Archives For Justin Lathrop

Not In ServiceLeadership makes all the difference. Have you noticed that?

A ship may be well-built with a great crew, but with the wrong captain, it’s going to be hard for the ship to stay on course.

A lot of my friends are looking for the next leader of their church, their business, or their non-profit. As someone who has helped hire many people, here are 10 traits your next leader should not have:

1. He should not have to be a man.

Women are often overlooked for leadership positions, but they’re often just as qualified—if not more—for the position. If you are only looking at men for your leadership position, you’re going to miss out on some seriously qualified candidates.

2. They should not be narrow-minded.

Top leadership positions are not the place for narrow-minded agendas. Great leaders need to be able to see the big picture, accepting lots of different ideas and filtering out the best ones.

3. They should not have different values than your organization.

Having a leader with different core values is a nightmare waiting to happen. Before you get into serious talks about hiring, make sure this person’s values line up with those…

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Nice ShoesIt’s no secret that millennials aren’t exactly flocking to churches these days. There are theories and statistics, but the fact remains the same: Our churches aren’t a place millennials tend to call home.

Instead of tackling the problem on a grand scale—instead of diving into theories and ideas as to the cause and the solution—I want to move in closer, to what millennials need from us in our churches today. While I’m not a millennial, and while this is not a comprehensive list, these thoughts are derived from some of the conversations I’ve had with millennials about this very topic.

1. A realism about the state of the world

I once heard someone say that churches have a tendency to put bandaids over bullet wounds, treating serious problems, hurts, and issues like they can be solved with a parable and a pat on the back.

Millennials aren’t so easily pacified.

Millennials, as a rule, tend to be activists—aware of the hurt in the world and passionate about solving it. One of the chief complaints I hear millennials give about churches is that they’re out of touch with the realities of the world and that they’re…

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SpeakingDo you remember public speaking in school when you were growing up? Maybe there was a class specifically dedicated to it, or maybe it would just roll around every once in awhile when projects were due or presentations were required.

The words themselves, “public speaking,” seem to carry an immense amount of pressure. They connote sweaty palms, cracking voices, and hours practicing in front of the mirror.

For some people, those words are about as welcome in their lives as a spider or a confined space.

Public speaking isn’t easy, but it is necessary—especially as a pastor.

So I’ve compiled the advice I’ve heard over the years into a quick, simple list.

Here are the three things every great public speaker knows:  

1. Telling a story is the best way to engage an audience. 

Telling a story is your best bet for not only connecting to and engaging your audience, but also for ensuring they’ll retain the information you give them. For some reason, our minds are wired to remember stories more than any other method of information delivery.

We can listen to facts all day and rarely remember more than a few of them.

But when we hear a…

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What does it mean to be a master in the art of living?

If you asked a hundred different people, you’d get a hundred different opinions. That’s understandable. It’s a vague question. But I read a James Michener quote recently about the art of living that I just can’t get out of my head.

I love his definition.

He says: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and play, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.” – James Michener

I’m fascinated by this quote. I can’t help but think about how living congruently like this might transform the way we lead and love those around us. And at the same time, I can’t help but think very few of us actually live this way.

Living with great vision and intention isn’t easy, but it is so important. 

What vision do you have for your…

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Friends“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Have you ever heard that quote by Theodore Roosevelt? I find it to be true in my own life, and if you think about it for a moment, I think you’ll find it’s true in yours as well.

Comparison is such a natural tendency for people, and as pastors, we’re not exempt.

Have you ever found yourself thinking about another pastor’s church or hearing from someone how great another pastor’s sermons are? Have you ever found yourself wishing your building was just a little bit more like theirs or that your church had as much money as the one down the road?

Sadly, it’s easy to find ourselves comparing ourselves to other pastors and our churches to others around us. It’s easy to look at other churches and want a competitive edge or to look at other pastors through the corner of your eye, feeling like they’re the competition.

Not only does this comparison and competition steal our joy, it also steals one of our greatest resources: other pastors.

Our lives as the heads of our churches are unique. The way we live, the pressures we feel, our schedules, and…

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Time with GodAs pastors, our life-blood, our power, and our strength comes from the time we spend with God. But if you’ve been in ministry for more than a few minutes, you may have noticed that as a pastor, spending time with God can feel like yet another task on the to-do list.

