Archives For Brian Jones

Email

There’s not a senior pastor out there who hasn’t loathed the day email was invented.

What began as a tool to make communication easier has become the ministry equivalent of the ancient Trojan horse – a seemingly innocent messenger that can quietly sneak into our well-ordered world and wreak havoc.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with email fatigue, here are three proactive steps you can take to make email work for you instead of against you.

Step 1: Choose Your Email Strategy

There are three basic models for how senior pastors can use email, each model having its own pros and cons.

Option #1: One email address shared publicly and privately (and managed by you).

This is where we all begin. We have one email address, and we share it everywhere – on the website, with family, with anyone at the church.

Option #2: Two Email Addresses. One public email address (that goes to an assistant) and a separate private email address (that goes to you).

This is the strategy I suggest for senior pastors I coach of churches 1,000 and under. Whatever email address you are currently using, end it. Give it a funeral. In its place create two email addresses….

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Serenity

Almost every single senior pastor I’ve coached over the last two years has dealt with depression and burnout. I don’t think this says anything specifically about the people I’ve coached as much as it does about how hard it is to be a senior pastor in the 21st century.

I can say with certainty that virtually no one understands the immense, unrealistic, and unrelenting pressure you’re under as a leader. No local business owner understands. No CEO of a Fortune 500 company understands. No leader in any field in your church understands. Nobody, and I mean nobody, understands what you go through on a week-in, week-out basis, except the people who have walked in your shoes.

You are absolutely and utterly unique in the pressures placed upon you. Do other leaders in other fields face wildly difficult pressures? Of course! But if they blow it in their jobs people don’t go to hell. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so don’t get me started.

Dealing with Depression as a Pastor

One mistake I see senior pastors make when they realize they’re depressed and/or burned out is they quickly go to counseling or get anti-depressant prescriptions without also…

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Vacation

I’m seeing a disturbing trend.

As of late, a number of highly gifted friends of mine who are senior pastors of small to medium-sized churches have come perilously close to burning out.

Now, there has always been burnout in ministry as long as there have been senior pastors. But my read on this is that the stress placed on the shoulders of leaders in the trenches is unprecedented, at least in my lifetime.

People are attending less, serving less, giving less, and demanding more. And you and I know whom this ends up affecting the most.

Listen, I can’t change the demands being placed on you, but I might be able to give you some practical ideas about how to simplify your life and keep your tank filled.

1. Take a dull axe to your overloaded weekly schedule.

One of the first things I do when I begin coaching someone is spend an exorbitant amount of time figuring out how they’re wired, then challenging every single thing they have on their calendar. We forcibly align what they say their priorities are with the actual, realistic, finite amount of time they have to accomplish these things.

All sermon writing gets done by Wednesday at…

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Coaching

I’ve never met a senior pastor who didn’t have the ability to do an outstanding job leading their staff, but I have met quite a few who didn’t have a clear plan in place for making that happen.

I would like to share with you a very simple framework for coaching your staff that will make your job, and theirs, much easier. I call it 4x4x4.

A 4x4x4 coaching process is when a senior pastor meets with a staff member to help them identify and make progress on the 4 people they are going to meet with and the 4 tasks they are going to accomplish over the next 4 weeks.

Setting up a 4x4x4 Coaching Process

To lead at the next level, every person on our team needs three things in place: responsibility, authority, and coaching.

Responsibility (I need you to tell me what am I responsible for doing)

This is provided when we give our staff members clear,  written job descriptions that outline for what they are responsible. In my experience, most senior pastors of churches under 600 do not provide written job descriptions for their staff. This is a mistake but one that is easy…

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Calendar

One of the first things I do when I begin coaching a senior pastor is lead them through a process of redesigning how they schedule their week to ensure their highest ministry priorities get consistently accomplished.

It is the same process whether they serve churches of 50 to 5,000.

Here’s what that process looks like:

Draw a Weekly CalendarPastors Schedule

The first thing I have senior pastors do is pull out a piece of paper and turn it to horizontal view.

Then I ask them to draw six horizontal lines, representing a typical weekly calendar, and placing the days of the week up at the top.

Mark X’s on Friday and Saturday Slots for Your Days Off

Pastors Schedule

Your workweek is now Sunday through Thursday. No more work on Fridays and Saturdays.

This immediately presents two problems for the typical senior pastor. First, they’re still doing their sermons on Friday and Saturday. Second, they take Monday off.

Both of these will…

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If your church has spent more than five years in an attendance range of between 290 to 490, you are stuck at the 400 barrier.

In my experience, more senior pastors reach out for help at this size range than any other. That’s because the complexity of issues they confront at this size are fundamentally different from what had to be addressed to break the 100 and 200 barriers.

If you keep bumping up against this size range, consider these five most common reasons why this might be happening.

1. The Governing Board Still Operates a Small-Church Leadership Structure

As a church grows from 100 to 400, frequently the senior pastor has changed, and the church has changed, but the governing elder board has not. To move past this barrier, the board must evolve.

I’ve written elsewhere about the by-law shift that must take place at this size, so I won’t repeat that here. Governing board members must wrestle with this question: “Are we willing to change (and even lose our positions on the board) to reach people far from God?”

2. The Senior Pastor Hasn’t Shifted from Operating as a Hands-On Pastor to a Leader…

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ChristmasChristmas Eve attendance matters because 25 percent of all your visitors for the entire year will come (or not come) on Christmas Eve.

