Archives For Justin Lathrop

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: 

Read

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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Foster CreativityIn recent decades, churches haven’t been known as hubs for creativity.

Instead, churches have been known for doing things the same way—the same kind of worship, the same songs, the same bulletins, and the same style of preaching for years on end. There hasn’t been much room for those with creative talents to come in and splash some color around our fellowship halls.

Too often we have resigned our bulletins to some guy who knows how to use Microsoft Paint and our website to whoever did it 15 years ago, stressing that “art” was a luxury we couldn’t necessarily afford.

Recently, that seems to be changing.

Churches are opening up the way they do things and allowing creatives to come in and make their mark on the way we teach, lead, and worship. We’re so lucky to have them.

So how do we, as the pastors of our churches, continue to cultivate an inviting space for the creatives among us? How do we create an environment that allows them to contribute their gifts to the congregation?

Here are four thoughts:

Look for opportunities

If you’re looking for them, you’ll see creatives everywhere.

Your next-door neighbor may…

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MovingThe world is changing. It’s changing in many ways, but one of the things that shocks me most as I work with young pastors is the transitory nature of people, families, and jobs these days.

Only a few years ago, it would not be uncommon for a person to find a job with a company or church they loved and stay with that church or company for decades. These days, the average life of a pastor at his church lasts 8 years (and that statistic is for a senior pastor, not even the pastoral staff).

Things are changing; it’s much more likely a young pastor today will change churches and positions several times during their career.

So how do you decide when it’s time to leave? 

Is more money a reason to leave? A better opportunity? A promotion? A desire to live in a different part of the country or world? A bigger/smaller church? Boredom? Burnout? Problems at your current church?

None of these are bad reasons. These are all the reasons I hear pastors say they are leaving their church in search of something better. But they’re also strikingly similar to the reasons I hear…

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Ten years ago, nobody was talking about churches and brands (or at least, nobody I knew). But that didn’t mean churches didn’t have brands, or that branding didn’t exist. It simply meant we didn’t have words to explain branding and why it mattered in the same way we do now.

Now, everybody is talking about churches and branding, and there are plenty of mixed feelings on the subject. Some say we shouldn’t have to “market God” while others explain that it’s not marketing God so much as it is doing our due diligence to make sure the love of Jesus is properly represented in our communities.

My take on the argument is this: It’s our responsibility to make sure our “brand” doesn’t get in the way of reaching others with God’s love and truth.

All churches have brands.

This is where we have to start in this conversation because some churches would argue that they don’t have a brand. And, if we were to use the old definition of a brand (a logo, design or wrapper) they might be right. But a “brand” as I would define it is simply the experience someone has of…

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Leadership Microphone

When most people think of great leaders, they get a certain picture in their minds (I know I do). It’s this vision of perfect confidence and grace. There’s a winning smile, a spotlight and the sound of applause in the background. It’s no wonder, with this concept of leadership, most of us are desperate to be leaders.

But it seems to me there are several aspects of leadership that tend to go unnoticed. These are the less attractive qualities of leadership, that many of us would like to leave out. But they are an equally important part of leadership.

Here are four that come to mind right away.

1. Great leaders often don’t get the credit.

For one reason or another, great leaders often don’t get the credit for their efforts, their great ideas, or their creativity. In fact, I would say that some of the greatest leaders I know and have worked with are focused much more on getting others the credit than they are on getting credit themselves.

This, I believe, is essential for a great leader.

They want others to win more than they want themselves to win. They see it as their…

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Social MediaI’m a big fan of pastors and a big fan of social media. Put those two things together and this is what you get: A guy who is a big fan of pastors being on social media. In fact, “big fan” might even be understating it a little bit.

I believe pastors have a responsibility to be online.

Loren Cunningham, founder of the worldwide mission organization Youth With A Mission, once explained how he used the technology of his day (air travel) to reach the world with the Gospel. For us to ignore the technology of our day (social media) to do the same would be irresponsible.

I know several pastors who have been hesitant to jump online. They worry it will give too many people access to them. They are already giving so much of their time, they wonder how they can possibly do more. Not to mention, they see other pastors who are misusing their online platforms, and they wonder if it is really beneficial.

I understand the hesitations. But, I still stand by my position. Here are three very important responsibilities pastors have online.

1. Connect with your congregation

As the size of congregations grows,…

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Angry Twitter

My #1 pet peeve of pastors online would be the same as my #1 pet peeve of pastors offline. That’s usually the case with me. I see a strong connection between our online and offline behavior. Except, in this case, there is one small problem: I never (or at least very rarely) see pastors display the behavior I’m about to discuss in real life.

It seems to be a way of relating they’ve reserved for Twitter and Facebook.

What’s the behavior I’m talking about? I call it witch hunting.

Pastors hunt down other pastors simply to tear them apart or degrade their ministry. It’s so hard to watch. All I can think is: We’re supposed to be on the same team! If we can’t respect and support each other, how can we expect to earn the support or respect of the wider community?

There are so many churches across the world that no two churches will be alike. Even more, no two pastors will be alike. Add to that strong opinions about how church is supposed to be done, what a pastor should look like, and the incredible connectivity of our current culture, and it’s no wonder there is conflict.

I’m…

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Bowl and TowelWhen I first started pastoring, I wondered why people in the church were so arrogant. They would find a reason to criticize everything leadership did, no matter what it was. They weren’t very generous with their finances or resources, and I couldn’t get them to volunteer for any of our programs.

I wished I could do something to change this reality, but it seemed like it was out of my hands. And yet, the longer I was in ministry, the more I realized that ahumble (giving, serving) church stems from humble leadership.

There are absolutely things a pastor can do to create a culture of humility. Here are three of them.

1. Be humble yourself

A church goes in the direction of its leadership. This is as much a law as the law of gravity. If you drop a rock from the top of a building, there is no chance it won’t fall to the street below. The same is true for churches. If a pastor is a giving, serving pastor, his team will be a giving, serving team.

When the leadership team gives and serves, that attitude can’t help but impact the attitude of the rest of…

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Passion Lost

Passion is a hard thing to describe or pin down. We sense when we have it and when it’s gone, but we aren’t sure how to explain where it comes from, or why we have it, or what to do when it goes away.

And because this is the case, it can be really tricky to figure out how to get passion back when we perceive it has gone away. It seems so finicky, at times it appears as if there is nothing we can do to will it to come or to go. We are at its mercy. When it comes, we have to be thankful, and when it goes, we must just wait.

I don’t think this is true, despite how it seems.

And I think this conversation is important because, if you work in or around a ministry, chances are you will “lose” your passion at one time or another. It will feel really disheartening, and it might even cause you to walk away from the ministry. I hope it won’t, but it might.

When that time comes—when you feel the passion fading—here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Passion…

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