environment, God also acknowledged that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. God had designed him for relationship, just as he has designed all of us for relationship.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:3 that God “has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God’s own family” (TLB).

When you were born physically, you joined the human family, the human race. When you’re born spiritually, you join God’s family.

The church is not an institution, a religious club, a society, an organization, or a business. The Bible describes the church as a family. That’s how we are to relate to each other.

The Christian life is not just a matter of believing; it includes belonging. And belonging to a church family is essential to our recovery and our healing.

You can measure your spiritual commitment by how much you love the church. The Bible says Christ loved it…

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Every relationship — even a good one — has conflict. If you don’t know how to deal with it, how to resolve it, how to manage it, you can kill your relationship.

The Bible says conflict is caused by selfishness. James 4:1 says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Aren’t they caused by the selfish desires that fight to control you?” (GNT). I am basically a selfish person. I think of me before I think of anybody else. And you do, too. I want what I want and you want what you want, and when these competing desires collide, that’s called conflict.

The night before I got married, my father-in-law sat down with us and said, “There are five areas where marriages usually have conflict: money, sex, in-laws, children, and communication.”

My father-in-law was a prophet. In our marriage we’ve gone five for five! We’ve hit every single one of them.

Some of you are in major pain right now. You are frustrated. You feel stuck in your relationship because you have argued about certain issues over and over with no resolution, much less reconciliation. You don’t know what to do.

If you’re going to…

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Discouragement is unique to human beings, and it’s universal.

Eventually everyone feels it, including those in ministry. I have no doubt you’ve experienced discouragement at times. You might even be discouraged as you read this article.

Do you know how often I have wanted to quit being pastor of Saddleback Church? Every Monday morning!

So here’s what I’ve learned about battling discouragement:

4 Causes of Discouragement

#1 Cause – Fatigue

When you’re physically or emotionally exhausted, you’re a prime candidate to be infected with discouragement. Your defenses are lowered and things can seem bleaker than they really are. This often occurs when you’re halfway through a major project and you get tired.

#2 Cause – Frustration

When unfinished tasks pile up, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. And when trivial matters or the unexpected interrupt you and prevent you from accomplishing what you really need to do, your frustration can easily produce discouragement.

#3 Cause – Failure

Sometimes your best laid plans fall apart, the project collapses, the deal falls through, no one shows up to the event. How do you react? Do you give in to self-pity? Do you blame others? As one man said, “Just when I think I can make…

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Psychology Today once asked 52,000 Americans, “What does it take to make you happy?” Their answers varied, but the interesting thing is that most of them dealt with external situations instead of internal issues. The popular idea of happiness involves having the right circumstances. It’s what I call “when and then” thinking.

When I get out of school, then I’ll be happy.

When I get a job, then I’ll be happy.

When I get married, then I’ll be happy.

When I have kids, then I’ll be happy.

When the kids leave home, then I’ll be happy.

Perhaps happiness isn’t the goal. At least not the way most people think about the word happiness.

Joy is a much better word because it describes a state we can choose regardless of our circumstances.

Joy is a choice. You choose to be joyful — often in spite of your circumstances. Right now, regardless of what you are facing in your ministry, you’re as joyful as you choose to be.

Life is difficult. Parenting is difficult. Ministry is difficult! There are a lot of things that don’t go right and don’t go your way in life. If your joy in ministry depends on…

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Calendar

Big-attendance days, like Easter and Christmas, are important for the growth of a church. You get to meet a lot of guests and then follow up with them after they visit. You also get a visual picture of what your church can look like a year down the road on an average Sunday.

The problem with big days, however, is that we sometimes see them as the end goal, and they’re not. High-attendance days are just one part of a bigger picture when it comes to making disciples.

After Easter, a lot of churches start preparing for what many leaders refer to as the “summer slump,” when attendance and giving decrease because of vacation travel, sports, and other interests competing with the church for time on the weekend.

That’s why it’s vital to focus, on a regular basis, on the systems you have in place for making disciples in between those big days.

To put it another way, you have five or six weeks per year to invite as many people as possible to attend a special worship event, but you have 52 weeks per year to help people take their next step in their spiritual walk.

Every week,…

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God Even Calls Broken Believers into Ministry Imageby Andy

I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with insecurity, anxiety, and sexual addiction, and my name is Andy.

I was raised in a wonderful home, the middle child of three brothers, and a son to a mom and a dad who loved their children dearly. My parents both grew up in homes with alcoholic fathers who would occasionally turn abusive. Due to this, my parents endured a great deal of dysfunction growing up but promised each other that their children would grow up in a stable home. Mom and Dad achieved this to the best of their ability. They gave my brothers and me a home where we were loved, and they raised us to work hard and always do our best.

Growing up I became quite competitive with my siblings, particularly my older brother. When I compared myself to him I always felt like I fell short somehow, and I began to deeply resent him and became jealous of him. I wanted to show him that I was better than him, that somehow I had worth and value. It would mean that…

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