My experience has been that only 1 out of 10 new visitors who attend a church will come back, come to Christ, and grow to full devotion. That means if you want to grow by 100 converts, 1,000 people will need to visit your services in 2016, and 250 of those will need to come on Christmas Eve.

With this in mind, here are three free (or nearly free) things you can do that will potentially double the attendance at your Christmas Eve gatherings this year.

1. Offer services at times people actually want to attend (in other words, earlier in the day)

The biggest battle I have with Senior Pastors that I coach is helping them to understand that your Christmas Eve attendance does not grow in proportion to your seating capacity, but according to the services available when people actually want to attend.

You don’t need more seats. You need more services at times people actually can or want to attend. You can have a 100,000-seat sanctuary, but it won’t make a dent…

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Last night I walked out of the room shaking my head.

God, I don’t know how you pulled this off, but this team is simply amazing.

Unified. Visionary. Encouraging. Fun. Passionate. Gifted. Transparent. Gracious. These are just a few of the words I’d use to describe the people who faithfully serve on CCV’s Leadership Team.

Your church may use a different name – Leadership Council, Governing Board, etc. – we simply use the phrase “Leadership Team” to describe the group of people called to serve the function of what the Bible calls “Elders.”

Whatever you call them, my prayer is your group is as gifted and passionate as the volunteer servant leaders I have the privilege of serving alongside. I tell senior pastors that I coach that every church ought to know the joy of being led well.

Since these kinds of things rarely happen by accident, I’d like to share with you 10 reasons why I think this team is such a special group.

  1. I’m not the smartest person in the room.
  2. I’m not the best leader in the room.
  3. I’m not the most committed Christian in the room.
  4. I’m not the oldest

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For Senior Pastors to thrive they must discover, and then operate within, the framework of their unique God-given style of doing ministry; in what I call their “Senior Pastor Archetype.”

Most leaders, I’ve discovered, spend years fighting against their natural archetype because (a) they’ve never taken the time to discover who they are, (b) the way their mentors modeled ministry for them was decidedly different than how they’re wired, and (c) people in their churches prefer the style of ministry of the leader’s predecessor (or the style of the pastor of their most recently attended church).

The secret to thriving in ministry is to figure out how God wired you for ministry and stop fighting against your natural style. Discover who you are, accept how you are wired as valid, and then shape the church you serve around who you are as a Senior Pastor. You do this and you’ll drive congregational impact and experience personal fulfillment.

After coaching dozens of people from every denomination, age, personality type, and theological perspective, I’ve found that Senior Pastors fall into one of twenty-five different Senior Pastor Archetypes.

Steps To Discovering Your Senior Pastor Archetype

There are six steps to…

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I procrastinate on writing my messages.

I plan lots of time at the beginning of my week to study and write my message but inevitably something arises leadership-wise that causes me to take the time I planned for sermon development and devote it to some other worthy cause.

Why do I keep doing that? Let me pull the lid off this thing and examine it.

The Cause of Procrastination

First, I think I do this because writing sermons is tough work.

It is grueling. Sermon crafting is like having a baby – some come out with one push, others come out breach. Having a baby 48 times a year is tough. Sermon writing is just tough work. To do it well you have to be disciplined and sit at that desk whether or not the inspiration comes.

Second, I think I postpone sermon writing because I like to gravitate to something that is more fun to me – leadership challenges.

Leadership challenges energize me. They are reflexive. Leadership comes naturally to me. I know I have the gift of teaching, but it ranks second in my gift mix. Having the gift of leadership and teaching is a wonderfully troublesome combination.

Third,…

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One of the most common complaints I hear from churches is how they wish their introverted Senior Pastors were friendlier and more approachable.

The good news is this can be very easily addressed, without Senior Pastors running themselves into the ground.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years to help introverted Senior Pastors practice being more relational:

1. Don’t focus on friendliness. Focus on displaying the fruit of the Spirit.

Nowhere are we commanded to “be super friendly and outgoing” in Scripture. But we are commanded to be joyful, peaceful, patient, and kind. The former is an unrealistic expectation for anyone, introverted or extroverted. It is perception-based. Trying to play to people’s perceptions is a fool’s game. Focus instead on exuding the fruit of the Spirit in every encounter you have.

2. “Many light touches, few deep touches.”

Years ago Steve Sjogren, former pastor of the Cincinnati Vineyard and author of Conspiracy of Kindness, told me the way he survived being a Senior Pastor in a thriving, chaotic church, was to be strategic about how often he’d do a “deep dive” with a person. His goal was to physically shake hands…

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If you want to initiate change, the best place to start is by creating a captivating sermon series. Preaching is the single greatest contributing factor to church-wide growth. It is also the one thing we have total control over as Senior Pastors. If we want to change, nobody is stopping us.

The most common thing I discover when I begin a new coaching relationship is not that they don’t know how to preach. All are exceptional communicators. The common struggle they face is “putting all the pieces together.” This includes prioritizing, creatively planning, studying, writing, promoting, and executing the task of preaching week in and week out.

Oddly enough, what I find is that all the guys I coach have a home run sermon at least once a year. People love it. But when I ask what happens the following week, they tell me that they strike out. And the next week they barely get a walk. And the next week they get depressed, eat too much, and want to quit.

Great Preaching Begins With Consistency

As a fellow preacher, I’m not interested in home run sermons. Home runs are flukes. Home runs are statistical anomalies. Given enough time, everyone hits a home run. My goal in preaching is to…

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