Archives For Leadership

Team

Whenever I consult with a church, ministry, or nonprofit, I always begin by looking closely at the team. The employees are the ones that make an organization work, so learning as much as we can about them is critical – and I’m often surprised at how little pastors and other leaders actually know about the personal side of their team. If you’re not taking the time to know your people well, you’re shortchanging your vision. Having studied teams over the years, here’s a starting list of issues leaders need to know about their teams:

1) Purpose is just as important as talent.

Talent is important, but know why your people are there in the first place. Find out who’s there just for a paycheck, and who’s there to change the world. Knowing motivations is critical for team chemistry to work.

2) Make sure they’re in the right seats on the bus.

You know the Jim Collins concept – get the right employees on the bus, make sure they’re in the right seats, and then get the wrong ones off the bus. Brilliantly simple, and yet you’d be amazed at the number of organizations…

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When tragedies occur in communities or nations, pastors can wind up working tirelessly to comfort congregations looking for help, both physical and spiritual. Counselors call it compassion fatigue, and it affects anyone who works in human services of any kind, especially those deeply involved in soul care.

In American life, we’ve all been focused on the recovery effort that has followed the flooding and devastation from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Communities are coming together to aid one another in the recovery.

To pastors and ministry leaders who are in the middle of the work of comforting and consoling others, let me give you three pieces of advice.

1. Release Your Frustrations

Stress and exhaustion create all kinds of negative emotions in your life. They bring on anxiety, worry, fear, guilt, shame, and depression. And the most common thing we ministers tend to do with our negative emotions is stuff them. We think we’re being better Christians if we never admit to our own fear, anger, and depression.

But God created you as a human being with emotions, and he wants you to be real – to let them out by expressing them to him. If you don’t…

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Long ago, before smart phones, laptops, and blogging, I started in ministry as a young twenty-something youth pastor at a large and growing church. I had no idea what I was doing. Of course, I thought I knew more than I did, but I was clueless.

Almost forty years later, I know a bit more, but the longer I serve, the more I realize how much I still don’t know. I’ve invested my life in the study and teaching of the Word, in the pursuit of better leadership, and in the care of people, and the only thing I know for certain is that I’m still a student. Still learning. Still growing. Still far from perfect.

We (and I use the “royal we” meaning, me too) pastors are a curious lot.

Here are seven ways we struggle:

  1. We would take a bullet for our parishioners, lay our lives down for those we serve, painfully aware, however, that the bullet may come from someone we love.
  2. We pour ourselves into the preparation of a weekly message because we believe in the power of the Word to transform lives. Still we realize that maybe half of our congregation…

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Time with GodAs pastors, our life-blood, our power, and our strength come 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…

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Bad Leadership

We’ve all worked for terrible leaders. The bosses who made us want to quit. The manager who forced us to rethink our entire life plan. The supervisor who drove us insane and caused an emotional breakdown.

I remember one leader that I worked for whom I would definitely call terrible. In the words of Charles Barkley – he was “turrible.” I didn’t want to work when he was working. I was filled with anxiety on the way to work, unsure of what he was going to do and how he was going to make me feel. He was mean, sarcastic, and only cared about himself and how he looked.

Have you worked for this guy, too?

And, as much as I want to totally bash this guy . . . I have to admit that being a leader, at any level, is hard. It’s full of ups and downs, uncertainty, and unpredictable people. Because leading is so hard, it can put us in a position where we can seem terrible ourselves.

I’m sure you’re like me – you don’t want to be known as the terrible leader either. It can happen quickly and without warning. But…

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We live in what is commonly referred to as the Information Age. Since the 1970s, the use of computers and readily available digital data have transformed the way we think and function. I recently did a Google search on the word politics. I got over one million search results! If you want to know anything about everything, it’s out there in cyberspace just waiting for a simple keystroke.

But is there a downside to being so data-rich?

Before I go any further, let me clearly say, I am not promoting ignorance in this post. As a pastor, author, blogger, husband, father, and occasional fix-it man, I’m grateful for search engines that can take me to the information I need. Knowledge is good. Learning is great. Information is valuable. I’m not advocating a return to the dark ages or any outdated view of technology. I like my Mac, thank you very much.

That being said, here’s my concern: I wonder if some have made an idol out of knowledge. Is it possible that the abundance of information has made them arrogant? More…

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The prophet Jeremiah once encouraged the people of his day to, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16 NIV).

Rest. That’s the promise.

Why do you do what you do in ministry? What’s driving you? Better yet, how do you understand what you are doing in ministry? What is your sense of what faithfulness to Jesus looks like in the context of your efforts in the local church?