There’s a tension here—because something that used to feel like an intimate, refueling time with your Creator has now become a part of your job description.

This can sometimes threaten to steal the peace, rest, and connection it once had.

There’s also this incredible responsibility. We’re not just reading the Bible for ourselves anymore. We’re reading to study for our sermons or so we have an answer ready whenever someone needs a word from the Lord. Our prayer time isn’t just about our relationship with God anymore. It’s about filling up to pour back out.

So what do we do as pastors to have fulfilling quiet time with God, without it becoming another task on our to-do list?

Here are some tips that have worked for me. 

1. Change locations

If you find yourself in a rut, try switching locations for your quiet time with…

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Healthy FlockAs pastors, we know our job to minister to the spiritual health of our communities. But as you think about the spiritual health of the people in your church, do you consider their mental, physical, emotional and relational health as well? My guess is, if you’re like most pastors, you probably don’t.

Consider how the health of someone’s marriage might have an impact on their experience of God and intimacy with him. Think about how depression—or perpetual anxiety—might impact a person’s spiritual well-being (and vice versa).

When I spell it out like this, it seems so obvious. Of course these things are connected.

But it’s easy to forget this as a pastor. 

If you want to pastor a healthy church (and my guess is you do. If you don’t, that’s a discussion for a whole different article)– if you want to pastor a healthy church, you have to take into account the emotional, mental, physical, and relational health of the people you pastor.

If that thought scares you, don’t let it. You don’t have to be a therapist or a doctor or a life coach in order to provide this for the people entrusted to…

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Social Media

I’ve written before about why I believe pastors need to be on social media (I’m a big believer in pastors, and a big believer in social media, so it’s a natural connection). But recently someone asked me if I think churches need to be on social media and the answer I gave surprised me a little.

For whatever reason, in the moment the question was asked, the word “no” popped out of my mouth. No with conditions, but no just the same.

Churches don’t have to be on social media. 

I know that probably surprises you to hear me say that (I surprised myself a little) but let me explain.

When people ask me this question, for some reason all I can think about is what happens when I tell my kids they need to clean their room. “Do we have to, Dad?” is inevitably the response (I have great kids, but what kid likes to clean their room?) Usually, I tell them yes, they do have to.

But when a grown adult asks me, “do I have to?” I guess I just want to say, “Well, no, you don’t. You don’t have to be on social media but if you…

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The OaksWe might as well admit it. We all judge a book by its cover. But in our defense, before we’ve opened the book, the cover is all we have.

Facades serve as an invitation. The path leading up to your front door is an invitation to come inside and have a look. If the cover, or the front door, or the outside of the restaurant looks inviting, we might venture closer.

If not, then we probably won’t. It’s human nature.

We know this is true about our churches as well. We spend time and money on landscaping for this very purpose. That’s why we have greeters, and people directing traffic, and why we care about what the sanctuary looks like. We know people judge a book by its cover—and don’t want them to walk away before they start reading.

Now comes a question: what does your website look like? 

Statistics tell us that people will judge your church by its website. Is it just a plain page with bare-bones information? Is it the same one someone’s uncle made for free 10 years ago? It is flashy and packed with information? Is it inviting?

We spend time and money…

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Team Doing RightBecoming a better leader is one of those daunting lines on your to-do list. It’s in there with “be a great father” or “get closer to God.” It’s a noble item, to be sure, but it’s a hard one to check off.

It feels large and intangible and like you will never quite know when you’ve arrived.

But here are five tangible (to-do list friendly) things you can do to work on your leadership: 


There is always more to learn—about leadership, about God, and about how to run a great team. The quickest way for any of those areas to become stale is for you to stop learning about it.

Whether you’re naturally a great reader or not, start to weave reading into your life.

Rotate the kinds of books you read and be willing to explore books you may not have otherwise picked up—you never know where you will find wisdom. But the more you’re learning, the more you have to draw from as a leader. By continuously learning yourself, you’re modeling the same for those who follow you.

Operate in your strengths

There are some tasks that bring us…

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