We live in a time when fewer and fewer ministry leaders have a clear idea of what it is they’re supposed to be doing. As a result, we run this way and that, breathlessly trying to keep pace with our peers. We go from one fad and fashion to the next, from one movement or ideology to the next, from one book or conference to the next, desperate to find the elusive holy grail of effectiveness. There’s a reason many leaders struggle with chronic anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

Be honest now. How many times have you read a book, attended a conference, or…

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Thinking

When Christian leaders become ambitious, things get tough. Often other people will mistake our ambition for pride or presumption. But Jesus was ambitious about building his church. Paul was ambitious about pressing toward the prize. Joshua was ambitious about taking the promised land. The fact is, God responds to bold, audacious vision and ambition in a leader.

So what could be holding your ambition back?

We tend to confuse humility with fear.

Humility is not denying your strengths. Humility is being honest about your weaknesses. All of us are a bundle of both great strengths and great weaknesses; humility is being able to be honest about both. Paul was able say, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” because he was honest about his weaknesses. In addition he said, “I’m the chief among sinners.” So he writes down both his strengths and his weaknesses.

God wants you to be humble, but he does not want you to be fearful. And to not accomplish anything is not humility, but fear. Don’t worry about God humbling you. He has plenty ways to do that. Worry that you might not be all that he wants you to be because of fear.

We…

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Charts

Instead of counting Christians, we need to weigh them. – Dallas Willard

Clear vision requires clarity about the results you are after. Any result you might desire for your ministry will fit into three broad categories – input results, output results, and impact results.

Input Results

Input results in the church focus on the number of people and dollars that come into the church. Input results are important. You don’t have a church without them. It’s also important to measure input results. You can’t lead well without knowing them.

Common ways we talk about input results include the ABCs (attendance, buildings and cash) or “nickels and noses” or “butts and bucks.”  Every week, thousands of churches across the land will print their input results on a worship bulletin or review them in the next elders meeting. Input results inform the functional dashboard of the American church.

Output Results

Output results refer to actual life-change outcomes that God intends for followers of Christ individually and together. Examples of output results include the quality of a believer’s prayer life, the skillfulness in sharing the Gospel, or the development of patience as one of the fruits of the Spirit.

There are hundreds of biblical phrases and…

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One key? Is that even possible?

Many of the books I’ve read and the speakers I’ve listened to have listed out way more than one key. Napoleon Hill’s Keys to Success offers 17 principles of personal achievement. Grant Cardone teaches about a dozen rules for success. Jim Rohn, in this classic 90-minute talk, gives way more than one key.

I don’t want to argue with any of those people. They, and so many more leaders like them, are smarter and more experienced than i am.

But I’ve discovered a principle in the Bible, in business, and even in my own life that has me convinced there is a pattern to be observed. There is one principle of success I see repeated time and again. So here’s my assertion . . .

The one big key to becoming a successful person is giving your life to making the lives of others better.

If you decide today to give your life – and by “life” I mean your time, your attention, your resources – to making the lives of other people better, you will discover success….

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Success

Success can ruin a ministry. I’ve seen it happen too many times. It sounds strange. We plan for success, we dream about success, and – most importantly – we pray for success. Yet when it comes, we often self-destruct.

God blesses our ministry. Our church grows. People respond to our preaching. Hurting people are helped. At first, we’re just excited to see God work. We’re just pointing people to him. But then we’re tempted to turn our eyes off of God and put them on ourselves. In a matter of time, success can erode our ministry.

It doesn’t just happen to senior pastors of big churches, either. Whether you’re at a church of 20 or 20,000, you could be next.

I understand the temptation. When I came to Orange County to start Saddleback in 1980, I dreamed big. You can read in The Purpose Driven Church about the vision I presented to the church on the very first Sunday. God gave me a vision of a church with tens of thousands of people in it. In the first 25 years of the church, God fulfilled every promise he gave me before I started…

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Windmill

If you’re human, and over 40, you’ve probably thought at least once, Are my best days behind me? (If you’re a pastor, you struggle with this just about every Monday morning!)

I’m not suggesting you need to be middle-aged or old to wonder about this question. If you felt like your high school or college years were some of your best, then you might have faced this disheartening question early in your life.

I know a guy who was a football star in high school, and he frequently talks about that time as the best days of his life – and he’s my age. It’s sort of sad. Especially since high school was over for him 40 years ago.

Recently I was at a retirement party for some friends. I’ve known them for about 20 years, and we worked together on a large church staff for five years. At this gathering, the staff said some very nice things about my friends, and there were quite a few honoring and funny stories told.

I was sitting there, listening, smiling, and remembering, when a question hit me hard. Were those years with them my best years in ministry?

Then I nose-dived into thinking…

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